And why great courses are not passive, they’re supportive
People say that everyone has one good book in them.
Can we also say this of ecourses? Can anyone turn the raging tsunami of knowledge in their head into a loving pool of learning and resources?
Having created oodles of online courses myself, it’s a question I get asked a lot. Along with, what makes a successful course? How much support do I need to give? How do I price it? What software should I use, and so much more.
So today we’re straying from the SEO path, onto the road of Digital Marketing and talking all about creating ecourses.
Tune in to learn:
- How to leverage your existing content
- How to make your content easy to consume
- Why getting the damn thing “online” is the hardest part of launching your online course
- What’s the “right” opt-in for your course
- Live launch vs evergreen course
- How much support your course needs to give
- How to price your course
- Why perfection isn’t necessary but basic requirements must be met
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And big thanks to Amy Annetts for her lovely review.
Sam helps busy service providers turn their content into courses, so they can stop working so many face to face hours.
With over 10 years’ experience in face to face and online courses she’s worked with a range of industries, including training members of the Australian Defence Force, Emergency Services, and Surf Lifesaving Foundation.
Her name also sounds like a popular lunchtime food.
Connect with Sam
- How to create a bum clenchingly awesome ecourse
- How I sold out my eCourse in 12 hours
- 5 big fat lies about eCourses
- SEO Nibbles
- 10 Day SEO Challenge
Kate Toon: People say that everyone has one good book in them.
Can we also say the same for e-courses? Can anyone turn the raging tsunami of knowledge in their head into a loving pool of learning and resources?
Having created oodles of online courses myself, it’s a question I get asked a lot, along with: what makes a successful course, how much support do I need to give, how do I price it, what software do I use, and so much more.
So today, we’re straying from the SEO path onto the road of digital marketing, and talking all about creating e-courses.
Kate Toon: Hello, my name’s Kate Toon, and I’m the head chef at The Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things related to search engine optimization and digital marketing. And today, I’m talking with Sam Winch. Hello, Sam.
Sam Winch: Hello.
Kate Toon: How are you?
Sam Winch: Good.
I’m going to awkwardly read out your bio while you listen now. Are you ready?
Sam Winch: No, not at all, but go for it.
Kate Toon: Okay. Sam helps small business providers turn their content into courses so they can stop working so many face-to-face hours. With over 10 years experience in face-to-face and online courses, she’s worked with a range of industries including training members of the Australian Defence Force, emergency services, and Surf Life Saving Foundation. Her name also sounds like a popular lunchtime food. Sandwich, Sam Winch.
Kate Toon: It’s very good, I like it. And now you’ve got a little logo that looks like a sandwich, now.
Sam Winch: Yeah.
Kate Toon: It’s very cute.
Sam Winch: I just had to embrace it. Ever since I tried to make an appointment at the bank and they didn’t like my name, so you know.
Kate Toon: I’m called Kate Toon. Don’t think I haven’t had issues with that over the years, people think it’s a made-up name.
No, it’s my real name.
It was very annoying for many years, but now I’ve embraced it with both arms.
So look, let’s talk about e-courses. So I’ve known Sam for a long time, what she’s amazing at is helping people get all the gloop in their brain out.
You know, if they’re a subject matter expert in hedgehogs, or whatever, and turning it into a six-week course on how to maintain your hedgehog.
And that’s kind of why I wanted to get Sam on today, because there’s so much more to making a course than making a course.
Kate Toon: But I think what we should do it start right at the basics, and talk about what is an e-course? Because people will be like, “Eh?”
Like, some people still don’t kind of get it. Like, what, it’s online? Like, what, we don’t meet up?
So how do you define an e-course, or a course online?
Sam Winch: So I mean, basically it’s a course that is on the internet.
I mean I think that we tend to make things far more complicated than they need to be.
But the expanded version of that is, it’s a series of small pieces of content put together in a format that helps people learn, with a series of support given along the way. Hopefully.
There’s a lot of courses that are sold out there without support, and I’m sure you and I will talk about that later, because that’s one of my bugbears, but yeah.
Small pieces of content in an order that leads someone to a learning outcome.
Kate Toon: No, that’s it. In order, leading to an outcome, I think is the bit that’s often forgotten. A lot of e-courses that I’ve seen kind of just don’t ever seem to actually end up anywhere at the end.
So, many people will be listening to this, thinking, “Hey, look. I know a bit about blah. How do I go from knowing that to turning into a course?”
How do we take our existing content, and make it into something course-ey?
How do we do that?
I mean that’s a big question, but what are some basic steps?
Sam Winch: It is a big question. I think the first step is work out what you’re actually trying to do. So that outcome that people get to at the end, that’s actually the first bit that you do, is work out what the hell that outcome is.
Because until you really nail that one specific thing you’re trying to teach them, building a course is always going to be bigger than Ben Hur.
Because you’ll keep coming back to, oh!
And I can tell them this. Oh! And I can add this. Oh, and I… And you end up with this huge conglomerate of information that really isn’t a course anymore, it’s Wikipedia. It’s not useful in any sense of the word. So that very first thing is working out one specific outcome, like what are they going to learn when they do this? And then we can start to plug the information in. But without that, you’re just going to end up with a mess.
Kate Toon: I love that.
You may not have heard it, listeners, because I did it very quietly, but I’ve just had a little epiphany.
It happens that I might have kind of… I don’t know if epiphanies make a noise.
But I think that’s so important.
And I think that outcome is what helps you sell the course, but it actually becomes your navigation throughout the whole course.
