Kari Schell was an accountant who loved to quilt. When she retired, she decided to see if she could do something meaningful with her quilting business. At On Point Quilter, she helps other quilters unleash the power of the Electric Quilt software. She provides 10-minute video lessons and written instructions to make using Electric Quilt a joyful experience.
She didn’t discover this winning formula overnight. At first, she focused on a number of different niches, but a campaign that led to more sign-ups and testimonials than any other in her history showed her exactly how to best serve her audience.
Today, Kari joins the podcast to talk about how she turned her passion into a means to authentically serve thousands of people, the importance of keeping it simple, and what you can do to replicate her success with your own membership site.
- How Kari stumbled upon a highly specific niche that resonated very significantly for a powerful audience, then used this information to create her business.
- How a campaign led to Kari’s ‘aha’ moment, a massive increase in sign-ups, and showed her exactly how to best serve her audience.
- Why Kari learns by experimentation – and how small, bite-sized pieces allow viewers to take immediate action and quickly make progress..
- The reason Kari lets former subscribers keep access to her materials, even if they leave her membership site.
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“Don’t be afraid to experiment and to learn who your customer is and where you can add a unique value to them.” – Kari Schell
“Everything I do, I like to go back and say, ‘What could I have done differently? How can I make it better for my customer, and for me as well?’” – Kari Schell
TranscriptRead The Transcript
Shelli: Kari Schell, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing Podcast. How are you, my friend?
Kari: I am fabulous and thank you so much for having me.
Shelli: It’s my absolute pleasure to have you on and to share you and your amazing tips, tools, tricks on all things membership site. So, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you taking the time.
Kari: Well, I’m so excited, so I am looking forward to this.
Shelli: You have a very unique niche and are having some amazing success and we’re going to get into your membership site and how you do that and roll it out and how you’ve had the success you had, but I’m hoping you can start by telling our audience sort of who you are, how you became to be in the niche that you are and who you serve.
Kari: Okay. So, I am actually a corporate person who was a CPA, was a Six Sigma which is sort of a process consultant type of person, and I had a quilting hobby. I like to quilt, and I like to design quilts and about four years ago, I decided I wanted to retire early and see if I could do something more meaningful with my quilting business. And so, I joined a group of people that were creative professionals and started to really think about how I could become more intentional and I began to blog about quilting and figure out who my audience was a little bit and I started to also realize that with that, my niche was actually a very technical piece of quilting which is designing quilts using a program called Electric Quilt and so it wasn’t just for all quilters but quilters that wanted to actually design their own things using a particular piece of software.
Shelli: That’s amazing. So, how did you niche down to that and you’ve had – we were talking previous to this and you’ve had some incredible success with the way that you launch. Can you talk about that and how you came to be the person who’s known in an industry who is working with these amazing people that have this insane amount of loyalty to you and what you’re doing?
Kari: Well, I will say that when I started blogging, I had four different niches that I loved within quilting and so I thought, “Okay. Once a month I’ll do one every week. So, one week, I would talk about the machine quilting stuff and I talk about piecing and I talk about what the third week was but one of them was on the fact that designing your own quilt. Well, after about two months I’m like, “This is taking forever to write this blog post,” and so I decided I would start doing videos in my blog. And so, I started putting together these little videos. I use Microsoft, the little free one that was on the software. I would do the videos and people started to resonate with it and I would start getting more and more comments on that. And pretty soon the company that wrote the software was sending me emails. “Kari, we’re seeing your videos. We love your videos. We’d like to promote you.” Like, “Wow. Okay.” And I would say after about I think maybe two years I realized, you know what, forget everything else. Everyone likes me for my videos on Electric Quilt. I really need to focus on this aspect of what I and I love teaching Electric Quilt and I was enjoying doing it, but I started to realize was that was what people were coming to me for and so that was sort of my niche and what I needed to specialize in.
