Focus, take action that is intentional and effective, and keep doing it.
— Janelle Allen

Episode Summary

Hey everyone! It’s time to review Q3 and look ahead to the last quarter of the year. I’m excited to share what worked, what I plan on changing, and the awesome things you can expect before 2020.

If you tuned in to Episode 100, you know I had three focus areas for Q3: to double down on my group program, Finish Your Damn Course; to increase the top-of-funnel traffic on my site; and to finish setting up my email marketing systems. 

Did I do everything I set out to last quarter? What pivots did I make in my strategy? What am I doing to wrap up 2019? Tune in to hear the highlights and big lessons of the last few months, and then join me to dig into my Big Three for Q4. Let’s do it!

+ Episode Transcript

Janelle Allen: Instead of jumping from tactic to tactic and overwhelming yourself by trying to do everything, figure out the one or two things that you can do, based on your audience, and then developing a strategy, and then identifying the two tactics.

Welcome to Level Up Your Course where we pull back the curtain on what it takes to create learning that transforms lives. You will hear stories from business owners like you who share their success and their struggles. This is not where you come to hear passive income myths, friends. This is where you learn the truth about building a profitable learning platform. I am your host, Janelle Allen, and this is today's episode.

What's up everyone? It is Janelle. So welcome, welcome, welcome in. Today's episode is going to be a little bit different. Actually, it's something that I've done once before, and that is a quarterly review. I did this in episode 100, and it was so popular -- I got a lot of good feedback from it. So, I decided it's going to be something and, also, it's just helpful for me to talk this out and share. You know, I try to keep things real. I try to keep it 100 with you all, and just be transparent and relatable, and just share, hey, I'm growing this business, here's what's going on. So, that's what this episode is going to be. We're going to look back and recap Q3 and then look forward to Q4.

Now, I'm going to start by sharing the three things, kind of 3.5 things, that were a focus for Q3 when I did the last quarterly review in July of 2019. So, we'll talk about that and then talk about how things went, get into takeaways and lessons, and then look forward to Q4. Cool? Cool.

So, where were things at the beginning of Q3? July 2019, I did this episode and there were three, like I said, kind of like 3.5, focus areas that I wanted to get into for the quarter. Number one was I said I was going to double down on my group program, Finish Your Damn Course. Number two was to focus on top of funnel, so increasing traffic to the site and this is 2A. 2B was also a middle of funnel, improving my email marketing systems. That's something that I geek out on and I was working on some things and just wanting to get those done. Number three was related to email and that was moving away from Drip. Okay, so how did things go?

Number one, doubling down on Finish Your Damn Course. Did it. Launched Finish Your Damn Course in August. And one of the big takeaways, so we've got a nice cohort, it's a small group and that is exactly the takeaway. There were several people who signed up for the waiting list, said they were super excited about joining and then did not join. There were people who were about to purchase and then emailed me and asked me a question and ended up not joining. And you know what that question was? Do I really need to have a list? This was a learning moment. And not in the way that you might be thinking.

So, I am very clear on the sales page whenever I talk about the program that the way that the program is structured is designed for you to sell your course. It's not just a program that takes your money and gives you a system and maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. That's not what I'm about. So, the program is designed to help you go through the process of validating your course with your audience, creating your course outline, pre-selling your course, and then teaching your course. So, teaching really a live pilot version of your course. It's designed that way, which is why I always am very vocal about the fact that to be successful in the program, you need to have an audience. Ideally, you need to have an email list. If not an email list, a client list will suffice. I've had people who've had success using a client list, but you've got to have some people that you can market to, right? I mean, from a business standpoint, that makes sense.

Now, there are plenty of people who will teach you how to create an online course using ads. So spending money to buy ads, but my goal is not to have you spend additional money after you've spent money on the course. I'm going to show you a system where you can use your existing audience, but more importantly, I want you to build a business for the long haul. And so that's why I really doubled down on having an audience, because I found that people who don't take that first step, ultimately, that's the first step to building your business. Anyway, off of my soapbox, but let me tell you, I was happy when people said, well, I'm going to pass this time, because I don't have an audience. I haven't launched my website. I don't have my email list, because those are foundational things that I want people to get in place.

