Today we're speaking with Dave Donahue from GuitarACO.com. He's a guitar teacher with a private student base, as well as a YouTube channel. He's off to a good start, and he has some free time coming up that he wants to use wisely.
Dave just launched a new member community with his initial group of about 20 “alpha” members. I help him figure out how to structure his course to create the best experience for his students.
We also discuss YouTube ads and other potential ad platforms that could help Dave get more members.
And we talk branding. Because if, like me, you're wondering what Dave's business name—GuitarACO—means, well, let's just say Dave has an opportunity to be more impactful there.
AP 1226: How Do I Grow My List and Sell My Membership?
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 1,226 of AskPat 2.0. You're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur, just like you. And today we're speaking with Dave Donahue from Guitar ACO, aco.com, but it might not be Guitar ACO in the future because of the conversation we have today. And we talk not just about branding and domain names, but we talk about memberships and building an email list to get people into those memberships.
Pat Flynn: We talk about YouTube ads and potentially other ad platforms that would be right for Dave to get more members. He just launched a new member community. He has his, what we call alpha members in there. He's got about 20, which is a great start, but he's got some time coming up in the upcoming months to get some stuff done and he asked me, "Well, what do I do?" And I tell him exactly what to do. So here he is. This is Dave Donahue. Enjoy.
Pat Flynn: Dave welcome to AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me and the audience today. How are you?
Dave Donahue: I'm good. Thanks for having me.
Pat Flynn: Of course. I'm really excited. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Dave Donahue: Yeah, sure. So I'm a guitar teacher from Ireland and I've a private student base and I have a YouTube channel as well. And I have around what, nine and a half thousand subscribers on there. The platform's called Guitar ACO. Where I'm currently at is I am building out a membership and I'm coming up to quite time in my teaching season of having July, August, basically off. And I'm just curious about how to best use the time.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about the audience and how you've built it prior to now. Is it always YouTube or how else did you get started and build this great audience?
Dave Donahue: How it started was I was just transcribing songs. I started off just when a new song would come out, I would figure it out and let's say I'd share and release a new song and I'd have one of the first tutorials up on YouTube and somebody would search it. So, yeah. And it works for an initial thing, but the songs aren't that evergreen. But I built a following with that. I was uploading tutorials a lot.
Pat Flynn: That's great. And then do you have an email list and other web properties?
Dave Donahue: Yeah, sure. I was a bit late to the email list game, but I learned from your course. So I use convertkit and I have an email list of around 1,100 subscribers.
Pat Flynn: 1,100. Great. How often are you communicating with them? What is being sent out?
Dave Donahue: Sure. I email them once a week and I've gotten better now. So I do two YouTube videos a week and I have broadcasts scheduled to include those videos. So from next week it's twice a week.
Pat Flynn: Great. So you have a nice little rhythm communicating with people who have found you already who want to be a part of more learnings from you, Dave. You have your YouTube working for you and with YouTube continual uploads are great. And every once in a while you hit a banger video and it just goes wild and that can always bring you people in, which is fantastic. So the membership, where are you at with that in terms of development and you had mentioned the summer... at least summer here in the US times 2. Is that when you want to focus on this launch it, build it? Tell me a little bit more about the membership specifically.
Dave Donahue: Sure. So I had a failed launch last year. I emailed my list and I was like, "Hey. I'm thinking about doing a membership. Who wants to join?" And it was crickets. So I learned my lesson. I went more into content. So what I did was I set up a membership last month and I've enrolled 20, like as you'd say yourself, alpha testers. Put it out to the list, got 20 people. So they're currently in there. I'm communicating with them seeing what works, seeing what's not needed.
Dave Donahue: So it's going well and it's a great lesson for myself to go, "What does it feel like to run a membership?" Basically, with that, that's going well, they have a free month to try it out. And then whoever wants to wait on, there'll be a fee per month. And my plan is to then take that and do a beta launch, we call it and then summertime set up a launch pathway and do a proper public launch in September.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. So already started with it, which is fantastic. Your alpha users, your initial users who were there at the very start. That's great. How are you feeling with it? You had mentioned that this is a great way to see how you enjoy it, how you like it. How do you actually feel about what you have so far?
