We Discuss How To Build A Successful Membership Website

Julie Stoian is a digital marketing consultant and marketing coach, making her mark on the internet through her popular brand Create Your Laptop Life™.

In addition to running her own highly successful online business, Julie is also a head coach at ClickFunnels working with Russell Brunson. We discuss how to build and run a successful membership website and what are the best strategies connected to building an audience for your first online course.

This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting 

Julie has inspired and equipped thousands of up and coming business owners with the skills and strategies they need to create, build, and grow profitable online businesses.

Julie started her journey to entrepreneurship as a blogger and writer, garnering the attention of media outlets like The New York Times and Washington Post with her no-holds-barred approach to social media. After a rocky divorce and unexpected pregnancy in 2014 that left her needing to build a profitable business quickly, Julie transformed her passion and love for internet marketing into the 7-figure business she has today.

Here’s a Full Transcription of Our Interview With Julie Stoian

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. This is episode 319. I’ve got a really great guest here. I’ve got Julie Stoian and hopefully, I pronounced it correctly?

Julie: Nobody ever pronounces it correctly.

Jonathan: Oh well. Thank you. Would quickly like to introduce yourself to the audience and listeners Julie?

Julie: Sure. Yeah. So, my name is Julie Stoian. It’s Romanian. That’s the nationality. In America, they’re like what, three vowels in a row, like, what is this? And I’m a Digital Marketer and a Funnel builder and I run a brand called Create Your Laptop Life. I sell courses and do consulting and teaching, teaching people how to grow their online businesses through sales funnels. I also work with and alongside of Russell Brunson who is the CEO and founder of ClickFunnels. We do all kinds of new projects together that keep me very busy.

Jonathan: Thank you so much, Julie. And we’ve got my great co-host, Cindy Nicholson. Would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?

Cindy: Oh, hi everyone. It’s Cindy Nicholson here. I am from TheCourseWhisperer.co where I help entrepreneurs build and create their online courses.

Jonathan: That’s great. We’re going to be discussing how to build a successful course, how to market that course. Julie is a real expert in those areas. She also runs and has run excellent courses so she’s the person that should be able to give us some insights into those topics. But before we delve into the interview, I just want to quickly mention my major sponsor and that’s Kinsta Hosting. Kinsta Hosting only hosts WordPress websites. They are a fantastic hosting provider, all the bells, and whistles, staging sites, daily backups, great support. We host the WP-Tonic website with them and some of our clients’ websites. I’ve been totally delighted with them. To support the show, go to the WP-Tonic site. If you’re looking for a new host for yourself or for your clients, go to, like I say, to the WP-Tonic website. There are banner adverts for Kinsta. They are affiliate links so you’ll be helping yourself and also the show. So, let’s delve right into it Julie. Are there any major things that come to your mind that you’ve learned through the years of building courses and trying to market them successfully that you could share to the audience initially?

Julie: Yeah. So, I think one of the greatest successes that I’ve seen happen over and over and over again in people who want to build courses is that if you take a backwards approach to it, sometimes you sell far more than if you go into it front ways. What I mean by that is typically and traditionally, someone who has an idea for a course, builds the course, they build it then they go out and they say, “Okay. Let me go find the people who want this.” The people who back into it actually consider the sales message, the funnel, the marketing of the course as the first thing they do, rather than the second thing they do. And so, you build a container that the course will be in, whatever funnel, the sales page, the message, the webinar, all that kind of stuff. You actually validate your idea with a pre-sell so that you know that the market wants it and then you build it with live students where they’re going to teach you what you need to teach better than you would ever learn by yourself. In this way, it reduces the risk when you’re selling a course, when you are about to invest a lot of money into building one because you’re getting paid to build it. So backing into the course with the marketing first always, always, always saves you a ton of heartache.

Jonathan: I totally agree with you Julie but the only thing is you’re a marketing expert of the high order. I’m not going to say it ever gets easy but you have a kind of roadmap in your mind about what’s going to be done. Can you give any kind of tips when somebody’s thinking of this first course about what they’ve got to around marketing and getting that audience developed before they actually start building the course?

