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Episode 17: What You Need to Make Your Online Course Better

Passion to Profit Blog Header - Online Course Podcast

Have you ever taken a course and been completely underwhelmed? Or started to create one of your own only to find you were wildly unprepared to create a course that was more than just a string of video presentations? This is the episode for you. Join me and the founder of The Course Creation Company, Debi Smallwood, to talk about what’s going so wrong in the online course industry and how to fix it… so you can take and create more profitable and more marketable online courses!

Today’s episode is brought to you by the Passion to Profit Marketing Academy™— an immersive group coaching experience that helps you scale up your income and impact sustainably to $10k months and 6+ Figure Success. Join me for a free Masterclass to see what's keeping YOU from hitting your goals and the exact steps you need to reach them. See you inside!

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Full Episode Transcript
Tiffany Barry (00:00):
Have you ever taken a course and been completely underwhelmed or started to create one of your own only to find you were wildly unprepared to create a course. That was more than just a string of video presentations. This is the episode for you. Join me and the founder of the course creation company, DebiSmallwood, to talk about what’s going so wrong in the online course industry and how to fix it so you can take and create more profitable and more marketable online courses. Welcome to the passion of profit marketing podcast, where we talk about how women like you can scale your passionate business into a profitable empire that’s aligned and intentional I’m to new Barry, a marketing consultant, an agency owner, helping creative entrepreneurs use modern marketing. That’s simple and actually feels good to reach their next level of success. Join me for 20 minutes or less to talk about how to market and scale your business. So you can become the free and flexible CEO you started your business to be let’s get started. So this week I’m welcoming a special guest who is actually an amazing client of mine as well. Debi Smallwood, AKA the four hour course creator. Thank you so much for joining me, Debi. I’d love for you to share a little bit about, you know, what you do and, and what you’re, what you’re bringing, what you’re bringing the course creation realm.

Debi Smallwood (01:25):
Awesome. Super well, thanks so much for having me. It’s great being here just to give you a bit of an idea of how I started in this online course creation world. My background is always been in learning and training in professional development, and I’ve been doing that for over 20 years now. And most of my clients up until now, you know, I’ve worked with them as a consultant or as an instructional designer. That’s one of my certifications and have been able to help companies create courses that can then advance their employees and you know, bring about whatever change is happening in their environment. And that was primarily in fortune 500 companies mm-hmm . And then over the last few years pre pandemic, I would say I started to think more about working with online coaches and smaller businesses because the vibe is very different.

Debi Smallwood (02:22):
Mm-Hmm and I thought, you know what? There’s so something there that really kind of lit me up and then the pandemic hit. And so many people were taking their businesses online and needed support in how to create courses. And what I’ve seen over the little while is how courses have become more like presentations in some cases. So we could talk a little bit more about that later, but that’s sort of why I wanted to take my business online, support the small business, and then also bring this element of course creation that is meaningful and intentional, and really helps deliver the transformations that people are looking for.

Tiffany Barry (03:03):
I love that. I, and, and you bring up a really good point. You know, a lot of, a lot of entrepreneurs are creating courses the way they’ve seen courses created. So when you have this trend of, of presentation style courses, it begets more of that because a lot of entrepreneurs are coming into the space with their zone of genius, which may not necessarily have been teaching or course design or instructional design. And so they’re doing things that may have worked for them or, or maybe not. And they’re trying to do it a little bit different, but there’s not always really solid foundation of like, what are we doing here? Agreed. So what are some of those kind of trends that, you know, in, in even the negative trends that you’ve seen in course, creation, especially over the last years with, with everything, with the pandemic?

Debi Smallwood (03:55):
Yeah, so I’ve seen a lot of, one is lot of platforms that have evolved and a lot of people are making decisions to take their business online based on the platform. So then the course then gets created on what the platform allows ’em to do. And in 90% of those cases, it’s video, which is great to have in a course, not a hundred percent necessary, but it’s great to, to see that, you know, that step has been taken, but what happens is then as the platform encourages you to upload video after video and create this series and label, then that as a course, what happens is the course just become, I call them talking heads, like you have a video of somebody standing and talking and not necessarily teaching now. That’s not all the time, but that’s what I’ve seen. A lot of the negative kind of things that I take away from most courses. And I participated in those types of courses, doesn’t hold my attention. There’s a lot of information overload, which, you know, some people will just click off and say, you know what I’m done. I’m not really that interested or there’s that level of disappointment or people are then asking for refunds. Right. So that, that’s sort of the, I would say negative things that I’ve seen, that there’s not a lot of structure and intention behind how the information is being delivered.