It brings you back to your centre every time you’re starting to stray, as you said, because I think one of the other issues with courses is it’s just too much in them.
Or there’s not enough in them.
And that kind of outcome, like aiming for the outcome helps you make that decision, does this go in?
Well, is it actually going to help them reach the outcome?
Well then no. It’s a nice thing to have, but do we need it?
Kate Toon: It’s something that I did on my big course, The Recipe for SEO Success. I just kept on adding stuff in.
Because I said, “I want this to be such good value.” There’s a lot of kind of self-worth stuff there.
Oh, but I want people to love it!
I want people to love me!
So I just keep adding stuff in, and then after about the second round of it, I was like, this is just too much.
And I took nearly 50% out. And the completion rate got better, people enjoyed the course more when they felt less overwhelmed.
So I think that’s so important.
Sam Winch: And they got better results. Like at the end of the day, your course will be better for them, because they can actually use the content. I love the fact that this is a podcast and no one can see the fact that I’m just sitting here nodding my, like one of those nodding dogs with a stupid grin on my face.
Because everything you’ve said is just, it’s right. Like there’s no point, but we… You mentioned that we have this need to add value, and people do.
They think, oh, to make my course valuable, to make it worth them paying their money, I have to add all this stuff. But the truth is, the more you add, the less service you’re doing for your audience because you’re making your product unusable. And if it doesn’t directly lead them to the outcome, then it probably doesn’t belong in that course.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I love that.
And I think the next thing that I find people struggle with is, what kinds of materials they need to create to make easy to consume content. What does the course consist of?
So with my big course, and you can tell me if I’ve done this right or wrong, hopefully I’ve done it right. my little rule that I have, is you have to hear things seven times. I don’t know why, I must have read this somewhere.
Seven times to sink in. so I have different ways of presenting the content. I have obviously the PowerPoint slides with me talking over the top of them, I do live demos, I have notes of everything I say.
Not transcripts, because God I hate a transcript.
Instead I have bulleted notes. I have worksheets, homework, FAQs, and then the group to support it.
So you can, there’s multiple ways into the content for visual learners, oral learners, I don’t know, all different types of learners.
There’s different ways to get in.
When you’re starting this, do you go through and say, “Well you need this, this, and this.”
What’s on your list?
Sam Winch: I think before all that it’s, the question is who are you building your course for?
So you mentioned [inaudible 00:07:27] that you hated transcript, which is great, but I know there are some people that love a good transcript. And so if your audience is one of those people that loves a transcript, well then include it.
Like it’s a good piece of content. If your audience is the kind of people who are super busy and on the move all the time, well including audio bites that they can listen to like micro-podcasts is really good for them, but it might not be good for an audience that’s trying to learn how to do pottery because they need to see the process.
Sam Winch: So before there’s an ideal content solution, it comes down to, what are you designing and who are you designing it for?
What is the best format for your content and your audience? I don’t know.
Maybe you want to do a series of videos and some downloadable worksheets, but maybe your audience is in rural Australia and has terrible internet and can’t stream a video for love of god, so videos are useless. So maybe you’re going to have some really good worksheets that explain it step by step, so they don’t need to be on the internet to use it.
I think that’s very interesting, because one of my most successful courses is SEO Nibbles, which is just a free course with a very clear outcome to help you decide whether you want to do DIY SEO or not.
And it’s all it is, is three emails with little short videos and some worksheets.
So basic, and obviously it’s free, but that’s all that is needed at that point.
And also everything’s written out as well.
I don’t need to have some elaborate thing at that point, because the outcome is simple, it’s the first step in the journey, it’s really basic.
So I think it evolves, doesn’t it, as it goes along as well.
Sam Winch: It definitely does. And I think, like we… As I was saying in the beginning, we have this tendency to over-complicate everything.
Now I’m not saying that a good course shouldn’t have a really good range of content options, because what you’re doing is good. You’re providing options for everyone who might like audio or might like video or might like the worksheet.
And that’s great, especially when you start to get a bigger audience.
So you’re selling to more people, you need to cover those bases.
But one of the first courses I built for my business [inaudible 00:09:34] is delivered in email only. They got emails with some stuff that was just uploaded, some pictures, some words, and it was good. It was micro-bites they could implement straight off the email, they didn’t have to find a login and a password.
They opened the email, they read four lines, they did the thing, they got results.
Sam Winch: At the end of the day, it’s really about making sure that we’re providing the content in a way that is usable for our audience.
And so you’ve done the right thing, right? You’ve analysed what your audience is trying to achieve, and how’s the best way for you to describe your content, and that’s great. But that’s always not necessary for everyone else. Their content and their audience is different. So I think I’m fed up of seeing everyone online being like, oh you have to build an online course and here’s the formula you must follow. You must write this thing and do this video and upload it to this platform. And the truth is that at the end of the day, half of that stuff is actually irrelevant. It doesn’t matter the platform you use, as long as it’s working for you and working for your audience.
Kate Toon: I love that. I remember when I started out, I got mansplained by somebody who runs another course, who basically wanted me to take on board their model. They had built a model with a learning management system and it had a lot of kind of gamification of the course. Leaderboards and badges you could win.
Kate Toon: But my thing was like, everyone doing my course already doesn’t have enough time, they already feel bad. If they drop behind, they feel terrible,?
So for someone to be at the top of the leaderboard, you know what that means? Someone’s going to be at the bottom, and how do they feel?
