BOOK CLUB CASE STUDY: £15,000 IN MONTHLY RECURRING REVENUE IN 57 MONTHS

“We’re really focused on just making the membership experience as good as possible by engaging people more around the themes and making it easy for them to connect with each other and explore their curiosities. We’re already seeing lots of spin-off groups: writers, entrepreneurs, stoics, brunch crew and more.”

Introduction

Gaggle Mail, the makers of your favourite group email tool, help people build better communities by giving them access to software tools that enhance member engagement. However, building strong communities isn’t accomplished through technology alone. A lot of creative thinking, planning, strategizing and socializing go on behind the scenes to help communities grow.

For this reason, Gaggle Mail is on a mission to bring you educational stories that are sure to inspire community leaders to build bigger and stronger groups.

Today, Gaggle Mail was fortunate enough to chat with the founders of Rebel Book Club about their experience scaling their club to over 850 paying members with Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) of over £15,000 / month in only 57 months. A wildly profitable book club. Imagine that!

Let’s jump into the interview below.

 

The Interview


Hello and thanks for chatting with
Gaggle Mail blog readers today about Rebel Book Club. Many of the users of our software manage their own book clubs, so I’m sure being able to plug into how you manage things over at Rebel will be a huge inspiration to them. Your club has been around now for over four years. Why don’t you kick things off by telling our readers a little bit more about your journey so far? 

We wanted to finish more non-fiction books and extract real tangible value from what we read. The Japanese call the pile of never-finished books on your bedside table: Tsundouku, and we were suffering under its curse! We thought it’d be cool to read the same book at the same time with other curious minds. We tested the idea pretty quickly and thought it had enough legs to charge a monthly £15 subscription fee which covers:

  • x 1 non-fiction book
  • x 1 inspiring meetup
  • x 1 custom cocktail inspired by the book, served at the meetup by our friends at Mix & Muddle

We launched in May 2015 and had 24 paying members, a number of whom I consider good friends now! Each month Ben & I put in a little time to keep things ticking over and the community grew organically month on month. A year later we had 104 paying members and enough leverage to reach out to some bigger authors… and actually get a response.

Amazing! Let’s talk more about your club and some of your early challenges. What were some of the main obstacles that you encountered in recruiting your first members, and how did you get past those first roadblocks?

In truth, we didn’t have the bandwidth to invest heaps of time into the project but we kept the formula simple and whilst it was small, we continued to grow month on month via word of mouth with zero marketing spend. After running a couple of workshops at festivals on ‘how to get maximum value from badass books’ we were asked to talk at a TEDx event.

Things were starting to feel pretty legit.

Our usual distribution channel was via Amazon vouchers giving members the freedom to redeem Kindle or Paperback versions of our monthly book but we were drawn to distributing physical books a few times — partly because we had enough scale to negotiate wholesale prices directly with publishers and partly because we thought a physical book turning up in a branded envelope could take the member experience to the next level. We learnt quickly that physical distribution for us was increasingly time-consuming and added a heap of customer service challenges if the book didn’t arrive as intended. Part of me still thinks one day we may revert back to this method and get it right but for now, we decided to leave it to Bezos and the pro’s.

On your website, I see that you try to keep RBC members as active and engaged as possible. You have weekly emails, monthly meetings, and you also provide networking events so members can get to know each other. How do you manage to stay abreast with everyone and everything? How challenging is it to keep members connected in five different cities?

We’re just starting to focus on that now.

So far London has been 80% of our membership (700 / 850) current subscribing members.

But we’re now linking up members more online and creating opportunities for ‘power hour’ mini meets IRL for members to do some in-person reading accountability.

850 members! First of all, congratulations! What engagement strategies have you found to be the most valuable so far in allowing you to reach this number? Do you perform A/B testing in terms of engaging people, and if so, how do you do it?

We’ve kept it super simple.

1. Regular updates, with the same monthly rhythm – 1 book, 1 meet, 1 cocktail.

2. We’ve made an effort to connect our members as much as possible and share what we’re all learning.

3. We’ve responded quickly to applications, new member signups and, as importantly, requests to cancel so people move-on feeling good about the RBC experience.

