Did you read that headline and roll your eyes so hard that you saw some brain matter?
Listen I get it, everyone is talking about “online courses” and “what it takes” so before we dive into the actual content, I just want you to know that I’m sharing what WORKS FOR ME…
This isn’t a long post about theory and what should work…
I’ve launched digital courses to thousands of students, and created a sustainable business that lets me live my life the way I want.
This post is written based on what I know, what I’ve learned, and how my clients have seen results!
Oh, and just for reference here’s the three courses I sell (not all are currently open), their price points, and some quick data!
The 5-Figure Challenge - a complete course on launching with challenges, priced at $997 and has had MULTIPLE six-figure launches.
Rock Your FB Ads - an evergreen FB ads course, it’s a six-figure course that sells from our funnels and pop-up promotions - priced at $297.
Rock Your Livestreams - this is my baby; it launched when I founded my business years ago! It’s priced at $297, it’s gone through several facelifts, rebrands, and even entire re-builds! With over 750 students, this product put Heart, Soul & Hustle on the map!
I’m always iffy about just throwing this info out there, but I need to communicate something to you.
This isn’t another 400 word article with the goal of selling you a $97 product from my content upgrade.
Do we have a content upgrade? Totally!
Will I market my offers to you if they are relevant? You best believe it!
But am I simply repackage something I read with a price tag? Absolutely not!
This is How to Launch Your First Course as told by Zach, the owner of a successful course business and consultant to people in various niches.
No fluff-just what works!
So let’s do it!
First Steps - The Research Phase
When I first started my business I skipped this step.
Embarrassingly enough, I had a launch where almost everyone that bought (a whopping 3 people) ended up wanting a refund, exchange, or just weren’t happy with the program.
I have this saying now…
Too many course creators share a ton of what they know, but it doesn’t mean it is what their audience wants to learn.
I’ll meet you where you are; I know that “research” is boring, not really “fun,” and when all’s said and done, it’s still kind of confusing.
I get it, but I need you to trust me that with time, you’ll get better at research- and I’ll give you some tips on how to research your audience…
How to Do Market Research - The Basics
There are a million articles, tips, and even full blown programs over how to do research for your digital business, but I wanna help you keep it simple…
You will need:
- A small notebook
- A Good Pen (G2 Pilots for Lyfe!)
- A few hours
- An open mind
That’s it. Really!
Can researching be more… extensive? TOTALLY!
But all I want is for you to pick one or two of the following Research strategies (I’ll share 3 total), implement them and take notes on what you see.
Write down what your audience is saying. Write down what you’re seeing. Write down quotes that stand out.
If you think you should save it, write it!
We’ll distil this information in a few steps…
Research Option: Forums, Reddit or Online Communities
The first way to do research is to check out online forums and just lean in and listen to what people are saying. Believe it or not, I’ve built business in the past leveraging the power of online communities!
Why are these communities so powerful?
Forums and places like Reddit are, by design, a place where people go to share everything they need help with and their problems.
Don’t worry - in a second I’ll show you HOW to find these communities!
Then the community comes in, and they don’t just give answers- they create a dialogue.
So you can go into forums and read the major problems that exist in your niche, and then you can continue to read…
The solutions to that problem that the community enjoys.
The objections that people have to those solutions.
The core desires that underlie the solution they are searching for.
Here are a couple ways to find these online communities:
Search Reddit for a subreddit that has your ideal customer.
Search Google for “[your niche] + subreddit” to find forums within Reddit.
Search Google for “[your niche] + forum” and find online forums/communities
Search Google for “[your niche] + blogs” and find popular blogs and read the comments for a similar effect
Seriously, now that I understand the power of reading forums and online communities, the data I get is CRAZY!
To keep it “actionable,” here are a few things to watch for on forums or Reddit:
What questions asked in the forum pop up A LOT?
What questions are being asked often, but are not getting great answers?
What major “issues” or “objections” does this audience have to the solutions you already see?
What are some unique solutions you know of that are not addressed in the group?
Are there any “gaps” or “missing information” that you think would help this community?
What do they LOVE seeing?
What do they HATE seeing?
Of course you can take notes on anything that you see, but answering these question are a great place to start.
Action Item: Block of 2 hours of time to find a popular forum or two in your niche and start doing some research.