That's really where, you know, the rubber hits the road and you see who's taking the steps they need to take to build a business. Because if you have been following me for a while, I've said this a couple times, it's not about creating a course. I know I'm an instructional designer, I talk about creating online courses, but ultimately your course is simply a product within your business. It's about building a business. The course is just one thing , there's just one thing that you're going to offer. So I was happy. I was happy when I got those comments, but I was surprised because I got more comments than I was expecting, which helped me to understand that there are a lot of people out there who are not taking the action to launch their email list or have questions about it. And those questions haven't been answered.

So, you know, that incited me to say, okay, you know, I have a course called First 500 Fans that helps people to launch their list, but can I approach this a different way? Which led to me doing a workshop on systems, email marketing systems, three different levels. That workshop was phenomenal. We'll get into that later. I had so much fun and it was very popular. That was a big takeaway. More educational content around email marketing. And not just launching a list, but how to engage your list, how to sell with your email list, all of that good stuff. Stuff that I'm excited about. I'm sure you can hear that. That was number one.

Number two, 2A and 2B, so I had like some marketing things. And maybe it's not 2A, maybe it's like this is two. So, two was increasing the top of funnel traffic to my site. So when I say top of funnel, if you don't know what that is, you know, if you visualize your business, you've got the top of funnel, which is people coming to your site. You need traffic, right? So everyone's trying to sell a course, which is the bottom of the funnel, but not everyone has the bottom and the middle and the top. You need traffic, right? So traffic, the middle is conversions, all of that good stuff. Nurturing and then conversions. And my goal was to increase traffic. Did I do it? Nope. Traffic did increase, but not in the way that I had intended. I had intended to go hard on traffic and I did not go hard. You know, I'd had increases, but my focus was not there. I ended up focusing on some other things, which I'll talk about in a second.

Why? Well, one of the reasons was I had this grand idea of doing these monthly marketing experiments. It was such a dumb idea. I was going to pick a marketing tactic, let's say Pinterest, and test it out for a month and then report back on it. Oh my gosh. Why was that a dumb idea, Janelle? Because that idea was A, it would be ineffective. A month is not enough time to test whether or not something is working, especially when it comes to marketing. B, it's not effective to jump around from tactic to tactic to tactic to tactic. And C, I would have burnt myself out, which, I know, I'm prone to coming up with ideas and trying things and I constantly have to reel myself in. And that's something that I've been getting better and better.

And so I did that. I ended up reeling myself in and saying, you know, with the help of my business coach, saying, okay, we're not gonna do that foolishness. We are not going to do that because you're going to be crazy and you're going to be burnt out and it's not even effective. So instead of that, I decided to take a step back and go to what I know. That's the thing about this. I know better. Have you ever done something and you're like, I know this, I tell other people this, but I just did the thing that tell people not to do. That's exactly how I felt. So what I know is strategy before tactics, and to take it a step even further back is your strategy comes from your audience. You want to know where to market, where's your audience hanging out? You want to know what content to put out, what questions is your audience asking? So taking that step back and really being strategic instead of jumping from tactics, tools, all of that stuff that sounds sexy and feels like progress and it really isn't if it's not based in strategy.

Number three, I also said I was going to focus in like dig deep and get my email marketing systems optimized. I don't mean email marketing from this sense of are you email marketing, but systems, so setting up workflows, segmentation, custom fields, autoresponders, evergreen funnels. I had all of this stuff that I had been working on for three or four months and it was just taking a long time. So did I finish it? Yes I did. This was a big checkmark. I was finally able to mark off the list, finished getting my email marketing system set up, and that is something I'm so excited about. Because I didn't really get a chance -- I did the workshop, but I didn't get a chance to really dig deep into email marketing, which is becoming a bigger and bigger obsession lately. Just systems in general, but especially email marketing systems. I can't wait to teach more about that because I strongly believe that email is the most powerful marketing system for course creators, educating with emails. So that was done.

And my Evergreen funnels, I had not set up a proper Evergreen funnel in the past. And so I did that for the first time, and let me tell you, it is so rewarding to see the funnel working, to wake up two payment notifications and see the funnel operating. So much so that I was able to do some client work and help clients to identify marketing issues and set up and optimize their email marketing systems. So all of that to say that one was a big checkmark. So that's 3A, I guess. And 3B was moving away from Drip. I did not move away from Drip. I'm not going to bury the lead.

