The Ultimate Guide to Building a Six-Figure Digital Course Business
I get asked all the time…
“How do you build a six-figure digital course business...”
For some reason - lots of people want to hit that six-figure mark and I totally get it - but this question has come across my desk so many times that I decided it was time to put it on paper to the tune of an “epic” blog post!
Now to just be clear - this is NOT EXACTLY how I built my digital course biz, it’s HOW I WOULD BUILD IT, KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW.
I’ve collected over $300,000 in online courses payments in the last 12 months - and we’ve done an even higher level of sales with payments still pending.
I like to be super transparent - but this is a “learn from my mistakes and do it better” style post.
Each major section is broken down by what level of revenue it is designed take you to, and the list size I recommend before you continue to that level.
These are all rough guidelines, so feel free to skip ahead before or after it’s recommended - my goal is to get the wheels turning and hopefully help give you that high-level view of how a digital course business can grow.
Also - let's just clear up one thing. I can't promise, guarantee or otherwise that you will get results. All I PROMISE is that this is all stuff I've done, tested, and got results with, just in a new fresh order. (That makes my lawyer VERY happy to have typed :p )
Let’s do it!
Going From 0 - $1,000 | Current List Size: 0
When you’re first starting, you’ll need to be willing to make a few investments in your business. You don’t have to spend thousands, but you do need to be willing to snag a few tools to get yourself off the ground running.
I would recommend the following tools to get started, and they will carry you through most of the recommended activities in this post:
How to Craft Your $1,000 Launch
Most people want to get their list built before they do a big launch - but I would recommend against this.
A launch can help you build your list - but having a list doesn’t guarantee a big launch.
I have an entire podcast episode (episode #20) dedicated to how to craft your first $1,000 launch - but I’ll lay out the gist of it here.
I would leverage LeadPages & Google Hangouts On Air to host a LIVE webinar style training - but this webinar is going to be different than most.
This webinar will be pitch-free and I would include that fact in my marketing!
Instead of selling a product at the end, you’ll prepare ~2-3 hours of REALLY GOOD content around your niche, then sell the replay with a few bonuses so there is nothing to buy unless they want a copy - no sales pitch!
If you’re looking for some guidance, usually I recommend a 2-hour FREE class on “How to ______” in your industry. Then at the end you let them buy the replay for about $97, and add in a bonus such as…
- A 15 Minute Laser Coaching Call (Great for B2B Niche)
- PDF Workbooks (Great for B2B & B2C)
- Additional Trainings (B2B & B2C)
If you do this correctly (again check out the full episode here to learn how to promote from scratch) - you should end up with about 150-200 registrations, and sell about 10-15 of your replays & bonuses.
That moves us into the $1,000 business mark, and 150 people on our list.
Not a bad way to kick off a growing info business.
Moving From $1,001 - $6,000 | Suggested List Size: 150
Once you’ve done a pitch-free masterclass and sold about $1,000 worth of the replays you’ve done two very vital things to the growth of an info product business.
You’ve validated the demand in the marketplace for what you have to teach. If people were willing to pay for a replay, they are going to be ready to pay for a digital course, ebook, or other info product.
You’ve generated your first $1,000 in sales (or profit). I would recommend that after this first big influx of cash you take $100 and treat yourself - then pour the rest right back in to help fuel future growth.
So at this point, you’re going to take the $800 in projected profit and use it to fuel your first $5,000 launch.
That can sound a bit intimidating but don’t worry - it can be done!
A couple of important pieces of information…
- I’m going to operate from the place of selling a digital course - since that’s my forte ;)
- This first launch is going to be a course PRE-SALE which means we’re going to sell the offer BEFORE we’ve created it
- We’re going to operate with a price of $200 - you can change this - but I’ll discuss why we’ve chosen that price in a moment.
For now - let’s plan out your first big launch!
Reverse Engineering a $5,000 Launch
For the $5,000 launch - I find that looking at that number $5k can be a bit… overwhelming - so let’s break it down so it’s way easier to look at.
So if you want to make $5,000 - let’s start with a product priced at $200.
Well I find that $200 is enough to push most people out of their comfort zone - but not so much that it’s impossible to sell.
When it comes to pricing a product - I like to pick a price and then create an OFFER in line with that valuation.
Plan out a 6-8 week LIVE training that you can offer around your niche, load it up with value and then sell it as a live bootcamp for $200.
It’s also important to note during the sales process that the price will go up once the course is finished. This creates an urgency factor for them to buy during the pre-sale.
Now let’s take it back to the $5,000 launch.
If you wanna make $5,000 with your pre-sale offer, you’ll need to sell 25 units.
