We dive into the journey from personal trainer to million dollar online fitness course creator with Jono Petrohilos in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett from LifterLMS.
Jono lives in Australia, and he runs a Facebook group for the course creator community. He used to be a fitness trainer, and he ran a face-to-face bootcamp working at a franchise with about 75 different locations across Australia. The franchises were ranked on a leaderboard, and Jono was dead last out of 75. But he really loved his work and just wasn’t good at it. To get better, he attended a whole heap of courses and workshops, watched YouTube videos, read books and blogs, and attended other trainers’ sessions. After about 12 months of that, he worked his way to being number one in the franchise.
He then opened up another location. He was always upskilling, always attending other courses, workshops, sessions, and conventions. It got to a point that Jono decided to give course creation a try himself, and he’s done 10 in-person courses already. And every course he went to, there were about 20 other trainers, so he knew there was a market for it. His first course was called How to Run a Successful Bootcamp.
In 2014 the course platform started focusing on online trainers and not just individuals who wanted to get fit, and in 2018 he grew that to about a million dollar a year business. That’s when he started to get over the fitness side a little bit, as he was no longer running the bootcamps and was spending all his time online working with funnels in sales and marketing. Jono’s passion shifted from fitness to online course creation and promotion.
A great tip shared in this episode is how a good first step to work your way into a Facebook group or community online is to do a podcast episode with the group admin and make it a win for that person first. Connect with heavy hitters. Get them on your podcast without any expectation of return, and then it will probably come back. And if you do it properly and do a podcast every week, the results will waterfall on.
Be sure to head to Facebook and look up the Course Creator Community Facebook group and find his podcast Course Creator Community Podcast on iTunes to learn more about Jono Petrohilos. Whatever social platforms you usually use, type in Course Creator Community, and you’ll find Jono’s group.
And at LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Christ Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch, and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end. I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest. I’d like to introduce you to my Facebook group competitor. His name is Jono Petrohilos. He’s from across the world. He’s in Australia. I’m in the United States. We both have Facebook groups for the Course Creator Community. What I love about Jono is he’s a course creator. He practices what he preaches. He has a long history of teaching fitness online.
He discovered a love for helping fellow course creators and just kind of going deep in this whole industry of online business and online courses. But first, welcome to the show, Jono.
Jono Petrohilos: No, thank you very much for inviting me on, Chris. I’m a huge fan of yours. Your Facebook group was one of the first ones I joined when I was like, you know what? I want to see what’s going on in the Course Creator Community. You’ve done well with your SEO on the Facebook group, because I found that and I’ve been there for over a year now. It’s an honor to be on this podcast. If I can give your listeners some value, I’d be happy to do that.
Christ Badgett: That’s awesome. I appreciate that. If you’re looking for Jono, it’s just Course Creator Community. He has a podcast by that name and that’s also the name of his Facebook group. Go check that out. Can you give us, Jono, a high level overview and also like a timeline, like how long ago did this start? You teach fitness online and certain aspects of that, and then you got into helping course creators. What was the broad arc of that story there?
Jono Petrohilos: Yes. Well, it’s a long story, but I’ll summarize it in about a minute. I used to be a fitness trainer myself, and I’d run a face-to-face bootcamp. I used to suck at it, right? I was at a franchise. There were 75 different locations across Australia, and you were ranked on how good you were, one being the best, 75 being the worst. Take a guess what you think I was ranked, Chris, starting off?
Christ Badgett: 74.
Jono Petrohilos: I wish. 75, right? Dead last. But I loved what I did. I really loved it. I just wasn’t good at it. To get better, I was like, what can I do? Let me study. I attended a whole heap of courses and workshops and YouTube videos and read books and blogs and attended other trainer sessions. After about 12 months of that period, I actually got to be number one in the franchise. Then I opened up another location and I got really, really good at what I did. I was always upskilling, always attending other courses, workshops, sessions, conventions, whatever it maybe.
It got to a point and I was like, you know what? I’m still learning. Every convention I go to, every course I do, I’m learning, but I feel like I could put together something that’s better or at least different to anything else out there. I’m like, you know what? I’m going to give it a crack. It’s a proven concept. I’ve done 10 of these courses already. And every course I go, there’s 20 other trainers, so I know there’s a market for it. Let me put something together. I put together my first online course, How to Run a Successful Bootcamp.
This was 2014, and this was tailored just for fitness trainers, so not for the general public who wanted to get fit. If you’re a certified personal trainer and you want to run a better bootcamp with the business side, the workouts, the retention, all of that, you would take my course there. Now, that’s a whole nother story, that course there. But just in the overview, that’s how I created my first course. And then usual deal, sucked at the start, but got better, better, better, better, better.
Long story short, by about probably 2017-2018, I grew that to about a million dollar a year business. I was like, okay, this is cool. A couple things started to happen there. Number one, I started to get over the fitness side a little bit, because I was no longer running the bootcamps, right? All my time was spent online, in funnels and sales and marketing. My passion shifted from fitness to online course stuff. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that stage, but I could feel passion shifting. Also, it was something inside of me as well.
The major thing in that bootcamp course is, hey, you’re a fitness trainer. Here’s how you can make $100,000 a year working one hour a day. That was sexy. It was a good hook, you know? But now here I am doing a million dollars. I think there’s some conflict inside me where it’s like, hold on, I’m a bit of a hypocrite here. I’m telling people to go and run this bootcamp thing to make $100,000 when I’m sitting here doing this online making a million. Also, just a bigger thing. I feel I’ve got a bigger skill than just helping fitness trainers there.