Research Option: Spying in Facebook Groups
I want to start this second research option by saying I’m suggesting you WATCH Facebook groups.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT GO INTO FACEBOOK GROUPS AND START JUST ASKING RESEARCH QUESTIONS.
Well for one, it doesn’t really work. Trust me. You end up getting data from so many different types of people if you get any data at all. Just as often, all you hear are crickets.
Most of these posts fall flat, so please trust me.
So instead of just going out and asking what your audience wants, you’re just going to go into popular Facebook groups in your niche and pay quiet attention.
Much like the forums, watch for questions that are coming up a lot. Also be on the lookout for questions that are coming up a lot, but not getting great answers.
I love Facebook Groups for research because 90% of the posts are people asking for help. They are literally asking for SOLUTIONS.
Remember, we’re in the business of creating solutions!
You’re essentially doing the exact same thing I recommend that you do in forums, except it’s just a completely different “experience” on Facebook.
A few things to note that make Facebook groups a “separate” research option.
People in closed groups are generally there with the need for an “answer” to a problem it’s usually easier to find.
Generally speaking, finding an active FB group takes less time, and it’s easier to “read through” than a forum.
In a group it’s easy to see topics that are “hot” and “not” just based on an engagement.
So are groups better than forums? Not really.
They each have their own benefit and be a great source of inspiration for research.
But Facebook groups have a low barrier of entry; there’s a good chance you’re already in one, and it’s incredibly easy to find them!
Action Item: Block of 2 hours of time to find a popular Facebook Group in your niche and start doing some research.
Advanced Research Option: Survey Your Audience
This is my FAVORITE way to do research!
There is something about the magic of surveys that I just love. Maybe it’s the data nerd in me that loves just looking at the spreadsheet of answers!
Here’s what makes survey so powerful: they are direct answers from your audience about what they need help with!
Surveys are an advanced strategy for one simple reason:
In order to do an effective and useful survey - you need to already have a decent sized audience.
Now, when I say decent-sized, I just mean an email list of at least 250-500 people.
The fastest and easiest way to survey is to shoot a quick email to your list asking them some key questions. For example:
- What do you struggle the most with?
- What do you want more/less of?
- Demographic info (age, income, etc).
Now, you can just straight up send an email with 3 questions, but you really need to actually go in and create a survey using something like SurveyMonkey or TypeForm.
Surveys are their own topic, but lucky for you, I’ve this awesome resource just for you on the podcast.
Inside this episode I chat with Jason Van Orden about how to craft surveys to your list that actual get answers - and I have a link to the template we use!
If you think that you have enough of an audience I HIGHLY recommend that a survey become part of your research.
Action Item: Plan, write and send an survey to your email list. Allow 2-3 days to collect responses.
The Distilling Process - Turning Data into Content
If you’ve followed my advice up to this point, you should have a notebook jampacked with things you’ve noticed about your audience (or maybe a Google Doc if you’re more with the times than me, haha).
This is where things get fun. What you have is a list of your audience’s major problems, and people pay money to solve problems.
Take a 1-2 hour block of time to answer the following questions…
- What MAJOR problems did I uncover within my audience?
- What MAJOR problems did I find that don’t currently have a good answer?
- What MAJOR problems did I uncover that people are already paying for solutions to?
- If I’m able to solve this problems, what underlying DESIRE does this meet (more time, more money, more self-confidence, etc)?
- How does this audience like to consume information (written, audio, video, other)?
- If I was going to solve one of these problems for them, what would I need to do that? (A course, a coaching offer, an ebook, etc?)
Don’t take these questions lightly. Spend an HOUR reading them, thinking about them, and cross referencing your notes.
When we go into a launch we SCOUR this information before we write emails, sales page, or content; if we start with what they already WANT, we know that we’re creating a product with demand.
Oh, and can I let you in on a little secret?
Our best selling programs find ONE problem, and speak directly to it- that’s how we stay profitable.
Action Item: Take an hour to analyze the data you’ve collected and answer some of these major questions.
Final Step - From Research to THE ONE THING
So now you know what your audience really wants-their desires.
What they see as the major roadblock- the problems they see.
Now all there is to do is to spend a little bit of time figuring out what you can do to solve this problem with THE ONE THING.
What is “The One Thing?”
The “One Thing” is a concept I was introduced to by my mentor, James Wedmore when I started working with him almost 2 years ago.