That means it's time choose the method of launch that you want to use….
Webinars can be a GREAT way to launch your first pre-sale
- Have a fairly high conversion rate
- Much easier to convert to sales
- Can take a bit of time to master
- Need to have an entire presentation and sales process done
- Can be challenging to get registrations
Expected Conversion Rate: 5-6% Of Registrations
So if you were to do a webinar, to sell 25 units - you’d need about 400-500 registrations.
I’m partial to challenges because… well they work GREAT for a first-time launch. You can check out my complete case study on challenges right here.
- Require minimal software and tech to run
- Convert fairly high
- Allow intimate access to potential customers
- Requires a bit of “front end” work
- Uses live video to maximize results which can be daunting
- Does require some ad spend to pull off
Expected Conversion Rate: 4-6%
So if you were to do a challenge, to sell 25 units - you’d need about 400-500 registrations.
Internal Email Launch
If you’re not quite ready to get down with technology and what to keep an simple you can launch with just a series of emails. I recommend 2-3 “warm up” emails that elude to your product, then 5-7 days of daily sales emails to sell it.
No webinars, no livestreams, no frills - it works!
- Require minimal software and tech to run
- Low effort required to make it work
- Lower conversion rates
- A LOT of writing involved
Expected Conversion Rate: 2-3%
So if you were to do an email launch, to sell 25 units - you’d need about 850-1000 on your list.
Promoting The Launch You’ve Chosen
So now you might be feeling a bit daunted about the numbers you’ve pulled out to sell for your first pre-sale… don't!
I take a VERY simple 3-tiered approach to promoting your first launch.
- Organic Promotion
- Referral Promotion
- Paid Promotion
Organic Promotion is just that - anything that doesn’t cost you money. So many people skip this step because they don’t think they have great reach - but I recommend MINIMUM of a post every other day to a social media platform.
Just a few ways to promote organically…
- Create a Facebook Event and invite strategically (aka not your entire friends list).
- Create a daily post for Facebook with a different “angle” promoting the class
- Update your Instagram Bio
- Change your Facebook Cover Photo
- Email your existing list from the first $1k launch
Organic promotion can work VERY well - so don’t skip this step.
Referral Promotion is something I teach inside most of my courses - and it creates amazing results for my students that give it a try.
Now I’m not talking about affiliate promotion because that takes… a lot of effort.
Referral promotion is reaching out PERSONALLY to 5-10 people and asking them to share a blog post you’ve written around the topic of your course.
That blog post should include invite to join your “launch”.
I know it might seem simple - but people are willing to share blogs and as long as you’re transparent they are willing to help.
We’ve had students get HUNDREDS of signs ups this way - because our networks are bigger than we realize!
Paid Promotion is any type of paid advertising that drives more sign ups to your offer. I personally recommend (and love) Facebook Ads - which you can learn more about here.
In order to figure out “how much” paid promotion you should do (aka your budget) you just take the number of people you THINK you can get signed up for free away from the total number of registrations you need and then do some math.
So it would look like this…
If you’re going to do a WEBINAR and need 500 LEADS…
You think you can get 100 people signed up for free…
500 TOTAL - 100 ORGANIC = 400 PAID LEADS NEEDED
Then we take that 400 and multiply it by average lead cost (we’ll say $2.00 for your first promo) and you’d need an $800 spending budget to make $5,000.
Now that number is just an approximation - because you may spend more or less, and you may get more or less organic leads.
Putting It Together for Your $5,000 Launch
Once you have the number of leads you need, and a suggested budget - then it’s just time to sit down and PLAN the launch.
NOTE: If the budget is too high, you can do the same process with a $2,500 launch, and just repeat the process twice (or more) until you generate more capital.
I recommend that before your first launch you get EVERYTHING ready in advance, which includes….
- The organic marketing plan
- Any emails you plan to send
- Any launch content (webinars, challenges, etc)
- A promotional calendar/timeline
I’ve learned in the past that the MORE you plan - the easier your life is going to be.
I would recommend a 3-4 week launch window that looks like this…
Week 1: Planning & Writing
Week 2: Pre-Launch/Inviting Starts
Week 3: Launch Starts
Week 4: Sales/Promotion Week
When all’s said and done - you should have your FIRST group of people ready to go through a 6-8 week LIVE version of your first course.
Craft The Experience & Build Anticipation
Now in the next section we’re gonna talk about how to move from the $5k launches into the Big Leagues - but for now you need to focus on TWO THINGS…
Create an AMAZING experience for your first customers. You don’t need fancy slide decks, membership sites, or anything like that. A weekly training, a Facebook group, and your FULL ATTENTION AND CARE can create an unforgettable experience.
