by Jeanine Blackwell, multi 7-figure course creation expert
Are you wondering how to launch an online course with a small list? You can do it. In fact, launching an online course is one of the fastest ways to grow your list.
When I was first figuring out how to launch an online course with a small list, I had a “list” of less than 150 people and in in 16 days I generated $65k. I don’t want to make this sound like something out of Field of Dreams… all “build it and they will come,” but there are specific steps you can take when you are trying to figure out how to launch an online course with a small list.
In a little over a year, I went from $0 to over 6 figures+ a MONTH in revenue with one online course. I have now grown my business from a small list of 150, to thousands of potential clients who say “yes” to my courses. I built a 7-figure business in the first year of the launch of my online course by helping my people get their biggest questions answered.
I’m going to walk you through the exact steps I used to do this so that you can focus on the right questions your people want answered and leverage free and paid traffic.
Here is what I’m going to share with you:
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What Gets in the Way of a Successful Online Course Launch
Before we dig into how to launch an online course with a small list, let’s start with what can get in the way of actually putting into motion the steps I am about to share:
Last week, I was working with a group of my clients who are building their course launch plans. They asked, “What’s the big difference you see between people who make a big leap in their business with a course and those that don’t?”
Here’s the answer to that: Action. You have to put something out there and your tribe will help you perfect it.
Fear arrives in many forms and often sounds like:
“I’m not sure this is a good enough idea…”
“It’s not ready…”
“I don’t know if this is the right audience…”
“I keep changing my mind and can’t get something launched”
“I’m not sure if this is what they want to buy…”
“I have to figure out how to price it…”
“Oh no, someone else already created this course. Argh.”
One secret I learned now that I have launched online courses many times: the only way to know what your people want is to launch it and have your tribe help you improve it. They will help you figure out how to make it better.
Repeat after me: I will figure it out along the way.
Now, let’s go!
The 7 Steps to Creating and Launching a Profitable Online Course
To launch successfully, you have to create with an emphasis on the “sellability” of your course and focus on generating revenue fast. Let’s go through the 7 steps to going from a course idea to a course generating revenue.
Step 1: Test the “Sellability” of Your Course… Before You Create It
It’s smart to do some research on your course topic to refine it before you begin creating it. Plus, starting with testing your idea has the benefit of helping you quickly get over the fear of crickets chirping when you launch your program…the biggest fear we want to overcome when trying to figure out how to launch an online course with a small list, right?
There are lots of ways you can do this. One of my favorite research tools is Amazon.com. Think of it as a powerful search engine and your online (free) customer focus group.
Here’s how I use it to figure out how to launch an online course successfully:
Some of the other ways that I test the sellability of an online course idea include:
- online discussion forums
- pay-per-click testing
- analyzing popular blog posts (on your own blog and other expert blogs in your niche)
- posting the right questions on social media
You can find online forums in your niche by conducting a Google Search. Just type in “your course focus” + forum or “your ideal participant” + forum.
All you need to do is listen and pay attention to the questions your audience is asking.
When I did this, I learned was that the real results my folks wanted went way beyond creating a course. They wanted to know how to launch an online course with a small list so they could make more money and serve a bigger audience.
The insights gained from this research led me to develop the first course I eventually launched, Create 6-Figure Courses® Virtual Bootcamp.
Here’s how to launch an online course with a small list: begin by focusing on your “sweet spot”. Your profitable course idea can be found in the sweet spot where your expertise, your client’s problem, and what they will invest in come together. Pay attention to the questions they are asking.
Step 2: Choose the Course Topic Your People Want
Once you are clear on the big questions for your audience, the key is to create an online course that focuses on answering those questions.
Take a look at the difference in this non-specific vs specific course topic:
How to Use LinkedIn for Business Owners vs. How to Find Paying Coaching Clients on LinkedIn
Which one is more compelling?
Specific course content is more compelling. Specific course content sells.<<<tweetable
One way to get more specific is to ask yourself, “What is the problem my perfect ideal clients want to eliminate?”
The problem is that most experts focus on “what” they teach vs the problem they solve which can look like this:
Step 3: Add “Just Enough” of the Right Content …so your people get results
I purchased a course last year from some great guys I respect and it includes really good video content. About 1000 video clips (not really, more like 100, but still).