He asked me a really powerful question every time we wanted to create a product or a launch:
“What is the ONE THING that this program does, and what problem does it solve?”
There are a lot of programs out there, but what makes a program stand out ISN’T being the all-in-one, go-to solutions.
It’s doing an AMAZING job at solving one issue.
So how do we turn your research into ONE THING?
Here’s a simple fill-in-the-blank script to give you a jumping off point:
The biggest problem my audience has is _________________ and I can solve this problem by (showing them, giving them, etc) ___________________ which will allow them to ________________ and that really speaks to their desire to ________________.
I know that doesn’t make a ton of sense outright, so here it is applied to my Facebook Ads Program:
The biggest problem my audience has with Facebook Ads is they feel like they are spending money without seeing a return and I can solve this problem by showing them how to write and position their ads in their business to directly generate revenue which will allow them to run Facebook Ads that builds their business every time and that really speaks to their desire to stress less about sales in their business and create the revenue that allows them to get back to the things in life that make them happy!
Notice how rather than saying “I teach Facebook Ads” I’m able to zero on on the fact that we’re solving their “I’m losing money” problem.
This allows me to be “different” from the competition, stand out in a crowded space, and then build a product that actually has an audience.
Now, let’s have some #RealTalk:
This is just to get you started about finding the “selling features” of your first product. After you sell this for the first time, your first class of students is going to improve your data.
But by doing some research and finding what makes your offer unique and in-demand you’re already leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Action Step: Write out the ONE THING statement about your course idea to make sure there is a need in the market place for it!
Time to Map Out The Course…
Now down the road you’re going to see that at this stage I don’t recommend a full-blown sales page for various reasons, so don’t get ahead of yourself yet!
At this stage we just need to map out the key promise of your digital course, how you want to deliver it, and how you want to launch it.
Mapping out the content of your course is actually PRETTY SIMPLE (so don’t make it overly complicated).
Start with your promise and ask how can I get them from where they are now in 6-12 steps… and think HIGH LEVEL STEPS…
By high level, I mean imagine that for each step, you have 1-2 hours to TEACH that content...
The number of steps it takes will turn into the number of “weeks” or “modules” your founding member course has (this will make sense as you keep reading - promise)!
I know that it sounds overly simple, but it REALLY IS. The major stress of “creating” a course is removed because we’ve determined EXACTLY what your audience wants to learn, and as you're going to learn with the “founding member” concept - any gaps that you miss will be filled in with audience feedback.
Create a SIMPLE skeleton of what you want your course to cover, and then let’s move on to the title and delivery mechanism.
The Title & Delivery Of Your Course…
The title of your course should be based on the ONE THING you create. Looking back at my courses, my biggest regret in naming them is that it’s not clear what the courses delivered from the name.
My bestselling course (The 5-Figure Challenge) is named based on EXACTLY what customer can expect to create when they buy it.
There are so many ways that you can deliver you course, but I’m going to recommend one of two ways:
Weekly Live Webinars/Masterclasses + A Facebook Group
Weekly Email Courses Assignments + A Facebook Group w/ Weekly FB Lives
Weekly Live Webinars
These are not the common webinars that you think of with 40-45 minutes of content. Instead, it’s taking the content of your course and breaking it up into 6-12 weeks on “content blocks” that you deliver live.
The benefits of doing a course this way are that it’s a lot easier to create it in real time, you don’t need a big membership site, and you can have very intimate interaction with your members.
I recommend using something like Zoom.us where both you and your students can be on video/audio together.
Note: As you’ll learn in the next step, your first course launch will only be 10-20 students so having weekly zooms is completely manageable.
An email course can be amazing for both you and your audience because it lowers the barrier to entry. Basically, you’ll send weekly (or daily) emails with a training and/or assignment for them.
This means that the cost to you is small, and the amount of tech required is minimal.
I know people making $10k+ per month with entirely email based courses-don’t assume that you need a ton of videos, professional slides, and all that to make it happen.
If you do an email course and you want to maintain that “connection” with your audience, all you have to do is add a Facebook Group and do a Facebook Live every week where you can connect with your audience.
I know that this section is simple, and short, but I promise the hardest part of building the course is doing it. Spend 1-2 hours, review your research, map it out, and trust the process.