I was going to make the switch to ConvertKit and I decided that it was not smart to do that, A, in the middle of the year and, B, quite frankly, ConvertKit is a great system. It's one that I recommend to anyone who is starting or growing their business. It allows you to do a lot of things that Drip allows you to do, but Drip is a bit more advanced. And it's not only more advanced, they have different logic, right? So it was very difficult as I was trying to make the transition. I think in Drip language, and it's almost like a translation process of having to figure out how to do the things that I do in Drip in ConvertKit and that was taking up too much time. It just didn't make sense to expend energy doing that. So I did not make that transition.

I am still going to make that transition, so please do not take this as Janell saying, Oh, ConvertKit is bad. I'm not saying that, I'm just saying that it's going to take a bit more time and planning and it didn't make sense to do it in the middle of the year. It's an end of year, maybe beginning of the year thing, but definitely not middle of the year. So that was what was on the plate for Q3 and how things went for Q3.

Other than that, other than, you know, the things that I thought I was going to focus on, there were some exciting things that happen in Q3. I already mentioned the email marketing systems workshop. That was so exciting and there was a lot of energy around that. And I'll get to that more later. Also, some wins for Q3. I spoke at the Agents of Change conference. As of this recording, that about 10 days ago. Oh man. It was so amazing. It was so fun. I had been sick, but even being sick, I still felt like it was such a good experience. First and foremost, Rich and team, Lindsey and everyone else at Agents of Change, thank you so much for having me. And just the level of professionalism and thoughtfulness that went into the planning and organization of the conference was so evident. So kudos to you all for an amazing conference.

It's one of those conferences where it's not super big, it's not super small, it's just the right size. It's the Goldilocks conference. So I had a great time. but as I've shared in one of my recent newsletters leading up to that, if I'm completely honest, I stress myself out because I didn't plan enough. And so I had the group program launch and a workshop and then I had to switch gears and prepare my presentation and practice and working with clients, and I just had so much on my plate that I ended up getting sick for three weeks. If if I haven't mentioned, that's highly unusual for me. Stress myself out, because, not only was it the work, but it was also something that I realized, a big takeaway from this quarter. I said this quarter I learned a lot.

One of the things I learned about myself is that I'm a little willful. So if it's something that I think I don't want to do, I will fixate on all of the reasons why I shouldn't do it, and that can spiral. I'm still going to do it. That's just my personality I'm going to get -- I'm going to get it done. But it ended up just being this mental weight of me thinking about all the reasons why it might not have been a good idea for me to do this thing, instead of just being in the moment and enjoying it and seeing what could come of it. And when I realized that, that's what I had done, it was a big wake-up call. I don't know if you've ever recognized any mindset stuff that you have and said, oh, I got to work on that. That's exactly how I felt.

So, great time at the conference. Also it was in Portland, Maine. First time in Portland, Maine. Loved it. Seafood was fantastic. Fan-tastic. Oh my gosh. I had Maine blueberries. I did not know that that was a thing. Blueberry pie. If people had not been at the restaurant with me -- I took myself out to lunch and I had this slice of blueberry pie, I promise, I swear I would have licked the bowl if no one else was there. It was that good. It was that good. I'm all about the pie. So anyway, that was another win. What else? Any other wins?

Wins, wins, wins. It was a great sales quarter, you know? Sales were up 130% over last quarter, which is huge. Gives you any indication of how hard I have been working, and that is all the result of just doing less better. This is the best way I can put it. So those are wins. That was Q3. I promise to share lessons learned, and I may have kind of already talked about this, but let's just do a quick one, two, three, four, five.

Number one, take deliberate action. That is just slow down. Focus. Take action that is intentional, action that is effective and keep doing it over and over. Optimize. Be deliberate about it. Number two, strategy before tactics. I've talked about this already, but tactic to tactic and overwhelming yourself by trying to do everything, figure out the one or two things that you can do based on your audience and then developing a strategy and then identifying the two tactics. That is huge and it's not a new lesson learned, but it's always good to remind yourself of that.

Number three, focus on actions that are going to generate long-term returns. This is related to strategy before tactics. When you talk about strategy, you know, a lot of times again we want to do whatever the trendy thing is or what so and so does, and what this other person suggested. And it really comes down to making sure that you're doing something that is not going to be a short-term win, not a win that can't repeat. You want to do things that are going to generate long-term returns. So for example, one of the reasons I love podcasting is not just getting to talk to cool people and to connect with you, but also because it's constantly discoverable. There's always someone who discovers the podcast and becomes a listener and then ends up being a subscriber. And that it's long-term returns. So if you're trying to figure out what your marketing strategy should be, focus on, things that are going to generate long-term returns with, you know, scalable action.

Number four, focus on revenue. Another way to say this that I've used before is pay attention to what sells. So when I say that, I mean pay attention to opportunities in your market. Study your market, know what's out there and pay attention to what people are asking for, the problems they're having, the pain they have. What are the opportunities? Also not just outside and not just prospective customers, but existing customers. What are they asking for? What are they saying, oh, this was super valuable, this was a game changer for our business. And then people who maybe are kind of in between, they're a lead. What are they asking for? What are they emailing you and saying, Hey, I just found you, I'm excited to learn more, I really need help with such and such. What have they bought before?

Focus on what is selling, what you're selling, how can you optimize that and sell more with less effort? What other people are selling that maybe you can create a solution similar to? And what people are asking for that maybe you haven't thought about, but it's time to take a step back and say, huh, okay, this is a thing and I need to develop the solution. People are asking for it. That's how my group program started. I wasn't thinking about a group program, but people started asking for it. So pay attention to what sells, pay attention to opportunities and what people are asking for.

Number five, this is a big one. There's going to be six or seven of these, but number five, momentum matters. So I kept saying, you know, I'm going to come back to talking about the workshop, the email marketing systems workshop. That workshop went really well and the thing is, like, I may have mentioned this, I did not have an offer ready at the end when people were excited. And I realized because I was working on the launch for the group program, I just didn't time it well, but a big takeaway from that was momentum matters. So when you have something and people get excited about it, be ready to capitalize on that.

Number six, inflection points. Let's talk about that. So the smartest person I know online, Amy Hoy, wrote an article about inflection points. And if you don't know what inflection points are there points in your business where, I mean some people would call them growing pains, but it's a point in your business where you're growing or transitioning, whatever you want to call it, but you're having a hardship, right? You're having a hard time because, let's say for example, you need to grow your team so that you can serve more clients, but in the interim you have to continue to do things with the team that you have. Maybe it's just you, maybe it's you and a couple of other people, because it's going to take time for you to find people and train them up and do all of that stuff. That's an inflection point and they are signs of growth.

But early on for me, I would allow inflection points to completely derail me. And I don't know if you've experienced this in your business, but I would just get so freaked out and I think a lot of that was because, if I'm honest, it's probably just lingering trauma from having an agency and then shutting that agency down, being so obstinate about, I don't want to have employees, I don't want to do this and don't want to do that. Now, the way that I respond to inflection points is completely different. You know, in the past, like I said, I would get freaked out, and now, I see them as what they are. They're temporary, they're actually good because they're signs that you're growing and the key is to identify the solution, note down the steps that you need to take to get there and then work it. Just work the plan. You'll get there. It's temporary, it's going to be uncomfortable for a little bit, but there will be a day when it won't be. So, inflection points are natural. They're signs of growth or their signs that you need to optimize in a certain way or fix a certain thing in your business.

The other part to inflection points is this: if you are mostly solo, like I am, for me, I've had employees, I decided I do not want to do that again. I don't ever want to have full time employees in my business, outside of myself. What I do want and what I love working with our contractors. So if you're mostly solo inflection points can feel 10 times as overwhelming compared to even just a two-person team because it's all on you and it just be a lot to deal with. What I have learned is you can still get through it, but it becomes even more important for you to have systems in place and for you to be able to focus, prioritize, delegate, automate, and just focus in on what is important and what is going to move the needle forward or your business. And I know people say that, but it really is important, to be able to identify and say, this is a thing that's going to take my business further, and this is a thing that maybe I'm obsessing on, but it's really not critical and it's not going to be as important in the long-term.

