The first time I created a course from start to finish, I was so sure I was onto something big and that it was going to be a HUGE success. After all, clients had asked me for a course like this and told me they’d have paid for it — so what could possibly go wrong?
Well, a lot, actually.
As it turned out, the course wasn’t a great idea at all. When it came time to sell it to the general public, not many people were buying despite amazing webinar turnouts. I soon learned that my course — that I spent hours creating with professional graphic designers and sales copywriters — was something that only a very, very select group (of two clients, to be exact) needed. AND, they would rather pay me to get it done than DIY.
After countless hours and dollars invested, I learned the hard way that it was a huge waste of time for me to go out there and create a whole course from start to finish without validating it first.
I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, so today I’m sharing the steps that I now take to successfully (and profitably) launch my courses.
Stop and think about what people are constantly asking you for. This is where most people start, but they fail to take it one step further and do some research beyond their immediate circle. You can send a survey out to your email list, ask questions on social media (especially Facebook groups), attend in-person networking events, etc. Any way you can really find out what your audience needs help with — get on it!
There are a few ways to accomplish this: pre-selling your course, opening it up to reduced-price beta testers, or email a small group to find potential customers.
What’s the deal with pre-selling? It’s when you sell the course before you’ve even created it. You might just create the outline and a sales page, then wait to see if your audience snatches it up. If it’s a hit, consider it an invitation to invest in creating that course.
With beta testers, you’ll sell your course at a reduced rate (or with exclusive bonuses) and get tons of feedback along the way. Custom-make your course to reflect exactly what your buyers need most.
You can also send out personal emails to members of your tribe you have a feeling would love your course idea. Reach out to them as beta testers, have them review your ideas, or any way you think might benefit you both!
Want to hear more about the concept of pre-validating your idea? One of my favorite episodes of the Creative Empire podcast features Ashley Kelley, mastermind behind the Modern Calligraphy Summit.
What happens if you don’t reach your goal? Just give them a refund, OR, move forward if it’s still worth the money you made to create it. Make sure they know upfront that it’s a presale. I like to build this into our marketing to help buyers feel like they’re getting in on the ground floor on something cool + exclusive. Kind of like latching onto bands way before your friends do.
Walk through the course yourself (or recruit friends or beta testers to help) as many times as it takes to make sure everything’s running smoothly. Things to look out for at this stage include: Are you giving your students clear directions on how to navigate through the course? Does the course meet your learning objectives? And, technical things like, does your payment processor work?
Now is not the time for tech glitches! It only undermines the experience for your customers.
One of the main reasons why beta testers are such an integral part of the launch process — apart from their invaluable feedback — is the ability to collect testimonials before you’ve made your course public.
Beta testers are usually very happy to provide testimonials in return for the early access to your course. Put this on autopilot with an organized way to ask for the testimonial (I’m a big fan of Typeform). Once you have those reviews, get them up on your sales page.
Your course should always be evolving and improving. Make sure to talk to your students 1:1 to get specific input. Evaluate their feedback and use it to add value and polish to your course for the next round of students coming through… then increase your pricing. (Remember: Don’t implement every single thing suggested, you’re looking for consistent patterns of misunderstanding or confusion.)
Pre-sell your course to make sure it’s actually something people would pay for, then use that capital to fund an even better launch.