Just recently, about a year ago, I started the Facebook group, the Course Creator Community. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do that in that space, but that’s the direction that I’m heading is I’m going to put together something to help course creators sell more course. How that looks exactly, I don’t know. I’ve just got a membership site there at the moment. I’m just having some fun and helping some people out, but that’s the direction I’m going to move going forward.
I’ve still got the Fitness Education Online business and that’s pretty much running itself now. I’ve got a staff. I’ve got a team, and that’s freed up my time to focus on other stuff. That’s a high level overview of what I do.
Christ Badgett: That is really cool. Go check out coursecreatorcommunity.net. There’s a couple things you said in your story that I want to highlight. One of them is that in the beginning, first of all, you kind of went after a market that you understood. You basically scratched your own itch, and then you stayed focused. It’s not fitness in general. It’s for fitness instructors. And then you just stayed with it. You launched without getting all hung up in the, oh, it’s got to be perfect. Like you said, you just get better and better and better.
I see that pattern a lot with people that make it is they are okay with imperfect forward progress. Why are you okay with that? Why didn’t you get caught in the weeds of, oh, it’s got to perfect, or my videos have to be perfect, or whatever?
Jono Petrohilos: Okay. That’s a good story. I’ll share that. 2014, when I was like, right, I want to put a course together. I didn’t know what an online course was, because most of the courses I was going to was actually face-to-face workshop. But I knew I didn’t want to do that because I was so busy with my fitness business. The online thing was always just going to be a side thing. I was reading Think and Grow Rich and they talk about passive income and whatever, and I was like, right, this seems like a good idea here.
I didn’t even know what an online course was. I thought you had to get a web designer and they built a website for you. I got a quote. I think it was $15,000 and I didn’t have $15,000. I was like, okay, it looks like I’m not going to do this online course thing. But then I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw an ad. This was back in 2014, and it was, hey, purchase my eBook, because eBooks used to be valuable back in 2014. Now it’s just like, it’s used to get your email address. But I was like, an eBook?
What the crap is an eBook? I purchased it for whatever it was, 50 bucks or something. I’m like, hold on, this is just a Microsoft Word document saved as a PDF. I was a technical dunce, but I know how to open a Microsoft Word document and I know how to save as for a PDF. I was like, you know what? I think I can do this. That was my first online course, literally a PDF that sold for $300. But even deeper than that, I looked at it. And before it went to market, I was like, you know what? It just looks like Microsoft Word document.
I need to do better. So I went to make it look better. I put some borders and some headings and some numbers. And because I suck at tech, I actually made it look worst. It was indents all over the place, and I’m like, oh man. I was depressed. I was going to give up. But then I was scrolling through Facebook again and I saw an ad for this website called Fiverr and said you can get anything you want done for $5. I’m like, is this a joke? I opened it up and I’m like, man, you literally can get anything you want for $5.
There was a gig on there from a guy that said he would slap himself in the face if you gave him $5. I’m like, what? Anyway, I paid both of them. I paid the guy $5 to slap himself, and I also paid $5 for the formatting. The formatting made it look better. I was like, okay, this is getting better. Then I got an email from the guy who slapped himself in the face. He didn’t hold back. He really slapped himself in the face. This time I felt sorry. I’m like, man, there’s things some people do for money.
But then I looked at what he sent me. It was actually an unlisted YouTube video and it had 100,000 views. I’m like, hold on, this guy slapped himself in the face once and sent it to 100,000 people for I don’t know how much. Even if they take half, that guy has made hundreds of thousands of dollars from slapping him in the… This guy wasn’t some guru. He looked like a bit of a loser, had glasses, braces, wasn’t that good looking. I’m like, man, if this guy can do that… And all these things were just coming in my head.
I’m like, man, this person sold me a Microsoft Word document for $50. This guy slapped himself in the face for $5 and made $200,000. What the crap is my excuse? Even further still actually, going back to my bootcamp days, my mentor at the time was the person who owned all 75 locations. She told her story. She’s like, “Hey, look, I’m not the smartest person. I’m just actually the dumbest person always in high school. I actually dropped out of high school. My first job was at Walmart. I actually got fired from Walmart.
I didn’t steal. I wasn’t late. They just thought I wasn’t good enough for the job, so I got fired from Walmart. I started up a one bootcamp and then another and another and another.” I’m just like, man. Especially in that fitness, I’m degree qualified. I’ve got a degree in exercise physiology. I’m just like, man, this woman’s a high school dropout, fired from Walmart, can open… What’s my excuse? I just had all this confidence going. Actually going back to the unlisted story, then I discovered unlisted YouTube videos.
I was like, hold on, maybe I can also put these links into my eBook to make it look like a better product. Then the final product, I mean, it still wasn’t great. I would be embarrassed of it today, but it was good info at least. The info in there was really good. There was text. There was video. It was formatted so it didn’t look horrible. I put it out there and still I was nervous. The reason I was able to get it out there was just all this confidence. I was just like, you know what? I’m going to do it. This person’s doing.
This person’s doing it. This person’s doing it. I can do it too. It was all that confidence. I still remember when I sold my first one. I was so scared because there was a feedback form at the end of it. I’m like, man, they’re going to ask for a refund. They’re going to say, “You sold me a Microsoft Word document for $300. I already knew this stuff.” I was so nervous. But then I got the feedback form and it was all positive. It was like, “I love the course. It was great. It was online. I could do it in my own pace. All these ideas I didn’t think of. Well done. You’ve done an awesome.”