Julie: Yeah. So, there are three things and I’ve learned this all from Russell. I can’t take credit from this but there are three things that

Jonathan: I’m sure you’ve had your own ideas Julie.

Julie: Of course I do but like, anyway, this is his idea. He’s like, “There’s only three things you ever need to make millions of dollars with whatever it is that you want to sell. You need a hook, you need a story and an offer and that’s it.” And a hook, like in fishing, I grew up going fishing with my Dad out on Long Island Sound and we would always use bunker as our bait for the bass that we were going for. If I had just hooked bunker into the ocean and then went, “Here fishy fishy fishy,” there would be no way to get the bass to come to my boat. So, the hook it what actually stops the fish from going to one direction and facing another. Most people forget about the hook in their sales message. They don’t have anything that’s going to stop someone in their tracks, whether it’s on a news-feed, whether it’s in a podcast search, SEO, whatever. Stop them in their tracks and get them to pay attention and that’s the very first thing you have to do. And the second thing you have to do is create a story and that story is what will keep them paying attention to you so that you stand out among all the millions of competitors everywhere and then the offer is ultimately what sells which is when you create that irresistible offer to a hot market that’s ready to buy. And if you get those things right before you build a course, you will make money, period.

Jonathan: A great explanation. You made it sound so easy Julie but why is it so hard Julie?

Julie: I think a lot of people spend a lot of their time and energy in the planning and construction mode of the thing that they are an expert at because it’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s fun, we love it. Who doesn’t love a whiteboard all ready for you to outline your course? People spend tremendous amounts of energy becoming an expert at the thing and it’s awesome but it’s like unless you’re willing to become an expert at the selling of the thing, that thing is not going to get into the hands of the people who need it most.

Jonathan: Yeah. Totally understand. Have you got some tips and insights about how people start this road about becoming more proficient on the marketing side?

Julie: Okay, yeah.

Jonathan: Only small questions Julie.

Julie: Yeah. I know. Small questions. So, the first thing is kind of the offer creation process we take people through no matter what you’re selling, a course on gardening, a course of beauty, on, I don’t know, I can’t even think off the top of my head, piano lessons, whatever it happens to be. You have to somehow figure out where your niche, where your market, what hot market it’s in because don’t try to sell in a market that’s not hot and three hot markets are health, wealth and relationships. They’re always going to be hot. People want to be healthy, people want to be in love and people want money. So if you’re selling a course on beauty, that’s actually a relationship product because why do we want to be beautiful?

We want to be beautiful for relationships. So, first, I take any course and we try to identify which of those three markets is it in. And then we have to figure out, all right, those are really bloody red, competitive oceans. So, how do we create your blue ocean? How do we make you stand out? And one of the fastest ways to do that is to simply throw rocks at the prevailing wisdom. So you throw rocks at whatever. So, let’s say you want to sell a course on getting thin. What’s the prevailing wisdom? The prevailing wisdom that can sell. You have to throw rocks at all of those methods and that will immediately pull you out of the competition and give you the opportunity to create something unique. And once you have that something unique, then we look for the hook, the story around that unique something and then we create an amazing offer and usually if you get all of those things right, you make millions.

Jonathan: So, what do you mean by rocks? You mean be controversial? Go against the prevailing

Julie: Prevailing wisdom on the day.

Jonathan: Right.

Julie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Not be one of those sheep, in other words.

Julie: Yeah, exactly. You have to pull yourself out and sometimes it doesn’t have to be controversial. If you think about the guy who did Bulletproof coffee, there was a million books out there doing, doing low carb. He didn’t really say that was wrong but he kind of created his own unique thing with butter and coffee that was the combination of a little bit of removing himself from the grain and creating a good hook because I’m telling you, anyone that says, “Put butter in your coffee,” your first response is, “Wait. What did you just say?” Right? That’s a hook. It stops you in your tracks. And then, he has a good story and he has research and then he has a crazy good offer and it’s really and boom, he’s a billionaire.

