What is the number one way to grow your audience when you're just starting out? Before you can expect people to discover you, showing up and providing value through existing channels is key.
In this coaching session, I'm joined by Paul Higgins of the Cloud Consultants Collective and PaulHigginsMentoring.com. He is an expert in his industry who runs a Slack community for fellow cloud consultants, a niche of about sixty thousand people worldwide.
So how should Paul go about reaching a highly targeted group? With no one else attempting this, how does he become the de facto online resource in his domain?
I always say that the riches are in the niches, so I walk Paul through several strategies that can help him build authority and scale his business. We explore leveraging ebooks, keynotes, LinkedIn, and existing product communities to create a personal brand while serving others.
Paul is an SPI Pro member, and his goal is to provide a similar premium experience for his superfans and fill the void in his niche. Listen in on our chat to hear actionable tips that can help him get there!
Subscribe to my weekly newsletter, Unstuck, to get tips, tools, and my best advice for creating a thriving online business.
AP 1251: How Do I Grow My Community and Membership Programs?
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 1251 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 Paul Higgins, who's over in Australia, and he has a business helping people who are cloud consultants.
And you know, there aren't a ton of them, but you know, as we often say, the riches are in the niches. There are about 59,000 or 60,000 of these certified cloud consultants in the world, and Paul wants to build a community and he's got a little over a hundred of them in a community right now. But we want to grow that and we want to extend this into a potential paid membership into the future.
So you can check out Cloud Consultants Collective for his company and also PaulHigginsMentoring.com for more. But listen in because this is a great conversation that comes at the right time because as you might know, for us at SPI Media, community is our future community is what we are building and community is now our product with SPI Pro.
And Paul's actually a member of SPI Pro and thank you so much, Paul. I appreciate you for coming on and for sharing what's about to happen because this is gonna be really, really useful for a lot of people. And I wanna thank you for that. So here we go. This is Paul Higgins, Cloud Consulting Collective and PaulHigginsMentoring.com. Here we go.
Paul, welcome to AskPat. Thank you so much for being here today.
Paul Higgins: Great to be here, pat, thanks for the opportunity.
Pat Flynn: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Paul Higgins: Yeah, so you could probably tell by my accent I'm from Melbourne, Australia, and what I do is help people consult on technology and effectively what they're doing is making technology easy to use.
So you probably use a lot of the products, you know, Salesforce, Microsoft, HubSpot, Zoho. I could continue the list, but what I do is help those people help you as a, as a client to, to better use the technology.
Pat Flynn: Nice. So as an example, you know, companies have IT departments, you help those IT departments essentially, like that's, that's kind of your role.
Paul Higgins: No, I'm probably one removed from that. So if you think about the IT department would get a Salesforce consultant in to help. Them. Right. So what I'm doing is helping the Salesforce consultant to get more of the IT departments.
Pat Flynn: I see. Okay. So you serve these software companies and help them get in front of more clients sometimes as well and and understand like how to sell that software.
Paul Higgins: Yeah. Yeah. So quick analogy. I spent 18 years at Coca-Cola and at Coke, the Coke company did the brand. They did the marketing and then the partners did everything else. They, you know, put it on bottle, put on trucks and sold it. Right? So in the SaaS world, it's very similar. So Salesforce does the branding and the marketing, for example, and then they have partners that actually go and do the consulting and implementation of it.
So I'm helping those partners to better run their business.
Pat Flynn: Gotcha. Awesome. Fantastic. How long you been doing that for?
Paul Higgins: So, I really started this part of the business in January of this year, 2022. But I actually had my own cloud consulting business that we ran for five years, and we sold that in 2019 to a Google partner.
Pat Flynn: Nice. Well, congratulations on that. That's amazing. So where are you at now in the business? Like what do you need help with? How can I, how can I serve you?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, so I've got a free community. It's called the Cloud Consultants Collective, and we've got 130 people in it, but I'd like to have a lot more.
So there's 59,000 cloud consultants in the world and we've got 130, so, you know, I just wanna help more people. So the biggest thing is how do I get more people into the, the free community? And then I also wanna set up a membership. I know that you've got a, a membership and I'm a part of it and I'm loving it.
