We Discuss Why During Some Pre Launch Course Research Is So Important
I have a great and detailed discussion with my new co-host Cindy Nicholson of The Course Whisperer about why doing some basic pre-launch research is so important if you going to avoid market fit mistakes connected to your great course.
This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting
Here’s A Full Transcription Of Our Discussion
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 317. I’ve got my new great co-host Cindy Nicholson, the Course Whisperer, with me and it’s going to be an internal show this week folks. We’re going to be discussing how to validate your course idea. If you’re looking at a membership site and you’ve got a course, we’re going to delve into that. Cindy, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Cindy: Sure. Absolutely Jonathan. Hi everyone. It’s Cindy Nicholson from TheCourseWhisperer.co where I help entrepreneurs create online courses that their clients rave about. So I’m excited to chat about this topic today Jonathan.
Jonathan: Yeah. It should be a good discussion actually Cindy. Before we delve into the meat and potatoes of the subject, I just want to quickly mention our great sponsor and that’s Kinsta Hosting and the WP-Tonic website is hosted with Kinsta and I’ve got some of my clients sites with Kinsta as well. They only manage WordPress. They use Google Cloud as their framework. They’ve got a fantastic UX design. Their support is fantastic. They’ve got all the bells and whistles, staging sites. You can select what version of PHP.
They’ve got all the latest versions of PHP. Like I say, they’ve got a staging site, automatic backup. The interface is just really easy to use and like I say again, their support is magical. They are big enough to have all the resources, small enough to still care. If that’s interesting to you or your clients, go to the WP-Tonic website. There’s banners on the website. They are affiliate links so if you use one of those to set up your own website or a client website, you’ll be supporting the show as well. That’s really handy. And I can’t recommend them more. So we’re going to delve into the main subject. So, Cindy, how do you start this process of validating your course idea?
Cindy: Well, number one, you may have a course idea kind of mulling around, you know, bouncing around in your brain and really, before you create any content, before you put anything down in terms of outline or actual lessons, is you really want to make sure that once it is ready, that people are going to buy it. And so, I recommend in any course creation process that start with validating the idea and it can’t be just whether or not you think it’s a good idea. You need to go out there and find out if this is going to sell.
Why spend all the time creating it if nobody is going to be interested in it. I usually recommend a 3-step process to validating your course idea. And really the first step is asking yourself, “Are people going online for a solution to a problem?” So your online course or membership, it’s got to solve a problem. In order for people to find your course, they need to be going online and looking for a solution because that’s where you’re going to get your customers from, from people going online to looking for a solution to the problem. So the first step is, are people going online? Well, how do you find this out? Well, one of the places that I go to is to the Google Keyword search and type in some of the keywords that would be related to your course. And what you can find from the Google Keyword search tool is how many people are searching every month for that particular topic. So you know, A, if people are going online to look for a solution to their problem.
So that’s kind of really the first is, are people going online? The second step, in terms of what I recommend, is if you know people are going online, and you know, with the Google Keyword search, I would say 1,000 people plus are going online every month to look into your topic, that would probably be a good benchmark to go from. The next question is if they’re going online, are they willing to pay money for a solution or are they just going around and gathering the content for free online? Because that’s what people can do. So, the next question you need to ask yourself is, “Okay. Are they going online but are they willing to pull out their wallet for a solution to the problem? That’s where I usually recommend then going and doing some competitive research.
So, what I would suggest is going and seeing what other courses are out there in terms of selling what you’re interested in selling. So, number one, you get some competitive research done but you also get to gauge whether or not enough people are interested in paying money for a course. So, you can go to Udemy, Coursera, Lynda, all of these different places to see if there’s other courses out there that are solving a problem similar to what you would want to solve for them as well. Now, often I get asked, “Okay.
Well, if I see my course topic is already out there, should I then not do it?” I actually think it’s the opposite. I think it’s showing that there’s a lot of interest. There’s a lot of demand for that particular topic. And so, that means that you have a viable marketplace out there of people that are wanting to buy it. So I think it’s actually a good news story that if you see other courses out there and you see a number of people taking the courses, because that means that there is a demand for it and here’s your opportunity to bring in your expertise to help solve the problem in your own unique way. What are your thoughts on that Jonathan? Would you agree?
Jonathan: Yeah. I think that’s great. I had a question for you before you asked my thoughts.
Jonathan: No, no. There’s one client I’m dealing with at the present moment and they’re just in pre-launch. I’ve advised them to do a beta before they really pull the trigger. But their course is aimed at Universities and it’s aimed at a specific niche of the staff at a specific, I don’t want to get too specific about the client but it’s aimed at a very niche market in the University’s Administrative back office.