Because they’re not doing the course to win, they’re doing the course to learn. And so I was like, that model doesn’t work for me.
So I think that’s so important to look at, there are a huge array of things you could do, but whether you should do them is a different matter
I’ve been working with a client who’s building an audience for young, driven, new, real estate sales agents.
And they’re building a leaderboard for that exact reason.
They’re competitive by nature, they’re driving to increase their sales, it’s good for them, but it definitely wouldn’t fit in 95% of the other courses I’ve ever built.
But it works for them.
Kate Toon: Yeah. So it’s really important that. And you know, the most important thing, with, I think we’re going to talk about this a bit more towards the end of the episode, is to keep track of the people in your course and how they’re feeling and note… This is why support is so important. Because I am now so honed in on exactly when people start to get a bit sweaty in the course. When they start to fall behind.
And I’ve got messages and support, things that pop up just at the time.
And one of the things I love in the group is people go, this post just put, how did you know that’s what I was thinking today? And I’m like, because I’ve done the course 15 times, and everyone always thinks this at this point.
And that’s why you’ve got to be in touch with your audience.
Kate Toon: But one of the things I hear you say a lot in your groups and things, is the hardest bit of getting up an online course, is getting the damn thing online.
Sam Winch: I find that for a lot of my audience, that’s where the overwhelm sets in. And my audience, a bit like your audience, they’re not tech noobs. We know our way around a computer, but they’ve got content. And a lot of us do, we write emails, we write long-form social posts, we record video, we’ve got content.
That’s not a problem. And most of us feel really comfortable doing content now. It’s the fact that there are so many options when it comes to putting it online.
And they get caught in the decision-making of, should this go on Teachable or Thinkific or Udemy, or does it belong on Kajabi, or should I put a pocket on my WordPress website? And it’s that bit, it’s the decision overwhelm.
And the thing is, putting it online actually isn’t hard, but deciding how to put it online seems to be the stopping point.
Kate Toon: It does, and again I think people overthink it.
So, you know, none of my courses are on any of those platforms. I don’t even use a learning management system. I just use Divi and accordions and videos and as I said, one of my successful courses is just 10 blog posts linked together with some videos in them with a password that you use to get in. If that’s the bit that stopping you… Sometimes I think people make that the bit that’s stopping them because they’re just in that kind of procrastination, kind of, oh it’s so…
Because really there’s some other block or something. I don’t know.
Kate Toon: I think the other thing is that, really structuring your content in a way, that’s really hard for people.
And the best thing I did for learning how to do my course was to do it in front of people.
So all the courses I’ve done, I taught live first in a room.
Because you start to see when the light is dying in people’s eyes, and they start to drool, and then you’re like, “Uh, maybe this bit isn’t working.”
You know? And you start to see people struggling to fill in the checklist because it doesn’t make sense to them.
So I think that can be an issue as well. Moving from the offline to the online. Do you think?
Sam Winch: The wonders of face-to-face training, and I mean that’s my background, is face-to-face workshops. Yeah, you can definitely see when you have been talking for far too long and a little piece of them has died inside. And I get that. Like, I’ve been that trainer. I’ve killed many a soul on the inside.
So it’s true. And it’s definitely about breaking content down into tiny little pieces that are actionable, because when we start to give too much content, it’s just overwhelming.
Sam Winch: The question to come from that though, people always give me is, how much is too much? And there isn’t an easy answer, because they’re like, “I can’t build an eight-week course, people don’t sign up for eight-week courses, it’s too long.” And I’m like, are you kidding me? People sign up for four year university degrees.
And they take them online now. You can’t tell me that four years is too long for an online course, because people do it. It still comes back to that, how is your audience learning this? How are we providing a really good learning environment?
Sam Winch: But coming back to your tech thing about it being a block, I think you’re definitely right. Because people have this need to make it perfect or right the first time, and this fear about it being right. And I think that, like you said, until you’ve run your course in a way, you’re not going to know if it’s right.
We can theorise all sorts of stuff, but until we’ve put actual people through this, we don’t know if it’s right or wrong, and you don’t see those points where they’re going to die. And we can guess, and we can give it our best effort, and I ask clients like, which bit of this content do you think is going to be the hardest?
Where are they going to need the most support? But until they’ve done it, I don’t know the right answer. There isn’t one.
Kate Toon: No. And I’ve had now nearly 1,000 people take my big course
I don’t want to change this because it is such a job now. Mine is a big course.
There’s a lot in it, and I don’t want to change it.
But I’m actually not doing a launch in January which I always do, which obviously for me, a huge revenue hit, because I actually want to take the whole thing apart and put it back together again.
One of the biggest things I did in my course was cut the length of the videos down by 70%.
You know, like I had 30-minute videos, and now most of them are no longer than seven or eight minutes.
Maybe some of them shorter than that.
Because the sense of achievement you get after ticking off one video is really important. It’s all these little things, and that’s why it is a big undertaking. I don’t think we should be blasé about how much effort putting a course is. It’s a lot of work.
Sam Winch: Yeah, and especially a good course. I think you can… Right? You can track content online, and say you’ve got a course and that’s great, and I’ve seen it plenty of times. But to build a really good course, a course that’s good for you and for your audience. I want it to be win-win-
Sam Winch: … like I want it to be financially rewarding, time rewarding for you, but really good learning outcomes for your audience. That does take time, that is hard. And something that I’ve been looking at with one of mine, is building in aspects where they don’t have to do it.
And I know there’s a spot in one of the courses I deliver, which is just… It’s always a sticking point. And I’ve tried lots of different methods.
