Course creators are a special breed of people. They get terrific course ideas. Then without a 2nd thought, they throw time and money into turning their course idea, into a course. This post explains how you can validate your online course before creating it.
Unfortunately, 85% of course creators apparently overlook – validating their course idea.
This is an all-important step to avoid wasting a lot of their time and money building a course that no one will buy. Validating a course idea seems like an obvious thing to do, BUT far too many times this vital step is completely ignored.
Why? It could be because we course creators:
Believe we already know what our audience wants
We just know they will pay for what we offer
We’re anxious to actually begin creating something
We rush through the course research phase, where course validation actually happens
We don’t know how to validate
A combination of any/all of the above
I’m a big fan of validating any course I think of building, upfront. I cannot tell you the number of times this approach has saved me a ton of grief, time and money.
I strongly recommend spending time and energy upfront to confirm what you’re about to build is something people want AND are willing to pay for.
When you validate your course idea and find out it’s not, then pivot. Build course that will be. You’ll save a ton of time and money and you’ll move to something more profitable for you.
Validate your course idea and you’ll multiply your chances of building a course that will sell successfully. Your course will have the power of earning back all you’ve spent on creating it. It will also make you a tidy profit on top.
In this post, I’m going to explore 5 techniques you can use to make sure the course you’re thinking of creating, will sell.
Technique #1. Share Your Idea
Here’s a big mistake made by course creators. They keep their course idea hidden from everyone while spending time and money creating their course.
What works is if you share your course idea with others.
When you share your course idea with others, it starts getting refined. A refined idea is much more mature idea.
Course feedback from trusted people to total strangers is what helps refine your course idea. This helps you, the course creator, to deliver superior course to your participants.
One reason I’ve heard often about not sharing your course idea with others is the possibility that others may take your course idea and run with it.
This is always a risk. That said, remember it’s your idea, you are committed to it. Hence, it’s very likely YOU! Who’ll see the course idea morph into a real course. This is true, because most people do not act on the knowledge they have. It’s just too much trouble.
You are an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs don’t just think or talk about their course ideas. They go out and make their course ideas, happen.
The more you share your course idea, the better the more mature that idea becomes. It could also become apparent that the course idea is not a good one.
Share your course idea with friends, family, people in your mastermind group, people in your community and even complete strangers! Listen carefully to what people are saying back to you.
Use your own value system to separate sound advice from useless advice. Discard the useless advice. Act on the good advice. Choose wisely.
You’ll be surprised how your course will mature and become richer for your participants.
Technique #2. Identify Similar Courses That Already Exist.
Far too many course creators think that competition is BAD. It’s as though they feel someone has beaten them to creating and publish – their course.
Entrepreneurs, however, know that competition is a GOOD. Especially if you someone has created a course like what you had in mind. Consider yourself lucky to discover this before you spend time and money to create your course.
Because someone else has already spent time and money to validate your course idea for you!
You have the terrific advantage of bringing out your course later. You know there is a market for your course. Your course can fill all the gaps in knowledge and skill delivery in your competitor’s course.
By studying your competitor’s course closely, perhaps even joining it, the course you create can be the measurably better one.
For example, when you are considering creating a course, search a course directory like Udemy.
See if a course like it already exists.
Check how popular the course is.
Check how many people have joined the course
Read the recommendations they’ve left
Discover and tabulate what they are happy about
Figure out what participants want more of
Discover and tabulate with they are unhappy about
Figure out what participants feel is missing.
Document all such information carefully.
Your ultimate goal is to create a measurably better version of what already exists.
Give people want they want – Oh YES!
Give them a better version of what they are already getting. That’s what drives sales
Technique #3. Pay Attention to Signs.
I’d received a lot of feedback from participants in my earlier courses. Feedback which indicated they wanted a more interactive way of learning. Compared to just reading a lot of text written in a web page. Irrespective of how well formatted the textual content is.
In response I introduced videos via which I drove my course lessons home. There was a lot of visual movement in the videos. While I delivered what they had to learn via voice.
I found that the combination of PPT (with animation) driven videos and the carefully created supportive script was a instant and huge hit with my participants.
At other times, I discovered the signs are not so clear. I experienced a sudden drop in course participants.
I was wondering why? I sent out a survey to all my participants. I gave them an irresistible offer, to get survey forms filled.
I got back a large number of filled survey forms.
From the survey form content I learned that participants missed a one on one interaction with me, the course creator.
Looking at and listening to a well created / edited video was just not enough. Many course participants were losing interest in my course content, after paying in full. Many were not completing my course.
Almost no one asked of a refund at all, hence the drop out behavior did not catch my attention.
I immediately started, twice weekly, Office hours.
Using a Zoom meeting room, twice a week at a fixed time each day, I’m made myself personally available for voice/video chat.