Dave Donahue: Oh man. It's so cool. There's a student from Italy, somebody from another part of Ireland, and just to see them and to have faces and names and tones of voice to people who are on my list. I think that's so cool.
Pat Flynn: That's amazing. So as a member, what do you get? I'm curious.
Dave Donahue: What happens is I have a community set up via Circle and then I have an academy set up using Searchy. So I've been teaching like professionally for 10 years. And before that even, I have a strumming course, finger picking, bar chords, open chords, and alternate picking. So depending when they land into the membership, they take an assessment. That's basically like the teaching conversation that I'll have with the student. And then I use Zapier to connect them to the correct course and it displays in Searchy.
Pat Flynn: Nice. Okay. So it is a content play. "You come in here and I can help you further." And then the community aspect, obviously on top of that is just a really awesome thing for people to connect. And do you do office hours or any live things in there as well?
Dave Donahue: So I'm on vacation at the minute. I'm currently in Switzerland. But I'm currently just in helping members. They're sending me videos and from next week, then there's going to be live streams, answering common questions a lot more.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. Okay. So you're off to an amazing start. And 20 alpha members is a great sign. There's always going to be a group of people who want to be first and they can help you build this thing and help shape it. Help you figure out what works and what doesn't, like you said. So definitely intake all of that feedback, if you haven't done so already, be very purposeful. And even because there's only 20, you can have private conversations in Circle with them and say, "Hey. What do you like so far?" What do you want to see when we grow this even more? What is the best thing that we could do for you? And that way you can collect all that information and get the language that they're using so that when you launch this in a more public manner in the summer or post summer, you're able to really knock it out of the park.
Pat Flynn: So in terms of your initial question, which is like, "Well, what should we do between now and then?" That would be number one, get that information and feedback very directly if you haven't done so already. And then of course it's about building hype for it. It's getting people on the outside excited. Telling people in your videos that there's this guy from Italy, and here's what he's working on. Or in some of your videos, you can maybe share a little conversation between you two and say, "Hey. These are the kind of conversations that happen inside of our membership. And membership will be opening up later. Come here to join the wait list."
Pat Flynn: And that's what I would be focusing on now is getting people on a wait list to get in, whether that's an application or maybe it's an assessment, a quiz or so. Just to be able to get their email list. I could imagine it being very simple, like a landing page, or you can have it be something a little bit more robust like a quiz. Hey, take this quiz and tell us where you're at. We're going to see if it's the right fit. And if it is, I'll invite you to the membership. And we'll tell you a little bit more about what's inside when it comes out.
Pat Flynn: And when you launch it using a lot of those transformational stories from the students who are in there now, your alpha members, that's going to help you with your founders launch. I would call it a founders launch, not a beta launch, because as I often say, beta usually means like crappy version of something. So this will be like founders launch. This is the first cohort of students. The first class of students. And of course during that time, maybe there's a discounted price or perhaps it's the only time you're going to offer one month for free before you start charging later. However you want to do that, that's going to be really up to you and how the audience responds. But I think to me, the plan is pretty clear, where might there be some holes that you want to talk about or some other gaps that you want to talk through?
Dave Donahue: I actually have a quiz done and it works. It's "what's your number one beginner blind spot on guitar?" So it's basically they're brought through and they get a full-on PDF report, like 11 pages and video lessons to help them with whatever blind spot it is.
Pat Flynn: Oh, wow. What are you using to drive that?
Dave Donahue: I'm using bucket.io.
Pat Flynn: Bucket.io. Okay.
Dave Donahue: Yeah.
Pat Flynn: Oh, bucket.io.
Dave Donahue: Bucket, sorry. That's the Irish accent.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. No, that's okay.
Dave Donahue: Yeah. So that's what I'm using right now. And it works like the percentages match up. People finish it and the very highly engaged. Whoever's come into my list through the quiz, they open the emails, yeah, they're very interactive.
