Pastor Bill Giovannetti joined SuperFastBusiness to help his church. His first attempt at a paid membership never got off the ground.
With a small email list, the support of the community, and the use of a groundbreaking tool, he tried again - with resounding success.
Trace Bill’s online business journey with us in this inspiring case study episode of SuperFastBusiness.
Case study highlights:
01:03 – The post that prompted this episode
02:30 – Not your typical online business
04:04 – The community that made a difference
05:37 – Solo operator, multiple resources
07:09 – When your offer is just not THE one
09:33 – The tool that delivered everything
11:17 – What you can do in a weekend
14:01 – Should a pastor be selling?
17:47 – The workings of an online theology class
20:40 – From a teeny, tiny database….
22:51 – How leveraged is it?
25:22 – What Bill should have heard a year ago
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. Today, I am having a chat with Bill Giovannetti. And Bill has a really interesting story to tell. And first off, I’d like to welcome you, Bill, to the call.
Bill: Thanks for the opportunity.
The post that prompted this episode
James: Well, you kind of created this opportunity by posting in SuperFastBusiness membership, of which you are a member. I logged in one day, and I saw this post from you, and you’d said that your membership site had launched. And you posted your results, and we’ll get to that in a little while, the results.
But what I liked the most is that we’ve got this community there, and I like seeing students get results. I mean, obviously that’s very important to me, because it’s how I make my living. But beyond just the living part, it’s the tremendous joy and satisfaction that comes from seeing other humans achieve their potential and get the results. And I think you were pretty happy too from when you posted that. I think you were actually surprised by the results. And I really want to dig into where you were at just prior to that, and what sort of things you did, because I think today’s episode will be really useful for someone who’s maybe in the earliest stages of the online journey and may not currently think that it is possible to start or build a membership, because of the tremendous amount of obstacles that get in the way of achieving success with it.
The other thing that I really liked is you got a lot of members’ support. You got plenty of other people in our community who shared the joy of your success, and you also generously broke down for them how you did it. And that’s really what I want to go through today, how did you do it?
Not your typical online business
So to set this up properly, your website’s called VeritasSchool.life. I’m wondering if you can just give us a little insight into Bill, just so that we know some context around what sort of market you’re operating in. And it’s not your typical market that we’re used to seeing for the online case studies and so forth. That’s what I love the most. You’re a normal, real person in your own world. So tell us about your world, because you’re a pastor.
Bill: Yes. My world is the world of the church, and I am a pastor and have been for a lot of years. And that has built up a lot of relationships, and also a lot of information in my head and my heart over a real long time. And I’m a member of SuperFastBusiness. I joined initially to help with the business aspect of our church, which is a pretty big church in Northern California. But I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial spirit myself.
So I tried launching my own membership product for helping kids not lose their faith in college, a couple of years ago. That just never got off the ground. And when I started putting that together, it was piecing together technologies on WordPress with this plugin and that plugin and you know, WooCommerce and all these different pieces to make a membership. And it was always breaking down. The technology was really overwhelming, everything. I just never got it off the ground.
The community that made a difference
So being part of SuperFastBusiness, listening to people’s stories, just started basically planting some new ideas in my mind. And I heard about how to approach a membership. And when I finally launched it using the tools, like 10XPRO, but a lot of the wisdom from the community, it was amazing. It was just a real fast process that, compared to my previous experience, was night-and-day difference. I mean, the last time around when I put together a membership, it took months just to get it working. And it never really did work the way I wanted it to. And this time around, it was just a night-and-day dramatic difference. And yeah, you’re so right about the encouragement in SuperFastBusiness. I don’t know how many people there would share a Christian worldview, but everybody is really supportive, decent, helpful and encouraging. I find, for me, that’s just part of what keeps me going, part of what even enabled me to get off the ground in the first place. And your encouragement, too, the direct chat in there’s pretty awesome.
