Creating an online course is hard work. If you’re starting out, you might question whether it’s worth it. Will you gain subscribers, customers, credibility? Or will you just put a ton of work into something that fizzles out? How do you know if your course idea is worth creating?
You need to validate it.
For some, validation starts and ends at discovering what their audience wants. For me, though, validation and insight go hand in hand. It’s all about asking three key questions:
- Do you know what your audience wants and needs?
- Do you know what your audience is going through?
- Do you know what your audience is willing to pay for?
Here are my three favorite strategies for finding answers to those questions:
#1: Rival Recon
This is such a corny name, but I love it. To find out what your audience wants and needs, you’ve got to know their problems. If you’re just starting to build an audience, the easiest way to do this is to run reconnaissance (research) on your rivals who have larger audiences than you. Your rivals are people who are doing something similar to what you’re doing (or plan to do).
ONCE YOU LOCATE THESE PEOPLE, HERE'S WHAT I WOULD LOOK FOR & DO:
- Is their audience similar to yours?
- What are their offerings? Download their free stuff; buy some of their courses; evaluate them
- Are they on social media? Follow them and take stock of what questions their customers ask.
- What are the common problems their audience has? Read the comments on their sites and pay attention to what content is popular and what questions people have.
- Make a list of all this info. Keep it in something like Google Drive so you can access it on the fly.
- Make friends with your rivals. Yep, I said it. When I used to hang out in the jazz clubs of Atlanta, I noticed one trend: musicians hang out with each other. They don’t roll solo. Instead they hang together and inspire each other to new heights. Why can’t entrepreneurs do the same?
#2: Audience Surveys
Another way to figure out what your audience wants is to survey your list. If people have subscribed to your email list, they want to engage with you. They're itching for you to help them, so why be shy about it?
The best way to find out what your audience wants from you is to ask them via surveys or email. Surveys are great because they help you learn what people are struggling with in their own words. Struggle equals pain. Pain begs a solution. Solutions have a price. As busy humans, we all know that something is going to cost time or money.
Surveys can be tricky, though, because we can be nervous about sending them out. Plus, many people don’t bother to fill them out. Know what changes that? Engagement. If you have an engaged audience that you’ve built a solid relationship with, they will be there for you and you’ll feel more comfortable reaching out to them. So stop worrying about what they'll think and just reach out.
HERE ARE MY SURVEY TIPS:
- Keep it short. Less than 5 mins, preferably 2 - 3.
- Make it about them, not you. Frame your survey in terms of value, i.e. add your voice so I can make something to help you XYZ.
- Make it easy to use. I recommend using Typeform.
- Leave an option for open ended responses.
- Test out your survey before you send it to make sure there aren't any glitches.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about money. If you plan to charge for your course, ask them if they’d pay for a course on XYZ. You never know unless you ask. It's better to ask and get feedback, then to create something that no one wants.
#3: Pre-Sell Your Course
Know what the best validation of your course is? Paying customers. Once you have a mailing list of potential customers, it's time to really test the waters.
Tell your audience what you're planning to create. Let them know the general timeline for your course launch and give them an opportunity to purchase VIP access. You'll want to give them reasons to purchase, of course, like early access, lifetime membership, coaching/consulting, etc.
And, by all means, capitalize on your early customers by making them part of a beta run or pilot group. Their feedback will be invaluable!
Back to You
What are some strategies you've used to validate your online course idea? I'd love to read about them in the comments.