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How To Maximize Your Bottom Line With Online Courses

In every business we’re always looking for ways to maximize our profit margins. And no matter what business you’re in, there is an opportunity to do that with an online course. In this episode Amy Porterfield will walk us through how.

How Did Amy Start Off With Online Courses [6:54]

Stu McLaren:

How did you get so deeply entrenched in all things courses? Take us back to your story.

Amy Porterfield:

It was when I was still working in corporate as the Director of Content Development for Tony Robbins. I was invited to what I call a fateful meeting, where I was asked only to take notes. I wasn’t even invited to the main table because this meeting was with a bunch of internet marketers who had digital courses. In this meeting, people like Eben Pagan, Brendon Burchard, Jeff Walker and Frank Kern shared their success stories. I had no idea what these guys were talking about but I remember in that moment I thought, “I want what they have.” 

That meeting got me thinking about the fact that I was hitting the glass ceiling in my business. In corporate, I was only going to make so much money, and I worked when they wanted me to work on their time. I had no lifestyle freedom, no financial freedom. I wanted to become my own boss. So, for the next year, I started to learn what these guys were doing, and I started to work on some online launches inside the Tony Robbins organization. And a year after that, I quit, went out on my own and had my first big launch.

Does a Digital Course Make Sense for Your Business? [8:48]

Stu McLaren:

I want to open people’s minds to the possibility of how an online course can be added to virtually any type of business. How can we make sure that a course is going to make sense for our business?

Amy Porterfield:

The first thing you want to look at is where you’re starting. A lot of people are starting from scratch, so they don’t really have a business going just yet. From there, a digital course would fit perfectly into your business. A lot of people also are doing one-on-one work. If you’re a coach, a consultant, some kind of teacher, or if you have a service-based business, and you want to add a digital course to your business, you could do that and totally ditch the one-on-one work, which is what I did. But a lot of my students like to do both – they’ll offer one-on-one services, however now that they have a digital course, they only take the clients they absolutely love and charge premium prices, and then they supplement the rest of their income with a digital course. 

Strategies for Choosing Your Course Topic [13:02]

Stu McLaren:

How do we decide on what we’re going to teach inside of a course? 

Amy Porterfield:

The first thing you want to think about is your personal path to a digital course. Have you gotten results for yourself that you want to teach other people? Let’s say you figured out a unique way to train for a marathon, or you personally have lost 50 pounds and you want to teach other people how you’ve done that, or you mastered getting your baby to sleep through the night and you’ve got a technique that you want to teach other moms and dads how to do.

Another way to choose your course topic is to find your course creation sweet spot. Think of it as four quadrants, and in the middle is your course creation sweet spot, which is that topic that you’re going to nail. The four quadrants are, number one, your expertise, your knowledge, your know-how, your experience where you have gotten results for yourself or for your clients. The other quadrant is your clients’ pain points, desires, challenges, what do they want to know? What results do they want? The third quadrant is what’s already been done? If there are podcast episodes, books, other programs about what you want to teach, it means there’s a desire and a need for what you are teaching. What are they paying money for or what are they consuming? And then the fourth quadrant is one of the most important. What lights you up? Don’t create a course around something that you’re not excited to teach, talk about and dive into. 

How to Map Out You Online Course [17:02]

Stu McLaren:

Once you kind of find that sweet spot between those four quadrants, how do you then begin mapping out a course? 

Amy Porterfield:

I ask my students to do an exercise where I want them to just do a brain dump. Once you choose the topic you think you’re going to teach on, you don’t have to be 100% certain. One of the things I love to do is grab a pack of post-it notes and a Sharpie, and just start writing every idea you have, every lesson you want to teach, every story you want to tell, every insight you want to share, the strategies, the tips, all of that, and you just put it on your wall, or your mirror. And then from there, you look at everything and you ask yourself, where is the roadmap here? If I were to teach my best friend how to do this, what would I teach them first? What would I teach them next? How about after that? And you start to move things around. 

Naming Your Online Course [19:59]

Stu McLaren:

Does the name of the course really matter? And how do we figure out the name of the course?

Amy Porterfield:

Yes and no. I tell my students to do a 24 to 48-hour challenge, where you choose your name within that time frame and you move on. This is an area of what we call an entrepreneurial rabbit hole, where if you are still thinking about your course name seven days later, you are focusing on the wrong thing. 

If you choose a title, you can choose a fun cheeky title, a very specific what it is title, or a title that tells them the results they’re going to get. But you need to make sure that when you say it, you don’t have to explain it. You want your audience to understand it instantly. And here’s another secret, you don’t have to love your title. Your audience just has to resonate with it. It might not be the most fun, exciting title you’ve ever thought about but as long as your audience gets it, you’re onto something. What matters more than the title, in my opinion, is the subtitle. The subtitle should very much spell out what the course is about. So, give the detail in the subtitle, one long sentence typically, and that will allow your title to make more sense if you want a really short punchy title.

3 Types of Online Courses [22:14]

Stu McLaren:

Is there only one type of course to deliver? Are we just talking straight-up modules and lessons, or are there different ways in which we can deliver a course experience? 

Amy Porterfield:

There are three different types of really profitable digital courses. The first one is called a starter course, which is a one-on-one type course in a digital format. It’s like that jumping-off point to get people started in the right direction. The second kind is a spotlight course, which is when you get more detailed with one topic specifically and go deep. The third type of course is a signature course. This is a course where you’re going to promise big transformations. 