That's one of the key ways to begin to get through because at the end of the day, what it comes down to when you're solo, you know, we hear people talk about growing, we hear people talking about scaling. In order to scale, first of all, there's different ways to scale, but you have to have the systems in place to be able to scale. A lot of times people want to go from zero to a hundred, right? They want to just start a business and scale immediately. That's not how it works, right? You have to learn your processes and document things and create systems so that you can have the infrastructure to scale. So big takeaway if you're solo or small, invest in setting up systems, documenting your processes, having the infrastructure in place that allows you to sustainably scale in a smart way. All right, so that's inflection points.

So number seven is just a basic point that I really want to drive in and I hadn't planned on talking about this, but it's something that is a theme in my life and that is invest in your business. And when I say invest, I don't mean just buying training or courses or working with people. I mean also investing in relationships. You know, one of the key things that has helped me to grow has been forming relationships. I can look at the years where I tried to do everything on my own and I wasn't really talking to people. I wasn't really, you know, connecting, versus the years where I did connect even in person and just challenged myself and put myself out there. I'm an introvert, I'm a full blown introvert. My idea of a wow Friday night is being in the house listening to Myles Davis and writing, so full introvert here. But just realizing that you got to invest, you know? Relationships, education, all of that good stuff. It is so, so worth it.

So if you have some mindset stuff about putting yourself out there, I challenge you to work on that, to make this the thing that you work on this quarter, so that when 2020 around, you are able -- or whenever you're listening to this, the next year comes around, you're able to be where you want to be. Because I read something at the end of Q2, and it's so true, and maybe it was earlier in Q3, and it said what you work on today will pay off in three months. So think about that. What you work on today will pay off in three months. So whatever you put off today will not pay off in three months. And that was like, whoa, okay. Yeah, because I've seen that to be true and it's changed how I think about quarters. I used to look at quarterly planning as, okay, this is what we've got to get done for this quarter, this affects this quarter and this quarter, this quarter. And now, I look at it as, okay, this is for this quarter, but it's also about where we want to be 3, 6, 9, 12 months down the road. It's like it's just domino effect. I love that. All right, so those are lessons learned.

I've talked about Q3, I've talked about lessons learned. The third part of this episode is all about what's happening for Q4, what's going on, Janelle? Well, here is what is going on. Q4 to be all about systems, processes, and relationships. And I that that sounds like I'm telling you what we'll be working on internally and what does that have to do with you, but let me explain. Systems, processes and relationships. So, form a systems standpoint, you're going to see me talking more about email marketing systems and just marketing in general. Because it has become apparent to me that there are a lot of course creators who are ignoring this very critical part of their business, and who are overwhelmed and just struggling. So you're going to see more of that content from me. And not just articles, I'm talking about more tutorials and actionable, practical content that’s going to help you to start to take action.

Now, I am well aware that I cannot force you or anyone to do the work. But what I can do is create additional education to guide you. And at the end of the day, then the ball is in your court. So, more on marketing, specifically email marketing systems. You'll also see more joint workshops. So, Q4, I've already got one workshop lined up. I'm not going o say, see, you tried to make me spill the beans, I'm not going to say who it's with but I'm very excited. Another one should be finalizing that one. So you're going o see one joint workshop, at least one per month for Q4, maybe if I can squeeze in an extra one, but definitely three joint workshops for Q4. This is something I'm excited about. I haven't done any joint workshops since 2017. When I went, again, I had a habit of getting excited and doing a whole bunch of stuff, so I did like six back to back to back over the summer in 2017 and it was fun, but I was worn out. So, scaling back, doing less but still doing it for this quarter.

And that’s connected to relationships, right? So it's about delivering value for you, giving you a chance to learn something new. The one that we already have lined up I'm really excited about because it's going to be like a live podcast and then we're going to do a workshop component. I'm super excited. I've already -- I've said too much. So building those relationships, delivering value and talking about systems. All of the workshops are really going to be about giving you actionable systems that you can put into place to move things forward, either for yourself personally or for your business. Also, I've kind of hinted at this, but I have slowly been offering a marketing audit service. It's been word of mouth only. It's been selling very well and that's something that's going to go live in Q4. So, to prepare for that, you know, internally we're finally sitting down and saying, okay, here are the processes for delivering and documenting and having all of those systems in place. But that is going forward.