Make sure you create a freebie around this offer now that we know it sells and start promoting it while you’re doing the live training. Start to build anticipation and your wait list so that when it comes time to relaunch we can level up.
While you’re doing the FIRST RUN of your course - you want to engage your students, and build our list to the first 1,000 mark with organic promotion and advertising.
Moving From $6,001 - $16,000 | Suggested List Size: 1,000
Just to recap, but this point we’ve done some REALLY major stuff to create a successful info product business…
- We’ve validated a product idea with your first $1k launch
- We’ve moved that “idea” into action with a $5,000 pre-sale
- We’ve built a list of about 1,000 subscribers who are become raving fans
- We’ve built CONFIDENCE in your ability to launch
Now it’s time to take it to the next level.
Prepping For Launch 2.0 - The Debrief
After your first successful $5,000 Launch, you NEED to do a debrief.
What’s a debrief?
Well, it’s basically taking a REAL look at what worked, what didn’t, what the numbers were, etc.
Smart business owners don’t just launch and repeat….
They Launch, Evaluate, & Improve.
So take a moment to answer a few of the questions about your launch (and by a moment - I mean block of 30 minutes and get REAL answers on paper).
- What worked REALLY well and should be repeated?
- What DIDN’T WORK and should be cut out?
- What errors/missteps were there that cost me sales, and how can I fix them?
- How much did I spend on advertising, and what was our average lead cost?
- How much did I earn in revenue, profits, and what were my expenses?
- What did we NOT do, that could improve the next launch?
- Was this launch a win, a wash, or a failure?
- Was there a major objection I kept hearing from people?
- Was there a major reason people told me they were buying?
- Anything else I thought about during this launch that I need to remember for next time?
After you answer all these questions you’ll know a LOT about your launch and how you need to change it the next time around.
Asking the right questions can create massive growth in your business.
Once you have the answers to these questions - let’s get back to your current launch.
Get Results That Make Money
After you’ve completed your first 6-8 week run of your course in real time you should have a small group of “success stories” - regardless of what you teach.
Now with 25 people, you can expect 5-8 of them to get real results.
In reality, only 20% of people will DO THE WORK - it’s just the law of averages.
(It’s actually called the Pareto Principle, and it’s pretty universally accepted - so don’t stress over this fact toooooo much ;) )
Take a moment to get REALLY GOOD testimonials from these people so that you can create the social proof that your product works!
If you need help getting great testimonials - check out this resource I created for you.
Introduce The Uplevel
Now that you’ve gotten testimonials, and a product that sells - we have to do a LITTLE work on the branding.
You’re going to need a nice sales page. Notice I said nice, not expensive.
In my opinion, you’re not at a point where you don't need to be spending thousands on a sales page. Instead, what I would do is create a nice sales page with LeadPages.
If you struggle to get the page nice, DO YOUR BEST then hire a designer to do an audit of your sales page.
Rather than paying someone to design from scratch (aka spending the big bucks) do what you CAN do and then bring in an expert to consult on your existing work.
This was one of my secret weapons early on.
You’re also going to want to get your digital course on a real platform. I know that investing in a course platform can feel a bit risky - but remember, at this point you have dozens of customers and have proven the market value of your offer.
If you’re at this point - I recommend snagging the basic level of Kajabi to get started. It’s a little expensive, but it’s the BEST course software in my opinion… but to keep it unbiased a few others that you can explore are…
- Wishlist Member
- Zippy Course
And then ONE FINAL uplevel that I would introduce is hiring a designer for your handouts in your course. Even if it’s a “cheap” designer - DO IT.
Our first set of professionally designed workbooks cost $75 - and people LOVED THEM.
On some level - people know when you’re investing in your offers, don’t be cheap - be a good business owner.
So BEFORE we resell your course - you take it to the next level with four little things…
- Get RAVING testimonials from your pre-sale clients (click here for help with that)
- Build a sales page that takes it up a notch (I recommend LeadPages)
- Move onto a membership site platform (I recommend Kajabi)
- Hire a designer to improve at least one element of your offer
Debrief, Design, Improve….
So now that we’ve reviewed your past launched, designed your program, now we just have to improve your next launch.
Just to clear the air about the different “levels” of launches, what makes the difference between a $1k launch and a $10k launch… THE NUMBERS.
Yes, you are a business and this is a numbers game.
So let’s just reverse engineer a $10k launch of your finished course.
First thing, I would increase the price a bit, maybe to $300 - because remember, we told our audience the price would increase when it went live.
