Welcome to LMScast! In this episode Chris Badgett of LifterLMS talks about how to build a strong brand and design for your learning platform with Bourn Creative’s Jennifer Bourn. Jennifer is an online course creator, platform builder, and education entrepreneur.
Jennifer talks about truly defining your company’s purpose, values, and personality. This will help shape your company. She also highlights the importance of putting the ‘why’ into your business. People will connect with a story that resonates with them. She talks about how brand promotion and providing clarity will help customers get excited about your product.
Chris and Jennifer discuss how finding a niche will help your business thrive. It is better to have a small target audience that is fired up than to have a larger audience that isn’t very connected to your course material. They talk about finding something that isn’t being provided yet or finding a unique twist on the topic. Jennifer believes that it is generally advantageous to market to a small crowd that will be raving about your product.
People most likely already have preconceived notions about what you do. This makes it very important to be as clear as you can be when telling someone about your business. Jennifer talks about some of the hesitations that clients can have, and why clear communication will help to get people on board.
Chris and Jennifer break down the steps course creators can use in order to create a brand with a solid design. They believe it is beneficial to outsource tasks for your color palette, your logo, and your brand style guide. They cover the importance of investing in a good design. Chris brings up course templates and the value you can leverage from them.
Jennifer talks about how you should focus more on your customer experience and interaction than you should on a logo. Don’t let an imperfect design stop you from going to market. They discuss creating validation for your course by test piloting it. A test pilot can help you get a feel for the demand for your course in the marketplace, and it is also an unintimidating way to get started.
Letting people know you exist is a vital part of the sale, so promotion is key. Jennifer talks about getting outside and going to networking events and conferences. A big part of promotion is clarity – a sense of knowing who you are as a business, what you do, and why you’re different.
You can learn more about Jennifer Bourn at Bourn Creative, or Inspired Imperfection. She is Jennifer Bourn on Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you for joining us on this week’s LMScast! You can post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast.
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today I have a special guest, Jennifer Bourn, from Bourn Creative and Inspired Imperfection. Is that right?
Jennifer Bourn: Yep.
Chris Badgett: Today we’re going to get into talking about design and branding for the online course creator, the platform builder, the education entrepreneur who is looking to grow in those areas, and Jennifer is an expert in that. I’ve learned so much from watching her and learning from her, but first, Jennifer, thank you for coming on the show.
Jennifer Bourn: Thanks for inviting me.
Chris Badgett: Let’s get right into it and just kind of get the lay of the land. Sometimes we think we know what things mean but it’s often important to pay attention to the words and what they mean to different people. For you, what is design, and what is branding? I know that’s probably a big question, but how do you get started having a conversation around those words?
Jennifer Bourn: I think it feels like it’s a lot bigger than it really is. A lot of people will say design is solving problems, but I think it goes a little bit deeper, in that design is identifying what the problem is and then figuring out a solution to solve that problem. You can really lead design in the wrong direction or almost the right direction, but just a little bit off, if you think you are solving for one problem, but the problem is actually something different. For me the design process starts with really figuring out what the actual problem is the client is having. It may be something a lot deeper than what they think it is. Actually peeling back the layers of that onion to figure out the actual problem, coming up with the solution to solve it, but doing so in a way that doesn’t just work, but works beautifully.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
Jennifer Bourn: Thanks! Branding, that one confuses everybody. There are all different kinds of descriptions for it. If we look at the core word a brand is a noun. It’s a thing, it’s your reputation on the market, it’s how you’re known, it’s how you’re perceived, it’s what kind of experiences people have with you. It’s your reputation, it’s a thing. Once you add the “ing” it becomes a verb, then it’s something you do. Branding is the strategy and all the actions that go into building your reputation. That’s the easiest way to think about it.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. A lot of people who listen to this show are trying to teach online, either get into it or get better at it. They’re already doing it. At what point, you mentioned you start by figuring out, “well what is the problem we’re trying to solve here”? How much of design and branding isn’t just focused on the web property but focused off the screen? Design and branding is what people do, it’s who they are, it’s not just what goes into the website. How does someone, if they want to improve their design, or at least come up with a design concept and understand their brand where do they start?
Jennifer Bourn: There are five core steps to building a really strong, solid brand. It’s brand definition, so it’s defining your purpose, your values, your mission, your voice, your personality. It’s brand positioning, it’s where you are different from others, what kind of results you get, the benefits. Who your ideal client is, all of those things. How you’re positioned in the market. Then it’s the communication, it’s how you talk about what you do. It’s your brand message and the vocabulary and the phrases that you use that are uniquely yours. When someone hears, “Remembered, respected, referred”, or “Hire, buy, and learn”, they know that’s Jennifer. This is clearly hers, these are things I’ve said over and over and over for years they become part of your brand vocabulary.
The fourth step is brand recreation, and that’s where design comes into play. That’s where actually creating the brand comes in. The fifth is brand promotion. Most people get really, really excited about an idea, or they get really excited about their business and they go straight to step four, they go straight to creation, because it’s the fun and sexy part. It’s the make it pretty part. It’s the part where something actually exists and you can show people and say, “see this is what I’m creating, this is what I’m building this is my business”. It’s the fun part. When you skip right to that part, and you go straight to design, reaching the level of success that you want or your ultimate goal is going to be a lot harder than it would be if you started at step one and you defined the brand. You get the positioning right, you figure out your voice and then you start creating. If you skip all of those, you’re going to struggle and it’s going to be hard and eventually you’re going to have to loop back to the beginning and you’re going to have to do it anyway.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Let’s make it a little more tactical and get into a hypothetical example. I know that we both share a love of cooking and let’s say that I wanted to create a cooking course but it’s definitely my style, I want to create a brand around that. I want to have my own design and flavor so it’s not just some generic how to cook on the internet. How would I start with the defining? In the first step one.
Jennifer Bourn: The very first step is you have to figure out why you’re creating that cooking course. What’s missing in the market that isn’t being served or where is that gap that you can fill? What isn’t working for you that other people are doing. What do you wish that that were. You can look at why you’re doing that and what place it’s place in the market you can fill. Looking at the mission, what’s your goal, what kind of change do you want to see happen, or what kind of effect do you want to have happen in the community place or amongst your audience form you starting this course. What are they going to learn, how are their lives going to be different, how is this going to help their family, how is this going to reduce stress, whatever it is. It’s getting really clear on the purpose and why it exists in the first place. The goals that you have, the change that you want to create, the mission that you have. It’s getting really clear on the reasoning behind this existing.
People, they don’t really care a whole lot about what you’re doing, until they really know why. They can connect with a story that resonates with them. That’s the very first step, is just getting really clear and defining those values, the mission, the purpose. Then looking at the audience that you’re trying to serve. Positioning it in the market who you serve, what you do, how you’re different, the results that you are going to help them get. That’s really key, a confused mind, isn’t going to buy. Somebody who is confused about what you’re doing, what you’re offering, what you’re selling, what they’re going to get. They’re not going to spend any money because they’re not quite sure. People need clarity about exactly what you do, who you’re a great fit for and how you’re going to help them. What they’re going to get out of it.
If you don’t have that clarity, they’re not going to have that clarity. The very first step is being really clear.
Chris Badgett: Let me just add to that, if we’re, for example, my wife is a big organic farmer, we’re very much involved in the organic food thing.
Jennifer Bourn: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Healthy cooking, whole foods, making our own stuff, making sauerkraut, whatever. We have the same struggles that a lot of families have, which is, I’m really short on time but I love to cook. It’s super relaxing for me, I work in the digital world mostly and I love to get in the kitchen, have kids playing, friends over, whatever. For me it’s a source of relaxation. I love trying new recipes, experimenting with different things and I also care a lot about my kids health. I want them to be energized and have an adventurous palate. Healthy food that people want to come over and hang out and enjoy a good time. I want to do all that without spending too much time and also without breaking the bank. I can see what you’re seeing in terms of defining why I like to do it. That’s maybe a place to start kind of getting into my brand or my design for an online cooking course.
