This episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is about how to sell and manage courses plus coaching with LifterLMS Private Areas. In this episode Chris is interviewed in this episode by Ali Mathis, and Ali is a part of the LifterLMS team. Ali and Chris discuss the new LifterLMS Private Areas add-on, and they get into the nitty-gritty details of how you can use it to engage your students and offer a customizable way of monitoring your students’ progress.
In this episode you will learn about the Private Areas add-on recently released for the LifterLMS plugin. Ali and Chris talk about what the add-on is, who it is for, and what it has to offer for you and your customers. Ali and Chris also get into the origin of Private Areas and where the idea came from.
The Private Areas add-on is something that emerged out of the community of customers and people using LifterLMS. A member of the WordPress community, Chris Lema, was talking about the need for coaches to have a private page per student per course to serve as personal content, in addition to the lessons in the course that everyone goes through.
Private Areas allows you to sell your base course for a specific dollar amount, and then have a more expensive course from the same website that includes coaching. We floated the idea of Private Areas around in our Facebook group, and a lot of people said they wanted it. So we set development on it into motion. If you haven’t joined our Facebook group, you’re welcome to join it here. Private Areas also allows you to integrate a tiered pricing model into your course or membership site.
Private Areas allows you to create private posts per student. It also works with memberships, where you can create a private post or series of posts for each member in the membership. You can also build a series of posts in advance and have those trickle out automatically when somebody enrolls in your course.
In today’s world, focus and holding someone’s attention can be difficult with all of the distractions out there online. So having the ability to send specific messages to students directly through your course is optimal compared to sending them messages through Facebook or email. Talking to your students directly about their projects will also help them finish your course and find success in their endeavor.
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Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined with a special guest, Ali Mathis from the LifterLMS team. How are you doing, Ali?
Ali Mathis: Good, Chris. How are you doing today?
Chris Badgett: Doing good. We’re going to turn the tables. I’m not going to be the interviewer today. I’m going to be interviewed by Ali about our new product, Private Areas. Ask me anything, Ali.
Ali Mathis: I’m pretty excited. Can you start by telling us a little bit about Private Areas, Chris? What is it? Who’s it for? How did the team get the idea to build Private Areas?
Chris Badgett: Great question. Private Areas really is something that emerged out of our community, our customers, the people using the LifterLMS software. Specifically, somebody named Chris Lema was talking about the need for coaches specifically to have a private page per student per course. It’s like personal content in addition to the lessons and the course that everybody goes through en mass. This was a really interesting concept. Chris had been talking about it for a while.
We floated the idea by our Facebook group. If you haven’t joined that, just go to Facebook groups and do a search for LifterLMS VIP and you’ll find it. People were really interested. They were really interested in the idea of offering coaching in addition to courses. Either that’s how the program was structured, or it was like an upsell where you could, let’s say, for example, have a hundred-dollar course, but then have a thousand-dollar course plus personalized coaching offer from the same website.
People just got really interested in the idea and lots of people said they wanted it, so we created it. We rolled it out. If you’re listening to this, it’s already live. You can go check it out on LifterLMS.com. It’s also an advanced add-on and therefore included in the Infinity Bundle. That’s what it is. It’s basically the ability to create private posts per student per course, and it also works with LifterLMS memberships where you can create a private post or a series of posts for each member in a membership.
Also, one of the really neat things we snuck in there, another feature that you can do is you can actually build an automation or series of posts in advance and have those trickle out based on when somebody enrolls in a course. To better describe that, let’s say you offer a course plus coaching, but you know that your private posts, you’ve developed a system and a routine you run through with your clients, so you create those private posts in advance. This one rolls out on week one. This one rolls out on week two. This one rolls out on week three. It can be personalized with the person’s name in it and stuff like that. It’s a automated sequence that you go through as a coach and mentor or teacher every time with each individual student.
I can get into more details of how to use private posts too.