At the time, I was just relieved. I was like, whew! Okay. It wasn’t a refund. Then the second feedback came in, same thing. Third feedback came in. After about the third, then I’m like, okay, I’m onto something. I have three people who’ve done it. They’ve all given me raving reviews. Then my confidence just skyrocketed. And then the quality probably went down a little bit, to be honest, because I thought I was king of the world.
I was like, ah, this online stuff is easy, and I just put a heap of stuff out where I could have done better, but now I’ve obviously gone back and improved that. But that’s essentially how I did it. I just saw all these other people doing it. I was reading books and listening to Tony Robbins and all this other stuff. The mindset was just like, hey, I’m going to do it. I’m going to get it out there and see what happens, and then I did it. The quality wasn’t great at first, but it was good enough.
The reason why that’s I think so important is I was able to get it out there so quickly. I didn’t have to spend years. You probably know better than me. What does the average course creator take from idea to selling?
Christ Badgett: I don’t know, but I see far too many people take more than a year.
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah. I think it’s a year, year and a half, maybe two. I was able to get that in a couple months. I probably had three courses or four courses by that stage and a bit of a list just because I was able to get it out quickly, make some money, and then reinvest that… I didn’t make any money, because it was reinvested back into the business to start with, but it just enabled me to springboard really fast just because of speed.
Christ Badgett: Well, let me ask you some more questions about that. You said 2017 you hit a million. It was like a three year from zero to a million thing. Was there…
Jono Petrohilos: Maybe four actually. Probably about four.
Christ Badgett: Four years?
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, something like that.
Christ Badgett: Was there a market outside of Australia, or was this for Australians only?
Jono Petrohilos: Australians only.
Christ Badgett: You got a tight niche. It’s also geographically bound. Was there a governing body or some kind of standard you had to be approved or something?
Jono Petrohilos: Yes, that’s a good point. You didn’t have to be, but you could and I went for that option. It’s the best thing I ever did for a couple reasons. I put the course together and I was like, all right, let me reach out to Fitness Australia and let me see what I need to do to get it approved. They sent over this long document. It looked like a pain in the ass, but I just really wanted it. I had the qualification. The major thing was the qualifications. It was like you need to have a higher qualification than the people you’re talking to, and I had a degree.
I was like, okay, sweet. The rest was just boxes you had to ticked, but there was like a hundred of them and it was a pain in the ass. But I just was so passionate about doing it and it’s the best thing ever for a couple different things. Firstly, it got listed on their website.
Christ Badgett: You get traffic from them.
Jono Petrohilos: 100%. That’s how I was able to prove the concept, right? The first three sales, it maybe took three months, but I did absolutely nothing. All I did was put the course together, went on their website, and there were three people… About one person a month would give me a call. “Hey, I see this thing on here. What’s it about? Tell me about it,” yada, yada, yada, right? I was able to make the call and prove the concept there. Moving forward, that helped my SEO because their domain authority is ridiculous.
I probably didn’t know what that was at the time, but it was just good to get it on there. It just made it a little bit more trusted, right? Because if someone was going to buy the course, it’s like a minimum standard. It’s like, oh, it’s registered with Fitness Australia. How bad can it be?
Christ Badgett: Are the people that buy the course, do they have to buy it for their license or something, or is it more of an optional thing, somebody is just trying to improve?
Jono Petrohilos: Both. As a trainer, you don’t have to register with Fitness Australia. If you do register with them, you need to complete 20 CECs every two years, and my course is counted as part of those CECs there. There was a third thing I was going to point on that as well. And then there’s just collaboration opportunities. Now I can pay them and they can send it out to their list of 20,000 people.
Christ Badgett: Of your perfect fit customer.
Jono Petrohilos: Of my perfect fit customers. It’s like the perfect joint… There’s no better joint venture than that. The way I do it as well is I set it up as an opt-in. And even going back, I think it was about $1,000 to get the course registered, but I was like, well, I’m charging $300 for it. If I sell three a year, it’s worth it, or four a year, I’m in the green. I saw it from that side of things there. And that’s something I haven’t pushed, but I’m going to expand on that as well. Just recently when I have been expanding into the course creator space, I’m like, hold on.
It’s not just fitness trainers that do these CEC things, here in Australia anyway. There’s nurses. There’s physical therapists, osteotherapists, real estate agents, nurses. I’m like, you know what I think I can do? I’m going to put together anyway a LinkedIn for health professionals. Not personal trainers like your physio, your chiro, your osteo, and get it approved with that thing there. I think that’s a market too.
Christ Badgett: That’s awesome. That is really cool. I’ve heard this story before so I wanted to highlight it where when you have a partnership with an accreditation board or governing body, it can create a real win-win between the two. You’re not just trying to get all your traffic from scratch. You get to borrow the credibility. You can even pay for more exposure like the email list or featured listing on their site or whatever it is.
Jono Petrohilos: Obviously it’s different for different organizations, because I have also done it in America this year and it’s completely different. In America, it’s NASM. Because they sell their own courses with NASM, right? If you on the NASM website, there’s a section that says, “Here are our external providers,” but it’s like an Excel sheet that you can download with like 500 names there, with just the name of your business and your course. Whereas the Australian one, it’s actually a clickable link.
You can go there and it’s a list of people. You can click there. You go to my website, yada, yada, yada. It’s different for different organizations. But if you can find a good one that supports you, it’s by far the best thing ever, especially to start with, because I think the start is the hardest to get those first few sales. For me, it wasn’t too bad because it was always a side thing, but enabled me just to make consistent sales as a side thing without doing too much. The limitation is it will only get you so far.
It’s like you make one a month doing that, which is better than zero a month, but it’s not going to get you $10,000 a month or a million dollars a month, but it’s enough to get you started, and then you can get your own genius and expand it out there.
Christ Badgett: Let’s fast forward from the early days to today. If you want to look at this site, you can see it at fitnesseducationonline.com.au. What has the site become after six or seven years or whatever?
Jono Petrohilos: Got you. It’s me and a business partner as well. Travis is my business partner who co-own Fitness Education Online. The first two, three years, we just put everything we know together as a course. It started off, how to run a bootcamp, how to run a bootcamp level one, how to use kettlebells, how to use kettlebells level two, how to use medicine balls, how to use social media, how to do sales, how to do marketing. Probably about three years, every single bit of information that was in our brain was in a course.
Christ Badgett: You ran out.
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, we ran out. Yeah, yeah, yeah. When you do a launch, you always make a few more sales. We’re like, oh man, what do we do? We relaunched. It’s like promote the same course three months later, but it’s never as good as the first one. Anyway, then we’re like, all right, cool. There’s all these other things that fitness trainers need to know, but we don’t have that skillset. There was a nutrition course, and there was a training pregnant women course. Two very hot markets among certified trainers.
Every trainer wants to get better in nutrition. Majority of especially women trainers want to get better at training moms and women in general. We didn’t have the skillset to put those courses together, but there were people that already had those courses together. I did a Google search. I found some online… Well, there’s only one at the time actually, like an online nutrition course, that sort of fit our criteria, where it was like, okay, it’s the same sort of link. It’s 100% online.
The assessment is online. Let’s do a collaboration. We then got that woman’s course on our website. Same with pregnancy as well. Now we’re like, great! Now we’re getting more courses out there. We’re launching more. We don’t have to use our own info. Yeah, we give away 50% of the revenue on that side of things, but there’s no work involved. Instead of spending a couple months putting the course together, someone else has got the course and we can just launch, launch, launch, launch. Then it went to the next step.
Then we’re like, all right, cool. There’s these markets out there that are untapped and people don’t have courses for, but there’s experts out there. There’s another course on there, pelvic floor essentials. I know a woman who her specialty is training women with pelvic floor issues or to help strengthen their pelvic floor. Now, she’s never going to be an online course person. She likes actually training people, right? But she’s got that skillset. We’re like, hey, let’s work together. We’ve got the audience.
We’ll put an email out. We’ll sell your course, and then you deliver it via Zoom for five or six weeks, or whatever it is. You don’t need to do anything marketing. You don’t need to do any sales. We do all that on our end. You just present the content. We then record it. We put it together as a course. We sell it. We split it moving forward. We’ll get it ready with Fitness Australia. It’s a really good win-win for both parties. It’s even more powerful, because now we own that course.
Even though it’s still 50-50 split, there’s more power in our way if it’s a Fitness Education Online course that’s presented by that person than someone else’s company that just happens to be our website. It works better that way. And then even summits now as well. We’ll put together a summit, because we’ve got the audience. We’ve got 15,000 emails, 15,000 people in the Facebook group. If we get a topic, we can just sell that. So now we even put together summits maybe one every maybe couple year actually.
Put together a summit, four different speakers, each speaker will present their one session. We then put together as a course, and then we own that course. We pay the speaker to do the one hour or nine minute session or whatever it is, but then we put it together as a course with the five or six different speakers, and then we sell that moving forward there. We must have 40, 50 courses there now. Not that I’ve created myself, but 40, 50 courses that we sell. Some of them sell well. Some of them don’t.
But now we also know how to predict the ones that are going to sell well as well. But that’s the major thing on that website. We’ve got also got some other things. We’ve got a podcast. We’ve got a blog, YouTube channel. But they’re sort of icing on top. The major thing is website and Facebook group for that business there. They’re the two things there and everything else is just like a bonus on top. We do a lot of live workouts anyway. One, I’ll put them on YouTube. One, I put them on Instagram, but our major thing is website and Facebook group.
Christ Badgett: What’s the VIP membership?
Jono Petrohilos: Oh yes. We also a subscription membership. I’ve actually got three different levels, right? The major thing is our courses, which sell for about 500 bucks give or take.
Christ Badgett: They’re like ala carte, standalone…
Jono Petrohilos: Exactly.
Christ Badgett: Okay.
Jono Petrohilos: Give or take. We’ve then also got a coaching which is like, hey, you want to grow your bootcamp, but you want actual coaching? We got group coaching programs. It’s about $2,000 for about an eight to 10 week program. We’ve then got a subscription membership, which is 50 bucks a month, cancel anytime. That’s got similar content to what’s in the courses. Even a lot of the videos are exactly the same, but it’s a different way of presenting it. We find that some people will go for the 500 bucks because they want the step by step by step.
And also with the 500 bucks, you get lifetime access. You get the certificate. You get the CECs. You get all that as well. The membership, yeah, you get some of the similar content, but once you cancel, you’ll lose it all. It’s like a different… Also, it’s not… Because we got so many different courses. We kind of have all of them in the membership site. But the membership site is similar to what’s in the bootcamp course. Those three things, the membership, the courses, and the coaching is a very similar product.
It’s just like slight differences in support and what you get. The VIP is like, yup, you just log onto there and there’s videos all over the place that you can go and find. The course are like a step by step, first do this, then do this, then do this, then do this, then do this. Also with that, you get a certificate, you get lifetime access, you get CECs. The coaching is basically that as well, but you get a weekly Zoom session as a group.
Christ Badgett: Wow! Lots of nuggets of wisdom there. Tell us more about the transition to not away from, but to also serve the Course Creator Community. Why did that happen and how did that happen? Sometimes people, they just move on, but you still have this other business. You’re not going to let it go away, right? Tell us that story.
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The reason why I’ll never let the Fitness Education Online one go away, firstly, it’s just so profitable, right? Even now, I do pretty much nothing in that business. I’ve hired someone else to run everything, and I profit about $10,000 a month in my bank account. Pretty much purely passive amount. I’m like, why would I give it up?
Christ Badgett: Hold on, one question there, that person you hired, what do you call them? Are they like a manager, a president, a CEO?
Jono Petrohilos: I’ve got a few actually. It’s me and my business partner. It’s the two of us. Then we’ve got on the sales and marketing side of things, we’ve got a sales and marketing manager. She does all our emails. She does all our Facebook ads. She does all our social media sales sort of posts. She’s also hired a sales team with two people that do the sales course underneath her. We’ve got also two VAs, virtual assistants, who do the organic social media stuff, which is under her direction there. That’s like one side of the business, sales and marketing manager.
And then she’s got a couple sales staff and a couple social media stuff underneath her on that side there. Then on the other side of things, we’ve got the operations, which is the coaching, putting together the courses, collaborating with the people, writing some blogs, that side of stuff there. My business partner was mainly the operations manager there, but we’ve got an operations worker there as well who does some of that stuff there too, and then some virtual assistants over that side as well that can help with the little fiddly bits over there.
But if we had to summarize it, me and a business partner at the top, and then let’s say a sales and marketing manager on one side that does all that side of things, then an operations manager on the other side, and they do those side of things there. And then my role is basically to just make sure those two are talking together. Hey, operations, what are we launching? Cool. Sales and marketing, here’s the plan for this year. Get this ready. Get that ready.
Christ Badgett: Very cool. Very cool. Let’s get back to the transition to Course Creator Community. What happened there? When did the light bulb go off that, hey, I want to do this other thing too?
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah. It was always sort of there, because there were a couple things. It’s just I’m really passionate about it. I just love talking about it. I’d go to different conventions, Social Media World and Traffic and Conversion Summit and all that sort of stuff, and it was similar to my journey in the Fitness Education Online space, where like I’d go to all these courses and I’m like, I think I can put something better. Everything these presenters are talking about these courses are doing, I’m doing it and I think better as well, but I’m not teaching it to…
And also the other thing is a lot of stuff I wasn’t teaching because it’s completely different. Yeah, it’s completely different. I shouldn’t say completely. There’s differences. There’s obviously similarities in any business and marketing, but there’s a lot of things that I do to grow my own Fitness Education Online business that I can’t teach face-to-face personal trainers. There’s differences between an online course business and a fitness business. I had the skillset that I know in my head, but I’m not teaching it to anyone.
It’s something that fired me up where I’m like, ah, I feel like this stuff that people doing, I know and I can do better or different to some of these people here. I want to put something together. That was like years, to be honest. From about 2019 I’d say I was thinking about it. Now I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, right? But even from that 2019, I was like I really want to do something in that space, but I was so busy in Fitness Education Online that I couldn’t really do it. I couldn’t really focus.
Then my focus was like, how do I get hands off Fitness Education Online? How can I just get everyone else running else for me so I don’t need to do anything so I can clear up my space there? And then even then, I didn’t know what it was. I’m like, okay, I know I want to help course creators, but I don’t know what I’m going to help them with. Because in my business, Fitness Education Online, I used every trick in the book. There’s Facebook Ads. There’s Google Ads. There’s SEO. There’s putting the course together.
There’s sales calls. There’s webinars. There’s a Facebook group. There’s a podcast. It’s like, man. Also, it took me three or four years to master all this stuff. I’m like, I can’t just say to someone, “Hey, just do my three to four year course and do all these different things and you’ll be like I am now.” I just dabbled with a few different things. I was like, well, the first thing I’m going to do is start a podcast because it’s easy. I’m just going to start a podcast.
I’m just going to speak to different people in the space there and just network, see when that goes there. I was like, you know what? The next thing I’m going to do is create a Facebook group. Because if I have a Facebook group, I can make it about the community. It doesn’t need to be just me trying to spread a message. It’s like, hey, we’re all course creators. Let’s create a community. That’s where I am there. That’s the space there.
I think the direction I’m going to go is the Facebook group space, where I think I’m just going to say, “Hey, you’re a course creator. You need an audience. There’s plenty of different ways to do it. My recommendation is go on a Facebook group because of bang, bang, bang, bang. You want to grow a Facebook group? Here’s the perfect course for it. I’ve used these different strategies to grow this Facebook group to 15,000, this Facebook group to 5,000 in less than a year. Here’s how it gets engagement,” yada, yada, yada. That’s the direction I think I’m going to go.
Christ Badgett: I love that. I love that. I’ve watched you come up in the Course Creator Community with your Facebook group. You came up fast. I was like, whoa, what’s this guy going? What did you learn in having Facebook groups for fitness? What are some tips you’d recommend to people who are looking to do some community building with a Facebook group?
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, 100%. This I think is my specialty as well. Because even going back to my bootcamp days, one of my biggest skillsets… With those 75 franchises, you had your bootcamp, but you had to have a Facebook group as well. At the start, I thought it was a burden. It was always like a 25 year old guy or something. I remember when I was coming last, I had to have a meeting with the franchise owners. They’re like, “Jono, one of the problems is your Facebook group. That’s where you’re coming last.”
I’m like, “What? Out of all the issues I have as a personal trainer, I’m pretty sure it’s not the Facebook group that’s the problem.” They’re like, “Well, we kind of think it is. We the 75 that are doing better than you. They’ve got a better Facebook group.” I had a bit of an argument. Then I thought about it. I’m like, well, hold on, I’m coming 75th out of 75. These people own all 75 locations. Maybe they know something that I don’t. Put all my effort into just making that Facebook group engaging, right?
Just knowing what post would work, what post wouldn’t work, and I got it ridiculously engaging. But that was easy because they were also my clients as well. It’s easier if it’s a face-to-face end on one thing. But when I started Fitness Education Online, didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I was good at Facebook groups. So I started a Facebook group, and I was able to test out what worked there. That was a lot of trial and error as well, but it was like, cool, I know what worked solely online.
When I started the Course Creator Community, I was just able to use everything I learned from those and started off with a bang. This is what I’d recommend for everyone starting off. There’s two things I do… Actually I’ll go step by step. Yeah, step by step. The first thing I recommend if you want to start a Facebook group is don’t start a Facebook group until you have about 100 ideal members for a few different reasons.
When I started the Course Creator Community, I was networking for a few months beforehand, going on podcasts, having a podcast myself, connecting with people on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, people that I met at conventions. I purposely didn’t start the Facebook group until I had about a hundred people I knew that I could say, “Hey, Chris, I’m starting this Facebook group and I’d love to have you in there. Here’s the link. Do you want to join.”
The advantage of that is I didn’t have a Facebook group with 20 people in there, because that’s hard to build from there for a couple different reasons. I was like, “Chris, I have this Facebook group. Come and join,” and I got 20 people in there. Chris is going to be like, “Ah, yeah, all right, Jono.” You would join and then you’ll leave the next day. There’ll be no conversation going on in there, so there’s no real value [inaudible]
But because I waited until I had a hundred people, then I did a bit of a launch for the Facebook group there with email and post on my Facebook and some messages to my friends that I knew would be a good fit, I was able to start that group off with a bang. It started off with a hundred people on day one. And then also, they were also my friends as well. I was able to say, “Hey, make a post and introduce yourself. Let everyone know what you do.” It wasn’t just a random ask. It was a friend or a person they actually knew, right?
From day one on that Facebook group, had a hundred people with everyone just posting, “Hey, here’s what I am. Here’s what I do.” There was a bit of a buzz because it was a new group and people are liking and commenting and friend requesting. That’s tip number one, wait until you’ve got a hundred people to join because then you join with a bang. The other advantage is it means you’ve got some form of lead generation strategy. There’s plenty of different strategies out there. We can go into detail in that as well if you want.
Christ Badgett: You mean like a plan for how you’re going to get people out of Facebook into your email list?
Jono Petrohilos: Exactly. That was my plan. It was like, okay, before I can grow this group, let me build my email list and also ideally I had friends on Facebook as well. But it was ideally the email list. I was like, all right, what can I do my Facebook to grow my email list? What can I do on Instagram to grow my email list? What can I do on LinkedIn to grow my email list?
Christ Badgett: What can you do on a Facebook group to grow your email list?
Jono Petrohilos: Okay. On Facebook in general?
Christ Badgett: Yeah. Yeah, and a Facebook group. How do you end up getting emails out of Facebook?
Jono Petrohilos: From my Facebook group or from someone else’s? Because they’re two different strategies.
Christ Badgett: From yours. Maybe both, but from yours to start.
Jono Petrohilos: Okay. Give me one second here.
Christ Badgett: Yeah.
Jono Petrohilos: Sorry, my phone alarm just went off. In my group here, there’s a few different strategies. The basic one is the welcome question when someone joins. If somebody is going to join my Facebook group, I’ve got three questions: are you a course creator, to validate them. How did you hear about me, just so I can sort of see how my marketing is working, and drop your email below if you’d like a free copy of my online course, insert lead magnet there, right? That’s the base. In my experience, if it’s a good lead magnet, about 30%.
If you’re getting any less than 30%, the lead magnet is probably not juicy enough. That’s option one. 70% of people won’t do that. That can’t be my only strategy, because then I’m only going to cover 30%. I then do a welcome post in the group for the new members. Hey, new members. Welcome to the group. You get a free copy of insert lead magnet. Just click the thing here and I tag all the new members there. There’s a second shot at it there.
Christ Badgett: Do you set up that manually, or do you use that automated one that Facebook throws up to welcome new members?
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, that automated one. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Christ Badgett: Yeah.
Jono Petrohilos: And my VA does that. I’m pretty sure she does that, because we get 50, 60 people joining a week at least. It’d be a pain in the ass to manually that there. And then I’m just always constantly throwing freebies out there. I’ll do at minimum a webinar every month. “Hey, guys. I’m running a webinar on how to grow your email list. Comment below if you’re interested.” People who register for the webinar got to put their email in, and then I’ll just throw lead magnets out there as well probably even every week, because I’ve got a heap of different freebies.
Every week or every couple weeks, I’ll just throw some sort of lead magnet out there to capture leads. There’s a heavy emphasis at the start, but it’s not the end at the start. Every week I’m probably doing something to try and grow that email list there.
Christ Badgett: That’s amazing. What other kinds of content do you put in there? Maybe not to get an email or anything, but what do you do in your Facebook group? I think I’ve seen you do some live streaming.
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, yeah. Actually both groups actually. There’s simplified version. There’s two types of… Yeah, say two types of non-sales content that I’ll post. I’ll do a weekly live stream. Just five minutes, just sort of one tip. It’s similar to like an email. If you’re going to send an email, you do an email, you send one tip. Hey, buy my thing. I’ll also do that in a live video as well. I’ll just jump online and I’ll give one tip there. The key I found with the live is always have a call to… A, always get some sort of interaction.
Hey, guys, what’s happening? It’s Jono here live. Here in Sydney, we’re in lockdown. Where’s everyone else in the world from? Some sort of question to get… Hey, we’re all course creators here. Out of curiosity, what platform does everyone use? Oh, everyone uses LifterLMS. Oh, okay. Cool. Cool. Cool. Yeah, awesome. Always some question to engage people, but also a call to action at the end. Hey, by the way, I’m running a webinar this month. Comment X below and I’ll send it over to you.
Hey, I’ve got this free thing. Comment below and I’ll send it over to you. Hey, I’ve got this membership site. It covers this. Comment below and I’ll send it over to you. There’s always something, because the key and the key to growing your own Facebook group is engagement, but ideally engagement from other people. I don’t want it just to be me posting. That’s why I just do the one live stream a week. The other thing I post myself is just engagement posts.
I just want to post something on there to get people to engage, but not silly posts like what do you prefer, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad? I mean, that stuff’s not bad. You can do elements of that, but what I want to do is just find the points that fire people up in my audience. My engagement questions will be things like… I’m thinking of a few recent good ones I did. One was like, hey, guys, I’ve got to win an argument. Correct me if I’m wrong, nobody prefers Dropbox over Google Drive.
It’s not really going to get me sales, but there were so many people just like, “Dropbox sucks. Dropbox sucks. No. Google Drive sucks.” In the fitness world, it would be things like, guys, correct me if I’m wrong, no one prefers dumbbells to kettlebells, right? And then same thing, the people that like kettlebells are going to be like, “Yeah, dumbbells suck.” The people who like dumbbells are like, “What are you talking about? You’ll hurt your back if you do kettlebells. Beginners can’t do it.”
I purposely try and find posts. I’m not doing it to get likes and comments. That’s the result of me knowing my audience well. It’s like, okay, let me do this post. And if I do it properly, my audience is going to get fired up and comment, which shows that I know my audience well, which is going to help me come through with sales. I’m very strong on those things. Also, it helps with the algorithm. If you do a post like that, people like and comment on it.
Then on the next post, if you want to sell something, you’re going to get more traction because your previous ones have been like that. And also, it just gets people involved in the group. If they’ve liked and commented on your post, they might see other posts from the group that pop up in their feed. They’re the two major things I do that aren’t sales based. But the other major thing I focus on more than those is getting other people to post.
That’s the other thing I did well from the start is I’m like before I start this Facebook group, and that’s what I recommend everyone as well, have a strategy on getting other people to post.
Christ Badgett: Like introductions, like introduce yourself?
Jono Petrohilos: Well, I’ve got nine different things.
Christ Badgett: Wow!
Jono Petrohilos: Yeah, I’ll run through as much as I can in the next nine minutes because I want to respectful of your time, but that’s definitely the best first one. Especially if you have a small group and there’s not a lot of people coming in there, then it take… I get my virtual assistant to do it anyway. I’m just like, hey, anyone that joins this group, add them as a friend and just send them a DM and say, “Hey, I’m the social media manager from the group. Thanks for joining. Anything we can help you with? Great! Oh, that’s what you do? Cool. By the way, make a post in the Facebook group and introduce yourself.”
Christ Badgett: Hey, a quick question there, your virtual assistant has your main Facebook log ins?
Jono Petrohilos: No, no, no. She does it from her account.
Christ Badgett: Who’s she friending?
Jono Petrohilos: Anyone that joins the Facebook group.
Christ Badgett: From the Facebook page? Go ahead.
Jono Petrohilos: Let’s say someone joins my Facebook group or request to join the request group. She takes care of the accepting. She’ll do a screen. Is this person a fit? Yeah, great. Accept. Great. Let me also add this person as a friend. Then she’ll send that person a DM, “Hey, what’s happening? I’m the social media manager of Course Creator Community. I see you jointed the group, yada, yada, yada. What do you do? Oh, great! Hey, go and make a post and introduce yourself.” Some people will accept. Some people won’t.
Some people do the post. Some people won’t. But the key is some people will, so it gets something going. The people that will are then more engaged because other people are going to like, comment they’ve posted, yada, yada, yada. But also what happens is it lights the fire. Because let’s say someone doesn’t accept Phoebe’s friend request, but they join the group and they see there’s two or three posts of people introducing themselves. Oh, I guess you just join this group and introduce yourself. I’ll make a post and introduce myself.
You do the manual work at the start, but then it builds from there. Another one that I do is I’ve always got action tasks in my courses, even my free courses. Let’s say, for example, let’s use the Course Creator Community as an example. One of my free courses is how to create your first course in 48 hours. You’re essentially creating a mini course or a lead magnet, right?
I teach people how to do that mini course, but I say, “Hey, I’ve given you the five minute overview. What a better idea is go and make a post in my Facebook group and say, ‘Hey, guys. I’m looking for ideas for my mini courses and my opt-in page. Can everyone post theirs below so I can get an idea?’” Someone does that. It’s a win-win-win. Because if that person makes that post, everyone in my group wants to get their freebie out there for other people to see. It’s going to get a heap of different comments there.
But it’s also value for the person posting. Instead of them just seeing my one example, oh shit, here’s 50 examples. Let me check out this one, or let me check out this one. Let me check out this one. And then it’s a win for me because it’s engagement in the group going on. I’ve got them all scattered down below. If we go into the fitness world, if you do my kettlebell course, one of the questions is, hey, guys, what’s your favorite kettlebell workout? I’ve given you my 10 favorite, but go in this Facebook group, there’s 15,000 in there.
You might get heaps more. Same in the fitness world, everyone wants to share their favorite kettlebell workout because they think it’s the best. If you do my kettlebell course and you make a post in that Facebook group, then you’ve got a whole heap of different kettlebell ideas and it’s a win-win-win again. And also, the mindset is this group is sick. I make a post and I get 50 comments. I’m always posting in this group.
I’m not going to Google to find workouts. I’m going in this group. I’m not going to YouTube to find out the best lead magnets. I’m going to this group here.
Christ Badgett: They feel supported. I mean, that’s the whole point of community is to feel supported. I can tell you can just keep going. This is awesome and this is why you definitely need to make a course about how to use Facebook specifically groups the right way. Go to coursecreatorcommunity.net and check out more about Jono. I did want to ask you before we sign off here.
You did mention something about getting leads out of other people’s Facebook groups without being spammy or getting kicked out or whatever. How do you do that? What do you recommend?
Jono Petrohilos: Yes. Well, I’ve got a whole heap of different strategies there as well.
Christ Badgett: What’s your best one?
Jono Petrohilos: I would say the best one or the one at least to start with is collaborating with the group owner. This is a perfect example of you and me.
Christ Badgett: Like you’re doing right now?
Jono Petrohilos: I’ll give an example. Chris, I check my Facebook group this time last week and I’ve got like 10 new friend requests in an hour. I’m like, what the hell? And then I checked it. One of my questions is, where did you hear about me, it’s Chris Badgett, Chris Badgett, Chris Badgett. What the hell is this? Then I checked my notifications, Chris made a post saying, “Hey, go and check out this guy’s Facebook group.” I’ve now got 10 new people in like an hour. It’s a record.
That’s where we see the perfect example, but I’ll share the overview and then we’ll go from there. I’ve got a podcast and that’s the major reason why I have my podcast is networking. [Inaudible] Well, I guess that’s how I use my podcast for lead gen. It’s not so much to get it number one on Apple, because I’m not good at the podcast stuff. But I’m like, all right, if I want to do a collaboration with Chris, I can’t just hit up in the DM and say, “Do a collaboration with me.” It’s not going to work. He’s probably got heaps of them and he’s going to…
Christ Badgett: You invited me on.
Jono Petrohilos: What’s that? Exactly. I was like, all right, let me get Chris on my podcast.
Christ Badgett: You have an audience of course creators. Hey, you want to come talk to my people? How can I not say yes?
Jono Petrohilos: Made it a win for Chris. Not everyone is going to do what Chris did and make a post in their Facebook group and say, “Join this guy’s Facebook group.” That’s the best one I’ve ever done, so thank you for that. But there’s always going to be variations of that. Most people if they have a podcast will invite you on that podcast, or if they have a Facebook group… And even just prompting. Even if Chris didn’t ask me to be on here, I probably would have hit him up in a couple of weeks.
I would have been like, “Hey, Chris. Out of curiosity, what could I do to pitch myself as a guest on your podcast?” And then see what he says. Most people say if you’ve done a good… And also, the way I try and work my podcast is to make it as a much of a win for that person as possible because I want to make it about them, and then that increases my chances of them having me on either their podcast or if they’ve got a Facebook group can be live… By the way, Chris, do you ever do like live streams in your Facebook group?
Would you mind if I did one or if we could do one? I won’t sell anything. I just want to give value to your people there. Most people are cool with that there.
Christ Badgett: You should totally do a live stream in my Facebook group. I love to see members make content. I know you’re going to make useful content because you’re helping course creators. I do got to wrap it up, Jono. Was there one more thing you were going to say there?
Jono Petrohilos: Well, I was just going to add onto that as well. Then you sort of got options. Once you’re friends with the group admin, then everything becomes a lot easier. It can be a matter of, hey, do you want to do a lead magnet swap? Or also the person will feel less threatened. If I was to go and interact in Chris’ group now, he knows that I’ll do just as much to promote him as possible, so he won’t feel threatened if I’m answering in there or whatever.
But if I hadn’t collaborated with the group admin, they maybe, “Oh, who is this? He’s also got a course creator group. Ban him there.” I think the good first step is do a collaboration with the group admin, and the easiest way to do that is make it a win for that person first. The podcast is the easiest way to do it. It doesn’t have to be a… [Inaudible] The easiest I think is start a podcast. Connect with heavy hitters. Get them on your podcast without any expectation of return, and then it will probably come back.
That’s the easiest base one to do. And if you do it properly, you do a podcast every week, get someone else on a guest, and it’ll waterfall on. Next week, I’ve got another podcast with… I don’t know if you know Melody Johnson. She’s got another course creator podcast. The week after that, I’m with John Ainscow. He’s got another one. All these podcasts I did the weeks ago, it’s coming back in return now. And then I’m going to hit those people up in about a month’s time and say, “Hey, do you want to do a lead magnet swap?”
It’s a bit of work at the start, but then it just becomes this waterfall and you’ve just got a bunch of people that you can collab with.
Christ Badgett: I can’t wait to see the course about this. I’m buying it. This is Jono Petrohilos. His Facebook group and his podcast is called Course Creator Community. Jono, it’s great to connect again, and I want to thank you for coming on the show. Is there any final thing for the people listening or watching of how they can connect with you?
Jono Petrohilos: Whatever platform you use, type Course Creator Community in there. I’ll pop up something. You’ll probably get a DM from my assistant just saying, “Hey, join the Facebook group.” No matter what platform you join on, it leads back to the Facebook group.
Christ Badgett: Awesome. Thanks so much, Jono. And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning. Keep taking action. And I’ll see you in the next episode.