When I founded my online language school SmarterGerman I needed to still learn how to do business so I set out to find the best business model out there that would not only benefit my company but also my customers and those that I work with. For many years I believed that I needed to make more and more money in order to achieve financial security and to be able to develop my product further. S
o I hired expensive consultants, SEO experts, Social Media marketers and what not. But no matter how hard I pulled the grass, it simply didn’t want to grow faster. Ironically, instead I sank several tens of thousands of USD in said consultants. That money alone would have sufficed to achieve the very thing I set out to achieve. Ironic, right?
SmarterGerman has been generating a stable and reasonable revenue every month but it simply wouldn’t grow beyond the 30,000 USD limit with the exception of some really lucrative sales. This fact really annoyed me because I was and still am convinced that SmarterGerman has the potential to grow significantly beyond this threshold but I see today that facilitating this growth by focussing on making more money simply won’t work.
In a recent moment of calm I realized that I was actually working against myself because I never really wanted to feed corporations like FB or Google or anyone mainly focussing on making more money and I never wanted to have to convince anyone to buy my courses. I really hate selling stuff and those that try to sell stuff to me. If I need something you don’t have to sell it to me, I’ll buy it if it’s any good.
In my view I was simply making an offer to those that wanted to learn German. But despite that we slipped more and more into selling and that didn’t feel right at all. I fell for the biggest trap of them all: hope. As hope dies last, there’s certainly still some of it left in my system but I know now that no one can help me achieve what I hope for as hope is just a dream of the future which doesn’t exist. I can live with that dream now. Before I couldn’t.
Can the Buddha help with finding the Best Business Model?
While I was sitting there under the Bodhi tree in my living room aka my home office, I suddenly saw what I needed to do: I needed to say goodbye to the idea of unlimited growth of my company and to an unlimited income for myself and my employees. Letting go of the idea of unlimited growth and income freed me from the pressure to force growth and allowed me to let it happen naturally.
It also allows me to give space to another dream which I have had for quite a while now: I wanted to make my courses available to people who earn very little money just because they happen to be born in a different country than others. Which meant to offer people with a low income the same benefits as those with high income.
How can an hour of one be worth less than the hour of the other?
It’s quite clear that not everyone on this planet is getting paid equally. Some people earn 5 USD per hour, others 50 USD (I am not even taking into consideration people with a much higher income). That means if I offer a course for 250 USD, one has to invest 50 hours of their life to afford it, the other 5. How is that fair? How can an hour of one be worth less than the hour of the other?
With the pressure of constant growth taken off my shoulders, I decided to go for new approach, which I call the Crazy Community Approach as it is based on the belief, actually it’s rather a conviction, that we are all in this together and that those that have need to share what they have with those that don’t have. There is no way out of that. And my way of exploring this idea is to allow customers to pay as much as they can.
Pay as you can or Pay as you want?
Here’s now why the CCA is the best business model I can currently thinkn of also for you our (potential) customer: Instead of offering a fixed price for each level, we have now bundled all our 5 levels together and the customer gets a choice between 3 financial contributions: 99 USD, 299 USD, 499 USD (ex VAT) and no matter what they choose, they all get access to the same products and the same level of support. There will be no difference whatsoever between these options. Not even an extra thank you. It’s not anyone’s fault that one makes less or more money than others. It’s just what it is.
Our users e.g. get access for at least 5 years (that’s as close to “lifelong” as it comes for German learners) instead of paying the same for just 1 or 3 months of access, which is what most of my competitors have to offer.
Our new approach is far from perfect of course but it’s the beginning of an exciting social and economical experiment. I wonder how many German learners will actually understand that if they earn more money than others that it might make sense to spend more money on a product than someone who earns less and act accordingly.
My “hope” is that customers will realize the immense value my work provides and see the connection between them and the rest of the world and start taking responsibility for their actions. I’m pretty aware that it’s a long way to go but if everyone keeps doing the same over and over again and is only interested in their own benefit, it’s clear to me that this world has no future that I want to be part of.
We started this experiment almost 2 months ago. What we are seeing is that we have more sales, mainly for the lowest contribution which was expected. But we also occasionally have people who select the 299 option and some even opted for the 499 option. I am really touched to see that but just to be clear: I simply choose to assume that everyone who chooses the 99 USD option for five full fledged German courses covering all relevant levels chooses it because they have no other choice.
Whether that’s indeed the case or not I don’t really care about as that’s a decision everyone has to make for themselves and live with the consequences. The good news is that our total revenue is in the same range as the months before, and we haven’t yet fully explored all our marketing options yet. E.g. we didn’t really reach out to companies yet who’d greatly benefit from our services.
So if you know a company that’s still spending too much money on inhouse or online German tutors, share this article with them or send them straight to smartergerman.com. I of course also expect them to pay me at least the same as they would pay their tutors as that’s what they CAN afford, right?
Here at SmarterGerman we are very excited and curious to see where this adventure will lead us and I’ll certainly keep you posted on how it evolves. Whether or not the Crazy Community Approach really is the best business model for an online language school still needs to be proven.
That’s also why I am very curious to hear your thoughts on this but please, do not offer me help with anything that I need to pay for. I’m done with consultants of any kind. I’m only interested in people that want to make a difference and that don’t come from a point of neediness but rather from a point where they feel they already have sufficient abundance in their life and want to share that with others.
In diesem Sinne
One step at a time