Why Your Course Isn't Selling & What to Do About It
I checked the number of signups and thought:
“Man, that’s pathetic!”
I’d spent months putting together my very first course – a monthly membership program for entrepreneurs and freelancers who wanted help with marketing, branding and design.
For only $49 a month (a BARGAIN, right?!), I was going to give members in-depth training into a key business topic that would help them grow their business, make a bigger impact and add extra zeros to their bottom line.
It was back in 2011, and I’d just started to build a solid reputation for myself in the branding and web design world and I thought I was ready to jump on the "passive income bandwagon" like all the experts talked about.
I was ready to jump on the "passive income bandwagon" LOL
So I spent literally days in front of my computer putting each month’s materials together. (Side note: perhaps a lot like you, I was obsessed (and still am) with creating the very best quality training out there.)
The dream was to grow my membership base to thousands of people and help every last one of them see transformational results in their business...
And my reward? The kind of deep satisfaction that comes with changing people’s lives PLUS an amazing, recurring monthly revenue stream.
It was going to be a win-win situation for everyone and all the marketing experts I talked to told me that it was a home run... a sure thing. 🙌
Except it wasn't.
After three months of writing & producing... Three months of hustling... Three months of marketing & selling... Three months of giving it my ALL, I had enrolled a grand total of “drum roll, please”...
3 people! 😭
Just 3 people seemed willing to pay me $49 a month for a grand total of $441!
At first, I was shocked and disappointed. But after a while, I started to get curious...
What was I doing wrong? 🤷 ♂️
Why weren’t more people signing up? 🤷♂️
How could I make things better? 🤷♀️
It would take quite a while – more than a few years – before I'd find the answers. But once I did, everything changed.
Fast forward to today and we've generated over $30,000,000 in sales from our various courses & online programs, and I can’t tell you how honored, blessed and grateful I am to have had the opportunity to help so many people.
But hey! This story isn’t about me... It’s supposed to be about YOU...
So I want you to know that no matter where you are in your business right now, you can start to create significant income with your courses and online programs, even if it's been challenging up until now.
You just need to choose the right product, for the right people, at the right time in your business... (and naturally, how to avoid the wrong products)!
And that’s what this article is all about.
It's important to understand that the insights I’m about to share isn't a bunch of regurgitated advice I've read other people say online.
It's battle-tested, proven insider secrets based on my own track record over 10 years. It's a compilation of years of personal experience creating million-dollar courses & programs, plus thousands of hours coaching entrepreneurs & business owners on the art of choosing and offering the right courses, products and programs at the right time for their unique business.
This guide will help you create products that deliver real results for your customers and you’ll get to experience the ultimate reward – the one thing that will guarantee success for years to come: a steady, growing stream of lifelong customers who can’t wait to buy from you again and again.
What’s the fastest way to make more money, serve more people and have a bigger impact online?
Received wisdom says that you should create a course, program or product that allows you to serve hundreds (or thousands) of people at the same time, so you can leverage your time, grow your revenue and scale your business.
It's a great idea in theory, but there’s actually far more ingredients in making this happen than most people realize or understand that can trip you up. And as a result, I’ve seen many brilliant entrepreneurs give up on their goals and dreams.
And it wasn't because they lack skill or talent, and it wasn't because they don’t have what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur. It was because they invested a ton of time, energy and money on the wrong type of product (at the wrong time) for their business.
And that’s why I wrote this article.
Think of it as your “north star” as you navigate the wildly adventurous, often unpredictable waters of course, program and product creation.
You're about to discover
- The 3-element "PPT" strategy to choose the right product for the right people at the right time, so that you're set up for success before you even start!
- How to pick the right type of course, program or product to maximize profits for your unique business
- The key factor you must consider for ALL your products, throughout the life span of your business so you can continue building a base of fans and happy-to-pay customers
And when you follow through on the ideas & action steps in this article, you can look forward to making money a lot faster than you do now, skipping potentially years of wasted effort and time.