Pat Flynn: So how and where are you promoting the quiz, is my question.
Dave Donahue: That's something I wanted to ask you. Right now I have it on my YouTube channel and I'm being careful trying not to pop up this quiz and people just to leave the video because of watch time on YouTube. It comes up on in-screens. And also I email my list who've come in via a different landing page with the quiz. My question was I have some money saved for like I was looking at all the time I was spending on content creating this. I went crazy the first quarter this year. I did like 40 YouTube videos.
Pat Flynn: Oh my gosh. Nice.
Dave Donahue: Yeah. I looked at the ROI and I was like, "Okay. Maybe I should just work more in person and put money towards ads." Well, what would your thoughts be taking out ads to promote a quiz?
Pat Flynn: I think it would be a great idea. I mean, because the ads specifically would be for the purpose of driving people off of YouTube and going there. It wouldn't actually affect your channel. I think injecting it organically into your regular content is great. That's fine. But I think the ads, I mean, YouTube ads are a huge opportunity right now for a lot of people. A lot of people are flocking from Facebook to go onto YouTube. And of course in this space in particular, it's probably easier because you know what people are searching for. The kinds of videos they're watching. You can get your video in front of other very popular guitar teaching videos and guitar teaching channels.
Pat Flynn: And the cool thing is you can experiment. You can just start with maybe even $50,000 to $100,000 for a period of time and just see what happens. And you'd be able to find out quickly whether or not you are in fact, getting people to take that quiz. Now, the best thing to do with ads is to know that when people take that quiz, a certain percentage of them will convert to a membership so that if you spend, for example, a hundred bucks you're getting 200 back eventually. That's the ideal scenario as far as like when to spend money, when you know you're getting it back.
Pat Flynn: But in the beginning, especially now, because you are going to launch a membership soon, just even seeing if people bite on that quiz, you'd be able to tell right away. Does ads work? Yes. Do ads work? No. And then you can move forward from there. But that would be, I think YouTube is your home base audience for sure. And YouTube ads would be an amazing opportunity.
Pat Flynn: And again, you don't have to start with a lot to grow your list and get people in there. And again, the fact that you already have members now in an academy that's already starting to produce some results, that will then add to those campaigns, and anybody who comes in, who comes in what they call cold, because they don't know you yet. But that quiz is going to be very helpful. The results that they get, they'll learn from you right away. Once they get in there, it's going to be a quick relationship that you're going to build with them and you should be able to convert people.
Pat Flynn: And you won't convert everybody, but as long as you see that conversion's happening, then that would be a good thing. And I think that would be a great thing to test. Google adwords would also be another opportunity as well. And I think that you could also potentially benefit... I don't know if you're on TikTok, but there's a lot of people who are doing very well with running ads on TikTok. Really short ads to get them to, again, take a quiz. A lot of people are flipping through who are just casually viewing, but you could potentially get some quiz takers from there as well.
Dave Donahue: Okay, cool. I'll definitely check out the YouTube ads. I'd taken out Facebook ads in the past, but I hadn't thought of YouTube ads, and that's primarily where people are coming to learn guitar that are coming to me on easy course. The other thing I was going to ask you is around emails, and the way you do emails is so brilliant. There's a lovely flow to receiving emails from you. I never felt as if I was getting bombarded with emails and it felt like-
Pat Flynn: Well, thank you.
Dave Donahue: ... it felt like a conversation. And in terms of a sequence, let's say in ConvertKit, how many emails would you suggest writing to build a nice relationship with somebody who'd land into the list?
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean, that's going to differ between different audiences of course, but I think that a relationship can happen rather quickly. It could just be three to four emails over two to three weeks that I think could do the job because really it comes down to how quickly are you able to connect? And how quickly are you able to get a person a result? I mean, a relationship could happen even in the first email. If a person comes to you with a huge pain and they come into your email list and that pain gets solved, relationships started already.