Jonathan: All right. That’s step 1. So, after you’ve found your sector and you’ve started throwing some rocks and you’re starting to build an audience, what’s next Julie?

Julie: So, you build an audience, you throw rocks, really then it’s where the rubber hits the road. I always say it’s really good to launch with 1,000 customers, like 1,000 leads because that’s like a good number. So you’ve got to get your first 1,000 people to be paying attention to you. And then, I hate to say this, people always cringe but it’s pretty normal for buy rates off of 1,000 person list to be around 1 to 5 percent if you’re new. So that’s what you want to look for, 1 to 5 percent of your 1,000 person audience should buy. And if they buy, then you keep going. If nobody buys, then that means that either your offer wasn’t what people wanted or your hook just wasn’t good enough to get them to pay.

Jonathan: Yes. So, how big do you think video is now in marketing courses and in courses in general?

Julie: Video?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Julie: That’s what you’re talking about, video? Just like content video or like video inside the course itself?

Jonathan: Both. Let’s talk about both.

Julie: Yeah. I mean video is huge. If you’re not on video, you’re dead to me. I’m a reader so I’m not even a big video watcher and I spend about $60,000 a year on video production because I know how important it is. So, video is absolutely, you’ve got to be on video, whether it’s live stream or pre-recording, it doesn’t matter. On Instagram and Facebook both and YouTube too. But inside a course, you know, people often ask me like, “How much can I charge for this course?” And then, they’ll tell me that it’s 20 modules and they’ll think that the price is related to the module, like how much content is in there and it has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with how fast you can get the results. So, believe it or not, one of my fastest ROI courses is like a 3-hour course. I charge $700 for a 3-hour course but the return on investment and what they’re able to do with that is what demands the value. There’s very, very little video in that course. To me, when I actually create courses, I use video when video is necessary for walk-throughs and screen shares and things like. Otherwise, I do audio with binder notes. They’re not transcripts, they’re actually binder notes so that you can read it because it’s hard to read a transcript, at least to me it is. And so, you can listen like when you’re working out. And so, that’s how I deliver my courses, audio with binder notes and videos for all the walkthroughs.

Jonathan: Thanks for that Julie. That was great. How do you get your ideas for your courses? How do they come to you?

Julie: Yeah. So, new courses usually happen, like the more that you’re bumping into people in real life, the more likely you’re going to have ideas. Most of my new courses come from my students from my old courses. But at some point, I didn’t have students and I had to think of something. I was an agency owner prior to doing my courses so I built courses based on my experience in my agency doing Digital Marketing. And so, that’s where I got my original ideas. Everybody has something that they’re passionate about and if you’re not sure what kind of course to create from that, you can do some research and see what’s already selling. That’s actually good news if something’s already selling. You can go on Amazon. You can look for best selling. See if the best selling books are ranked 100,000 or less on the Kindle store. That means that people are monetizing that information. And then, also, look at what people bitch about. If they’re complaining, it’s usually a good grounds for a product.

Jonathan: I love it. I’m English so we’re notorious for. There we are. I’m sure you’re probably right. You know a fair bit about Facebook and Facebook Marketing. Poor old Facebook. Well, they’re not that poor, are they? They’ve been getting a lot of negative press to say the least. Do you still see Facebook as a great platform for marketing your course in general?

Julie: Yes, 100 percent. I just laugh hysterically when people tell me their audience isn’t on Facebook. I’m like, “There are 2 billion people on Facebook. Do you market to like? What are you talking about?” It’s crazy.

Jonathan: All right. We’re going to go for our break folks and when we come back, Cindy, the intelligent part of this duo is going to take over the interview with Julie. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Jonathan: We’re coming back. We’ve had a great discussion with Julie. Hopefully, I haven’t bored her too much. Cindy, off you go.