Sam Winch: So now you know what my solution is? Done for you.
That bit is where we’re going to add a couple hours of done for you work, so they don’t have to get stuck there, because someone could just do the bit, just add the plug-ins and do the tech, and that way they can’t get stuck there because it’s been done.
Sam Winch: And I think that’s important to remember, is that a course, when you build a course to a formula, if you sign up to one of these course-building courses and I won’t name names but there’s many of them, and you follow their formula, that’s great. But their formula is one thing that worked one time for their audience, and might not work for yours.
And just because you’ve got one video and one PDF and one set of questions, because that’s what they told you to build, it doesn’t mean that’s going to help your audience get really good learning outcomes. And sometimes you have to think outside the box and put something different in there to help them get where they need to be.
Kate Toon: Now so a question that comes up a lot is, well a lot of things that I see people doing, is they start by building a massive course, and then they just try and sell that straight off the bat.
And I just, I’m like, who the hell is going to buy a $1,000 course from you and they don’t know who you are, they’ve never learnt anything from you, they’ve never seen you really before?
And you’re like, oh, it’s not selling, and it’s like, no wonder it’s not selling. Because you’ve got no opt-in, you’ve got no funnel, you’ve got no community to sell to.
So the question that comes up a lot from that is, well what is the right opt-in for my course?
How do I get people into my course, or warm them up for my course?
Sam Winch: I hate saying this because I say it all the time in any sort of interview, which is, it depends your audience. But at the end of the day, you want an opt-in that demonstrates your knowledge, because when they’re buying a course from you, it’s a really big trust exercise.
Right? They’re going to trust that their money is well-spent, that you know what you’re talking about, and that you can deliver what you promised. And that’s the case for services as well.
But with a course, they’re trusting that you know the things you said you know. So what we want to do in that opt-in is demonstrate that knowledge in a way that’s easy for them to understand, and we want to give them an experience that provides them with small learning outcomes, with win-wins.
Sam Winch: So if they’re just going to download an ebook which is full of knowledge, well that’s great, but they haven’t got an outcome. So they don’t necessarily trust yet that your course can give them an outcome.
So you probably almost want a micro-bite. Like a miniature, and like you’ve done with Nibbles, what you’re going to do is you’re going to give them an experience of what it’s like to be in your course. You’re going to give them some really cool content, you’re going to give them results, because that’s what they’re looking for, and you’re going to give them the trust that they need to know that, hey, if she can do this in this free thing or in this cheap thing, imagine what she can do for me in a big thing.
Kate Toon: That feels so important, and you know, the classic line is that your free thing should be better than someone else’s paid thing. And that’s what you want to do, you want to make them feel worth. If I get this for free, what must the big course feel like? Wow. Do you know what I mean?
So I’ve actually got SEO Nibbles which is free, and then I’ve got 10 Day Challenge, which is very low cost. And also the thing is as well, do you enjoy the process of learning this?
Because I don’t want people spending a grand and a half, two grand on my big course, if they’re not going to enjoy it.
Because I am a moral human, and I don’t want to just take money off people. I want them to feel good. I want them I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing people complete the course.
And another really important thing that for me, in terms of selling the sell, was stop talking about my results. |
And when I started the course, I said, “Look, I did this. Look, I achieved this.” And now I talk much less about that and I talk about the successes of the people who’ve done the course.
Because as you said, when I see Bob Jones has managed to do a seven-figure launch or whatever, I’m look good for you Bob Jones.
But who else who’s done your course has had a seven-figure launch? You know, that’s what we need to be showing.
Kate Toon: Also the big thing, if they don’t like your face or your voice… Like my course has got nearly 70 hours of video or something ridiculous like that.
You got to know that before. You know, you’ve got to like the teaching style, the person teaching you. I think that’s very important as well, don’t you?
Sam Winch: Yeah, but also I don’t… So a lot of the clients I work with have existing service-based businesses. They’ve worked with lots of clients, and I don’t necessarily work with people who just want to build 100 courses. They don’t want to be an online marketer necessarily. They have a sustainable business, they just want to sell a course as an additional source of income. So, well, you can definitely build smaller courses that lead to bigger courses. You can build that trust in you in other ways.
Sam Winch: Like there’s nothing to stop you going on people’s webinars and podcasts, and you’re writing a book, and there’s, you know, good old-fashioned face-to-face networking still has a place in the world. Although direct traffic now to your great blog post on why you shouldn’t go to terrible networking events is glorious. But I think it’s about, as long as you can find a way that works for you to build trust with your audience and show your face and show your voice and show that you can get results to people, then that might not be a smaller course. You can have just one course, and that course can be a grand and a half, as long as you’ve got other things that lead you to that.
Kate Toon: big thing in SEO is expertise, authority, and trust.
That’s becoming a real indicator for helping us rank, but it’s just a big thing in all marketing that what we’re doing is always trying to demonstrate our expertise and show that we are an authority in our niche.
But then trust is huge.
People buy from people, and they generally buy from people they like.
Do you have a preference when it comes between choosing having launches or having evergreen courses?
What’s your preference there?
Sam Winch: I like the live launch, specifically because I like people to be guided through a course.
So I think there’s so much value in going through a course with other people who are doing the same thing at the same time and discussing your problems, and there is so much growth involved in building that community of students who are struggling through the same thing at the same time.
And for that reason, I don’t necessarily love the launch, but I love the result that gives you in taking people through a live course.