I discovered no strange questions were being thrown at me. Questions asked were often pretty run of the mill. Sometimes I suspected the questioner actually know the answer to the question being asked.
What participants really wanted was to talk to me. Some wanted to know that I cared. I just had to make myself available to them for fixed times in a day.
A huge increase in people completing my courses.
A huge increase in word of mouth publicity for me.
It’s all about reading your ideal course participants.
Then creating that solution they are searching for desperately.
Although they may not (and often are not) asking you directly in a completely obvious way.
Technique #4. Create A Mini Version Of Your Course First.
My eyes opened to this process when I read the stories about people who started Food Trucks.
They were in fact aspiring brick and mortar restaurant owners. What a lot of them were doing was to validate their menu items using a food truck.
They were checking what menu item sold well as is. What menu item ingredients needed tweaking? Simply because they spoke (but mostly listened) to their clientele.
They were working hard at creating a fan following that would automatically follow them to their brick and mortar restaurant.
What’s terrific was they were generating customers for their restaurant, much before paying a lot of money to start and actual brick and mortar restaurant.
That was an education for me as a course creator.
I adapted that approach to my course creation.
Instead of spending a lot of time, money and energy building a fully fleshed out course, I begin by creating a mini version of my course first.
I’d invite beta testers to try it out. Some for free at the start. Later for a nominal payment.
My mini course was not 100% complete. It did not have the bells and whistles. BUT I learned I could test the response to my course with this technique.
I encourage (and listen carefully) to feedback and critique.
Earlier some of the critique I got was fairly harsh. As I got better at what I was doing in my mini course, I started getting a lot of constructive criticism.
What course modules were nicely done?
What course modules need fleshing out or pruning?
What course modules needed more examples?
What course modules could do with a case study or two?
Great advice for my full-fledged course. Feedback and critique delivered real course participants. After this I was capable of delivering a measurably better course that my competitors.
It does not get better than this, believe me.
When you are creating your course just create the 1st module, that’s it. Share this with selected Beta testers. Ask for and get feedback and critique.
NOTE: Do document the reset of the modules of the course. Document the outline of each module. This will give you something concrete to chat about with prospective Beta testers.
Do voice/video recordings between you and anyone giving you feedback (with their permission).
That way you can listen carefully without being distracted taking notes. Plus you’ll have a record of what been said. This could be as simple as a recorded Skype voice or video call.
Once you’ve got all the feedback you need. Flesh out your course, about two modules at a time. Repeat the feedback and corrective action process.
In the end, your course will be a seasoned, matured one crafted from real participant feedback.
Your course will sell well. It will recover all that costs you’ve spent creating it. Then go on to deliver a tidy profit every month.
Technique #5. Sell Your Course Before You Build It.
If you truly want to know whether your course will sell (or not), you’ve got to get people to pull out their wallets and pay you for it.
Notice I didn’t say you ask your ideal course participant – Would you buy this?
Many may say YES! Unfortunately, when it comes to paying, they won’t.
Hence, having a list of 100 people who’ve promised they will buy your course could end up being a bitter disappointment.
True validation comes from people actually paying you for your course. YES! Even before they can get access to it.
Decide on what your target amount should be. If you collect that amount before you create your course, create your course with complete confidence. It’s validated.
You’ve already recovered all or most of its creation costs anyway.
NOTE: If you cannot. Pivot. Try something else.
Ask for payment from prospective participants upfront (again, before your course is even created).
Give prospective participants a VIP price for doing this. Make them an offer they find impossible to say NO! to (or worse – I’ll think about it). If people pay up, your course is validated.
When you are paid to create a course, you’ll be really motivated to build a measurably superior course than your competitors.
NOTE: You can do this when you’ve already have an audience of potential course participants.
Hence the question, what about pre-selling a course for those course creators who don’t do not have an audience?
They have to pay a little bit and advertise on a platform like Facebook. They must discover whether or not there is a focused audience on a platform like Facebook.
Especially, if they would be willing to pre-pay then for a course they are building.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to figure out whether you can pre-sell your course to a prospective participant.
Setup a sales page exactly as you would if the course really existed. Drive traffic directly to that page from Facebook. Check your conversion / sales over fixed time period.
You could do a pre-sell webinar. This often could (and does) convert even higher for you.
Simply because you are building a relationship with prospects in the webinar.
Then you pitch your pre-sell.
Either way, be honest with your prospective participants.
Tell them the course is not yet created. Give them something irresistible for coming onboard early.
Say straight up that you’ll build the course if you have a certain amount of interest.
You could be pleasantly surprised at the response you get pre-selling your course using these tried and tested techniques.
Oh, and by the way, Dropbox, now a billion-dollar company used this same technique to get thousands of signups before writing any single piece of code.
This approach works!
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