Head of Partnerships
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Did you know that mastering Course Marketing doesn’t have to be complex?
To show you, we’ve interviewed three Course Marketing experts to give you their opinion and viewpoint on how to be successful with Course Marketing.
From scaling to fine tuning, we hope you enjoy this deep dive.
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When it comes to Course Marketing, there are only a few people we turn to for amazing advice that works across the board for different goals.
Whether you’re in SaaS, eCommerce, or lead gen, you’ll be excited to learn that the recipes this expert will share will all help you hit your goals faster.
In Order Of The Guests Below:
Alexa Hubley: Principal @ Alexa Hubley
Alexa is a speaker and marketing leader who thrives on building relevant, thoughtful lifecycle marketing campaigns. Her experience includes developing and executing full-funnel marketing strategies; team leadership; project management; email automation and nurturing (Pardot, Intercom, Hubspot, Customer.io); demand generation; content creation for landing pages, emails, ebooks, white papers, blog posts, videos and more; social media marketing; user research; and data analysis.
“Influencers talking about you is going to be 10x more effective.”
Nuggets Dropped x34
Len Markidan: CMO @ Podia
Len specializes in helping businesses solve complex marketing challenges to build credibility, trust and influence in their market (and yes, make more money). He’s done it for clients that range from early-stage SaaS startups (Groove, Pricelock) to high-growth companies (Chegg, Jet.com, Healthline) to Fortune 50/500 organizations (Prudential, Mutual of Omaha).
“Pinning the right idea is vital for a successful course launch”
Nuggets Dropped x55
Matt Cooper: CEO @ Skillshare
Matt has been the CEO of Skillshare, a community-driven platform for online learning and professional development, for over two and a half years. Along with being the CEO at other companies such as Visually, he’s also served on the Board of Directors at companies like YunoJuno and Skillshare. He’s a Six Sigma Black Belt and a pro at making any company (especially an e-course company) profitable.
“1-2 classes a quarter tends to be the best cadence for teachers.”
Nuggets Dropped x35
Course Marketing Mastery With Alexa Hubley
Johnathan: All right, Alexa! Thanks so much for joining us!
Alexa: Thank you for having me, Jonathan, I was super pumped to be here!
Johnathan: Yeah. For the listeners, we just chatted before we started recording and apparently, we’ve seen each other, but we’ve actually never met in person. So, we’ve been at the same conferences and stuff like that.
But you are the (former) head of marketing at Conversion XL, and I’m really really pumped to hear you talk about course marketing from your experience of the CXL Institute, which I’ve helped you guys, well I guess I’m a small part of it. I’m on the Google Ads portion of it.
So, how did you guys get started when it came to marketing your actual institute?
Alexa: Ah, very good question. So it started long before I joined. I joined CXL, just as an FYI, in January of this year, so I’m still a noob. But it all kinda started with Peep, basically. He’s sort of the brains behind CXL Institute.
And essentially, when it came to marketing the courses, when he started the institute, like it came out of his head that this was something, like a need in the market that we honestly, when it comes to marketing, it’s really hard to keep up with all of the different trends and everything you need to stay on top of.
And I mean, you probably noticed this too, there’s always when you start learning one tool, you find out that you need to learn like 10 more just so you can actually make a difference. So that was the beginning of where CXL Institute came from.
When it came to marketing it, it really was just sort of built around Peep as a brand, because prior to the institute which is only two years old, prior to that, he had really done a good job of building up the brand of Conversion XL as this CRO agency, spot leaders, NCRO, and conversion optimization, and essentially, he was speaking at conferences.
He had like a huge following online. And from there, we just sort of, you know, milked his brand to kick off the institute. We leveraged a lot of partnerships to get our word out there.
And frankly, if you look at all of the instructors online and who teach our courses, they’re a big part of our success, because we choose instructors and people who are well-known practitioners in their space. We choose them to teach our courses.
And frankly, having them, who are also influencers, promote and share our content, it’s sort of like a win-win for us. To get the best of the best to teach the content and then they also share it with their audience, so it kind of, it makes my job easy I guess.
Johnathan: That’s true, no. It is actually funny, so you indirectly just gave us a nugget, because one thing that I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind that you kinda echoed on is that Peep already had an audience. Peep already had a following and for you guys listening, Peep La-ha? is that how you pronounce his last name?
Alexa: Peep Laja.
Johnathan: Laja, fudge!
Alexa: I mean, I’m probably not pronouncing it–
Johnathan: Well, at least I didn’t butcher his first name.
Alexa: Well, I have done that before–
Johnathan: Everybody, everybody has. No, but one thing that I think is so so important, it’s the same thing. So, myself and a guy named Ross Hudgens at Siege Media, they’re an SEO content agency.
We launched a course called Growth Comet, and we did not think that it would be wise to have launched that like three years earlier, because now we’re at the point where we’re getting inquiries of like “Hey, how did you guys do this? How do you guys get to this size? How do you do that?”
And instead of doing consultation one by one, we’re like, well we feel like we have the thought leadership and the credibility right now to be able to do this so that-
So for people listening, one thing I want to make sure is that if you have some kind of obscure thing in regards to what you can teach other people about and nobody else is out there on it, well, for sure, you should go and probably be putting your course together.
But if it’s crowded already, you know, people aren’t dumb. They’re going to look at the ones who have the accolades, the respect already and things like that, too, and it honestly makes it so much easier once you’ve already built something, like Peep has already built something, which is why, in my opinion, CXL Institute is such a success.
Alexa: Yeah, and frankly, you can talk all you want about how amazing your product is or how amazing your courses are when it comes to course marketing, but when you have a customer, or if you have an influencer talk about it, up to their audience on your behalf, that’s gonna be 10 times, 100 times more effective, and so that’s really how we got started.
Johnathan: Yeah, so cool. So, I remember when you guys did in the past, where you kind of did a zoom meeting. You would record it, you would have it on there, and now you guys are getting it more polished.
Now you actually are flying people out, you flew myself out and it was a great experience. What have you guys done beyond the base line, the fundamental of already having subscribers and readership? How did you guys start getting the word out there as you guys made this thing better and better?
Alexa: Yeah, so, obviously in the last year or so, we’ve been really heavily invested in improving the quality of our courses, and that has come from what you said of not putting up live courses.
Because it’s distracting when you watch an instructor answer someone’s question and you’re watching the recording. It’s like watching the recording of a webinar like, oh that’s a weird question that that came up, or I don’t know, they’re saying, “Hi guys” all the time.
So, we wanted to move towards pre-recorded just for better listening and better experience for our customers. But now that we’re sort of moving to this more polished product and moving into creating a better experience, marketing for that has also gotten a little bit more polished and I’d say, more templated.
Prior to us moving towards this more polished experience, our marketing was like, honestly, I mean, I shouldn’t say it’s just prior, because it still is the main lever of our business but basically prior to that, we relied on our blog and visitor traffic, ’cause our blog’s domain ranking is like crazy.
Johnathan: It is.
Alexa: Super popular. And then also, it’s like our email lists. And to this day, those are still our two biggest growth levers for the business for marketing our business. Thanks for the chicken noise.