James: Yeah, I think you’ve hit on something important there, that you can have a topic that is not necessarily sharing a worldview with other people, but everyone is sharing the same view of making a go of their online business and being successful with that. Now, there are certain types of businesses I just don’t accept into the membership, so there is a screening and filtering process, because we want to have a good culture. But I think in your case, people would just, they could see that you’ve tried before, you had tried a few different things for a few years, and didn’t quite get it firing.
Solo operator, multiple resources
I’m wondering back then, when you were going through that journey, and pre this event, where were you learning your information from and how were you implementing it? Were you doing everything yourself? And were you drawing from one place or multiple places?
Bill: I was drawing from multiple places, listening to a wide variety of podcasts, mainly. And I was doing it all myself. That’s something that I haven’t been able to get away from. It’s on my list. It’s probably the next challenge for me. But yeah, I was just listening to podcasts and looking online and then figuring out how to implement all these different resources. And I was able to do it, but you know, 75 percent well, and it just never worked, and I don’t think that that specific product was right for that time. I do have some plans for that in the future. But no, I was a solo operator and just using a lot of different voices in my head, and not just consuming but trying. So you know, it was really cool to actually put something together and see that it took off.
James: You know, people listening to my podcast, they see episode number 722 and think, oh, well, you know, James has been doing this forever. But I clearly remember that struggle phase of trying to piece it together. It was just me trying to read bits and pieces. Podcasts weren’t really a thing when I started online. They were there, but they were in their absolute infancy. I was mainly just listening to audio, either cassettes or MP3s of information, trying to figure it all out and trying to build my own website. And the tech can be a challenge.
When your offer is just not the one
What made you start thinking that your offer might not be the one, and moving to a different type of offer? What was that process?
Bill: Well, I was stubborn with it.
Bill: Right, and I was. It’s a product I think should be wanted, but it’s not a product that actually, there’s nobody out there clamoring for this.
James: No. That was my first thought, too, when you showed it to me. I’m like, wow, I’m surprised that’s even a market.
Bill: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s my old product. You know, I think it’s a problem that needs to be solved, but I don’t know how much people are actually feeling it as a problem. Apparently, not enough.
James: I thought, you know, the main reason kids probably go to university is to escape everything that they’ve been experiencing up to that point.
Bill: There’s truth to that. There’s a lot of truth to that. My goal was just to get ahead of that on an information level and just maybe say, Look, whatever you might be told, there’s a counter argument. Here it is. So I thought that parents would love that. But there were two.
James: I’ve had some offers that didn’t work so well. One of my early information products was a course that I put together as a partnership with my acting coach, who helped me tremendously build my confidence, you know, when I was 19 or so, I did some acting classes. And we put together a course and put it up on the marketplace, but we weren’t making sales. Not many sales. Because I realized later that people who want to learn acting are dead broke. Pretty much, they’re the ones waiting the tables, and they have no financial capacity whatsoever. So we made a dribble of sales, but it wasn’t as successful as it could have been.
So how did you decide to do something different? Like, did you do some surveys or research? Did you get opinions? Did people ask you for things you didn’t already have?
Bill: Well, listening to your podcast, somewhere along the way, I heard you as a guest on some other podcasts and I started consuming yours. And I’ve listened to hundreds of them. So your voice is always in that. You know, there’s that WWJD thing, What would Jesus do? In my head, it’s “What would James do?”
James: Well, that’s a first, I’m being compared to Jesus here.
The tool that delivered everything
Bill: Well, in terms of business coaching for me, you’ve been invaluable and a great mentor. So I really appreciate that. And the whole community has been. But somewhere along the way, when I heard you and John Lint talking about 10XPRO, and it was the first iteration of it a long time ago, I think it was called M10PRO or something like that.
James: Yeah, it was originally called that.
Bill: I signed up on the free trial, and I was going to move everything, but I don’t know – for whatever reasons, it didn’t work. But more recently, I heard you talking about it again. I said, you know what? I’m going to just try this. And so I signed up for that platform. And it’s amazing. It’s really, I’m still scratching the surface of it. Everything is there. I didn’t have to cobble together anything.
And I actually had a different idea in mind for an offer. I thought, you know, I’m going to try something else. And I’ve got a lot of different relationships and different, you know, I know a lot of authors and a lot of speakers, I know a lot of Christians. And, you know, all across the board. But as I was putting together this other program on the platform, it occurred to me that the one thing that I’m known for, one of the things I’m known for, and that people in my periphery ask for, is theological training, going deep in theological training. It’s also my passion. I don’t like skimming the surface. You know, I don’t like it when everything always starts sounding the same, and the emotionalistic aspect, where we’re kind of aiming straight at the emotions and bypassing the brain. I know there’s a rich reservoir of truth claim and theology in the Christian message. People are hungry for that, I believe. So I thought, you know, I’m going to launch a school of theology online. Because there are plenty of people who don’t want to quit their day job, they’re not going to be in full-time professional ministry or anything like that, but they do want to go deeper, and their churches aren’t giving that to them.
What you can do in a weekend
So I thought, I love doing this. I have been a professor for years in colleges and seminaries teaching theology. I have my PowerPoint slides, I have my lecture notes. I have all this data, and I actually love it. This is one of the favorite things I do. So I’m going to see if there’s an interest for that. So I literally put together the program on 10XPRO in a weekend.
Bill: It is a pretty involved program, if you look at it. There’s a lot to it. But I don’t know any other platform that would have enabled me to put it together that quickly. It’s amazing.
James: That’s very fast. And John Lint, the founder of 10XPRO, and I have become pretty close. That why, look, you listen to this podcast, you will have heard that platform. I’m a huge fan for a single reason, that my clients are getting results. Students who are using it are getting results. Whether they’re a worm farmer or a pastor, they get results, because it takes away all the challenges and roadblocks that I suffered when I started online.
The best thing is, actually, John and I’ve sat together so often and talked about how to run a membership, how to build courses, and he builds what we talk about. I was with him for two or three of the last three days, he’s in Australia right now. And we were just talking about apps, we were talking about slipping away sequences. I share with him absolute best practice, and he rolls it into this machine. I think he said, well, it does a lot more than most people will ever get to, you’re just scratching the surface. But if you only want to scratch the surface, that’s what it’s brilliant at. It can be the simplest tool ever, or it can be very complex if you need that level of customization. That’s where some of the very simple tools fall short.
“This tool is both simple and complex!”
So we put together a little concept of your product in a weekend. And I love this. I’ve done this before, create some products in a weekend. But the tech used to be harder. So what was that process like? You actually, you mapped out your program and then you just started building it in the machine, is that how it worked?
Bill: Yep, I mapped out a three-year master of ministry degree, unaccredited. I’m going to say. But it’s for people who, you know, if you need that degree for your career or something, that’s one thing. But if you just want the learning and the data, that’s what it’s for
James: Why didn’t you just call it a certification?
Bill: I think it gets a little more attention here, and maybe I could, a master of ministry certification.
Bill: I’ll have to think about that.
James: Yeah. Because obviously, you know, fake universities and stuff is a thing. But certification is, anyone can create a certification course for their own thing.
Bill: I will take that to heart.
James: Well, it’s a side note.
So you mapped it out, so this is what it’s going to look like. But then you had to execute. And you’re a solo operator at this point, so you just started building it.
Should a pastor be selling?
Bill: Well, I built the program, and then building the sales part on top. And this is where it gets dicey for me as a pastor.
Bill: Because I don’t want to come across as a salesman. You know, I am passionate about this material. I can’t give it away, because all the technology does have cost to it.
Bill: But, you know, it’s a kind of a fine line.
James: Tell me about that, about you being cautious about sales. I mean, as a sales background person, this fascinates me. Just as a side note, when I got into selling, I went and ordered the books from every religion I could find, because in my mind they are the master salespeople. They convince billions of people to have a certain belief. They don’t have much tangible proof compared to, you know, a car or something, where you can see the thing and test drive it. So I thought they were brilliant sales people. Like, you come from an industry of the best salespeople on the planet. Why would you be scared of that?