That’s not to say evergreen courses don’t work, there’s definitely a place in the market for them, and they’re useful for a certain point and a certain outcome. But if you are want to build a great course that has a community around it, that has raving fans around it, that provides amazing outcomes, that is going to come from running a live course with your support. That kind of big community doesn’t come from evergreens.
Kate Toon: No, from my personal experience, I’ve tried every different version.
So now, SEO Nibbles and 10 Day Challenge are evergreen, and they just run, and there really isn’t much support on those
The 10 Day Challenge did use to have support, I’ve tried it different ways. And then I tried to do a version of my big course with no support, no community. It just, it was terrible. It was terrible. Because it’s complicated, you need to be able to ask questions. SEO is not easy, it’s not like wacking up a few hashtags on Instagram. You try things and it doesn’t work the same way for you. You click the exact same buttons and get different results, because you’ve got different websites. So I’ve tried both.
Kate Toon: I also think from a sales point of view, and I think this is important, if the course is always there, there’s no incentive to do it. Do you know what I mean? And there’s a lot… Obviously for me, I do these launches, I have limited spots, and people queue up like they’re buying tickets for an Ed Sheeran concert. I can see them all sitting there, waiting. And I usually sell nearly 90% of the spots within the first 45 minutes. It’s insane. You know? And that’s because it’s not available all the time. It’s limited. And it can’t be available all the time, because I do go in there and offer support, so that’s the next thing I want to talk about. It’s not on our list of questions, but I’m going to ask it anyway.
Kate Toon: The biggest issue I have with courses, and I know that we agree on this one, is support.
So let’s talk about support. I know that this is a big bugbear for you, it’s a big bugbear for me. Courses that don’t have support, how much support should you give, should the support come from you?
So you’ve got a quote that you like to use about this, about passive income. Because I think one big thing we should say is, having a good course isn’t necessarily passive at all. What’s your quote? It’s a great quote, I’m going to meme it.
Sam Winch: I think you have memed it in the past, I think that’s the only reason I say it. I think the phrase is,
“Great courses aren’t passive, they’re supportive.”
And you can have good passive courses, don’t get me wrong. Like you can provide outcomes without you being there all the time. But if you want a great course, if you want that pillar-stone piece of your business that your fans are raving about, that that bit is supportive. And they need, they need you.
Sam Winch: And then I stopped myself there, because it might not necessarily be you all of the time. If you go to university for example, sure you might have a lecturer, but you might have teacher’s assistants, and there might be assessors and markers, and right?
If you’re building a big pillar-stone course, you might have assistants and TAs and people who assist. As long as they’ve got the knowledge and they’re there to help, then that’s great. But I think that it does, it needs you. Especially for you, Kate. Like you’re the figurehead, right? You’re the face. People come for the Kate. So you can’t just sell and dump and leave, I don’t think. It doesn’t work that way.
Kate Toon: No, no. And I think the thing people are most shocked about in my course is that it is me. I mean, yes, now the course is big. Every day someone can’t log in, or they’re having…
There’s always issues. So now I do have a support crew and thankfully don’t have to do all those little admin things anymore and can respond much quicker.
But in the group, yeah. It is me. I’m in there. I’m in there pretty much every other day. And then we have live coaching calls, and I do demos, and it is… It’s me.
Kate Toon: And I don’t now do as much as I used to, because again, I think you can overdo it. You can run yourself ragged trying to please everybody and you never will. There will always be a couple of people who are unhappy.
But I think as with service businesses, if I engage you, like I’ve previously engaged suppliers, can have this great chat with the supplier, I love them, think they’re great, and then when I’ve signed up, I never get to talk to that person again.
I’m pawned off on a minion. And yeah, the minion’s great, but I thought I was getting you, so there’s that little disconnect.
So I think you need to be very clear on the outset, what people are getting and who they’re getting it from.
If they go into the group and then they never see you again, I do think that’ll be a disappointment.
Sam Winch: Yes.
Kate Toon: And remember, the goal of all of this is not just, yes the goal is to sell that spot, but the thing is, what you want to do is keep selling your course. And the only way that happens if people come out of it feeling fabulous and raving about it. For me as well, there are so many courses online for SEO. So what is the point of difference?
You know, lots of courses teach SEO, so what’s my point of difference? I have to have a point of difference. And the point of difference is me. You know, at the end of the day, that’s a lot all of us have got. That’s when a lot of people be coming into this space going, someone else has already made this course, they’re famous.
Can I make it?
And it’s like, yeah you can.
Because you’re bringing your you-ness.
I know this sounds a bit woo-woo, people, but you’re bringing your you-ness and your way of teaching, your sense of humour, your approach. I think it valuable, because I think the support, it’s not just about being supportive, it’s about personality and stuff as well.
Do you think?
Sam Winch: Yeah, and one of the words you used there was disconnect.
And I think that’s vital for a course. The sales page for a course needs to be so much clearer than a sales page for anything else, because there are so many expectations being laid there when they buy, right? They’re going to log in to that first time, and what are they going to see? And it’s really important that you have been so brutally honest with what they’re going to get. Like are they going to get, how many videos, how many modules, is it all just video?
What if they get in and actually don’t really like video and they want another learning method?
Sam Winch: But also like you said, is it you? And if you can put on your sales saying, and you’ll get a support group, and in that support group there’s a team of people helping you, well great. Because when they get in and their questions are answered by someone else who’s not you, that’s fine, because they know. But if you’ve gone, “And I will help you the whole way,” and then you never show up, well that’s a difference. That’s a problem.
