How Not to Run a Master Group: A Case Study

My sister recently shared with me a horrible experience she had as part of a “Master Group” online. It was so frustrating that I knew I had to post about it. I’ve heard a lot of bad advice put out there on business podcasts… but it sounds good, so people keep sharing it… and, unfortunately, people keep following it. And it leads to situations like the one I’m about to share.

Please Note: I am not writing this to shame or embarrass anyone. We’re all human and we all make mistakes! And I won’t be naming names. My goal with this post is to encourage anyone who is creating a “master group” or “mastermind” to do it with empathy and excellence. Your customers aren’t just dollar signs– they’re people. People with hopes, dreams, and ambitions they trust you can help them with. As a member of the creative economy, I feel it hurts all of us when other creative entrepreneurs don’t deliver on their promises and provide terrible service. It breaks trust with potential consumers and sets us all back.

The Background

My sister is an *artist and wanted to take her business to the next level. A fellow artist, whom my sister admired, and was further along in her career, decided to offer a “Master Group.”

This artist sent a lovely email sequence filled with promises of all the great information she would deliver over the course of the next year in her weekly videos and in her download vault. The copy was very compelling, and anyone interesting in furthering their art career or business would naturally be interested.

MIA

After approximately 2-3 months, the leader of this “Master Group” went MIA. She completely ghosted the beautiful souls who had entrusted their hope, time, and finances into participating in her product.

Reappearance

Months later this artist reappeared, but did not offer her clients an apology. She also didn’t give a solid, or even a reasonable, explanation for what had happened. Instead of offering a refund, or picking up where she left off, she made excuses. Which, understandably, frustrated her students. It also led to litigation.

Where they went wrong… And how it could have gone better

#1

Again, because this post is meant to be a teaching moment, let’s dissect things just a bit to see what we can learn from it.

I believe very firmly that this well-meaning creative listened to the advice that is constantly spewed via business podcasts and certain industry leaders that you should “sell a product before you have one.” That way you can earn the money you need to produce said product. While this is great in theory… and has worked for many people… this situation is what happens on the flip side. And I’ve heard similar stories to my sister’s many, many times.

What happens is that people, like this creative, start strong, but don’t have a game plan in place for how to deliver on their promises. Anyone can work at something with gusto when it’s new and exciting, but what about the middle? The boring, un-glamorous middle. Or what about when something unexpected pops up? In this case, there was no Plan B.

If you’re planning on doing a “master group” it’s a good idea to have several weeks or even months of content pre-created. If you’re planning on doing live videos, it would still be a good idea to have some pre-recoded content, just in case. Or perhaps a few emails, PDF’s or guides you could share when things don’t go to plan.

#2

As I mentioned before, everyone makes mistakes. And everyone goes through difficult seasons. That doesn’t make this sweet soul bad or wrong or any less talented. The problem with their response is that she did not own up to her mistakes or explain her absence.

If this creative was going through a personal trauma, family or health crises, a medical event, or similar tough situation — that is her personal business. She need not go into details; however, letting her paying clients know that she is going through a difficult season and offering to pick back up where she left off after this difficult event is resolved would have gone a long way to continue building trust and empathy with her master group.

#3

While this creative did not have the wherewithal to be able to provide refunds, which is completely understandable, she also did not offer a solid alternative… at first. After legal action was threatened, this person did step up and offer to provide the content she had promised.

I’m so glad she is making that content available! I just hate that it came from such an unpleasant circumstance.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, please offer to do the right thing immediately, and save yourself a great deal of unpleasantness.

The takeaway

There were a number of times this situation went off the rails, and many ways things could have been handled better. The biggest takeaway from all of this is, preparation time is NEVER wasted time. Before you sell a bill of goods to a master group, make sure you can deliver on your promises. Doing a great deal of preparation should aid in this. Also bear in mind that communication is key to the health of any relationship– your master group wants to hear from you! If things don’t go to plan, don’t disappear; communicate.

*I’ve used the term “artist” in place of this person’s specific niche in the art world/wedding industry.

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