S1 EP10: How to Design Your Online Course to Increase Your Testimonials (and Revenue)

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Today’s guest is Instructional Designer Melody Johnson.

Melody helps course creators develop customer success strategies that get them more and better customer success stories (AKA testimonials). And you know what they say – testimonials are the best marketing material.

Online courses and memberships can be a great way to build a flexible lifestyle business. We’ve talked about how to launch an online course in a previous episode with Lexi Merritt.

But what if you’ve never created a course before? How do you organize and structure your course content to make sure that the course you create gets your students their desired result? The last thing you want to do is waste time creating a crappy course that no one finishes, that doesn’t get results for your students, or worst of all, your students complain about and ask for refunds for.

As an Instructional Designer and a Certified Virtual Customer Success Manager, Melody’s specialty is helping you get your customers better results. And as I said before, better results equal better testimonials. And better testimonials equals more revenue in your business.

A little about Melody before we jump into the show…

Melody has a  Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts with a concentration in performance and directing. She has a passion for musicals and makes it a point to learn every new Disney princess song. (Me too, Melody. Me, too.) She brings the same sassy theatrical excitement to every client and every project.

Melody also studied early childhood education and taught young children before going on to get her Master’s Degree in Instructional Design. She then moved on to corporate training for several years before starting her own business, The Course Consultant, where she helps small business owners create, grow, and scale their online course curriculum.

When it comes to course design, Melody is the real deal, and I’m so excited and grateful to have her on the show today.

Links and resources:

Key Takeaways

Thanks to Melody for providing so much value and insight on this episode. Here are some of my favorite key takeaways from our conversation and some action items that you can start implementing today.

1. You don’t need to be an expert on your topic to create a profitable online course.

Of course, you need to know your topic well before you can create a course on it. But as Melody says, you don’t need a PhD or any sort of badge or certification in order to create a profitable course. 

You can even create a course based on a hobby. Melody shares the example of one of her students who created a membership teaching people how to create beautiful arts and crafts.

2. It’s much cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one.

If you needed another reason to care about your students’ experience of your course than the pride that comes with creating high-quality products that help people, consider this: acquiring a new customer costs 5x more than retaining an existing one.

We’re talking about customer acquisition costs. That means any cost that’s involved in getting someone to spend money in your business – social media ads, marketing tools, paying a copywriter to help with your sales page or social media manager to schedule your content.

A study by Harvard Business School found that increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%.

So if you’re looking for a cheap way to increase your revenue, the best thing you can do is give your existing customers a great experience so they stick around, buy more of your products/services, and tell their friends.

3. Outcomes > features and benefits.

Melody says regardless of the kind of course you create, it’s important to understand the key outcome that you want your students to walk away with. Your goal as a course creator is to help your customers achieve that result.

To do that, you have to look at their journey from start to finish. How can you help them get from where they are now to where they ultimately want to be? That’s what customer success looks like.

When you can do this, you’ll create students that advocate for your brand and fuel your marketing efforts with glowing testimonials.

So how do you define your course outcome? Melody refers to the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which means “a reason for being.” Ikigai includes four components:

  1. What you love
  2. What you’re good at
  3. What the world needs
  4. What you can be paid for

This is a good starting point for figuring out what your course topic or outcome should be. To figure out what the world needs, Melody says you have to look at the customer. What questions are they asking? What complaints do they have?

You can find answers to these questions on forums, on your competitors’ websites, or by talking to your ideal customer.

4. Every course, module, and lesson should have a specific outcome.

Once you define your outcome, how do you create a course that actually helps your students achieve it?

Melody recommends breaking your course down into the smallest, simplest steps possible. As we covered before, that begins with your course outcome. Once you have a specific goal for your course, the next step is to break that goal into smaller milestones.

Melody uses the example of a course on how to build a profitable freelancing business. If that’s the overall course goal, then the first module might be about how to set up your freelance website. And the first lesson in that module might be about how to create your “about me” page.

The goal is to be able to determine whether or not the student was successful at the end of each lesson, module, and course. How do you define success? According to Melody, “You create a curriculum that helps to measure success by creating actionable outcomes that people can accomplish.”

5. Your course doesn’t have to be all video.

When I created my first course, I thought every lesson needed a video recording because that’s how you provide value. But that’s not the case. 

Melody offers a simple question to help you decide what type of content to create for each lesson:“What does your student need to see and do to feel successful?

Visual aids are most helpful for technical tasks or anything that’s a step-by-step process (e.g. setting up a website, creating a budget, designing a Pinterest pin, etc.).

For strategy, theory, and mindset-related messages, you can use audio, workbooks, templates, or something different.

Melody says there’s no right or wrong way to teach. The type of content you use depends on your personal teaching style and how it overlaps with your course curriculum.

Related Podcast: How to Create a Winning TikTok Content Strategy to Get Seen, Heard, and Paid

6. Analyze, Define, Develop, Test, Launch

This is the process that Melody uses with her clients. It’s an iterative process, meaning that you probably won’t go through it just once. 

You’ll constantly be analyzing your course and the results your students are getting, defining/refining your content, developing new curriculum, testing your content, and launching and marketing to new audiences.

So don’t be paralyzed by the idea that you have to create the perfect course on your first round. Melody suggests creating an MVP – a minimum viable product – just to get something out into the world, validate your idea, and see if it’s worth building a bigger product or service offering around.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Melody’s first digital product was a couple of Google Doc templates that she sold for $19. Eventually, she built an entire agency around the framework she created in those two documents.

Start small. Keep it simple.

7. If a “signature course” sounds too overwhelming, start with a mini-course.

Speaking of starting small, Melody says one of the fastest ways to validate your idea is to create a mini-course.

The difference between a signature course and a mini-course is in the outcome. A signature course has a larger outcome, which requires more content. A mini-course, on the other hand, has a very small, very specific outcome. That means less content and less creation time.

