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:
- Had purchased the Get Noticed!™ Theme,
- We’re currently using it, and
- 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.
I used live chat to answer questions and get to know my subscribers, but I also used that space to get real.
— John Meese (@JohnRMeese) June 4, 2015
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?