If you’re still not sure which way to go, you might wanna listen to this interview I did with Mariah Coz where she talks about how to create digital products and how many options are out there!
Time for Some Founding Members - Your “Beta Launch”
Now, if you’ve been following me for any amount of time then you know that I think the BEST way to launch a program is to “pre-sell” it before you ever built it.
Why does this work so well?
First, it means you’re not spending hours building a program that might not sell!
Second, it VALIDATES that you’ve got something people will pay for based on your research.
Third, it allows you to bring in some cash that you can take a little bit out to CELEBRATE your success, and then use the remainder to build out the program, buy software, and hire help as needed!
Here’s what makes a beta launch easy: you don't have to spend weeks on content, or even do a full blown “launch.”
The key things to understand about this first launch:
- Since you haven’t built it yet, it’s essentially zero risk.
- Positioning being a founding member (what I call my beta students) as a good thing for your audience can make selling easier. Discount the program, let them know they will help shape it over time
- The goal is to get a “core” group of students (not making $100,0000; this is just getting our first profitable product into the world!
You know I LOVE to talk about launching so I’m going to have a ton of resources in this section, but I want to walk you through the basics of building your list and THEN launching.
FULL DISCLAIMER: I PREFER TO USE A LAUNCH TO BUILD MY LIST, BUT I KNOW THAT THIS IS WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ASK FOR SO I’M PRESENTING IT AS ONE OF TWO OPTIONS.
Build a List THEN Launch?
Over the past 3-4 years, there has been a massive shift online where everyone wants to build a list and I totally get it.
We here things like “the money is in your list.” So, we run out and try to build a list.
The BIGGEST benefit of having a list built before you launch is that you don’t have to worry about generating leads during a launch. That can be a huge stress-reducer.
That being said, you then have to spend time building the list, sending them content, and working to get the list to a level where you feel ready to launch.
If you’re looking for 10 students in your founding member class, I recommend building the list to 250-500 people first.
In a second, I’m gonna break down how to get your list to 500 pretty “quick” from a 20,000 foot view.
But if you’re someone that likes more details and trainings, I’ve got you covered.
These two resources on my site deal directly with building your list:
- Blog: The Ultimate Guide to Build Your List
- Podcast: How to Get Your First (or Next) 100 People On Your List
So now let’s dive into the simple 5-step process for building your list…
1. Find a Problem You Can Create a Freebie Around
This is actually pretty easy because you did RESEARCH for your course already. You’re just going to pick on of the major problems you uncovered to create a freebie around.
Remember, the freebie doesn’t have to solve the problem entirely (in fact, it shouldn’t); it’s going to give them a little 15-20 minute “resource” that allows them to start working on their problem.
A few ideas for a freebie are:
- Creating a simple checklist
- Developing a one-page worksheet
- A 15-20 minute audio training or resource
- A short video training or resource
- A live masterclass (without a pitch)
These are just a few ideas, but pick one and run with it- don’t stress over being perfect.
Pick an idea, move to step 2.
2) Create Your Freebie
That’s it! Carve out ONE HOUR MAX to build the freebie.
Tim Paige over at LeadPages showed me something very important during one of his trainings. He said that “The amount of time spent making a freebie is not directly connected to how many people will download it.”
I’m not saying make crap, but I am saying spending a week to make it PERFECT is not a smart business move.
Build it, release it, and refine it over time!
3) Set Up Your Landing Page
I personally love using LeadPages for my landing page.These landing pages are just pages where people can put in their name and email in exchange for your PDF.
The really awesome thing is because you’ve already done audience research on your proposed topic, you have copywriting research done.
Write a few lines about the problem you’re solving, connect the landing page to your autoresponder (I recommend ConvertKit if you’re just starting out) and then you’re ready to drive traffic!
4) Start Promoting
Your goal is to get 250-500 people on your list.
Again, these two resources on my site deal directly with building your list:
- Blog: The Ultimate Guide to Build Your List
- Podcast: How to Get Your First (or Next) 100 People On Your List
Here are the three things I recommend at this stage:
Plan 30-60 days of organic promotion with the audience you already have (no matter how small). This can include things like livestream on Facebook, posting on Instagram, etc.
Just commit to plugging your freebie somewhere every day for the next 30 days. Small deliberate action adds up fast!
I’d also set aside $200-$250 in Facebook Ad spend if you can afford it.
