Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie teaches consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win their ideal clients by becoming seen as authorities in their field.

CategoryOnline Courses

Online Courses

The most powerful thing you can do in a course

Posted on 26th August 2022.

About a decade ago I partnered on a webinar with a guy who did Linkedin training, and he did something live that I've never forgotten.

This was back in the day when we thought that appearing high up on searches on Linkedin was something valuable.

So what he did on the webinar was to get people to search for the keywords they wanted to rank for on Linkedin. Then he got them to make a few changes to their profile and search again.

I can still remember the little chat messages coming in:


“I'm number one!”

“Amazing – thank you”

And it went on and on.

Now I'm not sure that appearing higher up in Linkedin searches was ever all that valuable. But the impact of getting an immediate result in the workshop was a sight to see.

Not surprisingly, he sold a lot of copies of his training program on that webinar.

Normally in training courses or workshops, we give people skills they can use later to get results.

But the impact of getting results inside a workshop is huge. You can just see people become inspired and motivated.

Now the results you give inside a workshop are unlikely to be monetary ones. But, like the immediate improvement in Linkedin search ranking, they can be tangible.

Or they could be mental too. Giving attendees an amazing new insight or breaking down a big barrier for them.

On the Persuasive Email Writing cohort courses I'm running the things that are working best are the idea generators and the email and subject line templates.

Course members who were stuck coming into the workshop can leave with a dozen new ideas for emails. And they can instantly see how to use the templates to shave hours off the time it takes to write them.

Whatever kind of course you do, there are always opportunities for instant results. Take those opportunities early – ideally in the first workshop even if it doesn't naturally flow.

Because if you can get people excited about what they've achieved and what they'll soon be able to do then you've got them hooked. They'll put in the work. They'll get great results and they'll sing your praises.

All because you focused on giving them quick wins.


Online Courses

Can you get quality AND speed in your marketing?

Posted on 5th August 2022.

I've been struck recently by what seems like a contradiction in the advice given by my interviewees on Course Builders TV.

I get a lot of people saying that the route to success with courses is speed. To get something out quickly in a pilot version to get feedback and progress fast.

And I get a lot of people saying that the route to success is quality – to create a course that's so amazing and delivers such great results that people want to share and spread the word.

They can't both be right, can they?

Well, in some ways they can.

Firstly, quality doesn't necessarily take a lot of time. And it doesn't necessarily mean polished or high-tech or full of fancy features.

For most people, the “quality” of a course is really down to the results they get from it and the experience they have on it.

And it's certainly possible for people to get brilliant results from a minimum viable product version of a course that focuses only on the essentials. In fact for many that's far preferable to a huge course that takes ages to get through but only gets incrementally better results.

When it comes to the experience of the course, don't get trapped into thinking that means it has to be pretty with fancy videos and interactive quizzes and the like. A pilot version of your course that does everything live with a lot of interaction will deliver a great experience in a different way.

In fact, it's important to remember that the people who sign up for a pilot have different expectations to people who buy a mature product.

They're not expecting everything to work perfectly. And one of the reasons they've signed up is the opportunity to interact with you and get feedback.

So the live version will exactly match their definition of quality even if you don't have professionally designed slides and studio-quality video.

It's important to recognise this evolution of your course – and of your buyers.

Your first version will inevitably be a bit scruffy. Might even have gaps you have to plug via Q&A. But it will work for the innovators and early adopters whose primary motivation is early access.

As you begin to market your course more widely you'll get majority and laggard buyers. They'll be a bit more uncertain and want the traditional trappings of quality like a well-designed website, tried and tested exercises to help them learn, proper support and help features.

That means you can move fast and “do it live” in your pilot and the people there will think it's great quality. But you need to evolve the course over time to meet the quality expectations of a broader set of buyers.

But, of course, having done the pilot and early iterations of the course you're in a perfect position to upgrade the quality in that sense – and you should have the money from your pilot sales to enable you to do it!


Online Courses

Your biggest challenge when selling your online course is this

Posted on 13th July 2022.

Years ago in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes shared what he called the “Stadium Pitch”.

It perfectly illustrates the biggest problem you're likely to face when you're trying to sell your course.

Holmes asked his readers to imagine they had a chance to go on stage at a stadium filled with people who fitted their ideal client profile.

The big question: what would they say? What would their “stadium pitch” be?

He went on to say that most salespeople and business owners would try to sell their product to that audience. They'd talk about the benefits, pre-empt objections and make a great offer.

The huge problem though is that even if the stadium is filled with people who fit your ideal client profile, very few of them would be ready to buy at that point in time. 