Shelli: I love that. I love that also what you said before, where you had quilting as a hobby and it was something that you may be fulfilled in the job you had before and you thought, “Can I make this a go because are so many listeners out there that have either hobby or an interest that may be listening to this and thinking, ‘Hm, I wonder if I could have a membership site?’” and so you have this amazing gift to be able to listen to and hone in on not only what resonates with your people but also to be able to provide it in a way that they are able to consume it because we were speaking about some of your demographic is a little bit older and maybe the tech is a little bit challenging for them. So, your ability to listen to not only what they needed to learn but also to be able to deliver it to them in a way that they were able to consume it at their level and at their speed and in the modality that fit the demographic really speaks to your ability to tap into the needs of your audience.
Kari: Right. And I think it’s one of these things that it wasn’t like everything came all at once. I didn’t reach this point and go, “Oh, what I need to do is do a membership program,” but I think it evolved as I would offer something and get feedback and then go, “Hm, this is interesting. Now let me try something else.” And I think I was mentioning to you when we were talking earlier the thing that really finally resonated with my audience was almost on a whim, I had decided to do a series of 14 videos, and I called it Catch the Waves. It was actually a free class and if you signed up, fortunately, I did it on MailChimp so they could just do an auto signup on it and they would get one video a day and it would be 10 minutes and it would cover just one concept of the program. And when I did that, I ended up I was thinking, “Oh, I’ll probably get a couple hundred people signed up.” I ended up with 2,500 people.
Kari: Yeah. I know. It was just like an amazing thing and I actually have them on my free Facebook group. I mean, and they were posting pictures, they were asking questions, they were doing things, and that was sort of my aha that my audience didn’t want this big long class that they have to sit through and in fact, I would teach them in that environment. Sometimes it shows and I was doing some online teaching or I would have where I’d have them in front of the computer for an hour or two hours at a time, but this learning in short snippets where they can watch, they can rewatch, they can immediately replicate what I’m instructing on their program was so useful and at the end, I can’t believe how many testimonials I got from people that I was able to pull on saying, “I haven’t been able to use this software. I’ve had it for like five years and now I’m able to use it,” and I thought, “Okay. I have finally found a vehicle to finally effectively reach my audience.”
Shelli: I love that. So, you know, I just want to reiterate what you said because that is a juicy little tidbit. You know, you’re doing these 14-minute videos or these 14 videos congruently and it’s a free class. So, what I love that you were doing consistently was giving away such free value that it was so easy to consume and there doesn’t have to be all of these layers of tech. To your point, you did it through MailChimp, super simple, super low barrier to entry, but it allows people to get to know you, like you, and trust you, and have 2,500 people be able to sign up for that is incredible. So, can you talk about that we’re talking earlier about the one piece of advice that you would give people in terms of a tip or a tool or trick that they can do to maybe start replicating the same type of success you’ve had with your membership site and to have these people really kind of like not only buying into what you’re doing and consuming your content but also raving about it. What do you think is the secret sauce behind the way you do membership sites?
Kari: You know, I think to me the secret sauce is be okay with experimenting and trying different things. Some things are going to work. Some things are not going to work and when it doesn’t work, I always like to go back and analyze and say, “Oh, so why wasn’t this quite the right thing?” and then think about, “Okay. What can I try that’s a little different the next time?” I mean, when I did my free class, I realize I did it 14 days straight in a row and I thought, I mean, everyone enjoyed it, but I was overwhelmed and I’m like, “Okay. I don’t think I’ll do it that way again.” So, when I finally released my formal membership, I decided it was going to be Monday, Wednesday, Friday and I was going to do 13 videos a month and I’m even cutting back a little bit on that now in doing some challenges or a few things as well but it’s always like everything I do I always like to then go back and say, “What could have I done differently? How can I make it better for my customer? How can I make it better for me as well?”
Shelli: I love it. What is one thing you wish you knew when you started that you learned by being able to experiment?
