EPISODE 159

Kim Shivler Reveals 23 Instructional Design and Business Best Practices for User Centric Course Creators

In this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS, Kim Shivler reveals 23 instructional design and business best practices for user centric course creators. Kim shares the story of how she entered the online learning space, and talks with Chris about some key insights on course design and how you can make your online content more effective.

Kim started developing HTML in 1995, and she worked as a part of an IBM worldwide team. Kim has a master’s degree in education, and she’s an expert in online courses, membership sites, and WordPress. She works as a speaker, teacher, and instructional design consultant. She saw that some things were missing with most courses and membership sites, whether it was on the business end or on the learning end, so since she has experience with both she started working with online content creators to help make their products more effective and profitable.

Your course will see students who have different learning styles, so having multiple forms of media in your course will help your students internalize the content. Reflecting on course material in the form of a review will also vastly improve retention of information. Having a quiz at the end of course sections will help your customers apply the information they learned, and it will help you figure out where students are falling off from an analytics perspective.

Having your course content in small modules that are easy to consume will help your students digest the information and put it to use in a more effective way. Chris and Kim talk about why this is useful and how it will help your customers avoid information overload.

Courses are not just about sales or just about learning. They are about connecting with your audience and instilling them with a skill or solution to a problem. Testing of your course material is crucial for having success with your course. Kim and Chris talk about why this key piece of development is necessary and why it should never be left out. Creating a relationship focus rather than a transactional focus with your courses is a mindset you should take whenever developing online learning content.

Chris and Kim talk about why challenging your assumptions is also critical for creative problem solving, and how acquiring this habit can greatly improve the content you produce. They also discuss the journey from being stress aware to solution aware.

It is important to change your students’ views of quizzes and tests as well, because they are not meant to be punitive – they are learning tools that help both of you learn. Don’t create quiz questions with the intention to trick your students, because that is not very productive for learning. Chris and Kim talk a little bit about what a good quiz question encompasses.

To learn more about Kim Shivler check out kimshivler.com, and you can find her on Twitter at @KimShivler.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett from LifterLMS, and I’m joined today by a special guest, Kim Shivler, from kimshivler.com. Kim is an expert in online courses, membership sites, WordPress, and also just business and teaching. We’re going to get into some of these topics and how they all blend together. I recently met up with Kim at WordCamp Sacramento in late or mid 2017. She gave a great talk on membership sites, and I just had to get her on the show. Kim, welcome to LMScast, and thank you for coming to the show.
Kim Shivler: Thanks for having me. I think we found when we met at WordCamp Sacramento, this is the kind of stuff we could both geek out on for quite a while.
Chris Badgett: I’m sure this is part one in a series. For those that don’t know you yet, tell us a little bit about your world. How do you help people and what are you all about with WordPress and courses and membership sites?
Kim Shivler: I consider myself a speaker, teacher, and instructional design consultant. I work with companies to help them build educationally sound courses. Sometimes that’s online courses, sometimes that’s actually workshops. I’ve done that because I noticed I have a master’s degree in education, and I’ve been teaching for over 30 years now. I noticed as I worked with people who had to get out and teach whether it was online or not that there were just some things missing that they didn’t understand whether from a business perspective or a learning perspective, and being that I had that technical background I worked at.
In technology, I started developing HTML in 1995, and also was part of an IBM worldwide team. I had the tech piece and the educational piece. I just blended them together to help my customers go forward, and most importantly serve their customers.
Chris Badgett: That’s an awesome combination because if we’re all really honest with ourselves, usually on the technology side or the teaching side, or the expert … If you were to throw in a third leg on that stool, just general expertise, they’re usually not level at all. To have some strength in both tech and teaching is a really great asset. When I was listening to your talk, I heard you talking about things that I didn’t hear a lot of people talking about, but they were super valuable and things that course creators and membership site owners really need to consider, and think about as best practices when they build their platforms.
I want to get in to that and if you’re listening or watching this video in YouTube, I’d encourage you to grab a pen, and we’re going to lay out some tips that if you were to just absorb these and then do your best to implement these ideas, this is coming from a lot of experience across Kim’s experience, lots of clients and that sort of thing. These are some real best practices and insights that are worth trying out. You mentioned that there’s some business and instructional design or teaching best practices for the course creator. Which side do you like to start on?
Kim Shivler: I think let’s start at the beginning which would be the course design, and then take it through the second piece, which is you mentioned I talk about that a lot of times, people don’t, and that is the actual launch process, and things from a business perspective you need to do before your launch and during your launch to make sure that it’s the success, not just for you but for your customer who is really why you’re building this in the first place.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. What are some key insights on course design?
Kim Shivler: A few of them. First of all, courses are one of those fun things that we all figured that we sat in school for a long, long, long, long time, so we can all teach. We sometimes forget that there’s actually a science behind this. One of the key things is that people don’t all learn the same way. There’s a big argument within the industry on whether or not they are true hardwired styles or just preferences, but it really doesn’t matter because some people are going to learn better very visually.
They like to watch videos. Others want to hear so you’ve got the audio aspect and then others actually need to see text. What we really find is you’ll get the best if you combine all of that. Not to mention the fact that until someone does it, they really haven’t learned it so we need to have activities in there that allow them to experience the success in whatever you’re teaching them to show that they are learning it, they’re doing it. Interestingly we’ve actually found out within the instructional design fields and the psychology fields that the deepest learning actually comes after you’ve done all the things I just said and then reflecting back upon what you did.
That’s when we fully absorb it. Reviews at the end of a course are really helpful for that student to take it away and internalize it. I don’t just mean a review like giving them five bullet points. Interaction with them allowing them to maybe some information delivered and then some they have to give back, they have to answer a question or complete a task to really cement that into their body and their learning. That’s a big one.
Then the other one is really the key for online learning. It’s not as big a deal in the workshops, but you really need to break it into teeny tiny little pieces because we don’t consume … We’re not people who want to sit and watch a 40-minute video for the most part. We want to consume it in small bites. We want to then interact with it however we’re going to whether it’s for example, [inaudible 00:06:36] drawing if you’re teaching drawing or installing WordPress, if you’re teaching WordPress. We want to have those little bites and those little successes going forward so really break it down, that’s so critical.
You also have the difficulty of when you teach live and I teach both live and online. When I teach live, I can layout across the room and you can tell that some people are getting it, some people aren’t. You always have that one guy or girl in the back. They are viciously nodding their head, yes, in agreement and you can just see in their eyes that they missed everything you just said so you can come back around to it.
Online, we’ve got to figure out where we’re losing people without being able to see them in the eyes and that’s whereas I mentioned before, we’re building this for our user. It’s a concept of breaking it down and then having some quiz questions, et cetera between there so you can see where people are falling out and where you need to pull them back in and what you need to address to make sure you’re reaching them.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I think that’s just one of the things that makes them more professional course, and of course experiences, it’s not just about getting the content and getting it ready for consumption. There’s a lot more that goes into it like the activities you’ve mentioned and reflection, and circling back, having a feedback loop if something is not going through. I mean that’s the more professional way to do it. It’s not just about content.
Kim Shivler: Absolutely, or about sales. Not just content, not just sales, it’s absolutely about connecting with your audience and that’s where something I did talk about in the presentation at Sacramento is testing. Testing is so, so critical. I mean having people who are your target audience testing. A lot of times when we develop it, yes, whoever developed our platform tests from a technical perspective, we as content developers test from our perspective but like my business coach loves to tell me, “Kim, you’re not your target audience.”
I mean we need to have our testing done by that target audience. That’s where we find the places that we thought we were so clear but if 30% of your audience is missing it, you really need to go back and address it. The more of an expert you are in your field, the bigger that can be because we forget what we didn’t know when we were just starting out a lot of times.
Chris Badgett: Prelaunch testing is critical. I mean it can always get better after a long review, “How is it going? Can it be improved? I like to say that the launch is not the finish line, it’s the starting line in many ways.
Kim Shivler: Agreed.
Chris Badgett: The way I look at that sometimes is assumptions play such a big role and how we operate as entrepreneurs or as teachers and really where you get the big breakthroughs is where you challenge your assumptions. I think being open as a teacher, as an instructor, as a leader, as a coach to be able to have your assumptions challenged that yes, I can teach this material with your target audience not other people just like you. That’s so critical and rarely done, I think, or not done as much as it should be.
Kim Shivler: I agree. For one, I think a lot of times particularly the testing piece, it’s done as an afterthought. Again, they test the technical piece. We make sure that Stripe is working and PayPal is working, and “We can get your money,” but we forget the testing of the users, and I agree. The launch is just the start. However, if you will back up and do some of this testing ahead of time, you can make the launch go even better and then it’s a start where you continue going on, but I have seen in a couple different case studies where no testing was done with users beforehand.
Both were situations where they had a pretty good size audience already. As we know that’s important if we’re going to have a successful launch and sell something but without that level of testing, there were so many issues in the launch that we lost a good percentage of people just from frustration that they couldn’t get through what they needed to get through. This was a warm audience. Think if that’s your warm audience you’re losing, if you’re running Facebook ads, and you’re paying to get people here, and you can’t serve them it was just waste in marketing money.
Chris Badgett: It’s miraculous what you can do with the technology tools available today and the internet, and building all the blocks and putting your online school or online program together but it’s just like building a car, something like that. You should test it before you go out on the open road with it just to make sure everything is good to go.
Kim Shivler: Absolutely. For example, what you guys do at Lifter, it’s fabulous software. It goes beyond. I built my first online course in 1997. It was hand coded HTML with CGI scripts piecing it together.
Chris Badgett: Wow.
Kim Shivler: It was ugly. I wasn’t even using active server pages and JavaServer pages yet. What you provide now is perfect. As course developers, we just have to still remember it’s about serving our audience. It’s not about our bells and whistles, and having fun, and sometimes particularly our engineers really like to just, “We’re going to do it because we can,” but when we’re trying to teach, that is a service to someone else, and we need to make sure that we are really reaching what their needs are, what their level of learning is. One of the things I find when I worked with people in instructional design, and the more expert they are again, the more this is true. They’re to cram 30 years of experience into one class.
Chris Badgett: How do you help someone who’s in that position?
Kim Shivler: The first thing we do when we work together is we do a big brain dump. When they get it all out, and I can show them how this isn’t one class, this is 12 classes. This is a series that builds upon itself. Usually they get really excited about that. It’s almost a freeing thing to them and of course they’re also saying, “Hey, multiple classes is multiple products to possibly keep your customer base going and purchasing et cetera.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. What about the business side?
Kim Shivler: The business side, I do, I look at two things. One, the testing that I actually consider part of the business side. Testing with your target audience and if that somebody … Say, you’ve got a warm audience already. Reach out to a small core of them that you know will do what you ask them to do and do a true beta program. We always think of beta from a technology software engineering perspective but this is a beta for your customer to go through the course and don’t even just tell them go through the course.
I actually give them a sheet. I want you to go here and sign in. It should take you here. Does it? They don’t know what the flow is supposed to look like, so they just go, “Good.” What if I’m sending them to the wrong page? I actually walk them through exactly it should look like. If they’re having problems, I do have them fill that out, but I actually give them little exercises to do and questions for feedback so that I can really get their picture. It’s a great place to use heat maps to see where they are clicking as their going through and make sure that they’re doing the flow that you’re looking for, and really look for things like particularly in your quizzes.
Make sure that you’re asking things in a way that people are getting it and you’re getting the right answers. If you built something, and a large percentage of the people are not passing it, that usually has something to say about your teaching, your content and what you’ve put out as opposed to the fact that your students are just dumb because it’s usually on you. Learn a little bit from that business side as you’re going into it. Really work with any activities or questions that you’re going to give them and make sure that you’re helping them along. Quizzes and activities should not be punitive. They should be learning tools.
Chris Badgett: How do you make quizzes fun? I think for some course creators, they hear about a learning management system or an online course. They have this quiz or assessment tools, but they have … Maybe they’re somehow traumatized from their experience in school or something like that. How do you explain the value, or of quizzes, or make it … Get them to get over that hurdle of quizzes are evil?
Kim Shivler: First of all, I tell everybody that, with my students like, “Guys, first of all quizzes aren’t punitive. They’re learning tools.” I tell them my goal with this is not to quiz you, it’s for you to look at it and, one, check your own learning and two, quiz me because if you can’t answer it, I didn’t teach it right.” Once they turn the tables on you a little bit and then open to doing that, they’re like, “I’m going to get you.”
Then the onus is on me to write good quiz questions. One of the things people have when they’re writing quiz questions is they’re afraid of giving away too much information. Don’t be. Give away a good chunk of information so that they know where you’re going. Then they can get that next answer right. Whatever you do, make sure you’re not ambiguous. That’s where in the testing, I keep hammering on testing. You’re going to find questions that the students thought were ambiguous that you didn’t.
Don’t ask things like where was Lincoln shot? Which one of my brother’s history teachers did ask and when he put in the head, she had to give it to him even though she was going for Theodore. Go ahead and build those out and just make sure you’re testing. The other thing during the launch is prepare for support calls, prepare your team and make sure all hands are on deck because you’re going to have somebody that has a problem filling out their credit card information, tries to log in to the course, the platform, whatever you have and gets an error or somehow didn’t get their email conformation because their mail spam did, and we need to then be able to help them. Just whatever you do, don’t say you have to wait for the email. We need to be there to jump in and help get them on boarded if we’re needed to because we’re serving them.
Chris Badgett: That moment right and before after the purchase or the enrollment is so critical. You should be ready to provide a little extra hand or just be available because once you help get people seated in the classroom and going, they’re pretty good. I mean they’re still going to need help and have questions, but I don’t know. I think about it in the real world of going to college, and you get dropped off and there’s all this stuff going on. You got to find your room, you got to figure out how to eat and all this stuff, but once you got it, you got it. It takes a little extra guidance there in the beginning.
Kim Shivler: Absolutely. That’s definitely a huge part to make sure that you’re focused on them. Also remember, relationships span transactions.
Chris Badgett: What do you mean by that?
Kim Shivler: Most of us if we’re good business people and truly want to serve our customers, we’re looking to build a long-term relationship. I don’t you to buy just one day of consulting from me, or one class, I want you to be part of my tribe that thousand true fans that buys everything I put out. You’ll only get that when you build a relationship. If you look at something just as a transaction like “Got that person. Now get them out the door.” You will never build that successful … You’ll have to work harder because convincing strangers to become customers is harder than really serving your base well enough that they want to keep working with you and bring their friends, and they’re friends, and their friends.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I’m just going to restate that again. It’s a mindset thing to have a relationship focus over a transactional focus. That’s so key and so critical. That’s for sharing that. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of making sure the transaction runs okay. At the end of the day, you’re doing business between two human beings or teaching between two human beings, or a group of people. It’s all relationships.
Kim Shivler: Absolutely. Yes, you’re right. We definitely want to test those Stripe transactions, those PayPal transactions. We need to test that. We need to understand that but if we take a relationship mindset, it’s going to be easier to build a successful business. It’ll also make the whole thing easier. Approaching that, “We’re doing this launch. We’re going to have a webinar or an email list, tell everyone we’re going to do it. We know that this is a core time that we’re going to be having this extra support. If we look at it as relationship building then it’s much less stress when we get those calls.
We’re going to work together to fix this, and we approach it that way. This is not the 1980’s day of being in IT which I was back then where it was, “No. We’re IT. We say it’s this way. It’s going to be that way.” The world is different now and particularly if we’re going to serve customers whether it’s through an online course, or a series of courses, or a whole platform then we have to approach it with that mindset because the tools are there. You guys have even added this … What I’m looking forward to playing with. I have it and I haven’t installed it yet but where you can actually have special pages for private clients. For those of us who coach and consult that’s beautiful. The tool is there. I have to approach it with that mindset.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s really key. Another thing that I like to just add to that is from the relationship standpoint, and I’m speaking as a guy with a software product, LifterLMS people can … I make it so that anybody in the world can schedule a 15-minute call with me. I make it so it can’t fill up my entire week. I have blocks where it happens and I talk to lots of people. At the end of those calls, people do a ton of research when they’re selecting an online course or a membership or LMS system. They have tons of questions. After we talk for a while, they thank me for my time like, “Wow. I can’t believe you do that. I really appreciate it. I can’t believe you answered all my questions.” Sometimes I’m referring them to a different product because that’s not a good fit for Lifter. They’re like, “Wow. I can’t believe you’re doing that. “Thank you”
Then I just turn right back around and say, “No, thank you, because I’m understanding what you’re needing, what you’re looking for and if we don’t really know what our customers or perspective customers are like, what the questions they’re asking, we’re just at a sink, or we’re making a lot of assumptions.” I just turn right around and tell them I really appreciate your time too. I think in terms of relationships, it’s a two way street. It’s all benefit to the student. It’s also like to the teacher, or the web learning platform owner to have that feedback loop and be available is really critical.
Kim Shivler: Absolutely.
Chris Badgett: I wanted to ask you another question about that. It just pops in my head but on websites one of the most useful pages that can help save a lot of frustration is a FAQ or frequently asked questions forum. I mean that should be part of the beta program? I’m on a mission to discover what my FAQs are and not just assume I know what they are. I’m having trouble paying. How else can I pay for the course? That’s not the only FAQ you need, right?
Kim Shivler: Absolutely. The earlier you can bring a few core target customers in and get them going, the better because you’re going to learn what they’re needing, what you may be missed. What you really don’t want to do is build 12 modules only to find out, that it’s not what they needed or wanted. Then you can’t even sell it. When I did that presentation, I do talk about we actually do start with a brainstorm on what is needed and then I take it to my audience or to my client’s audience, to get their feedback on that, get their questions on that. Then we build a little bit. Then we have some core testers and then we fix and we build a little more at the time that we’ve got those modules ready and when you hear me say 12, I recommend no more than usually eight to 12 for a class.
Chris Badgett: When you say modules, you’re referring to those are lesson count, or those are sections that then contain those lessons inside of those modules?
Kim Shivler: Yes. Sections, chapters. If you’re getting to more than that, then you’re probably need to break this into two courses. Maybe even three or five, it just depends on what you’re teaching. Build those out, get that feedback and then once you’ve got it done, that’s when I go to my next size where I really try to get a 40 to 50 people if possible to go all the way through it and really get that feedback, see that they’re getting where they need to go. For example, say I’m building WordPress or teaching WordPress which is one of the things I teach. Have they been able to actually go through and build their site? If they have they probably got it. If they’re still stuck on the install, then we have to evaluate that they actually do the lessons or are they really not getting it? Just keep testing and checking back and checking back. If you do that, you’re going to end up with a course that is much more successful for your students and then again what’s the next course? What are they going to be interested in next? Keeping that pulse with them to find out.
I’m always reaching out to them. What is the next problem? Don’t ask a tip for that when you’re getting in touch with them. Again, as you’re doing this, you’re building out those FAQs. Don’t ask them always what they want to learn. Dig in to what is their business problem because they may not know what they want to learn. They may not know the solution you have. They may just know that my business problem is I’m not able to easily share information with my group coaching people other than emails, and the emails get lost et cetera, et cetera. Your private page within the system might reach that. They may not be thinking as far as private pages because how much of the technology do they know?
Chris Badgett: They’re just problem aware. They’re not necessarily solution aware.
Kim Shivler: Exactly. Your customer doesn’t so much care about the technology the bells, the features, the whistles, they just want that problem solved as quickly and easily as possible. That’s all they care about.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s a really helpful thing to think about when you’re a course creator. There’s problem aware and then there’s solution aware. Before problem aware, there is unaware. Somebody just may be like stressed or they don’t know what’s going on but something is not right. They’re unaware. Then after solution aware, they become product aware which is it can translate to different context depending upon where you’re interacting with them but I think that’s one of those assumption pieces because as the learning platform owner, course creator, teacher probably solve the same problem in our own life at some point, we’re already at solution aware, product aware. We’re past all that now.
We’re coming back to help, but we have to remember what it was like for that unaware or who came into your circle and is like, “Wait, there might be something here.” Then you define the problem a little better than they realize and like, “Oh, yeah. That’s what I’ve got going on. I have this problem.” They’re learning from you. That’s really cool. Just for the listener, I thought it would be fun if we could do a short game where you come up with three, and I’ll come up with three. We are saying to do a beta program, do a small beta than a larger beta and then launch but what do you think are three questions that need to be on almost every FAQ on an online course website?
Kim Shivler: The first one, other than payment. I’m not even going to talk about payment because we all know that. One, what do I need to know to take this course already? Sometimes there’s prerequisites and people get hung-up actually in like, “I read this, and it looks really good.” Particularly if you’re teaching technology like a lot of times I am, “Am I going to be able to do this? Cam I do this?” When I can say, “Here are my 70-year-old, completely not technical people building their first website. This is all you need for the prereq.”
A lot of times, it’s just easing fears so whatever the fears might be around whatever you’re teaching whether that’s for example fitness maybe, someone who’s a little out of shape. Am I going to be able to keep up? That type of thing. That applies to almost any type of industry. What do I need to do or need to know in order to do this return on investment?
Chris Badgett: Is it worth it?
Kim Shivler: Is it worth it? What return are they going to get? That’s particularly when you’re charging more than $29. If you’re charging $29 eBook fee, it’s a little easier, but if you’re charging more, then they really want to get that. I like to let people know what they can expect as far as personal interaction with me because a lot of times people actually try … They’re buying access to you. Again, if it’s a higher level course. If I’m charging $1,000 for something, I’m going to be giving people more access not just to my brain that I’ve laid out here but to how did they get help? Where am I available? I am frequently known for holding office hours. I will just send out a link. My office hour is this week or this. I hang out in a Zoom room. When someone need help, they bought in. Those are my three that I like to make sure are on every FAQ.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. I’m really glad I ask that question. I thought you were going to steal the three that I had, but you didn’t take any of them.
Kim Shivler: Good.
Chris Badgett: Before I do my three, I just wanted to touch on Kim’s three here. What do I need to know to take this course? Underlying all of these frequently asked questions are subconscious. I mean maybe conscious but emotional needs. What do I need to take this course? They’re asking themselves like is this really for me? Can I do it? I’m scared. Will I be able to pull this off? Will I be able to go back to the gym? Will I be able to build a website even though I’ve never … I can barely check my email or whatever. These are fears.
Return on investment. People are scared about losing money and can I trust that I’m going to get a result on this program? This comes back to Kim’s conversation around quizzing and testing and making sure it’s working in getting that feedback loop open because the best marketing is a course that gets results for people not a high converting sales page. Having an obsession on student results is the best marketing activity can do in my opinion. The third thing she said is how much do I get to interact with you the course creator teacher leader coach?
People are paying for access, and it’s important to manage those expectations upfront. As course creators, it’s easy to get a little bit scared about my time doesn’t scale. I can’t do one on one. Kim mentioned some group coaching which is a great way to do it like weekly, monthly, daily, office hours, bringing a special guest, email support. I’m a big fan of doing things that don’t scale and just charging more for your program but I think access is really important and it’s one of those things that’s often overlooked in this day and age.
You don’t necessarily want to automate everything. In fact, it’s really … That would be one of the most challenging things to build an online course that gets results 100% of the time with no human interaction. Sorry. I just had to get on my soapbox a little bit because I thought your FAQs were brilliant and I just want to unpack them a little bit. Mine are more technical which is a good balance. Mine is just how I log in? That’s something that as you done your site a million times, you know how to log in. You might even go into WordPress or somewhere else where your users don’t go to log in, so you’ve probably forgotten how they log in.
The other thing is I forgot my password, so the question is like … It’s more of a statement. I forgot my password. I do. That’s a good one that you can save yourself a lot of time, frustration on you customer’s part. Then my sixth one is just how do I start? When somebody comes into an online course right after they bought or if it’s a free course and they enrolled, that very first lesson is when the excitement, the energy, everything is the highest. I encourage people to really, really focus on that first interaction and getting people comfortable, getting them excited, getting them some kind of result or at least forward progress.
You may know how it’s going to start. You design the curriculum but if you hire someone to build a house and the builder shows up on your raw piece of land, you could very well just be like, “What do we do first?” I mean you don’t know, the builder knows. Excitement is high to take advantage of it. That’s my three FAQs there.
Kim Shivler: I love those. The excitement is high. Also, there may be a little bit of fear in there too. Thinking of your first day of school, back in elementary school, you might have been excited. You might have been also a little nervous. I love that. On boarding them right there at the beginning and making it fund and easy and building that excitement is really a good one.
Chris Badgett: Just trying into what you said there. A lot of FAQs, the underlying emotion is fear. It’s fear of can I do this. It’s fear of can I trust this program or this person? It’s just important to acknowledge that, and it’s scary to go to school for the first time no matter a new program, a new yoga class, the gym, whatever it is.
Kim Shivler: Right. For some people you tie in to that fear. I so much agree with you. Not everybody had a good school experience, so they maybe even tied back to, “I really didn’t like going to school. Why would I want to do this?”
Chris Badgett: That’s a good point. Let’s leave the listener, Kim with one more just insight or something, best practice that people should consider when building an online course either from the instructional design side or the business side. What’s something that you don’t see talked enough about that’s super valuable and everybody all course builders should consider?
Kim Shivler: This one, I’m actually going to throw out a technical one because it’s when I have seen so much trouble with and it will save your butt. You’re going to have. When you’re building an online course, you are going to have some dependents on emails being sent and received from that course, from your WordPress website, from wherever you’re doing it. Make absolutely sure you are using an outside mailer like SendGrid, one of those that is a trusted mailer because if you’re just using the default from WordPress, the PHP mail, they’re not going to be getting those emails.
You will save yourself hours of hair pulling and dealing with one on one with clients if you make sure that that’s put in right so that people can get the emails you’re sending ou,t and they’re not ending up in spam. What you’ll get from people is, “They can’t be in spam. They’re not in my spam mailbox.” Then you have to deal with, they’re not even getting there. They’re being caught up here in the ether that says no. It’s spam. It’s not even getting to the spam mailbox.
Chris Badgett: I feel like you’re a psychic, Kim because I’ve been helping some LifterLMS customers today, and they were having those exact issues with just setting up transactional mail service like SendGrid or Mandrill. If you’re listening to this, and you are a LifterLMS user, just head on over the documentation and search email FAQ. Your website can send emails, but it’s not … if you’re really going pro or turning professional on your platform, it’s best to use one of those transactional mail services and of course test that. I think emails like one of websites sends emails, or the password reset function and all of this is something that people really don’t … A lot of people don’t test as much as they should. Thank you for that tip, I really appreciate that.
Kim Shivler: You’re welcome. It’s when I deal with people a lot also, and I’ll tell you … I will not say their name. I’m not going to throw them under the bus but there is a software as a service company out there who doesn’t have this ready. I am therefore not their customer but because they refuse to help me in any other way when I didn’t get their email so I use a competitor’s product.
Chris Badgett: It’s a big deal. Kim, thank you so much for coming on the show. Everybody, I encourage you to check out kimshivler.com. That’s S-H-I-V-L-E-R. That’s K-I-M S-H-I-V-L-E-R, kimshivler.com. Kim, what other ways can people connect with you on the web and just remind people how you can best help and serve them if they’re resonating with this episode?
Kim Shivler: Absolutely. You can find me on Twitter, @KimShivler. From kimshivler.com, you can see how to get to my How to Build an Online Course and instructional design if you’re interested in that. My general web training site or any of my business communications, training and consulting that I do, it’s all tied in there. I’m here to serve you just like I want you to be there to serve your customers.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Thank you, Kim for doing part one. I cannot wait for part two.
Kim Shivler: I look forward to it.
Chris Badgett: I hope you have a great rest of your day.
Kim Shivler: Thanks. You, too.