Bill: Well, it’s the perception that you’re in it for the money.
Bill: And that perception is not true of me. There are other things I could be doing, making a lot more money.
James: Is this anything to do with “money is the root of all evil” quote somewhere in the Bible?
Bill: The Bible doesn’t actually say that. It says the love of money is the root of all evil.
Bill: But the Bible is pro healthy fiscal picture for a family or an individual, and not against the acquisition of wealth. It’s, you know, not being greedy or arrogant with it. But there’s still this perception in culture that anybody in ministry is some kind of charlatan and in it for the money.
James: Maybe it’s that guy that had all the private jets.
Bill: Yeah, there’s plenty of that.
James: They’re not helping.
Bill: Right. There are plenty of people I think you could find in any industry who put a bad name on the whole industry.
“Every industry’s got sharks.”
James: Every industry’s got sharks. Every single industry. And you know, the thing that blew my mind, this was like 1995 and I was my first job selling cars, BMW. And I had a guy come in with one of those little collars, from a religious church of some kind. And he was telling me the trade-in price that he’d been offered by a competitor. And when he was out, having a test drive, we valued his car. And in the backseat was the valuation from the other competitor, face up, and I could see it, and he’d lied about the amount. I thought, Man, if a priest can lie to me, then any industry has its bandits. Right? And it just also proved, like, as bad as the reputation of people who are in the car industry is, I can tell you, the buyers are somewhat worse in some cases.
Bill: No doubt. I think back to my dad (and I’m Italian), my Italian Dad. I remember as a kid sitting in the living room and a couple of people from a church came to visit. And I was listening. And they were not talking about money, but my dad looked over at me, and he, you know, he rubbed his fingers together, like, yeah, they’re just here for my money. And that was the perception. I still struggle with that.
“We operate as adults with the programming we got as kids.”
James: I’d say that’s exactly where it got planted, right there. I think we operate as adults with the programming we got as kids. It’s fascinating.
I would say to you, there is some verse, you might know this because you’re a professor, there’s some verse in the Bible that talks about having abilities and not sharing them with others is sinful. I can’t remember that reference, but it’s something along those lines. And that one helps people sort of share their word out there.
And as you said, your tools have costs. There is an argument to say that you could actually help a lot more people if you were able to arm up your resource base and spread the word more, if you could buy ads. I mean, I have some clients who, some of their biggest clients are in the religious market, and they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads, selling things like religious maps, religious documentaries, those sort of things. They’re a mass-market product. So you’re in the zone.
The workings of an online theology class
Bill: Well, my pattern for many, many years has been just to feed the flock, as the Bible says, and to teach the Word. And so taking that and transferring it into the platform, the 10XPRO platform, and just saying, okay, I can create classes, people want this. It’s modular, it’s four weeknights and a Saturday. They’re for a year, but then you can go back and you’re able to watch the replay on the video. You’re able to interact through chat; we’re doing monthly membership or student enrollment calls, where we’re going into some topics that they’re bringing up. So it’s just, everything is there to make a virtual classroom work and to work really well. So people are excited.
And I’ve also noticed that one of the struggles that a lot of people have when they start a membership is populating the forum, getting people engaged. We’ve had no problem with that. From the day we opened it, people started leaving comments. And I ask in the orientation video, just to say something inspiring down here below, and people have done that. And then in the weekly email that goes out, “Hey, thanks. That’s a big shout out to James and to John and to Paul and to Mary, for inspiring us in those comments.” And it’s just snowballed. So it’s grown faster than I thought it would. And I’m just really appreciative of all that’s gone into it. And you know, this is something so far that’s clicked with a lot of people, and I’m working on some affiliate partnerships now and some other stuff. And it’s all there, you know, I don’t have to go and figure out what software to use for it. So that makes it nice.