So now we just repeat the process from above with bigger numbers…
Reverse Engineering a $10,000 Launch
For this launch, I’m going to use the CHALLENGE as an example.
$10,000 at $300/person = 34 Units Sold
If you’re going to do a CHALLENGE and need 600-850 LEADS…
You think you can get 200 people signed up for free… (your reach has increased by now)...
850 TOTAL - 200 ORGANIC = 650 PAID LEADS NEEDED
At $2.00/lead, Your Budget Should be $1,300 for a $10,000 launch
Now all you do is REPEAT your launch with a finished sales page, improved offer, and a slew of testimonials!
As you start to increase the sales in your launches - your budget and technology will need to improve as well.
At first THIS IS SCARY - and I just want you to know that’s normal.
The first time we spent $10,000 on a launch I was SOOOO scared - now it’s just part of the game.
And when in doubt just remember this fine quote:
You don’t need to be fearless, you just need to do it anyways ;)
Moving From $16,001 - $50,000 | Suggested List Size: 2,000+
IT’S FOCUS TIME
Right about at this level is where people start to get antsy - they want to create another offer, another course, start the 1:1 coaching - etc.
I’m going to recommend that you stay focused on the one course that you’ve built so far.
Depending on how fast you move, you could be to this “level” in about 3-6 months of diligent and consistent effort.
At this level you have to start building some systems and relevance around the business. Now again - this is what I would do knowing what I know now.
I would do 3 key things….
- I would uplevel my course again
- I would start spending some money on ads and time on list growth
- I would plan for a $30-$40,000 launch rather than doing one-off promotions
Your Course Uplevel - Round 2
You might be asking why I would uplevel my course AGAIN if I just did it on the last launch…
Well there are a few reasons.
First you know have more working capital - hopefully, you’ve retained about $10,00 in profit, maybe taken $1,000 out to enjoy yourself a bit (remember, if you put 100% back in, business get’s real not fun, real fast)!
Second, if you improve the course while you have 50+ Students in it already - it creates a sense of goodwill and reciprocity.
People will vouch for you and the work that you do!
Third, the more you invest into improving the course, adding content, and improving the quality of the content, the higher the value will be and the more profitable you are, and the better results your students get! Win-win!
Some ideas for how to uplevel your course AGAIN include…
- Adding additional modules or training based on what people have said
- Getting a custom designed logo/slide deck/visuals
- Creating new bonuses based on objections from your last launches
- Adding in more live elements like live calls or training
Our goal here is to increase the value, and improve our current customers experience.
Get That List Growing
At this point in your business - getting your list to grow on a regular basis is going to become an essential part of your work.
Well as we continue to expand your business you’ll want to be creating content like blogs, podcasts, etc - all designed to build your list.
But how do you promote that content?
Well, when you have an email list - you just click send and you’re consistently creating value while marketing your content.
Some people get SUPER tripped up here, but it’s actually REALLY SIMPLE to keep your list growing… so here’s what I would do…
Create 1-2 social media posts a week that link back to either your free content with links to opt-in and/or directly to your freebie(s)
Run an ad for $5-$10 per day on ads that convert so you’re constantly adding in new leads to your business.
Send out weekly content to your email list that links back to your website, make it great content that inspires them to share.
Now I know that that is a REALLY simple version of what it takes to keep that list growing - so here’s a few resources from past podcast episodes that help with each of the above.
Really at this level you’re starting to enter influencer territory - so it helps to focus on creating amazing content, growing your leads, and then relaunching your offer.
Once you’ve got a good flow, a pre-sale & live launch under your belt - it’s time for a next level launch… $40,000.
Reverse Engineering a $40,000 Launch
Now at this point, I would introduce something NEW to the launch, I would introduce a second tier pricing option that looks like this.
For the $300 I’ve already sold, that’s now a DIY version. But for $600 - my buyers would get access to a Facebook Group, Live Calls, and maybe a bonus or two.
I’m now creating a VIP level for the program.
Now generally speaking about 35% of people will go VIP, so this changes our “sales number a bit”.
I won’t bore you with the math (because it’s a bit confusing to type out) - but basically if 35% of people buy up - the average sale price averages out to about $400. So now we’ve increased the value of our product - BOOM!
I would again launch with a challenge - because they are so stinkin’ simple and they convert:
$40,000 at $400/person = 100 Units Sold
If you’re going to do a CHALLENGE and need 1600-2500 LEADS…
You think you can get 400 people signed up for free…
2500 TOTAL - 400 ORGANIC = 2100 PAID LEADS NEEDED
At $2.50/lead, Your Budget Should be $5,250 for a $40,000 launch
Now again - I know that as these numbers start to climb, it can get a bit daunting - but to recap, in this launch, for every $1 that you put into ads, you’re generating a 500-800% ROI.