Yeah, so basically, essentially, our whole business is based upon the blog success and then our email list, and all of the subscribers to that. Without our email list, we’d be dead in the water, and so we take that very very seriously.
And what we do now is actually, when we do do email marketing, we often try not to sell. It’s a weird concept, but our readers are so loyal to the brand and to Peep as a thought leader, that if he just came straight out of the gate, being be like, “Buy this course, buy this course.” It would honestly reduce the value that we’re providing to them because we’re asking, not giving.
So, a lot of the content that we push through email marketing is actually more around thought leadership, and so that really comes through our newsletter.
And so one of the little tactics we’ve added lately is that, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but online, Peep’s been sort of sharing less about, he’s been sharing less of our blog posts and less of our content on his Twitter feed and on LinkedIn.
Instead, he’s just sharing his general thoughts of being a business leader and what we do is we actually put that at the front and center of our newsletter, and it’s getting, it’s improved our engagement so much in the last few months since he just added this small little piece of delight.
That’s like, here’s what’s on his mind this week. It’s not at all relevant. We’re not trying to push any course or content or product related to it, but it’s just something that he’s learning along the way as he builds his business. So, I think just not coming out of the gate and kinda sell, sell, sell, that’s been a really big difference for us in the last few months.
Johnathan: It’s so funny, so, I am like, I feel like I’m Peep’s number one fan. I feel like, sometimes my comments get the most likes off of his shares on LinkedIn. You can ask him, it’s probably true.
But he’s so to the point and direct, and if there’s somebody out there in the marketing world that I have a really deep respect for, it’s him. And true story, there was one time I got an email, and it was a drip of some sort. It might’ve been years ago.
And the subject line of the email was all lowercase, “please respond” as if he was just apathetic, be like, “Come on, dude, like just say something back.” And I was like, it hit me with such a level of guilt that we’ve done so much of that subject line for ourselves too ’cause it worked! Like we get so many more replies from that, so.
But honestly, if Peep said, “Jonathan buy this.” I would be like “Okay, here’s my credit card, take it.” Like, I’m going to buy it right now. And that’s just because, that’s who Peep is, so a whole holistic, you know, it makes everything else that you do so much easier because of who he is and what he’s already done and built, right?
Alexa: And you trust that he’s not gonna just ask you to do something, he’s going to tell you, “You should buy this course because you actually need it.” Because of all those years of equity he’s built up as a brand name.
It’s funny, that whole lowercase subject line, like, that’s just all these other little tactics that we implement which are like, you know, make it look as personal as possible. We try to have our email subject lines be as, not like click-bait by any means, but we don’t want to give it all away.
I find it so easy at this point now to spot a marketing email. So, when he writes something and like, one of the newsletters that I’m obsessed with is “Morning Brew”. Have you ever seen–
Johnathan: No, no.
Alexa: It’s “Morning Brew”. I honestly, it’s funny I’m bragging about them, but I’m like, who actually is the, it’s so hard for me
Johnathan: It’s Peep.
Alexa: To ever remember the name, no!
Johnathan: Peep runs that as a side hustle.
Alexa: Yeah. Well that’s the thing, it’s hard for me to remember the name of the brand, but it’s “Common Bond”, and essentially, their newsletters are like really, really copy and text heavy which ours are as well.
We don’t add any flourishes, really. We hardly ever add imagery, because we don’t want it to feel like we’re marketing to you. And I find that, we’ve looked at their newsletter before too and have been really inspired, and their subject lines are like, very witty often, to the point, but also leave a little bit to be desired which is what we try to emulate.
Johnathan: That’s awesome. Okay, so, do you guys have any different setups when it comes to, I saw you guys’ pay-per-click ad like social ads and things like that in the past too. I don’t know if I see them any more as much. Maybe it’s because I’m an instructor and you’ve excluded me.
But, what, so the blog, would you guys say that that’s like the top of funnel way to get people in for the email subscribers, is that like your strategy there?
Alexa: Yeah, so, it’s one of our channels. Right now, we do do PPC but mostly through search, like through Google Ads.
We do occasional paid social, but we’re actually just kicking that off again, because we trained one of our junior marketers on it and we want her to just like run and go with it, and she’s like, “Oh my god, I’ve never done this before. But sure, you’re just gonna give me a budget. Sure I’ll try it.”
Johnathan: “But I went through the Conversion XL Institute, and now I’m a genius. I can easily do this.”
Alexa: Yeah, exactly! She’s doing the gross marketing mini degree, and we’re like, okay well, you’re doing this, so, you gotta put it into action. So yeah, for top of funnel, obviously the blog is our main driver, but if you’ve ever noticed, we don’t really add a ton of CPAs on the blog.
In fact, it’s like, we do have a few popups on there, which work really well. They’re powered by Exit Intel, which is one of our partners. And yeah, so we fire some popups.
One of the other really effective strategies for us for getting email subscribers who are already on our site, actually, haven’t just been like generic popups, but it’s this idea of a quiz funnel. Have you heard of this before?
Johnathan: Yeah, I’ve, in a really well done way. I have not done it myself, but I’ve seen them. So, tell me.
Alexa: Yeah, so basically the popups that we put on our site are like, we tailor them to the specific sales page or the course page that they’re on, and then we have a quiz around the topic at hand.
So, it’s like, “Test your Google Analytics knowledge” or “Test your conversion optimization knowledge” and then, you know, we essentially get people’s email before they do the quiz. Once they complete the quiz, we then send them their email results over email, and from there we can then cross sell and up sell them on the actual course, so that for us has been a huge driver of email subscribers.
Johnathan: So cool.
Alexa: Yeah, but those are for people on the site, and then again, just to get people to the site, it’s mainly, we’re really focused on Google Ads and search like, SEO efforts.
Johnathan: I wonder if you guys can do that. Let’s say you run some paid social ads and you use Typeform which I know has the, they call it logic jump.
Alexa: Yeah! We do!
Johnathan: Oh, you do? You do the actual quizzes through the ads too?
Alexa: Not yet through paid social, but we do use Typeform, which is funny.
Johnathan: Ahh. Well, maybe you guys can try that, ’cause if it works on the site. The reason why I’m asking is, we’ve had the thought of doing that for, like, you know, “Is your current pay-per-click agency good enough?” Super horrible headline, but spit balling ideas out there.
And then actually taking them through Typeform and then give them the result too, and we were thinking about actually not even gating the results, like, just giving it to them and if they’re open to it, there’s the option to take the next step which is a chat with us, but, really cool to hear that you guys are finding success with that.
Alexa: Yeah, I think that’s a good method too. For us, we just know that our sales cycle comes through our email list, so it’s like, once we get someone’s email, we’ll nurture them like through branded content not like super salesy content. We want to get that gated email, and that’s like a measure of success for us, but that could totally work for you!
Johnathan: Right, no, it’s true. Awesome. Okay, what do you guys do differently from like, middle of funnel to bottom of funnel?
Alexa: Hmm. So, essentially, what we do is, when you think about course marketing, we always kind of work backwards, actually. We work from the bottom of the funnel to the top of funnel. So we usually, every time we launch a course, we prioritize our current customers and so we’ll let them know before, often, any of our leads, or even marketing it to the general public.