Ali Mathis: Before we go into more details about that, just from a big picture level, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about or ask you a little bit about why somebody would want to use Private Areas instead of, say, just sending an email with information or an email with an assignment. What’s the benefit to Private Areas in that respect?
Chris Badgett: One of the most precious resources in today’s world is focus and attention. If you do your private coaching outside of your platform, whether that’s in Facebook or email, there’s an opportunity for attention to get distracted. It’s really important. If you are doing a coaching program, there’s nothing wrong with sending personalized emails to your customers, but why not bring them back to your site instead of their inbox to receive that private content? It’s more of an integrated platform solution, as opposed to stringing together different apps to make it happen.
There is a time and a place, like as a coach or consultant, for using other tools, let’s say something like Zoom to record a private coaching session that’s part of your offer, but you can then record those videos and then perhaps put that replay video inside somebody’s private area. That’s something that they can come back to over and over again, and it doesn’t get lost in just the email inbox and gets deleted. It can stay there. There can also be further, deeper private conversations below that private post so that it’s not just a static piece of content, it’s also a conversation.
Ali Mathis: Just, again, from a big picture level, to me it seems like adding private areas to your courses as a coach opens up an opportunity to have different tiered pricing and maybe a bigger revenue stream, essentially charging more for courses that offer private areas. Is that what you envision in terms of a business model for coaches and teachers that are using Private Areas?
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. There’s no question that if you give somebody personalized attention … Because not all human beings are exactly the same. Some people get stuck in different places or have different challenges or have different starting points. Think about it. If you were to publish a book, or think about some of your favorite books, what if that book author was also creating private content just for you and your unique situation? That’s super valuable, and that’s why if you add private coaching to your education products, it does require more of your time, but it becomes a lot more valuable, especially in the service of the results, that you promise to have that private individualized learning opportunity.
Ali Mathis: Cool. Let’s get into a little bit more of the nitty-gritty details here about how you can use Private Areas. You’ve written a couple of really great blog posts about it. You touched on the first one already, which is re-posting a link to a recorded training call. Is there anything more you wanted to say about that one?
Chris Badgett: I would just say that’s a pretty easy one to add. If you are doing your course … I’m not necessarily a big fan of lifetime access, especially for coaches, because in the “real world” a lot of our best learning experiences and coaching opportunities are not lifelong partnerships like marriages or family bonds or something like that. Some of the coaching that happens in life and learning experiences that happen in life go over a specific period of time with a specific group of people at a specific stage in their life, business, relationship, whatever.
If I were to offer a course that’s promising some kind of fitness result, like we like to use the example of helping somebody to learn how to run their first marathon, it’s really a four-month program. Yeah, I might give you lifetime access, but the training is really the four-month training program, including private coaching. I could publish those videos, like my private coaching calls, to see how the training runs are going, see if we got any injuries we need to deal with, and things of that nature, but it’s really for a specific period of time just leading up to that very first marathon race for that person.
Ali Mathis: Got you. Cool. Let’s talk about some of the other examples you’ve touched upon in some of your blog posts. One that you’ve talked about a lot is publishing a personalized action plan for your students. Can you dive a little bit deeper into that one and give me some examples, real-world examples of how that would work with Private Areas?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Personalized action plans are one of my favorite ways, and least scary ways, to add some kind of personalized coaching or element to your course. The reason it’s not scary is coaching, you think, like, “Oh, I’m going to be on the hook for monthly, weekly calls forever, for a specific period of time,” whereas an action plan is really specific. It might be I have a course on how to … Let’s say it’s a business training course on how to grow your business from the six-figure to seven-figure mark. My course is great, has lots of great content and information and ideas in it, exercises that you’re supposed to do and steps you’re supposed to take, but I know not all six-figure businesses are exactly the same and have exactly the same challenges or starting point. If you’re at $100,000 a year or $500,000 a year, the course may be relevant, but your starting point is a little bit different and the strategy to get to the seven-figure mark might be completely different.