Well, at this stage you don’t need a massive list, but ads can make it WAY FASTER to actually build up your list.
Just a few decades ago, opening up a business required a massive bank loan, a big business plan, and maybe even investors.
Today with a SPEND of $250, you can be building up a list of leads that are ready to buy.
I won’t mince words: business costs money. If you’re serious about starting a BUSINESS and not just building a course that maybe sells, spend some money on your business even if it hasn’t paid in spades yet.
(Note: don’t go into debt over it, but be willing to take some risks!)
5) Starting Sending Content
Once you start building the list, commit at least 30-60 minutes each week to write and send them good content.
This can be blog posts, podcasts, even just links to live videos on Facebook.
It is really important that you keep the people on your list engaged, or else when you’re ready to launch after hitting your goal.
Just send them updates with what you’re working on in the form of:
- Email Newsletters (with no links to content)
- Blog Posts
- Videos on YouTube
It’s not too important (at this stage) to stress over EXACTLY what to send- it’s more important to focus on creating value related to the course you want to sell.
Launch With a Video & 5 Emails…
Now you get to launch your product out to the world, and I want to show you how to do this with just 5 emails, and a simple LeadPage landing page. Are you in?
Now, I find that people get SUPER tripped up with launching because they feel like there are so many movings parts, but we can make your first launch SUPER simple.
The first thing is I would choose a LeadPages Template that has a space for a video of you, and a button that people can click on to take them to the “buy” page (whether you use paypal, or some other payment platform).
Then I would record a 10-15 minute video of you just talking to the camera. Use a webcam, use your laptop, just shoot a video, and don’t stress over perfection.
The key things to cover in this video:
- Introduce yourself and tell people what you do. (1 min)
- Talk about the problems you found in your research phase and let your audience know that you see their pain. (2-3 mins)
- Introduce your offer and communicate that it’s a special discount for “founding members” and this is the only chance to get it at this price and also mention that founding members help shape the course. (1-2 mins)
- Review the value of your offer. Talk about the BENEFITS of working with you-not just what you’ll be covering inside the course. (3-4 mins)
- Give them a call to action and talk them through the checkout process so they know what to expect. (1-2 mins)
- Remind them of a DEADLINE. You’re only going let founding members join for a limited amount of time. I recommend 5-7 days from the time you send the first sales email, which we’ll cover in a second. (1-2 mins)
Now, you might be wondering if this will work because it’s not a full blown sales page-and the answer is… yes!
It works because you’re positioning the discount and the deadline to move them into action. You’re also letting them know this is a founding member class-meaning they are willing to sacrifice a bit of superficial beauty for early access.
The 5 Emails…
I recommend sending these emails over the course of about 10-14 days. These will be the only thing you need to do to launch.
Email #1 - Open With a Story
If you did the research phase of this process, you have an entire list of problems that your audience is dealing with. Write a 500+ word email with ZERO LINKS and tell a story from your life that relates to the problems they are facing.
You want to make sure to talk about how you FELT being in their position. Lead with emotion.
Then you end the email with something along these lines:
Even though I was going through this tough time, I was able to find a solution. I’ll tell you more about that in the next email- keep an eye on your inbox.
This is an email marketing strategy called “open looping” and it plays into people’s need for “closure” so they are more likely to read email two.
Email #2 - The Closing of the Story
Your second email picks up right where the last one ended. You’re going to end the story that relates to their struggle, and share the part where you overcame this obstacle.
If you’ve created a system or “blueprint” that’s a key part of your course, now is the time to start talking about it. At this point, we’re just showing your audience that you KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THEIR STRUGGLE and that you have gotten past it.
Then you’ll end the email with something along these lines:
Now you might be wondering how YOU can implement this process in your life, because I get it-you want results too! Keep an eye on your inbox because in the next day or two I’ll be sending over something you won’t want to miss.
Email #3 - The Sales Email
In this email reference the story you’ve been telling your audience, and then unveil that you have a new program that you’re building. It’s only open to 10-20 people, and the doors are closing in just a few days.
In this email focus on the BENEFITS of joining the program, and the transformation that people can expect to see in their business/life/body/etc. Yes, you want to let them know what modules you’re including, but more important is what those modules will do for them!
This is your chance to SHINE BRIGHT AND SELL-don’t hold back!