We let them know that the course is live in the Institute, through email, usually, and then we’ll do like sometimes, a little in-app message with intercom. And then we’ll search and see how many people are adopting it. What’s the uptake on that? Maybe we’ll send another email or remind them that it’s there.
And then, we move backwards towards the middle of the funnel, which is actually like, it’s a whole different program that runs at the same time. So, it does kind of run in tandem because we’ll sort of precede the course with a webinar, and this usually actually launches before the course goes live.
Occasionally it’ll launch as the same time, and the webinar is sort of our middle of the funnel play, which is we market it to our customers, as well as to leads, and what we try to do is we get them to attend the webinar with our instructors. I believe you’ve done a webinar with us before, right?
Alexa: And from there we’ll just heavily market that over email for three to four weeks, then finally, once they’ve attended the webinar, knowing if it’s customers or if it’s leads, we’ll send them the promo email for when the course is actually live in their account.
And they can either, if they’re already a customer, they can just add it to the road map, if they’re not, we’ll send them where they can buy it.
And then from there, moving even further to the top of the funnel, we often will shape our content strategy on our blog and with our resources ’cause we create a ton of opt-in offers across the blog.
We’ll shape those around the topic of the course, and then we’ll launch like five to six different opt-in offers across relevant blog posts that are already pre-existing that already get traffic.
Johnathan: That’s intense.
Alexa: Yeah, it’s actually really, it’s been really effective. Basically that’s five or six little blog posts, often offered, tailored to the topic.
That’s where we can get a little bit, move people into the middle of the funnel. And then the content strategy for the blog, the topic that we launch every quarter, relate to the product road map, so knowing what courses are coming up.
And then kind of where we want our thought leadership to land related to the topics that we get the interest, get the visitors. And then it’s this sort of like, what’s that called? A fly-trap?
Johnathan: Fly wheel?
Alexa: Fly wheel?
Johnathan: Let’s just call it a fly trap! We can coin anything.
Alexa: Yeah, right? It’s the new “CXL Flytrap”.
Johnathan: That’s awesome.
Alexa: So, it goes backwards, forwards, all of that.
Johnathan: Okay, Do you guys have any cross-pollination, speaking of like flowers now, and fly traps, I’m thinking venus flytraps. Do you have any cross-pollination between your agency and your institute? Meaning, do students turn into clients and do clients turn into students?
Alexa: Yes, that happens, but we don’t actively really push for that.
Johnathan: Sure, sure.
Alexa: So, our agency, the reason being that like, for a customer to be even ready for them to use our agency services, they have to be personal from like a very very very successful, usually enterprise business. So, that means driving hopefully about a million in revenue a month, and then at least a minimum of 100k visitors to their website every month, because you know–
Johnathan: That’s a high bar!
Alexa: Yeah, you can’t do statically significant conversion optimization without that. So, basically, we have a, often our courses will get a lot of the individual practitioners who are just like maybe freelancers or maybe a few people on a marketing team, so they’re not gonna be the ideal customer.
But yeah, we don’t actively pitch a ton of agency services, except we do, what we do do of late, and it’s actually been working kind of well is that with our weekly newsletter that we send out on Thursdays, we create a version for the leads that we know by using Clearbit, match those criteria.
And so we segment them and we send them the same newsletter, but we always add a small little section related to our agency.
So, we’ll maybe talk about like, we’ll have some sort of tailored offer like, do you want a free audit of your Google Analytics? Do you want a free look at your, how your site’s performing? Like, we’re happy to offer that. Talk to one of our conversion experts.
And for that, we’ve been getting, and honestly, this is really good for us. We’ve been getting maybe one new lead a week, and that’s enough for our business.
Johnathan: I was gonna say, yeah. Considering the size of the deal that it could be, that’s tremendous.
Alexa: Exactly! Yeah, if we get one new lead a week and then you close one a month, that’s enough, and as running an agency, I’m sure you’re aware, is that every time you close a new deal, you have to hire.
So, it’s kind of like, we don’t wanna close too many. We just wanna close just enough, so we don’t have to hire too many new analysts.
Johnathan: Well, the institute is the scalable part, right? Because you’re right, like, luckily the size of your clients are bigger than what we would normally close, so, we have volumes of like, twenty to thirty clients that we bring on board. And then we have like, a “capacity ratio” that we, is at a certain percentage, that is the trigger to hire more people.
So, but it is tough. Like that one client, you know, or however many you guys have, but that’s really really cool to see that you guys have some overlap. And for the people listening, Clearbit is like a data enrichment tool. Is that correct? Like, it actually gives you more data about an email address.
Like it unravels everything almost, and figures out who it belongs to, how tall they are, how much they weigh, just kidding, not that. But all the firmographic stuff, which is really rad, so you can segment like you guys are doing, which is super cool. More for, obviously B to B than B to C.
Alexa: Yeah, exactly. You can see their industry or like I was saying, if you want to see monthly traffic, we just use Alexa ranks as a substitute, and it’s super, super helpful if you can get very, very hyper segmented with only asking someone for their email address.
And as we know, the more form fields you add to one of your forms, the less likely someone, traditionally, will fill it out. I mean, depending on the offer, but for a gated resource, no one wants to put in 20 fields.
Johnathan: No, it’s so smart. It’s brilliant to be honest. I don’t know why we’re lack, that’s something we’re doing. I’m gonna note it down.
Alexa: Yeah, do it!
Johnathan: You know what’s really funny? One of the reasons why I asked in regards to the cross pollination is that, our biggest client ever, $40,000 plus a month, was a student through CXL Institute of my course. How crazy is that?
Alexa: That’s so funny!
Johnathan: Like what kind of attributions?
Alexa: Yeah, look at that! That’s a great ROI! I mean, I hope you’ve written about that somewhere.
Johnathan: We will in our milestone recap, but if you guys wanted a piece of content to use to get other instructors, there you go. Now you can use that.
Alexa: Yeah exactly, that’d be a great way to attract them. We actually, we often seed and hire people for CXL based on them completing CXL courses. That’s like a shush-shush thing, but we do often see if people have taken our courses, or ever completed a mini degree.
One of our really really strong CRO strategists was a graduate of way back when Peep used to do live CRO mini degree courses, like in Peep’s cohorts.
Johnathan: Nice! There you go. There’s other things that can be valuable, other than just making money from your course. There you go.
Alexa: Exactly, yeah!
Johnathan: Alexa, anything else that we’re missing? I know we’re coming up on the end here, what are your thoughts?
Alexa: I think, honestly, like, hopefully those nuggets were pretty helpful. One of the things I think I’ll leave you with is just that, basically yes, top of funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, templated and stuff, all really important.
But like the real reason we are successful, I believe, is just the relentlessness of it all. We do long form, well sourced blog stuff. We spend a ton of time creating these opt-in offers and moving through the bottom of the funnel to the top of the funnel.
But the biggest differentiator for us and why it has worked is that we’ve just been doing it for so long. We’ve spent eight years investing heavily in it, and we like, even to this day, we just crank out content all the time.
And that’s really what’s gotten us to this point of like, tons of respect, tons of brand equity. 640 plus blog posts and counting, so, yeah, you just can’t give up after two years. You just gotta keep at it.