James: So a couple of things to surround this. Firstly, I love that you’re sending a weekly newsletter. It’s really best practice for a membership. It’s a great retention procedure as well. I’m wondering, the members who you’ve got now as your customers, how much impact will they have with their flock?
Bill: Well, I hope it’s enormous. So, we launched in November. Half of November, December, January… Really, in under two and a half months, we’re at 65 members.
James: Right. Not huge numbers of members. But when you annualize your revenue, it turns into, like, a reasonable return, right? Compared to a teaching job or in the comparison for the amount of fees that you would pay for your education software to get that result, right?
Bill: Yeah. It’s, just for me, it’s a significant revenue stream.
James: And it’s just the start. Like, the big thing is, you’ve been able to crack the formula. Like I’ve often said, I think the absolute hardest phase of having online business is actually finding an offer that converts. If you can do that, the rest is easier. Like, you and I can work together to grow your member base to get better conversion paths. You’re working on your affiliate opportunities. There’ll be things that we discuss in our training that help you, whether it’s the social media campaigns or content marketing, or a couple of other ideas, repositioning of the naming. But that’s just adjusting as you go. You’re in the car; you’re driving. Now we’re just changing gears, and that’s the fun part.
From a teeny, tiny database…
And let’s just put this in perspective. How big was your database when you started? Because it wasn’t that big, right?
Bill: No, it was a couple of hundred.
James: A couple of hundred.
Bill: And again, and this is where like, in my church database, there’s thousands, like five or six thousand. But I didn’t use that. Again, I didn’t want to, at this point, cross that boundary.
Bill: So I just started with what I had. And I had not been working on that. I had not been building that email list, so it wasn’t that big. But as soon as I went out, it just started spreading, and people were responding pretty quickly. I ended up closing the membership doors for a little while.
James: Right, to focus on quality and and delivering on your promise.
Bill: That was it exactly.
James: Isn’t that good? And then you’ve created a webinar series based on the frequently asked questions now, which is helping you get more signups. That’s a really clever thing to do. Tell me about that.
Bill: Well, we’re doing that. And let me say, the first webinar I did was a disaster.
James: It always is.
Bill: Yeah. There was technology, and it was related to the gigantic YouTube machine. But I was able to go back and record it and send it out. But these are questions that are of debate among just everyday Christians. And so I’m able to do that and feed it through our virtual classroom online, and it just works.
And I’m asking my membership (we’ve got a social wall thread going), what topics do you guys want to cover? So I’m ready to go for pretty much anything. So that’ll be regular. We have four live classes per year, or live events per year. And in between, I’m doing these webinars to keep up momentum. And you know, the way we structured it, it is the same material I would cover in a seminary class for someone who’s paying, you know, 20 times as much. It’s the same material. Tests are optional, papers are optional. So, all the learning and none of the stress. And also, everything’s going to be online in terms of video. So, even the schedule becomes optional. So it’s really doable for a person without quitting their day job, without sacrificing their family, without breaking the bank. So there it is.
How leveraged is it?
James: Now that it’s set up, you’ve got the machine built, and you’re a solo operator, is it consuming all of your time? Or has it got some reasonable leverage now?
Bill: There are pieces of it that have reasonable leverage because they’re in place, but it is taking time, and I do realize I need to build that team. And that’s kind of the phase I’m in now, is exploring who and where and how to start joining in some people that can share with me some of the load. Because there is a formidable technology behind it, whether it’s email, you know, supplying emails, crafting messages, like, tweaking the 16-word sales copy or whatever that was.
James: I saw that. I thought, you know, Bill’s doing split testing. I’m like, you know, for where you’re at in the business, that really blew me away. Like, split testing? A lot of pros don’t even do split testing. And here you are. It obviously must be easy to do.
Bill: Well it’s built into 10XPRO, and I thought, well, I’ll go for it. So I’m going to pull that up right now. So the sales page that I built using the 16-word format, so to speak – it’s a format for writing sales copy – is converting at 7.5 percent. But the one that I built previously, using the PASTOR format, is at 12 and a half percent.