And then lastly, but certainly not least is something I've talked about probably for the past three months. Can you guess what it is? If you have been a long-term listener, you know, it is the YouTube channel. So I finally sat down with Trina Little who is a YouTube strategist, to talk about how do you do this thing Trina? Because I just had all of this overwhelm, and it's not about being on camera. Everyone always thinks that that's the thing, like being afraid of being on stage or being on camera. For me, I don't have any fear around that. It is the idea of having to constantly be on the constant content hamster wheel of creating YouTube videos. But Trina gave me a wonderful system and helped me to realize that I don't have to do that. I can block out one or two days a month, create all the videos for the month and it's done. Thank you Trina.

So, here's the thing, Trina also helped me to realize that I was being a bit impetuous and how I was going about things and I needed to take a second and realistically, it's going to take a month of planning and preparing and recording before the YouTube channel is launched. And so what we decided was that the reason it didn't launch earlier is because we realized we had too much on our plate. It wasn't that you just do, there's a bit of preparation, right? So all of that to say one, if you check out Trina, I will definitely link to her site in the show notes, but two, the YouTube channel is still coming, it's just going to come this quarter, likely in November. We're taking October to finish up our planning and I need to record some damn videos. I know my assistant, Victoria, is probably nodding her head when she listens to this, and that is coming in November. So that is YouTube.

And going back to like systems strategy, all of that stuff, just being very clear about the content, what is the content strategy and doing that planning. So YouTube is coming. I'm excited. What else? Last thing for Q4, I've been talking about it this whole episode and if you're on my mailing list, you know I've talked about it, but, you know, I said I was going to have more around email marketing. Well, the big thing that I will have is a new product called Level Up Your List, to serve anyone who is getting started or growing. This is going to be a new style, a new educational approach for me because I want to have different levels of email marketing capabilities within the program.

So, we're going to start with an imperfect pilot and if you want to learn more about that, hop on the mailing list, because that info is going to be going out within the next two weeks, and I'm excited. I'm excited to really just teach what I share, what I've learned about email marketing, help you if you're stuck. And it's gonna have a big community aspect, not just me giving you some stuff to figure out on your own, but having a community so that if you have questions, if I can't answer them, somebody else can jump in and really help you to take this step. Because like I said, what you do now pays off in three months. So if you've been putting off launching your course because you don't have your email list or you don't know what the people on your email list want, this is going to be the opportunity for you to sign up and be a part of a community and a program that's going to help you to take action and get rid of those bottlenecks so that you can be where you want to be come next year.

So that's what's happening in Q4. Personally, life is good. Life is busy, but life is good, and I'm really excited for 2020, but I'm trying to also stay present and not do that. I'm a planner so I'm always thinking ahead. It's hard sometimes to stay present, so I'm not going to talk about 2020 I'm just going to say that that is what's coming for Q four and I just want to say I'm recording this on September 30th and it's actually the birthday of the podcast. Unbeknownst to me, I launched this podcast three years ago on international podcast day. So if you are a longtime listener, even if you are a new listener, thank you so much for listening and being a part of this family. Thank you for just, you know, being my ride or die and hanging out with me as I learn and grow and share. I don't take it for granted. Trust me, I don't take it for granted. I'm so thankful for you and I can't wait to just share more with you and grow with you and I can't wait for you to see what's coming. So, thank you, and with that, I'm out. Peace.

All right, my friends, that is my time. Remember before you can level up your course, you must first level up your mind. As always, thank you for hanging out with me for another great episode. I do not take it for granted. I am Janelle Allen, and this has been Level Up Your Course. Peace.

Episode Highlights

0:55 Episode Intro, Recap on my three focus areas last Q3

3:00 #1 - Double down to my group program (Finish Your Damn Course)

7:29 #2 - Increase the top-of-funnel traffic

10:43 #3 - Dig deep on my email marketing systems

14:05 Wins and lessons learned in Q3

29:31 Exciting things coming up for Q4

Mentioned in this Episode

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