Melody says a mini-course can be as simple as a 10-minute video and PDF handout that’s hosted in your Google Drive. It’s quick to develop, fast to validate your idea. And if there’s enough demand for it, you can always build it out into a larger course or program later on.

An example of a mini-course comes from one of Melody’s students who created a course on how to pitch and get booked on podcasts. Again, it’s a very specific, small outcome. 

The pricing for your mini-course depends on your business revenue goals, current volume of leads (i.e. potential customers), value of the outcome, and how much support you want to provide.

For a mini-course that’s completely hands-off – where you provide no personal support to your students – you might charge anywhere from $47 to $97+.

As far as a launch timeline goes, Melody says you can expect to take 3-6 months if you don’t have an existing audience. That leaves time for planning, creating your course, creating marketing materials, and launching.

If you already have an audience of ~2,000+, then Melody says 4-6 weeks is probably a realistic planning period. However, you can always choose to launch your course in less time, she says, depending on how polished you prefer to be.

8. Don’t “build it and they will come.” Sell it and they will buy.

There’s a common misconception in the online world that if you create a great course, your customers will find you. Melody says that’s not the case.

Market validation is a requirement for validating your idea. Melody gives us two ways to validate a new course:

  1. Presell it. If you have an existing audience that trusts you, you can sell your course first, then create the content later.
  2. Create an MVP. This goes back to key takeaway #7. Figure out what outcome your audience wants, then create a mini-course or the smallest possible product you can to help them accomplish that. And sell it in the simplest way possible. No course platforms needed. No fancy branding and design. Just a course that solves a problem and a way for people to pay.

Related Podcast: 7 Things I’m Doing Differently in My Business the Second Time Around

Episode Transcript (click to expand)

Note: This transcript was automatically generated and may include typos.


[00:00:00] Megan: Hey there. Welcome back to the dollar sprout podcast. Thanks so much for being here. Today’s guest is instructional designer, melody Johnson. Melody helps course creators develop customer success strategies that get them more and better customer success stories, AKA testimonials, and you know what they say?

[00:00:39] Testimonials are the best marketing material. Online courses and memberships can be a great way to build a flexible lifestyle business. We’ve already talked about how to launch an online course in a previous episode with Lexi merit. But what if you’ve never created a course before? How do you organize and structure your course content to make sure that the course you create gets your students their desired results.

[00:01:07] Or if you’ve already created a course, how do you improve that content so that your customers are getting the results that they want and they’re singing your praises and you’re getting testimonials and they’re referring. More and more people to your products and services. The last thing that you want to do is waste time creating a crappy course that no one finishes that doesn’t get results for your students, or worst of all that your students complain about and ask for refunds for. As an instructional designer and a certified virtual customer success manager.

[00:01:45] Melody specialty is helping you get your customers better results. And as I said before, better results, equal, better testimonials and better testimonials equals more revenue in your. Okay, so a little bit about melody. Before we jump into the show. Melody has a bachelor of arts in theater arts with a concentration in performance and directing super cool.

[00:02:10] She has a passion for musicals and makes it a point. Every new Disney princess song me to melody me to my neighbors probably think I’m crazy because I’m always over here belting the little mermaid songs. Um, She also brings that the same sassy, theatrical excitement to every client and every product.

[00:02:32] Melody also studied early childhood education and taught young children before going on to get her master’s degree in instructional design. She then moved on to corporate training for several years before starting her own business. The course consultant, where she helps small business owners create, grow and scale their online course curriculum.

[00:02:53] When it comes to course design melody is the real deal. And I am so excited and grateful to have her on the show today. Please welcome melody Johnson, everybody.

Interview with Melody Johnson

[00:03:06] Megan: Hi, melody. Thanks so much for being on the dollar sprout podcast today.

[00:03:11] Melody Johnson: Super excited to be here.

[00:03:13] Megan: Yeah. I’m really excited to have you. I want to clear something up right out of the gate. Which is a question that a lot of our audience has. Do you have to be an expert in a subject matter in order to create a course on it?

[00:03:28] Or can you create a profitable course about something that you do as a hobby or something that you’re doing? Not a total expert in.

[00:03:37] Melody Johnson: Yeah. Great question. So I think that it helps if you know something about the subject, right? It is definitely going to be easier to create the curriculum. It’s going to be easier to talk about something that you’re very enthusiastic about, interested in, and also knowledgeable about that being said, you don’t need a rocket.

[00:03:57] Science degree, a PhD or any sort of badge or certificate in order to create a profitable course. So yes, you can absolutely talk about something that you do as a hobby. However, it is helpful to know a good deal of information about your topic.

[00:04:15] Megan: Gotcha. Okay. What are some examples of, I guess, quote unquote, hobby courses that you’ve seen that have been profitable were worked out well.

[00:04:26] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So I think that when it comes to the hobby courses, you know, some people really start out doing a hobby course at the practice round. So you know, some of the students that I’ve worked with inside of some of my online courses and through my curriculum, they started out creating an online course.

[00:04:46] That was a reference to some of their skills. So one of my students was actually someone who had a membership related to creating arts and crafts. So specifically, if you think about like Joann’s fabric, she was actually an instructor and she would come in there and teach people how to create these really beautiful crafts.

[00:05:03] And so she decided to make a membership out of it. And so she actually had a few sales come in. Pre-selling a membership or her program now she’s, since then created a brand new digital product that’s related to a different aspect of her business, which generates revenue for her in multiple ways through her online community.

[00:05:25] But I do think that for a majority of people, a hobby whose courses really just a starter course, I actually find that most of my clients and customers tend to have a focus on business as their way of growing their income.

[00:05:39] Megan: Yeah. That’s, that’s really cool though, that you can, like, you don’t have to be an expert to create a course and to have a profitable course.