Tiffany Barry (05:18):
Right. Right. And I, and I think that structure is, is, is so important because when you’re creating a course, you know, you’re, you’re, like I said, you’re not just trying to just be a talking head and produce, you know, information. And I mean, we, we talk on video on all of our marketing platforms. We have plenty of airspace to do that kind of talking, but the course is not really the place where that’s gonna be well. You know, and, and in of course I, you know, you have lots of different types of learners. Yes. And as a business, if you’re not meeting those learners where they are, and in, in a way that they can get that information and do something with it, you’re gonna have financial struggles. So this, this idea of course design, it impacts so much of your business beyond just how good your course is.

Tiffany Barry (06:05):
It’s your finances, it’s your growth. It’s do you have clients graduating from your course as like evangelists who are gonna go and refer all their friends to it? So it’s so much bigger. Have you seen, you know, with, with the changes that, that have happened in business, you know, you mentioned a lot of offline businesses have come online. People are incorporating more courses because of, of the way the pandemic has changed, how we work. So do you see that that maybe has also changed way people need or want to consume information in courses?

Debi Smallwood (06:43):
Yeah, it’s interesting because, you know, there was this phase of like, everything needs to be video and video is key and video is number one and, and, you know, so going down that path and, and creating a course based on video , I’ve started to see a bit of a shift in people reaching out and saying, okay, I have done this, but it’s not getting me the results I thought, right. Or the results I wanted or it’s not, you know, increasing my revenue the way I thought it would. Mm-Hmm . So one of the things that we do is actually we offer people a course analysis and we, that can let us look course, and we’ll tell you, you know, what we see that could be improved or help you increase your engagement. Like the interesting thing is like 65% of humans are visual learners.

Debi Smallwood (07:31):
Mm-Hmm . So if you’re sitting and you’re looking at somebody talking throughout the entire course, again, the board’s going to, again, for some people, they need some variety. And that’s where we kind of bring our expertise into, you know, the mix to say, you know, how about, you know, incorporating slides or audio or animations, or, you know, gamification, even as a thing now it came into the e-learning world at least 10 years ago. But what I’m starting to see now is smaller businesses that I’m working with are saying, okay, how do I engage my people? And what can I do differently? Right. And ramification and awarding points and badges. And that kind of thing that you would see typically in the gaming world is really helping to engage students and actually get them to the end of the course.

Tiffany Barry (08:16):
Yes.

Debi Smallwood (08:17):
Because if you look at the statistics 97, per percent of people who like courses, don’t complete them, mm-hmm , and that’s huge, especially if that’s one of your key offerings that supports your signature program, or maybe your signature program, if you’re not getting that kind of completion rate either. Yeah.

Tiffany Barry (08:33):
Yeah. And it’s such a scalable part of your business. Like, you know, I, I watched a a, an entrepreneur that I really loved last year launched this huge challenge, this free challenge. And the goal was for it to bring in six figures in, in her business. And she came to me when it failed and she asked me what went wrong, what happened? And, and I told her, you know, I was like, you were teaching people to create multiple streams of revenue by creating multiple businesses. I said, yes, you can have multiple streams of revenue by being a real estate investor, having your, your main business, having a side business, you know, that’s one way to do it. But if you’re one single per without a team and no investors, like that is a really great way to burn yourself out. A great way to build streams of revenue is with digital products that compliment your offers and your coaching.

Tiffany Barry (09:25):
So it’s, it’s such an important piece of your overall revenue plan. And it’s so scalable because you put the hours and then it’s minimal support and, you know, however you structure it from there, but it’s quite less than supporting someone one on one. So it’s hard as, as a person on the outside, when I’m, I’m supporting the marketing of our clients. And I’m like, my first question now is what does your course look like? Like is, is it something we can market? Is it something, you know, like, is it going to be the thing that you need with that, that multiple streams of revenue? So I think that how you design your course and doing it intentionally is so important because it just, it ha, like I said earlier, like it has so much impact beyond just, is this a good course? Like it impacts your finances and your business growth and all these cool things.

Tiffany Barry (10:19):
So, so when it comes to that marketing piece, cause I love to, to tie in, you know, marketing is so much bigger than just am my own social media and how often my emailing my list. And I mean, I mean, we’ve talked about that. Like I could probably geek out about that for hours. But, but from your kind of perspective, when you’re, when you’re trying to have that, that additional stream of revenue, that whether it’s a course or a, a program that has a course component what are some things that you feel like potential students who are looking at that course need to hear about the course and the design so that they can be confident enrolling in it?

