Welcome to the Summit Evergreen Authority Interview Series!
This recurring interview series invites experienced product and course creators into Summit Evergreen to share their advice and hard-won experience with you, along with tips and tricks to identify, launch, and grow your course! We’re always looking for advice and resources to make your courses better and help your students succeed.
For this episode, we invited these authorities to answer a question that we see experienced, intermediate, and beginning course creators run into:
For someone who is looking to get a jumpstart on launching or marketing a product or course, what’s something you’d recommend they get started with today?
Let’s take a look at what these authorities had to say!
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My book, Just Fucking Ship. Natch! But seriously, I wrote and started selling the first version in 24 hours. You can learn a ton from my (free) live blogging on the topic:
Brennan Dunn is an agency owner turned bootstrapper and product creator. His best selling course, Double Your Freelancing Rate is trusted by over 5,000 freelancers.
Start pushing out free content, and aggressively encourage people to opt-in for even better, more valuable content. An easy win is a blog post -> email course -> call-to-action for paid course funnel. This has worked incredibly well for my business.
But even if you don’t have a paid course ready to go, or even an email course, writing and encouraging people who read your work to talk to you will teach you a lot about what people are looking for, and the pain points they have.
Sean is an entrepreneur and designer in Chicago who writes about web design and front end development. His book, Sketching With CSS teaches you how to use the CSS Flexbox Module to get exactly the layout you want.
Market research. You should have plenty of examples of people struggling with something that you are going to help them fix before you start your course or product. For my Angular course, I have hundreds of clips in Evernote of people struggling with difficult concepts in Angular. I’ve tailored my course to help those people.
Ruben is the founder of Bidsketch, proposal software and proposal templates.
Take one action to see if one of the assumptions you’re making on your product is right. This test should be something small you can do within a day. Keep it simple and make sure you’ll learn something from it, but the key is to take the right type of action. I think people overthink things and end up talking themselves out of making progress.
You should follow Ruben on Twitter.
Produce something small of value, offer it for free, and see if it resonates with people. If you want to self-publish something, you will need an audience to sell it to. Build (and validate!) that audience by giving lots of small things away for free, then create something for them once you’ve hit a subscriber base you think you have a very good chance of profiting from by serving.
You should follow Samuel on Twitter.
Ben Nesvig is a marketer, writer, and the author of the book First World Problems: 101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us.
Something you can (and should) start doing as soon as possible is building your authority and building your email list. This can be done a variety of ways, from creating YouTube videos to podcasting to guest blogging. The right strategy depends on your personality, your strengths and the format of your product.
To build authority, you should look into getting published on niche outlets in the industry you’re targeting. Start by contacting smaller blogs that accept guest posts and pitch them an article that will fit their audience. Then use that credibility to work your way up to larger sites.
By publishing an article that their audience finds valuable as well as including a link at the bottom to subscribe to your list for more great articles, you can build a list while you build your product. When the product is ready, you have an audience to share it with as well as relationships with several sites that will likely be interested in more content from you.
This is a great strategy anyone to use, but especially for people who are starting from zero—no traffic, no subscribers. Instead of the long climb up from zero visitors, leverage the traffic and credibility from other sites to grow a list of people interested in your content.
You should follow Ben on Twitter.
Rob Cubbon is an Amazon bestselling author, online teacher, graphic designer and all-round good guy who wants freedom for you and success for your business.
I would advise everyone to build a branded authority website or blog and collect email addresses there.
It’s great making money on Udemy, Amazon or on whatever platform but you also need to be building an asset that you have control over. You have no control over Udemy or Amazon and one day they could change the rules and leave you with no income.
With an email list you can guarantee sales at certain times. So you can show the platforms like Udemy or Amazon that your products sell and, because of that, you are more likely to be promoted by the platform. Companies like Udemy or Amazon will only promote products that are already selling.
And don’t lock yourself away to work on your products in isolation. Do it in the open. Share your product ideas, synopses, videos and text with your audience and get early interest and feedback.
You can read Rob’s writing on his website, sign up for his course on how to build a list of customers, and follow Rob on Twitter.