EPISODE 158

Build an Engaging Recurring Revenue Online Course Plus Membership with Mike Morrison of the Membership Guys

We discuss how to build an engaging recurring revenue online course plus membership with Mike Morrison of the Membership Guys in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Chris and Mike talk about the different types of online education content and how you can build up a high performing membership site that delivers tremendous value to your students.

Mike is one out of the two founding Membership Guys, which is a membership site for membership site owners or creators. They help people create memberships and provide cutting edge tips on what is happening in the membership industry online. The Membership Guys is also a podcast containing strategy and tips for planning, creating, and growing a successful membership website.

Chris and Mike talk about the differences between an online course, a membership site, and a learning management system. Membership sites are basically sites you have to log into in order to access something that is otherwise protected, and generally you have to pay money to obtain a membership. An online course is more of a finite group of content that you normally pay for once, and you have access to all of the content within the course. The main difference is that a membership site is normally ever-evolving, whereas a course is more of a finished product. A learning management system is the tool the creator uses to deliver the content to the consumer in the form of either an online course or membership site.

Some of the biggest difficulties with a membership site are keeping students engaged and turning your site into a community. Mike shares some strategies for how you can make your membership site produce ongoing value. Many people assume that consistent value means consistent content with a membership site, but you can provide value for your customers in the form of checklists, worksheets, and live Q&As or webinars.

It is important to go into creating a membership with the right mentality. Delivering value on an ongoing basis is key. You also need to remember that running a membership site is much more of a marathon than a sprint. Mike tells that online courses are mostly about the launch, but with a membership site it is about building a community. One of the biggest mistakes people make with memberships is getting too tied up in the content. People will join a membership for the content, but they will stay for the community.

Chris and Mike discuss the three C’s of memberships, and they are: Content, Coaching and Community. They go into depth on each of these points and how you can integrate them into your site. Mike shares some tips on how you can establish your brand and create a tribe feel around your product.

Holding non-topical discussions and events with your membership site can help to establish the community feel of your site and break the ice between members, because it is much simpler to start conversation if you have your audience weigh in on the latest Game of Thrones episode before getting into their thoughts on what they think the Bitcoin market is going to do or a topic like that. Holding non-topical events can have the same effect, too, such as going bowling with local members of your membership community.