Pat Flynn: So I think that there's a myth that you have to have like a month's worth of content, or weeks worth of emails before you can sell. I don't think that's true, but a relationship does need to happen up front and that could happen... And the other thing here is at least from organic YouTube views, you know that people have already started that relationship building process with you in the most media-rich way with video and your voice and probably teaching them something and them wanting to learn more.
Pat Flynn: So you can actually fast forward that relationship building process because they already know you and they've already gotten some help from you. So it's going to take some experimentation. I mean, the real answer is, you keep trying different things until it works. That's the real answer. But I think that you could start with... And thinking about the journey of your user is going to be really key.
Pat Flynn: So you want to put yourself in their shoes and this is why your alpha users are so great because you can ask them questions like, "Hey. Which video brought you to me in the first place? Do you remember?" Or like, "What about my emails got you to open it?" And you can take that information again and then use it in the new sequences that you build. But again, the quicker that you can get a person a result, especially if they're looking for something specific, the quicker that relationship's going to be built.
Pat Flynn: And then also the quicker that you can... Like with me, it's just the sale is just a part of the conversation. It's just organically inside of, "Hey. I'm here to help you. I've already helped you in this way. It seems like you want more help. Well, here's something that we've built that can actually help you." And I know that it can be difficult as you're building an email list to zoom out, because oftentimes we're in one individual email and we're so focused on that.
Pat Flynn: So try your best to zoom out of the entire sequence and go, "Okay. Here's where a person comes in. Here's what they're probably thinking or better yet, here's what I know they're thinking at this point. And here's what would be of most value to them." And here's the point at which I think it would make sense to, out of service, offer them the membership or the course or the book or the, again, what insert product here. And that's how it feels and becomes natural. What doesn't feel natural is what we've all experienced before is you join a list for one thing. And then all of a sudden, like you're just bombarded, like you said, with all this other stuff that, "this isn't why I was here"?
Dave Donahue: Yeah.
Pat Flynn: So what's your response to that?
Dave Donahue: No, that's great. Yeah. 100%. G,etting to know the alpha members has been great and I've followed advice you had. I forget where I read it, that you'd said it I'd created a five day learn to play guitar challenge and that very thing you'd said students did it and they came back to me going, "It's crazy. It's like you're reading my mind. You knew what I was thinking."
Pat Flynn: It's so good, right?
Dave Donahue: Oh man. Yeah. It's great. With that, definitely building the relationship and through the email and yeah, YouTube ads. I hadn't thought of that.
Pat Flynn: I think that YouTube ads could be huge for you.
Dave Donahue: Yeah, it would be... Yeah. I hadn't thought, and it's the very place guitar players are going. Oh my god. But the other small thing I wanted to ask was with memberships, I've seen so many different approaches. I've been doing study on different memberships of how they're structured. And I know SPI Pro, you open and close the doors once a quarter. And with this, there's a bit of fear around, well, what if I launch in September and I get a certain amount of people in, and then it's closed again for a whole quarter? And I know the whole thing is to serve my members. That's going to be my priority. But have you seen like in SPI Pro, if there's other membership owners in there. Do people have different approaches to how they open and close their membership?
Pat Flynn: Oh, absolutely. I think you have to do what you know is right, again, for your user. And for the journey that a person's finding you on YouTube, they're really wanting to get started. Now they have a guitar in their hands and they're like, "Dave, teach me," and you go, "I will two months from now." That's not going to necessarily feel good, but for SPI Pro, the entrepreneurial journey's very noisy. There's a lot of people out there who are serving this audience, and we felt it better to have people come in as a cohort because then they can come in and support each other at the same time. And that outweighed the other option, which was, "Well, let's get everybody in whenever they want. And then we're not going to be able to bring our attention to them as much."
