There could be a number of reasons why you are considering creating an online course. You may be a coach, service professional or a freelancer and you are sick of trading hours for dollars. You want to leverage your time and package your expertise as a course. If that’s you, good on you. Keep reading.
You may be a service-based entrepreneur but you are struggling to find clients. You have offers and packages, and what not, but it’s not selling. It is entirely possible that your offers are great but you are terrible at closing sales calls, or your offers need tweaking in the first place. If this is you, yes, you too can benefit from reading this post.
Finally, you might be a blogger with a decent sized audience and you are looking to monetise your blog. You don’t think of yourself as an entrepreneur but you might be surprised to know how many coaches, consultants and solopreneurs started out this way. You will find this post super helpful as well.
Let’s get right into it.
#1 Is your audience already telling you what to create?
If you are working with people one-on-one, which of your services are the most popular? And when you actually are in the trenches, what are some of the problems your ideal audience struggles with all the time?
Think about some of the resources you constantly refer people to. Blog posts written by yourself – by others? Could you pick a topic and create a course on that?
Was there ever a time when you couldn’t find what you were looking for and wished you had a resource to refer people to? Maybe something comes up in your coaching calls all the time and instead of doing same thing again and again, you wish you could just people to refer to a course. That’s fodder for thought right there.
For those of you who don’t have one-on-one clients (and this also applies to those of you who do), what kind of questions you get from your audience over and over again? If you have a blog post, do you see certain posts attracting tons of comments and people asking questions or seeking clarifications?
The point is if you look closely, you’ll find that your audience is already letting you know, loud and clear, what they need help with. Pay attention and make a list of topics you’d like to create your course on.
Case study: Learn how Ravenol, a producer of high-quality automotive lubricants, started using webinars and trained more people in three weeks than two years of doing it offline.
#2 Survey your audience
A very simple but often overlooked way to discover what your audience wants is to simply ask them.
Poll them. Survey them. Email them personally. It doesn’t matter as long as you do it.
The only caveat is when your list size is small. You may not be able to get enough responses to arrive at a the right conclusion. If the sample size is small, your data will be skewed and you won’t be able to get enough statistical data to decide one way or the other.
However, don’t let this stop you.
If your list is small, you might be able to reach people by sending them a personal email. You will also benefit from asking open ended questions.
For surveys you can use free tools like Survey Monkey or Google forms. For personal emails, use your .. umm your business email account, not personal one. The fact that you are not sending these emails to every single subscriber on your list and that you are tying to one person only, makes them personal.
#3 Eavesdrop on other people’s audiences
Some of you may be thinking you don’t have a big audience. Maybe you are new to this entrepreneurship thing or maybe you have mostly been growing your business via referrals. You don’t have a list and you don’t blog.
This is how you can eavesdrop on your ideal clients and customers.
Make a list of influencers in your own industry. You may already be following some of these people or you can run some key word searches like ‘top 50 websites for entrepreneurs’, or ‘top 50 personal development blogs’, etc.
Once you have your list, I want you to follow these people on social media. Facebook, twitter and sign up for their emails.
Now it’s time to do some digging, go over to their blog (if they have one) and start browsing through the content they have published. Stop when something looks promising (related to what you might create a course on) and read the comments their blog posts get. Yup. It’s as simple as that. You can potentially serve their audience so find out what they are looking for. Make sense?
Secondly, head over to their Facebook pages and ‘follow’ them. Read the comments they get for insight.
Finally do they run free Facebook groups? Ask to join. Which brings me to my next point.
#4 Facebook groups are potential goldmines
I am assuming you are on Facebook? I mean, it’s hard to imagine anyone not being on it. And I’d also like to think that you are a member of various Facebook groups? If you aren’t, you should definitely check those out. You are missing out – just saying.
You can find hundreds of Facebook groups on any topic, any industry. If you can think of a topic, you can bet there is a Facebook group on it.
In your Facebook, on the left sidebar, scroll down and you will see groups. Click on it. You’ll see ‘suggested groups’ and ‘friend’s groups’ on the tab. This is a good place to start. based on your activity on Facebook, you’ll be shown a list of groups you might be interested in. You can request to join any of those groups that catch your eye.
