LY Podcast: Ep. 39: In-person to Online Networking Program with Melody Tholstrup – Launch Yourself

Welcome to episode 39 of the Launch Yourself podcast.

In This Episode

In today’s episode, Melody Tholstrup shares how she took her offline local networking and marketing program, to an online program during a COVID pivot. She shares how she tested it, how she runs it, and what the plan is now going forward. Along the way, she learned how to make it as simple as possible for people to join and learn all about marketing tactics to help them grow their own business.

She shares how she is able to teach marketing skills to brick and mortar local companies with a huge networking component, and pivot into an online community that has even further reach. All without worrying too much about the tech and components. Instead, she approached her online launch with a testing mindset, and started adjusting her offerings based on audience feedback and gaps she was seeing in her local (now online) market.

If you work with traditionally offline businesses, or your own business has a strong in-person component, Melody’s launch has some great nuggets of how to take what you’re already great at, and adjust it to scale even further than in-person only tends to allow.

Resources Mentioned

Learn More About Melody Tholstrup

For over 30 years, Melody has worked in the marketing & advertising industry and has helped a wide variety of businesses learn how to navigate the many marketing choices available, while teaching them how to find the best strategies for their businesses.

Melody created MAP Marketing Accountability Partners Coaching Programs & Workshops specifically help overwhelmed entrepreneurs set AND achieve marketing goals that help them take their marketing to the next level of success.

Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is the launch yourself podcast episode number 39 with Melody Tholstrup. For more information and show notes, go to launch yourself.co/ 39. Welcome to the launch yourself podcast. My name is Melissa Anzman. I'm a bestselling author and the CEO of two businesses, an employee experience company, and launch yourself where I help entrepreneurs diversify and scale their business by launching digital products each week, you'll hear mindblowing interviews where we peek behind the curtain of other people's launches, as well as actual tips and strategies that you can implement in your daily work life to create launches that actually make you money. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now let's get started. I am so excited to have Melody Tholstrup on today's episode. Melody has been working in marketing and advertising for over 30 years, and she has helped a wide variety of businesses learn how to navigate the many marketing choices available while teaching them how to find the best strategies for their business.

Melissa Anzman (01:09): She created MAPthe marketing accountability partners, coaching programs, and workshops specifically designed to help overwhelmed entrepreneurs set and achieve their marketing goals and help them take their marketing to the next level of success. And in today's episode, we are going to talk about how COVID are really threw a wrench in her business plans, which is mainly, or I should say was mainly a localized networking business for entrepreneurs in her hometown. Instead, she was able to make an amazing pivot with her business and grow even bigger when the challenge of COVID hit. So this launch was an accidental launch, which, you know, I always love a good accidental launch, but it actually created an entirely new business opportunity for something she was already doing and loving. I think you're going to love today's episode. Let's dive right in Melody. I'm so excited to have you on the podcast today. Thank you so much for being on. Thank you for having me, Melissa. Of course. So give us a little bit of background about your business.

Melody Tholstrup (02:27): So my business, my size marketing launched in April of 2011 after I swore I'd never had my own business. I but I've worked in the marketing and advertising field for almost 30 years. And I've worked for some incredible places like aol.com, which is a website, a news website I've worked for ad agencies, worked in retail you know, worked in sales and I've also worked on the buying side for advertising and I just, our business closed in 2009 and I kind of fumbled around. And then in 2011, decided to start my business and was had clients, but no business. So I had to conform a business to take care of the clients that we had left. That said, please don't leave me. So I did, I've done that for it'll be 10 years next year. And and then 2017, I launched a mastermind program and coaching program, and I'm just so excited. I can't wait to get up every day to do what I do

Melissa Anzman (03:26): Love that. I love that. And tell us where you're located, because what you do is pretty localized, or I should say it was pretty localized. Where are you located?

Melody Tholstrup (03:35): So we're in Huntsville, Alabama, North, North, Alabama, where the home of NASA and one of the homes of NASA and Redstone arsenal, which is one of the largest military bases in the country, probably the world, as far as land mass and army base, but it's a very technology centered place for the South. We're very proud of it. And I love being here.