Kari: I would say, you know, I think some of it was who my customer was and even how they wanted to learn. I originally thought that my customer principally wanted to learn in a setting where I was there and I could sit and coach them and sitting in this sort of all-day class type of thing and I was thinking that was the way to reach and to get people to be proficient in utilizing this program and what I’ve learned through some of this experimentation is that they actually are much more effective and learn so much more in this short snippet environment. So, don’t feel like you have to offer these really long tutorial types of things that are really engaged but sometimes just putting it into very small pieces that people can take action on immediately are much more effective and I think end up with more satisfied customers and I feel like much more proficient in terms of using the software.
Shelli: Well, it’s interesting because, you know, often times I’ll hear people say, you know, I don’t want to get stuck in the content treadmill and I don’t want to like if I’m thinking about outputting a piece of content every week and I think, man, 52 weeks a year, but to your point if you just keep it super simple and give the people what they want and what they need in a way that they can consume it, it actually can really reduce the amount of overwhelm for both yourself as a membership site owner and also get them the result they want because they can learn at their own pace in smaller segments.
Kari: Right. And the way I also do it because sometimes people will go, “Oh, my life is getting overwhelming and I can’t get through all of the material,” and I go, “You know what, I will only deliver one class a month. I’m not one of these that have every piece of material on my membership site. When you sign up, you get one class a month and I deliver that via MailChimp but you own the material I deliver to you.” So, I tell them, “Even if you leave, you can still access any of the videos and tutorials that you basically got when you purchased this class and so when you have a question a year from now or two years from now, you still can go back to that video and you can still go back to that tutorial and use it and remind yourself even of how to do something.”
Shelli: Yeah. I love that. I love too something you had said earlier about your demographic is mostly seniors and the fact that you’re creating a lifelong learning environment and allowing them to not only take advantage of the tech but be included and be included at a pace that allows them to get the result they want in a manner that serves them in the best way possible. So, that’s amazing. What is the best feedback you received from your community?
Kari: You know, I think the feedback that I have probably been the most touched by are those that have said, “You know what, I purchased this software five years ago and have been afraid to open the box,” or, “I’ve opened the box and I tried it and it wasn’t intuitive and I just never felt like I could even do anything with it.” And suddenly these people are sending me pictures and saying, “Look what I designed, look what I’ve done,” and they’re doing amazing work and I’m always so proud when they don’t always post on Facebook, but when they do and they post pictures, I love saying what they’ve done and just the accomplishment that they’ve had because, again, many of them are not just learning how to use this computer software. Some of them are learning how to use their computer and I think, “You know what, I’ll bet their kids are proud of them too when they know what they’ve accomplished.”
Shelli: Absolutely. So, for the people listening out there that maybe are sitting on a hobby or an interest that they have that they think they maybe can’t turn into this successful membership site, if they’re to take some advice from you, you are one of the best at creating value and loyalty and inclusion and delivering at a consistency and to your point when you do something as simple as that step by step and just keep going in a consistent manner all of a sudden you have 2,500 people signing up for an event that is by and large a fairly small niche. So, what advice would you give those people that are thinking about starting a membership site in alignment with whatever their hobby or their interest is but they’re thinking, “I’m not sure if it’s for me,” what advice would you give those people?
Kari: I would say don’t be afraid to experiment and to learn who your customer is and where you can add maybe a unique value to them. Blogging was a good start for me to do that and then taking what I learned and figuring out what’s the next step with it, but I love the fact that now I’m doing something that I loved. That was my hobby and now it’s my full-time job so that is pretty exciting.
Shelli: It’s amazing because you created that opportunity as well.
Kari: Yes, I know. Yeah. I feel very blessed.
Shelli: Well, we appreciate you spending the time and giving us this incredible insight because there is many people out there that are sitting on a gift that they should be sharing as well. So, if people are looking for you online, where’s the best place they can find you?
Kari: The best place to find me is at OnPointQuilter.com.
Shelli: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time, Kari.
Kari: Thank you. It was great talking to you, Shelli.