Pat Flynn: But there's no wrong way to do it. I think you have to do it again the way that is right for you. There is actually a con against the cohort-based model. Not just like, "Okay. You're going to have to wait four months until or three months until more income comes in." But rather every time a brand new, huge crowd of people comes in, if you don't do a good job, and this is why we have the application process, it really changes the vibe of the group. If you imagine like a group of people who all get to know each other for a certain number of months, and then all of a sudden this huge group of people come in, it's like them busting into the party. And then the music stops and everybody looks and goes, "Who are you guys?" That can happen in a situation like this if you don't do your due diligence of who are the right people that should come in so that it just is a natural fit.
Pat Flynn: But the nice thing about the way that perhaps I would recommend you do, which is to keep it open all the time. But then you have these seasonal, bigger launches on top of that, where certain bonuses happen, or there is a certain challenge that goes along with it, that makes it seem like it is a big event that's happening right now. Even though it's always open for those of you who are sitting on the fence, or you need some push, like join this five-day challenge. Everybody who gets into the five day challenge is also going to get a discount into the membership for a certain period of time. Whilst even in between those things, people can still come in and from day one, get that first lesson, especially coming from a quiz. Especially if you're paying for ads too, it's like you're paying for ads to only have people wait. It doesn't make sense. So it's totally okay to go that way. And I think that would make sense for an audience like yours.
Dave Donahue: Nice. No, that's great. That's great. A lot of aha moments here. Thank you. The other small thing I wanted to ask was to do with the five-day challenge. The five-day challenge is for somebody who's never held a guitar in their life. That they pick it up, and it gets them their three chords, their song within five days and they're playing it. But in terms of targeting, I'm kind of, but I was like how am I trying to approach people who are interested in guitar or people who've begun and they've hit a roadblock and the message would be framed as, "Hey. Do you want to start again?" And we do the best five days ever.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean, I think that it could be a net that captures both. Let's say for example, you wanted to create an ad for the challenge. I can imagine the ad being something like, if you've ever picked up a guitar and tried it and it just didn't work for you, or maybe you're picking up a guitar for the first time and you're clueless. Well, I have a five day challenge that you could take to help you create three songs after five days, and you're going to be able to do it just like these people did here. Here's so and so, and here's so and so, and they're playing, and then I can imagine the ad also being a rough iPhone camera video of somebody playing and then just going playing it and going, "Oh my gosh. I did it." Whatever the ad might be to get people excited.
Pat Flynn: But again, you're mentioning if you've never picked up a guitar, this is for you. Or maybe you did pick up a guitar, but it just didn't work out. I'm going to help you get into this so that you can pick up a guitar and keep playing it from this point forward or whatever. So you can capture both. It's the same kind of person who's started—they're like, it's not just about whether they've picked up a guitar or not. It's what's going on up here in their mind. They're like, "I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know how to do this. Somebody teach me." So I could see that. And I think the challenge is going to be a big thing for you as well. So you have the quiz, you have the challenge, those two alone could be huge for you.
Pat Flynn: And then over time you could create an intermediate challenge that's specifically for, "Hey. Do you know how to play basic songs on a guitar. That's awesome. But you feel like you're playing the same songs every single time. That's actually how I feel with where I'm at. Well, I'm going to teach you some ways to figure out how to play thousands of different songs using four specific chord sequences that will open your mind to so many more songs in your library." It's like, "Yes, please, because I play the same dang song every time." Again, those are what the intermediates are thinking.
Pat Flynn: And then over time, if you wanted to, maybe you don't because you're only focused on those beginners and intermediates. You might have a challenge for those who are continuing to grow. Hey, if you are now playing songs and you're getting recognized for it and you want to make this a career for you, well, here's an advanced course that you could take, or join this waitlist for an advanced thing. Or you can test those things too with your YouTube channel, like create a video about like how to turn your music into a career. Maybe it bombs. And you're like, "Okay. I know not to focus on that anymore." Or maybe it does well and you go, "Okay. Let me see if I can create something for this crowd." So the fact that you have YouTube as your testing ground for a lot of this stuff is really, really cool. And you can use that as like confirmation or validation for next steps.
