How to Leverage an Online Course to Catapult Your Platform

November 8, 2017  •  Product Development

It’s no secret online courses are really popular and really profitable right now. As a platform-builder I’m sure you’ve wondered, “Should I offer my own online course?

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I remember when I launched my first online course, nearly three years ago—I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

That said, I knew where to look for guidance! I studied the training available within Platform University (at the time, a paying member myself), and watched what people like Michael Hyatt and Bryan Harris we’re doing at the time.

Then I launched! This was my first real digital product, an online course called Unlock The Get Noticed!™ Theme which I launched to a tiny email list of just 250 email subscribers—and yet I generated just over $10,000 from a 10-day launch!

At the time, my wife was pregnant with our first child—so needless to say, that influx of money was much appreciated.

That first online course unlocked a passion for online business that led me to where I sit now, as the full-time Dean of Platform University.

I don’t believe in accidental success—you can replicate the exact strategy I used, to offer an online course of your own.

Here’s a breakdown of the process I used, in five consecutive steps:

Step 1: Establish Your Niche Authority

An online course represents a packaged version of your expertise in a particular area, something that takes time to formulate and establish—but you may have created this expertise without realizing it, and this expertise can be a lot more specific than you may realize at first!

In my case, I had become one of the top commenters in the support forums for The Get Noticed!™ Theme long before I knew I would offer a course on the subject.

The more technical aspects of WordPress came naturally to me, so before long I was spending 20-30 minutes a week answering questions in the forums, to help as well as I could.

I didn’t set out to become the expert, but that didn’t stop it from happening. – John Meese

People started coming directly to me for help, or citing my name and past answers in new threads throughout the user forums. My expert status was set.

Once I realized people wanted more, I started offering 1-on-1 coaching on how to use The Get Noticed!™ Theme—a popular service that led to dozens of coaching sessions, further cementing my authority within that niche.

Step 2: Build a Targeted Email List

Months before I started working on the online course content, I created a waiting list page to send people to when they asked questions that were too detailed to answer in a simple forum response.

I linked to the page in my forum signature, various blog posts, and referenced it whenever people asked me for more information about The Get Noticed!™ Theme.

The key here was that this list was super targeted—much more so than my general blog subscriber list.

For this list, my goal was to get subscribers who:

  1. Had purchased the Get Noticed!™ Theme,
  2. We’re currently using it, and
  3. Wanted help using the theme.

Over time, that list grew to about 50 subscribers. With a targeted giveaway, I was able to add just over 200 more.

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Step 3: Build The Suspense, Make Your Launch an Event!

Once I had a launch date on the calendar, I built suspense by turning that date into an event.

I added a countdown to the front page of my website for the course, and set the call-to-action for the waiting list to “Be The First To Know”.

Between social media, the support forums, and an occasional blog post, I used every opportunity to name-drop the course and build excitement around the upcoming launch.

And guess what? It worked!

Once registration opened, everyone was excited. I remember one subscriber told me via email,

Finally the course has been released – been counting down the days actually.

Step 4: Validate Demand Before You Overcommit

Once I outlined the content I would include in The Get Noticed!™ Theme Unlocked, I was pretty confident that the product was solid.

That said, I wasn’t the one who was going to be handing over money. Before I invested the time and money to produce all the content for the course I wanted to make sure the market was there.

So, once I had the concept nailed down and nearly a third of the content complete, I opened registration for “beta” membership.

Over the next three days, I generated $1,485 in beta membership sales.

Best of all, those beta members loved it and convinced me that my course fulfilled a real-life need.

That validation was all I needed to prepare the full launch, and that’s exactly what I did next (once the product was complete).

Step 5: Launch Like You Mean It

Over a nine-day registration period, I emailed the waiting list every single day (except Sunday). Some days, I emailed as many as two or three times.

Each email built off the last to create trust by building a relationship through generosity, helpfulness, and a personal touch.

For customers to shell out real money, they need to know you’re someone they can trust.

People trust people, not companies or brands.

John Meese

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I used live chat to answer questions and get to know my subscribers, but I also used that space to get real.

And remember, the main launch strategy I used for this course was exclusively to communicate with a list I’d built 80% of in the past 30 days.

The only promotion I did through my blog or existing subscribers was a single blog post, but within the targeted list I promoted deadlines or discounts nearly every single day.

Just over $10,000 later, I’d say focusing my efforts on a targeted list paid off well ?.

There’s no reason you can’t pull off a launch just like this. What’s holding you back?

About John Meese

John leads a team focused on simplifying online marketing for professionals as the Dean of Platform University and lives in Columbia, Tennessee, with his wife and three beautiful children. You won't find him on social media, but you can connect to him personally on his blog: