How I Made an Extra $1k Last Month (and Left $5k on the Table)

I just finished running my very first e-course, Content Intelligence Agency, 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.

Did you find this useful? I’d really appreciate it if you’d share it with your community. 

24 thoughts on “How I Made an Extra $1k Last Month (and Left $5k on the Table)

  1. Excellent honesty Lacy, it’s true we need to consider the perceived value. I discount too easily I need to cap it. Well done on the launch of your teaching.

  2. Great reminder about pricing. Clients and customers value higher priced options most. I know I treat an expensive sweater much better than a shirt from Target.

  3. FYI, Blogstorm was worth more than $99, my friend. People pay consultants hundreds of dollars AN HOUR for the information you imparted in your program and all of the individual support you gave. It was a really great course! I was happy to be a guinea pig for it.

  4. Wonderful post. Thanks for being so honest & transparent in sharing your experience.
    Will share via Twitter. 🙂

  5. Great insights! And timely too since I’m looking to launch my first eCourse this spring. I am planning on beta testing it for reviews and needed tweaks. It will be a 4-6 week (not sure yet until I lay it all out) prenatal coaching course that will include powerpoint and video instruction, research and introspection prompts, as well as maybe 2 Skype sessions with me. I’m a birth doula and will basically be preparing them as I do my birth clients, but also offer extra training, specifically for the partner, to act as stand-in doula. This course is for those that decide not to have a doula present because they want to retain intimacy, or they can’t afford a doula. Or maybe they just really want to work with me but aren’t local to me. I was playing around with a $397 or $447 price but first run at $197 or $247. Now you’ve got me questioning that. For reference, I’ve been charging $250 for local prenatal coaching which consists of 5-5.5 hours of personal time and instruction with me. In 2014 this price has been raised to $450. Hmmmm!

    1. All I can say is go with your gut, Shauna! There’s something to be said for offering a lower price for your initial run, but don’t sell yourself short!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your lessons with us Lacy! I always wondered about those bundle deals. Now I know to pass and pave my own way.

    PS – Send me info on your new course when it’s ready. I’ll share it with my peeps!

    1. I don’t think they’re ALL bad or bad for everyone, it just wasn’t the right avenue for me. If you’re an aggressive affiliate marketer AND the rest of the offerings are a good fit for your audience, I think people could do well.

      And thank you! I will!

  7. Lacy,

    Wanted to thank you so much for your honesty regarding the bundles. I appreciated hearing your viewpoint taking part in one.

    I raised the question in a Facebook group asking people why they participated in product bundles. Many had compelling points but I’ll be honest with you…as soon as I see those bundles it totally devalues all of the products for me.

    It may just be the type of consumer I am, because they seem popular with so many.

    Now for the irony…I took Blogstorm because of THAT bundle! Ha, ha! It’s the first bundle I ever bought, and I purchased it mainly to see what was included in bundles…how the process worked…if there was any cohesion between the products.

    Major compliment alert! Your course was the ONLY reason I bought the bundle, and the ONLY product I have used out of that bundle. I briefly reviewed the other products and feel like blogstorm was a stand out!

    1. Ha! Well, I was glad to have you Mariah! You were my star pupil! 🙂

      But I think you make an excellent point. I think my biggest problem was that there wasn’t any cohesion between the products. Mine was a very high value for the price, and some of the others weren’t very high value at all. It was a stipulation that it couldn’t be a freebie that you offered as part of the bundle, but some of the values that were stated in the bundle were like $14.95.

      Is that my fault for offering something too valuable? Probably. But there wasn’t really any way for me to know what anyone else was submitting, so I had no way to know if they were offering $49 ebooks or $9.95 ebooks. That was a major flaw in the process for me.

  8. Thanks, Lacy, this was so helpful! I’m just about to launch my first product which is a free week-long course followed by a low-cost DIY guidebook and a second option to have me do the work for you. I’ve been debating what to charge for each, but your advice to know what I’m worth and stick to that is gold. 🙂

  9. Lacy, I LOVE your honesty and it has inspired me to be honest myself. I had looked at your course and was seriously thinking of buying it and then I saw it was available in a “bundle” so it made more sense financially for me to buy that instead. But, as you said, in spite of the fact that I bought that bundle expressly to get your course I was not engaged in it at all and didn’t join the FB group or listen to your Q&A calls. I really regret that and hope it is still available.

    1. Thanks for your honesty, Victoria! And yes, you still have access to all the info and the Q&A call recordings. 🙂

  10. Wow, these are brilliant insights indeed. Discounting is definitely not a good idea. I noticed that those that pay the big buck are the ones that take action because they are all in. They are also fun to work with too.

    I’ve never heard about participating in a marketing scheme online. I would have participated if you hadn’t written this post. Sometimes we never know the risk of participating in this schemes until we try it out. All we’re thinking about is getting clients.

    Thanks for sharing this post. Joyce

  11. Well spoken, Lacy, thanks so much for your honesty. There are so many people out there dealing with the exact same problems and questions. Discounting definitely is something I need to do better, too!

  12. Thanks for sharing this story! Really interesting to see the behind-the-scenes. And glad you now believe in your awesome product – $99 is a STEAL for quality content from someone like you (not to mention the accountability and impetus to actually DO it).

  13. Thanks for sharing this today in the B school group! I’m very happy that I found it and got to read it. Thanks for sharing with us and being honest about the process. It gave me a lot to think about and some impetus to go get my own stuff off the ground 😉

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