Jennifer Bourn: When you try to just target everybody, when you think, “Oh, my product course is going to be great for everybody, everybody could learn this.” I’m glad that you’re excited about what you do and you believe that, but to really be successful you’ve got to be speaking to a specific person because then they feel, “Oh, you get me, you understand me, you know me, this is for me I’m really excited.” That’s how you build those raving fans that are going to share your material and share your course and become a brand ambassador for you. You can’t do that when you’re really general with your marketing or with your message. By looking at why you’re doing it and the purpose behind that, more than likely your ideal audience, the perfect people that are going to be a great fit for buying your course or reading your blog, they’re probably going to be a lot like you.
They probably have the same wishes that you have. They’re going to be people who also are busy and working but they care about the health of their family and they want to be able to make more home cooked meals. Spend less because they’re eating out too much, but they don’t want it to be hard. You look at a lot of the things that go into your why and your purpose for creating your course. You want to find those people that have that same struggle. That’s when you find in the community part of building your brand. When you’re writing your story, you’re telling your story, you’re crafting your marketing message. You’ve gone from point A to point B. You had a problem or a struggle and you learned how to solve it, and now you have expertise in that area. You want to teach other people how to do that.
The perfect people to buy your course are the people that were you when you were in point A. When you were just starting out, when you had the problem. Those people are the people you can serve with your eyes closed and your hands tied behind your back. They’re the people who are the easiest to turn in to raving fans because they have the same problem you did. They want to achieve the same results, and you’ve been there and done that and can guide them along the way.
Chris Badgett: That’s a really good point, and just to think tangentially to a different market. I remember when I was in college somebody gave me a cookbook called “A Man, a Can, a Plan” and it was less than five ingredients, there were cans involved, and it was good.
Jennifer Bourn: Nice.
Chris Badgett: That’s a different demographic, that’s totally different than what I’m talking about now. At that point in time something like that was helpful, so that’s cool. How if I have a cooking course, would I position it? In terms of, what does positioning mean to the online course creator in terms of branding and that sort of thing?
Jennifer Bourn: Positioning is really all about finding your spot in the market. Finding a different voice than what’s already out there. Something that’s unique to you, and a unique value delivery. Take food network, and I was actually just reading an article about some of the brands on food network the other day so this is pretty timely. We look at Sandra Lee, she has this show called “Semi-Homemade Cooking”. That’s a niche in the market that nobody was serving but it’s something that’s very different. A lot of her recipes use pre-done, prepackaged things and then it’s a combination of those plus some home cooking. It’s kind of home cooking, but it’s fast and it’s easy, and you can buys stuff right off the shelf.
That’s a niche in that food market that wasn’t being served at the time. Now it’s not for everybody, a lot of people are like, “Really? You’re buying this and it’s already done and you’re just tweaking it a little bit?” They’re not her audience, but she’s built this giant following of people because it fits them and where they are in their life. Those aren’t the people that are going to the organic farmers market. Those aren’t the people that are really focused on eating super healthy, because totally different audience, totally different show. We look at how they position shows, because those are basically courses, but they’re just on TV instead.
It’s finding something that isn’t being provided yet, or finding just a new twist on that that’s unique and different. It’s all about finding a gap in the market, that you can serve that somebody else isn’t serving yet or doing so in a new way.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. What was the next step? Was it words?
Jennifer Bourn: Communication.
Chris Badgett: How would that work for this hypothetical, busy, entrepreneur, loves to cook, stress relief, has fun, gets kids involved, kind of course we’re talking about here?
Jennifer Bourn: The hardest part of building any brand I think is the communication. It’s finding the voice and figuring out how to talk about what you do in a way that resonates with other people. It’s the hardest thing for people. It’s why when people are writing their website content the about page is the last one they do and they struggle, and struggle, and struggle, and ultimate probably ask somebody else to help them with it. People have a hard time talking about themselves and about their expertise and they have a really hard time answering the question, “So what do you do?” It stresses everybody out.