To learn more about Mike Morrison go to the Membersiteacademy.com where you can learn how to build a membership site around the business you love. Also check out the themembershipguys.com.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. Today I’m joined with a special guest, Mike Morrison, one half of The Membership Guys, or is it The Membership Site Guys?
Mike Morrison: The Membership Guys.
Chris Badgett: Membership. The Membership Guys, and also a podcast by the same name. I’ve been following Mike over at LifterLMS for quite a while, and his podcast is on my short list, because it’s one of the ways that I keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the membership site industry. I was just thinking the other day, I was listening to a podcast that Mike was doing over at The Membership Guys podcast about Amazon payments, and things that were changing over there. There’s just no better way.
Mike saves me tons of time and all that research he’s doing, and I can tell when I’m going on my hikes and my bike rides, he’s just on my short list. You had a great one with somebody who was helping people launch virtual summits, and I noticed that was an emerging trend. And Mike did kind of a deep dive on that topic, so I would highly encourage those of you listening to check out The Membership Guys podcast and themembershipguys.com.
The other half of that is Callie Willows, and they have basically a membership site for membership creators, so it’s a little meta, just like we have some courses about creating courses, more different for selling software or whatever, but we’re kind of both in that meta category of teaching about a specialty that the teaching is the specialty. It’s just really interesting.
Mike, thank you for coming on the show. Can you kick this off and help just cut through like a laser, what is the difference between an online course, a membership site, and a learning management system from your perspective?
Mike Morrison: All right. Thanks for having me on the show, first and foremost. It’s awesome to be on the level you guys are doing over at Lifter. Now, you want that cutting through and getting a bit of clarity. I’m worried that this is just going to muddy the waters a little bit more because a lot of it, especially between a course and a membership, it’s semantics, it’s technicalities. Technically, a membership site is just a website that you have to log into in order to access something that otherwise is protected. In a pure, bare bones definition, that’s what it is.
The way that you and I and your listeners and pretty much anyone talking about memberships in an online context know them as, usually it’s a combination of e-learning and community, some sort of premium content that you paid in order to access. A course still kind of fits into that but you do typically find a course is usually more of a finished product than a membership. A membership is something which will be ever-evolving so the expectation is that will be new content or that will be value delivered in terms of community interactions or something that you are getting month-to-month in exchange for a regular payment whereas a course is usually, one, a payment, what you buy is what you get. It’s all tied up nicely in a bow, polished, but there’s no expectation that you’re suddenly going to get lots more bonus content and all that sort of stuff.
With a membership it’s always about that ongoing value. If you want somebody to pay you on an ongoing basis with a membership you need to deliver value on an ongoing basis. That really changes the way you need to approach it from a strategy point of view, how you operate and run it because that makes a membership much more of a marathon than a sprint whereas with a course you might spend months and months and months creating this perfect final product and then it’s all about the launch, it’s all about selling and you’re not really going to change too much after the launch.
With a membership, when you get that initial sale, then the work stops, then you’ve got to get members, then you’ve got to keep those members and you’ve got to keep them for months and years to come and that means content, that means access to you and the community, that means maybe a little bit of coaching and, yeah, that turns it into much more of a long-term business.
LMS, I would say kind of almost sits outside of that conversation. It’s the vehicle, it’s the tool that makes the delivery of the content part of your membership better or more optimized. You don’t just want to dump people into this big repository of content and leave them to it, you’re going to want to have some structure, maybe you’re going to want to control the pathway somebody takes through that content. That’s where having a LMS and being able to really fine tune the member experience so people don’t get overwhelmed, so people are kept on track, so people are actually getting a result. That’s where using great tools like LifterLMS come into it because they let you create the best kind of learning experience, whether it’s a course or a membership site, as you possibly can and one that best serves your member or your student.
Chris Badgett: That is very well said. I appreciate that. I can tell you’ve been looking at this topic for a long time.
Mike Morrison: I blacked out for a moment there so I have no idea whether that’s any good or …
Chris Badgett: No, that was very good. I’m probably going to transcribe that and use that later myself in a blog post, so thank you.
Mike Morrison: Do it.
Chris Badgett: Let me guide the laser a little bit and go to a really targeted question at the intersection of courses and memberships. With LifterLMS we have a membership functionality which is designed to sell course bundles, like multiple courses at once, so you could basically buy a course a la carte or you could get the gold membership or whatever you call it that has two, four, a hundred courses in it. The other purpose of a membership in LifterLMS world is to create a package or a vehicle to sell the course plus something else. That could be access to a community, it could be access to whoever the leader is, it could be access to an event.
What are some just spitball, brainstorm ideas, what kind of components could people add to a membership that included a course that’s kind of outside of the course but adds a lot of value and potentially adds the ability to really charge that recurring revenue.
Mike Morrison: That’s a great question because I think one of the biggest mistakes we see people make with memberships is getting too tied up in the content. It’s not just about the content. People will join a membership for the content but they’ll stay for things like the community. That ongoing value we talk about, you don’t just want to be giving people course after course after course. Maybe you’ve got a membership where it’s not necessarily a course, perhaps it’s downloadable checklists. Again, you don’t just want to make it so every single week there’s more stuff.
A membership typically comprises the three C’s: You have content, you have coaching, you have community. That coaching can be direct hands-on actual one-on-one coaching or just coaching by means of an online forum or a community or something like that. The content side of things, that’s also where you get a bit creative. Again, people think content, they think it’s got to be long-form videos or educational videos, it’s got to be guides. Things like worksheets, things like checklists, things like processes that you could import into all these different project management systems. Things like downloadable, editable files like if you’ve got a design membership or something like that. These kind of resources that are real practical, they deliver far more value in a lot of cases than a typical traditional educational course would be.
Again, I tend to try and steer people to thinking not about content but instead to thinking about deliverables. Content has too many connotations of, like I say, it’s video, it’s text, it’s imagery, it’s audio. Think about deliverables, what can you deliver to your members. Typical content might be that, but might also be things like live Q&A’s. It might also be things like perks and discounts, so you can go out there and hustle on behalf of your members for exclusive discounts on stuff they’re already paying for. If you think about that, if you’re charging $50 a month for a membership but you can score member-only discounts, that could potentially save somebody more than $50. It then becomes kind of revenue neutral for them or cost neutral for them and that becomes a no-brainer, so even if they’re not getting any value from the course or the community, they still have a reason to stick around because you’ve gone out there and you’ve got discounts.
Get a good balance across different types of deliverables. Really understand that not everyone is going to join for your courses. Not everyone is going to use your community. Not everyone is going to take up your member perks or discounts or download your files. Different people are drawn to you for different reasons and there will be different things that make them stay, so getting that balance and varying the kind of content you’re offering in your community I think is key to reaching as much of your audience as possible.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Can you just lay out the three C’s again?
Mike Morrison: Content. Coaching. Community
Chris Badgett: Cool. For those of you listening, we’ve recently released Private Areas for LifterLMS which helps you set up …
Mike Morrison: That is …
Chris Badgett: The coaching aspect.
Mike Morrison: That is a killer feature, by the way. We test all the plug-ins on the market, all the systems on the market. Private Areas for students is an absolute gold star kind of feature. It’s ridiculous. You guys don’t know how lucky you are getting this stuff. I’m not being paid for this, by the way. Seriously, that is an awesome feature and that, as a membership owner or a course instructor, that lets you deliver value on a level potentially that your competitors are just not going to be able to match.
Chris Badgett: Let’s go and dive a little bit deeper into that issue of … I kind of want to frame it in in a couple of different ways. One way is that we talk a lot about the dirty little secret of membership sites, which is like a lack of engagement, people don’t finish it, they churn out really quickly. They may have all this lackluster around a launch and then it just kind of peters out. Basically we like to … At LifterLMS if you could sum it up in one word it would be engagement. That is all about, I mean, the internet marketing and the sales is important, and we’re not saying that it’s not important, you still have to do all that stuff, but we want to focus our value much more on the results.
As long as a student or the member is getting great results, that’s what matters the most. It’s not necessarily the conversion optimized course sales page or membership sales page, which is also important. So there’s that aspect of like elevating the conversation in our community of as we guide the conversation around memberships and courses and learning management system, it’s not just about sales, that’s actually a small percentage of it. There’s a lot of other things that are important.
What do you see as, in terms of coaching, it’s a little bit counterintuitive because we’re often learned in more of a pop-culture online business sense, let’s say something like the four-hour work week and a lot of sites that are out about affiliate marketing or passive income and these types of things that we want to automate everything. Coaching is like against that. The way I say it simply, which these aren’t my original words, is that it’s important to do some things that don’t scale. So if you’re coaching, maybe you have a cheap course but the course plus the private coaching, that’s really valuable but it also is going to require the site owner to invest their time or build a coaching team or whatever.
When you talk about advising people on adding coaching or not, how do you frame in the conversation and the opportunity?
Mike Morrison: There’s a few things there. First, nobody works a four-hour work week, not even the guy who wrote Four-Hour Work Week. This is a mentality people need to put aside. If you’re looking for passive income, again, passive income is very rarely actually passive. Anybody who has got visions of kicking back on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails in a hammock as the money rolls in, you need to go bark up another tree because memberships, online courses in this world is not for you. That is important and I’m so glad that we kind of preface it with that, especially as we talk about engagement and retention being more important than sales.
It is a very good point about managing your workload. The best thing, and the thing I love about memberships is, you get to set the pace. You get to set the rules. If you’re listening to this thinking: There’s absolutely no way I have room in my business or my life to give one-on-one attention or giving them coaching, the good news is you don’t need to. There is … It’s not like there’s 10 elements of a successful membership that you absolutely have to have in place and if you don’t it won’t be successful. You’ve got to build your business on your terms. As long as you’re accurately representing what your membership offers on the front end, then that’s fine. As long as you’re not telling people they’ll get direct coaching or direct access and then not delivering it, it’s fine. You don’t have to do it if it’s not something that fits.
In this world of increased automation that has ramped up over the past couple of years, now we’ve got Facebook bots and you’ve got all this sort of stuff. A little bit of a personal touch, even just a tiny little bit, goes a very, very long way. Coaching doesn’t have to be one-on-one, it doesn’t have to be: Here’s an hour of my time every week. It can literally just be once a month. You, a business partner, a VA who perhaps reviews everything and sends you the Cliff Notes, goes to the progress people have made and just pops a little note on congratulating them and giving them a suggestion. We’ve seen that you’ve powered through this module. This is what I recommend you check out next.
Something like that, just something that’s a little bit of personal intervention. It doesn’t take much. The more automation comes in, the less you almost need to do in the personal touch to actually stand out. We recently started sending personal welcome videos to all of our members and it takes us maybe five minutes per video to [crosstalk 00:15:04].
Chris Badgett: What do you put them knows? I’m just curious.
Mike Morrison: It’s literally, I can give you the script right now. Do you want the script right now? If they haven’t introduced themselves on our forum, typically the script is: Hey guys. Mike here from Member Site. I kind of just wanted to reach out to you personally to thank you for joining the academy and to welcome you on behalf of the whole team into the community. When you get a moment, pop over to our forum by clicking the link beneath this video and introduce yourself. Let us know a little bit about you, about your membership and if there’s anything myself or any of the team can help out with, don’t hesitate to ask. We look forward to having you around. We’ll see you on the inside.
That’s it. We’ve mentioned them by name. If there’s something that they … If they’ve introduced themselves into our forum I’ll read that introduction post. I’ll look at where they’re from. I’ll look at what their business is. I’ll maybe check their website and just get a little tidbit of info about them, enough for me to be able to genuinely kind of say … Again, there was a guy joined who was from Texas. He wasn’t affected by hurricane Harvey, he was kind of out of the way of it, but timing wise kind of: Listen, I hope you and yours are safe with all this crazy stuff around the hurricane. Just that, it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort and you batch this stuff.
It’s up to you to decide how much intervention you want. On a coaching front, if you want to do traditional coaching you can do small group coaching. You could have a private section and a forum where … We use a forum software called IP Board that allows you to have a forum section in which only the person who started the topic as well as you and any other admins can see that conversation. It’s a great private channel for giving coaching in the same way as Private Areas through Lifter will let you do the same kind of thing.
It doesn’t have to be taxing. You get to kind of set the boundaries and as long as you communicate that and you manage that appropriately, then you can fit it into your work and your life. But, as you said there Chris, you can’t be scared to do things that don’t scale. Would you rather have a couple hundred long-term committed members or 1000 people who come through your door where they all disappear because you’re not engaging them?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s a really great point. Just to let … My technical geek-out brain has gone off so if I could ask a few questions there.
Mike Morrison: Go for it.
Chris Badgett: Does your IP Board require a separate login from your membership site?
Mike Morrison: Typically it does but there is a bridging plug-in available. We used to have our own that we built and then IP Board in the typical way that some software developers do, they totally pulled the rug out and changed their whole API. It is better now, but it did mean that overnight the bridge plug-in between WordPress and IP Board broke, but there is a far more robust single sign-on plug-in available now. It costs like 80 bucks and it just means that all logins get pushed through WordPress and the login just gets synchronized into IP Board.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Why did you use IP Board instead of like a native WordPress [crosstalk 00:18:20]
Mike Morrison: It’s just sexy as hell.
Chris Badgett: Okay. There you go.
Mike Morrison: It’s very, very cool. The problem … I love WordPress but obviously the more you take WordPress away from just being WordPress the more it sometimes starts to buckle under the weight of that. While you’re using something like membership plug-in with an LMS with a few extra bells and whistles it’s fine, but when you throw in BuddyPress and bbPress on top of it and then you’ve got, and then you’ve got, and then you’ve … It just starts to groan, especially if somebody has listening to an internet marketing podcast and they’ve heard someone say that Bluehost is the best web host in the world and so they’re building these mammoth resource-hungry websites on this $2.99 a month shared hosting, over-sold server, it starts to fall apart.
That kind of resource management was a part of it but WordPress also designed it as a discussion forum so bbPress is great for what it is but it’s limited. With IP Board you can have private groups, you can have reactions, you have status updates, you have all these really cool sorts of things like that. Private, you know the private forum permissions that we talked about there. It’s very, very cool and it looks great and it’s more well friendly out-of-the-box and all that sort of stuff. It’s kind of worth it if the community is going to be a real big part of what you’re doing to do that little bit more wrestling to get everything to work, but once it’s in place it’s seamless and most people don’t actually realize it’s two different pieces of software.
Chris Badgett: Oh, that’s very cool. I have seen a lot of ghost town forums that just didn’t take off. What do you see in your experience that makes a successful forum or not or what variables are present that indicate that a forum might be a good idea?
Mike Morrison: I think first and foremost, it starts with you. Most of the ghost town forums, they don’t even have the forum founder showing up and in a lot of cases the reason they became a ghost town was because the person who set it up didn’t show up. You need to show up in your own community because if you don’t want to come in and post and reply, nobody else is going to. I think some of that is this idea, and I think it was popularized by the book Influence, this idea that you have to put this big gulf of distance between you and your customers or your fans if you want to position yourself as an authority. You would have situations where people will build a membership or a community with them as the expert, as the figurehead, but they would see it as good strategy to never be around in order to make people think that when they did descend from upon high it was a special day and it just doesn’t work like that.
People expect accessibility now and so showing up in your own community and actually taking part, not over-thinking and overdoing it in terms of the number of forum sections. If you’re just starting up you don’t need 20 or 30 subsections in your forum, you need five or six at the very most and you can start small and expanded it as time goes on.
You also need to think about your audience and whether they’re ever actually likely to use a forum. I hate Facebook groups for paid memberships. I love free Facebook groups. I hate them for paid memberships for a variety of reasons but some markets will never engage in any social group that isn’t a Facebook group. In some cases you have to bite the bullet and go with that. If you’ve got a membership that targets busy working mums or busy working dads then it might be that you’ll never get them out with something like a Facebook group, you might need that convenience of a Facebook group.
I would also say you need to not treat your community as something that is separate, as one of five sections in your membership. You need to find ways to thread it into everything you do. For every course you set up on your main content port of your membership, have a link to a discussion area. It may be a discussion topic, it may be a whole section of your forum so that accompanying every single lesson of a course there is a call to action. If you have any questions, you want to discuss this, click here and it takes them into the community.
Maybe do some things if you’re bringing in guest experts to do workshops or live training for your members. Allow members to submit questions in advance but only allow it through your community. Maybe even bring in guest experts to do kind of a Reddit, ask me anything style session that only takes place in your community. Finding ways to make that community an integral part of the member experience, working it into your onboarding, making sure that the first four or five things you ask people to do include: Set up your forum profile. Introduce yourself. Start a coaching log or a journal or something that locks people in.
Finally, don’t ignore or don’t overlook the attraction and the benefit of having non-topic discussions. So much easier. If you’ve got, especially if you’ve got like a business membership, it’s so much easier for someone to weigh in with their opinions on the Latest episode of Game of Thrones than it is for them to weigh in their opinions on what they think the Bitcoin market is going to do or something like that. Have that low-hanging fruit, easy content. What was the last film you saw? What book are you reading right now? When was the last time you bought a CD? That sort of stuff that can just get people to break the ice and get over the hurdle of actually making a post.
Finally, so this has gone on a little bit but I want to get this in here as well. Level your expectations because we talked about engagement typically being lower than you might think for memberships. With a community you have this rule of thumb rule, it’s called the 10% rule, which is where only 10% of your members on average will actually participate in the community. 1% will be power users. These will be the guys who show up every day, multiple times a day, they start conversations. That’s 1%. 9% will be people who maybe show up a few times a week. They don’t ever really start conversations but they’ll reply. The rest either don’t show up or, and don’t overlook these guys, they show up, they consume, they get value, but they never post and you would never know that they’re there.
Just have the right sort of expectations about the sort of engagement activity you’re going to get. If you’ve got 100 members, you’re maybe only going to get 9 or 10 people actually posting and that’s fairly standard. There will be a whole bunch of people who are still showing up and logging in and reading and getting value, they’re just not peaking up.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, let’s do a brain dump a little bit, because we’re kind of transitioning from coaching to community. Just to throw some brainstorm ideas out there, I’ll lay out a few and then hand it over to you, but you can do a Facebook group. At Lifter we’re working on our own social learning community add-on so we can have that right on the site.
Mike Morrison: Cool. Nice.
Chris Badgett: You could have, if your users are pretty technical you could use forums or, even more technical, like a Slack community. You could do some kind of virtual or in-person, live events. What are some other community ideas that people could add to their membership?
Mike Morrison: I think you kind of covered a majority of them. I think live events are the ones that get overlooked.
Chris Badgett: When people do live events would do you advise? Is that like an annual thing? Is it like a weekly thing?
Mike Morrison: I think informal stuff as a jumping off point can work really well. It kind of depends on you and your day-to-day operations. If you’re someone who travels to a lot of different events then you should get into the habit of looking for opportunities to organize an event on the back of traveling around. We do this … We did a member meetup for our community in March, I think, back in San Diego. We then did a workshop in San Diego as well the next day, which we charged for.
Chris Badgett: Were you piggybacking on an existing event?
Mike Morrison: Social media marketing world.
Chris Badgett: Oh okay, so you piggybacked there, which is common. You see it like …
Mike Morrison: Absolutely. People are going to be in town. Find out in your community, we’re going to be … There is an event coming up in the UK headed up by Chris Ducker from youpreneur.com in November. I’m speaking at that event, but as soon as the date was down in our community the post goes up. Who is going to be at Youpreneur? Here’s the details. Let us know, we’ll organize a member meetup. Once we start to get a read on how many people were coming down, then we advertised a mastermind day that we’re going to do, a private [crosstalk 00:27:46]
Chris Badgett: Is that in addition to the member meetup?
Mike Morrison: In addition to the member meetup. The member meetup, free, all of our members can come along and I think we’re going to end up with maybe 20 or 30 people there. Next day we’ve got a six-person private mastermind that people have paid for that we give first dibs on that to our members and they got a discount rate than the public date when we opened it up to the public. Again, just find ways of tying in the online and the off-line. If you can piggyback on other events it lessens the travel workload for you because if you’re going to conferences and stuff like that anyway, but it also increases the chance that you will have people around.
Sometimes there’s not. I was at Podcast Movement in, again in LA, it was in Anaheim just a couple of weeks ago and we had members in town but most of the members were speaking at the event and there were a million and one things going on so we didn’t bother doing a meetup. I still want out of my way to go to see those guys who were members to get a picture to tweet, that kind of stuff. Don’t discount the off-line side of things.
If you’re not somebody who’s traveling around and going to different conferences and events and stuff, first look into whether that’s something you should be doing, but you might then look to organize more official kind of events. Maybe you do a retreat or maybe you do an all signal dancing live event where you’re looking at hundreds of people and a few speakers and stuff like that. If you can, start small, just little gatherings like … My favorite member meetup was Chicago, just going and grabbing deep-dish pizza for literally the first time with a bunch of our members. They got the most out of it. I mean, they bought my pizza but they got their money worth because they grilled me for like four hours, which was how long it took me to shovel my way through … Those pieces are big, man.
But yeah, they grilled me for four hours on everything membership-related, but they loved it. It was all over social media, which creates social proof which creates the whole formal thing, as much as I hate that term, for people who aren’t members. It creates excitement amongst people who are members who weren’t able to come for the next time you’re in town. That is what takes your community from being just another place someone hangs out online to something people are part of.
Chris Badgett: That is very cool. Just to get super-detailed, what are some ideas for a member meetup? You could do a meal. You could do like drinks. What else could you do?
Mike Morrison: Yeah. I think …
Chris Badgett: Meal, drinks co-working space.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, You can do a co-working space. Actually we came across a guy’s podcastwebsites.com, it’s a good friend of mine, Mark Asquith.
Chris Badgett: He might be the episode or two before you.
Mike Morrison: Awesome. I love Mark. Mark’s very, very cool. They just did a big member meetup at Podcast Movement in Anaheim because naturally it’s a podcasting event. That’s their crowd. They went bowling, so they had 70 or 80 people and they hired out half of a bowling alley in Anaheim and they got some drinks, they got food, they had it catered. Everyone had a good time and again, that’s what people were talking about for days after. I think it was the night before the event kicked off as well so again, people were just feeling good …
Chris Badgett: Fresh.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, they were fresh. They were feeling good that they were meeting up with other people for the first time and of course the whole Podcast Websites brand was elevated from it because everyone went home with T-shirts and with Podcast Website fidget spinners and all that. Literally sitting with three or four of these things surrounding me on my desk to show you how well it works. But yeah, that sort of stuff. You’re probably not going to have it in the early days of your membership. Again, it might be too much in terms of expense, in terms of size, but just kind of think of something fun to do. Don’t make it too official, make it something you would want to go to.
Another thing I would say as well on the community side of things, and this possibly ties in: This isn’t going to be possible for everyone but if you can come up with a name that people in your community can refer to themselves as, a collective label, some brands just don’t fit. Our membership is Member Site Academy. There’s nothing cool or catchy derived from that. We keep trying to think of a name but you have guys like Screw the Nine to Five, Jill and Josh Stanton, their members call themselves ‘screwpies’. You have …
Chris Badgett: I was just on the Entrepreneur On Fire podcast and they had the whole Fire Nation.
Mike Morrison: Fire Nation. Yeah. That sort of thing gives someone something they can identify by and they will identify by it and as a result they’ll feel more part of something, and then you can bring that into your meetups and stuff like that. I think the screw guys, their meetup things they do are like ‘screwpie’ house parties where they literally just rent an Airbnb, they get a whole lot of booze and they get everyone together and it works.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I’ve seen people on the LifterLMS Facebook group calling themselves ‘Lifters’ and I didn’t even … It just happens naturally sometimes.
Mike Morrison: Love it.
Chris Badgett: Well that’s super cool. I feel like we could go on and on forever, but a few more things. You and I are both podcasters and for me it’s, over time it makes me a better presenter, interviewer, more comfortable on camera. I slowly improve the technology I’m using and that kind of thing. I’m more like on the software side but you have the Member Site Academy, which I would encourage … Or the membership … Say the name of the membership.
Mike Morrison: Membersiteacademy.com.
Chris Badgett: Membersiteacademy.com. Podcasting is a part of what you do and you create so much great free content, which I really appreciate. When do you recommend podcasting as a kind of a free content channel, a networking channel, a way to add value in the community. How well has it worked for you and who do you recommend try it, or how would someone even run a test to see if they wanted to do the podcasting.
Mike Morrison: I would do it from day one like we did. We ran a digital data [crosstalk 00:34:42]
Chris Badgett: How long ago was day one for you?
Mike Morrison: Just over, oh no, actually two years and three months ago, roughly. 113 episodes ago, that’s an easy one for me to remember, as of today. Yeah, we did it from day one. We ran a digital agency for years before planting our flag and essentially embracing the whole The Membership Guys brand and so …
Chris Badgett: One second, was your digital agency focused on membership sites?
Mike Morrison: It was. It didn’t start that way, and that’s how we got into memberships. It …
Chris Badgett: I just want to acknowledge a similar path for me. I ran an agency and we built a lot of stuff but then we got really into memberships and online course sites.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. That’s exactly what happened with us. Gravitating towards the kind of stuff that we enjoyed the most but also the stuff where we were seeing the best results for clients. That’s part of why we enjoyed it on the strategy side, the marketing side and given the tech side as well obviously helps because that can be a big differentiator. If you can invite someone on a killer strategy and show them how to get their website to behave, that’s awesome. But yeah, when we pivoted in terms of moving away from working with clients to going broader and putting out content and doing the podcast, the podcast was one of the first things we did.
We started with the blog podcast and a YouTube channel. The YouTube channel never quite found its legs because it was the one that we were less suited to, I think. I’ve done a bit of internet radio in the past so I can sit behind a mic and I can just shoot off and create something that maybe a handful of people might want to listen to. Yeah, that was day one for us. I think even if you’re not as comfortable behind a mic, push yourself to do a podcast because I think, especially if you’re doing memberships, it creates better members because these people are coming in with more …
Chris Badgett: Are you talking about a free podcast?
Mike Morrison: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Not a members only podcast.
Mike Morrison: Yeah. Sorry, yeah. Do a free podcast in terms of the content you’re putting out to build that credibility, build that expertise. Most memberships are centered around some form of figurehead who is seen as an authority. A podcast is a great way of building that authority and establishing that credibility, but more importantly than that it establishes your voice and it gets that whole like no trust factor in place because people get a sense of what you’re about, they get your personality. If somebody can’t make it through two episodes of my podcast, they’re not going to make it through the 30+ courses we have in our academy. If you don’t like my accent, if you can understand what I’m saying, don’t join my membership because you’re going to hear it a lot. It does a lot of those things that help almost pre-qualify or pre-frame the type of members you get and it makes for longer-term members.
We also found very early on that consistently from people who we didn’t already have in our audience, the podcast gave us a whole new dimension of discoverability. We were getting a lot of people when the academy doors first opened saying that they discovered us through the podcast and that they listened to the show, then they joined the membership. Other people, it was: I joined your Facebook group and then I saw a blog and then I came on this webinar, I did this challenge. A lot of other people there was a lot of multi-touch marketing going on, consistently a big chunk of people where they listened to the podcast and they went directly to the membership.
Chris Badgett: Interesting.
Mike Morrison: It’s still on so many different fronts as well. In terms of just being an inroad to connecting with influences. We’ve had pretty much all the big names in our space on the show in terms of online marketing space, although it always does tickle me that some of the lesser-known people they are the more downloaded ones than the big guns like Henry Porterfield and JLD and people like that. We broke the ice through the podcast. Some of those guys we were then able to go back to and kind of say: Well we had so much fun doing the podcast, why don’t you come in and do a live workshop for members for free?
That kind of icebreaker and then going to conferences and events and having that already established in common. So many different fronts that podcasting benefit you on. I think what you said before as well is key in terms of helping you become better at communicating, better at educating and tuning you in a little bit more to what’s going on in your audience’s head as well because the kind of feedback you get, the questions you get, that helps inform both free content and, importantly, paid content for your membership as well.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well two lightning round final questions and then we’ll wrap it up. Just curious, in your podcasting how often do you publish? Is it once a week?
Mike Morrison: It’s once a week.
Chris Badgett: Once a week.
Mike Morrison: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: You said something really interesting in the last thing that you said, which was conducting a workshop for your members. What is a workshop?
Mike Morrison: Just a webinar essentially.
Chris Badgett: A webinar.
Mike Morrison: Yeah, kind of a private member-only webinar. You can do them live or … We started getting them, pre-record them. Pre-recorded 30 to 45 minute essentially webinar but not delivered to anyone live, just a single video or piece of content that is practical, that is easily applicable to not just high level theory. We got Chris Ducker to do a one on hiring VAs. We got Mike Vardy from the Productivyist to do one on managing your time around your membership and how you actually juggle it all.
30 to 45 minutes expert content and that’s one of our deliverables. I’s not of course. It doesn’t … Well you could probably break it down into like 20 two- or three-minute long lessons but, yeah, it’s basically just a webinar. I think with those, if you can get guest experts to bring in as well, the difference in format as well as the difference in host marks it as something that is a distinctly different deliverable and it helps if they’re known names in your field because you can then stick them on your sales pitch and say: Not only do you get all my awesome stuff, you’re getting expert regular training from people like these guys.
Chris Badgett: Beautiful. Well, Mike Morrison, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming on the show. That was really a gold mine. If you liked this episode, I would encourage you to go find Mike’s podcast at The Membership Guys podcast. Just do a Google search and find it. Yeah, every … Like this conversation with you and the hundreds of other episodes is just a gold mine of good information that’s really sharing experience out there in the world. It’s super good stuff if you’re in this whole membership courses coaching community thing. We appreciate your leadership in this space. Go to themembershipguys.com, check out Callie, check out Mike and everything that they’re up to. Yeah, I just want to thank you so much for coming on the show and we’ll definitely have to do this again sometime. I feel like we could do a series.
Mike Morrison: Yeah man. My absolute pleasure. Yeah, anytime you want me back on give me a shout.
Chris Badgett: Sounds great.

EPISODE 157

Molly Mahoney the Prepared Performer on Audience Pivots, Course Piloting, Facebook Messenger Bots, Confidence, and More

We have Molly Mahoney the Prepared Performer on audience pivots, course piloting, Facebook Messenger bots, confidence, and more in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Molly and Chris discuss selling without coming across as a weirdo, and teaching online using Facebook.

Molly and Chris share their stories of what they did before they were into technology and teaching online. Molly worked as a singer on a cruise ship for six months. Then she and her husband moved back to California from New York to raise kids, and she launched a business built around her passions. Chris managed a helicopter-supported dog sled tour business on a glacier in Alaska for almost a decade, and the main driver of that business was the cruise ships that would visit there.

Having routines and developing boundaries are very important parts of maintaining a comfortable work/life balance. Molly originally had a course where she taught performers how to start and run their own businesses, but the performers who could use her content could not afford it. So she pivoted and changed her course a little bit and taught business owners how to perform, and that saw great results.

Molly has a really innovative and unique way of running her online course content. She does a lot of her business through Facebook and Messenger. Molly uses a Facebook group, and she does Facebook Live sessions for the majority of her content. She has changed the way people use photo albums, and she uses it to organize curriculum. Messenger can work as an autoresponder when people sign up for your content on Facebook as well.

Molly also teaches confidence tips on BeLive.tv. She loves using this platform, because it really gives you the ability to connect with your audience and customize your screen options so that the presentation style is very professional. It allows you to pre-schedule videos, too. They also talk about ManyChat and how you can use that for creating an autoresponder.

Chris and Molly go into depth on the steps it takes to become an uncommon salesperson and not be a ‘salesy weirdo.’ Developing the confidence in yourself is a key part of being a successful entrepreneur online. Highlighting your skills and establishing yourself as a down-to-earth person in your content makes you seem more relatable, and that makes it easier for clients to buy from you. When you infuse your brand with your characteristics, it will also strengthen lead and idea generation. Then you can execute on sales once you have established a relationship with your customers.

Having a deep impact on the world is also something that should be worked into your product, so that can serve as motivation in tough times. And it can help sell your message to clients, because people are attracted to others who have a similar approach to the world. If you can get outside of the ‘looking in the mirror’ focused approach, you can really connect with your students and customers.

To learn more about Molly Mahoney check out ThePreparedPerfomer.com/lms to get access to Molly’s live content planner and her next masterclass!