This is a journey into the heart of smart, successful course, program and product creation so take a deep breath, get comfortable...
Let’s get started.
Choosing the Right Product Type
One of the most important decisions you’ll make at each stage of your business is what type of course, program or product you're going to create next.
The right choice can set you on the path to consistent profit and success. But the wrong one could send you into a virtual business “black hole” that drains your time, energy and money until you have nothing left. 👀
I’m not saying these things to scare you, but to help you see that choosing your product type wisely will greatly affect the outcome you get.
The success of your course, program or product isn’t about the amount of information you share. And it's not about the price or even the “value” you think you can offer your customers.
As master copywriter and marketing icon Dan Kennedy said...
Right message, right market, right media is the way to create winning marketing campaigns.
Here’s my spin on that great Kennedy-ism, for online entrepreneurs:
You’ll have a winning course, program or product on your hands when you create the right type of product, for the right market, at the right time.
We’ll go deeper into types of products you can offer in the next chapter but for now, let’s get familiar with the big picture idea behind the 3-element "PPT" strategy: the right kind of product, the right people, at the right time.
Lots of entrepreneurs who create their very first online course, program or product have naturally loft goals. Like 100 paying customers. Or 1,000. Or perhaps more.
But don’t get me wrong – I’m all about big dreams and making those dreams a reality. And I’m proud to be at the point in my business where my programs regularly attract thousands of paying students.
But if you don’t have the tools, systems and structures to support "going big", it’s not going to happen. If you want 25, 50, 100 or 1000 new customers in your online program, ask yourself...
“Do I have the customer service, tech systems and all the other things I need to support that many people?”
And in my experience marketing, delivery & fulfillment all gets increasingly expensive and complex when you’re dealing with a larger groups of people.
The key to virtually guaranteeing success is to choose the right kind of product that your business can support now.
There are virtually endless combinations of products you can create, but they can be categorized into just 3 main types:
Not sure what I mean? Keep reading ;-)
A 1:1 course, program or service product involves you interacting with your customer in a private, one-on- one capacity. These are more intimate (and usually more expensive) than 1:Few or 1:Many products because your customers are getting direct access to YOU.
The price of your 1st offer (and subsequent offers) you make will depend on your stage of business growth. But in general, you want to offer something that’s priced below $500 here.
A 1:Few course, product, program or service leverages your time by supporting a “few” customers at the same time. A group coaching program is a perfect example.
With 1:Few products, there’s usually a cap to the number of customers you can serve at one time -- whether that cap is 6, 10, 20, 50, 100 or even 200 -- to preserve the intimacy of the program.
A 1:Many product, program or service is truly scalable -- meaning hundreds, thousands (or even tens of thousands) of customers can consume it at the same time, with no cap on the number of people who buy.
Examples of a 1:Many offer include books, info products, home study courses & programs, and software as a service (SaaS).
How to pick the right one for you?
The general rule of thumb is – if you don’t have team, the systems and the processes to support a big group of students (or if this is your first product), I recommend going with a simple 1:1 personalized program, service or coaching offering.
Leave the more complex 1:Few group programs and massive 1:Many products for later, when your business has grown to the point where you can give your students the support they want and deserve (without killing yourself.)
I always tell my students:
"Before you can make money while you sleep, you have to be able to make money while you’re awake."
After going through my Experience Product Masterclass, my student Belinda Griffin finally understood the power that lies in matching the kind of product she offered with the size of your business:
“I quit my job to start my own business a year before I found Marisa & Murray. In that year I achieved a grand total of nothing. I had launched my website, written some great guest posts and gathered a few email subscribers, but that’s it.
Before, I was spending hours and hours on my business but going nowhere. I spent a lot of time guest blogging for free, doing things that weren’t a total waste of time, but weren’t bringing money in either. It was unsustainable.”