If that budget is too daunting, or scary, or uncertain - you can also do TWO $20,000 launches over 3-4 months. This is just a FRAMEWORK - you have to make it work FOR YOU!
So before you continue to the next step - you’ll want to repeat your launches like this to the $50,000 total revenue level, and then continue
(Note: The debrief and improvements are important at EVERY level - but I won’t keep mentioning them going forward - just know that you should evaluate EVERY launch you do)
Moving From $50,000 to Six-Figures | Suggested List Size: 3,000+
This is where it gets REALLY fun - because at this level there are SO many options….
- You could introduce affiliates to your offers
- Develop an evergreen offer
- Continue with the launch model
- Introduce 1:1 offers to fill part of the gap in revenue
I wanted to just highlight that while I’m going to suggest that you do a next level launch with “launch stacking” it’s 100% not the only way to take it to the next level - it’s just what I would do.
Start “Stacking Launches” In Your Favor
So launch stacking is this idea where you “stack” a couple of launch elements together in an effort to increase leads, increase engagement, and increase sales.
So rather than try to explain it in “theory” I’ll tell you what we did for our last launch.
We took a 5-day challenge and “stacked” 3 webinars on the back end of it…
It increased the number of leads in our promotion because we were able to be promoting 4 different offers for a longer period of time. So with more “entry points” to the launch, and a longer timeline, we can get more leads in total.
It increased engagement because people were able to join the Facebook Group, respond to emails, or join a webinar live.
I’ve found that when people can pick their poison, they are more likely to find one that resonates with them. We also know that the more elements someone goes through - the higher the conversion rate.
Example: If someone signs up for the webinar AND the challenge, their conversion rate nearly doubles.
It increases sales which makes perfect sense because if we have more total leads, that are overall more engaged, we should up with more sales too.
So now you want to combo a couple of your favorite types of launch elements - we’ve uplevel your course, now let’s uplevel your marketing. Some ideas include…
- Video Series
- Livestream Series
- Email Funnels
- Sales Calls
So pick a couple, stack em up - and let’s get to launching.
That Budget’s Getting Big…
So for the sake of this example, I’m going to pull my ACTUAL budget from a $60k launch that we did. (You can check out the full details on the launch here).
EXPENSES FOR OUR $60k LAUNCH = ~$9,000 (Ads & Contractors)
Now at this point you should have about 25-35k in PROFITS that you’ve made but spending almost $10,000 of that can feel daunting… and it is! But here’s a few things to keep in mind…
- You’ve know launched this offered SEVERAL times. You know what works, what doesn’t and now we’re just adding gasoline to our sale in the form of more ad spend.
- We’re not “guessing” if this offer is going to be well received we know it is - and if you follow your launch plan, you should remain profitable, even if it’s not as profitable as you want to be.
- Remember - it takes money to make money. As your business grows so does the expense, but trust me. On day one $100 like ads feels like a lot, and on day 1,000 it’s chump change. Your risk tolerance and anxiety will get better the more you launch.
At this point I probably wouldn’t go about launching twice closer to $20,000 I would go for the Mack Daddy - because that’s how you get to the more “lifestyle business” that most of us our chasing.
(Note: I can’t say that you WILL be profitable, or even guarantee it - but I can say - this is how I would do it!)
If you’re launching every month - you’re just building a really profitable trap.
Execute & Expand
Now all that’s left is to actually carry out the launch that you’ve planned.
At this point launching is second nature - you’ve been in the game for months. The budget has gone up, but so has your experience level.
I find that as you start doing these higher level launches with thousands of people watching your influence increases, your reach increases, and people really start to notice.
Not only does this plan get you PROFITABLE it’s also creating a brand for you to build on.
So get out there, pull off a big 50k+ launch - and then…. You’ve done it!
Six-Figures - Now What?
Hitting that “coveted” six-figure mark is just the beginning. Once you get to this point it’s time to start thinking about how to take it to the next level.
I joined a mastermind, which was a big scary investment - but there are other things that you can do to take it to the next level…
- Invest in a higher level coach
- Start joining the “expensive” and “elite” online courses
- Start traveling to events and networking
- Build strategic JV partnerships
- Start adding in affiliate marketing
- Create an additional product to start your second revenue stream
Six-figures is not the end - it’s the beginning of a whole new game.
With this map, you now have what you need to buy tickets!
So, I hope to see you at the big leagues ;)
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I’d love to know in the comments - what is ONE action item from this post that you are going to take and apply in your business in the next week