Membership Geeks

Behind The Membership: The Metalsmith Academy

Play Podcast Episode Subscribe to the Podcast

Launching and building a successful brand isn’t easy…

We all know that… 

But pivoting an already successful business to a completely different model is even more difficult…

Especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

That’s what Lucy Walker, from Lucy Walker Jewellery and The Metalsmith Academy had to do in 2020. 

Realising the need to expand her business and navigate the ever-changing global restrictions of Covid-19, she transitioned from delivering in-person courses on jewellery making to launching her membership website.

And since then she hasn’t looked back.

But while she’s been hugely successful as a membership owner, the past twelve months haven’t been without their challenges. 

As we go Behind The Membership, I speak to Lucy to get some insight into how she braved the transition.

How she managed the highs and lows of life as a membership owner, the lessons she’s learned so far and everything else in-between. 

Tell us about Metalsmith Academy…

I started things 5 years ago teaching in-person classes here in Malaysia…

But now we’re an online membership for jewellers and metalsmiths across the world. 

We offer online classes and a community among other things. 

We’ve been running the membership for around a year, and teach jewellers at the beginning or middle of their journey to develop their skills. 

We’re attracting a lot of members right now because we launched our membership in the middle of the pandemic – a time when everyone not only wanted to learn, but also be part of a community. 

We started by launching online classes  then realised that the membership model was the right fit for our students. 

What made you decide to make the transition from online classes to a membership model?

It was a matter of necessity really…

We planned to launch our online classes around 6 months before covid hit..

Something we’re so pleased we did as it placed us 6 months ahead of the competition…

So we launched the online classes, we were debating how long to provide access. 

Looking back, I’m so glad that we decided on a year instead of lifetime membership

Because what is lifetime? 

So, we offered our classes with a one-year availability.

That’s when things got a bit chaotic. 

Just six months down the line, we were inundated with emails saying, “I've not had the chance to look at my class” and “Can I get an extension?” 

Obviously, offering all these extensions isn't great for business, but we were helped where we could. 

In the end, it was clear that we couldn’t keep things moving that way…

We just couldn’t keep up…

So the membership model made sense. 

So how long ago did you actually launch the membership? 

Just coming up to the first year now. 

Now we’ve got the job of trying to make sure everyone who signed up for the annual subscription renews.  

We sent all annual subscribers a swag bag when they joined and got a fantastic response.

The amount of unpacking videos we were mentioned in on instagram was insane! 

We didn’t expect to have such a successful launch in terms of annual members.  

We ordered 500 swag bags and ended up with 1,300 annual member sign ups. 

And 3,000 members overall. 

That was mainly from 130,000 followers on Instagram I think. 

We started with a closed-door model and recently changed to open. 

What made you decide to pick the closed model initially and why have you made that change?

The closed-door model seemed like the no-brainer out of the two.

I assumed that the closed-door model meant that we could focus our marketing efforts within a set period of time, and that was that.  

But, since we were only open three times a year, there was this blind panic whenever it was time to launch. 

We’d have to stop working on everything else and pour all our time into marketing for a whole two months. 

After doing this twice and getting back to that pre-launch stage, I changed my mind… 

Being stressed every four months wasn’t worth it.

I'm really happy about that decision because now we’re a lot more relaxed. 

It’s also freed up time to help people as and when they actually need it, rather than making people wait 4 months until our doors open again. 

Is there anything in particular that you have found difficult about the transition to running a membership?

There’s nothing quite like that one-on-one contact. 

I definitely miss the banter in the studio, as well as the feedback and friendships.

Besides that, my teaching style has had to change… 

Making jewellery is such a practical skill. 

So when you’re teaching in-person classes, you could just have a vague outline, show them what to do, then guide them through their problems. 

With online classes, the clearer you make the classes, the less work you have to do in the background. 

So, it has definitely made me a lot more explanative in my teaching because I’m more aware that these people can't necessarily ask questions and get an instant answer. 

However, a major highlight of this switch is that I can now work wherever I like. 

Despite Covid we’ve been able to do some internal travel in Malaysia. 

So as a team we’ll often pack up and head off to a tropical island and work from there for a week. 

What are you doing in terms of retention and how are you keeping members happy month after month?

Retention is something we’re really diving into right now, so there’s been no clear-cut strategy at the moment.  

It's just not been a top priority because we’ve always had a regular stream of people wanting to join.

Now we've just moved to the permanently open membership, we're really starting to pay attention to the numbers. 

We had what I thought was a really nice email campaign to welcome people into the academy…

But there’s the need to be a bit more thorough and welcoming. 

In the meantime, we do try to get people straight into the forums as soon as they join. 

Hopefully, if we have this conversation in a couple of years’ time, we'll have made massive improvements here!

In terms of the membership community, what are you doing to foster discussion?

We’ve been doing pretty well on that front and have quite the collection of cool tricks for this.

Generally, I'm in there every day, first thing in the morning chatting with everyone, and engaging.  

I do a bit more than just answering questions – it’s more like cheerleading and just having a good laugh.

We also do things like tagging people who can help, which is great since we have some absolutely amazing members who really go all out to help.

The other thing that we do that really works in getting people to the forum at least once is making sure we have random giveaways.   

It's just like an Instagram competition, where we'll say, “Hey, we just got 100 carats of gemstones and we're giving them away, all you have to do is tell us what you're going to make with them.

And then we update the onboarding emails…

So anyone who has just joined has a second reason to go on over to the forums as well. 

That's a couple of things that we do over in the forum, and everyone is so engaged. 

At the end of the day, I think it boils down to the community. 

Everyone who's in there is just really passionate, and it comes across quite well.

Do you have particular goals that you're aiming for with the membership? 

There’s no definite answer for that because I actually just love doing this.

Sure, I work crazy hours right now…

But if I was a millionaire, I’d simply retire, go set up a new studio somewhere else and just end up doing it all over again. 

So, final question, if someone's thinking of starting a membership, what one tip would you give them?

Start building an audience as soon as you can…

I wish we’d started earlier… 

And not just an audience, go as far as to start setting up an email list quite early on. 

I can’t stress the importance of this enough.

Social media is important, but think hard about building an email list, make at least one simple lead magnet, get it out there and get those email addresses. 

Once you’ve got that, stay in touch because that’s where most people lose their footing. 

I’m still learning this myself, we send out one email a month to all lists generally…

But I'm desperately trying to increase that to one a week. 

In fact, my New Year's resolution is one email a week, but make it something worth sending.

Learn more about Lucy over at… 

Metalsmith Academy

Lucy on Instagram

Thank You For Listening

We really appreciate you chosing to listen to us and for supporting the podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, please share it using the social media buttons on this page.

We would also be eternally grateful if you would consider taking a minute or two to leave an honest review and rating for the show in iTunes. They're extremely helpful when it comes to reaching our audience and we read each and every one personally!

Finally, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes to make sure that you never miss an episode

Level up with the Membership Growth Matrix

Level up with the Membership Growth Matrix

Discover how to truly scale your business with our proven framework for taking your existing membership to the next level

You may also be interested in...

Learning Center