I love the mastermind part of it. So I wanna also set up a membership with a mastermind in it. So, and for me at the moment, it's traffic really, like how do I get seen more like, you know, I don't have all the assets that, that you have. I do have a podcast, I have YouTube, but I'm really struggling to say, how do I be known in this, this area, given that, you know, I've really been at this for, you know, just over six months.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. Well first of all, only six months, doing pretty good. I mean, we don't have astonishing numbers right now, but 130 people in a community is, is great, especially at the start here. And that is a great sort of seed community to be able to understand what are their pains, what are their problems, like all the things you know, so that we can now find other people on the outside who have those same problems and struggles and where discussions are happening.
So we, we just need 58,870 more people to find you and then we'll be good. Right? No joking about that, but the truth is, I mean, we want as many people in there as possible, but to have something incredibly successful, I mean, you don't need a ton of people. We just want the right people in there. So the question then begs well, like where do we go?
How do we go and get these people? The number one way to get people just in general is to be and show up and provide value in the places that they are at already. It's so much easier to go to where they are versus trying to convince each individual to come over to you. Just like in, in general, right? So there are various places, and yes, you're already doing a lot of things right.
You have the podcast already, you have your website for seo. Loads of people are looking for answers. And we will hopefully come across your stuff, but I'd love to ask you, where else does this group of people, it's such a specialized group of people, you know, better than me. Where are they? Where, where are they congregating and and, and are there any moments or places where they get together?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, definitely. So each of those platforms, so let's say HubSpot as an example. HubSpot have got their own groups, so their own partner groups, and a lot of that's the technical. So that's where they normally congregate. Microsoft has got the same sales force, has got the same, you know, on and on and on. So they're there for the technical side.
What my community is, is saying, Hey, we can help you with running your business rather than the technical side. So it's like, you know, here's another group. And the other thing is when you are, say in a HubSpot community, you've only got hubs. Whereas with our community, it's like you've got everyone, because ultimately we're doing the same, same thing.
So you could learn from a Microsoft partner as much as you could at HubSpot, but that's where a lot of them are in these private groups that are run by the the SaaS owner.
Pat Flynn: Right. Do these people often have the ability to communicate with each other, like outside of your community or, or is, is your community really the first sort of opportunity for them to kind of find each other?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, good question. I think they've all got their networks of peers. So, you know, definitely there might be, you know, six or seven partners that they all talk amongst each other. So there's some people that do that and some people that haven't done that. So I'm hoping to provide that to them. And it's like, hey, you know, if you've got a problem with, you know, with a proposal for a customer, you'd like to do it better, well here's the community.
But the thing I've found hard Pat, is like, I'd love to get on podcasts and be a guess, but I haven't found any podcasts that really do this. It's like, I've got the only podcast for this, but how do I get that out there?
Pat Flynn: Right, right. I mean, that is why I didn't mention that first, cuz I, it's so specialized that there's probably not podcasts that are specific to this other than yours.
So yours is the one. So a couple things come to my number one. A, keep doing what you're doing because eventually you're gonna attract, like just from, if you did nothing different, you would continue to attract people. And what happens is, over time, because there's peer network groups, one person will get in, they'll tell their friends, and then they'll bring five people in.
And you know, over time it will, I mean, again, you're only six months into this, that exponential growth will happen. Now obviously we want to speed that up and get in front of more people. So there might be some ways to go about doing this. One way that I know one of my friends did in a specialized manner was they created a, a book and it became like the defacto book that anyone who was in that industry, basically they'd be an idiot not to go and get it because it, it was just like that helpful and that did a couple things for him.
Put 'em on the map in front of people who, who didn't know 'em, because a book is a little bit easier to share than a podcast. For example, it put this person in a position of authority. And here's the other thing that happened. They started to get invited to talks. So I don't know if there are any stages that you can get on.
I mean, you might be able to get on them right now because A, you have the only podcast, and B, you're obviously an expert. But C, having that book, there's just something about a book. It doesn't have to be a 50,000 page book either, but it's just the defacto guide on how to do this kind of thing, and that can then sort of skyrocket a lot of things and, and give the, give you that boost.
So any reaction to to that?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, I think that's a brilliant idea. I've, I've always, so I've got my sort of framework, my methodology, You know, it's sort of broken into three areas. If I put that into, say, like an ebook it's structured already.