Holmes suggested that:

  • Something like 3% of people are actively looking to buy at any given time.
  • A further 7% aren't looking but would be open to it
  • 30% of people aren't thinking about it at all
  • 30% of people think they're not interested (but could maybe be persuaded otherwise)
  • 30% of people know they're not interested

Of course, the numbers will vary business to business. But the point is the vast majority of people just won't be actively in the market for whatever you're selling at any point in time.

So if you try to hard sell them, you might get that 3% to buy and maybe even some of the 7%. But you're losing everyone else – including maybe 60% of people who could well buy – but just not right now.

That's why if you do a “stadium pitch” you need to talk about something that the 7% and the 30% and the 30% are interested in hearing about – not just the 3%. Then you keep the dialogue going until the time is right for them.

That's how you convert a high percentage of your potential clients into buyers – not just the fraction who are ready when you first start speaking to them.

Sound familiar?

I'm sure it won't have escaped your attention that this is exactly the strategy you follow with email marketing.

Attract everyone who could be a buyer with a valuable lead magnet. Then nurture your relationship with them until they're ready to buy with useful, interesting emails.

Of course, that's easier said than done.

You have to come up with great topics to write about consistently. You have to know what it will take to get people ready to buy. And you have to write so that people will open your emails, read them and take action.

But that's why you read these posts :)


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 :)


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.


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?


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.


Online Courses

Fast feedback is today’s key to all your marketing

Posted on 25th May 2022.

If there's one thing that I've learned from creating multiple online courses over the last decade or so it's the power of fast feedback.

That's been amplified by what I've heard from the successful course builders I've interviewed recently.

You see it in the idea of pre-selling your course. And in piloting it once sold. The faster you get feedback on whether it's a good idea or whether the course is working, the faster you can adjust.

But it's much more than that. It's a different way of working, and it applies to so many different aspects of marketing and business.

Back in the day, the “right” way to create a course would be to do a ton of research, think about it deeply, create a detailed specification, build a brilliant course and then go big on your launch to ensure your success.

Except often it wasn't a success. Or at least anywhere near what you'd hoped.

Often the topic of the course wasn't the right one to inspire your audience. Or it just wasn't the right format. Or you were selling it to the wrong people. Or any one of a host of reasons you can only really find out by trying things in the real world.

Today a lot has changed which makes fast feedback much more possible.

You can reach a warm audience much easier. People are much more willing to take part in pilots and tests. The technology means you can quickly knock up a half decent version of a course and polish it later. You can get instant feedback and work with people on live video calls.

But fast feedback isn't just about the course itself.

How do you know what topic to focus on?

In the past you'd have picked a problem you thought was a big issue. Or if you were lucky, one that clients had told you was important to them.

Today you can start publishing content about a handful of problems on Linkedin or Twitter or Medium or email or whichever media reaches your audience. You can see which one really clicks with them and gets them engaged.

You can double down on it and go deeper. You can interact with them to see which aspects are important to them.

And then you can punt a potential course on that topic.

You can find out in days what might have taken you months or longer in the past. And that takes the guesswork out of creating courses – and so much of your marketing too.

And it gives you confidence too. You don't have to spend months squirrelling away in the background on your masterwork hoping that when it sees the light of day it'll be what people want. 

You can build in public and make sure it is.

Don't market in the dark. Test different options. See which works. Go deeper.


Online Courses

A great way to pick your course topic

Posted on 20th May 2022.

I just finished a great interview with productivity and time-management expert Alexis Haselberger for Course Builders TV.

We were talking about how to pick the best topic for your online course and Alexis made one of those points that seems so obviously right in hindsight that you wish you'd come up with it yourself!

Most advice on picking your topic is a variation on the theme of picking a big problem your clients typically have. Ideally an urgent one with significant financial impact they'd be willing to pay to get rid of.

But what Alexis pointed out was that for an online course, the problem also has to be one they can fix themselves.

If you think about the work you do with clients there are some problems where, once they know what the issue is, you can just say “go do this”. Those sorts of problems are good topics for online courses.

But there are other problems where you need to delve deeper with a client to diagnose things. Or give them regular feedback to help them course-correct. Or where they may need lots of personal support and motivation.

Those aren't such good areas for online courses.

Now obviously some online courses include an element of group coaching too, or the occasional one-to-one call. So the rule isn't a hard and fast one.

But generally speaking it's a very good criteria to use. Just ask yourself “if I told my client what to do in this area, would they be able to just get on with it and get great results by themselves?”.

If so you may be on to a winner.