Chris Badgett: Why is that?
Jennifer Bourn: I think people have made this huge deal about elevator pitches and talking about what you do, and all this stuff. That you need to come up with something amazing to say. People will ask, what do you do? If I just said, “I do graphic design.” They immediately jump to preconceived notions of what that is, “Oh, I have a friend that does that, I already know what you do, oh my cousin does that, oh you use Photoshop, sweet.” People have preconceived notions of what you do, and trying to talk about it in an interesting, unique way that gets peoples attention and makes them want to learn more. You have to say more than “I have a food blog,” or “I teach a cooking course.” I know eighty people that do that and I love Food Network, so why do I need you, I have the TV.
Chris Badgett: Did you happen to see a cookbook that came out recently, called “Thug Kitchen”?
Jennifer Bourn: No! But that sounds awesome.
Chris Badgett: There’s profanity all through the recipes and everything. Is that an example of really stepping…
Jennifer Bourn: That is some good positioning.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Jennifer Bourn: That’s finding definitely a unique spot in the market, but communicating it too is all about communicating all of the things you want to say. I’m sure we’ve all been at a networking event, someone asked us what we do, or they asked us “Oh you have a course? Tell me about it.” You fumble with some answer and then walk away and later you’re like “I should have said this, or I should have said this, or I didn’t even tell them about this.”
It’s getting, one, really, really clear about your brand so you can talk about it in a really smart way that gets people excited or gets people who are the right fit interested. It’s figuring out and really communicating who your ideal client is. Who the correct audience is for your course. How you can help them. How you’re different. How this is different than anything else they’ve done before. The result that you can get for them, and not just the result, but that big benefit they receive from that result. Why that result is important, what kind of impact it’s going to have on their business, or their life or their family. It’s also looking at squashing some of the objection that people have and why they say no, or why they might say, “It’s not for me.”
Some of that is, we typically will walk our clients through a formula that has got a few different specs in there. We start out with, “I help”, or “My course helps”, and it’s the definition of your ideal client. Then we talk about what does it help them do, or achieve. That’s the big result that they’re going to get, and then we look at how it’s different from anybody else. What’s that positioning statement that makes you different, what you unique, and then what are they going to be doing as a result of achieving that. As a result of participating in your course, of taking it. When they have all that knowledge, what are they going to be able to do? Then looking at those objections, why people say no and overcoming them.
I help people do this big thing, so they can enjoy this great result, even if they think they don’t have enough time. Even if they’re already strapped for cash. Even if you’ve tried this before or you’ve taken other courses and it hasn’t worked. Even if, because you want people to listen to you talk about your course and communicate what your course about or what your brand is about. You want them to think, “Oh, that’s your ideal client? That’s me or that’s my friend”. You want them to hear that result and think, “I want that, I want to achieve that, I want that for myself.” You want to hear that big benefit and think, “Wow, my life would be amazing, or my business would be amazing if I could achieve that too.”
But then they’re thinking, but I’m busy, but I’ve heard didn’t work. I’ve invested in this and I actually had time. Even if, you’ve taken that course before and it hasn’t worked. Even if, you don’t think you have time to do any of the exercises. Even if, you’re broke, we can get this done. You want to squash those, and they think, “Oh, well I have no reason not to check this out, I have no reason not to take action.” They’re simultaneously qualifying and squashing objections in their mind while you’re talking about your brand.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If we figure out a communication piece and we get into creation, I see a lot of either very poor design, just lacking design, or perhaps the wrong design for the wrong brand. Super corporate and polished but their brand is edgy and grungy. Just a misalignment between brand and design and sometimes I see great design too. Design is just one of those things where people know it when they see good design. Some of it they’re aware of, some of it they’re not. Let’s just assume we’re open to not being great creators of design and branding. What do we do, where do we start? As an online course creator, what’s step one? Is it a logo, is it colors? What is it?