Johnathan: I’ve heard that saying, not like, I don’t think it’s necessarily a quote but like, just keep going. Like, the more you can keep going, you will catch a break. And sometimes you only need one break, and that’s enough for a snowball effect to happen in your business.
So, yeah, the people who are persistent, consistent, and also resilient when things, you know, when crap hits the fan. Like, bad things happen too. Those are the people who I’ve seen make it most of the time, so, keep that in mind as you guys are thinking about, you know, putting together your course.
If you already have one, how you go about it. There are basically no shortcuts. This is what the takeaway that I’m getting from this segment here.
But Alexa, thank you so much for spending the time with us. I know your time is super valuable, so we totally appreciate it.
Alexa: Yeah, thank you so much for having me and great to sort of meet you.
Alexa: One day we’ll meet in person.
Johnathan: Alright, well, we’ll get closer. Thank you so much, Alexa.
Johnathan: Alright, bye.
Course Marketing Mastery With Len Markidan
Len: Hey, hey, hey.
Johnathan: Hey, Hey, Len. How are you?
Len: I’m doing well, how are you, sir?
Johnathan: I’m amazing. I’m actually in a room where we had to shut off the AC. So, I’m sweating a little bit and maybe the camera will pick that up, but it gets too loud when we have it running, so we’ve gotta do it for the fans. You know?
Len: Well, Southern California is the perfect part of the world to operate without AC in a closed room.
Johnathan: I’m just happy we’re not out in the desert. But, super pumped to have you on, man. For the people who don’t know, you’re the CMO at Podia. And Podia is one of my favorite brand crushes of all companies actually out there. Not just in, like, the course platform world, I’m in love with your illustrations and your branding.
Um, and today we’re talking about course marketing, like, basically if you have things to teach, um, how do you go about that? What are some examples and all that kind of stuff? So, you cool to take us through that?
Len: Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited and I’m, uh, very, uh, very grateful that you let me in on Podia being your brand crush.
Len: Just shoot me your address, we’ll get you some swag.
Johnathan: Oh, dang. Okay, I’m about to do that. This whole episode is canceled. Let me finish that. Just kidding. I’ll get that after.
So, so you guys have a, a decent amount of, I would call them, and you call them probably something different, like teachers on your platform that can sell courses, certain memberships, they can have digital downloads, like, I’m actually reading off your site right now. Um, you make it very simple and easy.
Now, there’s probably, like, some fundamentals that go into making sure that you are either having a successful launch and ongoing success, or it’s going to fall flat on its face. Like, where would you start off by teaching people about that?
Len: That’s a good question and the first thing that, I think, surprises a lot of people, when you see launches fail, when courses don’t sell, a lot of the time, probably over 50%, it’s not because they have the wrong tactics. It’s not because they have the wrong launch strategy. It’s because they didn’t think to create something that people want.
Len: And, that’s something that… that’s something that, out of any creator, as you’re thinking about your launch, as you’re thinking about building your product, whether it’s a course or download or whatever it might be, make sure that you’re validating your idea as you go. And that is truly one of the best marketing tactics you can actually, um, you can actually apply. And I can walk you through that.
Len: I mean, to me, that’s a core marketing strategy. You know a lot of people think about marketing as the channels and, you know, which way you’re going to get in front of people.
Len: But to me, pinning the right idea and validating the idea is one of the core tenants of a successful course launch. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that, you know, you spent all this time building something and you have to redo it. A lot of times, it just means, you know, changes to how you position it, changes to how you talk about it.
Len: Now, there are a couple of ways that we can approach validating an idea. Um, the first is… Figure out if what you’re building is something that people are already paying for.
Len: A lot of people will say, you know, “Hey, I have this course idea. I have this skill that I have. I’m gonna build a course around it and then I’m gonna try and sell it to people.” And then what they, what turns out to happen, is that they build something that people aren’t really willing to pay to have sold for them.
Len: I’ll give you some examples. So, if you create a course around how to make, like, how to cook eggs.
Len: That is a, you know, a problem that a lot of people have. Right? A lot of people are like, “Yeah, I don’t know how to cook eggs that well.”
Len: But, here stick to the research. Like, egg cook books don’t sell that well.
Len: And that’s actually a really good…
Johnathan: That has to be a nugget that we’ve gotta drop real quick because we are talking about the chicken world here. So, I’m just going to give you that. Continue, please.
Len: I appreciate it. We are in the chicken-verse. So, when it comes to, when it comes to validating ideas, one of the very first things that you can do is think about the problem that you’re solving and then go to Amazon. Are there books that are selling on that topic?
Len: Go to Udemy. You know, I don’t recommend selling courses on Udemy,
Len: But it’s a great massive marketplace for courses.
Len: And you can see if people are actually selling courses on this topic.
Len: That is probably the first thing that you can do to validate whether there are people out there who will pay to have this problem solved for them. The second thing you can do, if you’re still kind of building your course, is go out to a community like Reddit.
Len: So, Reddit is, you know, everybody that is listening to this podcast has probably, 80% of the people have spent time on Reddit in the last week, and the other 20% are, like, lying. Everybody everybody has been on there. Like, everybody wastes time on Reddit.
Johnathan: You know, can I say something real quick on that?
Len: Yeah, please. Absolutely.
Johnathan: Sorry. So, I just got into touch about, like, the whole, I don’t know if you heard of the fire movement, like financial independence, retire early. Have you head about that?
Len: Mhm. Sure, yeah. Absolutely.
Johnathan: So, literally, like, I’m reading a book about it. It’s called Playing with Fire. They suggest going onto Reddit for, like, the financial independence sub-Reddit. And, like, literally two days later of being there, I’m, like, how did I not discover Reddit earlier?
And so, I am one of those liars that you just mentioned basically. So, they do exist. I’m way late to the game.
Len: Welcome to the dark side. Yeah, welcome to the dark side. You’ll never have free time again. And the reality about Reddit is there’s two hundred million multi-active users. Two hundred million. So, there are, like, seven billion people on this planet, right? So, more than 4% of the planet uses Reddit.
Len: Which is insane. And it is the world’s largest open discussion board. Which means that if there are problems that people have, people are discussing it somewhere on Reddit.
Len: And so, look at the problem that you’re solving with your course, search for it on Reddit. Use search terms like “how do I”, “how can I”… “any tips”.
Len: The kind of search terms that indicate that people are struggling with something and that’s where you’re going to find those problems that people are like, “Yeah! Like, this is something that I’m working to solve. This is something I need help with.”
Len: And just make sure that the problem that you’re solving falls under that category or, if its not, you can pivot your, you know, pivot your sales pitch, pivot your title. Just make sure that when you’re talking about the problem that your course solves, you’re talking in the same language that people use when they describe these really deep learning pains that they have.
Johnathan: Got it. Got it.
Len: If we talk about… Yeah, so if we know we have a validated idea, um, that’s kind of my soapbox rant I always have to get out of the way when people ask about course marketing. We should be into the fun stuff and get into how to actually get people to buy your course.
Johnathan: Okay. Before I… So, I had one thought when you were talking about
Len: Mhm. Please.