[00:05:48] And I know we’re here today to talk about course design, but before we get into that, I want to talk about. Customer success because as an instructional designer and certified virtual customer success manager, your work, it’s a big, big time. It’s a mouthful of a title. But your work focuses a lot on not just creating and designing courses, but making sure that the programs that you create with your clients get their clients, the results that they’re looking for.

[00:06:19] Which is the customer success part. Besides the obvious ethical reason that you just should care about your customer success and want to create a course or a program that gets results for your students, those should be a given. can you explain from a more business centered perspective, why customer success matters, especially for small business owner or someone who’s creating their first course, maybe.

[00:06:45] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So one of the things that I think is really important to analyze. What people look for is not features and benefits. It’s really outcomes. Right? So if you have gone through a traditional education route, maybe you’ve got a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, maybe even you’ve got some sort of certification where you’re looking for.

[00:07:06] Actually an additional outcome that’s to improve your career that’s to generate more revenue, maybe it’s for a more flexible type of career or different work hours. So you can work as an online consultant or do some sort of a product and create a product. Right. So regardless of what kind of course that you create, it’s important to understand what is the key outcome that you want people to walk away with?

[00:07:33] With that in mind. And you said it’s a mouthful, right? Customer success. What does even that mean? Well, what that really looks at is what is the customer journey from start to finish? How can I help them grow, succeed? And then turn into an advocate. Someone who is saying, oh my gosh, you have to go check out this product.

[00:07:53] You have to go check out this course. I mean, I absolutely go and listen to my friends and my colleagues when I am looking for. Recommendations. And so that word of mouth referral is so, so very important, especially with social media, right? How many times do you see these terrible reviews on Twitter? Or you see some sort of mad customers saying, I’m not happy with this.

[00:08:15] I want a refund. And obviously there are going to be some outliers, but the truth is that if you look at the monetary amount of what it costs to actually acquire customers, so there’s something called customer acquisition, cost or CAC. That is referring to the cost. It actually takes to have someone spend money in your business.

[00:08:35] Now that may not be as much money when you are doing organic marketing efforts like Instagram marketing, Facebook advertisement, or if you are already doing some sort of paid advertisement campaign. So for example, if we look at affiliate marketing, there is actually a commission percentage that comes out of the overall product purchase.

[00:08:55] If you look at the cost of marketing, If you have CAMBA, that’s actually the customer marketing. If you hire a social media marketing manager or someone else, there’s all of these fees that we don’t really think about when we’re marketing a product or a service. And when you actually have that customer purchased from you, you have to think.

[00:09:13] What is the average amount that this person will spend? What is the price of the customer lifetime value also known as LTV. So if you look at the math, you actually find that 95% of I think it’s 85 to 95%. I gotta double check my percentages. It’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep the customer that you already have.

[00:09:38] So as we’re bringing this back into curriculum, how do we actually make that work? That’s actually to improve the overall retention of that customer so that we can continue with them, get them to achieve better results and also bring on more revenue and grow our business. So hopefully that helps And I hope that answers your question.

[00:10:03] Megan: Yeah, that answers my question. what are the components of. Creating a really great customer experience besides the ones that you just mentioned.

[00:10:16] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So one of the things that I just want to talk a little bit more about is how do we create the curriculum with customer success in mind? Right? Because if we know that testimonials are going to generate more word of mouth referrals, if we know that customer lifetime value is going to increase our bottom line and help us to actually decrease overhead marketing costs with constantly trying to create.

[00:10:41] Old customers with new customers. Then what we wanna do is actually help people. Break down the content in a meaningful and systematic way now for some people that means that there’s going to be a variety of content. Right. So there’s going to be maybe some videos. If you have a really big video, such as it’s actually really long, let’s say, you know 60 plus minutes, you know, I see some of these courses out there that are like, I’m packing my content with lots of quote value and you can see me because I’m on the podcast, but I’m doing air quotes.

[00:11:15] The truth is that that’s so overwhelming. Like how many of you know, Purchased a chorus. You’d go in. You’re like, okay, this is like 20 million hours. And I know you’re trying to quote, pack the value, but I feel so overwhelmed. I don’t even know where to start. So first off let’s just break it down. Right? So step one.

[00:11:35] Make it simple. The best thing that you can do is decrease the time in your curriculum. Secondly, we need to actually break it down into what I call milestones, or if you’re a teacher, if you’re familiar with teaching and education, these are called learning objectives, right? So this is actually the lessons.

[00:11:54] This is the how to, so you’re going to break it down. Into little stepping stone. So for example, one of the examples I give inside of my online course is the example of, if I wanted to teach somebody how to create a profitable freelancing business, I wouldn’t start by saying, okay, here’s 20 things you need to do right now.

[00:12:14] Instead, I would say, well, what’s the first thing I need to actually focus. Well, we probably need to focus on building a website, right? So from the website, what do they need to do? Let’s say WordPress. Okay. So now we’re going to break it down into the lesson. So here’s how to create and host your domain on go.

[00:12:33] Let’s say I’m trying to think of one a host, right? So WPX is my host. Here’s how to host WordPress on. WPX hosting. Right? So that is the first lesson, right? And then we get into, how do I structure my services? How do I design the website? And you might have multiple different products or roll those products into a membership or a group program, or a mentorship where you’re walking people through step by step.

[00:13:02] And I think what the most important thing to do is not to show people. You know, everything and that you’re the bee’s knees. When it comes to this course, it’s more about helping them take that journey from each of the minute success steps so that they feel confident, right. Because that’s really, at the end of the day, we want people to feel confident.

[00:13:23] We want people to feel good. And will they learn everything overnight? No, absolutely not. That’s why people pay money for mentors and coaches and masterminds, right? So we want people to feel success because one it’s important for them. And it’s also important for you as the business owners, so that they give you a good testimonial and they feel that their money was well spent.

[00:13:44] Megan: Yeah. I really liked that process of first. You mentioned earlier, figure out what the transformation is, what the outcome is that you want your student to get from your course. And then from there, what are the big milestones that they need to hit in order to achieve that outcome? How so going back to the outcome for a second, how would you define.

[00:14:10] An outcome. Do you have like a formula, you know of, I want my student to blank so that they can blend or whatever it is, how, what is a good outcome statement look like?

[00:14:21] Melody Johnson: Yes, absolutely. And I love that. You’re saying that I hear some teacher in, you know, So the way I actually do this is with my students inside of some of my online courses, which we break it down.

[00:14:35] Right. So let’s talk about the big goal, right? So that’s actually called a learning goal. I’m going to teach you for a second. I’m going to bring on my whiteboard. Okay. So just getting you can’t see it. So what you’re going to do is you’re going to take the learning goal. If you live, think about this in terms of a dartboard, right? So you have the big circle, right? That big, big, big, outer circle. That’s the, the overall goal of the course. My, I want my students to build a successful freelancing business. So again, that’s the example I shared earlier. Then we have the smaller goals. Which is a smaller circle all the way in.

[00:15:12] So it’s going to take a little bit to visualize this. I do have a visual aid for this, but this is a podcast. So we’re going to then take that goal and we’re going to break it down into what I call a chapter or a module. Right? So then we’re going to say, okay, here’s where the outcome of this module, this chapter is going to be.

[00:15:30] I’m going to show you how to develop a beautifully branded about me section. On your website. Okay. And then within that little section, there’s even a smaller goal and that’s the lesson or the learning objective. This would be the video tutorial, the actual PDF handout or whatever activity that’s associated with it.

[00:15:53] So our breaking it down. And then within that circle, we’re saying, again, this a smaller circle, three circles, big circles, smaller. Tiny little circle, a little lesson here, a little baby lesson. And we’re, we’re telling people, okay. Here’s how right. So the outcome is not, I’m going to teach you how to be a successful business owner.

[00:16:11] That’s super vague. What we’re saying instead is here’s how to develop your about me section on your website. In this three minute video. Okay. It’s probably a little longer than that, but that’s just an example. So how to step steps up accomplish. So there’s actually a whole ABCD E process to this.

[00:16:32] I won’t go too much into that because it gets pretty nerdy, but essentially we’re building out that outcome based off of specific, measurable stepping stones that we can teach people to follow in a way that we can actually. Analyze and review because if I said, okay, did you publish your about me page?

[00:16:54] Someone would say either yes or no, it’s not a maybe right. So we want to see yes or no. Did they finish this? And then the second part would be. What you wouldn’t want to do, which is often what ends up happening is were you successful with the chorus? Well, how do you know what determines success while you create curriculum that helps to measure success by creating actionable outcomes that people can accomplish.

[00:17:22] Megan: I really like that. Okay. So you have the outcome or I guess, how do you even come up with the overall. Course outcome. Like where do you find out what outcome your course should have?

[00:17:40] Melody Johnson: Right, right. So I’ll kind of walk you through my process and I hope I’m not skipping around too much, but so, so the first thing that I always like to do, and this is, again, something that I teach my students and my clients is to analyze, right?

[00:17:56] What is the problem? There’s a Japanese quote or concept called eeky guy. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with that concept, but it’s basically the culmination of what does the world need? What are you good at? What are people willing to spend? And then within that you basically have your product or your service or whatever you want to do that will help you sustain your livelihood and you feel good doing it.

[00:18:24] So what you do is you want to analyze. How do I create content that will help somebody achieve a goal? And how does that relate to the skillset that I have now? I love musical theater. I am a singer. I love singing Disney. Does it pay the bills for me? Absolutely not. Well, people will, some people pay me money to do.

[00:18:44] Possibly, but I I’ve found actually a much more profitable for me to do something that aligns my education, my experience, my background into what I am doing now. And so to find the outcome, I need to look at the customer. What questions are people asking for? Can I go on a competitor’s website and look, oh, people are asking these questions and again, I’m not copying, I’m simply researching.

[00:19:10] So we’re analyzing. What are people looking for and how can I help? Okay. Then we do this process called define, right? Define and refine. It’s kind of coming together. We define the outcome of the. So-and-so is asking how do I create a successful blogging based business so I can build a more flexible lifestyle brand so I can retire early.

[00:19:36] Right? So that’s one kind of outcome that someone really wants very broad. And then we say, oh, they have a question specifically on how do I generate revenue and build a brand and my business using. You know, search engine optimization. Okay. So that’s a little bit more specific there. So then we go into what is my skillset around SEL, and then you can go on and say, you know, I am blah, blah, blah, SEO expert.

[00:20:02] And I’ve learned and, or just, you know, from a personal approach. Okay. Well, I like using this approach and these are the softwares that I use. And so now, now we actually start to refine it and we’re like, I know that the first lesson I want to do. Is how to optimize your blog posts with Yoast plugin. Okay.

[00:20:22] So that’s very basic. And of course, I know some people are listening or SEO experts are cringing. When I say Yoast, they’re just like, they’re rolling over in their graves. They’re thinking, oh my goodness, you don’t know anything about SEO? That’s just an example. Right? So we’re going to create that and refine that online curriculum.

[00:20:42] We’re going to then build out the lesson plan. Okay. We’ve got the modules, got the chapters are fine, defined, refine. Then we actually put all the lessons together. We develop the online content. It’s going to get better over time and you can pre-sell it. But even before you develop it, that’s a whole.

[00:20:59] Topic. And then you’ll actually launch, you develop all these marketing assets, you start marketing it and you start selling it. So. That is a process that I follow. And normally it becomes a cyclical cycle where someone will actually go from the top analyze, define, develop test launch, go back into a secondary process.

[00:21:20] It’s an iterative process. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that your first course is going to not be as good as your 13th course. And when you become an expert at doing anything, the only way to get better is to face. So don’t be afraid of failing. Get out there and go sell something, make it better, improve your customer experience and start generating more repeat customers.

[00:21:45] You’ll truly, truly see a difference in the way that you run your business and the calm that you see on a day to day operation.

[00:21:52] Megan: Yeah. How big of an outcome do we need to have an order to, you know, have enough to create a course from.

[00:22:03] Melody Johnson: Hm. Interesting. So I think when we look at the outcome, we want to be super small.

[00:22:11] There’s nothing bad with having a small win. So I don’t, I actually prefer people to start small, especially when they’re trying to create an online course or they’re planning something and they tend to get overwhelmed with all the steps involved, which is totally understandable. But what we want to do is actually think what is.

[00:22:33] Easiest way, then I can get this off my plate for some people that might be a 90 minute master class session where you teach it live and it’s a workshop and it’s paid for some people. It’s actually just selling it via email marketing, and then you’re going to actually develop it and release it over time.

[00:22:52] Some people. You know, they say, I just want to give it away for free. I don’t recommend that, but I know some of my customers and clients prefer to do it that way. So I do think it, the outcome is going to be very specific. It can be small, it can be big, but in my opinion, I think smaller is better because it brings and lends itself to more ease.

[00:23:14] Megan: Yeah. Yeah. So, so part of the inspiration for that question was I used to have a business doing financial coaching, and I remember there was one point in time where I really wanted to create a course and I got so overwhelmed because I wanted the outcome of the course to be. That people had control of their finances or something very vague like that.

[00:23:38] And I just got so overwhelmed thinking, okay, well, I need to have content on budgeting and investing and paying off debt and all of this in one course, because if people can do like a little bit of all of that, they’re definitely gonna feel more confident. But so it sounds like, it sounds like. If I had approached it from, you know, accepting that a smaller outcome is not only acceptable, but sometimes even more helpful because it’s just more digestible for a person to go through like a course on how to budget or how to pay off debt or just one of those topics would have been enough, or even like how to budget with a specific method.

[00:24:24] I’m just reflect.

[00:24:25] Melody Johnson: You know, it’s, it’s a learning process, then I’m going to be honest with you, Megan. I actually used to be a financial coach myself, so I’m no longer doing that business, but you know, it, it was, I had very similar experience. I thought to myself. Okay, well, where do I, you know They actually start this process.

[00:24:42] How do I put this information together? And that’s with me knowing years of experience teaching. And so I was overwhelmed thinking, how do I even put this together? Where do I start? There’s so much, I can’t even break this down yet. And so, you know, I think what you said is true, right? So we, we look at it and we think I have to be X, Y, and Z.

[00:25:00] That’s what success looks like. But in reality, You know, nobody’s said you had to go on the freeway at 65 miles an hour when you’re just on trying to go through driver’s ed, right? Like nobody has said yet to do that. Get out there, go to drivers, said, get a couple of reps in and then you can get on their freeway.

[00:25:16] Right. You don’t need to freak yourself out, get on the freeway and then get super anxious.

[00:25:20] Megan: Yeah. Exactly. Do you mind to talk a little bit about. What a mini courses, because you have a product called the digital digital product toolkit. I don’t have it right in front of me. Is that the correct name, please?

[00:25:36] Correct me if I’m wrong.

[00:25:37] Melody Johnson: No, you’re you’re right. yeah, the digital product toolkit is perfect for people who are just starting out who want to create a mini course about a specific subject. And they are absolutely petrified of creating a signature course. So if that sounds like someone out there, it’s a great product, but basically what I recommend.

[00:25:57] People do is a mini course specifically is going to have a very small minute outcome. And it’s normally something that can be accomplished within a shorter period of time. A mini course does not have to be a set amount of curriculum. It can literally be a 10 minute video and a PDF handout, or it could literally be just a handout.

[00:26:20] That’s like a digital download. And so. If you want to start selling quickly and you’re petrified of spending hours, weeks, or months planning this big, massive signature course, then I recommend putting out a mini course. Why? Because it’s quicker to develop. It’s faster to validate meaning. I know if I’m going to put out a 10 to 15 minute video and a couple of templates, I can see if this is going to be profitable.

[00:26:47] By determining how many people actually bought this product. Is it even worth it to build out a full sales page? Is this something that I should build up over time? And once I see a few sales come in, I can analyze say, oh, there is a market for this. There is going to be a new product for this. Maybe it’s going to lead into a one-on-one service.

[00:27:07] Maybe it’s going to lead into a. Bigger course, maybe a group program or a membership or whatever it is that I want to sell next. Then we can determine to create a full offer suite or product lineup that will align with the overall audience that we’re trying to serve.

[00:27:25] Megan: Hmm. Interesting. Yeah, that does help.

[00:27:29] Can you give examples of what are some outcomes that you’ve seen of successful many courses, and then also what’s the price point for a mini course that people should aim for.

[00:27:41] Melody Johnson: Yeah, this is a really great question. And so, so some examples that I’ve seen from my students, one of the students that I actually brought up earlier, Kim Kim actually started out with just a hobby course, and then she graduated into her next course in her, in the most recent live round of the digital product toolkit.

[00:28:04] And she created this mini course called. Pitch to get booked on a podcast, which was wonderful. It’s a mini course looks like 37 or $47. And I had a set outcome. It had email templates on how to reach out to podcasts hosts to get booked on a podcast without being spammy or weird. And also it had step-by-step video tutorials on how to organize some important assets to share.

[00:28:29] With your podcast hosts that you’re going to pitch to. And so that has a very clear outcome. I know exactly what I’m getting. It’s solving this very small, but something that I relate to as a problem. And then I understand what I am paying money. Now there’s a lot of talk about what should I price my product as and how will that help me grow my business?

[00:28:52] So there’s two things that I like to consider when it comes to pricing and everyone has different thoughts on the actual number itself. But what I really want people to understand is what is more important volume or more support. So for example, like if I wanted to have a lot of money come in for my online course, And my product is selling at $47.

[00:29:18] I need a lot of volume if I need a lot of volume, that means I need to have a higher amount of people who purchased the product for me to reach my revenue goal. Now, if I wanted to have a larger course or program or. Or something that’s more higher touch. I need low volume, but it’s going to be high effort and high energy.

[00:29:41] And so you can couple your course with a service or something else that you offer in your business to help determine what is going to be best for you. And honestly, for some people, it’s actually the services they’re going to go high touch. Because they want to actually generate more revenue on the front end.

[00:29:59] And they don’t have the traffic yet to support a high volume product. And then they pair up the service with a course. Right. So it, it definitely does not have to be. To one another, it is something that I recommend people do. So to answer your question, what’s the price. Well, it’s up to you. What is your revenue goal?

[00:30:18] How many people do you need to actually book to make that revenue goal possible? And then if you wanted to do a mini course, you could do 47 to $97. But again, it really depends on what that revenue goal is.

[00:30:30] Megan: Yeah. How long should we be planning to spend on putting a mini course together?

[00:30:40] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So I think that is a largely dependent on your audience size.

[00:30:44] So if you’re starting out brand fresh new, and you don’t have an email list, you don’t have an audience and you don’t have the revenue to generate sales from a paid advertisement. Strategies is going to take longer because you need to build up the audience. So I would say anywhere between. Three to six months, but again, you know, maybe you already have a couple thousand subscribers then I don’t recommend doing that.

[00:31:07] I recommend just jumping in and I would recommend four to six weeks and planning time. But if you are someone who is like for example I have friends and we have gone through different journeys and our business, and we have launched products over a week. So, you know, it really depends on your, your comfort level of it not being polished.

[00:31:30] So if you are a polished person and you don’t feel comfortable sharing a product that isn’t. Polished to its fullest. Then maybe you want a little longer time. If you thrive off of spontaneity and you are fine with it being less polished and you want to improve it over time and you’re fine with pre-selling then absolutely.

[00:31:48] You know, you’re going to take less time. So, you know, probably two to three weeks, some people even take less than that. That makes me a little nervous, but some people are like that. So totally space for both.

[00:31:59] Megan: Yeah. I have a question about creating your actual course content. I attempted to create a course a while back.

[00:32:10] And I felt like every single lesson had to be video. And I know you mentioned this earlier that there are options. You can have video lessons, texts, lessons, recordings, just like this. How do you know which lessons should be videos? Which ones can be texts and which ones might just be like a, download a workbook or something.

[00:32:35] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So I think they answer that question is what do your students need to see and do to feel successful? So if I were to tell you, I’m going to show you how to create and design a beautiful website. With only audio. What would your reaction be?

[00:32:55] Megan: Yeah, probably not.

[00:32:57] Melody Johnson: Right. So immediately we think to ourselves, oh my gosh, that sounds very technical.

[00:33:04] I need somebody to walk me through visually. Right. So that’s what I would say. Okay. So, so, so that is very technical things that Step-by-step processes and steps. I recommend visual. If it is a strategy or a mindset thing, you can absolutely do audio or a workbook or a template. I think that’s fine.

[00:33:25] If you, if you look at it from a learning perspective, There are so many ways that you can teach. There’s not a right or wrong way. I remember one of my physics teacher actually showed us this example of center centrifical force and he was just such a storyteller. And he would show us by visually showing this like I think it was a yo-yo and he would do all of these different tricks with the yo-yo and he would show us all these things.

[00:33:53] And then he lit. This is what centrifugal force is. And I just remember, I actually hated the concept. I hated the topic, but it was super interesting when he was teaching. And I thought to myself, wow, he used storytelling. He used this visual aid, this guy. You know, so it really just depends on your personal teaching style, how it relates to the curriculum itself.

[00:34:20] Like, does it lend itself to more visual? Does it lend itself to more audio? Is this something that I could just show people a template and, you know, record a quick loom video? So it’s absolutely up to you as a teacher to create the content and what you feel is easy and helpful for your students.

[00:34:37] Megan: Yeah. Okay. So going back to customer success, how, what are some ways that we can implement customer success strategies? Make sure that students in our online course are getting the results that, you know, the course promises without spinning all of our time, managing our customers success.

[00:34:59] Especially if we want to have a lower touch program. And I know you mentioned like breaking things down very, you know, step-by-step so that it’s easy to follow. Are there any other strategies, any other tools that we can use to automate some of this or to motivate people to finish our course?

[00:35:16] Melody Johnson: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:35:18] So I always recommend people start with an onboarding email sequence. So similar to a welcome sequence. If you’re brand new to email marketing, it’s basically a series of emails that you send to people to help people. Outline a specific action or to find it helpful when you do post-purchase of automations meanings.

[00:35:39] When somebody actually purchases your course, you’re going to walk them through a couple things. Number one, most frequently asked question, how do I access the course? That’s going to be number one, email. The second thing that you want to share. What’s the first step they need to take. Right? So then you probably link back to a specific lesson.

[00:35:58] When I first start talking about XYZ topic, the first lesson I recommend people watching is this watch list. Then I also recommend having little milestones. So depending on if it’s a mini course, you really don’t need a full onboarding sequence. In my opinion, it’s probably a little overkill you could if you wanted to, but you probably don’t.

[00:36:18] If it’s a signature course, a group program or a membership, that’s a very different, and that’s what I helped my one-on-one clients with that is because there’s a much more comprehensive curriculum. It’s often what I consider a buffet. When it really should be this beautiful dining course experience was seven meals and we want to start walking them through what the milestones are.

[00:36:39] Step one, step two, step three, step four. Especially if you’re paying on a monthly recurring basis. But if going back to your question, how do you create that onboarding to automate it? Email sequences are one second way is you can actually create some help desk articles and tutorials specifically pertaining to how to access your course with your course platform.

[00:37:00] Again, that’s one of the most frequently asked questions that people ask. And I will tell you I’ve sold products and it’s like six to eight months later. Someone emails me and says, Hey, I don’t know where to find. I’m like, okay, well, good thing. I have an article for you. This is how to access the course.

[00:37:17] There’s a loom video attached and there’s directions and are screenshots. So very simple thing to record. And I use a software called talk that’s T a w K dot T O. And it is the free help desk software. So if you’re familiar, The help desk software is probably the thing that you see, the little chat bubble and those software companies like inner calm or help scout.

[00:37:39] Those kinds of softwares normally run hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to run. And if you’re a small business owner, you probably don’t have that kind of revenue. If you do, then we should probably talk. But we, we, we definitely think that it’s just like a really easy, simple process to set up that help desk software.

[00:37:56] Add a couple of frequently asked questions. Where do I access my course, number two, you can also set up a automatic email sequence to request for a testimonial, and then you can add that to the sequence.

[00:38:09] Megan: Mm Hmm. Yeah. Very important. Thank you so much. Those are all that’s very helpful. Last question I have for you before we move into our slow round, how should bonuses play into our course design?

[00:38:24] Should we have them and how do we know what kind of bonuses to include in our course?

[00:38:30] Melody Johnson: Yeah, so I think bonuses are what I refer to as something that helps fence sitters. Go over to the other side of the fence. And so I have been, and I, I am you know, perpetual chorus buyer yeah, just loving all the courses and I’m like, oh wow.

[00:38:49] I spent that much on courses last year. So, you know, perpetual chorus, fire here. And when I look at the bonuses, those are often the things that I find most valuable, to be honest with you still, I will look at it and say, okay, What is the outcome of the course? Do I need this outcome? Yes or no. If the answer is yes, then I will look at what are the features and benefits.

[00:39:14] And then also what are the bonuses? And so the bonuses are strategically created to help provide an extra incentive for people who are already interested in the topic to help them cross over the line. And so often I find that templates and resources that will help someone in. On the actual training itself are really great bonuses.

[00:39:38] But I’ve also seen people just you know, have an extra training, you know, maybe a 30 minute training from like an, a guest expert or maybe just a related course or product that they pulled out of a different course. And they added that into the course as a bonus. And it’s only available in, in this product.

[00:39:59] And it really just depends on, you know, who is your customer, what they’re needing help with and how quickly can you get them to accomplish that goal? Especially within the solo entrepreneurs space I work with a lot of teams, but, you know, solo entrepreneurs just love something quick and easy something they can do in 10 minutes or less.

[00:40:18] Megan: Awesome. Thank you so much. So I’m going to move on to our solo round. Are you ready for it?

[00:40:23] Melody Johnson: Yeah.

Slow Round Questions

[00:40:24] Megan: Okay. So our slow round Is inspired by Mike Birbiglia, who is my favorite comedian of all time. Don’t know if you’re familiar, but oh yeah. I love Mike Birbiglia so much. I saw him live last month. It was the best moment of my life now.

[00:40:44] Yeah. But yeah. Like a lightning round, but slower, you could say. So my first question for you is what are bad recommendations that you hear in your niche or business area of expertise?

[00:40:59] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So the phrase build it and they will come very bad recommendation. I don’t recommend building it and they will come.

[00:41:10] I recommend selling it and then they will buy. So you can decide whether or not it’s worth your time, energy, and effort to build something and then determine if it’s worth your, your effort.

[00:41:23] Megan: Yeah. So you’re talking about preselling.

[00:41:25] Melody Johnson: Yeah. You know, and I think it goes to really with anything. If you are creating a product I recommend just going MVP, minimum viable products.

[00:41:38] So my first digital product was actually a couple of Google document templates and I sold it for $19. And then. Improving it. And then it built out into this larger course and a larger framework. I built an agency around it and then, you know, now has have migrated into more of a consultancy. And so that is what I recommend is really just evaluating.

[00:42:00] What does the customer want before you make anything? What does the customer want? What are they willing to buy? And also what’s the price that we need to sell this, that to me validated so we can improve the product and the overall customer experience over time. So don’t build it in. They will come, you should actually figure out what you’re going to make if somebody actually wants to buy it before you sell it.

[00:42:26] So and yes, you said. Are you referring to pre-selling? Yeah. You could absolutely call that. Pre-selling if you want to actually sell the masterclass before you make it to see if it’s actually worth it to create a whole sales page.

[00:42:39] Megan: Yeah. I really liked that. I love it. When people talk about. Just when people make things simple.

[00:42:45] So simple, like you saying that you sold your first digital product, which was some Google doc templates for $19. That gives me so much more confidence and makes me feel so much more Addie is for, you know, the possibility of being able to just do something simple and sell it online. See if it works and not have to invest months of time into creating something to sell.

[00:43:11] Second question for our slow round. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments that you’ve ever made in your business? It could be an investment of money, time, energy, or something else.

[00:43:23] Melody Johnson: Yeah. So I think one of the most worthwhile investments I’ve made in my business has been one-on-one mentorship.

[00:43:32] And I did that earlier on in my business where I was looking for someone to just guide me through the process of how do I organize. Specifically my social media marketing for my business. How do I communicate with people that feels like something that I could do without feeling spammy or weird? I really want to have genuine relationship.

[00:43:57] And so mentorship and one-on-one coaching have just been truly a very worthwhile investment. Over time, I’ve also had to say that group programs have been really beneficial. I’ve been in several over the years and then having that community around me has been just so supportive. And I think that I’ve developed lifelong friendships from some of these memberships and group programs and colleagues that I can talk to about how the business is doing.

[00:44:22] What I can do differently and how we can support each other.