Jennifer Bourn: The very first step is figuring out the actual brand core look and feel. It is the logo, it’s the color palette, it’s the type stack, the typography that’s going to be used. What are the headlines, the body copy, the buttons, the bulleted list. It might have icons, or PDFs, or whatever. It’s figuring out all of those individual elements. The pieces, or people will refer to it as the patterns for the design. It’s figuring out and getting really clear on exactly how the brand is going to show up in all cases. It’s always going to use these colors, always these design elements, because consistency is critical in building memory. In building space in people’s minds so they recognize your brand and they remember it from seeing it consistently over and over again. The very first step is defining those elements.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool, and my advice would be to really go get some professional help with that piece. That’s very hard to do unless you have training in a design background, an art background. It’s one thing that there’s so much that happens after that, that you might as well set yourself up for success with giving a style guide or design pattern, a professional logo. There’s different levels you can invest but at least try to get some professional help at that stage. What are your thoughts on that? Do you see the do-it-yourselfer? Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. What advice do you have on that?
Jennifer Bourn: I think there’s certain things you can DIY and certain things you can’t. Your logo, your brand style guide, your color palette, the choice of all of those things is something you should not DIY. People, they say, “They don’t judge a book by its cover.” That’s advice, it’s not a reality. People judge a book by its cover. They judge you on your design. You have a crappy design they’re going to assume your content is crappy too. If it looks DIY and homemade like a fifth grader did it, they’re going to assume that the rest of what comes after that is the same.
There are certain places you can DIY and we can talk about that, but building your foundation is not one of those. This is going to set up everything else you design. Your worksheets, your website, your handouts, your video intros. Everything is going to be based on this style guide and these initial brand elements so you want to get it right the first time. You don’t have to spend tons and tons of money on a logo. I’m going to say, this is terrible coming from the designer, but really nobody gives a shit about your logo, right? It doesn’t matter if it has an icon or if it has a cool design. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the word set really nicely in a good typeface. It doesn’t matter. You have all these designers out there that are like, “Your logo needs to communicate everything your business stands for.” Nope, nope, nope it doesn’t.
Guess what, when it’s used all by itself, it doesn’t mean anything anyway. All of the meaning and the messaging and the feeling that comes from people’s experience with your brand, it’s not going to matter if your logo has an icon or not. It’s what you say, and their experience and how they interact with you. How do you make them feel, what they learn. It’s all of the meaning, is the package of all of those things together. You don’t have to spend tons and tons of money getting this done, but you really should work with a professional who can get you something that, one, is clean, is scalable. You can use it tiny and you can use it big and it’s still legible, and that gives it to you in all the right files, so you’re not kind of screwed now on the road when someone says, “I need this in a vector EPS”, and you’re like, “I don’t think I have that,” right? You want a good foundation that allows you to do everything you’ve imagined, and not limit you down the road.
Chris Badgett: All right cool. If somebody is going to DIY, and let’s say they’ve taken a step back and invested in getting a professional design base for their logo and their style guide and typography and whatnot. Which parts can they DIY?
Jennifer Bourn: We work with a lot of clients who invest in the design, but then they also invest in templates that they can manage themselves, right? A lot of people have budget to work with the designer but they don’t have an unlimited budget, right? The places you where you can DIY, if you work with the right designer and you have clarity about what you need with your course. You can have them design the logo, setup and create that brand style guide, so you know exactly how things are going to look. Then if you can say, for my course I need, worksheets, I need these different elements, but let’s just talk about worksheets because they’re easy. We have a client that said, “Okay, I need to be able to create worksheets at three different levels of people in our programs, and I need worksheets that are just exercises, worksheets that are special that have a differentiation because they’re the end or the culmination of a section.”
What we did is, the first thing we do is find out what software you have, do you have the Adobe Creative suite? That makes my life really easy. You don’t? I have to design in Microsoft Word and that’s terrible, but I do it a lot. It’s terrible, but it’s great for our end clients. They’ve got their logo, they’ve got their whole brand style guide and now what we give them is a collection of word templates where we style the body copy, the headlines, the bulleted list. We styled all of these elements. You would style a style sheet for a website, well we can do all of that in a program like word. We can drop in the design elements in the header, in the footer, or in the background so they can just open it up. They can type in their worksheets, or they can add a transcript. They can do whatever they need to do with the content, but everything that they create uses templates that were designed by a professional.