Cindy: Well, thanks so much Julie for all of your insight. It’s so good to get somebody who really relates to what it takes to build Membership sites and online courses. So, I just wanted to kind of go back to one of your comments about the 1,000 people magic number might be a good benchmark to kind of have before you really start to want to launch anything to them. So, what advice do you have around building up to that $1,000 number?

Julie: Yeah. I know like, “Oh, just get 1,000 people.” I mean, you can get 1,000 people really fast with some good Facebook ads. You can get it in a week. They will be pretty cold so you will have to be pretty charismatic but you can do it. A lot of people, they’ll like to do a combination of both paid and organic methods. One of the fastest ways to get an audience is to do podcast interviews, is to get in the company of people who already have audiences and then make sure you have a really, really good lead magnet, something really juicy and free that you can direct people to whenever you’re on a stage, on a podcast, guest post, whatever it happens to be. I also recommend, you know the largest conglomeration of groups anywhere in the world are on Facebook and a lot of people use Facebook groups but then, they don’t use them well. They humbly brag, they post, they spam, they do all those kind of stuff. In one of my courses, I actually teach a method, I call it influencer marketing but the idea is that if you are just not that guy or not that girl, that annoying person, that you’re actually a valuable player in a group, if you turn your Facebook profile into a Funnel, you’ll have more leads than you know what to do with. Most of my agency students who start agencies use this method and they make Facebook their Funnel, they show up, they are the totally valuable, polarizing, awesome person in a group and they’ve got leads for days. So you can do that. You can do SEO. You can do other kinds of organic marketing. You can do Instagram and then, of course, Facebook ads to free offers to build your first 1,000.

Cindy: Yeah. That’s awesome. So, tell me a little bit more about turning your Facebook into a Funnel. What does that mean or what does that look like?

Julie: Yeah. So, a lot of people focus on their Facebook page when they get started in business and then they keep their Facebook profile locked down for friends and family. The very first thing you need to do if you want to do this method is you have to get comfortable being public about who you are and what you do on your profile and there are like seven or eight different access points on your profile. If someone goes to creep on your profile and check you out, there’s a lot of opportunity for them to, what I would call say, fall into your Funnel, whether it’s links on the side, the About section, the cover photos, the featured image photo, the latest post on your timeline, I tend to use that as a bait area where I deliberately stick bait right before I go into a group because if you are good in a group, if you are amazingly valuable, incredibly polarizing, hilariously funny, people will click on your name and go to your profile and you want your profile ready to capture that lead by adding links and entry points into your free offers all over your profile.

Cindy: That’s awesome. That’s great. I know because I’ve been in Facebook groups as well and I sure as heck know the people who contribute a lot, add value and I’ve also clicked on their profiles to see what they’ve got there too.

Julie: Absolutely.

Cindy: That’s great. I’ve been asked a number of times, in terms of, how do you know, so, we have people who listen to this podcast are interested in creating Membership sites or online courses, how do they know when they’re ready to create one? When should they be starting to think, “Okay. Yes, now it makes sense for me to have this as part of my business.”?

Julie: If they can get a result that people want, they’re ready. I mean it’s really just that simple. If you can teach me something I want to know, then you’re ready to teach it. But that means that you have to be comfortable in being fairly certain that you can reproduce the result you got for yourself in somebody else. So, typically what I say is, “Did you get the result for yourself? Yes or no?” Okay. Awesome. That’s like half the battle. Now, the second question is, “Did you get the result for somebody else? Because sometimes what we can do for ourselves, we don’t quite know how to duplicate it in somebody else. If you have done both of those things, you’re ready.

Cindy: Yeah. That’s perfect. I love it. They should also know how they go about doing it. It’s not just something that happens by accident. So, take us back, maybe a little bit, Julie as to when you first started your Membership sites and your online courses. What are some of the wisdom that you remember or you wish you had known when you started out or what were some of the mistakes that you made when you first started out?