Debi Smallwood (11:03):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question because it’s something that is quite often overlooked. Like there’s so many similarities between marketing and course design, like from a principal perspective and, and how you wanna go about creating it and structuring it. The main thing is that you wanted to, like, for somebody to know that it’s going to work for them or, or be fit for them, you want to have that one overarching objective. Like, what is the purpose of this course? And, and what is the problem that it’s solving that your audience has and what is the transformation that they can expect? Mm-Hmm after I take the course, here’s what I’m I getting. And even if for some people, even if it’s just, you know, they they’ve gone through designing the course and they have the structure and they have the content, even if it’s something like, just knowing that they have support and direction and accountability, even that’s enough sometimes for some people mm-hmm, mm-hmm, in our six week course creation experience.

Debi Smallwood (11:57):
We talk about everything from, okay, who is it that you’re designing this course for once that’s clear, then you wanna be able to create it in a way that gives you bite size, manageable pieces. Like I use a four by four formula, which is four modules, four lessons, like, that’s it. And if you have so much information that doesn’t fit into, you know, four modules, four lessons, which we help people work through, there’s a, an art to that. If it doesn’t fit into that, then how about considering a series? Like if you have a series of three courses and not only does that, then allow you who add additional revenue by promoting additional courses or selling a series at a higher price point, but what it does, it also helps you increase your retention. Yes. And building a course that is meaningful building a course that has structure and gets results. And is very intentional, is a really huge part of the retention strategy for your clients. So when you create something else down the road, they’re gonna go, wow, that was really good. I wanna go back and see what this one’s all about. Right, right,

Tiffany Barry (13:02):
Right. You’re, you’re almost building an audience of like ready to buy people for every single time that you launch a new digital product or off.

Debi Smallwood (13:11):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I just wanna say there’s so many similarities between marketing and of course they just marry together. And you can’t have one without the other, in my opinion, you have to have a good strategy behind each, each component. So yeah,

Tiffany Barry (13:24):
Mm-Hmm and I would imagine even, you know, like when your clients work with you and they really can nail down who this is for, and that transformation, like, I mean, those, like you said, those are the basics of your marketing strategy, right? So like, by, by, by working with you and really nailing down those core things, there is so much crossover that you really can take those bits and then go market to exactly the type of people who need that course, which of course makes my marketers.

Debi Smallwood (13:55):
Yeah.

Tiffany Barry (13:56):
So when somebody is, you know, like, cuz I know you have, you have some, some kind of work that you do with people who already have a course, you know, maybe need, you know, the build in a day kind of, kind of the stuff. And then you’ve got your audit. But for somebody who is considering, you know, I, I talk to a lot of people who are kind of in the, that moment of scaling you know, they’re booked out one to one, they’re looking at these group programs. They may even be part of one and they’re like, yeah, I could, I could do something like that. Right. They’re the wheels are turning. So if they’re thinking about getting started, like, what would you say is like that first step? You know, when, when they’re saying this, this seems like a good idea. What would be that like next step off the, off the starting line?

Debi Smallwood (14:41):
Yeah. So I think a really great, really great question to ask yourself first is who thinks it’s a really great idea. Mm-Hmm if it’s just me, that’s why, but what about my audience? Mm-Hmm do they actually even need this? Do they want it, are they asking for it? So doing that market research, just to start off by asking your audience, you know, I’m working on this, would you be interested or however you wanna word that with your audience, another way is to go to, you know, this number of different tools. So you can use for market research. And I know, you know, this better than anybody. But one of the ones I like to use is answer the public. Yes. A website answer the public.com great way of seeing, sort of all this curated information from the internet of, of questions that people are looking for answers for.

Debi Smallwood (15:27):
And that’s a great way to, for me, that I, to to do market research. And then once you have that figured out that yes, you know, this is, this is what my clients are looking for. I would start to promote that before you actually even start to build it. Mm-Hmm because if you have people interested, they’re on a wait list or they make a purchase. If you’re pre-selling before you actually start the course then you know that the time you spend building it is going to be worth it because you know, you have people interested. Right. And then when you go to do that, you really then have to start the brainstorming process, which is the very, very beginning of course creation. And, and I’ll, I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of people, their first thing is, oh, I need a platform.