Kate Toon: Yeah. So I think, again, if you’re thinking about doing a course, think about what how much time you want to commit to it.
And think about how many hours a week you’re going to turn up in the group and do things and be realistic about that. Because yeah, I think people underestimate what’s involved sometimes.
And think, yeah, it’s going to make me money while I sleep. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. So let’s talk about money.
Pricing. It’s a hot topic when it comes to online courses. What are your thoughts on pricing?
Sam Winch: So I’m in the process of writing a new sort of mini-workbook about pricing actually, because it’s another one of my bugbears. My thoughts on pricing are that most people don’t put any thought into it, and they pull a number out their butt, and they stick it on the internet, and they go, “My course is $99 because Bob’s course is $99, so this is what it will be.” And they haven’t thought about those things you just said. They haven’t thought about the cost of their web hosting, and the cost of their building the course. They haven’t thought about how many hours they’re going to spend a week in it.
Sam Winch: If you’re going to spend an hour a day in your support group, and run a live call, and whatever else. All right, that’s what, five, six hours a week? How much is six hours a week of your time worth? And if it’s a six-week course, well now we’ve got, what, six times six, 36. 36 hours of your time. How much is that worth? All right? And then they build this $99 course, and they sell five, and that’s great, $500. But now they’ve got 36 hours worth of just delivery time. Not building, not the tech, not anything else, just delivery, for what? $100. $500. It’s like, well, you haven’t put any thought into where this fits.
Sam Winch: So my first key question for when thinking of putting a price on it, is where does this fit in your business strategy? Are you building a free course that’s going to build you leads, and that are going to sell into something else? Great. Right, then we’re going to build a free programme. But we’re going to consider that when we’re building it. This thing is free, this is how much we’re going to put in. Are you building your pillar-stone course to two and a half grand? Awesome. Well we’re going to build enough content and enough support and enough of a course to justify two and a half grand. But I think that part of the problem is people don’t put any strategy behind the business thoughts behind their course, and they just go, “Ah, such and such managed to build a six-week online course, so I’m going to build a course, and it’s $149 and here it is.”
Kate Toon: Hm. I think a lot of people build a course because it’s the thing to do.
Like, oh, I need to do a book, I need to have a podcast, I need to have a course, and then I need to have a membership, and it’s like, do you?
Do you really?
Do you really need all these things?
And again, as you said, you can build expertise, authority, and trust in multiple ways, but I see people trying to sell a substantially priced course, but they never have been able to get two people to turn up to a webinar or be able to sell one downloadable worksheet. Do you know what I mean?
They go straight to the big thing, and it’s like, it’s as much effort sometimes to persuade someone to buy a $27 course as it is a two and a half grand course. And if you can’t sell the $27 course, you’ll never be able to sell the big one. So it’s worth trying some of these things out before you… because it takes a lot of time.
Kate Toon: So my course, for example, yes I built it and obviously now I’m just rolling in money in a bath every day. But no, every year in January, February, March, I pretty much rebuild it. Because SEO changes a lot and also I’m a perfectionist, I like to make things better. But that’s a lot of woman hours, and as you said, the hours involved.
It does work out for me, thankfully, but for the first couple of iterations of the course, no it did not. No, the investment was more than the return.
And so be aware of that as well.
Sam Winch: Yeah. And definitely make sure that a course is the right thing.
There’s nothing worse than building a course just because someone told you you should. I was on a call for a potential client the other day, and I turned her away. She’s like, “Oh, my coach or someone told me I had to build a course and this is what I want to do.” And I’m like, no you don’t. “But oh no no, but I have to.” And I’m like, no you don’t. No you don’t. And for your audience, I don’t think you should.
Sam Winch: Like her audience is already super busy, overwhelmed mums. Do they want another course? Do they need to sign up for another thing that they’re not going to finish, and then they’re going to feel really guilty about because they’ve got another half-done thing and they haven’t achieved anything? Is that what they want? And she’s like, “Oh, no, they don’t want that.” I’m like, no they don’t! Don’t sell them a freaking course, they don’t need another one. We need to provide them with a support network, and with relief, but we don’t need to give them a bigger list of things to do.
Kate Toon: Yeah, exactly. It’s funny, a few experts I’ve gone to are like, “I want you to help me do this.” And they’re like, oh well I’ve got a course that does that. I’m like, no, I’m happy to give you money to take away my problem.
I don’t want to learn about this. I have no interest in it.
And they’re like, “Yeah, but my course is great.”
And it’s like, I don’t care. I don’t want to do it. You know what I mean? So you have to have that-
Kate Toon: Take my money and do the thing.
And okay, so we’ve got some questions from members of my Digital Masterchefs membership.
And the first is from Shannon Morrison from Mighty Social World, and he asks, “What’s a good metric for working out how long a course could be, and the price for that course?”
We kind of covered this, but do you have a formula?
Do you go, if it’s six weeks, and buh buh buh, then you should estimate babity babity boo.
Is there any kind of formula that you work to?
Sam Winch: I don’t have a formula that specific, but I do think you should take into account the things that we just said. So how many hours will go into delivery, and how many hours will go into construction, and how long do you expect to get that back across? So a bit like you said. The first year, the first time you run it, the iteration, might not be the most profitable thing you’ve done. But it’s like putting solar panels on my roof, right? I’m not going to make all my money back in year one, but it’s an investment that I’m going to make because it’s worth it in the long run. But I’ve worked out the numbers, and it is an investment that’s going to pay back in the long run. So the thing I’d say to him is to just run the numbers. Work out your business strategy and run the numbers. How many would you need to sell at what price point to make it reasonable for you, and to make it valuable for them, and how many hours is that going to take you? And then just work out the numbers.