At my Digital Course Academy, I teach people how to create a digital course from scratch and how to launch it online over and over again. That’s a big transformation in your business. Or if you’re going to help somebody lose 100 pounds, that’s a big transformation. If you’re going to help someone lose their first 10 pounds, that’s a starter course. Think about how big the transformations are and the results you’re going to get people, that typically will help you to decide. 

Stu McLaren:

Is the starter course likely going to be lower in price than a spotlight course, which would likely be lower in price than a signature course? 

Amy Porterfield:

Yes, 100%. I’ll actually give you a breakdown because people always ask this. Starter course $100 to $200. Spotlight course $200 to about $500. Signature Course $500 plus all the way up to $3,000 usually.

Tips on Choosing the Right Type of Course for Your Business [24:30]

Stu McLaren:

And how would you help people understand which type of course is going to be right for them?  

Amy Porterfield:

I like to guide my first-time students who have never created a digital course before. I say, let’s just ease into it with a starter or a spotlight course. I believe you only need one digital course to be profitable, but I want you to launch it multiple times, probably two to three times a year so that you can be profitable over and over again. Then at some point, when you’ll want to retire one of the courses or add a second course to the mix, your students will tell you what they want. And typically, if you start with a starter course or a spotlight course, your students will help you shape your signature course.

Stu McLaren:

You actually went through a similar transition, right? You had two spotlight courses and then you ultimately combined them. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Amy Porterfield:

Yes, we have to take it back to when I went to Canada with my entire team to learn how to create a membership site from Stu. And while we were there, we were talking about how the course fits in with the membership because Stu and I both believe having both is a great idea. But I couldn’t figure out where to fit it in. So, we started to talk about the two digital courses I had, Courses That Convert and Webinars That Convert. People would take Courses That Convert and say, “This is great, but how do I launch it?” And I’d say, “Oh, you have to buy my other course.” And then when people would only buy my other course, Webinars That Convert, say, “This is great. I want to do webinars, but I don’t have anything to sell.” And I’d say, “Oh, you have to buy my other course.” I hated that conversation. It didn’t take care of the customer. While we were with Stu, one of my employees suggested combining the two courses. We re-did those two programs, turned them into one digital course academy, and it became a blockbuster course. You’ll notice when you create courses and memberships, things are fluid, they will change. Allow yourself to experiment and try new things. That’s the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur.

Stu McLaren:

Many times, we have been creating elements for a course when we don’t even realize it, whether it be through podcasts, YouTube videos, membership sites, we’ve got the basis there almost before we even realize it. Put it into a more formal structure, and you’d immediately have this additional revenue stream. 

Amy Porterfield:

It makes me think of one of my students, Andrea. Andrea was doing weekend retreats as a personal coach with all of her clients for four years. And then she got so burned out that she started to think about a digital course. She didn’t have to start from scratch, she took that content from her retreats and reworked it. First launch – $13,000. Second launch, over $26,000. And then she’s gone on to launch even more. 

You too already have content. We’re not ever starting from scratch. We’re starting with your knowledge that you already have laid out. You’re going to be pleasantly surprised how quickly you get that content put together.

The Flow Between a Membership and a Course [32:07] 

Stu McLaren:

People are asking what is the flow between a membership and a course? There are a variety of different ways to do it. You can have a course as a front end that leads to a back end membership. A perfect example would be the TRIBE experience, after somebody comes through TRIBE, we then have the TRIBE Membership which supports people in implementing what they’ve learned over time. But similarly, you could have a front end membership with more introductory topics. It’s a chance for you to build this community of people who are dipping their toe in, and then have a course that does more of a deep dive in a particular area. 

This is one of the opportunities for membership site owners that I really want to raise everybody’s awareness to – your membership cannot do a deep dive in all the things. That’s what a course is designed to do. By understanding where the pulse of your membership is and where the pain points are, you could go deep and create a course that dives into that. Amy, what’s been your experience with courses and memberships?

Amy Porterfield:

We have Digital Course Academy, and then we have a back end membership called Momentum. And you can only get into Momentum if you’ve gone through Digital Course Academy. And selfishly, the reason I created that is because I put my blood, sweat, and tears into Digital Course Academy and I didn’t want to have to reteach it with a membership. I wanted people coming in with that foundation so that we could build off of that. It’s been a huge win for us in the business and for our students – our biggest success stories come from my membership when people have launched multiple times.

Finding Your Path and Final Thoughts [34:56] 

Stu McLaren:

Jane asked, “I have no audience but have done validation calls and know there is a need for my spotlight course. What do you do next?” 

Amy Porterfield:

I think she first needs to get really clear on her personal path to a profitable digital course. Go to MyCourseQuiz.com and take a quiz – it’s going to help you learn your personal path and get started with a digital course based on your expertise, knowledge, and know-how. Then, when you’ll have validated your course idea, make sure you teach it in the best way possible to get the biggest results. 

Stu McLaren:

Are there any final thoughts, tips, or suggestions that you would have as business owners are looking to incorporate a course into their product mix?

Amy Porterfield:

I believe that everybody has a digital course in them. You have results, experiences, expertise that you can teach, and I don’t care if 10, 20, 30 people have already taught it online. Nobody can teach it like you. And it’s not the topic that matters most. What matters most is your ability and your willingness to believe that you can create a digital course, to know that you can figure it out, to know that you can be the expert, without having a certification, 10 years of training, or an MBA.

Memorable Quote

Courses create cash flow, memberships create stability.” – Stu McLaren

Courses and memberships go together like peanut butter and chocolate.” – Stu McLaren

Don’t create a course around something that you’re not excited to teach and talk about and dive into.” – Amy Porterfield

You don’t have to love your title, your audience just has to resonate with it.” – Amy Porterfield

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