Let’s say you’ve got like it’s medical or some other aimed at University and they have to get training but at the present moment most of the training is either done face to face or in small courses at the University or at a training center, whatever. A lot of that goes on, doesn’t it, Cindy? What’s your experience if somebody says, “I would like to put that online.” Have you had any instances where you’ve had people approach you like that? And if yes, is there a particular thing you’ve got to keep in mind to kind of move from a physical scenario to online?
Cindy: No, I haven’t experienced that before other than a number of my clients are taking their own expertise and putting it online because they’ve only done like face to face before. But if it’s something like the content or the course has always been delivered face to face rather than online, then it’s just a little bit different research because they would need to find out and this could be done online as well in terms of researching how many other courses are available even face to face. I think that that information should still come up online as well. And then, you would need to ask the question, would people be willing to go online to take the course? Is there a reason why it isn’t done online or is it just because it hasn’t been done before? Do you know what I’m saying?
There’s some courses that people may not want to do online because they want to have the opportunity to see people face to face, have that community, like the face to face experience. But if it’s just because it hasn’t been done before, then there’s a huge opportunity from that perspective because then you have a much broader reach than doing it face to face. But it would be more, how is the content delivered and is that content able to be delivered in a virtual world sort of thing?
Jonathan: Yeah. I think that’s a great answer. It’s just a little bit tricky. You’ve got to make that judgment call, haven’t you? Maybe that’s why they should hire you. Give them a second opinion.
Cindy: What’s interesting is a lot of corporations are going virtual. When I worked in the corporate world, we have a face to face 2-week training program and it all got put online and it was still possible to do. You may sacrifice some elements but it’s just being a bit creative in terms of how you can then deliver it online in order to give them as much of the similar experience as possible. But more and more people are looking to go virutally rather than face to face now anyway so there’s things that can be done nowadays.
Jonathan: Right. As I do Cindy, I converted the river a little bit to a different course there. Do you want to continue about some of the things you observed that are connected to validating the course?
Cindy: Yeah. Absolutely. I just talked about, if you’re considering creating a course and selling it online, really answering the question, are people willing to pay for it, willing to pull out their wallets to pay for a course? And again, it’s a matter of doing some competitive research at this time. This whole validation process is great because it will help you get an idea, gauge the interest. But what the other benefit is you just gather so much valuable intel as you’re going through this process that will really help you write the course itself. So, as much as people don’t like to go through this step, it ends up paying dividends down the road. So that was the second step, are people willing to pay for it? And then the last step in terms of the whole validation process that I recommend is, are people willing to pay you now? So, not only are they willing to pay for it, are they willing to pay you? And so, this is when I recommend you now got to your audience.
If you have an audience already, a substantial audience, you may be able to forgo the first two steps. Interviewing your audience that you have can help you really hone in on what it is the pain point that you’re solving for. So it’s a matter of then going to your audience and asking them, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to this problem? What is it that you would like to see resolved when it comes to this problem? So asking them about all of the problems or the challenges that they’re having and then asking them, would they be willing to take a course on this if it would solve the problem that they’re describing?
Jonathan: Yeah. My experience is that on their first pony ride, so many entrepreneurs or people that want do the course, they want to miss that step. They don’t want to do that for some reason, do they?
Cindy: Yeah, I know. Absolutely. And you know because they have it in their mind that they think it’s a great idea and it’s hard to get away from that. Once you are convinced that this is the next thing, it’s hard to get away from that to be open to listening to feedback. And that’s why, anytime you start off with a course idea, start it as a hypothesis before you decide that this is the route that you’re going to go because often I’ll have clients, in my initial conversation with them, they’re like, “I’m thinking about doing a course of this.” And they’re like, “What do you think? Is that a good idea?” And I’ll be like, “I don’t know. What does your audience say? What are the problems they’re coming to you with?”
I may have a hunch but if I’m not your target market client, then, my opinion isn’t going to be worth anything. And so, that’s why you really, really need to go and ask your audience and find out what it is that they need help with. That’s why I say put it as a hypothesis because you need to be willing to change your mind or change the direction. You need to be open to that so that you’re listening for the right cues from your audience. Otherwise, you’re only to hear what you want to hear.
Jonathan: That’s great. I think we’re going to go for our break folks. We’ll be back and we’ll be delving in a bit more about how do you judge if you should do this course in the first place. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back, folks. Me and Cindy have had a bit of a discussion about this we’re going to delve a little bit more into it. I think what you said there is so powerful really. It’s a strange thing being an educational entrepreneur really because you’ve got to be really passionate to get you through the highs and lows of any type of business. There’s definitely lows. So you’ve got to be passionate. But on the same breath, you’ve got to be, in some ways, very unemotional about things. It’s finding that right balance, isn’t it Cindy?