James: So you’ve improved?
Bill: Yeah. So I’ve got some decisions to make there.
James: Well, just if you’re listening to this, and you’re interested in the 16-word sales letter, we actually built a tool on SuperFastBusiness. Scroll down to the bottom, at SuperFastBusiness.com, and you’ll see the little word “Tools”. Click on that and click through to the 16-word sales letter tool, and you’ll be able to write your own sales offer using that tool. And I do recommend the book, obviously, it supports the information in the book. They own the trademark on that, I suppose. But the tool is very handy. Members have been using that for for a while now since we built that, and a big shout out to my friend Dave, who created that.
So things are looking up. I think with the team, the next natural step’s to get help with the content and sending out the emails and collating your weekly newsletters. Those sort of things, my team do all of that stuff. And when we take a podcast recording like this, I just give it to the team after we close the call, and they will edit it nicely and publish it across all the relevant places and upload it and create the post that goes along with it. And that’s where the team gets you that leverage.
What Bill should have heard a year ago
I think you’re following down a fantastic pathway. I think it’s worth asking you, knowing what you know now, if you were Bill a year ago, listening to this, what would you tell yourself?
Bill: I would say to do it. I would say to pull the trigger and get this platform. I don’t know of anything like it. And you know, I’m sold on it, but it’s just because of what’s there. All the training is there. They’ve got an amazing help desk, 10XPRO, so that’s been super helpful. And then being inside a mentoring and coaching, membership like SuperFastBusiness, that’s just been a game changer for me, and it’s been amazing. So having the mentorship and guidance on one end, having the technology platform on the other end, I wish I’d done this years ago. I wish I had started here. I don’t know how long 10XPRO has been around.
James: It’s always improving. That’s the thing.
James: As you said, it used to be a different name. It’s really made big leaps lately, and it’s because I’ve got such a strong association now. I’m really invested in making sure that it’s successful, but it can only be successful to the extent that people get results. And that’s, we’re obsessed about results now, John Lint and myself are focused on it.
“If you can help people be better off, you should never feel bad about selling.”
When you posted your success, I invited you to come and share your story. You didn’t have to. It’s, you know, you’re not in the business of promoting how awesome your online successes have been. But what I think is important here is you’re able to have an impact with your target audience to help them be better off, which is my philosophy of what selling is. If you can help people be better off, you should never feel bad about that. And these members of yours are going to learn this information that they didn’t have access to, because you weren’t able to get it to them before. That’s the thing. You now can, you’re having an impact, you’re spreading the message.
And you’re inspiring other members and you’re inspiring me, you know, just to see what you’ve done with a tiny, tiny, tiny list. You’ve generated a really considerable income from a small list, and it’s only the start. That’s the exciting thing. I think it’ll be really wonderful to have another episode down the track and see what you’ve done since now. Because every time I’ve done that – I’ve done it with Jarrod Robinson and I’ve done it with Kevin Rogers and several others where we come back and look at the growth; I did it with Clay Collins throughout the whole growth of his platform, and it was really interesting seeing the checkpoints on the way. And maybe that’ll inspire you to lift to the next level, gather that team, come back with a story of inspiration on stage two.
But congratulations on stage one. Thank you for sharing so generously the transition that you’ve had and giving some good advice to other members who might be listening to this and thinking, well, maybe it is possible to have your own membership, even if you have a small list, even if the first time you tried, it didn’t work, and even if you’ve been struggling, putting together all the bits and pieces. You know, we will transcribe this episode, and we’ll put together the key points along the way of Bill’s journey. Bill, thank you so much for being a champion for us.
Bill: Thanks, James. It’s a pleasure.
James: Alright, so Bill’s site is VeritasSchool.life. If you are interested in his passion, the religious topics, sounds like that’s the place to go and learn deeply about it and be interactive with someone who knows what he’s talking about. In the meantime, we’ll catch you on a future episode.
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