Greg tells us how you can develop your course idea into a well-structured curriculum, and the simple, free tactics you can use to promote your online course.
Today’s guest, Greg Smith, is the Founder and CEO of Thinkific, a software platform that makes it easy to create, market and sell online courses. Greg was working as a corporate lawyer for one of the largest law firms in the country when he launched an online course as a side project. He then left his law job to jump into online education and Thinkific full time.
Since then, Greg and his team at Thinkific have helped thousands of coaches, authors, speakers, and companies create and sell their own online courses as a way to build their brands and their revenues.
Greg was kind enough to put together some special resources for anyone in the Go and Grow audience interested in entering the course space. If you want to try out Thinkific, or just check out some resources that will help you create and market an online course, head over to get.thinkific.com/goandgrow. He is giving away $800 worth of premium training courses and a free month of the Thinkific Business Plan.
We’re going to learn how Greg went from lawyer to entrepreneur, the process anyone can take to develop their nascent course idea into a well-structured curriculum, and steps even online marketing amateurs can take to grow your course (without spending any money).
- 3:15 – How did Greg find the time to start (and run) his side hustles, while being a lawyer?
- He worked Mondays at 9PM every week on an online LSAT course, which helped bring in revenue later when he stopped being a lawyer and started a new business
- 5:40 – Thinkific is a platform that helps people create and launch online courses on their own site, with their own branding and full control over everything. “We’re just the software that powers and hosts it all quietly behind the scenes.”
- “It came out of the need that I had to have that for my own online course, an we actually had other people calling me saying ‘How did you use your course, can I use your software?”
- 7:00 – Greg says Thinkific is different from other course-creation services, such as Teachable, because it has a more robust feature set:
- a sales widget that makes it easier to embed courses even on other websites, or through affiliates;
- a robust system for revenue sharing with affiliates;
- a tool that allows you to add voiceover to individual slides;
- and a ton of customer support.
- 8:05 – “The big way that we stand out is that we help people. We help people the whole way along.”
- 8:50 – Thinkific has grown in large part through word of mouth and Webinar partnerships that help educate others about courses
- 10:10 – Thinkific’s webinar partnerships leverage the lists of online influencers. Ideally, this audience is closely matched with your ideal customer. “I think it’s a good idea to be both flexible but have systems. So initially you want to be flexible, and do things in a way that really works for you and for them. Once you find something that starts working … come up with a really good system so that you can automate it and repeat it.”
- 12:35 – When Thinkific runs webinars, they tend to run a survey to see what attendees expect and what they are interested in learning. In some cases, if it turns out the attendees are looking for different information than the subject of the webinar, Greg will adapt and teach a more relevant webinar.
- 13:50 – The key metrics that Thinkific tracks for their marketing or lead funnels:
- The number of people coming to your site, reading your blog, singing up for a webinar or attending a webinar
- How many people who are actually attending or signing up convert to emails or a lead
- Continuing from the email address, do they sign up for an account or stick around?
- 14:40 – In addition to tracking their own success, Thinkific tracks metrics that show people are being successful with the product. “I’m not just interested in having people come in and pay for it. I want them to actually achieve success with it”
- Are they creating a course, launching a course or getting enrollments in a course? If they’re not, Thinkific can reach out or create resources for common pain points.
- 15:25 – Thinkific averages about 30% growth month-over-month, and that’s been going for a couple years
- 18:25 – What are the key steps that an individual should go through to start and launch an online course?
- 18:45 – A lot of people already know what they want to teach, but it’s important to validate it. Start by asking people if that is something they’re interested in. Don’t just focus on the title or subject of the course, but focus on establishing “How will my life be different when I finish your course?”
- The answer to that question is going to drive everything: course creation, curriculum, content, marketing, sales, ads, audience and price.
- 20:55 – Ideally, pick 5 or 10 people, call them and ask them:
- Is this something you need help with?
- Would you pay for a course like this?
- Why do they answer yes, no or maybe?
- 21:05 – After validating his course idea, Greg starts his curriculum:
- The answer to the question, “How will one’s life be different when they finish this course?” is at the top of the page
- He creates a list of short, high-level milestones that you need to achieve in order to get to that difference
- Under each of those milestones, he writes down the steps that one needs to achieve that milestone. You can break those steps down further to multiple sub-steps.
- How far your break it down depends on how much content it’s going to take to teach someone what they need to accomplish that step. Ideally, the lowest step you are going to teach is a 2-7 minute lesson.
- Add a formative assessment (quiz) between each step, or very frequently, that confirms the viewer is paying attention. It’s not asking difficult questions, but it reinforces what you teach and encourages them to complete the course.
- 24:10 – “I am constantly surprised by the topics that can be, and are, successful.” Courses vary from Microsoft Excel to sewing to marketing, and everything in-between.
- 26:10 – For people just getting started with digital or internet marketing, there are some really easy wins. They aren’t massive or scaleable, but they can give you the early success factors to indicate the course is something worth doing, give you some revenue, and give you some confidence.
- 26:40 – Facebook Groups can be a powerful place to both validate course ideas and start marketing. Before trying to validate or market your course, always be sure to check the rules. You are also much more likely to find success with your post if you have been in the group for a while and have been adding value to the group in other ways.
- 31:25 – YouTube is an amazing tool for marketing online courses. Greg designed a free course about how he created his YouTube channel, which now drives thousands of dollars in sales every month.
- 31:55 – If there is anything visual, Instagram can also be a good tool. Powerful quotes can also be effective on Instagram.
- 32:20 – Quora, a question and answer site, is another free and simple place to market your course. Look for questions people are asking about your subject matter, be very helpful and answer those questions, then you can leave a link to where they can out more on your website or course.
- 34:05 – Quickfire Q&A
This episode was brought to you by Audible.com
The Go and Grow Podcast is supported by Audible.com.
You love listening to great content. So why not listen to your next book, instead of reading it?
Audible.com has over 180,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, or tablet.
Get your free audiobook download and free 30-day trial now at audibletrial.com/goandgrow.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- get.thinkific.com/goandgrow for $800 worth of premium training courses and a free month of the Thinkific Business Plan
- Greg designed a free course about marketing with YouTube
- Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method
- Margaret Hefferman’s TED Talk about “The Superchicken Model”
- The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo (affiliate link)
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (affiliate link)
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish (affiliate link)
Answers to Quickfire Q&A:
- If you could chat with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
- Che Guevara, “In some sense, his level of persistence and determination to a single cause was almost inhuman, and I’m a believer that your just being driven and persistent towards a single cause, and having focus, is probably the single greatest determiner of business success.”
- Name a tool, app, or website that you can’t live without and why.
- Later.com, which is scheduling for visual media.
- Tell us something unique and interesting about you that not many may know.
- Greg has 8 brothers and a sister, and they get together every Sunday for family dinner (with more family, to boot!)
- What is your favorite business book and why?
- What is the top characteristic or trait that you look for in people you work with?
- “At the end of the day, it’s being helpful.”
- What is something you believe, but few others agree with you?
- “Coming back to helping non-stop, I think people speak to it, but they don’t necessarily live it all the time.”
How to contact Greg:
You can learn more about Thinkific and the online course space at get.thinkific.com/goandgrow.
Thanks for listening!
We appreciate you spending your valuable time with us!
If you enjoyed this episode, and we hope you did, please share it using the social media buttons to the left.
Also, please leave a rating and review on iTunes and Stitcher. It will help others like you discover the show more easily, and we’d be really grateful! If you’re not sure how to submit a rating and review on iTunes, check out this blog post for instructions.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them in the Comments section below or email me.
Thanks again for listening and now go and grow your business!