Kate Toon: And how many times are you going to run that course in a given year and over an x amount of time?
And I’ll admit, look, this all sounds very good. I didn’t do any of that when I started my course. I did exactly what Sam said not to do. But I have kind of retrofitted that backwards afterwards. I was one of those people who was like, I want to do a course. I’ll do a course.
So you know, we’re sounding clever intelligent, but do as we say, not as we did on things.
Sam Winch: And I’m right in the same [inaudible 00:39:36] there, because I’ve definitely built things and just tracked them online and gone, I’ve done this thing, and then put no thought into it at all. And you can do that. Sometimes you’re lucky and that works out, and other times you’re unlucky and that doesn’t work out. But if you’ve got the time, put some thought into it.
Kate Toon: Yeah. And also, again, the other thing is to really take on board the solar panel metaphor. It takes a while. And I see, again, a lot of people going, “Oh, I did a course and no one’s bought it and I’m going to give up on it,” and it’s like, how many times have you tried to sell it? They’re like, “Once.” I’m like, do you know the number of times I launched before I officially launched? No one needs to know about the course I sold when I first did it that only sold 16 spots. No one needs to know about that. Or they do, because it’s part of the evolution.
But I didn’t give up then. I remember the first time I did Recipe, I sold, as I said, I think 19 spots. The next round I sold 14. And I was like, shouldn’t it be getting bigger? Not smaller? But then the one after that, I sold 35, and then it’s gone up and up and up and up.
Kate Toon: But you know, so I think you’ve got to stick at it and try marketing it in different ways, launching in different ways, talking about it in different ways. I often use the Brittany Spears analogy, that I’m sure Brittany Spears gets sick of turning up on stage and singing Toxic.
But people want Toxic, so she has to keep singing that song. I have to keep talking about SEO.
Sure, there’s other things I might prefer to talk about, but if I want my course to sell, I have to keep turning up and talking about SEO.
You have to keep turning up, people. And I think some people aren’t willing to do that sometimes, you know?
They’re like, “If I build it, they will come.” Well, no. They won’t.
Sam Winch: I was going to say, and before we move on, that marketing point is really important. But also, build that into your strategy. If you know that it’s going to cost you so many dollars in Facebook ads, or if it’s going to… Like I know you don’t do a lot of paid ads, or any paid ads. It’s timing right? So if you know you’re going to have a team who are posting or you’re going to show up on this many podcasts or do this many blogs beforehand, that’s all part of the cost of running that course. The marketing is a big part of that, you can’t just ignore it.
Kate Toon: ERM Exactly. So a question from Angela Pickett, “What’s the best way to evaluate what the participants know at the start about the subject, and how much they’ve learned after the course?”
Sam Winch: Ooh, that’s a really good question. I like that question. How much they’ve learned after the course, there are a couple of ways. You can survey, you can assess. There is nothing to stop you doing some really good quality assessment. Give them some questions and answers and see how it goes. Or you can just have a good old chat, talk to them. Get a couple on a live call, interview a couple and get some feedback from the process. A
Sam Winch: s to how much they know going in, that’s actually more difficult, because there’s a difference between what they know and what they think they know, and if you ever survey them or interview them or ask them, you’re going to get what they think they know. And that’s hard. Sometimes it’s a bit of guesstimate and a bit of just providing what you think they need and hoping for the best and then we’ll survey them at the end and see how it went. Because that bit at the beginning is actually much harder than finding out at the end.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I mean I do little micro-quizzes at the end of each module, just to sort of see that people have taken the knowledge. If you’re doing support, you get a general feel for it throughout the course. If people are making progressions, and you know, as you said, small wins that they can share in the group as well.
But I find even that surveys after the course, it’s a pretty blunt tool, to be honest. The best thing to do is actually to talk to a few people. And you know, again, I love that she asked that question, because it’s important to care that people do get something from the course.
Kate Toon: I think completion rate is slightly overrated because I think, yeah, look, very few people will start and finish a course in the given time that you give them.
They will come back to it. Some people are still logging into my course who did it four years ago.
Partially because they get lifetime access and the content’s refreshed, so they’re coming back for new stuff, but also I don’t know if you ever fully finish.
Because sometimes you need to watch that thing again, something else kicks that bit of knowledge out of your brain and you need to refresh that knowledge, you know?
Sam Winch: And sometimes you don’t need to finish.
There’ll be plenty of people who get good results with your stuff from doing week one, two, and three, and who have never got to week six. It doesn’t stop them getting results. Completion rate is a hard one, because I was talking to a lady who was like, “I want to get a 100% completion rate.” [inaudible 00:43:58] so you know, average for online courses is about 10%, so good luck. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not learning, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not helping. Completion rate is a hard one to keep track of, because it’s a bit of a funny metric-
Kate Toon: It is.
Sam Winch: … it’s not [crosstalk 00:44:13]. But are they getting results?
Kate Toon: Yes.
Sam Winch: Is probably one of the best metrics. But coming back to that, talk to them. And that’s probably the best way to find out what they need, what their learning gaps are in the beginning, is to do some interviews, some research interviews of your audience, and find out. Don’t just survey and go, what do you want to know about SEO? Because they might not know what they need to know, and they think they know what a keyword is, but do they really know what a keyword is? Get them on a call and have a chat.