Then remember to link it up to your leadpage with the 15 minute video and the countdown timer!
Email #4 - Case Study/Results/Imagine Email
Send this email 2-3 days after the last email and share why people should be joining your program. I see this as a chance for you to offer up 1 of 3 things:
- If you’ve worked one-on-one and have client case studies , tell a client's story of going through the transformation you’re selling! Most people connect with other “non gurus” a lot easier than they will connect with the person doing the selling.
- If you don’t have a case study, talk about what results are possible based on your expertise in the industry. Break down barriers, get real, tell them the true time and financial cost-most experts don’t do this so makes you stand out.
- If you’re at a total loss you can simple do the “Imagine” email. Quite simply, you ask them to imagine how different their life could be if they took your program and ran with it. Then you invite them to join before it’s too late!
Email #5 - Still Not Sure It’s Right?
Send this email the morning before the doors close.
This email simply answers the questions that you’ve been getting over the past week. If you’ve built a list and you’ve got people interested in the program, you are going to get questions on social media and in your inbox.
If one person has a question, or multiple people have that question, spell it all out for them. Here are a few important questions to answer if you’re not getting a ton of a feedback:
- What happens after I hit buy?
- How long is this program?
- What kind of results can I expect?
Beyond that, keep it niche specific and remind them that in just a few short hours their chance to join is going away!
(Optional) Email #6 - Last Chance
Only send out this email if you haven’t filled all 10-20 spots, and send it about 3-4 hours before the cart closes.
This email is simple a last minute push-lots of people decide to buy LAST MINUTE (like down to the wire) so it’s a quick chance to say, “The wire is here, Homie!”
First Launch - In The Bag…
Once you send out these 5 emails and push people to a paid offer, you have completed your first launch and I want you to know…
No matter how the launch goes, you did it!
So many people will never even make it to the point of asking for money in exchange for their offer, but not you!
Learn from your launch and repeat if necessary.
I’ve had plenty of “failed” launches, but it’s only a true failure if you don’t learn, calibrate, and come back strong!
Launch Option 2 - Use the Launch to Build The List (Quicker)
The second way to launch your product is a LOT faster, but it can also take a bit more time and require a little more investment which tends to scare people away.
Everything in business requires one of two resources: time and money.
Usually- the less you have of one, the more you need to compensate with the other.
So how does launching to build your list work?
Rather than create a freebie and driving traffic to it , instead do a webinar, challenge, or other live launch and use THAT to build your list during the launch!
The major advantage is that it’s all happening at once so you can build and launch all within the space of a week.
That’s going to require one or more of the following:
Spending money on advertising to reach new people if you have no audience.
An existing email list or social media presence to market to.
A network of people with good reach willing to promote on your behalf.
Budget. Reach. Network.
Full disclosure- if you don’t have at least ONE of the above you’re want to go with a slow launch, but keep in mind at some point during the process on EITHER SIDE you’re going to have to spend some money to make progress.
The Webinar/Masterclass Option
If you’re going to launch to build your list, the first option is to run a webinar.
Drive people to the registration page and get them on your list. Then, run the webinar and at the end pitch your founding member offer.
Now, what’s really cool about a webinar is that you don’t even need a sales page if you do it this way- from the webinar you can link them RIGHT to the checkout page.
I know successful digital business owners doing this (no sales page) with $997 products, and I’ve done it with $297 products- it works!
The big NEGATIVE to running a webinar is that it’s not as easy as teach for 45 mins, pitch, and get paid.
There’s an art and a science to this- some of my webinars have taken a year or more to get them converting where I want them. So here’s the thing, for this section I’m going to recommend one of my FAVORITE people as a resource, Amy Porterfield!
She’s got a rockin’ podcast, Online Marketing Made Easy, and she’s THE GO-TO on webinars, anytime I can get her eyes on my content, I will do whatever it takes!
Here’s a few EPIC episodes to listen to help you map out your webinar…
Seriously, if you’re gonna do webinars, listen to Amy FIRST!
I personally follow her webinar system and have used it in $150,000+ launches-it works.
The 5-Day Challenge Option
So I freakin’ LOVE 5-day challenges.
They are actually pretty simple to get setup, and they are a minimal time/cost investment to make them happen!
The concept is simple. Show people what it’s like to work with you for 5-days, give them some intro level content and results, and then offer your pre-launch for sale.