Johnathan: seeing if there’s already demand either on Amazon or on Reddit. Now, some people might be listening and thinking, “Oh, well…” Or you mentioned Udemy, for example, and they might think, “Oh, well there’s already books or courses out there, so that shows that that need is already being met. Then, therefore, I should not pursue because I have competition.
It doesn’t seem like that’s the point you’re trying to make, right? It’s just, like, no, there’s actually demand. People are paying money for this, so there’s a good chance you can be successful too. Is that correct?
Len: You know, I’m actually really glad you brought that up because that’s actually something that, when we talk to creators, a lot people do this process of validating their idea. And they come up with something that’s clearly validated and they’re ready to go, but then they think, “Well, that’s a good idea, but there’s already a course about that.”
Len: And it stops them in their tracks, right?
Len: Because, so it’s exactly what you said, the need is already being met. So, here’s the thing. There are no new problems. There are no new problems. If you think about productivity, for example.
Len: Seneca wrote about productivity 2,000 years ago. Gochere wrote about productivity in the 1400s and Franklin wrote about productivity 200 years ago. And, this is insane to me, every year for the last 18 years, there has been a new bestseller on the New York Times best seller list about productivity. Is everybody productive yet?
Len: Like, is this problem solved? Is this problem, like, solved for every single person on the planet? No, of course not. And that’s the thing, is that just because somebody else has solved the problem for somebody, doesn’t mean that problem is solved for everybody.
Len: And your course, the course that you’re going to create, just diverse of the fact that you’re the one creating it, is not gonna be the same as everybody else’s. This is gonna be the perfect course for your core audience.
Johnathan: Mhm. For sure. I mean, you can say the same thing about, you guys weren’t potentially the first course platform. Neither were we the first, you know, pay per clicking, customer optimization agency. We saw some things that were lacking in other things and that’s how we try to make a better solution.
So, um, you know, the proof with what you actually mentioned based off of science and saying has everybody solved their productivity. No, because Reddit exists. So, that’s the other side of the coin, but to your point, like there’s a lot more to capture and gain as far as giving different solutions to people who are in need.
Len: Yeah, and that’s actually really smart insight around looking at what people are… What other service providers were lacking. When you’re looking at those Amazon reviews, when you’re looking at those Udemy reviews, you’re gonna look at those one-star reviews, those two-star reviews to see what those courses, those books, left unmet.
Len: Because if those, if people are reading one or two star reviews for this book, for this course, for this product, chances are they’re still very much open to a solution because this problem is not solved yet.
Johnathan: Right. That makes sense. That’s beautiful. I like that a lot.
So, let’s say you do validate your idea and you move forward, you’re building out your course, obviously the content of the course matters a lot too, but, you know, where would you take it if you were, you know, to help me out, figuring out how I set myself up for success?
Like, what would be the next step?
Len: The next step is, as soon as you decide you’re gonna build this product and you’re gonna sell something, and even before then, if you start building your email list… and getting people… to say, “Yes, Johnathan.” “Yes, Sally.” “Yes, Nate.” I wanna hear from you.
Len: I want to sign up and have you in my inbox. The conversion rate and the customer optimization cost that we see on email, especially for first time course creators, has massively outperformed every other channel.
Len: And the best way to start doing this, maybe you Google, you know, the sales and email marketing tactics, you’re gonna find 90 million different things that, you know, you have to be doing in order to succeed at this. I think the easiest way for people to think about this is your ideal customers are already somewhere. Right? They’re already listening to somebody.
So, go to Google forms and create a free survey, send it to a few people who you think of as your ideal customers and ask, “What blogs do you read?” “What podcasts do you listen to?” “What YouTube channels do you subscribe to?” “Who are your favorite social media accounts to follow?” That’s where your audience hangs out.
Johnathan: Okay. I like that.
Len: Then, your job becomes to get in front of those audiences. Right? So, uh, you can do that in a really, really straightforward way.
So, for example, for blogs, put those blogs into a free tool, like Moz has a link explorer. Which is an awesome tool. And you can find out what a blog’s most popular content is. What does really, really well on their blog?
So, if I wanted to… If I found out that I was building a course on, you know, PPC management…
Len: And I wanted to find out who wants to learn about PPC management, where are they hanging out online? Obviously, they’re going to be reading the KlientBoost blog.
Johnathan: Of course.
Len: Alright, so I’m going to, of course, they’re smart people.
Len: and I’m going to go to, I’m gonna go to the link explorer tool, I’m gonna pop in KlientBoost. I’m gonna see what your best performing content is. What are the top pages on that blog? And I’m just going to think critically about, you know, what does really well.
Are they list posts? Do they tend to be case studies? Do they tend to be faction-able or do they tend to be more thought pieces? Are they long form? Short form? Look at the topics that they cover.
Len: Just try to get some stance on what performs really, really well and then come up with three ideas for articles that you could write for that publication.
Johnathan: Like a guest post.
Johnathan: Smart, yeah.
Len: And this is one of those points where a lot of creators, especially first time creators, think, you know, that’s a good idea, but why would they want my content? Like, why would they want me to write for them?
Johnathan: Which is ironic. Because why would anyone want to buy their course to begin with?
Len: Exactly. Which is like the total impulse that all of us have.
Len: But the reality is, you know, as somebody who’s built multiple content schemes and has run multiple blogs, the hardest part of running a high quality blog is creating high quality content.It’s extraordinarily resource intensive because of the expensive content that we make.
And so, when somebody comes to me and says, “Hey, I want to hand you this piece of really valuable content on a silver platter. Will you just publish it? I’ll give it to you for free.”
Johnathan: Yeah… yep.
Len: It’s a no brainer. And it’s a favor to me, actually, because its gonna save me a bunch of money on pen writing. It’s gonna save me a bunch of time, its gonna save me a bunch of energy on editing this content. And so, for me as a blog owner… I love when people pitch really, really high quality ideas.
Johnathan: Asterisks about that, the high quality.
Johnathan: I agree with you.
Len: Yeah, totally. Totally, totally. Yeah, and this is actually interesting, but, I’ll describe the… If you go through this process, the way that I’m describing it, you’re gonna… this is very, very different from the way that most people pitch their posts.
The way that most guest post pitches get made are, somebody scraped through a list of a thousand blogs or five thousand blogs that are potentially relevant. They take a single form email, they put some mail merge fields in it to make it feel quote unquote personal.
Like, “Hey, Johnathan, we love what you’re doing over at, you know, bracket KlientBoost.” And they send the same three pitches to a thousand people.
Len: And, of course, you can’t create a relevant pitch for a thousand people. You simply can’t. And so, that’s why most guest post pitches are awful and they get ignored or deleted or worse, they ruin somebody’s day.
Len: And you get angry emails back, right? The way that we’re doing it is, instead of investing all of that time into building a massive list and then sending really diluted pitches to all of them, we’re going to spend all of our time creating incredibly crafted pitches for a very small list.
Len: We don’t have to spend a lot of time coming up with a big list here because we’re going to create incredibly high quality pitches for a small list of highly targeted blogs because we went out, we learned what blogs, what podcasts, what YouTube channels our audience already listens to.
Len: It’s been validated. Right? We already know that are customers are here. And so, now we can put all of our energy, rather than spamming a bunch of people, we can put all of our energy into creating the best possible pitch.
