All of us have expertise to share – the question is, how do we share it effectively? You’ve likely thought about launching your very own course. Or maybe you’ve seen others create courses and wonder how they got their inspiration to take action.
But there is something holding you back…
The truth is, you’re not alone.
Back in 2013, I felt extremely frustrated in my corporate job. I knew that there was an alternative to the traditional career path; I just didn’t know how to get there.
I felt scared and alone as I told friends that I was leaving my (admittedly strenuous but lucrative) corporate job to try to establish a different lifestyle – one that didn’t involve negative stress and a daily commute.
Most importantly, I was looking for something that I could create that would immediately add value for others.
How to Add Value to Others
Like many formerly corporate workers, I turned to starting my own business.
This might sound surprising to some, but my original intention was not to create an online course on using LinkedIn to help people generate more sales opportunities and connections.
When I joined the Audience Business Masterclass, I wanted to learn how to improve the online presence for the traditional design business I’d just started.
As I got deeper into the course content, I realized that there were a lot of things I had initially overlooked: finding the right target to address, my value proposition, and determining what people were interested in learning about.
At the same time, I was using LinkedIn to engage potential prospects for my traditional business.
As I honed my writing skills, I explored podcasts and blogs like The Rise to the Top, Smart Passive Income, and (of course) Firepole Marketing, which gave me opportunities to talk to people I never would have met if I were still in my corporate job.
During this time, I reconnected with someone who was teaching blue-chip clients how to use platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook in their businesses, and began to realize that maybe I needed a business partner. I knew that I couldn’t do it all on my own.
Something Was Still Missing
Around the same time, I had a realization: I had my telescope turned the wrong way around!
I was looking at what the Audience Business Masterclass could do for me and my business. Flipping it around allowed me to start to understand how I could help others by using some of the lessons that my partner and I had learned about using LinkedIn.
One night, during a conversation in which my potential partner and I were lamenting the deficits of yet another traditional networking event, we sparked the idea to use our decades of LinkedIn experience to address some of these networking challenges. And what better way to do so than with an online course?
But before we started building the course, we needed to address something essential for course creation: we needed to dig deep to find out just what our target market needed.
Finding Out What People Really Need
We started out very broad and then refined our idea over time based on feedback from people across a wide range of industries.
We knew that our course would need to address our market’s root problems and frustrations. This turned out to be difficult, because they initially weren’t able to articulate exactly what they needed.
Sure, they told us they wanted more leads, but that’s pretty much what everyone wants.
To mitigate the lack of clarity, we scheduled 1:1 discussions about their business challenges. From these conversations, we were then able to determine the deep underlying pain points that needed to be solved.
We discovered that our initial thoughts had really missed the mark!
The actual challenge our market was facing was the constricted amount of time they had to spend on customer research, and the changing nature of how their clients researched information during the sales process.
We realized that our clients wanted to increase their inbound connections and opportunities without spending tons of time on social networks. But they didn’t have time to become LinkedIn experts – they had businesses to run!
So the course material had to be targeted and holistic, using the most relevant features of the LinkedIn platform to get the maximum results.
Our solution was to take key elements of what we were teaching elite clients and use those elements to build a course that would deliver the results our market wanted, without them having to spend an inordinate amount of time learning the LinkedIn platform or mastering sneaky sales tactics.
After assessing some benchmarking and research on what other products were available on the market, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to offer something different.
We wanted our course to offer a repeatable process for using LinkedIn and have some built-in accountability so businesses could make it a core part of their activities.
We also didn’t want the course to be about us. While we’ve both been on LinkedIn since about 2003, we wanted to focus on quickly and effectively transferring our knowledge and experience to our clients, so they could go out and quickly apply it to their businesses.
Writing, Testing, Feedback. Repeat.
At this point in the process, we realized that we still needed to validate the core content with key people to get feedback that we were on the right track.
Here’s the process we used to validate the course impact with our potential users:
- Assembled the core materials based on key areas of frustration from our 1:1 conversations.
- Asked for early feedback to determine what we needed to change.
- Refined the content into a shareable PDF.
- Asked for test users to pay a highly reduced price for the content in exchange for feedback, to test the value proposition of the material.
- Used the feedback to refine how we would present the material in the course framework (for example: introducing more video and bonuses).
- Did a soft launch to a small group of potential clients to test our launch funnel and webinar process.
- Continued to refine based on feedback.
It’s All About the Technology… (No, It’s Not!)
It was definitely tempting to address all of the technical aspects before we even had the course content in place. But even with my background in technology, I felt overwhelmed by all the tech aspects of setting up an online course.
As I have talked to more and more people about building courses, I have come to see that this is one of the most common reasons people don’t actually make it to launch day.
Terms like “email auto-responder”, “templates,” “plug-ins,” “launch sequences” and “drip content” are complicated to understand. The technology is far simpler than it was even 18 months ago, but it is still a stumbling block.
I soon realized that there were people in my network with course building experience whom I could ask for assistance.
Based on their recommendations, I decided to implement OptimizePress 2.0 as the platform for our course. But, there are many other platforms available that offer the same functionality.
The point is, it’s not the technology that makes the course relevant for your users; it’s the combination of ease-of-use and relevant content that fits your market. Those are the things that will help you build a successful course.
Is It The End? Or, Is It The Beginning?
Looking back, I realize that what really helped me take action was discovering something important: it’s not about getting it perfect the first time out of the gate.
There were some failures that were necessary for us to improve our product. In fact, it took us months of building, and tweaking based on user feedback, to get it to where it is now. And, we know that we still aren’t finished.
I’ve learned that wanting the course to be perfect kept me on the sidelines for far too long.
I needed to get a deeper understanding of what my potential clients were struggling with so I could identify what I could do to help them become more successful.
This was a humbling experience: realizing that my initial ideas were not really hitting the mark! I had to understand that it wasn’t really about me, but about helping my clients get ahead.
Finally, there were a number of people who really kept me on track as I went through this process. I have a great network of supportive people that showed me that I didn’t need to do everything myself.
At this point, I feel like the experience of building an online course is just the first step on a longer journey. I don’t know if I’ll build another course anytime soon. But I know I won’t be on this journey alone.
What’s holding you back from creating your online course? Let Jeffrey know in the comments below.