Online Courses

What will it take for someone to buy your course?

Posted on 1st July 2022.

How do you get someone to buy your course?

Well, think about what it takes for you to buy something yourself. There are always a set of beliefs you need to have before you'll be ready.

You've got to feel like you need it for a start. It solves an important problem or helps you achieve a big goal (or meets some big psychological desire you have).

And for something like a course, you need to believe that it actually works and that you'll be able to implement what you learn successfully.

There are also some less obvious beliefs you need.

For example, one of the biggest reasons people don't buy courses is inertia. A hope that if they just do what they're currently doing a bit harder and a bit better they'll get what they want and won't need to change much.

So a belief that's needed before someone will buy is “I won't achieve my goals (or solve my problem) just by doing what I'm currently doing (or making small changes)”.

Another issue is that for most problems, they'll most likely have tried a few times to solve it before – without success. So for them to buy they need to believe that the approach you're teaching in your course is different to what they've already tried.

It also has to feel right to them. They have to believe that what you teach (and you yourself) are a good fit for them and their values and the way they like to do things.

For example, someone who sees themselves as honest and trustworthy won't feel comfortable learning from an SEO course that's full of “black hat” techniques – even if they work.

The final “big belief” is that now is the right time to do this. If you don't have this belief in place they'll be ready to buy, but put it off (and maybe never come back to it).

The thing is, these beliefs don't just magically appear in people's heads. They get there because of their experience – and because of your marketing.

If you want people to buy your course you have to get them to believe they need it, that your course works, that they'll be able to implement what they learn, that it's something new, that it's a fit for them, and that the time is right.

And you need to do that while adding value and keeping things interesting so they don't “tune out”.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it can be. But it's nowhere near as much work as trying to get people to buy if they don't have these beliefs.

More on how to establish them in upcoming posts.


Online Courses

What I love about teaching

Posted on 29th June 2022.

I've been working really hard over the last couple of weeks.

Scratch that.

I've been thinking really hard over the last couple of weeks.

I'm turning my experience and insights from the last decade or so of writing emails that people find interesting and useful into a course.

And the trickiest part of that is figuring out how to get across those ideas and techniques in ways that people can learn from and actually use day in, day out.

When you're using those techniques in your own business you tend not to think about them. And if someone asks you a question it's usually fairly easy to answer based on something you've done before.

But when you have to explain something in a course you really have to understand it.

Even in the last week or so, the process of writing down my approach to building credibility and trust through email has given me deeper insight into what works and what doesn't – and why.

Sitting down, concentrating for long periods, drawing up models and frameworks and reworking them until they're right is genuinely hard work.

But I also feel great afterwards. Like I've really mastered the topic rather than just being pretty good.

This is one of the big side-benefits of teaching what you know. It forces you to develop a deeper understanding and to be better at your craft.

I don't think it's ever going to be your main motivation for creating a course. That's usually the ability to reach more people, to decouple your time from your income and to build an asset that's not purely dependent on you.

But it's a really nice bonus. And it's a benefit you get as you create the course not just afterwards after you've sold it.

And hopefully you'll see the benefit of it too in my upcoming emails :)


More Clients Memorandum

Ditch the tricks…do this instead

Posted on 26th June 2022.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what makes for successful email marketing over the long term.

Not the “hustle a bunch of sales from new subscribers” type of success that a lot of experts and courses seem to focus on. But instead, how do you build the long-term trust and credibility needed for someone to be ready to buy something big and important.

And it’s struck me just how much advice in marketing these days is based on “tricks”. Psychological techniques borrowed from Cialdini, Kahneman, Sherman, Ariely and others.

There’s no doubt that reciprocity, scarcity, urgency, social proof and all those other persuasion techniques do work. But they tend to amplify motivations, not generate them out of thin air.

If someone is seriously considering buying your product then a little deadline can push them over the edge.

But if they think your product is worthless, no amount of social proof, scarcity or urgency is going to get them to buy. In fact, it’s more likely to annoy them and push them further away from you.

So when it comes to writing interesting and engaging emails, for example, the answer isn’t to start with a boring topic and sprinkle on clever writing techniques.

It’s to start with a topic your audience is actually interested in.

Tricks and techniques can help amplify that and make it even more interesting. But the key is to start by understanding what your audience actually cares about and to write about that.

Similarly, the key to persuasion is to start by understanding what your audience actually wants and to show them how your offer gives it to them.

Start with the fundamentals, then add on the cleverness (if it’s needed at all).

But tricks and techniques with no substance behind them just don’t last.


Get Clients Online

Could you thrive in a non-traditional niche?

Posted on 24th June 2022.

One of the biggest impacts the net has had on business – in my view anyway – is the opening up of non-traditional niches.

What I mean by that is that in the past your client focus was very much defined by practical aspects of who you could reach.