Dave Donahue: Nice. That's great. A lot of jams there. Thanks. I just remember the question that I was going to ask as well. It was, so the membership is... I mean, I literally set it up. I didn't even name it anything because I just shared on my list. I was like... So one thing I'm noticing is like the name, my website is Guitar ACO and I am noticing that when I share that with people, they go, "What? Guitar what?" And then the name-
Pat Flynn: How do you spell it?
Dave Donahue: Yeah. The word guitar, then the letters ACO and see it's like, and I've even thought about creating a slogan where I could say just like "guitar" followed by the letters ACO, "a,nd it's the place to go for learning guitar." So but I'm noticing, like I did see that acoustic guitar academy. The acoustic guitar academy is available and I'm like, "It names what I'm doing." So I'm kind of-
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean, I will say that I didn't catch what you said initially and that's going to be a big problem. So I think that doing that would make sense. Or you say Guitar ACO, the place to go to learn how to flow on your guitar, bro. I don't know. I'm just kidding.
Dave Donahue: I know. Yeah.
Pat Flynn: I would either say the letters, guitaraco.com or guitar learners academy or something like that. That is just so much easier. And I think you got to understand not that it's a disadvantage because there are advantages to having an accent, like for sure. Like you're very easy to listen to, but in that case it's like, "Well, that might hold you back a little bit." So because of that, let's change it to something that is actually, without thought, people can know what it is right away. So I do think that would be a smart thing to do especially for the academy.
Dave Donahue: Okay. And do you reckon keep the YouTube channel named what it is perhaps and the membership is called something much more legible, Or change the whole shebang?
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean ultimately I think changing the whole thing would make the most sense. Unless the name has already become a household name, then you have the opportunity to change it.
Dave Donahue: Trust me, it has not.
Pat Flynn: All right. Well let's get something that is going to become a household name. Cool. So yeah, I hope that helps, Dave, and this has been a great conversation. Really, really good questions. It's going to be helpful for a lot of people. So right now people can go to Guitar ACO on YouTube, and maybe it'll change later. Is that the website as well?
Dave Donahue: Yeah. That's the one. That's the website. Yeah.
Pat Flynn: Okay, cool. Thank you. This is awesome. Is there anywhere else that they could come follow you maybe on social media if people want to connect with you and say hi?
Dave Donahue: Yeah, sure. So if they search up Dave Donahue on Facebook, they'll find my own personal page. I do coaching as well. So if they want to check me out there, they'll see a photo of me there.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. Thanks Dave. Great conversation. We'll chat soon. Good luck.
Dave Donahue: Pat, thanks so much. Bye.
Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoy that conversation with Dave. Dave, thank you so much. Great questions. I think that this is going to knock it out of the park once you figure it out. And I don't know if I said this on the recording or not. It may have been after we ended, but to reiterate, YouTube ads, find somebody who's mastering it, do it. We're doing it ourselves. And we're learning as well. And have that be the one or one of two mechanisms to just master and bring people in. There's a million different ways that you could invite new people into your ecosystem, into your quiz, into your challenges, into your membership, focus on the one or two and you'll get much better results. It also helps because you don't have to learn as many things. You can just go deeper into those fewer things and do much better instead of just scratching the surface with each.
Pat Flynn: And perhaps that's a message that not just you, Dave, need to hear, but everybody listening needs to hear and myself included. Anyway, thank you so much. And I hope you do check out if you haven't already, SPI Pro. We have some amazing things coming up as far as events in there. And I just got to say the circle software that we're using—full disclosure, I'm an affiliate and an advisor to the company—it just keeps getting better and better and better. And there are even more things coming out.
Pat Flynn: So if you want to check out Circle to start your membership, just like Dave is using Circle as well, you could go to smartpassiveincome.com/circle and check out the deals they have going on there. And that is an affiliate link and we do get a kickback for that, but very, very, very, very wise to use Circle to start your community. I highly recommend you check it out, and check out SPI Pro at spipro.com.
Pat Flynn: Thank you so much. I appreciate you. And I look forward to serving you in next week's episode. We got another great episode, so don't miss out and we'll talk soon. Cheers.
Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to AskPat at askpat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Sands. Our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.