I noticed that you have a link on your website that lets people apply to contribute in setting up a Rebel Book Club in their city. How do you go about vetting the forms that come through here? What are the main factors that can improve the chances of a successful application?

We only reject those who don’t put effort into the 2 minute application. We want to know if they’re motivated to read more and are open to new books and ideas. If they have that mindset they’ll get a lot out of RBC.

It’s truly inspiring to know that your book club has grown to five different cities in just four years. You bring your members to meet with one another and travel to amazing places around the globe. How far do you want your club to go in terms of membership? What plans do you have in store for RBC in the next couple of years?

We’re really focused on just making the membership experience as good as possible by engaging people more around the themes and making it easy for them to connect with each other and explore their curiosities. We’re already seeing lots of spin-off groups: writers, entrepreneurs, stoics, brunch crew and more.

One of your writers mentioned in a blog that the RBC community has changed and isn’t as tight-knit as it was several years back. But they also said that micro-groups have formed and the intimacy and bond between members are still there. What steps do you take to motivate your members to continue supporting one another?

The reading accountability helps bring everyone back to the same page. Sorry! We’re all reading the same book at the same time, so that connects us. Beyond that it’s simply about giving members the opportunities to connect with each other as much as they’d like. This month, for example, we’re doing this.

In 2018, you recorded an MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) of £5,250 with approximately 350 paying members in your club. How long did it take for you to reach this amount? What does your MRR look like today?

We’re now at 850 members, MRR of around £15,000. Its taken 57 months but growth is going the right way!

We recently crowdfunded so that has helped, although the investment into marketing only started this week… see our stats here.

With so many individuals taking part in your club nowadays, how do you keep things under control? What system do you employ to help you in managing your membership?

So far, pretty calm. We’re fairly light touch – regular online comms + monthly meets.

Our new team, as of last week, includes part-time membership manager, cities & meetups manager and growth marketing. Exciting times!

The Rebel Book Club has been active in the last four years, and I assume you’ve seen your share of ups and downs. If you had the opportunity to sit down and give advice to someone planning to start a book club, what tips would you share with them to help their book club get started on the right foot?

1. Read the same book each month, prompts during the month to get it done.
2. Share your learnings/insights as you go.
3. Make it fun, varied and surprising.
4. Use simple no code tools to operate it.
5. It takes time, don’t expect it to grow quickly!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with Gaggle Mail today! The Rebel Book Club story is truly inspiring and I’m sure our readers will have taken many actionable insights away from this interview. To our blog readers, if you’d like to learn more about Rebel Book Club you can follow them on Twitter or head over to their website here.

 

Collapsible Side Bar

A quick update to announce that you can now minimise the side-bar when using Gaggle Mail on a tablet or desktop.

 

 

collapsible-side-bar

 

 

Our mobile layout had to side-bar popping out when you needed it but previously on tablets and desktop you were stuck with the side-bar. This was ok on large screens but on laptops and tablets, the side-bar was taking a little too much space. Now you can hide it.

Improved Daily Digest and Moderation Emails

The Daily Digest feature is very popular on Gaggle Mail, we send thousands of digest emails every day. For many people these emails are their only interaction with Gaggle Mail so it’s important that they are as good as they can be.

To this end, we have just rolled out some changes to digest and moderation emails which we hope make them even more useful and relevant. There are two major changes you may notice.

Firstly, we now show the entire message in the digest. Previously we truncated messages after around 10 lines, this was mainly because we didn’t have a way of chopping off all the previous replies from an email thread. We can do this now which means we just show the immediate reply portion of a message and show it in its entirety.

And secondary, we now include all HTML formatting from the original email including any inline images. This means the message you see in a digest email will very closely resemble the original email.

These changes make digest and moderation messages much more self-contained so hopefully, there will be less need to view messages on the Gaggle Mail website and save you some time.

As with many changes on Gaggle Mail the changes we’ve made to digest emails came from user feedback, so if you have any ideas or feedback for us, we’d love to hear it!

How To Save Your Yahoo Groups Message Archive

If we’re honest, it was no great surprise when Yahoo announced it was effectively shutting down Yahoo Groups at the end of the year. Once great, Yahoo Groups had been limping along for years, the last major update (codenamed “Neo”) was back in 2013 and that was universally hated by, well, everyone.