Yeah. Yeah. So I've, I've got the, I've got the structure, I just don't have the content to add to it, so I think that's a
Pat Flynn: Yeah. So you could get that in. First of all, that's a huge value add to anybody who's already in your community, for example, and you just kind of, you can even like, just give it to them. Cause the whole goal is not to necessarily make a ton of money with the book. Yes. It's let's, let's build this community and the book becomes a tool to enable you to do.
Paul Higgins: And have you had any experience Pats on, you know, would you do any paid traffic to that book? Cause I, I really haven't ever done anything.
Pat Flynn: Paid traffic to the book. Yes. Paid traffic to a community is very difficult, which is why the book is a nice, again, sort of in between that gives value, it's kind of low priced.
And then if there was a paid community on top of that. I mean, I was gonna say inside of the book you mentioned these other things that people should get involved with, right? Like the community, for example, and we'll talk about the community in just a minute. Absolutely, paid traffic. And the cool thing about that is you don't need a ton of money to be able to experiment with that.
The other thing that came to mind with relation to your particular industry would be LinkedIn, have you done anything on LinkedIn as far as outreach?
Paul Higgins: Yeah. Look, that's I suppose that's been the key way that I've driven the 130 peoples through LinkedIn. So we, we find the people on LinkedIn, but we're sending emails to them and I, I've got my sort of, you know, I spend quite a bit of time.
I compliment them, I ask them a question. And I've actually, the one that I got back this morning is, you know, I really enjoyed your, your funnel. So I think that part of it's working well and that's how we've got most of our members to date is through LinkedIn.
Pat Flynn: Nice. And so when this book exists, or even before, you might be able to experiment with running sponsored slash paid ads on LinkedIn. Okay, great idea. Just, just to make sure you get in front of those people, it'd be worth experimenting with. I I, I do know, however, that LinkedIn probably has the most expensive ads. It's because it's so targeted and because it's business and oftentimes people are bidding a little bit more than, than they would on on Instagram or Facebook, for example, but LinkedIn would definitely be a social media platform for you to, to lean into, which you've done already.
Now, the community, the 130 people, where, where do they live? Like what's the, what's the software using for that?
Paul Higgins: So predominantly they, they're in, where they physically live are mainly in the US or North America.
Pat Flynn: Oh, I'm sorry. Like what software are you using as the hub for.
Paul Higgins: I'm sorry. Yes. So, so at the moment for the free community, we are using Slack at the moment.
Pat Flynn: Ooh, that's good. I, I don't hear a lot of people using Slack for, for a community that's like really highly engaging, that's just more professional. So what's your vision with the community? I'd love to know.
Paul Higgins: Yeah, so, so the vision is to continue to add as much value as as possible.
So, you know, I'm, I listen about two hours podcast, mainly yours at two and a half times speed a day. And then I'm collecting the knowledge and then sharing it with them. So you know, I'm being the one point that's, that's spreading that. So I'm doing that in the community and that's really, but what I want them to do is start to create their own networks.
And then what I'm, I've got a pilot that I'm doing based off the mastermind learning from you, is that I'm gonna launch a membership, which will be, you know, three to five people where they can have a mastermind and run it themselves and, yeah. Nice. I, I asked for two to five people. And I've got the nice problem where I've got like 20 people replied saying they wanna do it.
So that, that's great. It seems to be a great way. And what I'll do is, you know, pilot the small group, and then I'm thinking of having that as a paid membership.
Pat Flynn: Mm. Yeah, that's, that's great. That's great. So the free community is where they initially come in. They might come in from the book or the podcast or the, OR research engines or ads or what have you, and then they get into the community.
They're learning that there's other people like them. They're getting value from the exchanges that they have, but maybe they don't quite have the ultimate access that they might prefer. And some people will be fine and happy with the free community, but there's gonna be some people, percentage of them who want to just go further.
Right, and that's where. Offering that you have, which you're testing now, which is fantastic, definitely can come into play. And so although you have like 25 people interested, I, I would run just one group. Like, I'm sorry, the to the others, they'll have to wait till this is launched again and even better.
But you really get in communication with each of those members to be able to understand what's working for them, what's not, what reservations do they have, what, what are they most excited about? And this way, this language that they offer back to you can be used to then promote the community when you go farther and or the membership farther and wide down the road.