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. For those of you listening to the podcast here, we actually ran this live on Molly Mahoney’s Facebook page for prepared performers.
For those of you listening in the live audience right now, thanks so much for coming. This is going to be an awesome conversation. We’re going to get into Facebook topics, Messenger bot topics, selling without being a weirdo topics, teaching online. Molly and I realized we had a little common thread in our history we’re going to get into with a little bit of story time.
First, Molly, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Molly: Thank you, I am so stoked that you were up for the crazy ride that I decided to throw at you with going live. This is going to be such fun.
Chris: Yeah, well, let’s get into your history a little bit. There’s something going on in your past from the cruise industry, and I have a history in the cruise industry before I got heavy into technology.
I actually used to, this may sound kind of wild to those of you who haven’t heard it before. For almost a decade, I managed a helicopter-supported dog sled tour business on a glacier in Alaska for almost a decade, and the main driver of that business was the cruise ships that would come into Juno, Alaska, and people would fly up in the helicopters to our camp on the ice field and we would take them on sled dog rides.
Before I got into online courses and technology and membership sites and all these things, I was a big outdoor guy. I still am, but for a long time I made my living basically in the ecotourism business fueled by the cruise industry.
Molly: Okay, wait, can you go back and just say that again? That actual title of what you did, “Helicopter,” the whole thing all the way through. What was that?
Chris: I managed a helicopter-supported sled dog tour business, so I was on a glacier with a couple hundred sled dogs, a bunch of people, and the owner of that business who became a good friend and mentor was an Iditarod sled dog racer. I used to run some sled dog races and help him train in the wintertime.
That’s what I did before I got into the online business in the software business. That’s my background.
Molly: Which is amazing.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: I was actually a performer on cruise ships, and the one place that I didn’t go, I’ve been so many places all over this crazy world and one place that I’ve never been is Alaska.
We should, oh, my gosh, we’ve been talking about planning our prepared performer cruise recently for course creators and business owners who are using Facebook live. We should plan one. I was thinking Caribbean, but maybe we should do it in Alaska.
Chris: Yeah, Alaska’s pretty amazing.
Molly: Super-cool. I was actually a musical theater performer for most of my life, and then I had the job six months on a cruise ship as a singer and it was awesome.
We ended with a transatlantic cruise, I stayed on for the last two weeks to do the transatlantic and got to see so many amazing places and I have really good friends from all over the world now and learned how to live in a little tiny room underneath the ground for six months, which was kind of crazy, but it taught me a lot.
Chris: That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s fun times. Well, tell us, going from being a performer to being the prepared performer presence online, can you tell us that story, just the evolution to what you are today?
Molly: Yeah, I started performing when I was eight years old.
Chris: On a vacuum cleaner, I saw, right?
Molly: Well, I did. That was even before. Good job, yes.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: My “about” page is so fun. My friend PM’d my new website and it does say that. When I was three years old, I started performing, singing into a vacuum cleaner, but I went to school for theater and dance and one of the main things when I graduated and I moved to New York, one of the main things that I was missing was actually training in how to actually have a job and how to have a career and actually make a living and not be a “starving artist.”
I was lucky to have several friends and met lots of people who were able to help guide me in that but I was like, man, what a bummer that other performers are thrown into this insanity where really you’re running a business. We’re taught that business is bad, getting a business degree is a bad thing, that you’re selling out, but I have a firm belief that if you can embrace those business strategies you’re actually going to have a bigger ability to affect the world in a deeper way, right?
Chris: Very cool.
Molly: Yeah, after, I was on tour with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the Broadway musical, kind of random, with a flying car similar to with dogs on a sled, I suppose. We actually had nine dogs on our tour, also.
Chris: Awesome.
Molly: Have you seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
Chris: I have not, but I just saw Amy at a local performance and there was a dog in it, yeah.
Molly: Yeah, you never know. There’s actually just one scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where they have these candies that whistle, they’re called Toot Sweets and when they whistle the candies, all these dogs run on stage, so nine dogs toured with us for that one scene, which was crazy.
Yeah, while I did that, my husband and I got engaged and we decided to move back to California from New York to raise kids and I launched a business. My goal was to have a knitting/dance studio/wine bar called …
Chris: That sounds like a definitely “follow your passion” kind of direction, right?
Molly: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was like, what am I good at, what do I love, and how can I make a business out of it?
Chris: How’d that work out?
Molly: Well, I worked at two different studios and I realized, and I worked at a yarn store also, and realized I do not want a brick and mortar.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: No, thank you. It was going to be called “Kick & Knit,” which would’ve been awesome and clever but I decided to take my business online so I built a really awesome full vocal coaching business here in Orange County but I was working at literally, at one point I had ten different jobs. I don’t know if you ever have been in that place, I call it “busy balls,” #BusyBalls.
Chris: Yeah, that’s intense when you’re just from one thing to the next and very little sleep and lots of trying to switch gears from one to the next. Yeah, it’s crazy.
Molly: When you said it’s a passion-based business, it’s easy to find yourself in that place because you love what you do and you just think I’m going to hustle and I’m going to get there, but then you just create more and more busy balls and then you get sick and you don’t have time with your kids and all that.
Chris: The body does revolt eventually. That’s what I find, even if you’re following your passion and you have your foot, the pedal to the metal, eventually the body’s like, hey, this isn’t sustainable, got to slow down.
Molly: Yeah, I’d like to say that I learned that but it happens again. It’s like, for me, I don’t know if it’s a struggle for you, I don’t know if you’ve figured that out. I’m working on it, I’m a lot better, but that self-care piece is so important, you know?
Chris: It’s a big deal. It’s easy for that to get run away. For me, personally, I just have to develop habits and boundaries. I have a morning routine and I definitely had work/life balance issues, but I’m constantly working on it.
I’m really, we talked about running sled dogs in Alaska. I’m about seven years into my entrepreneur journey or six years or whatever, and I would say it really took me five years to get remotely stable. You know what I mean?
Molly: That makes me feel so good, because this is the fifth year of having my business. Aaah, that means I’m right in the right spot.
Chris: Well, I always heard on podcasts and stuff, it’ll take you three years to figure it out but, you know what, it actually took me five. Maybe I’m below average but, I don’t know …
Molly: I love it.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: I actually, I launched this course and, Michael, if you’re still watching, I watched this course that, launched this course, I used Zippy Courses and I wish I had known you guys existed at that point but I created all of this training material ahead of time. I launched a pilot program, it was called “Prepared Performer Profits,” and it was teaching starving artists how to build a business using their creative talents.
The pilot went really well, I had 15 people. They were seeing awesome results and I had amazing testimonials and feedback, and then I went hardcore selling this course that I had already created. Guess what happened?
Chris: Crickets?
Molly: Zero sales, like, actually zero.
Chris: Well, I was listening and when I heard “starving artist” is the target market, that was like, ah, I get it, I know they need help but can they pay for it? Will they pay for it?
Molly: No, they won’t, just like, you know?
Chris: Yeah, okay, yeah.
Molly: Which, how many coaches and how many courses was I in where they were like, “Molly, this is really valuable but I don’t think people are actually going to buy it,” and I was like, “Yes, they will.”
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: They didn’t, hashtag #fyi.
Chris: Yeah, that’s a good lesson, that’s a good lesson, or maybe it’s just the wrong product. Maybe a book that’s $20 or something, maybe, but I don’t know how much your course or your program was.
Molly: The pilot was $197 and I had reached out to people individually at that point to sell it, and then the full-blown course was $497, which was pretty, for what they were giving it was crazy. I was listening to a podcast that you had done with Joseph.
Chris: The scrivener coach? Joseph Michael?
Molly: Yeah, yeah, I loved all the discussion about pricing in that one. Yeah, what I realized is that even if it was technically for starving artists, even if I had called it something differently like, I was like, “Cure the starving artist syndrome.” Talk about reinforcing the scarcity mindset.
Chris: Yeah, that’s how we learn, that’s how we learn.
Molly: Right, yeah. What I did, I literally felt like I was having a panic attack. I don’t know if I really cried a lot, but I have never felt that feeling of “I can’t breathe” because of what is actually happening right now. I got with a coach that I was working with at the time Amy Bradbury, do you know her by any chance?
Chris: I don’t. Is she related to Danny Inni at all, or any of his staff?
Molly: I don’t know, but I was in Danny’s course so actually this story is featured. I didn’t even realize it, but it’s featured in Danny’s recent or the newest edition of his book.
Chris: Oh, okay.
Molly: Yeah, Andy was my coach with Danny and he helped me with this, too. No matter how many of them told me not to do the starving artist thing, I was fully committed.
The feedback I had gotten from Danny’s group and from a lot of other people is that my live videos were doing really well and Facebook Live had just come out, so we shifted everything. I took all of the training that I had in that course and I wrote it into a spreadsheet and I decided to flip it and teach business owners how to perform instead of performers how to have a business.
Chris: Oh, that’s a really interesting way, a “pivot,” we would call that in the startup world. It’s a very, some people technically in the startup community you would call that an audience or offer pivot, but that’s a really fascinating way to look at that.
Molly: Yeah, I flipped it literally. It was the same material, basically. I just added a little more, there’s one module in my course about performing and then the rest of it is business strategy, because if you’re planning on using Facebook Live to have a business and you don’t have that stuff in place it’s not going to work.
Chris: Is that where you really got your wings when, after you made that pivot, it started the light at the end of the tunnel the hole got bigger, right?
Molly: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now it’s this giant grand canyon. It’s amazing.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: Actually, what I did is I taught the whole course in a Facebook group. I went live every day for 30 days and I sold it before I did that.
Chris: Yeah, let’s hear about the particular offer of, were you considering that a pilot, a relaunch of the Facebook group, or this is just a new format for delivering a course?
Molly: Well, when I started it, my plan was to do it as a pilot and then the second month, the first month went really well. I think I did, I sold the course, and now the program is fully sussed out. There’s so many new things in it and the course sells for $997.
Chris: Do you still run it through Facebook?
Molly: Yes.
Chris: Okay, tell us about that. How does that work? How do you do a course in Facebook? Private group? Just walk us through the end to end from after the sales page. What happens?
Molly: Yeah, after the sales page they get a thank you page that says “welcome, we’re so glad you’re here,” blah-blah-blah, and “click this link to join the group.” I’ve actually moved it around a couple times, but everyone has told me in my community, because we’re doing Facebook Live anyway, that they really love having the content in that Facebook group. What I did, and this is something I made up and it can be a little weird at first but once people get it it’s awesome.
I did those 30 videos and I actually did that for three months, and halfway through the third month I was like, this is ridiculous. I’m not going to …
Chris: Oh, you mean you had run it live, the same curriculum probably slightly improved each time but go through it again and again, right?
Molly: Yeah, until I got all the feedback and then everyone was giving their, because they all had homework for every lesson that I taught and they were putting it in the comments below the video.
Chris: Amazing, yeah.
Molly: Like, “Awesome!”
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: Everybody sees that there’s not a competition but an accountability feel and this excitement about it.
Chris: Quick question because I’m a details guy, at least about some things, is this lifetime access to the Facebook group or are they removed after 30 days? It’s just a set journey or is it … ?
Molly: Yeah, for now it’s lifetime access. It was at first, it was going to be just one month and then I did it for six months but then trying to pull people out and keep track of that was, honestly, for me, just way too much of a headache.
Chris: Yeah, for sure.
Molly: I know you mention that a lot of people in this community launch courses and then have coaching. Having that relationship where I’m able to still continue the support with them in the Facebook group is so much better for being able to welcome people as private clients as well.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: Rather than taking them out, you know?
Chris: Got you.
Molly: Then I went through …
Chris: You were doing it live and you did it three times and then what?
Molly: This is crazy. At first, I put all of the live videos into a file within the group and I had my assistant at the time take …
Chris: Video files that people could download? Is that what you mean?
Molly: No, I shared the link, the URL, from the video, from the live video, and a document within the Facebook group so they can just click on it.
Chris: Oh, I got you, yeah.
Molly: It always, I have them all on YouTube in case anything happens and I had put them into a course thing, also, which I think that’s important because we don’t own Facebook, right?
Chris: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Molly: It’d be cool to have, if anyone in your audience does this, I think your plugin would still be an amazing way to have it standard and download it and have it there so that they can still access it that way.
Chris: There’s a Facebook version, too, maybe, or something? Yeah, it’s interesting, yeah.
Molly: Yeah, now what I’ve done is totally different. Actually, because there’s no way to do video albums on Facebook, right?
Chris: Right.
Molly: I did a photo album with the title of each video training in order and then I took the link for my favorite out of the three months, I took the best of all of those and I put the link in the description of the video and, I mean, in the description of the photo so that they see the title, then they click on that link, and then they’re back into that conversation that people were having in June.
Chris: Wow, for those of you, if you got lost a little bit there, what Molly basically did is she hacked the structure of a photo album to organize and create a curriculum that makes sense using the way Facebook works. That’s really amazing. That’s cool.
Molly: I also have if people want to opt in they can get a 30-day email sequence. Every day for 30 days they’re sent a link to the video in the Facebook group with a little …
Chris: I think it’s really fascinating because lots of people have their platform preference. They may want to just stay on Facebook or maybe it’s their email inbox and like, “Hey, just hit me up.” It can bring you back to Facebook if you want but I need that email, or I have a habit and I want to be on your side. It’s not necessarily one way is better than the other and people have different preferences and workflows and notification systems, so it’s cool.
Molly: Actually, now I’ve built out a team. We’re working on, we’re writing up written tutorials to accompany each video. There are several written tutorials in there but not for every single one, so we’re working on that now. I’m also going to offer them the opportunity to have a messenger reminder. We’ll have a sequence listed out within Messenger, in Facebook Messenger, that will send them a reminder every day for 30 days if they want.
Chris: Let’s get into that piece a little bit. Facebook Messenger bots are a thing. A lot of people don’t really know what they are. What is … how do you describe it and how do you use it?
Molly: It’s basically setting up an auto-responder for your Facebook Messenger, so if you have MailChimp or ConvertKit or any of these other Infusionsoft, it’s doing that via Facebook Messenger. It works exactly the same. You could have a landing page and people can opt in. You can, the cool, they have these things called “growth tools” in the system that I use and it’s basically just having a myriad of ways that they can opt in and then they’re subscribed to your Facebook Messenger on your business page. It only works on your business page.
You can set up sequences, you can tag people the same way that you would in an email service provider. It’s a different platform, so you want to treat it in a different way. It’s more fun, it’s really short messages, you have to follow the Facebook terms of service so you’re not allowed to put an actual payment link in the message. It’s against the rules, but you can get creative with that. Yeah, it’s completely transformed my business, out of control.
Chris: How do you get, in terms of getting people into that, into a Facebook flow or whatever, are you getting that opt-in on Facebook or on your website or both?
Molly: Both. Actually, I’ve added, they have a little popup that you can do, it’s a WordPress plugin. They have a popup. Is it a WordPress? You know what? I think it’s just code that you enter into the header, so I think it works with any website, actually.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: That has converted better for me than any other popup I’ve added in the past, and it’s just a slider. It doesn’t cover up the whole screen, it’s not really obtrusive, it’s fun, and the cool thing is they don’t have to enter any information. They just click, because most people are already logged in with Facebook.
Chris: It’s already logged in, yeah, which is one of the beautiful parts about it. The other beautiful part is the open rates. People read Facebook messages a lot, most of them.
Molly: Yeah, my open rates are averaging, and I have about 3,000 people subscribed now and my open rates are anywhere from 60% on the low rate to 97%, 96%, which is crazy. The click-through rates are even more insane, so it’s super-cool.
My favorite way to get people, and I don’t know if you’ve played with this, my favorite way to get people subscribed and to offer them major value is I use it with Facebook Live. What I’ll do is I preschedule a live video.
Chris: Are you using BeLive or just using a Facebook event or what?
Molly: Yeah, I use BeLive. Have you played with BeLive at all?
Chris: Yeah, we just did a big launch party with BeLive on our Facebook page for new product private areas that we just released.
Molly: Awesome. For people who don’t know, it’s belive.tv, that’s where you can go to register. They have a free version and then you can also upgrade to do fancier things with a paid version. I don’t know if you know this, but I actually work with the company so I have my own show on their channel, which is super-cool.
Chris: Cool.
Molly: Every other Wednesday I’m there teaching confidence tips for them as well, which is really fun. I love that BeLive allows the comments to pop up on your screen so you’re really building more of a relationship with your audience. Have you played with that?
Chris: I haven’t. Well, yeah, you can press it. I’ve just done it twice so I’m not a power-user. Yeah, the comment and their face comes up. I was doing it with side by side with somebody else on my team. It was really cool, I had three formats, “broadcast,” “ask me anything,” and something else.
Molly: Yeah, “talk show.”
Chris: It was easy to use, super-easy to use.
Molly: You can add lower thirds really easily. You can add, you could even have half of your screen covered with an image. There’s so many possibilities, and you can preschedule an agenda, so if you’re worried about getting off-topic which so many people are when they’re doing videos you can have your agenda scheduled so that you can pull up everything that you want to share like bullet points and it’ll write it on the bottom of your screen.
You can preschedule the videos, and it’s super-easy to preschedule with BeLive, so I preschedule the video and then I go into this tool called, “ManyChat.” Is that what you use?
Chris: I’ve been playing around with it. I’m not using it live, but I’m teaching myself how to use it, yeah.
Molly: Okay, some people think that I say M-I-N-I, but my husband says I should say “manny chat” so then people will understand.
Chris: Yup, there you go.
Molly: Yeah, MannyChat, then you can actually attach one of these growth tools to your video with a trigger keyword. You say, while you’re doing your video you say, “Comment below with the word,” sometimes I’ll do “comment below with the words ‘kick my booty’ if you want to have some accountability in your life and I’ll send you my favorite accountability tool.
They comment below with that phrase and then it automatically messages them right away in Facebook Messenger. Once they respond to that message, they are subscribed to your messenger.
Chris: Very cool. That’s basically like your email list but on Facebook, so it’s your messenger list. Just for the people that are kind of nervous, if somebody decides they want to opt-out or unsubscribe from your Messenger, how do they stop?
Molly: Yeah, I am so big about this. Two things, one is you don’t want to be a salesy weirdo, so you want to give people options. Even when I say, “We’re live doing this video right now if you want to join us,” I say, “Would you like to join us?” I don’t say, “Come join us live,” because not everybody might want to, so I let them join live, I let them join the replay, or I let them say no thank you every time.
When people first subscribe, I always tell them it’s super-easy if you don’t want to get these messages anymore. We’ll miss you, but just reply with the word “stop” and you’ll be unsubscribed. It’s so easy.
Chris: Beautiful, beautiful. If somebody wants to take Facebook Live and Messenger bots and stuff to the next level, what do you recommend? How do they get going for a course creator out there that it’s like, this sounds interesting, what should I do first if I want to head down this path?
Molly: First, you come hang out with me. I’m just kidding. Yeah, really, it’s like I’m sure any of their strategies that are so common in business but so many people miss these things. The first thing is, you recognize what makes you a uniquely awesome human being, because that confident piece is huge. No matter how fancy you are in business, those gremlins pop in and will stop you, right?
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: Yeah.
Chris: Let me just go down a side path here. You’ve mentioned confidence and that’s one of the things that you’ve coached people on stuff like that. What is at the root of people not having confidence and what are some tips? You’ve mentioned “really step into who you are and be yourself,” but what other tips do you have around confidence?
Molly: This, first of all, this is the best thing that I was able to take from the world of performing into the world of business, because I coached people who had Broadway credits, people who were featured in such high level places where you would think that they’re just going to walk in and know they can nail it, but their confidence is even less than the beginners sometimes because there’s higher stakes involved, right?
Chris: Right.
Molly: I developed these strategies on how to psych ourselves out, basically, in order to feel more confident. One of them, my favorite, and it’s actually an exercise that you can’t just think about, you have to really do it. This exercise is called the “Quesadilla of Awesome.”
Chris: Okay.
Molly: Okay?
Chris: Tell me more.
Molly: Someone that recently told me they don’t eat cheese but they can have a Quesadilla of Awesome, too. It can be like a hummus quesadilla, which is the point of this. The point is that everyone has something that makes them uniquely awesome as a human, even if it’s just that you make an amazing quesadilla.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: I have them list out five different things. The five different things, I created an acronym which is the word “save.” However, I am dyslexic and don’t spell very well, so I celebrate that fact so that my audience doesn’t judge me for my typos, so the word “save” has two A’s.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: It’s S-A-A-V-E.
Chris: All right.
Molly: Reinforcing my Quesadilla of Awesome in my brand.
It’s your skills, so if you’re good at dividing up the check when you go out to dinner with your friends, that would go in your Quesadilla of Awesome. Your skill sets, the things that you’re naturally gifted at, your appearance, because no matter who you are and sometimes I think this is more of a female issue but it’s not because I have male clients who totally struggle with this. When you come to the camera, I mean, like right now we’re on Zoom but our faces are right there and it’s staring us back.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: You have to find things in your appearance that you can celebrate and that you love. Your appearance, activities that you love, so dog sledding is clearly a part of your Quesadilla of Awesome, right?
Chris: Okay, yeah.
Molly: Knowing that and hearing that I had done cruise ships gave us that instant weird connection.
Chris: Right.
Molly: Right?
Chris: We share something in our Quesadilla of Awesome.
Molly: Yeah, even though it’s one step removed, it’s still totally something that we can talk about and pull our gremlins away and we start to have our own natural energy come out.
Chris: Got you.
Molly: That’s what people want, activities, so mine’s knitting, crocheting, dancing, swing dancing, having kids, playing with my kids, living a life of an adventure. Then your values, which, as much as you can celebrate that and really know what that is, that changes everything, also. The last thing is things that you like to eat.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: Because we can all talk about food all day long and I have a very strong relationship with Brussels sprouts and I firmly believe that if you post a picture of Brussels sprouts on Facebook and just write “Brussels sprouts” with a question mark you are going to get all sorts of engagement because people either love them or hate them.
Chris: Okay.
Molly: You make a list of those things, and then you find ways to infuse those things into your brand, into your videos, and you basically create a brand that is filled with the things that you love and then infuse your business into that so that you’re able, okay, that’s like the first step. We kind of got off, but that’s the first thing to the confidence piece and then finding ways to search out the Quesadilla of Awesome in others so that we’re not so self-focused on our own stuff.
Chris: Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s some very good tips there and I appreciate the acronym. I noticed that when I was looking at your website before this. I was like, “Oh, this is somebody who really has a strong brand here.” I’m getting the colors. The pictures are not, they’re very much unique. Okay, this is somebody who has some opinions who clearly has a Quesadilla of Awesome.
Molly: Yeah, some people see it and they’re like, oh, my gosh, this lady’s crazy, which is totally fine. They can go somewhere else. I want to work with the people that I love and the people that love that about me. Right? Same thing for you, you want to work with the people who have the same sort of work ethic or the same sort of approach to the world.
Chris: Absolutely, yeah. I can see, looking at your site, too, there was the fun side but then there was all this seriously, skills. I was somewhere and I saw the Facebook Messenger bot come up and I saw some really well written copy. I’m like, oh, this is polished. This is really good stuff here.
Molly: Thank you.
Chris: That’s what I tell people is, yeah, you may also be doing a vegan cooking class or a Brussels sprouts seven ways class, but there’s only one you.
Molly: Yeah.
Chris: There’s always an opportunity for differentiation.
Molly: Totally.
Chris: If you can get outside yourself like you’re saying and really don’t get so “looking in the mirror” focused, you can really connect with your students and your customers.
Molly: Back to the beginning question which was about how to use Facebook Live, from there if you can, after you work on your own Quesadilla of Awesome and bring it into your brand and all that, if you can really identify … I’m not sure how you guys teach about this, but I would love to know your thoughts.
There’s this idea of having a target market or a niche or whatever, but the easiest way for me to help people to do this and the easiest way for me to be really specific in my videos is to pick one singular person that I’m speaking to who is a client that I have worked with that I love or who is a person that I know would be eager to pay for my services or has the potential to pay for my services and also has something that is awesome that I would love to support them in and dive into the problems that they’re experiencing.
Make sure when you do videos on your business page you’re really solving that specific problem for that one singular person.
Chris: Yeah, that’s really cool. We’re mostly on the software side at LifterLMS in terms of we don’t necessarily teach as much on how to, the business side of courses. We’re more trying to solve the technology problems, but that makes total sense in terms of really getting into the customer avatar. I do that.
As a software entrepreneur, if I’m writing an email, one of the last things I do before I hit “send” and actually it usually happens many, many times, is I read it. I read it out loud just to hear how it lands, and I insert the name, the first name, of a customer that pops into my head.
Molly: Yeah.
Chris: I’m really trying to internalize if I was on the receiving end of this and I was this great person that I love doing business with and serving, how would this email land? That’s how I do it.
Molly: I’m going to start doing that. I love it so much. That’s so good, yeah. That’s, sometimes people see things even an email service provider or when people see the bots they’re like, aah, that’s going to pull me away from being human. No, what you just described is exactly how you ensure that you can take that human one-on-one connection and multiply it so that you can.
For me, I can spread more joy. I can help people to really unlock the things that are unique about them. Even when they walk into the grocery store, they’re going to be more confident and more on top of things and feel more empowered and just make the world a better place because I’m having that one-on-one relationship with literally thousands or hundreds or millions of people.
Chris: Yeah, we always, we’ve said over the years, one of the things we try to do with technology, teaching technology, is scale the human touch with robotics. It doesn’t mean that you’re not being human if you use an autoresponder or if you use something like our private areas add-on to set up some sequence of private pages that are going to be created for each of your coaching clients.
You’re leveraging technology but you still, a lot of human intention goes into it and perhaps some of that content is actually live and customized and everything like that. It’s okay to leverage tools, technology tools.
Molly: Yeah, it’s a huge disservice to your audience if you’re not, because when I speak from stages or in my master class that I do a couple times a month, I always say there is something that’s better than Facebook Live.
My favorite is the reaction that I got from my friend Anne Bennett who’s a branding specialist and she was at Live event and she went … and got all crazy to write this thing down. She knows that I love Facebook Live and I said speaking to an actual human being in person, having a real conversation. It is impossible to be able to have that one-on-one conversation with as many people who need you.
Chris: Right.
Molly: These are the clients that I [inaudible 00:33:24], creating a course of them so that they can engage and feel that intention whether it comes through an email or a template that you’ve written. If you can make it you and you can do like you did, pull yourself out and read it or deliver it as if you’re really speaking to that person, it changes things.
Chris: Yeah, and there’s tools that you can scale. We’re using something called Zoom to record this private conversation, but we could be doing a webinar with a bunch of people here and taking live questions. You can still get the best of both worlds out there.
Let’s talk a little bit more about sales without being a weirdo.
Molly: Okay.
Chris: That’s one of your things, course creators, especially if they don’t have a background in business or sales or Internet marketing, they’re more starting from the point of I’m an expert in “X” and I want to teach online, potentially access the worldwide market in a better way. How do you coach people on sales?
Molly: This is one of my favorite things to talk about, and it’s one of my favorite things to talk about because, I will admit, I have been a salesy weirdo in the past. I’m just going to …
Chris: What would an example of you being a salesy weirdo in the past be?
Molly: Okay, this is the perfect one and my sister called me out on it.
I used to be, now I only have my coaching business, that’s all I focus on, but I used to be part of a direct sales company. I had a team of about 200 people, and direct sales companies get such a bad rap because they are taught to be salesy weirdos, basically, is what I have realized.
Chris: Are you talking about MLM “Multi-Level Marketing” type stuff?
Molly: Yeah. Actually, Nicole who connected us and is watching right now, she called me out on this recently and she was like, “Molly, sometimes you hide the fact that you have lots of people in your audience that are indirect sales and that you have a connection to them.”
“Nicole, I am not hiding this anymore, I am just calling it like it is, which is people get put off, they’re turned off to those types of companies because so much of the strategies that are written in books or taught from the companies are salesy weirdo tactics. It’s like, reach out to all your friends and offer them to join your team.” That’s, we don’t even …
Chris: Yeah, have a Tupperware party.
Molly: Right, yeah. Okay, we searched out Tupperware when it came to getting those cups for our kids. We tried every other fancy cup, but those cups from Tupperware were amazing for us. However, what I did when I sold makeup, and it came from a place of passion and it came from a place of really loving this product, but I got so excited about it that I would literally just all day long post pictures of myself with only one eye done and show the difference.
My sister messaged me and she was like … and I had a coaching business at that time, too, so it was great for performers and all that. I did really well with that, but my sister messaged me and she was like, “Molly, more children, less mascara,” in my Facebook posts.
I had to take a step back and be like, you can’t just add a bunch of people into a Facebook group and then send them a link to buy your stuff, because that would be a salesy weirdo.
Chris: Yeah, another one that I see a bit is just trying to execute sales tactics without having a relationship.
A classic example, there’s a great book by Robert Cialdini called Influence and there’s these seven things that can make somebody influential. If you were just to read that book and implement tactics to create scarcity or urgency, it’s cool to learn how that works and learn the human psychology and the behavior and how we’re wired to respond to these things, but you shouldn’t just try to be like, “All right, I got that. Now I need to write some sales copy that exploits those human traits.”
Molly: Totally. Actually, one way that I often will explain it when it comes to a webinar or when it comes to doing a video where your objective is to make a sale, this, actually, I heard from Amy Porterfield about her webinar. This is something she said about her webinars, and I think it is so brilliant. It’s that there’s a difference between your objective and your intention.
Chris: Tell me more.
Molly: When you do a video, and I always love to out myself, so [inaudible 00:37:39] …
Chris: Okay.
Molly: Let’s talk about this, the podcast interviews, right?
Chris: Okay.
Molly: I am crazy busy right now. I have so much happening. However, I’ve decided that I’m going to make an intention to connect with more people who are sharing information with the world via podcasts.
My intention is, I know that by sharing the information that I’m sharing with you today, with your audience today, that more people are going to feel confident. We could end right now and I’d be stoked, because I know at least one person from your audience is going to go into even a PTA meeting and have a better relationship with the people that they’re connecting with because they’re going to feel more confident.
Chris: Yeah, what a gift, giving out the Quesadilla of awesome or whatever, somebody’s listening and it’s going to make a real impact. I know it is.
Molly: Yeah, underneath it I have these different versions of why’s. I have a three-part why. One of the parts of the why in my business is a global why, and so my global why is to help more people have more joy, just straight up.
I know the strategies that I teach about Facebook Live actually help people to have more joy in their life in general, which is super-cool. That’s my intention. I show up here, I think you do cool things, I’ve seen what you’re doing, I’m excited to talk to you as a human being and connect with you and then also have that joy-spreading effect go through the world.
However, business-wise, you also want to have some sort of strategy or objective. When you ask, let’s fully out myself, when you say what’s the first step to learning how to do Facebook Live I’m going to mention, oh, I have this free Facebook group. If people want to join me in the Facebook group I’m offering value all the time, or if you want a video content planner it makes it super-easy to be able to download and get all of these strategies.
Now, with that video content planner you’re going to get killer value for free, and so that’s my intention is for you to feel confident and put good non-salesy weirdo content out there. My objective is that eventually down the line you will connect with me and if it’s something that you enjoy or you realize it would help you in your business, then, yeah, you’ll jump into my programs. That would be awesome, and that would be my business objective down the line.
Chris: That’s beautiful, that’s beautiful. I’m just trying to out myself here, too. It does me a huge service to provide all kinds of free value to the course-building audience that is listening to this, and you’re helping me do that. I did not know about the Quesadilla of Awesome before today. Not only are you helping all my people, you’re helping me.
Molly: Yes.
Chris: It all works out. I have a software product around creating and selling courses, and some of the things we’re talking about is it doesn’t necessarily directly to me, we’re not just talking about the best software tools or whatever, we’re talking about ideas and strategies for people that can help them. I know in the long run that’s going to work out and we’re going to be seen as a trusted resource and we care about more than just selling software widgets.
Molly: Yes.
Chris: I really care about these things. I’m also a course creator myself, so I’m learning from you in what you’re teaching here, too, so thank you.
Molly: Yeah, also, that actually ties into one of the strategies that I teach that for so many people I think this is fear, but for many people they’re like, “Ugh, Molly, that makes no sense. That won’t work for my business. I see that it works for yours but it won’t work for mine.”
I will tell you right now, this strategy that I’m going to share works with literally every single business, every single nonprofit, every single influencer that has an objective, which is to know your ideal client and then deliver non-product-based solutions.
Chris: And what does that mean?
Molly: Excuse me. It is exactly what you talked about. We are delivering …
Chris: Like results in advance before asking for money? Is that what you mean?
Molly: No, it’s like, one example, okay, here’s the example that I always give. I know who my ideal client is and I know that they are busy, that they, like we talked about self-care in the very beginning of this interview.
Chris: Yup.
Molly: Even just teaching about self-care has nothing to do really tangibly with Facebook Live, but if I teach people to drink more water, I always mention this, but I had a client who did, she actually was part of a direct sales company.
She did a five-day water challenge on how to drink more water because it’s something that all humans need, but she was really specific to the type of person that she was speaking to and she brought him 300 leads.
Chris: Oh, wow.
Molly: On how to drink more water. It’s stupid, but it’s awesome because what you’re doing is you’re removing yourself from your final objective of making sales and you’re focusing on the person that you’re serving and how you can help them.
Chris: Yeah, that’s key, that’s key. I know my customer base really well and there’s all kinds, I probably spend more time just helping connect them with other people and other ideas. I spend a lot of time on the product and the technology tools, but I like helping them in any way I can.
Molly: Yeah, they love it, too. They appreciate you and they trust you. If something goes wrong, I bet this has never happened, but technology is crazy.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: I launched this whole program on how to do a bot. It was a three-hour bot training and we crashed three times during the bot training. They got some play, but it literally shut down. Because I’ve built this relationship with my audience and I am good at handling disasters, I didn’t get anyone saying, “That was horrible and I want my money back.” Everybody was like, “Oh, my gosh, Molly, we love you. Thank you so much for working through that.”
Chris: Yeah, that’s awesome, and I think that’s part of that confidence piece, too, when you’re teaching or especially if you’re on a topic that’s a little bit bleeding edge and tools start breaking or Facebook changes their terms of service and now you got to change your content. People will adapt with you, because they know, because you’re being you and you’re not talking in absolutes and you’re being vulnerable and making mistakes as you go, too. People really love that.
Molly: Yes.
Chris: It’s authenticity. It’s almost cliché to be yourself or be authentic, but it really matters. It’s like a whole currency of its own.
Molly: I wish there was a different word for “authenticity,” because I feel like “authentic” has become such a buzzword.
Chris: Yeah.
Molly: I guess that’s where my Quesadilla of Awesome comes in.
Chris: Yeah, that is a new word, no two ways, so that’s cool. Well, Molly Mahoney, ladies and gentlemen, where can people find out more about what you’ve got going on and what can they expect if they head on over there and check it out?
Molly: Yeah, actually, I put together this whole little fun package just for your peeps. I would love it if they wanted to go to that link and when they go there it will show them the video content planner. There’ll be a little video saying how much fun this was, because this was so much fun. You can get the video content planner.
There’s also access to my next upcoming live video master class where I really dive into all the strategies to use when you’re live on Facebook and you want to really get those conversions and build that tribe of people who love you.
Also, a link to my free private Facebook group where we have all kinds of things are being discussed in there. We bring in guests to do … We could actually, if you wanted to come in, we could bring you in as a guest, not to put you on the spot but I’d love to have you if you want to come.
Chris: Yeah, I’d love to.
Molly: Yay, cool. We’ve had different software, all kinds of people in there who are offering advice and really juicy content within that private Facebook group. I do free Q&As and stuff like that in there, too. It’s a great place to get your questions answered, so all you have to do is go to thepreparedperformer.com/ …
Chris: LMS.
Molly: I thought we’d do it together.
Chris: Yeah, there we go. That’s the link, everybody, thepreparedperformer/LMS, or .com/LMS, and head on over to the LMScast website. You’ll see a link to that in the show notes as well. Molly, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your energy and the Quesadilla of Awesome with us and so much more. I really appreciate it.
Molly: Yeah, this was such a blast.

EPISODE 156

Optimized Video Hosting with Better Analytics for Your WordPress LMS with Patrick Stiles of Vidalytics

This episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is about optimized video hosting with better analytics for your WordPress LMS with Patrick Stiles of Vidalytics. Chris and Patrick talk about Vidalytics and how it can vastly improve the quality of the videos and analytics you have for your online course or membership site.

Vidalytics is a video hosting platform that differentiates itself by having an intelligent analytical backend. Vidalytics gathers data on how your videos are performing. You can see where in the videos people are skipping and rewinding and when they are dropping off of the video. You can have autoplay for mobile devices, have a custom thumbnail show when they pause the video, and whitelist videos so course creators can control what website their course videos can be played on.

Patrick shares the story of how he entered the world of software development. He was told to get a job at a company for 40 years, get a golden watch, and retire. Since Patrick was a child he had wanted to go into sales. He dropped out of high school and tested into college where he wanted to study sales. Sales was not a degree, so Patrick tried a lot of different commission-only sales jobs. He hit his stride when he got into contingency recruiting, because he was able to build relationships, see inside people’s careers and check out the internal workings of companies.

Patrick got fired twice in a six-month period, and that is when he decided to go out on his own and become an entrepreneur. He was doing contingency recruiting on his own, and he did not have to give away 60% of the profit like he previously had. Once he didn’t have to worry about money he started traveling, and internet marketing caught his interest. He worked on multiple businesses after being inspired by the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.

People often don’t finish online courses, so it is important to keep them engaged. Chris and Patrick talk about how Vidalytics allows you to see where you are losing most of your audience. If you were teaching a class in person and during the class 75% of the people left before the end, you would be asking yourself and your audience what you could do better as a teacher. Vidalytics allows you to do this with your videos.

After a long day of working, it can be hard to incentivize your audience to pick up your course and keep pushing through the content. Vidalytics has you covered on that front as well. You can use drop down banners on the top of videos to suggest the next video when your customer is disengaging. You can send out emails to your students to engage them on that front as well.

It’s important to never forget that the best marketing is a good product. Chris and Patrick talk about how collecting analytics is important for your sales approach and for online marketing for your courses and membership sites. What makes a customer purchase your product and what makes them stick with it are two separate things, so collecting analytics on your videos is vital.

Challenging your assumptions is key to long term success, because the world of online marketing is always changing. Chris and Patrick also talk about selling results, which is important for online course creators.

To learn more about Patrick Stiles and optimized video hosting with better analytics, check out Vidalytics here. They have a pre-plan so you can use it for free up to 500 plays per month.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today I’m joined by a special guest, Patrick Stiles from Vidalytics. You can find Vidalytics at Vidalytics.com. And, what it is, is it’s a video hosting platform that has a serious analytical backend and really differentiates itself in terms of giving intelligent data around how those videos are performing among other cool benefits like the Mobile-Only play.
Patrick Stiles: Mobile autoplay.
Chris Badgett: Mobile autoplay. And, we’re going to get into all that stuff. But, Patrick has a really interesting journey and I really love some of the problems he’s solving for marketing and sales, but it’s also super relevant for course creators in terms of video content, video lessons, video sales letters of the course, and those types of things. First, Patrick, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Patrick Stiles: Absolutely, man. So happy to be here.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, it’s good to hang out with you. I interview a lot of different people, but you’re another software CEO type like myself, so it’s fun to interact with someone like that and also with somebody who is even more passionate than I am about video.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Before we go there though, for the listener out there, can you tell us a little about your background? ‘Cause, I see you’ve done a lot of different things and it’s evolved. And, so have I. I ended up in the software world. I used to run sled dogs in Alaska for a while. I used to carry my video camera everywhere and I never knew it would all come together in online education, but what’s been your journey?
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, so. I remember being like 20 years old and going to my dad and being like, “What should I do with my life?” And, he was like, “Go work at a company for 40 years, get a gold watch, and retire.” So, obviously, I was pretty much on my own. But, from a very young age I was told I should go into sales. So, when I went to college, I was like, “I want to major in sales” and they were like, “That’s not a degree”. And, I was like, okay. So, I really kind of [inaudible 00:02:07] around school. I dropped out of high school, I tested into college when I should have been a junior in high school. College level all around. And, it took me nine years to get my degree.
During that time, I just tried a lot of things. It was mostly commission only sales jobs. I was always kind of chasing the big paycheck and stuff like that. So, I had a wild ride there. But, I really kind of hit my stride when I got into recruiting. It was funny, because I was always trying to get my friends’ jobs and it always was a disaster, because all my friends were idiots. And, if they did get the job, they would quit after a week or something like that. But, contingency recruiting is something where you can make a lot of money. It’s not high pressure. It’s built on relationships. It’s kind of consultative and I got to see inside people’s careers, their progression. And, then of course, inside companies and stuff like that.
So, in 2008/2009, I got fired twice within a six month period. And, in recruiting, you go and work for a company, they take 60% of the revenue, and all they give you is a telephone, a desk, and a computer. Maybe you can do some cross deals with somebody else in the office, but that’s only if you’re in the same area, in the same region. When I got fired for the second time, I was like, I’m going out on my own. And, as I walked out of the building, I was calling my top client and I was just like, “Hey, I just left my company, I’m going to be with a new one on Monday. I’ll give you a call when I’m there.” And, I was like, “Alright, so what am I going to name this company?” And, that’s how I became an entrepreneur for the very first time, eight years ago.
I was terrified when I went out on my own, but then I started closing deals and it was great when I didn’t have to give up 60% to the house, because these deals were worth at least $20,000 or up. After a deal or two, I wasn’t really worried about money, but I got very, very bored. I realized that I wanted to do something that was analytical and creative, and gave me the freedom to travel. And, long story short, I fell into internet marketing and I didn’t know anything. But, I started a supplement company with a co-founder of mine, Elizabeth Thompson, and I spent $5,000 on inventory and I didn’t know how to build websites. I didn’t know anything about marketing or about traffic or anything like that. I really just stuck with it until that business became successful. It was a lot of failure and a lot of trial and error and stuff like that. But, once I finally got that business going, I wound down the recruiting firm and I started traveling around.
I did the digital nomad thing for years. I lived in seven other countries through Europe, Asia, South America. I met my wife in Buenos Aires. And, she works with me now. She’s on her fourth start-up of mine working together. So, she’s kind of like a start-up veteran and she majored in literature. It just kind of goes to show that you never know where your path is going to lead. During that process, I got into video as well, because that was a big tool that I was using online to sell.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That’s quite the journey and yeah. It’s a windy road, but I’m sure it was a lot of fun. And, it sounds like it takes a lot of self-reflection and knowing what makes you tick and doesn’t make you tick. And, I appreciate that journey. I have to ask in terms of the supplements and Buenos Aires, were you influenced at all by The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss?
Patrick Stiles: Oh, yeah. It’s funny, because I read that book and three weeks later I spent the $5,000 starting my supplement company, my first one, at least. And, I read that book and it just hit me at the right time. What’s funny is when it came out in 2007, I used to go to the bookstore and just grab a bunch of books. I was really into day trading and finance then, because I thought that was going to be my path. And, I saw that book and the headline caught me and I bought it, and it sat on my desk at home for a month. And, then I wanted to buy a really expensive book about security analysis. The one that got Warren Buffett started in investing. So, I decided to return the book. And, then a year or two later I actually got the audio of the book and I read it. One thing I’ve learned is that I’m much better at audio than I am at sitting down and reading.
But, I was kind of pissed that I was like, “Man, I have this book. I could’ve gotten started two years earlier, I’d be so much further along”, but who’s to say that it would’ve spoken to me at the right time or I would’ve gone, “Oh, that’s cute. But, I’m not going to try it.” But, when I heard it, I was recruiting. He was talking about just being really kind of sucked into these things, being busy, not being able to get away. And, he talked about traveling, which was a lifelong dream of me, so it definitely influenced me. But, we came up with 50 ideas. We wrote them on my mirrors. I had all these closets in the place I was living at the time with mirrors on them. And, we wrote all the ideas from ceiling to floor of what we could do. We came up with doing yarn for people in the craft space or doing spicy chocolate. Those were our first two ideas and we priced them out and we tried to go into those industries. We just got a bunch of resistance. We were like, “How is this going to work?”.
Then, me and my partner, we had been taking this supplements based off of the book, The Mood Cure, like gava, [inaudible 00:07:04], linden balms, skullcap, holy basil, those things. And, we knew that they work for calming you down. It was a very immediate effect. I was like, “This is a killer product that we could formulate here”. And, then we looked and there was competition out there. We thought we could beat them and stuff, so competition can be a very good thing. ‘Cause, either you’re going to be a pioneer and pave the way like an Uber. Like, somebody that’s never done something before. Or, there’s a reason there’s nobody doing that and it’s a graveyard. That’s how I wound up into supplements.
Chris Badgett: Super cool. Yeah, that book had a big influence on me. And, I think a lot of people just around 2008 or wherever that was. Early days of the internet and …
Patrick Stiles: It was 2010.
Chris Badgett: Was it 2010? Yeah.
Patrick Stiles: I think it came out in 2007.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. That’s funny. I just think about that. I don’t think Tim Ferriss at the time realized how big of an impact that would have and it really impacted a lot of people in a lot of interesting ways.
Patrick Stiles: I’d never read a book that’d actually changed my life in such a dramatic fashion, in such a short timeframe. And, when I was living overseas and it was just like, “Hey, what are you doing here?” There were so many young guys and gals. But, I’d be like, “Yeah, I read the 4-Hour Workweek and then I got this idea. I started this business, here I am in Bangkok” or, Barcelona, or wherever we were.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, same. I read that book and I actually got into some real estate investing and I was selling some property. I had read about Tim Ferriss selling the puffy pirate shirts on Google Adwords and I started doing … Early days, when it was really cheap. I was getting all kinds of traffic to my Craigslist ads for real estate and stuff. But, it was just an interesting time in the more immature days of the online business world. It just keeps evolving, which brings us to the present day of video, which is so awesome and so cool. I’ve always been surprised when course creators come to me and they’re asking for the video recommendations. Pretty much right now, there’s three things that I see people doing predominantly. Which is, Vimeo Pro, Wistia, or an unlisted Youtube video. And, then I came across you and saw Vidalytics and I was like, “Oh, that’s an interesting angle.”
But, tell us. What is Vidalytics? It’s video hosting, but what else does it do?
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, so. It’s video hosting for you to put a video on any website that you want. So, it’s kind of like a Wistia or a Vimeo. But, beyond that, it gives you bar none the best video analytics anywhere in the world. And, it’s not just for marketers, although that was kind of the idea when we built it, ’cause I used a lot of videos to sell. So, you can things like where people are buying, or where people are taking an action, if that’s even going to the next lesson or something like that. You can see where people are skipping, rewinding, and of course where they’re dropping off in the video. You can bust that out across first-time visitors, repeat visitors, devices, browsers, their location or their traffic source and some things like that. You can change the dates. You can also click a button and have two videographs side by side. That was like a really fast overview of all the analytics. You can slice it nice and get hundreds of different combinations just with those, ’cause they overlap, all those different things I just listed.
Beyond that, we also have auto-play on mobile devices and you have the option to make it full screen when they tap it, or just unmute it when they tap it, ’cause it won’t auto-play with sound, so it doesn’t annoy somebody on a mobile device. Then, you can also have a custom thumbnail that they only see when they pause the video, so a thumbnail that they’ve never seen before, only when it’s paused. You can in-video call to actions and you can also do … This is one that we do for … You and Brad recommended is domain white listing and really big course creators, that they want to control where their content is going to be listed and stuff like that, so somebody doesn’t hijack it.
Chris Badgett: That’s super, super cool. I kind of want to get into those features a little bit, ’cause we talk a lot about the dirty little secret of membership sites. And, we’ve pretty much built most of LMS around the concept of engagement, because traditionally, an online course and membership site world, there’s a lot of focus on the conversion and getting the sale and the paywall. And, locking down the content. Which, is very important. But, what people didn’t talk about much is what happens afterwards, which is where people buy a course and maybe get into a lesson or two and then they abandon the product. That’s a big problem. And, it’s not very sustainable if you’re the course creator or the business owner for that to happen for the long term.
Part of understand where people are disengaging is having some analytics and not just going off of assumptions of, “Oh, they weren’t a good fit. But, maybe your content is too long. Maybe a certain video is … Something that’s being said in the video is really causing people to disengage”. You could isolate down to a second frame. What would be an example? What kind of stuff can I see in the analytics?
Patrick Stiles: You bring up a really good point that as a course creator, your goal is engagement, right? Or, to teach them something or to give them reassurance on their purchase, right? To deliver on the goods that you promised before they signed up. And, of course, there’s business needs there to mitigate refunds and to get them to kind of stay in your universe and to buy other courses and stuff like that. But, I mean, there’s so much you can see. Literally, you could see where people are dropping off. We see this in marketing videos, where we maybe introduce the product and it’s like, “Alright, this is how I solved my problem, but you can’t work with Dr. Gregory, but you can buy this in the form of a supplement.” That’s just a hypothetical example. You can say that and people just immediately drop off.
Or, there’s other things, too. And, this is something that you can’t get anywhere else with seeing first time visitors and repeat visitors. Maybe the drop off are people that had already seen the video and they’re like, “Okay. I just wanted to refresh on this section” or, the skipping and rewinding. And, if you don’t have the context of, “Hey, is this somebody that’s seen other videos?” And, you can do that with conversion actions and just place a conversion on each video, ’cause you want them to hit each one. You can create different conversion actions inside of analytics. It’s a script that you drop into somewhere on your website and it just fires.
But, then you can see, “Alright, this person watched all 10 videos or all 10 modules”. But, then maybe they came back and they re-watched one, or they skipped over part of it. Or, they hit something where it’s like, “Alright, now. Typically, this costs $1000 to start building this in your home in a course” And, they’re like, “Oh my god, I don’t have that. I thought this was going to be easier.” Or, they get discouraged, they freak out. They have that self doubt. Something that we all battle with. And, you could see that dropping off in the videos. Or, a course length. So, there’s a lot of different ways that you would be able to kind of see how they’re engaging with it. And, of course, a feature that’s coming down the pipe, hopefully within the next two or so weeks, is going to be a Zapier integration. So, you can tag your email contacts based on how much of a specific video that they watched. You could basically just tag it video one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10.
If they’ve only gone up to video five, “Hey, video six is waiting for you. There’s a ton of awesome secrets there. This is where I explain to you how to the ABC trick that took me six months to figure out on my own.” It allows you to communicate with your audience in a much more personal way and see how they’re consuming that content.
Chris Badgett: That’s super helpful. We talk a lot about the launch of your course is not the finish line. It’s really the starting line. And, that could be your marketing funnel, like how you sell the course. So, you could be looking at your … If you have a multi-step video sequence sales letter, that can always be optimized and to think that your first version, your first shot is one and done is just an immature way of looking at it if you haven’t done a lot of sales online. Everything can be optimized to the enth degree. Even sometimes just a little tweak here and there that you can actually pull data on and you realize that you need to do can have exponential impacts on sales.
But, also on the other side inside the course itself, you may realize that your lesson videos are just entirely too long and you need to break them up or you need to break your course up into multiple mini courses. If you’re losing 75% of the people 25% through your lesson, you’ve got to … It’s not really a problem. I mean, imagine teaching in a classroom for an hour and then three quarters of the people are literally gone before you’re done.
Patrick Stiles: That would be a disaster. And, I’ve done some public speaking and I would be like, “Wait? Let’s Q&A, I want to teach what you guys want to learn” or, “What’s going on here?” Absolutely. Or, if all your modules are kind of free reign, I know a lot of LMS’ kind of go module by module. By the way, that always annoys the hell out of me, ’cause I want to get to the goods.
Chris Badgett: Right.
Patrick Stiles: I don’t know actually if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. But, if they’re all open and somebody could go and watch whatever they want, then you would also be able to say, “Alright, these are the most popular videos”. So, it’s like, you know what you promised them when you were selling them, but then they got into your course and that’s actually what caught their attention, you know? Maybe it’s the easy stuff versus the stuff they think is going to solve their problem, but you know as the expert that they really need to know these other things, the fundamentals or something like that. So, it’s like a lot of people talk about designers maybe when they’re starting marketing. And they’re like, “Oh, I need a good designer”. It’s like, you probably need a good copywriter and then a good traffic person. You know? Those are kind of the fundamental elements of getting something to convert. And, there’s a lot ways to skin that cat, but it just kind of goes to show that people don’t always know. They don’t know what they don’t know and they maybe don’t know what they need. It’s kind of like a tough love thing, as well.
But, the analytics are there to show you. And then, of course, and you were saying this earlier, if they’re going from course to course to course and then it’s like, oh, they got to press play and there’s kind of that resistance on the tech side, you could also have the auto-play features in there so that it automatically starts playing for them and they’re like, “Oh, well it’s starting. I’ll just get into it.”
Chris Badgett: Yeah, like we’ve on LifterLMS, there’s an auto-advance feature you can turn on, so that when they click the mark complete done button, I’m done here, it moves on to the next lesson. They don’t have to navigate to it. Especially, if they’re on the phone and they’re done and they move on, if that could just auto-play up … That’s how everything works now on YouTube or whatever. It just keeps going infinitely and you stop it when you want to.
Patrick Stiles: It reminds me of the gym. So, I have a buddy who is like super fit. He’s older. He’s like, “80% of working out is just showing up at the gym”.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Patrick Stiles: I would do that. I would be really, really tired and I’d drive to the gym. I’d walk and I’d be like, “Alright. Well, I’m here. I’m kind of tired. I’m going to start with some cardio and warm up.” Then, I’d have a great workout once I got into it and I got pumped. But, it’s kind of like that with the online courses. It’s like, “Oh, well the video is starting. I’m already on the next module or I just see it.” That could also be something where you try to rig the beginning of your videos a bit different. Where you almost do it like a VSL, a video sales letter where you kind of do a lead and you kind of preview what you’re going to teach them and kind of tease them a little bit. And, maybe bring them into a story and then lead into the teaching or something like that. But, those are all things that you could try to play with inside of your courses and then see that data in analytics to see if it moves the needle and is it going to really help you build your audience and their affinity.
I know that I’ve bought tons and tons of courses in all different areas. And, it’s like, I buy them. I have the best of intentions and then I never watch them. And I’m like, ugh. And, that’s the worst thing, ’cause I’m like, “Ugh, I wasted that money. I don’t want to go back to the guy and ask for a refund. I let myself down. I need to be trying harder.” And, it’s like all this stuff starts churning around in the head, but it’s like … If somebody has those feelings associated with your course, do you think they want to buy the next one? I would think probably not. You know better than I do, but …
Chris Badgett: I mean, that’s the sustainability factor that people don’t talk about. It’s like, yeah you might sell a lot of units, but you want a repeat customer. You want them to refer your course to their friends, that’s sustainability. But, if they’re not finishing, you may be good at launching and stuff, but it’s not really sustainable and you’re just launch dependent.
Patrick Stiles: Exactly. That’s a great point, too. And then, they’re on that treadmill or that hamster wheel of never ending launching and trying to get new people in, ’cause people are just piling out of it in droves. You know?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, the best marketing is a good product. It’s important to never forget that.
Patrick Stiles: A lot of people do.
Chris Badgett: I want to touch on reporting a little bit. In the WordPress space where we are, it’s kind of like a build it yourself. It’s completely extendable. You own the platform as opposed to renting space on a Teachable or a Udemy type of marketplace environment. It’s like, it’s your website. But, one of the things that makes WordPress powerful and owning your own website, is you’ve got plugins and themes and these different things that you configure. And, when you own your platform, you do not want to get into the video hosting business. You want to let smart people like Patrick and his team get into the video hosting business. But, we end up doing is we end up embedding the video into our lesson content with other content or even just the video. The video is the most popular form of lesson content these days.
But, what happens in LifterLMS and one of the things that makes a learning management system different from a traditional membership site or online course, is there’s more structure to it. And, there’s a lot of emphasis on reporting. So, you can go into the backend of your LifterLMS site and look at reports. And, people do need to click a mark complete button. They do need to advance to the next quiz question and things like that if they’re taking a quiz. But, in terms of the video content, there are ways of making it so the mark complete button doesn’t show up until a video finishes. But, all things being what they are in terms of in WordPress, you bring all these pieces together to create your platform, there’s not really a unified analytics point. If I was using Vidalytics as an online course entrepreneur, I would want my LifterLMS analytics, I would then go to my Vidalytics which would be awesome. And, then I would go to my Google analytics. I would get all the business intelligence and teacher/instructor intelligence, what’s working/what’s not working.
By adding in that layer of analytics at this video level, I think is super powerful and it fills in a big gap in terms of the teachers that really care about engagement and continuous improvement. It’s a really powerful tool.
Patrick Stiles: And, especially if you’re just getting started out there. You don’t necessarily know what people want or … Just knowing what they respond to and how they’re connecting, because video is incredibly powerful. And, everybody knows that. Gary Vaynerchuk says if you’re not using it, you’re going to lose. You know, YouTube, Google, these big tech giants, Facebook. They’re all going heavy, heavy duty video. And, it’s like so video is really effective. But, the problem with it is that you don’t really … It’s kind of a black box. You don’t know what’s happening inside of it. That’s kind of why Vidalytics was created. And, when you’re talking about your courses, it reminds of me of my friend that’s an author. She’s a great writer. She’s created movies, as well. And, it’s like … She’s like, “All you really need is 1,000 people in your audience”, which may sound like a lot, but as far as conversions, I saw tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people supplements over the years.
It can come really fast, but she was saying if you have just 1,000 people, raving fans … Maybe it’s 100, but anyways, in your tribe, that’s all you need. And, you can keep launching things to them, build a relationship with them. Listen to them, to what they want. If you’re not connecting with them, then they’re never going to have that opportunity, even if you have the goods to deliver, they don’t know that. And, people are in an info overload mode most of the time, so they’re just looking for an excuse to screen you out. That’s how the human brain works with the reptile brain like back close to our brain stem. We’re just like, “Is this a threat? Can I mate with it? Can I eat it?” You know, next. We’re kind of like scavengers just wandering around, that’s where a lot of our screening process happens. Especially on the internet with banners and popups and new ads and emails and alerts and noises. And, all this stuff. Our brains are not really designed to handle the internet of what a crazy, complex environment it is. The only thing that would probably stimulate it is if we were getting stampeded by a bunch of animals in the jungle and trying to get our kids out of there or something.
So, really connecting with somebody, that’s the hard thing in 2017 and beyond. A lot of people know that it’s video, but if you’re starting out and you’re trying to find your tribe, you’ve gotta know what talks to them and I know for myself, I ran a lot of split tests, that’s actually how I got into software. I built my own split testing software. It’s in it’s server side and it’s hooked up to this Bayesian statistics engine and stuff like that. So, it’s really cool if you’re a nerd, apparently. But, we’ve done tests. It’s just like, I’m wrong so much of the time, even as an experienced marketer in a specific niche, it’s like I still get things wrong and I don’t know necessarily what people are going to respond to.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s a very mature thing. It just comes with time and sales or teaching or whatever. You hear adults say it, I guess I’m an adult now. I’m almost 40, but …
Patrick Stiles: Oh, okay.
Chris Badgett: But, the older you get, older people say they realize how much they didn’t know. So, having an open mind about and challenging your assumptions are really critical when it comes to sales and teaching.
Patrick Stiles: For sure. We’ve had this experience in Vidalytics where I do a webinar with somebody and I’m just like, “Hey, we’ve got this awesome platform. We’re going to do this.” And, then I threw in all these bonuses on my background like, copywriting traffic, or like some things like that. And, people sign up and they’re like, “Hey, I want the bonus.” And, we’re like, “Hey, do you got any videos to put on Vidalytics?” And, they’re like, “No, I want the bonus. This bonus sounds awesome.” And, it’s like okay. Got it. But, that’s what I communicated to that person. So, anyway.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s super good stuff. I want to go to another feature you were talking about. Let’s make it, bring it to the course creator.
Patrick Stiles: Boom.
Chris Badgett: In a video call to action, if I’m in a lesson, I’ve already bought the course and I’m in lesson three or whatever, what kind of things can I do with an in video call to action?
Patrick Stiles: So, an in video call to action is kind of like a banner that sits on top of your video, right? Kind of like a YouTube in stream banner thing that you see sometimes. You set the time that you want it to show up, the time that you want it to stop showing, you write the text that you want to be inside of it, and the link that you want. You can either have it open in a new tab. If it’s kind of like, “Hey, if you don’t remember this from lesson number one, it’s right here.” Or, “Click this button”. Or, you don’t even need to say that in a course, ’cause maybe that’s hard for you to remember or later you’re like, “Oh”. ‘Cause, if you get a lot of support tickets and people are like, “Hey, you were talking about the X, Y, Z. Where was the X, Y, Z?” You go, “Oh, that’s in lesson two.” And, then you add a little call to action, it’s a refresh on the X, Y, Z, go to lesson two. Then, they can click it. It opens in a new tab or something like that.
Or, its like, “Hey, the video is over, go to the next lesson”. Or, go get started now. Or, it’s like, “Hey, I got this bonus” or “I’m doing a webinar this weekend” or whatever it is.
Chris Badgett: Sign up for your coaching call now, click this link.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, it is. And, it takes them to another page. There’s a lot of stuff that you can do there kind of dynamically and stuff. And, it kind of reminds me of SEO. You see it a lot on a site like TechCrunch, where they’ll be talking and they’ll be like, “Mark Zuckerberg said this last year” and they have aa link to that article and they have all this complex linking on their site to past articles or sometimes outside articles and stuff like that. But, to really create something kind of dynamic, you can do that with in video call to actions for your course.
‘Cause, when you think about a classroom, people … It’s never linear. And, there’s always questions. And, there’s always some guy that’s zoned out or he asks a bunch of questions that he forgot last week, or whatever it is. You can really kind of like add that personal touch and that more dynamism into your courses with stuff like that.
Chris Badgett: That’s super cool. And, you can put any link you want there? So, that could be a download link. You could be giving people worksheets and all kinds of stuff from Dropbox or whatever. That’s really interesting. Some people in the online course or the instructional design world, they use authoring tools to create video lessons that have these things on top, but what if you could just do it with Vidalytics and now you don’t need to learn another tool. You just upload it to your video host and layer it on top. And, I love how you say, because I’m a big believer in constantly making things better, that if you get a bunch of questions, instead of having to remake the whole video, perhaps a little like … You could be like, “Okay”.
It also reminds me of kind of like the blogging world as it matures and blogging and deep linking and all these things. If I write an article, I’ll link to all kinds of stuff and past articles and stuff, but videos is just one thing, just moving. But, this is like … It’s behaving more like the internet or the hyperlink, if you will.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah. Say you see a big drop off in your video at a certain point, you know?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, you’d be like, “Before you go”.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, exactly. “Hey, before you go, go to the …” Or, “Hey, to skip this lesson, go to the next one” or something like that. And, it’s like you can also see these people that completed an action of going to the next video and if they’re not, you’re like, “Geeze, they’re like dropping off here, they need to go to the next video. I know they’re not, ’cause Vidalytics tells me this.” You can just pop in a call to action right there and send them to it.
And then, another thing that we talked about earlier was the custom pause screen. So, you have your thumbnail of what’s on your video when you show up, and that’s just the plain old thumbnail, if you don’t have auto-play. But, then you click it and it starts playing. And, if you suspect that they’re dropping off for a certain reason, you could upload a thumbnail that just says, “Hey, don’t quit now.” Or, “Listen to this in your car with audio”. Or, whatever it may be, just [inaudible 00:30:14]. Or, just like, “Skip ahead to the next lesson” or, “Don’t worry, this is something [inaudible 00:30:18]” or something like, “Don’t worry, this is as hard as it gets. This is the worst part. It only gets better from here.” Whatever you want there in that video. Or, it’s just like, you made a commitment to yourself. I don’t know if it has to be so much motivational, but those are what’s coming to me right now.
That’s another opportunity that nobody ever utilizes, because that feature doesn’t exist in the wild. I’ve seen it on some hardcore VSL’s that people hacked it in, but they had a developer hand code it. But, it’s a lost opportunity. If somebody pauses your video, what are they saying to you? They’re saying, “No more. Not now.” Or, like, “I’m bored” or “I’m overwhelmed”. You know? Or, something like that. So, it’s like, what message do you want to say to them when they’re pausing?
Chris Badgett: I think that is a huge opportunity. That is really neat that you picked up on that and built something that.
Patrick Stiles: ‘Cause, normally the video pauses and it’s like … What are you going to do? It just pauses mid-frame and it’s just like, okay. And, they pause it and it doesn’t interrupt their thought cycle of what they’re doing. You can add something black with red lettering or something that really grabs their attention or something like that. In the future, we’re going to have links to that, as well. So, you could actually say, “Hey, go to the next lesson” or “Have a refresh” or whatever it may be.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Super cool. Well, if you’re out there listening or getting excited about this, head on over to Vidalytics.com. We’re not done yet, I just wanted to say I’m getting pumped learning about all these things and talking about video for courses in new ways. But, if you want to check it out, head on over to Vidalytics.com. And, we’ll talk about that more in just a little bit. But, I want to ask you, Patrick. What are some … When someone has a course, they do have a via sell or a video sales letter, or if they’re not necessary a “advanced marketer”, they may not have this funnel. They’re just going to have a course description page on their learning management system with a video on it. And, all your AV testing and video analytics just in general terms, if you could provide general advice to an expert out there, what are some best practices about a sales video?
Patrick Stiles: I would say if you’re just starting out, what you probably should be doing is boiling down the biggest benefit that your people get from your course. Could you give me an example of a course? That’s like common, a space that a lot of people are in.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. We had mentioned in the pre-chat something about detox. So, healthy living. Let’s say a detox course as an example.
Patrick Stiles: Okay, sure. Detox is tricky, too. ‘Cause, detox can effect energy levels and it can effect weight loss, ’cause your body actually stores toxins in fat, if they’re fat soluble. Especially if your body is overwhelmed with toxins and are eating a bunch of crap. It’s just going to push those toxins into the fat to deal with later. It’s almost like credit card debt. They’re like, “Eh, I can’t do this right now. I’m going to put it off for another day.” Right? So then, if you start losing that weight, you get a bunch of toxins released into your system. Maybe that’s something that people don’t know. Or, it’s like you’ve got to go with how mature the market is, too. It could be like, “Well, a lot of people think detoxes are BS”, because maybe they’ve tried one or it just doesn’t make sense. So, it’s like you’ve got to come out then with something like, what is the biggest benefit? Is it going to be weight loss? Is it energy levels? Is it going to be feeling better? Is it going to clear up their skin? Is it going to make other things go away, like maybe rashes. Or, aches and pains. Or, trouble sleeping.
All these different things, but it’s like you’ve got to come to decide is what type of detox person are you. What’s your story and what does your detox specifically target. Maybe it’s like, “Hey, all the other detoxes out there are BS unless you attack the three different cycles of your body’s natural detox system and I learned this the hard way from being 350lbs. And, I learned once I was able to turn my detox switch off, or my detox switch on, then the pounds on my body melted away”. What I’m doing there is kind of calling out what this is, what this isn’t, the major benefits, and then introducing a unique mechanism. Right? Which, is the detox switch. And, you need to switch it on so your body can actually power through these detoxes.
So, this one’s a bit complicated. So, it’s kind of hard.
Chris Badgett: You’re doing a lot of teaching while you’re selling there. So, you’re making someone problem aware or whatever. Or, solution aware. There’s that whole buyer’s journey thing. And, you’re teaching them in the actual sale. And, you’re weaving in your own personal story, which answers the question of, “Why should I listen to you?”
Patrick Stiles: Yeah. So, in the beginning of a video, I like to kind of boil it down to an even more simplistic model. I would just say you need to hit them between the eyes with the biggest benefits. If it’s a mature marketplace and you need to differentiate yourself, you could do that. Something that we used to do is like how to reduce your anxiety, fear, panic, and insomnia in as little as 15 minutes without prescription drugs. Right?
Chris Badgett: That’s a great offer.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, well that one works. So, it was a bit easy for me to do. It’s giving them the benefits, because someone who has anxiety, they don’t really care. You don’t need to go into it deep, they know what anxiety is. They’re suffering. You can get into that with the story or the benefits and talk about that, but it’s just like, “Hey, this is going to reduce it. It’s going to work fast. And, you don’t have to go on prescription drugs.” Or, like another one that I’ve done is how to fall asleep fast, stay asleep all night, and wake up refreshed and energized with no sleeping pill hangover. Something like that. So, it’s kind of saying, “Hey, you’re going to fall asleep fast” and those are kind of the major symptoms of insomnia, those are the ones I hit. Falling asleep fast, staying asleep, and waking up refreshed with no sleeping pill hangover. And, that sleeping pill hangover is important.
‘Cause, normally, if something is strong enough to knock you out, it’s strong enough to make you feel like crap in the morning. So, people want that happy medium. For the course creator out there, I would list the biggest benefits and I would maybe, if you need to be doing any manuvering as far as the mature marketplace or what you’re selling against whether it’s prescription drugs, or insomnia or sleeping pill hangovers and stuff like that. Then you do it and then you go into the story. And, you should have a story. Especially if you’re an expert and you’re selling courses. You should be like, “Hey, I didn’t know how to be an Alaskan dogsled champion until I dropped out of high school back in 2003.” Or, something like that. And, people are like, “What?”
But, then you bring them into that story. And, in that story there’s the humorous journey and it’s just like the call to adventure. And, the moment of decision. Of either I could become an Alaskan dogsled champion or I could go back to high school and be a year behind or whatever it may be. People resonate with that. And then, also you’re providing them a shortcut and it’s like … The expert market is really interesting, because it’s like you’re teaching people how to learn something. People do not want to learn. That’s actually something that everybody should write down. If you are selling a course and you’re selling information, the information is not the product. The end result is the product.
Say you’re teaching a language course. They don’t want to study Spanish. It’s not that you have 17 modules or this is endorsed by a Princeton professor. It’s that they’re going to be able to talk to their mother-in-law, right? Or, they’re going to be able to travel to foreign countries and speak like a native. Or, be able to find the local spots and not have to be stuck in the tourist traps or get ripped off with high prices and things like that. Or, it’s like they are going to finally be able to speak a second language even though that they have failed before and they feel bad about that. And, they had all that self-doubt and it was kind of like a dream that they had to nix or something like that.
People are really kind of driven intrinsically for those types of things. That’s what you would be selling. And, of course, your story should be that. I flew to Buenos Aires. I didn’t know any Spanish and I was forced to learn, because my hotel was booked and I slept on the streets and I made a friend named Padro. Is that a word? No, Pedro. Or, something like that. But, that’s a story that brings them into it. And, I’m not advocating making up stories or lies or selling something that it’s not. But, it’s like, you need to sell the sizzle of your course. And, John Carlton has a saying, “Sell them what they want and give them what they need”. So, what do they want? They want to speak Spanish in 30 days or less. They want to speak Spanish fluently without an accent and then they want the benefits that go along with Spanish, whether it’s travel or family or relationships, those types of things. It’s definitely a relationship kind of category as far as health, wealth, and relationships. They’re the big three categories that really humans are primed to go into.
And, then what do you give them? You give them a course that teaches them Spanish. And, then that’s a really good example for the course [inaudible 00:39:26], ’cause I’ve tried to learn foreign languages. I don’t speak any. I know a few hundred words in Spanish. I spent 15 months in Latin countries. My wife is Venezuelan. So, I’m an abject failure in the area of languages. So, then you get into the course and it’s just like, you’ve got to teach them a little bit. And, how are they going to learn through a course to make sure that their pronunciation is easy and stuff.
I hope this is valuable and I’m not going off on too much of a tangent as far as selling their videos.
Chris Badgett: It’s a big question. I mean, video sale letters is a big question. I appreciate what you’re saying and really focusing on the results and the storytelling. I love that quote, “Sell them what they want, give them what they need”. For example, in the detox space. People don’t necessarily want to do all the stuff that’s required to … The diet changes, the lifestyle changes, or whatever. But, you know you still have to sell them what they need or what they want, which is the better life or the anxiety or the sleeping better and all that.
Patrick Stiles: A good thing to keep in mind is that people want it fast, easy, cheap, simple. They don’t want to struggle for their Spanish lessons. You know? If you’re selling a language course, I’ll tell you right now, the ideal situation is that it would be The Matrix and somebody just zaps the information into their brain and they’re like, “I speak Spanish”. That’s what people are going for. So, you’ve got to make it seem that easy or that fun or that smooth and stuff. That’s actually where an engaging lesson comes into play.
That could be a really interesting thing as far as a mechanism inside of a language course where it’s like, “I failed for years trying to learn Spanish and I did one on one lessons, I did Spanish in high school, my brother’s fluent, my wife’s fluent. And, I did the online courses. I did Skype lessons and nothing worked until I realized that I was too amped up and I was in my English brain, instead of my natural Spanish brain. And, I had to breakdown into that level with meditation and micro-hyper learning or something like that to quickly learn it. And, once I realized that I had to slow down and take little chunks, I was able to do it in 30 days.” That would be a pretty good life lesson. After all that talking, we got to something halfway decent.
Chris Badgett: That’s good. There’s actually a lot of language learning people in the LifterLMS community and you had an insight that went off for me, which is like I always wondered why I could only roll my r’s, I lived sometime in Latin America, when I’ve been drinking. I think it must have to do with …
Patrick Stiles: Spanish brain.
Chris Badgett: I think it’s what you said, I’m too amped up. I’m trying too hard. If I’m just relaxed and all the sudden I have the Spanish brain comes on and I’m just not overthinking it. So, this is cool.
Patrick Stiles: That’s really good. When you think about it, you don’t think about English. It just comes out. It’s almost like the operating system of your mind, if that’s your native language. That’s a really good example, rolling the r’s. I love it. And, another is it’s kind of similar to the golf swing. People are like … You can try to give it to somebody that’s failing in golf, you can try to give them one or two pointers, but then beyond that you’re just going to overwhelm them, they’re going to think too much. They’re going to be like, “Alright, now I need to like … ” I’m not a great golfer, but it’s like, “I need to cock this back. I need to keep my arms straight. I need to twist my wrist. I need to follow through.” And, they’re thinking too much. And, it needs to be natural. My best golf hits were when I relaxed and I just kind of let my body intuitively do what I was trying to really overthink and stuff. So, yeah. Those are some of things.
And again, it’s not the golf lessons. It’s hitting that hole in one or destroying your buddies on the golf course, or winning bets. Or, the look on their face when you come in under par, whatever it may be. I got something else for you. You want something else in creating videos?
Chris Badgett: Sure.
Patrick Stiles: Okay. This is really cool. My buddy Andrew Contreras taught this to me. He’s probably a top 100 copywriters in the world, he’s created offers that sold $125,000 a day. He’s a really good guy. And, one of things he’ll do is list all the objections. I think he learned this from Agora, I’m not sure. So, maybe we need to give them credit. But, list all the objections. And then, you order them in the order that they will feel them when they come to your page. And, it’s like, where am I? What is this? Who are you? Why should I listen to you? What is this about? So, those are the first ones that happen all instantly. It’s like, “Hey, I’m Patrick Stiles. I’m a Spanish expert.” And, then you dive into it. And, in the next 15 minutes, I’m going to teach you more Spanish than you’ve learned in the last 15 years. Or, something like that. Like, a big promise. But, then it’s going to be like, “Well, I failed at Spanish before” or, “I took Spanish in high school” or “I’m well into adulthood and I don’t have that childlike brain to absorb information”. Those are the objections that they’re going to be feeling as they go through this.
How much does this cost? Is this a lot work? I don’t have time for this. I don’t want to learn online. I want to interact with somebody one on one or how am I going to know if my pronunciation is right? How can I learn in an isolated bubble. These are the things that they’re going to be going through as you kind of bring them through your story and introducing them to your course, and selling the sizzle. And, then making an offer. Maybe doing a price drop, doing a guarantee, doing testimonials, removing risk, asking for the order and taking the close. And, it’s just all those things. It’s like, “You know what? My wife is going to be pissed.” Or, “I don’t have $500” or whatever the course costs. It’s like, “Hey, well we have payment plans”. Or, it’s like, “Hey, we’ve got a 90 day refund period” or “We have a guarantee, fluent in Spanish in 90 days or all your money back”.
Guarantees sell like crazy. Or, that social proof. It’s like, well how do I know this works or who else has done this? Has somebody done this that’s in their 60’s. So, those are kind of some of the things that … That can really help mostly with the outline of where you’re going. Sometimes, I would write a script for a video and I would just get off on these tangents, as you can probably tell from the way I talk. You know? I’m prone to that. But, it’s like you write and I just have all this writing and it’s like, how do all these pieces fit together and stuff. It’s just like I try to build a house without a blueprint. If you tighten it up and it’s just like, this is where we’re going.
Chris Badgett: I love that. Working backwards from the objections. Most course creators or experts or service providers, they know what those objections are, ’cause they’ve heard them many times. Sometimes one of the benefits, that almost sounds harder than, “Well, what do people who are concerned about buying your product?” I’d be like, “Oh, it’s this and this.”
Patrick Stiles: What do they really want? Well, they want to speak Spanish. No, no. Why? ‘Cause, they have a mother-in-law that they can’t communicate with or their grandmother, you know? Like a personal story an emotional story. They can’t communicate with their grandmother. She’s old, she’s not going to be around much longer and they really want to get those stories from her childhood and stuff so that they can pass them on into their own family. That’s something much more powerful than like, “You’re going to know 3,017 words in the next 90 days.” “You’re going to learn the vocab of this.” “You’re going to be able to roll your r’s”. Nobody cares about that when you think about it. Unless, it’s like, “I want to be so fluent that people think I’m native” or something like that. Then they fit into a different kind of motivation.
Chris Badgett: That’s super cool. Well, Patrick Stiles, ladies and gentleman. Vidalytics. That’s V-I-D-A-L-Y-T-I-C-S.com. It’s actually pretty easy to spell. It spells like it sounds. But, before we go, I wanted to hear from you. I’m super stoked in talking to you, especially as another software entrepreneur. I’m a course creator. I scratch my own itch and it’s how I ended up in this place where I am. I wasn’t just trying to create a software product. I eat my own dog food, basically. And, hearing your story and doing your video sales letters and being an entrepreneur across multiple industries and needing data on your videos that drove the inspiration for this product, I think that means a lot. It means you’re really in touch with the core problems that your product works on and solves.
If somebody wants to get started with it, what do you recommend? How does it work?
Patrick Stiles: So, there’s a preplan. It’s totally free to use. The preplan comes with 500 plays a month, which can be a whole lot if you’re a course creator. And, plays, a lot of people charge a bandwidth and I always found that super confusing. Even if I knew how long my video was and the average engagement, I’ve got to build a spreadsheet and then it’s going to be inaccurate. But, you probably know from your Google analytics or your LifterLMS analytics that how many people are going to come through and watch this stuff. So, 500 plays right now is free with Vidalytics, it just has our logo on it. If you want to remove that logo, it’s just $10/a month.
Chris Badgett: That’s a great way, I really commend you on that. Just giving people are free entry point to try it out, test it out, it makes a lot of sense.
Patrick Stiles: And, then if you go over those 500 plays, you can just buy some more and stuff like that. So, it’s not like you’ve got to upgrade to a $100 dollar plan or anything like that if you have 501 plays in a month. I wanted it to be transparent and easy to understand and stuff like that. That’s definitely it. We’re actually thinking about jumping into the expert space with a YouTube channel and Facebook group and stuff like that. I’m curious what you would think of us doing that, Chris? Since you’re like kind of on the other side of this industry.
Chris Badgett: In terms of teaching people how to sell a video? Or?
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, and all the different kinds of bells and whistles of Vidalytics and how you trick it out to make more dough.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I’m a big fan of software with a service with community. If you could add that layer of you have this … You’re talking about building a community of people who are getting really into video analytics and …
Patrick Stiles: Or, just to be [inaudible 00:49:48] that it makes money. And, then they’re like, “Hey great. The video is done, let me go work on my passions or another area of my business. Or, until I need another video.”
Chris Badgett: I’m a huge fan of the expert space. People need help, as the world gets so noisy, whatever your angle is to help, especially with all your varied experience and different entrepreneurial journeys and everything like that, I think it’s a great idea. Building community is a huge part of what we focus on and we really listen to our community. Our core product is also free at LifterLMS. We have a ton of free users. We talk to them, we engage with them. We’ve got a Facebook group. The number one thing that people look at before they buy our software or download the free plugin or buy one of our add-on bundles, is our free demo course. Where we’re actually teaching them about how this works and how you use this. These are all the different parts. It’s kind of meta. A course about building courses, but it’s software with community and courses. It’s a neat mix.
Patrick Stiles: I hope you don’t mind me diving into this, but …I wish I kind of planned to do it, so it’s a bit smoother, but it is something that’s been on my mind. I was going to do a YouTube channel. YouTube’s good for social media or as a search engine to go out and put content on, but that’s a different tool than say when you need to sell on your website, when you need something inside of a course, or something like that. Do you think YouTube’s a good place or do you find better results with a Facebook group?
Chris Badgett: Well, Facebook for community, YouTube for SEO value. This is actually one of my favorite topics.
Patrick Stiles: It is?
Chris Badgett: As a video marketer person, I’ve been a YouTube power user for a long time. Not just in selling LifterLMS, but in real estate and some other things. But, for us, I think we have almost 400 videos on our YouTube channel. They don’t necessarily get a lot of views. Some of them do, some of them don’t. But, I know the people that watch a video about quiz engagement in a WordPress learning management system, if there’s 200 of them, I know those are 200 people that care about exactly what we offer. And, it just creates an incredible long tale. When I do surveys of people, they’re like … I’m like, “How’d you first hear about us?” It’s either YouTube or Podcasts. And, you’re going to be in both places with this video.
Patrick Stiles: This podcast or podcasts that you go on? Like, other peoples?
Chris Badgett: Both. I do both.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, cool.
Chris Badgett: I do a lot of guest … People invite me to talk about courses and other things on their podcasts. This is somewhere around episode 160 on ours.
Patrick Stiles: Wow.
Chris Badgett: For me, I just find personally that podcasts and YouTube videos are much easier than blogging. But, I do that too. I’m a fundamentalist guy, so I always try to do the best practices. But, for me, video is kind of my thing. And, I really enjoy the community piece, too. I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with the Live, Facebook live, YouTube live.
Patrick Stiles: This is live, right?
Chris Badgett: This one’s not live.
Patrick Stiles: I thought it was live.
Chris Badgett: But, it does increase the engagement even more. All you’re doing really is I think … It is nice when the audience is there and that actually changes the course of the conversation. It’s just like having analytics, because you’re actually adapting to what they’re saying in real-time, which is cool.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, crazy.
Chris Badgett: So, that’s a big part of the future, as well.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, that’s super cool. Awesome.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Well, thanks so much for coming on. For those of you listening to this, Patrick and I are going to do a webinar, which even if you miss it, we always have the replays on the bottom of our site, there’s a webinars link. But, I really want to get into Vitalytics more and see what it does. I think it holds a lot potential for course creators, especially those of you out there who are in that Kaison or continuous improvement mindset. It’s kind of like a critical missing piece. I’m really glad our paths have crossed. But, go ahead and head on over to Vitalytics.com and see what Patrick and his team are up to. And, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.
Patrick Stiles: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s been great. Thank you.