I’ve written (and talked on my podcasts) EXTENSIVELY about this topic, so rather than cram an entire topic in this already jam-packed post, I recommend that you check these resources I’ve made on challenges!
If you read through and listen to the above, you’ll have the basics of how to get started with a 5-day challenge as a launch for your program
You Have 10-20 Founding Members. Now What?
Once you’ve sold the limited number of spots, you have your founding members it’s time to create what I call The Founding Member Experience.
This early in the game you may not have all the fancy tools, an amazing designer on retainer, and a team at your beck-and-call.
But you DO have the ability to show up 100% for your students. Blow them away with what you share, and give them more support than they paid for.
These students will become the voice, face, and ambassadors of your program so don’t squander it.
The Goal: Create a Program in Real Time
Prior to selling your program, you’ve outlined the basics of what’s included and you’ve used that to sell. The minute details are something you’re going to work out in real time!
First, I recommend a new student survey! When people join your product send them a survey that covers some important questions…
- Why did you decide to join this program?
- What is your number one problem right now?
- What are you hoping to get out of this program?
- Is there anything you’d like me to cover in this program?
Once you have these answers, you’re not creating the core content based on what YOU know. You’re basing it off what they want.
Pro Tip: Google Forms is a FREE survey tool you can use to build out a simple student survey
Now, there are really two ways to build this content in real time-and it’s entirely up to you because neither is better or worse.
The first is to simply do a live training every week and share your content in real time, then give the recordings to all the students.
The second is to actually use an online course platform and BUILD the course in real time. This one takes a bit more work so I really only recommend it if you’re working on your business full time already.
If you do the first option, you’ll simply have to “re-build” the course at the end with student feedback.
As you build the course in REAL TIME you’re going to start seeing unexpected roadblocks for your students. This allows you to create content and bonuses that speak to them and allow your course to shine a cut above the rest.
Get Those Reviews In Writing
One of the majors things that can make a launch successful are quality case studies and testimonials, and a founding member group is the PERFECT environment to collect these!
In a small group you start to get to really intimately know your students. You can identify the rockstars, give support to those that need it, and really create an experience that people love!
Simply put, you can craft a 5-star experience on a budget!
As the first live run of your course comes to a close, it’s your chance to collect the testimonials and case studies that will FUEL your future launches.
Just for reference, in a group of 20 buyers, expect 4-6 people to rock it out and give you testimonials. No matter how hard you work there will ALWAYS be people that buy and never show up, never do the work, and never see results.
Your job isn’t to make everyone a success story-it’s to give it everything you’ve got, be open and available, and to give your all to those that show up too!
But Zach, how do I get them to actually write reviews for me?
I’m so glad you asked! I’ve got a 30 minute podcast you can listen to that details EXACTLY how we collect reviews of our courses so that we’re able to use them in our marketing.
From Founding Members to Finished Course
Once you finish the first run of your course, the real fun starts because you’ve done some really incredible stuff regardless of how you got here…
- You’ve built a list of qualified leads and sold a product to them (aka you’re legit in business)!
- You’ve validated a product idea by selling it.
- You’ve gotten feedback from BUYERS that have told you how to make a course that speaks to their needs and wants.
- You’ve “finalized” your curriculum and presented it to a group of students.
- You’ve collected case studies and testimonials that will allow you to crush your launch.
You’ve done the IMPORTANT WORK to building a course that will actually hold it’s own in the market place!
Now’s the Time to Review & Refine
It’s super tempting to just take your content and push it out to the world, but remember that founding member feedback was a HUGE part of our strategy to a successful course- and we’re not done with that yet!
Before you put the course into the world, send out an exit survey to your founding members and ask them what they did and didn’t enjoy.
Let people know that this is a safe place for them to be critical.
Take that feedback and break it into TWO categories…
- IMPORTANT information that students needed, but isn’t making sense, or is missing from the course.
- SUPPLEMENTAL information that students expressed an interest in want more of, but isn’t vital to the core curriculum.
We’ll use this information to refine your course…
The IMPORTANT Information
The things that student’s have identified as important need to be incorporated into the main curriculum/modules of the digital course.
It can be hard to hear, but you need to incorporate this information in the way that is most accessible for future students, not in the way that is easiest for you.
This could mean rebuilding an entire week of content or it could mean adding in an extra training video one week. The key is to make it accessible to the STUDENTS-not you!