Another way to find new groups is to just plug the keyword and the word ‘groups’ in the graph search (the long horizontal bar at the top) and see what comes up.
Two things: Do not go ahead and join 50 groups. You will overwhelm yourself. Only join a handful and turn off their notifications so you can go check in manually whenever you feel like it.
Secondly, join groups where your ideal audience is most likely hanging out. Know the difference between joining groups just for fun and for business. Once you are a member, have a quick read through their policy. You’ll find that most don’t allow self promotion and that’s totally fine. That’s NOT your goal.
Start hanging out in these groups. Introduce yourself and generally be of service. Most of all, pay attention to what people are talking about, what questions they are asking and what are they struggling with. Remember, these people are your ideal clients and customers. You get to listen in. This is what companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for. Aka market research.
You get to see the real pain points, in real life. Worth spending 20 minutes in a group. (You’ll come to know which groups are worth staying in. Ditch the rest without guilt.)
#5 Do one-on-one interviews
This is one of my favourite ways to discover gold nuggets that you won’t find otherwise.
By doing this you will discover what your ideal clients and customers truly think. What are some of the things they are too embarrassed to talk about publicly, things they are ashamed to say? They will tell you.
Once you start talking to people individually, they will reveal things that they aren’t even conscious of. They will say things that they weren’t aware of. Things will come out of their mouths that will catch them off guard and lead to big aha moments for both them and you. A win win.
The easiest way to do this is to reach out to people who know. They can be people on your list or people you know through your networks. You can reach out to people who are your loyal followers or biggest fans or you can you can ask for people’s help in Facebook groups.
Let people know that you want to ask them questions around a certain broad topic and if they’d be able to hop on Skype for a quick call. Find out what they struggle with, and what kind of help are they looking for. Offer to help them in return so they feel like they get something in return and be more likely to say yes.
You will be amazed to find out what people find challenging. These are often the simplest things, things you won’t even consider creating a course on. So listen and listen closely.
Be sure to ask if they have already invested in products to help solve their problems and if so, why hasn’t it worked. Gold!
#6 Amazon to the rescue
Now this one is an amazing tactic and so simple that it often leads to a face palm moment. As in why didn’t I think of this before?
Go to amazon.com and start searching for books on your topic. Once you have a list of books, go to their reviews and start reading them. 5 star reviews are usually left by their biggest fans and 1 star reviews are left by haters so you can skim through a few each.
The 2, 3 and 4 star reviews are where the gold is. Start reading what people are saying and pay close attention to what they are not happy with. What are the things they find challenging? What are some of the things they still can’t help with. Make a note.
#7 Plain old competitor research
Start with the known competitors in your industry. Off the top of your head, how many product are you aware of in your topic? Make a list.
Now, this doesn’t have to be courses necessarily. Any type of information product counts.
Then start your research. Go to clickbank.com and locate your category and see the kinds of products that are out there. Keep adding to your list.
Finally, do some keyword research. Using any of the free tools available, search for the keywords and see how many people are searching for those or similar keywords online. This will give you an idea of the demand for a particular product.
One more thing .. rejoice as you see plenty of competing or similar products. It just shows you that there is demand in the market. You don’t want to enter unproven markets, unless you have big marketing budgets to test your ideas with.
#8 Go back in time
If all else fails, do time travel. Revisit your past.
Think about the time when you were starting out. If you are like most coaches or service providers, your ideal client is you – a few years back. So think about what you struggled with when you were new. What sort of products did you wish existed back then?
Try to approach this from a beginner’s mind. You are an expert now but what were the issues that kept you stuck when you weren’t one?
That’s excellent idea for creating a course right there.
These are my top 8 ways of coming up with more ideas for your course than you can handle. However, having ideas and choosing one idea to create your course are two entirely different things. And it all starts with validation.
Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll talk about all the steps you must take before creating an online course. It’s going to be a good one Share your thoughts in the comments below!