EPISODE 155

Put Membership Presales Calls or Coaching Call Scheduling on Autopilot with Gavin Zuchlinski of Acuity Scheduling

Learn how to put membership presales calls or coaching call scheduling on autopilot with Gavin Zuchlinski of Acuity Scheduling in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. They discuss scheduling appointments, coaching, eCommerce, and how Acuity Scheduling helps you automate all of that.

Gavin is the founder of Acuity Scheduling, which is a software tool designed to help small businesses offer and manage appointments online. It is focused on people who have day-to-day operations revolving around appointments, such as therapists and doctors. It is for people who care about making money, and care about the professionalism of the product, too.

Gavin shares his story of how he came up with the idea of Acuity Scheduling and how it has evolved to what it is today. He has seen his business grow into many more subject niches than he ever expected at the start. Gavin also talks about how he has put a lot of emphasis on doing what he loves within his business. Chris and Gavin talk about how Acuity can also be perfect for a group coaching style business with setting up webinars and group calls.

A lot of people who have regular appointments as part of their business have accepted that appointments are difficult to keep track of from both the customer’s side and especially the business owner’s side. But Acuity Scheduling can take away all of the confusion and frustration with that. Acuity allows you to do basic functions like sending reminders to clients and giving them online forms to fill out so you know more about what the client will need when they come in. Acuity also gives you the ability to do more advanced things through it like payments, offering packages, and subscriptions as well.

Having clients and employees in different time zones can be very confusing and frustrating with trying to keep up with the business hours and even what day it is where they are. Acuity Scheduling has all of the timezone and daylight savings time issues worked into their system. You can see all of the information on what time your clients and employees are experiencing, so having to do the math in your head and figuring out what day it is faces no problem to your business interactions.

Chris and Gavin also talk about how Acuity helps you balance your work and personal life and prevent double booking by syncing up with your Google Calendar, iCloud, Office 365, and Exchange. There are also ways you can make appointments private. Acuity supports PayPal, Stripe, Square, Braintree, Authorize.net, and more payment methods so you can have people pay you through the system. The largest package also complies with HIPAA laws, which are laws that require a certain level of technical administrative and physical safeguards for appointment scheduling in the health field in the United States.

To learn more about Acuity Scheduling check out AcuityScheduling.com/lmscast, where you can get your free 45 day trial, as opposed to the 14 day trial that is regularly offered.