If my course is great, I do some kind of needs assessment where they fill out a form and get some key metrics as a teacher that helps me understand where they’re at and what their blocks are. Then I can develop a personalized action plan for that specific customer that takes into account some of the nuances of their exact situation. That’s how I would use Private Areas in that case. Let’s say that’s all that’s offered, it’s the course plus a personalized action plan. You see this sometimes in the fitness industry. Someone will create a custom workout plan or a custom diet plan in addition to just the general training.
Ali Mathis: With Private Areas, is it all or nothing? For example, if you have one course, can you offer Private Areas to some students and not others?
Chris Badgett: Yes. All your courses could also include Private Areas if you structure your learning opportunity that way, or some courses could offer that and others would not, or memberships. I would say the most common way I see people starting to use it is they have a course that’s more passive in nature, but then the course-plus-coaching, which is powered by Private Areas, is an upsell and it costs a lot more than the course. I see the course, I like to describe it as a do-it-yourself more kind of learning experience, where the course-plus-coaching is more of a done-with-you learning experience.
Ali Mathis: Certain students could choose the upsell, and certain students could keep the base package if they wanted.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. It could be a question of budget and what people could afford, or just what’s the best fit for that person at that time. Maybe the course by itself is enough, or maybe they really need the individualized attention.
Ali Mathis: Another example we’ve talked about in the past is publishing a form to collect information or assignments from your students. My questions to you about that are how is that different than just doing that in the general course without private areas, using Gravity Forms?
Chris Badgett: You could accept put a form in your lesson content, like in a regular course, but the place where it gets interesting with Private Areas is that it’s not just the private post, which could be content, it can be videos, images, text, audios, forms, downloads. It can be all kinds of things. But the private area is also the conversation below that piece of content. If you have a form in a private area where the student is submitting very personal, sensitive, private business information, first of all, they’re going to feel much more comfortable knowing it’s in their private area.
Then, second of all, once you receive that information, it just makes sense to follow up either directly below that form with a conversation with the student about the data points they just submitted through the form or the uploads or the photographs or whatever, or create a new private post that’s a next step in the process. But in a lot of learning situations in life, business, and relationships, privacy is critical for some sensitive matters, so it’s all part of that. It’s that privacy element and it’s also the conversation below the content.
Ali Mathis: Can you give some specific examples of the kinds of information somebody might want to collect in a form?
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Ali Mathis: [crosstalk 00:13:56]
Chris Badgett: In the business world it might be revenue metrics, team size, marketing strategies currently being used. It could be cash flow economics or profitability metrics. In the fitness industry it might be things about weight, calories, nutrition, exercise numbers, those kinds of things. In relationships it could be something really personal, like, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you with your marriage?” and those kinds of … Like, “How many time a month do you do something with your spouse that’s just the two of you?” These kinds of things. If you have a relationship course, you need to assess where your people are at.
There’s always a spectrum. It’s not black and white. You may have a customer avatar that’s called your ideal prospect or student that’s a good fit for your course, but what the reality is is what happens is you may think about that one person as you create content and stuff like that, but you’re actually going to attract a spectrum of people that are not necessarily all the same.
Ali Mathis: Right. That makes sense. This one is my favorite, which is the Private Areas really allows you to publish personalized messages encouraging your students, but what I wanted to talk to you about are some of the challenges around making sure students finish their course, because that’s the teacher’s and the coach’s ultimate goal, and how Private Areas can maybe help improve that course completion, conversion ratio.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s a great one. One of the things that makes a learning management system a higher level than a traditional online course or membership site — and LifterLMS can handle all scenarios, online courses, membership sites, and the needs of a learning management system — but one of those LMS pieces is reporting. People who have a LifterLMS site can look at the reporting. They can even set up notifications that go out to the teacher or the coach if somebody passes or fails a certain quiz. You can just go in there and look at the reporting and see if somebody stalled out. You can look at the group of people in a particular course or people who joined on a certain date or whatever and you can look at their completion rate.
What happens in the online education industry, especially since it can be so anonymous — which Private Areas is a big counterintuitive way to attack that problem, it’s not very anonymous — you can see how people are doing and you can reach out to them and you can connect with them. I like to think of it this way. If somebody’s doing really good or really bad, by creating a private post for them it’s almost like giving them a personal card, but it’s a digital format. It could be like, “Amazing job on lesson five.” Or, like, “Is there anything I can do to help?” could be a private post that goes out if you notice somebody stalled out at lesson three and appears to not be engaging anymore. They’re going to get an email notification about that.
It puts the responsibility … It’s of course up to the student. Sometimes the teacher will just shed all that responsibility, like, “Look, my course is amazing. It’s up to them. They just have to do the work.” But I believe in shared responsibility. I believe that it’s also the teacher’s responsibility not only to make a great course, but also, if things aren’t working out for their students that are especially buying the program, it’s up to them to improve it. Maybe that involves a little human interaction and some private posts to help nurture when things aren’t going well and celebrate successes when they are going well.
Ali Mathis: Yeah. If I’m a current LifterLMS customer, what do I do if I want to try out or purchase Private Areas? Is it compatible with all versions of Lifter? Where would you tell people to start if they love what they hear and aren’t sure what to do next?
Chris Badgett: If this sounds interesting, if you think coaching and mentoring and potentially adding that business model spike that you can do in terms of revenue based on offering coaching in addition to courses, if this sounds interesting to you, I would encourage you to head on over to LifterLMS.com and check out Private Areas in the store. It is an advanced addon. It can be purchased by itself. You do need to have I believe it’s LifterLMS 3.11. You’ll need to be at least at that version to use Private Areas. You can just update LifterLMS, the core software itself, and then grab Private Areas.
What a lot of people do is they actually get Private Areas as part of the Infinity Bundle, which includes all the products made by LifterLMS, all the design tools and third-party integrations in the Universe Bundle, and also the advanced addons that are in the Infinity Bundle and continuing to be added as time goes on there.
Ali Mathis: Just from a little bit more of a technical level, say I’m a Lifter customer and I purchase Private Areas and I upload the plugin. Then what happens? Does it just appear? Do I have to activate it? What are my next steps to use it?
Chris Badgett: All you have to do is upload it just like a regular plugin, activate it, and then you’re going to get a new little menu item in your WordPress area called Private Posts.
Ali Mathis: Got you.
Chris Badgett: It’s from there you can start creating them. Then, I would encourage people, if you want to get into the automation thing and setting up a series of private posts that roll out automatically, you can do that, but maybe just start with take your course and add a second access plan that includes coaching. Give it a higher price, whatever makes sense to you. Then, when people buy through that access plan you can start creating private posts for them or whatever you promise in your coaching offer.
Ali Mathis: If you get stuck when you’re uploading Private Areas, I know this is a softball question, but I’m assuming you can just contact support and the Lifter team will help you?
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Yeah, if you listen to this and you haven’t used Lifter yet, it does a lot of different things, and the team is here for you. You can just log in to your account on LifterLMS.com, and if you have any questions or get stuck in any way, the team is standing by to help.
Ali Mathis: Cool.
Chris Badgett: There’s a whole support system ready for that. That’s just part of what we do. We know that learning new software takes time. Sometimes you don’t know where everything is and you have questions, and we’re here for the community.
Ali Mathis: Awesome. Thanks, Chris. Thanks for answering all my questions.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Thanks for putting me in the hot seat, Ali. I really appreciate it. It was fun to-
Ali Mathis: I like it. We should do it again.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, we should do it. Thanks so much for doing this. For those of you out there listening, go check out Private Areas at LifterLMS.com. Thanks so much, Ali.
Ali Mathis: Yeah. See you, Chris. Thanks.