Cindy: Yeah. I think the passion could be more directed to passionate about helping your clients as opposed to being passionate about a particular solution. So if you kind of have the hat on that you’re passionate about helping your clients, then that will help give you the open mind to be able to listen to what they’re asking for of you and it’s really all about listening, all about listening and seeing what questions you’re being asked all the time, what kind of comments or guidance you’re constantly giving. Those are all ques to help you come up with whether or not a course idea is good or not.
Jonathan: So, got any thoughts about, you’ve asked questions, have you had anybody do kind of online surveys like use SurveyMonkey, have any people done that? Has it brought up any insights that surprised them if they did do it?
Cindy: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, this is the thing is if you don’t have a big audience and so you can’t go to your audience and ask them, “Tell me exactly what you’re struggling with.” Then, is there an opportunity to survey an audience that’s similar to yours. So, often in Facebooks, people will post surveys in order to kind of test the waters around different course ideas.
Based on my experience, people are very, very helpful and willing, especially if you are telling them you’re going to solve a pain point for them. They are very willing to offer their feedback because if it’s a big enough pain point, they’ve got lots to say about it. So if you don’t have your own audience or it’s not large enough to get enough feedback, then going into Facebook groups or posting surveys can certainly help you with that and it’s really about asking, you know, when it comes to this topic, what are your biggest challenges?
When it comes to this topic, what are your biggest fears? What would a perfect day look like? How are you feeling now and how would you like to feel differently? There’s lots of different questions that you can ask and it doesn’t hurt either to gauge some interest on how long would you, you know, the course, how long would you be willing to spend on a course like this or how much would be you be willing to pay? And then, even in this questionnaire, you can even ask them, “If I were to offer a course that offered this solution, would you be willing to be a beta tester to help me to get feedback on the course?” So, there’s other things that you can do as part of this whole process to even start planting the seed that you have this course available. Go ahead.
Jonathan: Another area, not directly linked but it is important, it’s not talked about and it’s kind of the elephant in the room really, dropout. People dropping out of a course after a week, after 2 weeks and abandoning and canceling their monthly subscription or whatever. Got any insights about some practical things that can be done to avoid that if the fundamental of the course is up to standard? They’ve done the things that we’ve been talking about in this episode.
Cindy: Yeah. Well, I think that the whole validation process is part and parcel of reducing the drop out rates of your course because if you come up with your course idea and put your course content together without asking anybody about it, you have no idea if you’re hitting the mark. And so, if people buy your course and they get into it and they’re like, “Yeah. This isn’t really what I’m looking for,” that’s going to be the first thing. So the validation will definitely help with drop out rates. The other things that kind of are fundamental, I think, in terms of managing drop out rates is, the second one is really being clear on who your audience is, in terms of who the course is designed for and to be quite specific on it because you can’t build an online course for everybody.
If you’re writing a course on Facebook ads or what have you, you can’t do if for everybody. You really need to hone in on who it is for specifically because when the student is in your course, you want them to feel like all of the content is written for them and all of that content is going to help them specifically. As soon as they start to get content that, “Oh, you know what? I already know this stuff. I’ve already learned this stuff before,” or, “This is way over my head,” that’s when you also get students dropped out. However, if they’re feeling like all of the content that is there is made specifically for them, they’re going to keep taking that course. I have a perfect example. I think it was 2 years ago now, I signed up for a course. Actually, I had begged off taking any more courses and I wasn’t going to do any more courses.
Jonathan: Never, never. Never.
Cindy: I spent all my money. I wasn’t going to spend any more. And then, I got an email and I was like, “Okay. I’m not taking the course.”
Jonathan: You were attempted to go, didn’t you Cindy? Admit it.
Cindy: I thought I would read it to see how the copy-writing was. But anyway, in her, who is this course for, she was super specific. She highlighted the income that you would have.
Jonathan: Intelligent woman. Lives in Canada, Toronto.
Cindy: That was it. But she highlighted the income, she highlighted the number of clients I had, she highlighted what the website status was, she was super specific. And so, by the end of me reading the copy, I was like, “Oh my gosh. This course is exactly for me. So, A, she got the sale because she was super specific and she defined me. But also, B, when I took the course, all of the content was directly related to me and I went through the entire course because everything was where I was at and what could be completed. So, that’s kind of the second thing in terms of managing drop out rates, is to be really clear on who the audience is that you’re taking it so that the training can be tailored to them specifically.
