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Build a Business Around Paid Courses
and Membership Sites
Chris Garrett & Jerod Morris
BUILD A BUSINESS AROUND PAID COURSES AND MEMBERSHIP SITES
Build a Business Around Paid Courses and
Chris Garrett and Jerod Morris
Jerod: Today’s session is called Build a Business Around Paid Courses and
Membership Sites. If you have been following along with us on this webinar journey that we’ve been going on over the past couple of months, this is the natural progression of where we’ve been going. You can get all of the old webinars at RainmakerPlatform.com/Webinar.
You’ll see the first one was about building an email list that builds your business. Then we went on to talk about a podcast strategy that attracts attention and builds your content arsenal. In our last one, we talked about creating a website experience that converts with free downloads, courses, and member areas.
Today, we’re taking that to the next step, and now we’re talking about paid courses and membership sites. Today’s presentation is really an overview of this entire process of how you build a business around paid courses and membership sites. Every slide could probably be its own presentation.
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BUILD A BUSINESS AROUND PAID COURSES AND MEMBERSHIP SITESWhat we want to do is give you the big picture, as well as some of our specific advice that we’ve learned creating our own courses like The Showrunner, like what we’re doing with Digital Commerce Institute so that you can then go out and set about doing this on your own.
Overview Jerod: As we go here, this would kind of be the overview of where we’re going to take you today. We’re going to talk about designing your courses.
We’re then going to talk about business models because obviously having a business model with your paid courses is very important.
Then we’ll talk about the importance of testing with an MVP, why this is not just a suggestion but also a necessity. Then we’ll talk about the process of developing content. Finally, the actual launching and marketing process that you go through when you have a course, and now it’s time to get it out there and get it to folks. Mr. Garrett, are you ready to proceed?
Chris: Yep, let’s go.
The Showrunner as an example Jerod: All right. Let’s do it. I do want to mention real quick that I will be using The Showrunner Course as an example as we go, and I see some Showrunner
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BUILD A BUSINESS AROUND PAID COURSES AND MEMBERSHIP SITEScourse members in here as attendees. Obviously, that’s the course that we launched several months back. When we originally planned this presentation, too, it was before we had launched Digital Commerce Institute. Now that we’ve launched Digital Commerce Institute, we’ll be using that as an example too as we go through.
1. Designing your course Jerod: Let’s start out by talking about designing your course. This is really about some of the most vital preliminary work that you’re going to do as an online education entrepreneur. Obviously, the goal is you have to create a course that people actually want to spend money on. Sometimes we think that we have a hunch of what that will be, but we don’t know whether that hunch is right or not. We just have a hypothesis.
I know sometimes when I will start a new project, I want to just jump right into it, start creating content, start doing all this stuff. But it’s really important to take a step back and really go through a very methodical process for planning your subject matter, your content, who this is going to be for, making sure that you have a good plan in place from the beginning so that you set yourself up for success with your course before going down a road that ends up leading you to nowhere.
Chris, any initial thoughts on the process of designing your course, before we start jumping in here to the specific elements of design?
Chris: Yeah. This shouldn’t be overlooked. A lot of people want to skip past this part because it’s not the sexy exciting part, and it’s not the part where you directly make money. But it’s the foundations for everything you do. The amount of research you do will actually impact your customer experience— which is really the whole point.
Okay, you might be in business because you want to pay the mortgage. That aside, it’s all about the outcome that you develop for your students, for your customers. If they get a good experience, then they’re going to tell other people, and they’re going to become your best sales people.
Obviously, plans change when reality hits. But if you’re prepared, then it will be less stressful, and it will work better.
Choose in-demand subject Jerod: Yep. All right. Let’s talk about the elements of designing your course.
The first is to choose an in-demand subject. It’s important to remember that we can’t force people to learn what we think they should learn. We have to teach people what they want to learn because, ultimately, they don’t have to.
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That’s the big difference between when we’re back in school and we just have to learn whatever the teacher has planned for us, and now where we’re talking about actually developing adult education, we are developing courses that people are going to choose to spend money on, invest their time in.
Our choice of subject is extremely important because, again, this has to be something that people want to learn or maybe that they need to learn based on whatever transformation they’re looking to have. So it’s very important that, when we enter this process of choosing a subject, that we don’t just say, “Okay, I have a subject to teach. Let me develop a course around it.” It’s really got to go the other way and you’ve got to match this with, “Okay, what are people out there showing that they want to learn, what do people need to learn, and how can what I know, what I understand, what my experiences are fit into this and help me choose a subject that will fit into that?” Chris: Yeah. There has to be a market for what you’re wanting to develop and sell. It has to be a market of people who know that they want what you have.
The biggest problem we see with our customers’ courses or membership sites is, as you say Jerod, they develop something and then try to sell it.
Instead, find an eager market of people that you can satisfy. When their needs and their goals overlap with something you can teach, that’s when you’ve got something good. But you also need to find a subject, out of all the many that
you could teach, that people are willing to pay for because, otherwise, you’re not in business.