Len: And so, that’s why we’re doing, you know, that research onto what performs really well there and what kind of content, the format. All that kind of stuff.
And we’re going to craft a really, really customized pitch that says, “Alright, hey, I’m a big fan of your content.” Because you’ve spent all this time on the blog now, you then pay them a genuine compliment about some of the content you like best.
Len: You can really butter them up here. And then come up with your three ideas and pitch them and say, “Hey, have some ideas for some content that would, you know, that I think you’re audience would really find valuable. What do you think of these? I’d love to write some for your blog, just let me know.”
And the key there is when you come up with these ideas, these are focused on being 100% valuable to the audience.They will solve a problem for the audience, whether or not this is critical, whether or not somebody buys your course, this article is going to leave them with a solution to a problem.
Len: And if you can do that, you will succeed at guest posting.
Len: Then, so write the article, make it valuable. If you Google, then, market on guest posts, guides on this, and then, from there, link back to a free download that gets people into your course funnel.
Len: And you rinse, you repeat, and your list is going to grow. Same thing for podcasts, same thing for YouTube channels.
Len: Everything. The number one thing you can do, if you’re just starting out, to sell more courses, is to find out where you audience is and to be there.
Johnathan: Right and I really like how you took the angle of ‘let’s assume we don’t have a large budget’, because there’s a lot of things you can do if you have money, but if your resource is more time, you basically described my early days at KlientBoost.
I would go out and, sometimes I would have the actual piece done already and I would shop it around, but I wouldn’t stop until I actually got a response. And if I got a no, I would, I asked them to, like, tell me why. And not, like, in an annoying way, but more so, like, what can I change or what can I create to make it more valuable?
Because a lot of people, like you say, they do the spray and pray approach and, you’re right, like, people send me pitch emails. I probably get, like, five a day, and they’re either like, “Can I write on your blog?”, “Can I advertise on your blog and pay you for a link?”, or “Can I give you an article that talks about, like, dental hygiene?”
And I’m like, you did no research. Like, that’s not even what we do. So, if a person is, like, doing their homework and, this is the hard part where I think a lot of people get lost, because, at the end of the day, don’t confuse being busy with, like, effectiveness.
Because your output, like what you’re trying to achieve at the end, works way better with the example that you’re giving. Because you’re wanting to get that yes and that yes can turn into another yes from that person or that blog.
Or you now use it as, like, what we call a ‘yes ladder’ approach to get, you know, other people to say yes or other blogs, because you’ve already proven it works for the first yes you got. And it’s a shame that people try to shortcut that.
Len: 100% and I think you owe yourself a chicken sound for that, for that insight.
Johnathan: Oh, man. I’m giving myself one.
Len: Because that is, uh, yeah, give yourself one there. And this is something you’ve been so good at around guest posting, around getting KlientBoost off the ground…
Len: with that strategy and, you know, you’re right, this absolutely is a strategy for people who want to do this on a loom budget.
Len: And the reality is, I mean, most of the creators that we see, their first course, you’re doing it as a side hustle, right?
Len: You’re doing as something that you’re kind of exploring on the fly. And one of the beauties of this, you know, yeah, you don’t want to spend a ton of money promoting your side hustle, you don’t have the budget for it yet.
Because, like you said, if you have budgets, there are a ton of really effective marketing channels that you could explore.
Len: But one of the beauties of doing this, when you’re first getting started, is that there’s a very good chance that your first course is gonna look very little like your third course, your fourth course, and your fifth course.
Len: And what this lets you do is to build a really, really valuable marketing asset, which is your email list. That’s going to help you as you go down this way of your journey. Even if you choose to write about different topics. Even if you choose different things…
Len: This email list is going to be an asset that will help you…
Len: For as long as you are exploring this idea of creating courses.
Johnathan: Yeah. I like that a lot. And a lot of people, they, um, at least from my opinion too, is that they try to go for the quicker win, but some of these times, its like you should put in the amount of time and effort and have the patience because ultimately what I’m going for is thought leadership.
And thought leadership isn’t a shortcut, like, its built over time and repeated, you know, executions of quality and things like that too. And so, like you said, if you plant the seed and you have that email list growing and people wanna hear about you.
Eventually your impostor or syndrome disappears and you’re just saying, “I’m the greatest person in the world on this topic.” That’s, at least, what I think sometimes, but then I get hit with reality, um, but it’s something that you can’t shortcut. So, I’m really glad that you’re bringing that up, full circle.
Len: Totally. You can’t shortcut at any… And it also gives you a bunch of reusable marketing apps. Like, if you have great content, that will open the door to thousands of other channels that you can now explore.
Len: Thousands of other marketing opportunities that you can now explore, right? If you have a great piece of content, well now you have a really powerful app that you can test with some paid apps. Right?
Len: With some of your targeted, and you can build a whole, you know, you can build a whole paid funnel using content, whereas, for most creators, running ads directly to a course sales page, the very first time they run a course, typically doesn’t end super well, because, number one, they haven’t read your blog and number two, um, the funnel just isn’t long enough.
Len: There isn’t enough nurturing going on. And so, creating that content, creating those assets is gonna give you a lot to repurpose as you, uh, as you grow.
Johnathan: Yeah. For sure. I agree. And then, if you think about, you know, the more established course creators on the Podia platform right now, you know, if they do really great with content, let’s just say written content, do they branch out in other things?
Like, obviously we’re talking audio right now, could be podcasts, it could be webinars. I know that one piece of content can open the doors for other things that we talked about or it can help, even with your paid acquisition.
Is there like a marketing mix that you see that are working really well for some of the top creators on your platform right now?
Len: I would say that almost all of our top, top, top creators, their marketing mix was emails first from day one.
Len: Or, emails first from the day of the inflection point. Right? It was emails first from the day that their business started to see success.
Len: Because they realized that once they can own their audience and own their relationship with their audience, they can write their own ticket because they can use that email list to get insight into what products to build, get insight into, you know, how much they can charge.
Len: They can get insight into how to write better sales copies and, over time, that email has became the launch tab for their very, very successful courses.
And, then, yes, absolutely. People do branch out, people… We’re obviously seeing a massive, kind of tidal wave of podcasting coming out now.
Len: So many creators are jumping into the mix here and, you know, in a very much… you know, very much like the content world, like the written content world, or even YouTube world…
Len: It is getting noisy and the reality is you can be really, really successful with podcasting as a marketing channel.
Len: But you’ve gotta be in the 1%. Or, like, its gotta… the quality has to be there.
Len: It’s very much like we talked about with written content. So, I wouldn’t do any marketing channel, really, just to check the box, just to get it into your marketing mix.
Len: But podcasting is really one of those, you have to, it really is one of those channels where the quality matters most.
Johnathan: Right. 100%. But, again, like you said, I actually never thought of an email list with all of the angles and benefits that you just mentioned.
Which is, like, every time I’m talking to somebody on the show, like, I get a little wiser and I come back to my marketing team and I’m like, “We’re changing things up.” And they’re like, “You gotta stop having calls with people, ’cause we’re not gonna…” And I agree with them to some degree, but it’s amazing, that angle. I like that a lot.