Sam Winch: Couple weeks ago I did 11 research interviews over four days, and it completely absorbed all four of my days, but it was the most useful four days I’ve spent in my business in a long time. Because the words that I got from those interviews were gold. They’re going to build my sales pages, they’re going to build my funnels, they’re going to build my courses. They’ve confirmed my price points, they’ve confirmed my offers. It was four days that were very well spent.
you might be listening to the podcast and go, “I’m really disappointed. Why haven’t Sam and Kate talked about whether Thrive, or whatever the different platforms are, are better,” or, “What the software is that you use,” or, “Whether I should be using Camtasia to make my videos.”
And I think the reason we’re not doing that, is because… This is going to be the hashtag for the episode, because it depends! It so depends.
Sam Winch: Or the other hashtag that you can quite happily run away with, it doesn’t matter.
Kate Toon: Yes, I love that one.
Sam Winch: It doesn’t matter. I don’t care which video editing programme you’re using or whether you paid thousands of dollars for it or whether you’re using free good old Windows Movie Maker, because it doesn’t matter. Whatever way you use to get your content into a really helpful format is great for you, but it… I don’t know. I don’t care at the end of the day. You could put it on Thinkific or you could put it on Teachable. It doesn’t matter. Both platforms are really useful and really helpful, and have slightly different pricing strategies and slightly different offers, so pick one. Doesn’t matter.
Kate Toon: Yeah. And I mean I would generally say that I like to build my empire on my own ground, I don’t like building things on other people’s platforms. But again, it’s easier to do it. So maybe that’s where you start and then you could always migrate it. I built mine on my site. I think the one thing I’d like to finish off with is the perfectionism that comes in when trying to do anything. And this is all aspects of business. But you can see some courses online and they’ve obviously filmed them in a beautiful studio with lights, and all the PowerPoints are animated, and they’re amazing, and you go, “Well I can’t do that so I’m not going to do a course.” Well let me tell you, some of the best things I’ve learned have been really crappy PowerPoints and Word documents that weren’t formatted. But I still learned the thing. So I think, again, people get carried away with high production values. Do you find that as well? Like oh, I have to be amazing.
Sam Winch: Yeah. And there are a couple of keys. I think it’s like with a podcast, right? Audio quality is important. The rest of it, probably not so much, but if it’s got crappy audio, you’re not going to listen. It’s the same with a course. As long as they can access the content and it’s working, you’ll probably be okay. Your video doesn’t need to be perfect, they’re not too worried about what’s going on behind you, but do make sure your audio is clear, and if you’ve got face to camera, that they can actually see your face and it’s not hiding in a weird bunch of shadows. There is some sense in having good quality, but you don’t need to be in a recording studio. You don’t need to be [inaudible 00:50:35] or someone with this huge production set. It just needs to be clearly spoken, clearly lit. And you can do that with the lamp off your bedside table and a microphone from your headphones.
Sam Winch: So there are ways that you can get around it without spending thousands. Test and measure, and you will say the same thing about SEO, I’m sure. Test and measure. Do a video, record it, play it back, see how it goes. Run a course, run it back, see how it went. Talk to your students, see what happened. Test and measure, because the first one will never ever ever be right. I’m using those good old air quotations around, because there is no such thing as perfect when it comes to courses. It’s never finished, something will always change, you’ll always want to re-record. There’s no such thing as perfect, and there’s no such thing as right. Let’s try and see what happens, and then improve and then make it better and then change platforms because that one wasn’t great, but let’s try.
Kate Toon: Yeah. It’s an evolution.
And the course that I have now looks nothing like the one I started with, and probably in five years from now, it won’t look anything like it looks now. It’s an evolution, and it is an investment, and I like to say, “Courses aren’t just for Christmas, they’re for life.” So again, don’t think you can make it once and walk away. You can, but you probably won’t do very well.
Sam, thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can we find out more about you?
Sam Winch: So Sam Winch’s good old samwinch.com.au. That’s not the sandwich like the thing you eat, but Sam Winch. I’m sure it’ll be in the show notes somewhere, and I’m easily found under the same name on both Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. Please don’t go on my LinkedIn. And probably anywhere else [inaudible 00:52:03] you can find that name.
Kate Toon: Well I will include links to all your various bits and bobs in the show notes. But at the end of the show, as you know, we like to give a shout-out to one of our lovely listeners, and today it is [inaudible 00:52:17].
It’s a cool name.
Kate taught me SEO, she’s enlightened and then confused me, and enlightened me some more. She’s quirky as hell, which I love. I’ve not read this before, I should have read this before I started reading it if that makes sense. What’s worse than a boring podcaster? A boring SEO podcaster, that’s what. I spent my two hour daily commute for a couple of years alternating between Kate’s podcast and murder podcasts on those bad workdays. I’ve done her courses and she’s empowered me to take control of my own business.
Thank you, Kate.
Kate Toon: Wow, that’s awesome!
Thank you very much. So if you like the show, please don’t forget to leave a five star rating and a review on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you heard the podcast. Your review will help others find the show and learn more about the wonderful world of digital marketing and SEO, and you’ll get a shout-out. And as I said, don’t forget to check out the show notes for this episode, where you can learn more about Sam, check out useful links, and leave a comment.
And finally, don’t forget to tune into my other podcast, The Hot Copy podcast, a podcast for copywriters, all about copywriting. Hosted with the lovely Belinda Weaver. So until next time, happy SEO-ing.