Melissa Anzman (03:56): Fantastic. I love giving that plug because there are so many places across the U S and the world, of course, that are these little gems, really great local business opportunities that we just don't think about. I love that you are sharing that because yours is one of them. So Melody, you know, here at launch yourself, it's all about that one launch that moment, that thing that you make a decision on

Melody Tholstrup (04:20): That product, whatever that is and how you either build it, grow it, make it bigger, or how you pivot. So with that in mind, which launched do you want to talk about today? So I'm very excited, even not because of, we had to zoom, we went online a few months ago, but because the coaching program that I had started locally, that I was really proud of, and it was starting to have legs and, and add people. It's a mastermind group, marketing mastermind group called map, but I took it virtual this summer. And it's been very exciting because I'm able to coach people from wherever and they can connect with these people like we have been doing locally. So it's a wonderful resource to have people share and vent and, and you know, reach their challenges together and share their celebrations together. And so I'm very excited about that.

Melissa Anzman (05:10): That's awesome. So tell us a little bit more about MAP as a whole, and then we'll get into why you decided to take it online or was maybe forced to

Melody Tholstrup (05:19): Yeah. And forced it by child to be flexible. Right. So map stands for marketing accountability partners. And again, I started that after having my consulting business because, and I was also coaching and a nonprofit called the catalyst for entrepreneurship. And let me just say another plug for Huntsville. We have one of the best in, at least in the I've seen and heard about in the South of us support for entrepreneurs. Every other business is an entrepreneur in this area. And it's very exciting. So I love being part of that community, but so I formed map acronym like NASA, you know, another acronym, but I formed a map because I wanted to get some of my single coaching clients whether they had been paid clients or whether I'd coached them at the nonprofit in a room together. So they could hear some of the solutions we were all discussing, cause it was a lot of the same challenges. So that's what map stands for. And I went from doing groups to also offering the one on one coaching, cause some people couldn't come to the mastermind group sessions. And now I have workshops that I've been teaching for the last few years under the mat brand as well.

Melissa Anzman (06:22): Awesome. So it sounds like an even better chamber of commerce than one could think about for entrepreneurs of just like sharing ideas, coming together, meeting new local entrepreneurs, maybe even sharing leads if applicable, but really a safe space to brainstorm, to decide what comes next to vent the frustrations of the rollercoaster that is entrepreneurship and so on. So talk a little bit about if you would, how you took this offline in person mastermind and how you had to pivot in our current landscape. So what did that look like? What were your thoughts? How did that happen?

Melody Tholstrup (07:05): So I was so geared up at the first of this year to have two groups and looking at maybe adding a third locally and when all this hit. And they, and I was also teaching these classes at the nonprofit. They said, we're going to start doing these virtually, do you mind trying teaching that? Cause we'd never done one of these virtually and I'm like, what? Okay. So I learned zoom really fast and, and had to navigate, you know, rooms of 15 to 20 people and, you know, go through this whole we have a two hour program that we do on being an entrepreneur. And I thought, well, shoot, if I can do this with these people, then why can't we? So I started just having my, all the mat, people who had ever been in my program just said, you know, on Mondays, we're just going to get together and just kind of stay in touch for free.

Melody Tholstrup (07:54): I didn't charge them a dime. I just wanted to stay engaged because I knew we were all having levels of freak out. And so I started doing that and seeing and inviting anybody to come, you know, that had been in the program before. So when I decided, okay, I think I can do this. You know, I've got my zoom paid account. And I looked out at my little set up my microphone, everything I thought, well, shit, we can just try this. And it's so exciting because I do have people that, that joined part of that that never would have met otherwise. So, and they've connected and they've shared ideas and they're supporting each other and their endeavors. And it's, I'm like, why did I wait so long to do this? But again, I like people. I like to be in front of people. I like to see people on the screen. I always tell my people, please put your camera on. I don't care what you look like. I just need to see your face. And I know that's hard, it's hard, but I just, I'm very excited about the possibilities of map going virtual this year.

Melissa Anzman (08:50): That's awesome. I love that. You were like, you know, let me try this pivot and let me do it with really low

Speaker 3 (08:56): Tax

Melody Tholstrup (08:56): Back, low cost, low barrier to entry. Just let's move it online. Let's try it out and see what works. Let's even do it on page to see if we can get it happening. So how is that now? A profit making product for you? So I had a structure before and and they would pay them. It's a 90 day program. And so they would pay for the 90 days. And within that 90 days each client, they get the two monthly group meetings every other week. And then they would get a one on one session with me. And that was given a lot of way because I love doing what I do. So when I went virtual, I kept the same format. They scale, I used square now to book, you know, people book whenever I have availability. So then I send them the zoom link.