It could be fun. There are lots of things that I do and teach just for fun. I volunteer at the local makerspace to teach the laser cutter. I don’t make any money out of laser cutting. I’m a nerd, but not a nerd with good enough skills to make money out of that. So you can teach things for free.
But if you want to build a business, it has to be a market of people with a desire to invest in this education. You can test it—and we’re going to talk about MVPs—but also you can look at magazine stands. You can look at Amazon. If there are books and magazines and they’re selling about this topic, then that’s a good indication. If there’s advertising, if you go into Google and there’s Google AdWords all over the page when you put in keywords, that’s probably a good indication that there’s some money in it. You can do surveys.
You need to find that in-demand subject, something that people feel compelled to learn. If there’s some urgency, if there’s some scarcity, then it’s going to be even easier. Later when it comes to selling and it comes to launching it, you don’t want crickets. You don’t want silence when you put this messaging out. You want people to say, “Yes, where can I get it? How can I get it? How soon can I get it? How much is it?”—instead of, “Yeah, that sounds nice.”
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Jerod: Yeah. Sometimes it can be frustrating because you can get stuck here, but that is okay. I look at two examples from my own experience. Like with The Showrunner, teaching a course about podcasting that is clearly on demand.
There’s a huge market for it out there. That was a simple, “Okay, we know we’re going to teach this course. We know this is on demand. Now we’re moving on to the next steps that we’re about to show you.” But sometimes, you have a topic or you have a site and you want to have a course, but you don’t have a clear idea yet of what that in-demand subject is. I’m going through that right now with my site Primility—where I’ve got an idea, I’m building an audience, but I don’t yet know what the in-demand subject is that I can actually turn into a course, which is part of the reason why I haven’t yet.
Again, it can be a little frustrating. You want to go out there. You want to get a course. You want to teach. But it really requires going through this process that we’re showing you right now to make sure that you’re not going down a road that ends up wasting time, but that it’s actually taking you somewhere that leads to an audience that needs the course, that wants the course, will pay for the course—and that they’ll also have a good enough experience and transform in a good enough way, a relevant enough way, or a meaningful enough way that they’ll share that with others, and it’ll start to spread.
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Chris: Yeah. And we’ve spent some on this because a lot of people do rush through it. Then they waste all their time creating a course, building all this technology, spending money, and then they find nobody wants to buy it. We just wanted to drive home how important it is to pick well at the start.
Uniquely position your offer Jerod: Yep. Okay, so we’ve chosen a subject. We’ve got this in-demand subject, but now, ostensibly, if it’s in demand, there are probably other courses out there. In fact, that’s one way that you can tell that you have an in-demand subject is that there are other paid courses out there about this subject. It shows you that people are willing to pay for this.
Now, it’s very important to uniquely position your offer. It’s critical to differentiate yourself with unique positioning—again, if someone else is teaching the same thing, that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. But you’ve got to stand apart. You’ve got to resonate with people in a way that’s stronger than what your competition does. I’ll use The Showrunner as an example here.
When we launched The Showrunner, we knew,” All right, there are five, six, seven other podcasting courses out there right now. How are we going to uniquely position ourselves? What is it going to be that we do that is different than what other people do?”
We decided that one way that we would uniquely position ourselves is to focus less on the technology side of podcasting, where a lot of other courses focus, and really focus more on the mindset and on the audience-building strategies and on the experience because that’s what we want our ideal person, that’s what they were going to be focused on.
“How do I create a better experience? How do I put myself in this mindset of a showrunner to then create an audience that then maybe you can build a business out of it, maybe you can do whatever?” We wanted to get people to that point to where they had the audience that they could make some important decisions about where they wanted to go next without focusing so much on the technology part. That was our unique positioning. That’s why we were able to cut through some of the noise and end up finding our niche.
Chris: Yeah. So you have to do some research in your market. You have to find where you’re different. But it’s different with an advantage. What is the positive impact on your customers’ outcome based on that advantage? It’s not enough to just be different. You have to be different with an advantage. You have to be different in a way that gives them some sort of experience advantage or some outcome advantage.
What’s your difference that makes a difference? The example I always use is Sonia. Sonia has pink hair, but that’s not her differentiation. That’s not her positioning. She is the marketer for people who don’t like sales and marketing.
The pink hair is one of the symptoms of her differentiation. It’s not her differentiation. She’s not different because she’s got pink hair. She’s different because she’s the marketer for people who don’t like marketing.
Identify learner benefits Jerod: Yep, which leads us into our next slide—create a learner or a buyer profile. Who are the people that you’re targeting with your course? What problem or pain exists? What are their learning styles? You’re never going to be able to get people to buy a course if you don’t know how you are trying to reach them and how you’re trying to teach them.
This really comes from stepping inside the shoes of who your person is, and perhaps this is because you are coming from the market that you are now going to teach.
A great example of this is Belinda Weaver. We’re actually going to use her site in the demo that comes a little bit later. She teaches a course on copywriting.
For her to be able to do that, she came from the world of copywriting. She obviously understood what were the pain points, what are the problems because she came from that world. That can be such a great place to start when it comes to understanding who you’re teaching is if you come from that world yourself.