If anything, it’s a surprise it has stuck around this long.

As inevitable as these things appear, it’s always a shock when the news comes in. Especially when you’re told all your data, in some cases going back decades, will be permanently deleted in two months’ time (the deadline currently stands at 14th December 2019).

Disgruntled Yahoo Groups users have been moving over to Gaggle Mail for as long as we can remember which is why we have a super slick transfer process for moving groups over.

All you have to do is; create a new group on Gaggle Mail, make help@gaggle.email a moderator of your existing Yahoo Group, then let us know your new Gaggle Mail group name and your old Yahoo Group name and we’ll do the rest!  Your entire member list and message archive will be transferred over and available for you to pick up from where you left off.

You can do all this while on our free 14-day trial, so there’s no risk!

If you have any questions about this or anything else related to the Yahoo Groups shutdown, please let us know.

Improved Message Archive

Being able to search your entire message archive has always been a key feature of Gaggle Mail which is why we’re delighted to have been able to spend some time over the last few months improving how it looks and how it works. We now allow you to select and view messages while still seeing your message list. We’ve also got rid of the paging of messages and just show all of them in a continuously scrolling list.

message-archive-with-side-panel

Being able to quickly click between messages and see entire message threads from one view really makes the message archive more interactive and helps you to quickly catch up with what’s going on. In the header for each message we also show you the key details from the delivery report (how many messages delivered/bounced etc) so, at a glance, you can see if your messages are getting through.

message-header-delivery-count

When viewing messages we show them cleaned up with all previous replies hidden so you can easily see what each person said. You can always switch to see a message in its original form by selecting “Show Raw Message”

message-options

We’re really pleased with these changes and think they further improve the utility of the messages archive. If you have any feedback on this or anything else on Gaggle Mail, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

A Guide to Group Email

Email is going nowhere. Despite what you may have heard from Slack, Facebook, Whatsapp or other chat focused companies, email is here to stay. You can’t get away from that fact that EVERYONE has an email address and EVERYONE knows how to use email. It’s the lowest common denominator amongst electronic communication.

Another thing that email has going for it is that sending a message to lots of people it no more complicated than sending to a single person. Just add their names to the To: field and off you go.

As long as people keep using “Reply to All” you can keep a conversation going amongst a group of people with very little effort.  Everyone can be using their own email client on whatever device they choose, replying in their own time or even composing responses offline. Super. Easy.

This sort of low friction, familiar, group communication really has a lot going for it. New conversations can be started in seconds, most email clients do a reasonable job of keeping a searchable archive, and adding things like pictures or attachments is easy. All-in-all this is probably why group emails use is so ubiquitous that we don’t even consider it as a ‘product’ or ‘app’, it’s just email doing its thing.

Everyone who has used group email like this will also probably encountered some of its shortcomings like someone forgets to click reply-to-all or the confusion which ensues when someone moves jobs and needs to change their email address. It’s at times like this when you just need a little bit more structure around your free-flowing just-add-everyone-in-the-to-field approach.

If this is you then Gaggle Mail does a great job to provide that structure without forcing everyone to sign up to a new app or even move out of their email client.

Gaggle Mail gives your group its own email address so instead of sending you a message to all everyone’s individual address you just sent it to the one address and Gaggle Mail makes sure everyone in the group gets it. You don’t have to worry about not clicking reply-to-all since there’s only one address to reply to. And also if someone’s email address changes, just update it in the group list and nobody else needs to do anything.

Group email is a superb tool but if your group needs just a little bit more structure, then give Gaggle Mail a try for free to help keep things on track.

How To Create a Listserv

A Listserv is a great way to easily facilitate group email discussion, there are plenty of advantages of having a Listserv over just including everyone in cc but we won’t go into them here, this article is about setting up a Listserv.

The official Listserv software has been around for 30 years and is provided exclusively by L-Soft, this is large scale, tried and tested enterprise software. If you need hundreds of groups with tens of thousands of members then this is the option for you. It doesn’t come cheap but it does give you a large scale enterprise solution.

