This is a guest post from Stefan Lubinski.
Recently I was working with two clients who are both developing what some people call a platform or community; a place to develop an audience in a specific industry or niche, deliver high value and offer products or services to that audience. Typically those are courses and coaching services.
The Market for Online Courses is Massive
This is, of course, big business these days. The online course business alone is over $200 Billion with a B in 2020 (and set to expand due to COVID)! So it makes sense that leaders within a specific industry or niche and would-be-entrepreneurs would be attracted to the business model.
Here’s the problem, I explained to my clients. First, there are literally a ton of courses out there to begin with. So the ability to stand out in a sea of courses and promises is largely dependent on how much budget you can allocate to ad spend or how different your offer appears in the marketplace.
Despite every author, trainer, coach and course creator’s belief that their system is so unique that it will stand out, I assure you that’s not the case. For those that don’t already know, like or trust you, your course is just one of many that bombard their social feeds daily. I know because I think I see just about every one of them. (Facebook and Instagram must think all I do is take courses!)
But here is the real dirty secret.
ONLINE COURSES DON’T WORK!
Sorry, I really did need to yell that one in all caps.
Now before I qualify the FACT that online courses are a failure, let me make something quite clear. I am NOT saying that all course creators are charlatans or that all course material sucks.
Not at all!
In fact I personally can attest to courses that were painstakingly developed and included incredible training.
Why Online Courses Don’t Work (for the Student, at Least)
But here is the ugly truth. Less than 2 out of 10 people actually finish any given course!
Depending which report you review the stats for completion are somewhere between 5% and 15%. I know of no academic grading system that 5% or 15% (or 50% for that matter) is a passing grade.
So by definition, online courses are a failure.
Or are they? I guess it depends how you are measuring success.
If you are measuring success by the standard of how many of the customers who purchased the course achieved the goal of completion (let alone the implementation which was the whole point in the first place), then you have a failure. Plain and simple.
If, however the measure of success was the profitability to the course creator, well that might be a completely different outcome.
Many Course Creators Care Deeply About Their Students
I knew, however that both of these clients of mine do actually care – a lot – about their members crossing the actual finish line.
One of my clients is an entrepreneur who runs 4 businesses and was inspired to create a platform where women who would like to be independent business owners can find a plug-and-play system to launch their own. She is less interested in what her clients learn than in what they accomplish towards opening their business.
In her mind there is only one measure of success: that each woman who commits to the system ends up open for business.
My other client works with mortgage and real estate professionals and he helps them become locally famous by training them how to make engaging and value-based videos and then implementing some pretty strategic (and not well known) Facebook syndication strategies to get them tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of views in their local markets.
He too only cares that they arrive at the destination.
The measure of success is not that they learned anything but that they output videos consistently and then follow the step-by-step instructions on Facebook to yield the kind of view and engagement results they are looking for.
So to both of these clients I made the following suggestion:
Don’t sell a course! Don’t create a course!
Don’t sell learning!
Sell the destination. Then get them there!
Instead of a Course, Get Your Students Directly to RESULTS
American Airlines does not market the flight to Hawaii by showing you the cramped seats you will be squeezed into, or the temperature you can’t control, or the horrible snacks they call food these days. They don’t sell you on the “experience” of flying, because they know it sucks!
They sell you on the destination! The ad shows where you will be when the flight is over. The sand, the sea, the tranquility. They sell you where you are trying to go, not the process that got you there.
So I advised my clients to focus on the destination and the tools and a new paradigm to get them there.
Then I had an idea! An Aha! Moment.
A New Style of Learning
Two weeks before my client meetings I had just been introduced to the CEO of a SaaS platform called Flowster. Trent Dyrsmid is well known in the Amazon e-commerce world and a consummate entrepreneur. He builds systems and software to solve his own problems and then realizes the potential to bring those solutions to the marketplace. He is also a seasoned podcaster with years of creating the Bright Ideas Podcast.
Trent and I were connected because he developed a hands-off appointment scheduling system using a VA (virtual assistant) and a small tech stack, including his own system in Flowster and wanted feedback from a coach/consultant if they thought this system might work for them – uh, duh!
Flowster in a nutshell is an online workflow/checklist platform on steroids.
Basically you can create an incredibly detailed, step-by-step procedure that includes any sort of supporting explanation media (print, pdf, video, links, etc.). The idea is simple. Once you have crafted a detailed explanation of what to do and how to do it, you hand it off to someone and they simply work their way down the checklist. By the time they check off that last box, the project or task is complete.
See below for a sample workflow for how to get press for your business.
Unlike a course, once you’ve worked through a checklist, it is not the learning that is complete, but the actual task or project that is finished!
When I was training mortgage professionals in the early 2000’s I would remind them that no one really wants a mortgage – they want the house!
No one wants a refi, they want to be out of debt or to buy that new boat.
Sell the destination and get them there!
So that was my Aha! Moment. Don’t sell a course. Don’t create a course.
Forget learning! Sell the destination and get them there!
Courses vs Checklists
Create workflows and instead of teaching people what to do, walk them through actually getting the tasks done as they go.
Imagine being able to say in the welcome video to your new client “Before we get started, I want you to scroll all the way down to the bottom and look at that last check mark on the lower left side.
You see that box?
When you get to the point that you get to click that box… you’re open for business. You have launched. You did it!”
Imagine how believable and motivating and exciting it will be for that client to know that all they have to do is work their way down the workflow, with each step painstakingly explained, and they will arrive at their destination.
Checklists Help You to COMPLETE Tasks WHILE You’re Learning
I think selling workflows instead of courses is a game changer. Sell the destination and now, with Flowster’s help, you can get them there!
Am I saying that this shift in lens, approach and platform will produce 100% completion rates? Hardly. But I am confident and encouraged that we can start with a passing grade.
The truth is the bar is not that high. If you get 50% of your clients to complete your training you are crushing the industry standard. But even then, that is not a fair comparison, because with this procedure-based system when you complete a checklist, you’ve completed implementation.
When you complete a traditional training course, the implementation hasn’t even begun.
Want to Know If This Might Work for You?
If you are a coach, consultant or course creator and you are intrigued by how you can create a Workflow/Procedure based program to help get your clients to their destination, I would love to personally share more of my thoughts about the strategic advantages.
If you are a coach or consultant and want to talk to me about how a VA & Flowster can change your life I would love to tell you how easy it is to get to that destination. (Hint: You don’t even need to worry about finding or training the VA.)
You can access my calendar here.
If you are intrigued about Flowster but don’t want to talk to me (although I am a lot of fun to talk to) you can get a FREE account here.
In case you were wondering, all of the Flowster links use my affiliate code, but you’ll still have the option for a free account. Should you decide you want to go pro, I will be rewarded for the introduction. So, thank you.