Just is the host of the Product People podcast and is passionate about building products that delight customers.
Run a free online workshop on the topic you’ve chosen, and see if you can convince people to sign-up. If you can convince people to attend your online workshop, there’s a good chance they’d pay you for a more in-depth course.
You can read Justin’s email newsletter where he writes about building software and digital products.
Nathan Powell is the founder of Nusii, proposal software for creative professionals.
Start connecting with people. No matter what your skill set, the more folks you have on-side before launch, the better.
A referral from a trusted friend can mean far more than any marketing tactic. So connect with people. They can help you spread the word, give moral support and even become your most devote customers.
It won’t hurt to have a couple of influencers in your circles either.
Bonus tip. Find yourself a mastermind group. Few people understand the emotions and stress that building a product can cause. Being around people who face similar problems can be all you need to keep you moving in the right direction. It worked for me…
Josh is the founder of baremetrics, stripe analytics and metrics.
Talk to potential customers. And I literally mean talk. Like, on the phone. Have a conversation. Listen. Take notes. Don’t sell them. Just learn what pains they have. Figure out what things are getting in their way. Look for things you can help with that solve and completely remove those pains.
You’ll find out quickly exactly what product to create and how to market it.
It’s easy to get nervous and chicken out on doing this, but having real, actual phone calls is essential.
Paul Jarvis is a best selling author who creates simple, meaningful things — like best-selling books, courses, and websites for creative people. His online class, The Creative Class, helps freelancers master the details of being a one-person business.
Audience building. Selling a course or product is great, but regardless of how good it is – people need to know about it and about you. You can’t sell to people that don’t know who you are, don’t trust your expertise or haven’t seen your name before. So outreach, connections, networking and content creation is as important that what it is you’ve built or are building. You can’t wait to do that until after you launch, otherwise you’ll be launching to crickets.
You can read Paul’s writing on his website or sign up for his weekly articles about freelancing, creativity, and life’s ponderings.
I always write my marketing pages ahead of time, in a plain text editor. Keeping things in Markdown forces me to focus on what I have to offer, and it makes me ensure that I have put together something great that will persuade the reader to work with me.
Get into the habit of writing on a daily/weekly basis. No matter what type of course you plan to create (written, video, audio, etc.), you’ll have to do plenty of writing for it.
Also, start building your email list and audience yesterday. Write and teach the same topics on your blog and newsletter as you plan to in your course to begin attracting the right audience.
Read everything that Amy Hoy & Alex Hillman have written. They have tons of actionable advice on unicornfree.com – give it a shot.
Take action. You have to try lots of stuff. Most of it won’t work. You get more value from learning, and the unpredictable outcomes of your actions, than you do from achieving specific objectives. Achieving objectives matters only because doing so generates valuable outcomes.
Jane Portman is an independent UI designer and consultant from Russia. She helps software businesses make more money with strategic design.
Get the word out first. Put up a basic landing page, start collecting emails, start talking to people. Your potential customers will help you build something that they need. While your friends will help you stay motivated.
And the most important part. Your initial passion is a rocketship fuel. Make good use of it. Ship fast. Ship often. And good luck!
Virginia is an Online Dating Consultant in Seattle, Washington where she’s working on an online course on online dating.
Make an outline of what you want to cover. I found that jotting down the actual material to be taught was more effective at moving the process forward than any other single action I took.
Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.
Writing. When you want to sell on the internet, you need to be able to write: Good content, compelling copy, and engaging emails.
Your writing needs to be so good that it converts people (into becoming subscribers on your email list, into paying customers, etc). Writing is a learned skill – the more you write, the better you get. Once you have started writing and no longer hate it (and only then), get yourself a book (e.g. from CopyHackers) about writing great copy.
Ned is the CEO of Elto, a curated marketplace of developers and marketers helping small business grow online.
I would put together a list of 50 ideas on how you might promote the product or course. Don’t stop until you have 50.
Rack your brains thinking of ideas on how you can promote it, Google how other people promoted their products etc.
They don’t need to be completely detailed promotional ideas, they can just be a single line to act as a placeholder. It could be things like “Write guest blog post and pitch to three blogs” or “Reach out to influential person X and offer free product for review”. Things like that.
Once you’ve got this list you can rank the ideas based on how much traffic or revenue you think each idea might be able to bring you.
This is a great way to start thinking about promoting your content, even before you start working on it. It helps you to focus your energies on the most impactful ideas and when you’re ever in a moment of uncertainty about what to do next you can refer back to this as a handy guide on how you’re going to launch this thing out of the gates.
The good news is we rarely have to start completely from scratch. By that I mean you may be able to build on writing or content you’ve already created and begin to repackage and repurpose that into a product. That’s how the VA book started, and then it was a matter of filling in the gaps with new material to round out the work.
If you truly don’t have any material, start a daily blogging or writing habit. I set a target of 500 words a day on the subject matter you want to cover and begin building out your “library” of content and resources. Even if no one reads it now, it can eventually serve as the foundation for your product or course down the road.
Karol is an entrepreneur and product creator who specializes in writing and strategizing email autoresponder sequences.
Sell it first. Let’s take a random example. Let’s say you’re really good at designing logos and want to teach other designers how to build a logo design business. Instead of creating the course and hoping someone wants to buy it, go sell a few designers on the course and actively create it to their needs. Then when you launch you’ll have testimonials and you’ll have created the course people want instead of the course you wanted to create. (They could, of course, be exactly the same, but there’s only one way to find that out.)
Build relationships with people who will help you sell it! The single hardest thing is distribution. Start working on it today. I was able to leverage relationships I’d built up over years to distribute my first info product and that was invaluable. Networking is really underrated.
I know it’s not “automated” and it’s not lead generation and inbound marketing, and you should do that stuff too, but networking is so so so valuable.
Aside from that you could start getting into the habit of writing. Blogging is really hard, and building an audience is really hard. Practice makes perfect (I’m still practicing 😉
Jonathan Stark is a mobile software consultant who helps big brands thrive in the post-PC era.
Pre-orders. Offer a pre-release discount to your audience for a product that you have not yet created. For example, ping your list with a message like “Hey there! I’m going to release a 10-part video series entitled ’Baking the Perfect Pie’ on October 15th. You can pre-order it now at a huge 50% discount.” Much to your delight (and perhaps, horror), some people will actually give you their money in advance. These pre-orders will give you incentive to work on the project every day, the confidence that there actually is a market, and provide a hard deadline for the release (perfect or not).
Glenn Stovall is the creator of the Freelance Pricing Handbook and provides metrics-driven business and software design.
I would recommend building your mailing list, and start building a relationship with that list. Even if you have just 20 people, you have 20 interested parties that you have conversations with any time you want. Communication and understand your target market is key. And if you want to kickstart your list and get some practice, think of something you could put together in a day or two and offer it for free as an incentive to get people to sign up.
Find out what your audience wants. Is there a niche subject matter that you know that people often talk about or think about but that nobody’s covered? Or that nobody’s covered very much? The world is constantly changing, and there are constantly new areas being opened up that no one has written about. What can you contribute that is new and useful?
Neville is a Kopywriter who teaches people how to write like you speak and sell like hell.
Building up SOME sort of audience or email list. If you’re a nobody who randomly comes out with an HTML5 course….it’s unlikely you’ll get too many sales right away. But if you start participating in some HTML5 communities, or HTML newbie hangouts, or starting a Facebook Group, or building an email list audience…..then when you release the course you’ll have some built-in customers ready to go.
Kurt Elster is the founder of Ethercycle and one-half of the Unofficial Shopify Podcast. His productized service, Website Rescues helps eCommerce store owners turn their Shopify stores into a revenue generating machine for their business.
Find a group of like-minded professionals and friends to help you. Bounce ideas off of them, and most importantly, have them hold you accountable. A mastermind group is a great way to accomplish this, but if you can’t find one to join, I’ve seen forums and even Facebook groups achieve similar results for their members.
You read Kurt’s writing on his website, sign up for Kurt’s course on making your website better on his website, or follow Kurt on Twitter.
Thanks for reading! Does someone stand out from these responses? Do you see a common thread in what these product creators did (or didn’t) do to get started? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
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