How to Grow Community by Not Growing

March 18, 2013

I’m often asked about building community.

One of the great mistakes in trying to build community is making it TOO open. Letting anyone in.

All that happens is…well, no one wants to join at some point.

My buddy, Derek Coburn, has gone the other way. He’s building the premier business professionals networking group in the Metro DC area and, as of April 1, he’s not letting anyone else in (unless it’s one big April Fool’s Joke…which I don’t think it is.)

His full note is below, but I think it’s pure genius.

It tells his members: I value you.

It tells non-members: this community has enough value that I don’t need you (right now).

He’s focusing on Reed’s Law and, in so doing, is going to make the community even stronger.

At some point, he may allow new members in, but if/when he does, he’ll know that the core is rock solid and that those who do join will really appreciate the opportunity because it’s not a commodity, it’s a precious resource.

Happy Tuesday, cadre'er!

Beginning April 1, we will be capping our membership so that we can focus all of our efforts on maximizing the support we provide you and our existing members. This is somewhat inspired by Dan Pink’s, To Sell Is Human, where he suggests organizations should focus more on up-serving and less on up-selling. Although we have obviously never up-sold you, we believe we can do even more to serve you and would rather put 100% of our focus there, at the expense of marketing to prospective members. We will be considering new member applications until the end of the month and only have room for about five new members at this time. (See the details below on how you can extend an invitation to an ideal nominee, while offering them 50% off the upfront fee.)
Here’s our vision for the near future and how it will benefit you:

  • We have provided revenue-generating opportunities to several members over the past few months that have come to us outside of cadre (i.e.- “Hey Derek- Do you have anyone in cadre who does X?”). We want to build on this and focus more of our time promoting the community as a resource to local corporations and businesses who are not in cadre.
  • By leveraging the capabilities of your new Community Concierge, Alicia Staley, we will work with each of you to maximize the impact you receive from the Nucleus (your events, blogs, interactions, etc.). In particular, Alicia will be working with you to better prepare your profiles for when we make them public (part of our initiative to promote you outside of cadre). More details on this coming soon.
  • We will provide more opportunities for you to include key clients and contacts as guests at our events.
  • This will ultimately lead to us maintaining a strong waitlist that we can turn to if existing members become unfit for the community (move out of the area, change careers, become disengaged, etc.).

If you know of anyone that would be a great addition to the cadre community, now would be a great time to introduce them to us. You can offer any candidate you refer to us the opportunity to join at a reduced initiation fee of $1499 ($1000 plus the first month of $499) instead of paying the current rate of $3000. If you are making a great recommendation, we want you to look good too! If you have someone in mind, please respond to this email and I will get you the copy to use when making the introduction. Not that you asked, but we will still be providing you with Amazon gift cards and/or Kindle Fires (depending on how many members you have referred in) as our way of saying thank you! :)
Our goal with cadre has never been to grow for the sake of growth, but rather to have a highly engaged community of remarkable professionals we can serve. We believe that by eliminating our efforts to proactively identify new members (literally getting it off our plates) we can spend this time looking to identify even more opportunities for you.
We hope to have your support with this, but please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We would love to hear your feedback.
Thanks for being part of cadre and part of our lives. We look forward to contributing to 2013 being a huge success for you!

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