Is there anything else, from like a fundamental, and for everybody listening too, I think it’s really important to understand, like, you don’t have to graduate from one marketing channel or strategy or tactic.
Like, you can keep doing more and getting better and better at it, like, your written content never really stops.
Johnathan: Is there anything that you think we should leave our listeners off with in regards to, you know, heads up, don’t make these mistakes, or keep this in mind as you go along? Now that they know, you know, a stronger foundation.
Len: I think that the best thing that we can leave this conversation with is, I wanna say something that you said and apply it to every single thing that creators should do when they do marketing. And you mentioned that when you did your guest posting and sent all these pitches,
Len: And people said no, you always asked why.
Len: And that, I think, is a really, really key insight that I wanna underline for people, because when you’re doing marketing for online courses, no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re building, you know, your email launch sequence, building your email list, your email list building campaign-
You’re trying to do guest posts, you’re doing giveaways, you’re doing paid marketing, you’re doing podcasting, take every possible opportunity to figure out what you could be doing a little bit better. And to do that, all it takes very often is saying, “Hey, you know, just out of curiosity, I’d love to know why you passed on this…”
Len: “… so I can do better.” Or, “I’d love to know why you didn’t buy my course today.”
Len: “I can do better.” “I’d love to know, you know, I’d love to know why you didn’t think my article was worth sharing, because I’d love to do better.”
Len: And if you do that at every turn, it’s impossible not to grow to a point where you’re just getting really, really good.
Johnathan: Yeah. I completely agree. It’s scary you say this because, literally this morning, on the way to work, I was listening to a podcast doing, you know, research for myself, just kidding, it was a side one, but he basically said, “All progress starts with speaking the truth.”
And if you can be kind about it, the way that you’re asking, you know, somebody saying no to you and you’re like, “But, why?” Well, have a little bit more of a courteous attempt and approach to it and be like, “So that I can learn better and not, you know, waste your potential time in the future, what could I have done differently to maybe earn a yes?”
I realize that my chance might’ve been gone now and you might not accept any guest posts, but with the intention of being, you know, honest and pure, because that truth is the same thing that goes against, like, everything in the business world, in my opinion.
Where you might have a client, or you might have a student on your course that’s not happy, but it’s better to know the truth earlier rather than later when the ultimate thing that you don’t wanna have happen is when, like, they cancel their subscription, or they leave as a client and things like that too.
So, the analogy I use is, like, if you have a cough, it’s gonna get very dark very quickly right now… if you have a cough, either you have a cold or you have lung cancer. But, like, figure it out early so that you can actually treat it and then do a lot better. So, I kind of stole the thunder from you, but I am gonna give you this one… which is, like, our ultimate cluck cluck…
Because that is so true. Right? You don’t, you don’t know if you don’t know at the end of the day. And so, the faster you’re able to get those truths to be brought out, the faster you can improve, the faster you can get better at what you’re doing.
Len: Absolutely. I love it.
Johnathan: Cool, man. Well, super, super thankful to have you on the show. We might bring you back when it comes to the evolution of course marketing, depending on what people are asking about this actual episode. So, really appreciate your time, Len. Thanks for being with us.
Len: Likewise, Johnathan. Always a pleasure.
Johnathan: Awesome. Thanks, man.
Len: Take care. Bye bye.
Course Marketing Mastery With Matt Cooper
Johnathan: All right people, I have a person who is running a very, very successful company, one that I have respect for too, especially when it comes to course marketing. We have Matt Cooper, the CEO of Skillshare on the line with us. Matt, how are you?
Matt: Great, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Johnathan: Awesome, awesome. So you ventured into creating this platform that is Skillshare, and we’re gonna be talking about course marketing but also of course, like as the name implies of your company, people wanting to share their skills and be able to charge for it and things like that, too.
So instead of talking, I’m completely okay talking about Skillshare and the platform itself too, and anytime that you wanna do a shameless plug, do it. Because again I wanna be grateful and thankful for your time.
But if you were seeing a, you know, combined average around the most successful people that you have on Skillshare, what are some commonalities that you see them having from like a foundational perspective?
Matt: Yeah, I think the best classes have a combination of things. There’s sort of the topic that they are, that they’re teaching is of interest to our community, so our classes tend to skew towards creative topics.
Matt: So design, illustration, fine art, photography, there are some lifestyle things. So we think of a creative audience and that sort of core user of the 28-year old freelance designer or the person who is engineer by day but loves digital photography at night.
What are the topics and skills and interests that they’re gonna have that is gonna be more common. So some of our best producing classes are around Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, certain street photography, so things that are both sort of hot and topical but also just very practical and useful.
So the topics of one, the personality of the teacher.
Matt: The teachers who are engaging and animated and-
Matt: Really know how to bring that content to life, they obviously perform much better. Yeah, there’s just a certain energy that attracts people and keeps them watching. So I think that’s another big component.
Also just the way they structure the content, you know, if there’s sort of a logical flow and ideally a narrative flow. You know, it really, I don’t care what you’re doing, whether it’s marketing, teaching, if there’s a storyline that people can follow that will keep you hooked, it’s gonna be more successful. So that’s kind of a broad ranging bit of advice.
But teachers who have that kind of narrative flow to their classes tend to perform best.
Matt: And then yeah, I guess finally, just the audio-visual production. You know, if it’s high quality audio, the lighting is good, the visual appeal really catches peoples’ attention.
Johnathan: That makes sense, and so, you know even though the topic here is on course marketing and like how you market your course, one of the things that marketing can never really help with is, you know being successful with a bad product and so the foundation that you just gave for some of the things that you’ve seen on the inside work really well is awesome.
It also sounds like you know, some of the things you mention like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or anything that’s camera related, they seem like to have a broad appeal but they’re also very technical to understand.
So do you think the technicality of something that is harder to master is part of why these, you know, creators are successful?
Matt: I think mixed, and some of that, I think that definitely applies to some categories, but there are also a lot of really high performing classes that are really about the creative process, and creative lifestyle.
How do you get yourself in a creative mindset? And, kind of how do you manage your personal life as well as your professional life, to get the most out of creativity?
So it’s, there’s a little bit of a mix between kind of that hard core technical, do A, B, C, D, E, versus how do you get yourself in a position to do all those things and do ’em really well?
Johnathan: So when it comes to deciding on the platform to create your content, I notice that Skillshare is more, seems like a subscription service itself, to learn new things over time. Where other platforms it’s like, hey, you create your course, you’re in charge of your own marketing, all that kind of stuff.
How is SkillShare different? Why should people consider doing that? And I’m sure you guys have a vetting process too on who you allow on there, like how does that work?
Matt: Yeah so we are a completely open platform, anybody can come in and teach, we have about 8000 teachers who are teaching about 20000 classes.
Matt: And those teachers are from all over the world, actually about 50% of our teachers are from outside the US. So it’s a very big global community of experts.
They pick the content, they pick the structure. We have some guidelines, we definitely have quality standards that you have to, they have to meet to be on the platform. But then once you’re on the platform and we, we drive a lot of traffic to you. And so I think-
Matt: The value that Skillshare brings, the community that we’ve built, we’ve got close to nine million users.
Matt: I mean we have our own marketing funnel. So we are bringing people to your doorstep.