Melody Tholstrup (09:42): We do our group meetings. I keep them short and sweet. I used to make them 90 minutes. Now they're just an hour. Cause it's like, we don't have to worry about sitting down and getting settled and everybody is just we're ready to go. And I, you know, I don't record unless I feel the need to, like, I teach the workshops and they're all invited to the workshops, but they do pay everybody pays for those, but they pay a lower rate because they're a member. So what I've done this year is I'm trying to make it a membership. So you can join either as a member of it, just the group, you can have the group and the coaching, or you can do just the coaching. Everybody gets the discounts on the workshops that I teach usually once a month. And and they can change whatever to whatever works for them.

Melody Tholstrup (10:22): So it's, it's still a learning curve for me, but I feel like I'm trying to make it as easy as possible for them to get all the help they need whenever they need it. Oh, I love it. It's so great because you're combining so many different types of digital products into really one. And I love that because you know, out there in the online marketing space, I'm going to use air quotes. The gurus, right, are like you have a membership site, is this, and you only do this in a membership and you only do this. If you're doing coaching and don't do coaching one on one coaching, isn't scalable and all those things. And you've really found a way to combine group coaching, one on one coaching training and a membership, all in one that works for you, but also is flexible enough for the people who want to work with you and for being really resilient in any type of environment.

Melody Tholstrup (11:15): Like we find ourselves in right now. And I think that's fantastic because a lot of entrepreneurs are not as agile or flexible to be able to do that. And their business models likely aren't either because they, you know, only do it this way or they only do it that way. So I love that. You've been able to take what really works for you in person and combine it with the best of what's available in the online space. Thank you. I'm excited about it. I'm I figured, you know, I don't know what's wrong until I've done it. Right. Just go with the flow. That sounds good. Everybody liked that. Let's try this. I love it. Yeah. I'm a tester myself. So me it's like, let me test

Melissa Anzman (11:54): It. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but there's no harm in just sort of seeing if it's going to work or not and what to adjust. So I love that. So what, through this transformation, through this point,

Melody Tholstrup (12:04): What has worked really well for you better than you expected? I'm still kind of figuring that out, but, but what worked for me over the last year, just introducing people to the map process, without either giving it away or feeling like they have to chart, you know, pay a big sum of money right away is the workshop you kick off each quarter with a map, launch, a quarterly launch, and it's a workshop. So what I do is they pay a small price to join, to come to the workshop and they get the content. And there's some takeaways from that. At the end of that launch workshop, they get a preview of what map is like, they can apply their map, their a workshop fee toward their first months membership kind of like photographers do sometimes, you know, your sitting fee amount applied toward your photography purchase.

Melody Tholstrup (12:55): And so that has seemed to really help at least get more people in the door that might be interested. And so that's something I'm still working with because I feel like, you know, you might hear about map. You might know somebody who's been in map, you might have, you know, come to our workshop, but, but that feel like you need to have an actual, this is kind of what we do. Here's an overview. Here's how it works. You know, and I have people that are current members, usually in all of these at one point another saying, Hey, let me just tell you how it worked for me, plus the testimonials on my website. And so that way it's kind of a door opener. And then if they don't want to join, that's fine. They stay on my list. They can come to any workshops, pay the full price. And they, you know, have takeaways. They didn't come way into hand it. So

Melissa Anzman (13:41): That's fantastic. What kind of workshops do you do? Like does it run the gamut across entrepreneurship or is it specific to online marketing or in person marketing or what does that look like?

Melody Tholstrup (13:51): It's pretty much marketing related. I have found that people, especially my target, which is usually, you know, late, late thirties into their fifties and sixties, kind of second generation entrepreneurs, maybe they had a different job and decided to take that plunge. So there's a lot they don't know about not only just being an entrepreneur, but just marketing in general because they didn't have to learn. They were in the corporate space. And so I have literally held hands and say, okay, let's go through Canva. Let's learn about MailChimp. Let's learn about LinkedIn. I'm doing a workshop this Thursday and I think I have a couple of seats left cause I don't make it big cause I won't be want people to be able to interact. But it's going to be on digital marketing Mustangs. And we're going to cover a couple, two or three things that you need to know for sure.

Melody Tholstrup (14:36): On Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, email marketing. And there's one more, Oh, well let's say Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. We don't cover Twitter. Google, YouTube and email marketing, maybe that's it. So we're but, but the bottom line is I try to give enough information that they felt like, okay, if I don't know anything, but what I learned today, I can at least move forward with the next thing. And, and the goal obviously is a lead generator because if you need extra help, come join us in map or come join me and let me help you. So that's how they usually work. Awesome.