If your requirements are more modest, maybe you just need a few groups (or one) with less than a few thousand members then Gaggle Mail is a worthy alternative. Although Gaggle Mail is not strictly a Listserv (L-Soft holds the Listserv trademark), it accomplishes the same thing a Listserv does in a modern, easy-to-use way.

Being 100% hosted in the cloud, it’s super easy to get started with Gaggle Mail. Just head to the home page, enter your email address and a password, choose a name for your group and voila(!) you have your own group email discussion list.

Gaggle Mail was created with a major focus on being easy to use and accessible to anyone. From small smartphone screens to tablets or large desktops, managing your groups on Gaggle Mail is simple and intuitive. Whether you’re trying to add members to a group, searching for messages in the archive, moderating messages before they’re sent out – it’s all just a click or tap away.

At the heart of any good group email system is its ability to get messages delivered and this is where Gaggle Mail shines. The delivery of every message is tracked and should delivery problems arise then these are quickly highlighted with simple to follow resolution steps. With years of experience delivering millions of email messages, you can rest easy that your messages will get delivered.

Being a modern platform, Gaggle Mail was created in a world of GDPR and privacy concerns from large tech companies (Facebook, Google, I’m looking at you). Not only do we take extreme care to make sure all private data remains private, but we also have unique features like Incognito Mode which allows people to participate in group email discussion without their email address being known to other people in the group.

Listservs are a very useful tool for group email discussion, Gaggle Mail provides a modern, reliable and simple take on this winning formula.

Try Gaggle Mail for free.

Subgroups

TLDR Gaggle Mail now supports subgroups – and they’re awesome!

It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally added subgroups to Gaggle Mail. As with all features on Gaggle Mail, we really wanted to make sure subgroups were as simple and intuitive as they could be and I think we’ve done exactly that.

 

general-my-groups

With a group added as a subgroup to another (parent) group, then all messages sent to the parent group will also be sent to the subgroup. It’s that simple.

We take into account any moderation and daily digests, and we also take care of any duplicate recipients to make sure members only receive one copy of a message.

Once groups are linked together you just drag a group into the subgroup section of the parent group and to set up a subgroup. If you want to remove a subgroup, just simply click the cross next to its name.

This has been a highly anticipated feature for us so please give it a try and let us know your feedback.

Adding a Free Plan

TLDR: We now have a free plan.

From the very start Gaggle Mail was a paid service. This kept things simple, it meant we only had to support users who were actually paying us – which is great when your resources are small. It also meant that if people were willing to pay for our service then we must be doing something right, which is invaluable feedback when you’re starting out.

However, now we’ve grown and Gaggle Mail is a mature product we have the capacity to accommodate free users who maybe don’t need our full feature set or who are on a tight budget. Hopefully, this will also help spread the word about Gaggle Mail which can only be a good thing, right?!

The pricing of our paid plans hasn’t changed with single groups starting from just $2 per month and $4 per month for unlimited groups.

So if you, or someone you know, needs a free group email service, then send them over.

The free plan has all the features of a paid group with the following restrictions:

• Maximum 20 members
• Custom domains are not supported
• No custom welcome email or footer

Facebook Groups Alternative

Facebook is a huge platform with lots of great products, one of which is Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups has been part of Facebook from almost the beginning and is used by clubs, companies and organisations to communicate, share documents, plan events in either open or closed groups.
 
Being part of Facebook means to use or participate in a Facebook Group you need to be “on” Facebook. With Facebook’s near ubiquity this isn’t such a big deal but more and more people are becoming aware of how companies such as Facebook use and share their data and so are looking for less intrusive alternatives.
 
Group email discussion lists, or listservs (as they’re sometimes known) are a great way for groups of people to communicate and share ideas. For a start, you don’t need to be part of a social network to participate – you just need an email address and everyone has one of those. Since it’s all done over email it’s very familiar too, you use whatever email program you prefer on whatever device you prefer.  Sharing files is simple too, just attach them to your email and send it to your group. Read and reply to message while you’re off-line? Sure, it’s email after all.
 
Getting started with group email couldn’t be simpler with Gaggle Mail. Get your group up and running in seconds, then add the people you want and start sending messages, it’s that easy.
 
Give Gaggle Mail a try with a 14-day free trial and enjoy simple, reliable group email communication which you and your group will love.