Debi Smallwood (16:17):
I need somewhere to host the course, which is the best platform before they’ve thought about any of the other things or done any kind of market research first. Right. Right. And in, in reality, the actual platform itself doesn’t really matter. Mm-Hmm right. A lot of them are very similar and we work out features and benefits and all those types of things with the different platforms and what is a good fit, you know, for that particular business. But my advice is to push away the tech questions and just focus on the content and start with the market research, move into the brainstorming of what it is to kind shout your modules and what your lessons look like. But the key to that is the structure and having that four by four yeah. Model. Right.

Tiffany Barry (17:02):
I love that. And it, and it’s, that’s so contrary to what, what I see happening. So often in, in like Facebook groups are the primary place where I see these discussions happening in public and, you know, people are like, I wanna build a course, what platform should I use? Yeah. And that’s so backwards and I love that you, you talk about that as like the tech is not as important because if you stop and you think it’s like, what is my course? What is my STR, what is all of the pieces that I need? And then I can go look for, you know, tech and some, one of my, one of the most effective courses I ever took, it was a hybrid coaching program with a course. And it was in a Google drive folder. Mm-Hmm . And, but it was super, super effective because the way the information was structured, you know, the, the accompanying handouts were right on the money of what I needed and it was in a drive folder.

Tiffany Barry (17:55):
So like it, and that, that going through that program, I mean, I scaled my business to six figures in four months because I learned a scale I desperately needed. And I was able to consume the inform in a way that worked really well for where I was at in my business. And the, and the instructor really kind of positioned it in a way where everybody who took the course, that was what we needed. And it was super simple, but we get so hung up on that tech aspect. And I think, yes, there’s really fancy things you can do that are awesome, but like, I’m such a huge fan of like minimally viable first, you know, like how

Debi Smallwood (18:37):
Absolutely

Tiffany Barry (18:39):
Super simple, because then you can, you know, when you have the tech super simple and you’re not worried about it, you can put all that energy into the things you’re talking about that are more important that we don’t necessarily think about the structure and the design and the intentionality because you’re not spending so much time fighting to learn a platform that you might not even really need. It might not serve you or your students at all. So I,

Debi Smallwood (19:06):
I love that. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Tiffany Barry (19:08):
I think this is such an important thing for people to learn. And to, and to be thinking about as they’re, you know, going through courses you know, like, is this serving them too? You know, and what is their actual experience, not the experience they’re being told to have, but you know, like, you know, the, the coach is gonna say their program is great and a lot of them are really great. But like, what are you actually feeling as you’re going through this? And if you wanna create a course in your business, what does it need to look like? Where do you need to start? So I love this, so I really appreciate having this conversation with you. I’m so thankful that you joined me today. So if, if any of our listeners wanna follow along, I’m gonna have your links in the show notes. But I know you have something special too, and I’d love to kind of just open the floor again to you to share, you know, how, how, if somebody needs your help, what is a good place for them to get started?

Debi Smallwood (20:08):
Sure. Great. Yeah, if you want to reach out to me, Instagram is the best place. To find me, I have a lot of stuff in my LinkedIn bio right now and different programs for people at different stages. What I do have also there is a free download that gives you a complete roadmap to creating courses that will deliver the results that you promise. And that’s kind of the key to, you know, anything about cross creation. If you say the course is going to do this, then it better do it. yes. So so that roadmap is a really, really great starting point. And then of course, you know, if you’re somebody who has an existing course, we do the audit. We do tech builds. We also do a six week course creation experience, which is a six week hybrid program where we go live once a week and we help you create your course from start to finish in six weeks. And there’s a wait list for that right now. And we run that in cohorts throughout the year. And but in the meantime, feel free to head over to Instagram, download the the free roadmap and it’ll kick start your journey.

Tiffany Barry (21:16):
Awesome. Awesome. I love that. And as somebody who has really kind of like dug into you know, the pieces of your business, I, everybody, I know where I I’ve already been messaging you people I’m like, you need to talk to Debi. Like you just, you have to, so I cannot say enough amazing things about the work that you do, and I’m so grateful for you coming on. And yeah, so if anybody is listening, like I said, I’ll have all of the links in the show notes and I will see you all next week.

Debi Smallwood (21:43):
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks.

Speaker 3 (21:47):
That’s it. For this episode of passion to profit, if you found it helpful, insightful, or just entertaining subscribe, wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. And if you’re ready to scale your business from passion to six figure profits, don’t forget to watch the free masterclass tiffanyebarry.com/masterclass.