Melissa Anzman (15:15): And as part of this either map as a whole or through this pivot, what hasn't worked, what, what sort of broke or what did you try that you're like, yeah, that, that did not go as planned. I don't want to do that ever again.

Melody Tholstrup (15:28): Oh, well, some days it feels like nothing's working.

Melissa Anzman (15:32): I hear you. Right? Like that's part of the fun.

Melody Tholstrup (15:36): Interesting. It was interesting when I did the free time. I did have some people kind of come and visit, you know, but I didn't get as much as I thought now, granted we were doing it the same time every week. So if that wasn't a good time for you, it wasn't a good time for you. And I didn't change it. I kinda got, I think I changed it one time and it's still, it was like with same people. So you kind of saw who was going to be committed and who wasn't. And most of those people are the ones that are in the pay group now. So I probably could have not given it away free for so long, but I was still figuring it out too. So I figured I just called it my beta test,

Melissa Anzman (16:15): The free beta, which is not recommended, but it worked for you in trying something out. So I like that.

Melody Tholstrup (16:22): Yeah. Free. I'm not always good. Free, free can be good for a time. But I tell my clients, my coaching clients and even the, my new entrepreneur coaching clients, I said, listen, it's better to charge a little bit of money. So they have skin in the game and then tell them what that's really valued at. You know, if I'm giving you an hour of my time, I could say, well, you know, I charged $175 an hour, but for you for this particular thing, because we're going to do this, you're going to get it for this rate. And that's kinda how I started from the very beginning. I love that.

Melissa Anzman (16:55): Tell me a little bit more about like the technology piece. Was there a learning curve for you to like use square, get payment? Like how did that work for you? Were you struggling with platforms at all? Or was it just sort of a, okay, let's try this and keep trying.

Melody Tholstrup (17:09): Well, it's interesting. I started out with square only because I had live workshops and I needed some way to trans do a transaction. Right. And once I discovered, and I think I discovered it last year, but I didn't use it as much, but the square booking appointments, I was like, man, this is easy. And it doesn't cost me anything that I can see, you know, I mean, I'm paying for whatever other services, but I was like, this is the bomb.com. So I started using that and putting my link from my website. Like if you want to build, I do offer a free strategy session just to again, get people in the door. But that again, it's linked to my square, you know, account and I'm like, this is awesome because I don't have to think about it. I get a text once I accepted, I send them a zoom link.

Melody Tholstrup (17:55): So yeah, if I can do it, anybody can figure this out. I love that. And so just a little background on square. So square is a little square. It's a little white square reader that most of us have seen at restaurants or places like that, where you swipe your card on that little reader, it's become advanced. Now you can stick your card in, but they've expanded what they do and provide. And I think that's a really missed technology tool for a lot of people because they just sort of think it's a square. I have, I have one as well, cause I sell books when I speak. And so it's just easy to take the money through the square reader, but you can also do. Timetrade like you're doing like you, you know, schedule time there, you can take recurring payments, all the things that you hadn't thought square can do.

Melody Tholstrup (18:44): They're really moving into that space really nicely. So I'm glad you're using them. It's not a technology we've actually talked about on the podcast before. So I appreciate it. I've just started my membership since it is a reoccurring thing. I've started it where you can do the reoccurring invoice or they can keep their credit card on file. And, and so again, I know QuickBooks, I do some things through QuickBooks, still for some clients, but that is really, I mean, they just have so many tools. I haven't probably explored all of them, but for the money it's been very cost effective. So absolutely. So what would you say is your biggest challenge as you look forward with the online version of map? Well you know, I, I do want to, my goal with map is never to have one big, huge group. My goal, if I could do it, the ideal scenario, I would have probably three to six groups a week of only 10 people, you know, per group, because again, the whole premise of it was never to have a big group.

Melody Tholstrup (19:47): The premise was we feel safe. We can talk, we can share and we're bonded. And then at some point workshops, whatever people come together, like my vision, I still have vision of doing a beach retreat and anybody wants to come down. We do some fun workshops, but we also just get away from our families. You know, that's another way to pay for the beach trip for me. And then are also just having, you know, group networking functions and things like that. And having a sticker that says I'm a Mac member and it's on every car and every, all my part, you know, the parking lots, wherever we go some day when we're in person. So but ultimately I want map to be a place where people feel safe and they, but they feel connected by the whole program. You know, they can go to a workshop and learn things.