It all still looks really good, and they’re selecting the right headline templates, the right headline styles out of the templates that we gave them. They’re not having to manually style things and then, they used the wrong font here, and they used a different one here. You picked the wrong color blue here, because it’s all built into the template they’re able to DIY the content, but a designer, a professional, designed the templates that they’re working from. That’s when you can start to DIY things. You want a professional to lay your whole foundation, to create your template so you’re consistent, and then DIY adding things into those templates if that’s something that you’re comfortable with.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Those of you listening are probably also thinking in your mind, well that’s kind of like a website. It’s got templates, if you’re doing courses you have a lesson template, a course template, sales page template. I think that’s the big mental shift to make is, if you’re going to invest in good design you can really get a lot of leverage out of templates. Then just become an expert and make sure you know the basics, so that you can then from there go create the content whether that’s on the website pages, in the earning management system. If you’re making worksheets or eBooks, or PowerPoint or keynote presentations.
I see what you mean because once you have those building blocks there’s just so much you can do, or you can outsource it to somebody else but the brand or the style is going to stay consistent. Whoever is working with you can build on top of the proper design template.
Jennifer Bourn: That way you have solutions for every budget level. We do have clients that do courses and things and we do every single worksheet. Every single slide, of every slide deck, for every thing, and it’s a lot of money. When you’re looking at sixty something worksheets, eighteen slide decks, that are sixty slides a piece, and we’re designing all of the graphics and all of the elements. We have some clients that have the budget and they care about design so much that they want everything designed beautifully. We have that level, then you have the level that’s, “Hey, I want to invest in a really good foundation. Give me a powerpoint presentation template, give me worksheet templates, give me all the base in the templates and then I’ll run with the content.” Then you have, those that are like, “Give me a style and we’ll hire a BA and do it ourselves.” We usually end up doing stuff for them later too.
The other thing to remember too is, you can always go back and upgrade your materials. Don’t let perfect, I say this and I’m the biggest hypocrite, because this is my issue. I say this to you to take my advice that I have a problem taking. Don’t let perfection in design stop you from going to market. If you have a limited budget up front, work with the designer to create your logo, your style guide, your worksheet templates. Get that content out there, and start working with people, build your audience, get some testimonials. See how things are working, where you need some tweaks. You can always loop back and say, “Wow, these worksheets have been, are absolute most popular”, or “We’ve got income form the first time we launched this course, we’re going to reinvest that into actually improving these worksheets, and having certain ones professionally designed, instead of done in Microsoft Word.”
I just look at, how can you take some of the profit that you got from your first launch to reinvest in making the course or the program even better for the next time that you sell it. So it continues to be a program that sells in an evergreen way, and people continue to want to be a part of it.
Chris Badgett: That’s a really good point. We’re big fans of that lean method of, “Okay let’s get validation, get this course to market, make sure that you really struck a nerve here.” Before you invest.
Jennifer Bourn: It’s hard.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Jennifer Bourn: It’s hard. I struggle.
Chris Badgett: We all do, we all do.
Jennifer Bourn: It needs to be perfect.
Chris Badgett: One of the things I tell people to do, which is kind of counterintuitive and I struggle to take this advice myself if I’m watching a course, don’t even worry about the website, or the learning management system or any of the technology. Go get three sales, and run the first version on Skype, live. That’s a way to really validate your idea. If those three people paid for it I have something here, maybe I have some fund I can start with, investing in some design and some technology. There’s definitely a problem in the online course industry of the failure to launch because, “Oh, I need design, I need this technology, I need this web developer, I need this high-end hosting account for all my traffic, and what if the site goes down, and blah, blah, blah.” That’s a really important lesson that we all need to learn about being okay with a little bit of imperfection and getting it out there.