Julie: Oh my gosh. Yeah. Well, one of the mistakes that I made was that I would often follow people that were so many steps ahead of me. I would get really discouraged oftentimes because those people didn’t really identify all the steps that they took to get where they are. They tell like key, highlight reels but they don’t actually tell like the nitty-gritty. And so, it caused a lot of pain and heartache for me thinking like. So, that’s one of the things that I’ve tried really hard to get rid of in my own business because, for example, the first time I did courses, I had no idea what I was doing. I had heard about doing this thing called a webinar, no idea that you were supposed to sell at the end of the webinar but I was like, “Oh, let me practice.” And so, I was like, “What am I good at? Well, I’m good at MailChimp.

” I’m like, “All right.” So, I set up a landing page and a registration page and I was like, “I’ll spend 100 bucks, see what happens.” So, I spent 100 bucks on Facebook ads, told people I was going to do a MailChimp workshop. I got 100 people to register. I got like $1 a lead. I was super stoked. I was like, “Awesome.” And then, I had about 30 people show up live. And so, I got on live. I showed them MailChimp and then I shut the webinar down. I didn’t even sell anything. And so, then, I get off and I was like, “Well, that was fun.” And so, then, I get off and I’m like, “I think I was supposed to sell something.” I was like, “I don’t have anything to sell.” And so, I was like, “Well, I could them newsletter templates.” So, I emailed them all and like, “By the way, if you saw that webinar and you’re interested and you want a newsletter template, I’ll do a special for you.” And then, I got like 15 people to buy this newsletter and I was like, “Well, look at that.” And so, then I did this a couple more times and I kept getting like newsletter clients and then I’d get them on the phone and I’d upsell them and my agency started to make money and then one day, I was like, “I’ve got all these MailChimp leads. I might as well put these together and sell them it.” And so, I put all the workshops together, added a few more, stuck it on a free Teachable account and sold it for 15 bucks and I got 100 people to buy it. That’s how I started. It was so just like imperfect action figuring it out as I went. I didn’t try to build a 17,000 module, $997 course out of the gate.
Cindy: Yeah. I love that. It’s funny. The people that I’ve heard that have been so successful at building courses or selling courses, they forge ahead. They don’t worry about making mistakes or failing big. They just get it done, learn from it and see where things happen.

Julie: Exactly, exactly.

Cindy: So, what do you say to those people who have created these courses and they haven’t gotten the success that they wanted. Where would you go with somebody like that?

Julie: Yeah. It’s hard. It’s so hard when you’ve created something and it hasn’t sold. You feel so attached to it. You don’t want to destroy your baby. But you’ve got to destroy your baby. So, there’s a couple things you can do with your baby. You can rip it all apart and find the pieces that are really good, repurpose them into little 1-hour Master classes or lead magnets or whatever you want to do. I would try to harvest the best you can out of that and then I would say you need to go through the very painful process of detaching yourself from your idea, of what kind of course you want, your idea of what kind of container you want, “Oh, I want a Membership site. Oh, I group coaching program. Oh, I want whatever,” and instead, put that all down and go attach yourself to an audience. Because if you attach yourself to a group of people that you love, that you care about, that you want to serve, if you make a mistake and you don’t get it right the first try, nothing’s lost. You still have the people. You just try something new, try something new until something hits. But if you’re attaching yourself to products or software or like ideas, it’s anybody’s guess if you’re right or not and then letting go is going to be really, really hard.

Cindy: Awesome. That’s fabulous advice. Jonathan, how are we doing for time? Are you good there?

Jonathan: Oh, you’ve got time for another question or two questions.

Cindy: Okay. Sure. So, in line with finding that audience, what do you think is the best approach for finding who your specific niche is or how to find the people that you resonate with, what approach would you recommend?