So it, to me, it seems like the roadmaps in play, the only new thing that we talked about today was. The book as sort of the lead gen slash authority builder kind of situation. And the other thing that I had asked that I'm, I'm, I don't know if I got an answer for, I apologize, but are there different stages?
Could you speak at HubSpot's event, for example, could you speak in front of the Salesforce crew? Like, is that, is that something that is in your plane or, or you ever thought of?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, look definitely if it's virtual. Like I know covid's been horrible for most of us. For me it's been a little easy cuz then virtual events have become more, because I, I had a transplant three years ago, so I really can't travel and been in Melbourne, Australia, it's, you know, it's a long way for anything. So, yeah, I think some of those groups are, and. Adding to what you said before is where they congregate. Maybe it's some of the smaller groups and going guest presenting to some of those smaller groups. So that might work where it's virtual and then that may be a great way of getting on start and building my experience in, in talking about this as well.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, try like. A good challenge for yourself, Paul, would be get in front of one small group at one of these companies within the next, I don't know, couple months or something, and just kind of see what that's like. You, you're gonna figure it out as you go, right? And you're gonna have to figure out, well, who, who are the decision makers there who would enable this to happen?
And what are the reservations they have or what, what do they need? So that when you go to the next one, it's already laid out, you've done it before, and it's just something that now is a part of your rhythm and cadence, which those people watch, they get value. They're congregated there, but now they're attracted to you and they'll come over to the community because they're like, wow, I want to continue this conversation with Paul, or I wanna meet other people even outside of this company to cross pollinate and, and get some ideas from et cetera.
Paul Higgins: And, and just one other question on webinar. So, you know, whether it's a webinar workshop, master to class or something different, but do you think that's also a good way to bring people into the community?
Pat Flynn: Most definitely. Most definitely. Because it provides a tiny window of time that a person can go, okay, I'm gonna schedule time outta my day to come to this.
It's like a, it's like an event in real life. And then they get some something valuable, right? That is a quick way, a way to sort of accelerate the relationship building process. And so another thing that you could run ads to is maybe it's not the book, but it's the webinar or the training masterclass, intensive workshop, whatever you wanna call it.
Just when you are pitching that, make sure that the transformation that they're gonna get there. Why is this worth my hour? What am I gonna get out of this? What's, what's the thing that I'm gonna come away from? If it's just like a general sort of, you know, 1 0 1 masterclass, learn, learn how to do this.
It's like, okay, well you can learn that anywhere. But if it's specific, like how to double the revenue from each of your clients or something, I don't know, something specific that, that makes the teaching a little bit easier because it's that specific. But also people know what to expect when they come in and they, they can imagine what the win will be on the other end.
So they're more likely to show up, they're more likely to get value, and then of course when that happens, they're more likely to engage and, and, and want to continue the conversation.
Cool. Paul, this has been fantastic. Where, where can people go? Like if they're maybe in this world or they might know somebody who's in this world, where can they go to to, to see you and get some help?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, so the CloudConsultantsCollective.com is the community, and then everything else is PaulHigginsMentoring.com.
Pat Flynn: Nice. Paul, thank you so much. This was great, and it sounds like you got some direction to work with, is that true?
Paul Higgins: Yeah, I've got an ebook I'm about to go and create. I'm also gonna go present to one of those groups.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. We look forward to chatting with you, Paul, and we'll, we'll ask you how it went and we'll see where you're at at that point.
Paul Higgins: All right, brilliant. Thanks, Pat.
Pat Flynn: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that conversation between myself and Paul. There again, you can find Paul at Cloud Consultants Collective and also PaulHigginsMentoring.com for more information.
So thank you, Paul. I appreciate you, and again, thank you so much for speaking so highly of SPI Pro. If any of you are listening, if you wanna join Paul and hundreds of other entrepreneurs just like you inside of SPI Pro, you can apply at SPIpro.com. It's a safe space to collaborate, to connect and to get challenged, and to get held accountable for the work that you're doing online.
And we're here to help you get to within reach of your goals there. So again, that's SPIpro.com. Thank you so much for listening in today. I appreciate you hit that subscribe button so you don't miss out on the next great episodes that are coming your way. Until then, cheers. Take care, and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Thanks for listening to AskPat at AskPat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is David Grabowski. Our series producer is Paul Grigoras, 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.