Jonathan: Do you also think really concentrating on the initial onboarding, it doesn’t really matter which technology platform you’re going to utilize, you know, I’m a big of a Facebook freak, that’s my origins. But if somebody wants to use Kajabi or Learnable, we can help them. But do you think working out a really initial good onboarding experience really helps in avoiding a lot of initial drop out?
Cindy: Yeah. 100 percent. Your students are going to be the most excited about taking your course when they sign up. It’s just going to be diminishing after that, especially when they get into the work. But they’re going to be most excited about taking your course right when they sign up. So there’s your opportunity to wow them, to kind of maintain or perpetuate that motivation through the course, so having a really good onboarding experiencing and giving them something right away to start doing or working on is a good opportunity to have that positive experience too.
Jonathan: That’s great because I think we’ve got some people coming on the show that specialize in that onboarding experience about emails and also just the area of onboarding in general. So I look forward to our discussions with these experts. Pardon?
Cindy: No, I was going to say yeah. I think that’s great because I think it’s often considered an afterthought. They worry about the content. They worry about the content. And then, this whole on-boarding thing is, they’re exhausted by the course at this point in terms of the that they don’t think about it. But I think that this is a really good opportunity to kind of set the stage for what the experience is going to be like.
Jonathan: So, based on your experience Cindy, how strongly do you recommend that they do a beta before they announce the course to everybody on the Internet in their niche market? How important do you think it is to get a small beta test group to try it out and get some feedback before the big launch Cindy?
Cindy: I think it’s very important to kind of really test the waters and get feedback as you go along the way before you actually launch it out there. The feedback that you get will be invaluable to how your course looks like in the long run. So, yeah. I think it makes a lot of sense to have like a beta launch of your course prior to kind of the full launch itself.
Jonathan: But they want to announce their baby now. They’ve gone through all the pains of course production. How do you reign them back a little bit Cindy?
Cindy: I think it’s setting expectations right from the get-go before you start creating anything is kind of establishing what the process or what the launch process is going to look like. So I usually talk them through that at the outset. The beta is just part of the course creation process as opposed to the course being done. It’s just a step in the whole process of actually getting it done. So set the expectations at the beginning.
Jonathan: They’re so eager but like you say. So, we’ve gone through a few things. We’ve gone through doing some basic research about, are you fulfilling a need, is there any demand. The other area that I thought we would quickly go through before we wrap up is pricing. I think pricing is a bit of a nightmare. What’s your thoughts around pricing?
Cindy: So, we have a couple of minutes before we have to go and you bring up pricing Jonathan?
Jonathan: That’s what I do, isn’t it? But just give a little. I think we can do a whole half hour just on pricing, can’t we? But just give a couple little insights before we wrap up.
Cindy: I think that there’s a couple of things. Because again, people often get hung up on what the pricing should be but this can also be part of that whole validation process. When you’re doing your competitive research, find out what the marketplace is selling courses for. And so, as part of your market research of this validation process, that can help give you an idea from a pricing standpoint. And then, the second thing is the price is based on the
Jonathan: I think we should stop there actually Cindy.
Cindy: Okay. I’m good with that.
Jonathan: We could do a whole half, we are going to do a whole half hour about pricing but I think that’s a really great point because that’s another reason why you want to do this initial research because it really will give you guidance about pricing and I’m not joking folks. Pricing, it can mean the difference between a failure and a course that really generates some income for you if you get this pricing wrong, can’t it Cindy?
Cindy: Yeah. Sometimes you’ve got to play with it a little bit too.
Jonathan: Yeah. So, Cindy, how can people find out about what you’re up to and what you’re doing online Cindy?
Cindy: Well, they can certainly visit me at TheCourseWhisperer.co. I’ve also started to dabble a bit with LinkedIn. I’ve been exploring that a little bit.
Jonathan: You’re getting dangerous with LinkedIn, are you Cindy?
Cindy: Well, I don’t know. I’m trying it out. You can also come and connect with me on LinkedIn and say hi.
Jonathan: That’s great. Cindy’s really very friendly. She puts up with me and my madness. So, if you want to get a hold of me folks, it’s really easy. I’m all over the Internet. Come to the WP-Tonic website, have a look at our great articles around membership websites and Learning Management Systems. Also, if you want to book a 15-minute consultation, you see that just on the front page and we can have a chat and I can help you with your ideas or I’ll send them off to Cindy as well. If you really want to support the show folks, leaving us a review on iTunes is really very helpful. It really promotes the show. It enables me to get some really better and interesting guests and share their knowledge with you the audience. So, if you feel generous, give us that, a review. I read them all and I really love feedback. So, we’ll see you next week folks where we’ll have somebody, an expert on WordPress, on Membership or on Online Marketing. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye
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