Note: Course creators that put students first are rare. Be different, stand out!
The SUPPLEMENTAL Information
As your students start to find things that they want additional training in, you’re going to see a couple really awesome opportunities pop up.
The first is bonus content. As you probably know, most online courses are sold with a few bonuses, but how do people come up with those?!
You don’t have to!
you have a list of things that people think would ultimately enhance the value of the course from your surveys. Total Win!
I recommend taking 3-5 of these supplemental topics that you’ve found and create some bonuses around them.
A few quick bonus ideas….
- Bonus Video Trainings (25-30 Mins)
- Bonus Workbooks/Worksheets
- Checklists, Calculators, & Tools
- Software Discounts Or Special Offers
Once you’ve pulled a few bonuses, something REALLY amazing happens…
There’s going to be at least one or two things that you think “wow that is a way too in depth topic to add onto my course…”
You know officially have additional topics to create future courses, blog posts, podcasts, and content from.
This data is the highest quality because it’s come from PAID students that have gone through you content and actually KNOW that is what they want more of…
Believe it or not, this is how one of our highest selling products, The 5-Figure Challenge, was born.
So many of my students were saying, “Please teach me to launch!” so we created a launch course and it’s now done over $300,000 in sales - this is a strong step to take!
Once you’ve got a few ideas pulled out, sorted, and ready to go, it’s time to move into the last piece of the refining: the analysis.
Unleash Your Inner Numbers Nerd…
Before you go into your first “public launch” you need to crunch some of the numbers from your very first launch.
Now, full disclaimer this is a much simpler version of a process that I outline in a previous episode of my podcast:
You may wanna check that out for a listen along with checking out the resource for additional insight.
The key metrics we need to calculate are:
- Total Leads In Founding Member Launch
- Total Founding Member Sales
- Conversion Rate
- Cost Per Lead (If You Ran Ads)
- Earnings Per Lead
Total Leads In Founding Member Launch
This is just the number of people that you ran the promotion to. This gives you an overall sense of how many people it took to fill up your founding member offer.
Conversion Rate = (Total Leads /Total Sales) x 100
This number is important because it tells you how well your promotion actually did. If it’s below 2% it means the marketing messages didn’t land, so you want to ask your audience why they bought and focus on THOSE problems the next launch.
Cost Per Lead (CPL) = Total Ad Spend / Total Leads (From Ads)
This number tells you what you paid on average per lead on your list and in the launch - it’ll be useful for determining the budget in your first big launch.
Note: If you didn’t run ads you just won’t have a CPL, but you can sub in a $2.50 in the next step.
Earnings Per Leads (EPL) = Total Sales ($ Amount) / Total Leads in Launch
This number tells you how much each person that signs up for your launch is “worth.” I know that this can be a little confusing, but this is a POWERFUL number.
Once you have your EPL, you know how much you can SPEND PER LEAD with your Facebook ads and still make money!
For example if your EPL is $10, you know that anything up to $10 a lead on ads is PROFIT!
Using these numbers for future launches...
Once you have these key numbers, you can set the goal for your first big public launch, I recommend shooting for 2-4 times the sales you earned in your founding member launch.
I think the easiest way to explain this is to use an example to show you how it would work…
First thing is set a revenue goal, so for this example I’m going to use $10,000.
Take your revenue goal and divide it by your EPL (I’m going to use an EPL of $20) and this will give you the total number of leads you would need in your promo…
$10,000 Goal / $20 EPL = 500 Leads
We now know based on our past data if we want a $10k launch, we need 500 people to sign up. EASY!
Now, if you’ve spent money on ads you can multiply your CPL by the leads you need to set an estimated budget. So let's imagine our CPL is $1.75.
500 Leads x $1.75/lead = $875 Budget on Ads
We haven’t talked about this much up to this point but doing a founding member launch also gives you hard data to work with so that you can accurately PLAN your next launch.
So What Comes Next...
At this point you have everything you need to start doing these “launches” that you see everyone talking about.
You’ve got a course wrapped up and ready to sell, and now you just have to launch it again and scale up - that’s it!
First, if you enjoyed this post and want to launch your FIRST COURSE make sure you download the “First Course Playbook” for free right here…
And once you have that course built and done here are some “next level” launching resources that I can point you too: