I just finished running my very first e-course, Blogstorm, which helped the students generate six-months worth of blog post ideas and put them into an editorial calendar, and it went so well! Better than I could have ever hoped, really.
Oh, sure: there were a few hiccoughs here and there, mostly to do with technology (major takeaway: click EVERY LINK before launch!), but I think people really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it.
The content was great. I really believe I delivered a good value for the course, and people got a lot out of it. I’ve known since I was a little kid, bossing my sister and friends around as we played school, that I enjoy teaching—and this totally confirmed it.
But we never sat around playing “Internet marketer” when we were kids (y’all, the Internet didn’t even really EXIST when I was a kid!), so I discovered that I still have a lot to learn when it comes marketing and selling.
I made an extra $1,000 last month with my e-course.
Let’s talk about the good stuff first. 😉 I blew myself out of the water when it came to my sales goals for this course. I developed this course as a way to sort of test the waters of online teaching, so I specifically made it short, specific, and inexpensive. My thought was that it was basically going to serve as a proof of concept—proof that people would be willing to sign up and pay for an online course from me, before I spent months creating something bigger.
That was an excellent way to go. In their course on interactive learning environments, “Teaching Sells,” the Copyblogger people call this a Minimum Viable Product, and it’s an excellent way to get started. Don’t sit around waiting for the perfect time to launch your masterpiece; create something small, tight, and extremely useful that you can sell right now.
And I did! And you know what? It worked. My original goals were to sell 10 slots, and give away an additional 10 (so that the Facebook group and Q&A sessions wouldn’t feel empty). I went way beyond that. I sold 30 slots and had 62 signups overall! (More on that little discrepancy below.)
As a proof of concept, Blogstorm was a huge success.
But I might have made $5,000 more if I hadn’t been too scared to claim it.
So, the content side of the course was a huge success. Part of the marketing part was a success (the part where I tripled my goal for paid signups, for one!)
But there were some major mistakes I made in selling this course too.
Why am I telling you this? I could have just talked about how I made an extra grand last month and tripled my sales goal, and that would have been a pretty compelling story. But I’ve never made any bones about the fact that I’m still learning a lot of this stuff here. I’ve invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of my time into learning this stuff so that you don’t have to—so it seems ingenuous somehow not to share my mistakes, too.
Learn from my oopses, Grasshopper, and they will not have been made in vain.
- Believe in yourself and your product. Some people happily paid full price for the program. Some people happily used their coupon codes. Some people got it (nearly) for free. But if I had truly believed in myself and not kept saying that it was “just” a test-run product, I probably could have sold more at the full price and made more money. Lesson learned.
- Don’t discount just for the sake of discounting. When I was talking with my business coach about my program, she asked me how much I was charging for it ($99 full price) and how many people signed up (62). “Wow!” she said, “So you made $6,000!” Um. Not exactly. Because of all the discounts and freebies I gave out, and the bad marketing scheme I decided to participate in, I only made one fifth of what I could have/should have made on the full priced product. OUCH. Lesson learned.
- Lots of coupons create bargain shoppers. I actually should have remembered this from my magazine days; our publisher tried to discourage advertisers from running coupons because it would train customers to only come in when they had a discount. I gave away lots of coupons, and after they expired I had several people email me to try to get special treatment and use it anyway. If they really wanted it, they would have signed up earlier, before the coupon expired—or paid full price. Guess what? None of them paid full price to get in. I had trained them that it wasn’t worth the full price, only the discounted price. Lesson learned.
- Don’t participate in marketing schemes you don’t really believe in. I joined one of those deals where, for a limited time, you get access to something like 12 or 16 products for a fraction of what it would cost to buy all of those things. It seemed like a really great marketing push at the time, and I was excited by the prospect of introducing lots of new people to my product. But it kind of bombed for me. Many of the other products being offered wouldn’t speak to my ideal customers, I made zero affiliate sales (and therefore zero monies), and while I got quite a few people to sign up, a lot of them didn’t engage with the program (that’s how I got 30 paid students and 62 students total). Lesson learned. Which leads me to my next point…
- People are more engaged when they pay. With the exception of some kind friends who were in the program kind of as beta testers, the most active people in the Facebook group and the Q&A sessions were people who had paid for the course—not the people who had gotten it for (nearly) free. Lesson learned!
What’s funny is that I absolutely believed that the program was worth $99—I didn’t believe that people would pay that much. But some did. And more would have if I had believed in myself and my product more strongly. I truly believe that my sales page, my offer, even my marketing efforts had less to do with how much I sold than my own confidence in asking for what I knew the product was worth.
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