  • Unless you were very big, you could usually only reach local or at best national clients.
  • Unless you lived in a big city, you had to focus on a relatively general niche to make sure there were enough of them near you.
  • You almost always had to focus on niches with “externally visible identifying characteristics”. In other words in order to be able to reach them with your marketing they had to work in an industry or a job function or be part of a demographic you could target.

That's all changed today.

While traditional marketing still works, of course, we now have other ways of reaching people.

Online advertising is so cheap (relatively) and the algorithms are so smart that you can put out ads to a broader audience and let the algorithm figure out who responds best to it.

You don't need to know in advance if it's people from a certain industry or with certain demographics or job titles. The algorithm can pick out common characteristics you couldn't possibly know.

Or (my favourite strategy) you can become a beacon that attracts the right sort of people for you.

You can't find “people who want to become scriptwriters” using traditional marketing targeting. But Lucy V Hay built a big following by publishing incredibly valuable resources for budding authors and scriptwriters and they found her

You can't find “people who want to learn Airtable to automate their business” using traditional marketing targeting. But Gareth Pronovost built a hugely helpful YouTube channel teaching Airtable and potential customers for his courses found him.

Create valuable content for the people you want as clients (no matter how weirdly and non-traditionally they're defined) and they will find you – as long as you actively promote your content.

And it means you don't have to lock yourself into the boring old industry/job description/demographic niche model we were stuck with in the past.



Why you must “keep the ball” in marketing

Posted on 19th June 2022.

Oh no…the football analogies continue…

Last week I talked about how your sales are more dependent on how often you manage to build the trust and credibility needed for people to be ready to buy than on how good you are at the final step of selling.

(Like the way a football team's goals are more dependent on how often and how well they get the ball into danger zones on the pitch than they are on their shooting ability).

There's another related football analogy that's important here too.

I can't source the quote exactly (I had in my mind that it was Johan Cruyff from his groundbreaking work at Barcelona but it seems not) but you may well have heard some variation of:

“If we've got the ball, it means the opponent can't score”.

It's real back to basics, but it's true. None of that fancy stuff about getting into danger zones means anything if you haven't got the ball.

In marketing, keeping the ball means keeping the attention of your audience.

You can't build credibility and trust and get people ready to buy if you've lost their attention. If they're no longer listening to you.

I don't just mean people actively disconnecting – unsubscribing from your emails for example. Far more common is people staying subscribed but just not opening or reading any more.

In fact, your main issue isn't upsetting people so they unsubscribe, it's boring them so they drift off without unsubscribing.

It's particularly vital if you sell something big with a long sales cycle. You need people to keep paying attention over a long period of time so you're there and front of mind when they're ready to buy.

And unlike football, if you lose attention, it's rare you get it back.

It would be fantastic if there were marketing equivalents of ball-wining midfielders and hard-tackling defenders to get attention back once you'd lost it. But that's rarely the case.

Instead your best option is to make sure every email or piece of marketing you send is valuable or interesting – ideally both.


Online Courses

You have the power of choice

Posted on 15th June 2022.

In my last post on building online courses I suggested that it’s vital to understand what your clients really want from your course. And in particular, whether their goal is learning or results,

Self evidently, those two different motivations lead to two very different types of course.

But it’s also worth remembering that real life is a little bit more complex than people who want to learn vs people who want to get results.

In fact, life is a lot more complex than any simple marketing model that suggests “all” your customers behave a single way.

The reality is that in your market there will be some people who want to learn and some who just want results. Just like there will be some people who are ready to buy and some who need nurturing. Or some who prefer to interact online and some who prefer face to face.

And the wonderful thing is that unless you're a giant multination that needs a huge customer base, you can choose which segment to go for.

There may be a lot more people who want results vs want to learn – but that doesn't matter. What matters is whether there are enough of the people you want to work with to give you a great business.

If you're a small business and you have the ability to reach people online, that's almost always the case.

Back when business was constrained by our ability to see people face to face, most of us were forced to gear up our services to cater for the most common type of customer. The exception being businesses based in big cities where there were plenty of every type of customer.

Now, thanks to our ability to reach people around the globe, it's like we all live in big cities. We can focus on much smaller niches and still have easily enough prospects for a thriving business.

And those niches don't have to be the traditional ones defined by industry or demographics. They can be defined by the type of people we want to work with. As long as we can find a way to reach them or get visible so they can reach us.

I'll give some examples of how course builders are doing that in my next post.


More Clients Memorandum

The “build up play” you need to win clients

Posted on 12th June 2022.

Apologies to those of you who aren't football (soccer) fans, but I'm going to overuse an analogy that's been front of mind for me all week.

When most people talk about marketing, they tend to focus on the very last step.

The sexy bits. The sales page that gets people to buy. The email they click on to go to the checkout. The social media post that leads to a sale.

But I think that focus is a bit misplaced.

In football we're (usually) a bit more sophisticated. We know the objective at any point in time is to score a goal. And we know we can only score if we take a shot.