You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined today with a special guest, Gavin Zuchlinski from Acuity Scheduling. He’s the founder of Acuity Scheduling, which is a software tool for scheduling and making appointments, and we’re going to get into all that. But first, thanks for coming on the show, Gavin.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah, thank you for having me on here.
Chris Badgett: This is a real treat for me to just you know kind of hang out and spend a little time with another software entrepreneur, and I know some of the things we face is just similar in that way, so we’ll get into some neat use cases and you know trying to serve the people to best of our ability and use technology to solve business problems and this kind of thing, so we’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to drop a lot of scenarios on you and just kind of go deep on a couple of topics around scheduling, appointments, coaching, eCommerce, and really get into how to automate all that. But before we get into all that, what is your elevator pitch about Acuity Scheduling? Where does it sit in the space? What do you say at a cocktail party?
Gavin Zuchlinski: That’s a great question, so Acuity Scheduling is an online tool to help small businesses offer and manage appointments online. So it’s really focused on people whose day to day revolves around appointments or who really intend to make money around appointments. It’s not just for making it easy once a month to chat with somebody over coffee, but really for people who care about their brand. Who care about making money, and who really care about the professionalism of the product too. So yeah there’s a lot of different things out there and it ranges from things from like glorified contact forms where it just lets you pick a date and time and pretty much nothing else, to crazy things to help you manage a staff of 50, 100 people. So we sort of sit in the sweet spot right between there for people who really do care about branding and everything and automating connecting with a lot of tools. Like I think we’re gonna probably dive into a bit more and to just want to add that professional touch and really make it to be something where they can you know step away a little bit from the logistics of their business and focus on what they really enjoy instead.
Chris Badgett: That’s really awesome, I know my first contact with the scheduling problem was just when I first started freelancing, you know building websites online, working with clients in different time zones. It was, I mean it’s just a problem that does not scale well at all. And it’s very inefficient. So what was the genesis for you? Like why, I just understand it, and the education entrepreneurs listening also understand it in that there’s an origin story for why they chose the business or the course or the membership that they chose. Why did you choose scheduling?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah and it’s funny that you mention the problem too, because I talk to a lot of people who are just sort of accepting of all the difficulties with scheduling because it’s been something that they’ve been doing for so long with like a paper notebook or whatever. And it’s just something ingrained in them that they don’t really think about as a problem. And that’s where it began to, my mom is a massage therapist, so around 2007, I created Acuity Scheduling for her after seeing her just go back and forth with clients and whenever somebody needed to cancel an appointment, hearing them like complain about their kidney stones and blah blah blah and like way too much back and forth and it wasn’t the thing that made her happy. Like going back and forth to try to pick a time with somebody isn’t something that actually made her better at her job.
So that’s where Acuity came from, and it was something where just sort of put it online in 2007 it was a side business, and then around 2013 it had just grown slowly over that time where I was developing it as a passion and it eventually got big enough where I had to choose between that and my day job. And then chose Acuity and then since then it’s been amazing the amount of growth, it’s gone from just people like my mom massage therapists to tons of different businesses like you’re saying. Coaches, people teaching classes, like from large hospital networks doing classes there to individuals wanting to manage their one on one coaching calls and consulting calls as well. So it’s been really fun to see things progress over the years in ways that I had no idea that I would’ve ever expected when starting out.
Chris Badgett: I’m just curious, when you started did you focus on the massage niche specifically or did you immediately start with just small business in general kind of thing?
Gavin Zuchlinski: So I definitely did not anticipate it being as useful as it was because I started out in general thinking well, I could see this being useful for a lot of folks besides massage therapists, so I don’t want to just focus, like narrow it down onto them because I see a lot of overlap but I didn’t think that there would be as many different types of businesses, like going into it I expected maybe counselors and things. And then after lawyers signed up, I was like oh yeah lawyers make sense. Honestly I had no idea what life coaches, business coaches and those types of folks were that existed as a profession before I started Acuity and then saw those types of folks come on in droves too, so it’s been unexpected and then we still have random ones that surprise me every day too. There was one that signed up the other day, it was one where you can get helicopter rides over a hog farm and shoot a machine gun. I was like this is not something that I expected. And like cupcake delivery and cat cafes and everything else. So yeah it turned out to be a really surprising thing.
Maybe if I were to do it again, I might just focus on a specific vertical, because after you don’t and you start hearing all these different requests, there’s a lot of commonalities, but there’s also a lot of differences and then thankfully over the many years that we’ve been doing it we’ve had enough time to sort of like hone in and find all the overlaps to make it something like really useful. But it has taken a lot of years and a lot of experience and a lot of talking to people to try to get to be to that point.
Chris Badgett: Yeah that makes a lot of sense and we’ve come across online course subject matters that I never would’ve thought people teach about, but that’s …
Gavin Zuchlinski: What’s been the most surprising one for you?
Chris Badgett: There’s just so many, stuff about just tech, how to use different types of technology, lots of interesting relationship related courses, I’m trying to think, I’ll come back to you when one of the real exotic ones pops into my head, but …
Gavin Zuchlinski: Okay. I’m really wondering what the commonalities are between our users and yours. I know we have a bunch and I’m sure there’s some interesting ones in there too.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. And it’s the same too in the sense that there’s like the, more of the small business solo operator or someones trying to build and already has built an online kind of university, so the software has to be able to help that solo operator, but then also help the larger school deliver courses and it’s pretty cool as I’m sure you see with your software with Acuity Scheduling that you know sometimes, you know it’s really nice to see an entrepreneur come in. They start with one, and then as they grow, they start using more of your features, you know maybe they have to upgrade their plan and what not. But you’re like, you’ve anticipated what they’ve needed and you’re just there with them as a technology partner on the journey, which is, it’s a great feeling when you just really fit well with a customer so.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah and I love seeing that too where somebody comes and they really like, they start out just wanting to make scheduling a little bit easier or just like send reminders to clients. And then you know they start to dive in, they start to customize things for their brand and like, they start like having them fill out forms in advance just so they can get a better idea for what the client is going to need whenever they come in. And then they’ll get out and then we’ll start to see them doing more advanced things with payments, offering packages and subscriptions and all of that.
And then start to get into the different integrations and then slowly it goes from something that was just like just, forms to like something where it helps to automate a lot more of their business and then especially, so that’s like growing on the technology side and then also growing on the business side too where they, we’ve definitely seen network people start out with just themselves. Their business is successful and then they start hiring a couple of people on staff, upgrading their plans to go along with it. And then all of a sudden like different features that they didn’t think they would need at first, like reporting, breaking down between different staff and all that, you don’t really need when it’s just you, but once you get a couple more folks, then all of a sudden they’re real interested in that. Like how to divvy out tips between people, and how to manage staff in different time zones and all of that too. So it really, it is really fun to see that change over time too.
Chris Badgett: Well let’s come back to that time zone problem. I think it was really around 2008 when the whole online coaching and information product industry really started to rev up and continues to grow quite a bit since then. But those were kind of the early days I think. And business in general with the internet, with you know tools like skype, go to meeting, zoom, these, whether you’re doing coaching and things of that nature or just communication overseas about whatever your business is, or you have vendors, suppliers, all kind of different time zones and we live in a globalized world. And as I see more and more people running into the time zone problem, I feel like it’s taken me a decade, I’m pretty good at it now, like okay I’m talking to somebody in Sydney, that means we’re going to have these issues on Friday, these issues on Monday. If we’re actually going to want to meet with each other, it’s going to be in my late afternoon, whatever, like I know how to do the math.
But man it was painful and you know having tools like Acuity Scheduling for time zone management is just so key. It just, it relieves so much bandwidth, and depending upon your personality type, some people just cannot calculate time zones. So how did …
Gavin Zuchlinski: I’m with you, I personally can’t do time zones.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. How did that come into play? Because massage therapist, a brick and mortar business they’re usually operating in the same time zone, but when did the time zone come into the picture for Acuity?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah exactly, and going into it like you were staying with the origin of it, you don’t expect everything that’s going to come about, time zones was totally one of those where I didn’t really anticipate the number of businesses that just operated out of different time zones and that’s really increased. We’re about a 50/50 split right now between brick and mortar, you know everybody in the same time zone and people distributed all over from like multiple people on staff in different time zones handling clients all over the world in different time zones. So yeah it was really early on that we started doing time zone support, it was probably about 2008 or 2009 where we got to the point where you could have clients in different time zones all throughout the world. And that has been amazing because like I said, I cannot do that in my head time zone thing. I definitely rely on something like Acuity because when it comes down to like day light savings time and everything else to know the quirks that go along with that it gets real confusing real fast.
So like the way that Acuity works is that we’ll actually do a bunch of technical things to try to ask the persons [inaudible 00:11:49] or what time zone are you set to automatically detect that. You know they can verify and change it too. And then just show everything to the client in their time zone. They don’t even have to think that the business is in a different one and you as like the business owner, you see everything in your time zone. You don’t have to think that the client is in another one. Like we’ll show you and everything just that you know, but really all your notifications, everything synced up to your calendar is all in your time zone, so just, it completely eliminates that type of like confusion and back and forth.
And we definitely see that still around daylight savings time where say Europe and the Unites States, which like you’re usually at roughly the same offset except for a couple weeks a year when daylight savings, we switch at different times and then we’re, we see people sort of question it. And we’re like nope totally makes sense, you can double check this on timeanddate.com or whatever. Or even just different countries around the world that change their daylight savings like there was Egypt just kept going back and forth for a while about. Yep we’re gonna do it, no we’re not with only a couple days notice, yeah there’s, it’s, it’s fun and it turned out to be a much bigger problem, but one that I feel like with a technical solution it just completely eliminates it from your head so you don’t even have to think about that and you can focus on the more important parts of your business instead of adding and subtracting hours.
Chris Badgett: Yeah that’s huge. And I just want to add Arizona in there on top of all that because they have, I think they don’t honor one of them. Daylight savings or something.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Oh yeah. It gets more complex than that too because there’s Arizona that does not do daylight savings, and there’s a lot of confusion between that and people outside of there but then there’s an Indian reservation inside of there that does. And then there’s a subset of there that does not observe daylight savings time on that reservation. So …
Chris Badgett: Oh wow.
Gavin Zuchlinski: It’s confusing.
Chris Badgett: But hey you’ve handled that, that’s great. Well I want to get in just some scenarios that the people listening, if they’re building courses and membership sites, when they think about their business model or what their offer is, how that might look if they use Acuity.
So let’s say I sell an online course, which means I have some protected pages or lesson content that’s protected that the public can’t see unless they buy the course. And let’s say inside lesson one I say to people like as part of the offer before they bought it I said, okay if you buy my course you can schedule an unlimited number of calls with me over the next eight weeks. And so I have, I’m inside, I’m designing my course, what do I, how do I make that happen with Acuity from inside the lesson one content? What can I do?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah so there’s a bunch of different ways we see people do it. From the basic side of that is inside of Acuity you’ll sort of set the hours you want to accept appointments, you’ll set your different types of appointments and one of the things that you can do as you’re setting it up is just mark it as private inside of Acuity that means from our side people on the general inter webs, they can’t see it at all. And then you could, the easiest thing just, we’ll give you a link to that thing, a secret link that only people with that link can use to schedule. You’ll post it into there and then people can click that, see all of the times that are available. We keep things nice and private, you know de-conflict it with your google calendar and any other events that you have going on too so you never get double booked. And they can just schedule from there, pretty simple.
So that gets to be really fun too especially if you’re say a coach and you have, I don’t know, you do like free initial consults, then you do some paid ones, then you want to give people say like in the class that are enrolled free access to those one on one consults that are normally paid something like that. You can totally hook that up the same way as well too.
Chris Badgett: Wow that’s awesome.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Or yeah, or even if you wanted to beyond just putting a link, like I said I’m really big on you know [inaudible 00:15:57] forwarding it and making it look professional too. You can embed the entire scheduler if you’re able to add some a little bit of html you can embed that whole thing into your own website or into the course private area too that way people can book directly from inside of your site without going anywhere else and then we’ll take care of still all of the availability reminders, and everything else that goes into it.
Chris Badgett: Which is really incredible because Lifter LMS is a WordPress based learning management system, so it’s easy to just flip the content over to the text view and you can just copy and paste and whatever your embed code is, and it’s really that simple. Or like you said, sometimes it may, you would just prefer to have a link out to your Acuity site. Secret link that they can schedule with, that’s awesome.
Let’s talk about, let’s say I have a different business model, let’s say I have a free course, so and you know a lot of people are joining it and my business model is built around just having an up sell inside the course where people can buy coaching sessions and it’s an unlimited amount they can buy. What are my options in that case? And I want to use Acuity to sell the coaching sessions, what would I do?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Mm-hmm (affirmative) yeah. So you could do it the same way inside of Acuity. You can set a price onto your sessions, you can set Acuity to hook up to your payment processor of choice. Right now we support PayPal, Stripes, Square, Brain tree, Authorize. Net, so a bunch of different options and anyway when someone goes to book their appointment, you can again if you wanted to give a discounted price, you could say like create a coupon code inside of Acuity that gives them a percent or dollar or whatever type of discount and share that just with your students and that way they could go and book or charge them full price if you want to, who cares. And yeah then when they go to book their appointment, you can have them pay directly within Acuity as part of the booking process, they’re required to pay to be able to book and reserve their time. Or if you wanted to get a little bit fancier too, you can start to upsell in different ways, just have, like charge them a deposit or I think like we chatted about it a little bit, start to do packages of appointments too, and have other ways to try and upsell them inside of Acuity also.
Chris Badgett: That’s amazing, that’s amazing. Well lets, let’s go, I know there’s some power users out there, some people who are going really big, so I’m going to lay out a more complicated business model that people build with Lifter LMS and let’s talk about how to make that, make the magic happen by combining it with Acuity scheduling.
Let’s say I offer a course and then I have various up sells but eventually I get it to a course, plus private coaching, plus group coaching and I’m gonna take care of the selling with Lifter LMS, which basically means I’m gonna create an access plan for the course that comes with all these other benefits. So I’ve taken care of the selling part, I have private areas where I can put in the one on one coaching scheduling links and I can leave that unlimited or I can do packages. But this group coaching thing. I don’t know how to figure that out. What have you seen people do in terms of group coaching and I know you have a zoom and go to the webinar, and join. Me integration. Like how can they make that group call happen in this whole scheduling part of that?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah so we definitely see that from our side, where you want people to have a certain, get even more complex, like you can have five one on one sessions but I offer them every day of the week so there’s a ton of times available and I want you, like I might offer like 15 different times for group sessions over the next month but I only want to let you be able to schedule that at most three of them. So anyway to start out on the basic side, you can for the one on one sessions, we sort of covered that where you set your availability, create the type, then people can just schedule within there too. Similarly, for group sessions we have classes and group events that you can offer. Where you can set up that type of appointment and then choose exactly when it’s offered, how many people can go into that one appointment time and then we integrate with a whole bunch of different say video conferencing things to automatically set up meetings, or what we see a lot of times too is you can customize the emails so if you wanted to [crosstalk 00:20:34].
Chris Badgett: Like the reminder emails? Is that what you mean?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah exactly. Exactly. So as soon as somebody books an appointment, you could tell them you know like hey make sure you prepare for these three things for the group call because we’ll be going around in a circle and like making everyone talk about their challenges over the next year or something. And then you could set up reminders too, like hey make sure you’ve prepared about all those things and like have a webcam too and like this is the link to our zoom that we’re going to have and you can have that generated in that as well. And yeah, and then all of this leading up to the appointment too, and just that people could book into their book class. We’ll manage all the reminders and everything and we’ll also make sure that people can’t over enroll in the class. If you only wanted five people or if you wanted 500 people allowed in the class at once, you can enforce that through Acuity to make sure that people schedule.
And then getting on to the more complex side too for packages, if you wanted to say offer 15 different times that group sessions were available, but only be able to book three, you can do that through packages where you can give each person a special unique code that they can use to be able to book and then they’ll still need that code to be able to book their appointment. And then that will limit them for the number of times they’ll be able to redeem also. So that, that’s a great way where you can sort of enforce all of these things automatically without having to police what all of your people are, all of your students are doing as well.
Chris Badgett: Wow that’s absolutely amazing. I just remember in our Facebook group yesterday somebody was asking for that exact solution and I had, and I did not know the exact place to send them. But now I know I’m gonna, after we finish this episode I’m gonna email him about Acuity because he was having some package issues and wanted these certain constraints and it’s exactly what you offer, so.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Oh yeah we hear these types of things a lot. And it definitely is not the most common case, so our support is fantastic too. Especially for some things that start to get a little bit more complex. You’ve got all these extra business rules and things going on like, we find every business is totally different. It’s hard to you know create the, create help docs and create the UI for everybody when everybody is so different so that’s why we have an awesome support team of folks all around the world to quickly be able to respond to all of your questions too, so yeah if they want, even before they try to commit to just send them over to our support end and we can make sure we can actually do what they’re looking for also before they invest too much time. Pretty sure we can, it sounds like it’s a pretty good fit, but I always like to save folks more time if we can.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome, yeah so for any of you listening, that’s acuityscheduling.com. What does Acuity mean?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Geez yeah.
Chris Badgett: Or where does that name come from?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Oh man yeah, so Acuity, I really, I liked the word that vision, clarity type of thing. I forget the exact definition, but like clarity, with that and honestly I just really liked how the word sounded. [crosstalk 00:23:50]
Chris Badgett: You know the first time I heard it, I remembered it. Like I never had to hear it again.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Really?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, it’s a good name.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Well thank you, we find some people have a hard time spelling it. So that’s A-C-U-I-T-Y scheduling.com and actually before this I had a web development company that was called Acuity Innovation and that’s where it came from then created a scheduling product so obviously it was Acuity Scheduling. Yeah and then it sort of just stuck from there, but also after this I’ll set up a link for your listeners also that they can go to acuityscheduling.com/lmscast. So that’s A-C-U-I-T-Y scheduling.com/lmscast for a couple of extra links and how to get in touch with myself or our support too. And extend a trial offer also.
Chris Badgett: Awesome, well we really appreciate that. Thank you.
I want to get into some more of your interesting use cases. Because this, the audience here, they get into interesting use cases. I think we’ve kind of covered the join.me, the GoToMeeting, and the zoom integration, which is great. But you have this other kind of power feature where in one of your higher level plans where you have the BAA for HIPAA compliance. What is that all about?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Oh yeah and this one too as you start to get into the medical space is extremely important, so and [crosstalk 00:25:22]
Chris Badgett: We do have a lot of people teaching or coaching in medical or areas. So that’s why I bring it up.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so this is in the United States there’s the HIPAA laws, which require certain levels of technical administrative and physical safe guards around how you’re staff is trained, security of like physical premises. Be able to offer promises and be able to sign agreements that you’ll be able to do certain things for businesses too and it just falls under this. It’s a ginormous area that we’ve had to go through a lot of effort with third party auditors to make sure that we comply with like the high standards of security and compliance with this too. So in general in the United States if you’re a medical practitioner, you’re accepting insurance, you’re probably pretty familiar with this already. And it’s something that we offer because of that all the rigorous audits and everything that we’ve had to go through for it, and a lot of the technical safe guards and a lot of the administrative overhead that’s why it’s offered only on our highest level plan. But we’re one of the few schedulers that do offer something like that too, so you can start to schedule and manage your clients if you have to in that sort of sensitive HIPAA environment.
Chris Badgett: Wow very cool, very cool. What about Fresh books? Like if you have the ability to sell, why do you integrate, or how does the invoicing system integration work?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah so, yeah for invoicing we do Fresh books, Xero, QuickBooks, and we see these in a couple of different cases, sometimes you’ll have say like an intro call where you maybe it’s free or maybe you have a base price and then things can go on from there and people will invoice outside of there. Or you’ll just use it for your internal accounting practices too, where you’re using Fresh books and you want to keep track of you know people who you invoice manually who are maybe you’re doing some sort of project work for and those that you’re also accepting appointments for. So that’s just a great way where we’ll start to, we’ll start all the invoices for you and try to manage them too depending on what the person purchased inside of Acuity, what they paid inside of Acuity, we’ll apply those payments to your invoices also. Yeah and it’s a great way, sort of along the vein of, I’m trying to make Acuity something to help automate those logistical things that go into appointments for you.
It’s one of those things that we see a lot from people is that every time somebody schedules an appointment, they’ll like automatically want to draft up an invoice and put in the payment on there and send it to them so that they have it for their records, or if they don’t want to accept payment through Acuity and they want to give people more flexible payment terms it’s like that. They would be doing this really repetitive process so we’re there to try to help automate it and either do everything automatically for that or just kick it off so you can just take it away on your own and add all of those extras that you’ve chatted about during your call that you had scheduled with them.
Chris Badgett: Wow that’s a beautiful thing. Well lets, let’s dial it back, I don’t know if it’s the same with you, but sometimes I spend a lot of time talking to people, advising them on how to simplify the direction they’re heading. Like when it comes to scheduling, what are some, or setting up you know, you’ve got to put in the work up front to set up, you know these are the days I want to be available, these are the, I have clients all over the world, so I’m gonna put some stuff here and here. I’m gonna do an upsell here to packages or whatever, but what are some general just if some bodies designing their scheduling system and using Acuity for that, like what are some best practices, how do you help people get clear on things, or avoid mistakes, like not blocking off the weekends or something like that? Like what are some of the, some key tips for people?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah, yeah, and it sounds like your listeners are generally a little bit more tech forward too, so usually if you have an online calendar already, I Cloud, Office 365, Exchange, Google, any of that, you can sync that all into Acuity so that way we’ll be able to de-conflict your schedule so anything that you have blocked off inside of there during your available hours, we’ll make sure is blocked off from appointments too. So that really helps with double booking and then we’ll also send appointments over there too so it can act like a pretty seamless way and you can keep managing your schedule the same way, through your calendar and just have people automatically entered in there when they schedule.
So then inside of Acuity, we spent a lot of time trying to be able to let you model your availability any way you want, but on the basic way you can either set sort of the same hours every week if you know roughly what your schedule is, you can set up those hours, so Monday you’re only available from like one pm to five pm your local time. Tuesday, blah blah blah, keep going forward with that. Or what we see a lot too is that people have lives outside of maybe what they’re using Acuity for. Maybe you’ve got a day job, something else, you don’t know what kids are always coming and going and you don’t know what your schedules gonna be, so if you want you can just change it and we make it pretty easy that you can just click on a day to set the hours within there too and you can change that all the time. But I think those two things together, I definitely recommend if you have an online calendar, number one sync that up that way everything is de-conflicted.
And then two, figure out the best way to represent the hours you’re available, if you’ve got a regular weekly schedule, just put that in there. If you don’t, then set it a couple of days at a time, we do set a lot of limits too, like when I use it personally for appointments, I don’t really know what my schedule is going to be, more than two weeks in advance, so I’ll say no more than two weeks in advance you can’t schedule with me online. And that way I can get a majority of the times scheduled and I can make it exceptions for people as I need to.
But yeah putting in those types of limits, and the other thing too is I’ll say I personally don’t like when people cancel or reschedule at the last minute so I’ll prevent that say less than 12 hours in advance too, that way you can have a little bit more certainty with your schedule going forward. And setting those types of limits is really good when you start out so you have things synced up, we’re already blocking off when you’re already having events in there. You set the hours, times when you’re pretty confident that you’re available too and on top of that you’re setting the range, sort of how far in advance and how close to the future to people are allowed to schedule or change things. That way you can prevent a lot of the last minute things or having somebody book you on Christmas because you forgot, because it’s only July. So that helps eliminate that potential confusion as well.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. That is really cool. That is a gold mine of tips a lot of those lessons I learned personally the hard way. I remember doing a client project on Thanksgiving because I didn’t have the scheduling software dialed in. I totally, I can totally relate, so if you’re listening and you’re setting this stuff up, you know it’s all about you. It’s all about what you need. It’s all about your boundaries, how you want your work days to go. When you want to be available, when you don’t. And just outsourcing that heavy lifting of calendar management, scheduling management, it’s I feel like what your software does, if you’re a very busy person, it saves so much time, money, effort, if you have an assistant, your assistants going to be doing more meaningful things than back and forth’s and just manually doing the things your software does automatically. So I’d encourage everyone to head over to Acuity Scheduling and check that out.
Last question of the interview, I understand that Acuity Scheduling has over 50,000 people on it, and you said it started in 2007, which means you’ve been around for a while. You know it’s a healthy business and you know you’ve stood the test of time. What do you think is the secret sauce of the success of Acuity? And I can tell your passionate about it, you enjoy it, you love what you do. What, but what is the secret behind the company or what is the brand all about?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah so honestly it was a side project, so it had to be something that I enjoyed doing and especially when I left the day job that I really loved to be able to do Acuity in 2013. I wanted it to always be something that I could enjoy doing, and have fun doing, so that’s been it because to be able to stay with something for 10 years, that initial excitement, anything is going to wear off so you have to be really, you have to enjoy the day to day in the business, so I’ve had to do an extra effort to try to make sure that I spend every day working on something that I love. Creating something for people who are really going to appreciate it and just having fun in the company too. And that has been what has kept me going.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome, that’s awesome, well what was that link again if people want to go check out Acuity?
Gavin Zuchlinski: Yeah absolutely, acuityscheduling.com/lmscast. That’s A-C-U-I-T-Y scheduling.com/lmscast and that will, I’ll put in a couple of notes about appointment scheduling on there and then also a special offer so that you can get an extended 45 day trial instead of our normal 14 day one if you use, if you sign up through there also.
Chris Badgett: Awesome, well Gavin I want to thank you for coming on the show, I really appreciate your time and sharing your experience and it’s also just a lot of fun for me to geek out about some situations of what our customers, our shared audience are trying to do. Cause we care about their problems and it’s fun to get into like solving business problems with technology. So thanks for coming on the show and I hope you have a great rest of the day.
Gavin Zuchlinski: Excellent, thank you for having me on here again.