The course just has way TOO MUCH content. I can’t make myself dig in and get through it (the learning expert in me can’t help but note: If these guys would restructure the content the way people actually learn, they would likely break this down to 4-5 courses… and likely generate more revenue).
One of the biggest challenges in creating a course is to determine what to include..and, what to leave out.Too much content = overwhelm. Less is more Click To Tweet
When I created my online course, I was crystal clear that the priority was helping my audience create and launch a successful course easily. This made filtering through the content easier.
One way to filter your content is to think about what your audience “needs to know” to get the results you promised versus what is “nice to know”.
Step 4: Get them to apply what you are teaching..so your people stick with it and get results
Learning is more than watching a bunch of videos. Ask yourself, “What do I want to help these people DO?”
Then, create opportunities in your course for them to go do it with your guidance.
Let’s take an example of creating a course on blogging. Watching videos on blogging does not make someone a better blogger. They have to do something to get better. Writing blog posts, getting feedback, refining posts, noticing what makes the posts better—taking action is what helps us improve.
Step 5: Create the Content FAST
In my 20 years helping big brands and celebrity experts create learning products, I logged a lot of hours helping experts like you get their brilliance out of their head and into a course.
In the process, I learned a few tricks about how to quickly get the content flowing:
1. Make it visual
2. Outline and “chunk” the content.
3. Use a template that is repeatable.
Having a template helps you get past the barrier of “this is a lot to do” by seeing the steps and making progress quickly.
Step 6: Record and Publish Your Course
After you have your content outlined in a template, you can start recording.
The easiest way to do this is to create screen capture video. This means you record your audio (you talking) in sync with the view on your desktop screen, typically using Powerpoint or Keynote slides.
I highly recommend you start here and build your online course with simple screen capture videos. You can later add in “face” video with you in front of the camera.
Make this as easy as possible.
The fastest way for me:
1. Create the Powerpoint.
2. Record the voiceover audio using tools like Screenflow.
3. Load the video onto your course hosting platform of choice.
Is making money fast with your course a priority?
Once you get to this step, you can get your people to pay you to help create the content. 90% of the course creators I work with in my community do a “beta” launch with paying clients moving through the content as they are creating. You are literally having paying clients help you refine your online course content and the marketing message before you launch.
This is how you can launch an online course with a small list with no paid advertisement like these guys from our community:
“I sold 68 places on my course during this ‘soft’ launch, and I am SO looking forward to ramping this up for my main launch for this course at the end of this month.
The confidence this has given me is phenomenal – I am now reworking my course to appeal to a second niche I work with.” – Catherine Treble, www.supportyourbrilliance.com
“I was targeting just 10 folks at 997 each, and got 15 people to register in a week and a half.” –Rabiah Sutton, www.fwdthink.com
“I launched my 4-week “Love on Top” Challenge which helped women to reconnect, rebuild and prioritize their marriages and I had 250 sign up. I’m a first-timer at all of this – started my business a year ago while on maternity leave. I’m a 1-woman show (I do EVERYTHING) and while chasing around my now toddler.” -Chavonne, www.berelateable.com
Step 7: Launch An Online Course the Easy Way and Make Money Fast
…then repeat and make more money
“You can begin working on the marketing and launch stuff before you have your course 100% complete. I never thought I’d say that but I’ve experienced it and it is true and actually feels more liberating in a way. I have all the pieces in place for the launch now and can finish up the course without having this hanging over my head!”-Deborah Morgan
Kids’ Health Revolution
Here’s where the work you did in Step 1 pays off. You did the research to get clear on the questions your people are asking. And, because you are clear on this you can find them easily on free and paid social media.
Because I had a really small list (with many folks that were not even the right audience for my course), I used Facebook ads to fill my first course. I reinvested the profits from the first launch back into Facebook ads for each consecutive launch which allowed me to expand my reach fast.
After my first launch, I also began leveraging other sources of traffic to my course including guest podcast interviews, blogging and more.
Focus on creating revenue as you create online course content.
Most of the people I get to work with in our community are starting with a small list, and building a course to grow their list.
The one big thing I want you to take away from this is that you need to focus on growing your list AND making money at the same time.
The faster you create a product, the faster you know what your people want. The measure of your success is NOT the size of the list – it’s the quality of the relationship you have that determines how fast your business grows.
Want to grow your list? Listen to your clients’ questions and create a product that answers those questions.