Julie: Well, it all boils down to like what result do you want to produce in the world, what impact do you want, what gets you out of bed in the morning because I guarantee you if you’re just doing this for passive income, you’re going to quit because it’s not passive and it’s hard. It’s just not. What gets you up in the morning? What makes you excited? What result do you see happening to people and you’re just like, “Yes, I just want to do that over and over and over again?” And that’s how you find your people. Then, you’re like, “All right. I’d love it,” like I was thinking like gardening, “I love helping people be able to grow their own food and watch them sustain themselves. It’s amazing.” So, who are those people? Are they city dwellers? Are they farmers? Are they stay at home Moms that want to feed their families better? Who are those people that are doing to want that result? And that’s where you start.

Cindy: And how specific do you think they need to be about who that audience is?

Julie: The more specific, the better but don’t get stuck there because some people are like, “Ahh, I can’t figure it out.” Just don’t stop. Just keep going. Obviously, if you can be super specific, that will help you get a competitive advantage. If you can’t, then I would just do a little bit more like where you cast a wider net and you start to see who the people are that are responding. I had a therapist once who wanted to do online courses. He has a thriving practice. He had no idea. He’s like, “Am I serving men? Am I serving women?” He did couples therapy. He’s like, “I don’t know.” And I was like, “You know what?” And at the time, Facebook Live wasn’t a thing which is crazy, that wasn’t a thing. Like what happened before Facebook Live? So, he wrote three blog posts and we specifically wrote three blog posts for three different avatars, a woman, a man who was an a**hole and then a man who was like trying to save his marriage. So, we wrote three blog posts. We threw ads at them to see which one would bite and it was the guy who was trying to save his marriage who, I see Jon, he’s like laughing hysterically but that was what we did and that was the guy. So, we were like, “Okay. There is your avatar.”

Cindy: That’s awesome because it’s like, if you don’t know, find out in some way.

Julie: Exactly.

Cindy: If you don’t know, ask or test it in some way to figure it out.

Julie: But now, you don’t even have to write blog posts.

Jonathan: I’m tempted to ask you which one you think I am.

Julie: Yeah. The good news is you don’t have to go through the painstaking trouble of writing blog posts. Just do three Facebook Lives, shove $20 at each and see which one bites.

Cindy: I love that. That’s a great idea.

Jonathan: I think we’ll wrap up the podcast part of the show now folks. Hopefully, Julie, she’s a busy lady, but hopefully, she can stay on for another 10 minutes for our bonus content. So, Julie, if people want to know more about you, what you’re up to, what you’re offering, how do they find out Julie?

Julie: Yeah. The best place to go is my website. It outlines everything I do. I teach Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing. I teach agency stuff. I’m all over the place. You got to juliestoian.com, S – T – O – I – A – N.com. I should never have changed my name. Nobody gets it. Juliestoian.com. I’ve got so much content over there. I’ve got a free class.

Jonathan: Yeah. I just wanted to say that I’m a real fan of Julie. There a lot of people that say they’re experts in Online Marketing and to be quite truthful, most of them are a bit iffy. Julie is an exception. She really does know what she’s talking about. Cindy, how can people find out more about what you’re up to and what you’re doing?

Cindy: Thanks, Jonathan. You can come visit me at TheCourseWhisperer.com if you’re thinking about putting a course together and kind of don’t know where to start and need some help and direction.

Jonathan: And if you want to get more resources about how to build a course and the technology, all the issues that we discussed in the podcast, go to the WP-Tonic website. We’ve got a couple new really detailed posts on the website. We’ve got some great interviews. It’s a great resource. I just want to say, Julie, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure. And if you really want to support the show, go to iTunes and leave us a review. It really does help the show. We’ll be back next week with somebody doing something with WordPress, building courses or Online Marketing in general. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.

Every Friday at 8:30am PST we have a great and hard-hitting round-table show with a group of WordPress developers, online business owners and WordPress junkies where we discuss the latest and most interesting WordPress and online articles/stories of the week. You can also watch the show LIVE every Friday at 8:30am PST on our Facebook WP-Tonic Show page. https://www.facebook.com/wptonic/

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