[00:44:25] Megan: Yeah. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. And changing my business from financial coaching to online business management. I’ve been looking for online communities and you were talking about like paid mentorships and stuff, masterminds and all of that.

[00:44:41] Facebook groups also can be. Space to find community. You have a free Facebook group. If you want to like talk a little bit about that or any tips that you have for finding community online.

[00:44:54] Melody Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. So finding community online is really important. And the number one reason why is feedback and community.

[00:45:03] And most recently I interviewed another guest on my podcast about this specific topic. And one of the things he said was really pointed was. That people come for the content, but they’ll stay for community. And I think that’s really true for really any kind of online space. So if you’re selling a product or a program or a service, people might really look to you.

[00:45:28] Really want to learn the curriculum or the content, or dive deep into a subject because it interests them. But what will be the key differentiator is what is the experience that that person has? What is the actual community that you’ve created and how can we relate to people in a meaningful and impactful way?

[00:45:46] There’s a, a common quote that’s stated very often is People will won’t really care what, you know, they will really mostly care about the way that they treat you. And I totally botched that as terrible, but, they were really care about the way that you’re treated. They will care about the way you communicate with them and, and then they’ll think, oh, okay, you’re really helpful.

[00:46:08] I really want to connect up with you. So, yes, I do have a free Facebook group and inside the Facebook group, we’re actually going through some, some great resources for established course creators who are looking to scale up using a tool that I use called click up and I’ll be going over some customer success strategies.

[00:46:29] There’s some great connections there. I do. Personal things about my life as well in there, just because I’m an open book and I just feel more open in that group to just share about my personal life and what I’m up to in my business. And it’s a great space of other online course creators who are looking to take their.

[00:46:47] Step into the next phase in their business. And there’s a couple of people in there too, who are brand new to course creation, all are welcome. People across the world are in that group. And it’s just a blast to, to see when people make connections. I do also have other resources available where I connect up with people on my free live streams.

[00:47:08] So every Friday I do a live stream and I talk about a specific subject. Free podcast for YouTube channels. So lots of briefings, you can check out if you’re just getting started with course creation or again, a more established in your business. And you want to actually scale up to build out that successful group program with better results.

[00:47:30] Megan: Yeah. Awesome. And we will definitely link to your Facebook group and other freebies that you have in the show notes for this episode. Last question that I have for you for the slow round in the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life and or business?

[00:47:49] Melody Johnson: That’s a great question. So I think that for me, it’s probably. Establishing the fact that life is more than business. And I think that when I first started, it was just about generating revenue. It was just about hitting that big financial goal that I wanted to achieve in my business. And then once I started generating, you know, $20,000.

[00:48:19] I was just exhausted. I was tired. I did not want to continue the way I was running my business. I kind of fell out of love with my business for a while. And I wanted to rekindle that desire and passion that I had originally starting my business instead of feeling like I created my own. Terrible cubicle in the pandemic inside my house.

[00:48:42] So I decided that, you know, I wanted to create more space and that’s how courses have really helped me. It’s built more space into my life is built more space that I can actually adopt. It’s built more ability so that I’m not constantly worrying about checking on one-on-one client work. And though I do still have a mix of services and products in my, in my office.

[00:49:07] I think it’s really important to design your business around your life rather than design your life around your business. And so many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that once you hit a certain income, you’re going to want to look at developing a positive and sustainable process that will keep you going instead of burning out one to sell the business or worse, just never moving forward and just quit.

[00:49:37] Megan: Yeah. I think that’s a hard thing for so many people to, to not focus, I guess, all of your time and attention on your business as an entrepreneur, because. It feels like survival. When you’re running your own business, you have to be making money to survive. And sometimes it feels like if you stop, you’re not going to make money.

[00:49:59] So yeah. I’m glad you were able to find that and create space for yourself in your business. Where can our audience learn more about you? Find out more about you. Obviously your Facebook group is a great place anywhere else.

[00:50:13] Melody Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. So you can head on over to my website@wwdotthecourseconsultant.com.

[00:50:19] There’s some great trainings and resources there, including access to my YouTube channel. Also, my blog posts with past podcast episode with other course creator interviews. And of course you can reach out to see if I have the availability for services or access to some of my membership community. So great resources there at WW dot, the course consultant.com.

[00:50:42] And like you said the free Facebook group is also available in case you have questions I’m really open. So if you have questions, you can reach out to me on Facebook. DM. My Facebook personal profile is kind of my secondary living room. If you will, you hang out with me, see what I’m up to in my life and my business.

[00:51:00] So I’d welcome you to come join me in my digital living room. And I would love to connect up with anyone who’s listening that has questions about this concept for customer success and improving a curriculum online.

[00:51:14] Megan: Yeah. And what’s the name of your free Facebook group?

[00:51:17] Melody Johnson: Yep. It’s called inspired courses.

[00:51:21] And so I’ll share that link with you. But it’s facebook.com/groups/inspired courses, and you’ll get access to join lots of video trainings in there, and lots of helpful, little how to guides and resources. So hopefully you can hop on over and join me online. I’d love to see.

[00:51:40] Megan: Well thank you so much for being here, melody.

[00:51:42] This was a great conversation and really appreciate you lending your expertise to the podcast.

[00:51:48] Melody Johnson: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. It was great.


[00:51:51] Megan: Huge. Thank you to melody for being on this episode of the dollar sprout podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, then don’t forget to follow the podcast and whatever app you’re using to listen to the show now. And if you really enjoyed the episode, then go ahead and leave us a rating or review. Let us know that you enjoyed it.

[00:52:13] This will be the last interview episode for season one of the dollar spout podcast, but we will be. With one more solo episode to kind of wrap up the season. So leave us a rating and review or comment. If you’re listening to this on the website, let us know what you loved about the season, let us know what you would like to see next season and as always, thank you so much for being here and I will see you on the next episode.