And I think we’ve had teachers who have gone off and tried some of these kind of more self service platforms that allow you to hang out your own shingle as a teacher. I think they’ve underestimated how much foot traffic we bring to them, and so they’ll often come back.
So we’re tracking our entire marketing funnel very aggressively from visitor, to free trial, to paid subscriber, to long term retention and renewal. So we’ve got a pretty well built marketing machine to make sure that we’re continually delivering an audience to our teachers.
Johnathan: That makes a ton of sense. And I see, like even the individual topics of like, animation or creative writing, there’s followers behind each topic or category.
What happens when you let’s say, you are a top 10 course creator on Skillshare? How much juice do you guys give them? ‘Cause I want our listeners to know.
We talked about also like the fact that, if you already have thought leadership, if you already have a brand, and if you’re already established in the industry, and then you go and you teach about these.
Let’s say we talked about digital marketing, which is what we do, for example. You know, I come in with a somewhat established presence, I can’t call myself the best or anything like that, but I have a following already.
And so, let’s say I break into the top 10, how do you guys wine and dine me so to speak? How do I know that I’m in good hands with you guys?
Matt: Yeah, I mean our, yeah, our top teachers are making pretty good money. I think our number one teacher last month made $57,000.
Matt: In December alone.
Matt: So it gets a steady flow of consistent income, it’s certainly a pretty nice hook.
Matt: But then we also have, we have a top teacher program. So our top 100 or so teachers, we give them a lot of support and care and feeding, and answer questions, and they can pick up the phone and call somebody, and we do special programs throughout the year for those teachers.
So, yeah. We definitely try and take care of our best teachers and keep ’em happy and make sure that they’ve got what they need to be successful at Skillshare.
Johnathan: Super cool. We had launched our, what we call internal academy, to the outside and sold a decent amount, but it was kinda like a flash in the pan kind of thing. It wasn’t nothing ongoing.
And so it feels really good to see the other side, of having an environment and support, something like through Skillshare that just can keep things going. Is there an update cadence in regards to some of these course creators of how they’re updating their course?
Or is a lot of the stuff evergreen? Do you have any thoughts or analytics on that?
Matt: Yeah. A lot of it is evergreen. If you look at our, as of today our top classes over the last 90 days. I would say there are probably five to 10 of them that go back as far as 2014, 15, 16.
Johnathan: Okay, wow.
Matt: So there’s definitely some. Things that tend to be more technique focused tend to be evergreen. Whereas if you’re teaching Adobe Photoshop, it does get stale after a while.
Although, even then, a lot of core functionalities are relatively stable.
Johnathan: The fundamentals.
Matt: We see a mix of both. Yeah, the top teachers, they do have a pretty consistent publishing cadence.
Matt: And the way Skillshare works, when you produce your first class, people come in, they watch your class, they can follow you as a teacher.
So as you build that first following, now when you launch your second class you already have a couple thousand people that are on your roster.
Johnathan: Right. That are ready.
Matt: And are gonna be notified when you launch that second class. So we’ve got people who’ve built up followings of 50000, 60000 students.
Matt: Over the course of the last couple years. And, it’s sort of the one or two classes a quarter, tends to be the cadence of the highest performing teachers.
And then depending on the topic, some teachers do really well with longer classes that are two to three hours. But we get a lot of teachers who do really well with the 45 minute format.
Matt: Depends a little bit on the topic and the style, but ultimately as you start to build that community and build that following, your earnings start to snowball.
And the way we pay out, it’s a loyalty model, so we pay out based on your share of the minutes watched in that month.
So as you continue to produce and you get more eyeballers and you get more people watching those classes, and actually sitting down and giving away their hard earned time to take your class, that’s when your earnings really start to rise.
Johnathan: So when you just mention like your narrative and the flow of your content, to kind of keep people engaged, it seems even more important now understanding your pay model as well.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right. I think that we’re somewhat unique in the, by paying for minutes watched as opposed to enrollments or a la carte sales.
Matt: ‘Cause now the teachers really are incentivized to produce content. It gets people to sit down and watch.
Matt: Because it’s really easy to get, to produce a really nice trailer and get somebody to click the a la carte purchase button. But if the content’s not good they’re not gonna sit there and watch it.
Matt: So we wanna make sure we’re lining up the ultimate value indicator from our students with how we pay out our teachers.
Johnathan: That totally makes sense. Is there anything that you’re comfortable or willing to share, in regards to the marketing behind Skillshare itself, or do you have any other nuggets you might wanna be able to share about marketing, that the course creators themselves took upon themselves to go initiate?
Matt: Yeah, from our side, on the Skillshare marketing, of us as a business, that’s something we’ve really focused on in the last couple of years. We’ve been very aggressive on our influencer marketing and on our paid acquisitions programs.
Matt: And I think we arguably have one of the best influencer marketing engines in the world right now. And that is something that we have developed over time, but as you can imagine, it takes a lot of incremental investment.
But the world is littered with the carcasses of startups who spent way too much money way too fast and did it inefficiently.
Matt: And it just doesn’t work. You burn up too much.
Matt: So we’ve been very deliberate and very consistent in how we, how we approach this. Really understanding our complete funnel, from visitor, to free trial, to conversions, to retention and renewal over time.
And we’re getting, we’ve gotten much better over the last year or two, on just our overall testing and optimization and measurement.
Matt: Yeah, startups talk a lot about tech debt, and how that creates sort of crud within their back end and how that hampers the user experience.
Matt: They don’t talk a lot about data debt. And when you don’t have your system instrumented the right way or capturing the right data or packaging it the right way or accessible enough. You may not miss it much when you’re small, but as you start to get big, and 1% really actually matters and adds up to real dollars.
Matt: You’re gonna wish you had it.
Matt: I think as we. Yeah, my advice to anyone starting out is to keep that hygiene from the very beginning. Make sure you really understand your metrics, you’re capturing ’em the right way, and then you’ve got the expertise internally to analyze them the right way as well.
Johnathan: Okay. That makes sense. Well Matt, I’m so impressed, like you’re firing right out of the gate in regards to a lot of the nuggets that we can use.
Is there anything else that you think that I haven’t asked you about that should be vital for people to understand? Either, you know, thinking about people listening or the course creators themselves. What would you leave off on?
Matt: You know, there’s just so, there are so many alternatives out there, and ultimately Skillshare, we’re not competing with other online platforms, online learning platforms, we’re competing with Netflix, or going to the gym, or Spotify.
Matt: Or podcasts, or staring out the window. So ultimately, coming and staying is great content, and great teachers.
And I think those, the people who have the right personality, they have the right expertise, they know how to package it the right way. They can do really well, but it really does take a holistic approach because you’re, there’s a lot of competition for people’s time and attention.
Matt: And it doesn’t matter how good the product is, if the content’s not good they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna stick.
Johnathan: Right. Makes a ton of sense. Well I’m already thinking about joining your guys’ platform myself, so I’ll shoot you a note after this episode is done.
Matt: All right, we’ll sign you up. We’ll get you going.
Johnathan: All right man. Thank you so much for your time, really appreciate it.
Matt: All right, thank you.
Johnathan: All right, talk soon. Bye.