“I realized that it wasn’t a business. It was nothing more than a hobby -- a fantasy even -- and it was unsustainable. I was heartbroken, thinking I was going to have to give up on my business before it had even started.”
“This information came at exactly the right moment for me and made total sense. Watching that, everything fell into place and I knew that I had to get 1:1 clients to kickstart my business, rather than dreaming about enrolling 50+ students into a high ticket course right out of the gate.
After a year of fumbling about, I was finally seeing money in my bank account! I made $1,988!
Knowing I have the beginnings of a viable business is fantastic, but the excitement and confidence I now have for my business and my future is truly incredible!”
I have so many testimonials just like this, and it explains why so many people struggle as they grow their business. They're simply choosing the wrong kind of product to sell at the wrong time.
In the pages that follow, we’re going to explore each type of product, but for now simply keep in mind that choosing the right type of product is absolutely essential if you want to satisfy your customers’ expectations, establish a great reputation, and enjoy great sales right away.
Choosing the Right People
Big marketing and sales “gurus” love to talk about the launch process.
They go on and on about things like creating polished marketing videos, working with pro copywriters, writing complex email campaigns and going all out with Facebook Ads. This gets lots of entrepreneurs overwhelmed, scared and excited all at the same time.
They feel rushed into scaling their business and they allow themselves to believe in one of the biggest lies in the online business world...
That the success -- or failure -- of an online course, program or product is ALL about how big you can go with your launch.
But here’s the thing...
Making a big launch investment on an untested, new product is a dangerous move even if you’re an established, experienced entrepreneur. And for newbies it could mean the end of your business.
So, let’s set the record straight.
Creating a successful product isn’t about big, fancy launches. It’s about targeting the right people.
Trying to create a successful product that grows your business without understanding your market – who you’re talking to, what they want to learn, how they want to learn and how you should sell to them – is like trying to skydive without a parachute.
My recommendation is that you spend at least twice as much time and energy dialing in on your right market as you do, launching and selling your product.
Choosing the Right Time
When it comes to creating a successful online course, program or product, it’s just as much about timing as anything else – matching the right product with your current stage of businss growth.
At our annual live event Live Your Message, we teach the 4 Stages of Business Growth:
Which stage are you?
Take a second to figure out which stage you're currently in, and where you'd like to eventually end up. (Hint: not everybody wants to grow to be a Billion Dollar company.)
"Blue Sky" Stage – Little or No Revenue
- You may have a vague business idea or message but you’re not absolutely sure of it yet
- You feel uncertain about how you should move forward with your business
- You could be making anywhere from zero to around $2,500 a month (less than $30K a year)
- You’re not yet 100% sure who your right market is
- You’re not yet 100% clear about how you can consistently generate revenue in your business
"Call Me" Stage – $30K-$250K/year revenue
- You’ve successfully identified your role -- such as coach, consultant, healer, service professional (i.e. designer or copywriter)
- You’re pretty clear about the services you want to offer and most of your income comes from your 1:1 services and advice
- You're generating anywhere from $30K to $250K per year
- You have a good idea of who your right market is... for instance spiritual stay-at-home-moms or 20-something solopreneurs
- You’re probably experiencing the infamous “feast and famine” cycle: you have some great income months followed by a trickle or even nothing at all
"List Build" Stage – $100-$1MM/year revenue
- You’ve started to build a solid reputation in your area of expertise
- You’re seeing solid revenues of between $100K to $1M per year
- You’re selling online products such as online courses, programs and products to the right people
- You know it’s time to start building a powerful brand that differentiates you from everyone else in your niche but you’re not sure how to do it
- You’re focused on building your email list to grow your audience and increase sales
"Authority" Stage – $500K-$5MM/year revenue
- You’re a well-known author, speaker, teacher, media personality or thought leader
- You have a solid online presence and a successful business that brings in consistent revenue
- You could be making anywhere from $500K to $5M (or even more)
- You seem to be “everywhere” – on social media channels, on well- known blogs and maybe even on radio or TV
- You understand that the strength of your business is based on the strength of your reputation and your ideas
- You grow your business and your audience by writing books, creating products, becoming a respected speaker, running live seminars or high-end consulting
- You’re focused on diversifying your marketing and revenue streams so you have a reliable and consistent business that makes a huge impact
Which stage are you in?
Once you have the answer, proceed on and I'm going to run you through how to choose the best product type for your current stage.
The Best Product Types: How to Choose the Best Product Type for Your Business Stage
No matter where you are in your journey, whether you’re a Blue Sky or Call Me entrepreneur, or at the List Build or Authority Stage, here’s the question you must answer before you create any product:
"What’s the best type of product for maximum success, income and impact at my specific stage of business growth?"
The Best Products for a "Blue Sky" Business
1:1 products are perfect for Blue Sky entrepreneurs who are yet to home in on their right market and establish their expertise.
Blue Sky is more about gaining experience than increasing your income. Naturally, it’s good to have money goals but now’s not yet the time to focus on massive income growth in your business.
Don't forget that at this stage, you’re still trying to identify the unique value that only you can provide – and the biggest benefit of the 1:1 product type is that you get to work directly with clients and ask for honest feedback so you can hone your skills and services.
1:1 offers are also great for refining what you really want to offer and who you really want to serve as you steadily create reliable systems, processes & frameworks that will help you create the results your clients are looking for.
And that's why personalized, 1:1 offers work best for Blue Sky businesses.
Types of 1:1 Products:
- Private 1:1 Coaching or Consulting Sessions – These sessions are about working closely with one client at a time. They can be offered as long-term packages but are usually available as hourly or 90-minute sessions. I recommend moving away from the one-off, hourly model as soon as possible so you can start to see more consistent income in your business (see below).
- Higher-Ticket Coaching or Consulting Packages – These are 1, 3, 6 or 12-month packages that create deeper transformation. These packages are usually sold in private, enrollment conversations although you may also see higher-ticket packages sold at live events.
- VIP Day – This is about creating a specific outcome in a day or even half a day either virtually or in person. VIP Days often include intensive “boot camp style” processes to get fast results in a short time.
- Done-For-You Services – This is about offering a specialized service to create a very specific outcome or result for your clients. Facebook Ad specialists, sales funnel strategists, copywriters and web designers offer Done-For-You services. This type of offer can get an easy “yes” from potential clients because most people would rather hire an expert to complete a specialized task for them rather than spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure it out themselves.
A lot of my students find it decidely "unsexy" to have start here with a 1:1 offering, but as I always tell them:
“Before you can make money while you sleep, first you have to be able to make money while you’re awake!”
In other words, if you don't know what's going to move one person to buy yet, how will you convince hundreds, or thousands to do the same?
So if your business is at the Blue Sky Stage, take a moment to run through the list above and decide on the kind of product you're going to create next.
The Best Products for a "Call Me" Business
At this stage, you’re a lot more confident around what you deliver and the transformations you can create for your customers. You’re also pretty clear about who your right market or target audience is and you have no problem coming up with ideas on how you can serve them.
That's when 1:Few products can begin to make sense for your business.
1:Few refers to products that are designed for a small group of people. This could be anything from 5 or 10 people to up to 200 people (as long as you create breakouts where they can have a more intimate experience).
A great question to ask yourself is:
What’s the maximum number of people I can serve and create results for, without sacrificing quality?
The biggest benefit of 1:Few products is time leverage. You create the product once but you get to reach more than one person every time you deliver that product.
Another great benefit is that you get to “beta test” and collaborate with your students to understand what they’re looking for. This gives you the chance to fine-tune your program by working with small groups so when you join the big leagues and start scaling your business, you already know you have a great product that people want, need and get results from.
Don't forget though that you’re still at the stage where the twin goals of building a solid reputation and establishing your expertise need to come first, so don’t get caught up on profits.