But that doesn't mean we should shoot every time we get the ball. Far from it.

Instead, we know we have to get the ball up the pitch and into a danger zone where a shot is much more likely to result in a goal. And that's where coaches put most of their attention.

Get the ball into a dangerous position in the opponents' penalty area often enough and you will score. Even if you don't have the greatest strikers in the world. 

I believe the same thing applies in marketing. In other words, rather than focusing only on the final step that leads to a sale, we should focus primarily on the steps beforehand that get your clients ready to buy.

Nurture your relationships so that clients understand their problems and impact. Show you understand them and have a unique solution that will work for them. Give them confidence they will succeed with you.

Do that often enough and you will win clients, even if you're not the greatest marketer in the world or your sales pages and emails are a bit basic.

Winning clients is 80% about the build-up play.


Online Courses

Who really wants to learn?

Posted on 8th June 2022.

One of the things I've found it's vital to understand is what your course buyers really want.

In particular, do they want to learn a skill (which enables them to do something)? Or do they just want the end result and don't care about the skill?

It's a really important difference – and one it's easy to get wrong.

I personally love to learn new things. I want to become skilled at things that are important to my business.

So it's easy for me to fall into the trap of assuming everyone thinks that way.

But most people are rather more pragmatic when it comes to learning. In particular, the thing you teach might not be core to them, even if the result is important.

And if it's something they won't have to do frequently, they're going to lose those skills fast anyway.

That means they'll want to learn as little as possible in order to get the result they're looking for. Not all the niceties and clever tweaks and subtleties you might love, want to explore and want to teach.

So what they're looking for in a course is very different from someone who wants to become skilled in that area. They need two very different courses.

In fact, thinking outside the box a bit and really focusing on what that customer wants, the course might not actually look very course-like at all.

It might actually be mainly templates and examples they can use with some guidelines on how to adapt them to their own situation.

Something that will get them to “good enough” very quickly without having to go through a big learning curve.

Have you thought through what your customers really want from your courses?


More Clients Memorandum

3 things I (re-)learned this week

Posted on 5th June 2022.

I've started my Maven Course Accelerator program this week alongside a bunch of talented and very interesting people. From startup founders to singing coaches.

3 things I learned (or in some cases, I'd forgotten and re-learned) you might find useful:

  • Having an external drumbeat to push you to make progress is really helpful – always more so than you realise

    Of course, I know this to be true from experience and from running my own programs. But yet again I was surprised by it :)

    There were steps I took this week to progress my cohort course, exercises I did and things I thought about that I could easily have done myself weeks ago – but didn't.

    The drumbeat of a program with a fixed schedule where we're expected to complete tasks on time made it happen.
  • No matter how different people seem on a course there's always a lot to learn from them

    I had a brilliant idea in one of the working sessions that only I could possibly have thought of. 3 other people had the same idea :)

    More importantly, I got 2 other good ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself just by listening and paying attention to what others were doing.
  • Restrictions set you free

    I'm the kind of person who takes pride in having the absolute best version of everything: landing pages, email formats, the right font size for readability, everything…

    As a result, I'll spend way too much time researching and tweaking things that make very little difference in the grand scheme of things.

    Maven is very templated. You just don't get those options. In this early beta version you can't even change the font.

    And while in some ways that drives me crazy, it also saves me a ton of time. Time I can focus on more important things that have a bigger impact.

Trying something new and pushing yourself a little bit (in my case with the pace of doing this while I have so much other stuff on) always results in learning.

I don't do it often enough, but just reflecting on that learning every week helps to consolidate it and make sure you take action on it.

What have you learned this week?


Online Courses

Your success relies on their success

Posted on 3rd June 2022.

I've been thinking a lot about the success of your course members recently.

As I mentioned last week, I've been selected to pilot the new platform for cohort based courses and I'm going to run my planned “Persuasive Email Writing System” course through it.

At the onboarding this week it was interesting to reflect on how much emphasis they were putting on student success. Right from the use of cohorts, the community mechanisms to get them engaged, and the built in use of net promoter score at the end.

Of course, everyone wants their students to succeed.

But I think we often underestimate just how powerful having successful enthusiastic students can be.

Marketing is getting increasingly difficult. It's noisy. Advertising costs have shot up and results have got worse.

But the highest impact route to new clients: word of mouth from happy customers, is still as powerful as it's always been.

Especially in areas where potential customers are unsure whether the course will work for them. They're going to be looking to see whether it's worked for others like them.

That's where enthusiastic testimonials and people who willingly spread the word become so powerful.

That enthusiasm comes from both getting great results from your course, but also having a great experience.

Feeling part of a community. Of something bigger. Of being noticed. And heard.

If you want people to proactively refer you to others you've got to spark those feelings. And most of that comes from the way you work with your students through your program, not just the content itself.

When you're designing your course, don't just ask yourself how you can ensure your students get results. Ask yourself how you can make sure they have an amazing experience.