Melody Tholstrup (20:30): They can go to their, their group meeting. They can come to a one on one session with me, they feel supported and they, if they have a question, if they have a challenge, they know somewhere in that process, they can find the answer. That's fantastic. What would your advice be for anybody in a similar situation, maybe they're doing an inlet or an input they were doing would say an in person mastermind or a meeting group or coaching session, and maybe they're struggling to figure out how to pivot or what's next or how to go online. What would your advice to be to them be, well, if you haven't ever been on a zoom call or a go to meeting or whatever, call with someone, who's, you know, it's alive thing. You know, if there's a networking opportunity or there's someplace where you can at least take part as a participant, do it, most of them are free now or very inexpensive take part, just take part and get used to the technology and, and, you know, putting things in the chat and, you know, just introducing yourself, you know, when now we have to have an elevator pitch in a different way, because not only do we say it in a group setting, even aligned, but we need to maybe be able to write it really quickly, you know, in a Facebook group or in a chat.

Melody Tholstrup (21:42): And so just participate in that. See how comfortable you feel with that. And then, you know, maybe do a trial of zoom or one of the tools. There's a tool called free conference call.com that I used when I first started this again, not knowing what I was doing and they just asked for donations, but it's a great tool and it has a lot of the same bells and whistles. And that's a great one to try to get your group online, just to have everybody feel comfortable, start with something casual, start with just a coffee meeting or a lunch, you know, just share kind of thing. You'll be surprised. And camera wise, I have an old computer with an old camera. It works fine. I did buy some speakers and a microphone from Amazon and one of those ring lights, I usually use sunlight more than anything.

Melody Tholstrup (22:26): I mean, you just kind of have to play with it, but yeah, I always say go to these free or very inexpensive networking opportunities with places and people, you know, get used to the technology and then try it for yourself. It's it's worth it. I love it. Do you foresee Matt being, or having an online component going forward or is this just sort of a stop gap for the current situation? Oh, no, no. I mean, I would love to still get in front of people and I think at some point I hope to do that, but no, I would love to. In fact, I was already considering before all this happened. Once I, you know, had been in on a zoom call, I thought, well, I'll just start a virtual group. And then my people here can be a part of that, but then I'll, you know, once we're done and we're back in person, I'll keep a virtual group or two or three virtual groups, you know, depending on, on the success. So now I, now that I've got this, I would never abandon it, but I do, I do like to still be in front of people. So my goal is to also go and speak, you know, in places and, and to speak and teach in other markets too. So, Oh, I remember those days.

Melody Tholstrup (23:37): Yeah. Like now they're all virtual, which is great. It's nice to be, have that virtual opportunity for sure. But I like that you, through this pivot and now a different future, maybe an expanded future for map and your product, and maybe, maybe it just got you there quicker, but now it's part of your business model, which I love. It's like such a good pivot in launch. Definitely. In fact, I had a coach a few months ago, maybe November and I had done a free call with him and he was part of some big global brand. And, and he said something about virtual like, Oh no, I'm not ready for that.

Melody Tholstrup (24:16): Right. The universe had a few different plans for you for all of us. That's very true. That's very true. So Melody, where can people find you online? So my website is my size marketing.com. That's still my, my parent umbrella. And then within that website or all the information about the map groups and the map coaching and the workshops and so forth, or if you just are interested in, in workshops, you can follow me on event bright because I've got a presence there and I usually have something posted every month and and I try to keep them very reasonably priced. And now that we're virtual, they're very easy and I record them. So I, if you paid for the spot, you can get them. And then I'm just on all social media platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest under my size marketing or Melody Tholstrup.

Melody Tholstrup (25:03): Fantastic. And we'll of course include all of that in the show notes, Melody, it has been such a pleasure having you on the show today. I'm so excited to have met you and to share this amazing offline mastermind group caught like powwow type of business, all about marketing into an online space. I really appreciate you sharing all the ins and outs about it. Well, thank you so much. I've thoroughly enjoyed talking to meeting you, and I hope that I can have some help to any small business owner because we're, we feel alone sometimes, but we're not. And now that we're virtual, we don't have to be, we can, we can help each other any way we can

Melissa Anzman (25:41): To join the free launch yourself workshop, where you'll learn why your digital products aren't selling nearly as much as you plan for and how to diversify and scale your income by launching the right way. Text: launchyourself, all one word to: 44222.