Instead, prioritize long-term growth and student success.
Types of 1:Few Products:
- Group Training Programs – This is about teaching a specific topic or subject to a group of people. Group training programs are usually delivered live online as a single masterclass or as a series of classes or webinars. Once you’ve proven your program and you know you can help your students get consistent results, you can turn the session recordings into an evergreen 1:Many product.
- Group Coaching Programs – This is when you coach a group of people around achieving a specific result or outcome. Coaching programs can run from a few weeks to a few months or even a year. The group gets to learn from you and from each other via coaching calls during the program.
- Hybrid Coaching and Training Programs – If you love to teach and coach this product type is for you. Hybrid programs are about teaching your students and giving them the coaching and guidance they need to implement your trainings and move past any challenges and obstacles they face so they can get the results they want.
- Done-With-You Services – These could be in person or online workshops that may feature “over-the-shoulder” demonstrations around a specific outcome such as writing a sales page or building a website.
Done-With-You Services are different from Done-For-You Services (see previous section). When you offer Done-With-You services, your students are doing the work but they’re receiving feedback, guidance and expert insights from you, every step of the way.
If your business is at the Call Me Stage, take a moment to run through the list above and check off the type of offer you’d like to focus on for your next product.
The Best Products for a "List Build" & "Authority" Businesses
1:Many are the big promise for (and ultimate goal of) most online entrepreneurs.
They llt you leverage your time and create potentially "limitless" revenue with low- priced courses, programs & products that can reach millions of people... or mid-priced offers designed for groups into the thousands.
List Build and Authority businesses have 3 foundational elements that allow them to take advantage of these benefits:
- They have resources and infrastructure to handle thousands of customers
- They have an existing significant audience, tribe or platform
- They have a great track record of creating results for their clients and customers
Don’t attempt a 1:Many product unless you have all 3 elements in your business. If you’re in the Blue Sky and Call Me stages, work your way up to the List Build or Authority Stage through 1:1 and 1:Few offers before you create your first 1:Many product.
Types of 1:Many Products:
- Live or Cohort-Based Online Course – This is usually a course or program with content delivered over a 30, 45, 60 or 90-day period. A course can include a combination of live trainings, pre-recorded trainings, group coaching calls, private support and community.
Most live courses are only offered once or twice a year, while cohort-based courses (where a group of students start the program at the same time) are offered between 4-10 times a year.
- Continuity – A continuity program is a great passive income channel that lets you “make money while you sleep.” Customers pay every month for trainings, access to the trainer (usually in the form of group coaching calls), or for a box of physical products delivered to their door.
- Evergreen Home Study Program – This type of offer is often a simple audio or video training and does not have the level of in-depth education, engagement and support as an online course.
This 1:Many offer is called an “evergreen” course because it’s available for purchase at any time (unlike “live” or “cohort” courses that are available for enrollment just once or twice a year). An example is an audio series that you listen to in your car to learn a new language.
- Books and eBooks – These are typically offered as “gateway” items that lead to higher end products because books and eBooks are rarely profitable as standalone offers. If you want to see substantial profits, make sure the sales process is designed to get people interested in your big ticket offers such as high level masterminds and 6-12 month group coaching programs.
- Physical Products – This could be anything from artisan cupcakes to handmade greeting cards that you deliver to customers who order from you, online. Some entrepreneurs deliver monthly physical products via a membership site. For example, an online book club where members receive a physical book that’s delivered to their door each month.
- Major In-Person Events – This refers to live seminars, retreats and large workshops with 100 people or more. Participants can even number in the thousands. Big events allow sales for higher ticket programs and products such as high level masterminds and 6-12 month group coaching programs.
If your business is at the List Build or Authority Stage, take a moment to run through the list above and check off the type of offer you’d like to focus on for your next product.
You’ve just learned how to choose the right product type for the right market at the right time to generate massive income and impact in your business.