Jennifer Bourn: Well I think we’re realizing that the full blown course doesn’t have to be step one. If we look at, I’m in the process of turning a lot of the branding content, we were talking about this, into a course. While that was my goal from day one, my day one step wasn’t Hey, I want to create a course”, it was, “I have this idea, I think it’s going to work.” I’m going to put together a little bit of content and some worksheets and host a workshop. I’m going to run through it live with some people and then see what they think, or where they got stuck, or where there were some hiccups, so that I can tweak it, and edit it, and make it better. Then I’ll video record it so then I can transcribe it and I have all that content that I can work from so I’m not starting from scratch.
You can do that with, I happen to have friends who were hosting a conference so they had me do the workshop. I got to test that content at two different occasions, hosting workshops with real people. If you don’t want to host a whole workshop you can gather, friends together, you can get people together, like you said, on Skype, or Google+ and you can run them through a lesson, and run them through those exercise and see what they think and get their feedback. You can record it, you can give people access to videos. You can say, “Hey, I’ve got a beta to test, this is module one of the course I’m creating. Who wants to take it?” and go from there. The whole giant full-blown thing doesn’t have to be the first step.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely, and for those of you out there saying I don’t have an email list so I can’t test it with a webinar, or with a beta version of the course, or I don’t have connections so I can go speak at a conference. Another thing you can do is, let’s go back to my cooking course example. I’m going to try to create a really awesome video that captures my brand and I’m going to put it on youtube. I’m going to take some time and make sure I use the right title and put a long description and tags in there. I’m going to do a little bit of effort and maybe share it on Facebook, maybe run some Facebook ads on it, $10 or something. Then I’ll come back in a week. If it has ten views on it, that’s one thing. If it has one thousand, maybe I’m starting to get somewhere. You can get validation in all kinds of different ways. In fact, it’s pretty fun to think about all the different ways you could validate a concept.
What about promotion Jennifer? That’s what comes next. So what’s that next step like?
Jennifer Bourn: The first thing is understanding that, that whole “If you build it they will come, no, they won’t.” They’re right, just because it exists doesn’t mean that anybody’s going to buy, and just because you think it’s great, doesn’t mean anybody’s going to buy it. The very first step is, nobody can give you any money if they don’t know that you exist. Your number one job as a course creator, as a website owner, as a blogger is getting people to know that you exist. That’s getting visibility for your course, or your brand, or your blog in as many different ways as possible. Ultimately you want people to say, “Wow, every time I googled this topic, I kept finding you.” That’s going to reinforce the fact that you know what you’re talking about and you’re an expert.
It’s looking at offline and online strategies, it’s looking at free and paid strategies. You’ve got to get out from behind your computer, you’ve got to go to networking events and conferences, and you’ve got to tell as many people as possible that your course exists. That your website exists and invite them to come and check it out. You’ve got to be on social media, you’ve got to be visible, you’ve got to be sharing helpful resources and writing blog posts and creating content. Participate, do a Facebook live, post videos on YouTube. You can’t assume that anything is not going to work, until you’ve tried it.
An email list isn’t an end all, be all. People launch successful sites and courses and things that don’t have an email list all the time because they’re willing to pound the pavement and get out there and do what it takes to get visibility. They’ll email that host twitter chats and ask if they can be a guest. They’ll email podcast owners, and radio hosts. Radio hosts and say, “Can I be on your show? Here’s why I think I would be a great fit for your audience. Here’s what kind of value I think I could deliver.” They reach out to people, and that’s the other key is looking at finding other influencers.
Once you know who your ideal client is, or who your ideal audience is for your course, or your blog or your show. Once you know exactly who that person is, you can find out where do they go for information? What influencers do they learn from? What influencers do they listen to? What blogs to they read? What people do they follow? You can reach out to those people and say, “Hey, I think that we have a similar audience. This is my ideal client, this is kind of who I see you audiences being, I think I have something that could deliver a lot of value to your audience.”
Maybe consider, post a webinar, do a show together, do a Facebook live together. You do something, write a guest blog post for them. You try something out to see if your content would be a great fit, and then if it is then that opens a conversation for them possibly being an affiliate down the road. But it’s looking at what the influencers and what other people compliment what you do but serve the same market. You can’t be afraid to get out there and take advantage of every opportunity that there is.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s really great advice. I’ve heard it said that you really have to, especially if you’re at the beginning, you have to tooth and claw to get your first one hundred students in your course. You may get lucky or whatever, everybody out there really has to work hard to get people in the course and it’s a combination of trying to give away some free value, make some lessons for free, have some kind of awesome ebook or short video series on an object that weights into your course. I like to say, there’s really three types of marketing, there’s inbound, there’s outbound and prospecting.
Inbound just means creating content, and there’s no end to the amount of content you could create.
Jennifer Bourn: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: As blog posts, podcast episodes, you can direct mail people. There’s all kinds of things you can do. Outbound, prospecting people especially in the beginning, can be a little shy or nervous about that, but that’s okay to cold email people. Especially influencers, just be of value. I think if you did the branding right and you’re passionate about it and you have the right positioning. If it starts resonating with people and especially influencers, you’re going to get some good momentum. If it’s kind of bland and boring and not well positioned, which goes back to your earlier point that everybody wants to jump to the sexy design and color and typography conversation. In that time in the beginning, when it does become time to start marketing and pushing, your message is going to resonate or not. Which it should, it should really resonate, or not so much.
Jennifer Bourn: I think that’s the thing when you talk about reaching out to other people, joint venture partners, affiliate partners, strategic partners. If you don’t have perfect clarity, on who you serve, what you do, the results you get, why you’re different. If you don’t know those things and you can’t communicate them really well. You don’t have that clarity, they won’t have that clarity, and they’re not going to say, “Sure I’ll promote you to my list, sure let’s do a webinar together.” They’re not goin to say yes if you don’t have that clarity, they won’t have that clarity. Doing all of that initial foundational groundwork is what’s going to allow you to reach out to some of these people with confidence.
I think the other thing to remember too when it comes to promotion is, what can you do, or what can you give other people that’s going to benefit you and benefit them. It’s not just, “Hey, I think you have an audience that can serve me well, let me promote myself to them, please help me out.” You don’t create your course in a bubble, so you’re the expert, you’re the content, you’re the teacher. It’s the same with the blog or anything else. Look at, where could you possibly feature complimentary experts as part of your course so that they have a vested interest in helping you raise visibility.
If you’re launching that cooking course and you are looking at, “I really need to boost that visibility, I want as many eyes on this.” If you’ve got a specific module of your course, you’ve got a specific thing that you’re talking about. You can teach that, just like you’re planning, but then maybe add a bonus interview from a real life person whose done what you just taught. Whose implemented it with success, or has benefited from using that strategy in their business.
Maybe each part of your course, invite in an influencer, an expert who has been successful in that area to feature them as bonus training. “Here’s what we taught, here’s a real world implementation.” Then when you come to launch, the person who goes through that course is going to see that interview, is going to see that person. They’re going to gain visibility and it’s in their best interest to help you gain visibility, gain purchases, buys, whatever. It’s in their best interest for you to be successful as well because they, in turn will get more visibility.
It’s looking at, what kind of bonuses could you add, Q&A’s, interviews, things like that, that are going to feature other people, and get them vested in your success.
Chris Badgett: It’s all about the win-win. Jennifer Bourn, ladies and gentlemen, where can people find out more about you? You’ve got your agency at Bourn Creative, and you’ve got Inspired Imperfection. Where else can people find you on the interwebs?
Jennifer Bourn: I am @JenniferBourn on twitter, or @abitinspired, that’s my family blog. Inspired Imperfections is a family blog. Yeah, I’m @JenniferBourn on twitter, Facebook, Google+, all those things.
Chris Badgett: Awesome, well thank you so much for coming on the show.
Jennifer Bourn: Thanks for having me!