If you’re thinking of creating an online product but have no idea how yours will stand out, this blog may be just what you need right now.
I’ve known Brad Morris for a number of years now. He’s been a guest blogger twice before here with his 7 Top Lessons I learned from Creating my Online Product and Seven Lessons from my Marketing Vision Quest. He’s one of the most genuine and creative people I know. He and his friend Andy (who has been helping me design my Niching Spiral Homestudy Course) just launched a new course called the Great eCourse Adventure and I thought it was such a creative approach to doing an eCourse that it might inspire you.
In this guest post you’ll read of the six big challenges facing the online education world today but also twenty hard won lessons that Brad and Andy have wrestled from their pursuits of doing something that’s very different from other things out there.
Note: all of the links below are affiliate links which means I am paid something if you sign up for his program. If that sits funny with you or feels off for any reason but you’d still like to check it out, you can do that here and nothing will be tracked back to me.
By Bradley Morris & Andy Freist
eCourse Adventure Guides at The Great eCourse Adventure
So you’ve been thinking about creating an eCourse huh?
Of course you have. Who hasn’t?
Creating a freedom lifestyle by teaching what you love (and living off the passive income from eCourse sales) is a pretty wicked dream… and a doable one at that.
There’s a bit of a Gold Rush happening right now as the online education industry surpasses the $100 billion mark this year.
With massive growth comes some big challenges.
One challenge is, everyone’s hunting for gold in the same river and the river is getting crowded.
What happens when the river gets too crowded?
Challenge #1: Everything Starts Looking the Same
In this sea of sameness, it can be hard to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.
If your intended audience can’t tell you apart from the rest of the eCourses and offerings like you because you’ve taken the cookie-cutter approach, how will they find you?
Yes, it is important that you come up with your own unique way of sharing, teaching or saying what everyone else in your market is doing.
And, what can you do to innovate the online learning experience for your customers that sets you apart from everyone else doing what you do?
Challenge #2: Over Promises, Under Delivery
Because everyone is trying to stand out as the expert of all experts, many are creating promises they can’t or have no intention of keeping.
Titles like, “The Six Figure this,” “The Everything Blueprint,” “The Make More Money Formula,” and “The Seven Steps to You Name It” are definitely thrown around a lot these days.
The problem with trying to fit in with the status quo is there is so much noise. Everyone is yelling over top of each other and they’re all essentially shouting the same thing.
How does this show up? Lots of hype and false promises in order to “get noticed” and make the sale. The eCourse Industry is quickly becoming a sort of breeding grounds for what feels annoyingly similar to the modern day car salesman.
You can sure feel it when the teacher’s main motives are driven by an undercurrent of financial gain, rather than being driven by the authentic desire of truly wanting to serve their students.
How can we create digital experiences for our tribes that are so transformational, unique and service-focused that they sell themselves without ever needing to “sell” anything?
Challenge #3: Information Overload
Let’s be honest, we’re all a little overwhelmed from information these days. It’s easy to impress people with knowledge, but that does not always guarantee results.
The typical formula for eCourses is to create a series of videos that dump an indigestible amount of information on the student, mixed with an overwhelming number of action steps or to-do’s, and then a PDF that rarely ever gets printed out and worked on.
This strategy has worked in the past, however people are becoming less inspired and more numb by the formula. It’s quickly losing it’s effectiveness.
There’s nothing wrong with videos and PDF’s. We use them too and they are an important tool in the digital learning experience.
We have found that delivering the lessons in bite-sized, digestible amounts, with a clear call to action results in a higher engagement rate.
The key is giving our students the right amount of information at the right time, in the right order. Then to come up with creative ways to deliver the lessons and support your customer to actually integrate the lesson into their life or business. (we have examples later in this article)
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle
How can we as teachers and coaches, craft highly engaging multi-media educational processes that focus on the experience, rather than just relaying information?
Challenge #4: High Customer Failure Rate
The whole purpose of creating eCourses is to improve people’s lives. However, that’s not the message or approach that’s being practiced across the board. Many eCourse creators out there are more focused on “making sales” rather than creating the ultimate customer experience.
There is a kind of desperation in the air, when you really look at what’s being said on many of the sales pages we get sent to. When there’s not a desperation, there is a “holier than thou” complex that these internet gurus hold in order to posture themselves as the saviour.
We believe the focus should be on providing massive value and a transformational experience for the customer.
If we do this, then we don’t have to hype ourselves up like the Inflatable Tube Man because our customers will do the talking for us.
What happens a lot of the time though, is people sign up for an eCourse that seems promising due to a free give-away and great sales copy.
They start off excited, but when it comes time to “do the work”, they don’t feel genuine support from the teacher or they get disinterested with the content. Many unfortunately leave the experience beating themselves up and feeling discouraged because they didn’t fulfill their intention.
This has been a huge frustration of our’s with the different courses we’ve created. All we want is for our participants to achieve the transformation they signed up for. When they don’t, we do everything in our power to find out what happened and make improvements accordingly.
With eCourses generally being self paced, it’s common for participants to feel overwhelmed with the huge amount of resistance that surfaces from doing this big new thing.
If the eCourse does not have the right support systems in place or the content isn’t engaging enough, participants will find it hard to follow through… unless they’re incredibly motivated or passionate about the topic.
If customer engagement drops, so does retention. Customer retention is what keeps the business alive and growing.
How can we facilitate the ultimate experience that supports our customers through their resistance, fear and the necessary growth that’s required to succeed with your course?
Challenge #5: Trust is Declining
I’ve personally become a bit jaded in the whole online learning world. I honestly don’t trust much of what I see because of all the dis-honesty and sleazy marketing gimmicks that try to push people into buying.
Being jaded sucks. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of great teachers and amazing opportunities to learn and grow due to my silly paranoia.
I also know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I talk to more people all the time who are tired of being flushed down sales funnels and slammed with high pressure emails like inbox tsunamis.
In business, trust is our most valuable asset with our customers. It’s also something that is earned over time. This means we have to be in it for the long haul, rather than the quick sale approach.
How can we create rich, authentic experiences for our customers that build a strong foundation of trust?
Challenge #6: The Homogenization of our Industry
Basically, what’s happening is the teachers at the top of the food chain in the eCourse industry set the standard for how eCourses are created, marketed, priced and presented.
Everyone else is stepping into the mold that those leaders have created for them, usually without even realizing it.
This keeps the cycle of sameness going and delays the inevitable change that’s coming…
How can we break away from the mold and come up with innovative, new ways to educate, market and inspire?
The Good News?
With Big Challenges, Come Big Opportunities
If you caught yourself cringing or nodding in agreement while reading the problems we listed above, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
These are the problems most eCourse Creators are facing right now and it seems that nobody really knows what to do to break the cycle of sameness.
The entire eCourse industry is ripe for a massive shift. The tools that are available to us now for creating incredible online experiences, compared to five years ago, are incomparably better. All of the “problems” we’ve mentioned up above are perfect and fine.
They’ve served their purpose up to here and they’re now becoming outdated.
What’s awesome about this is, there is an opportunity to decide where we go next in the eCourse Frontier.
Rather than feeding people information, we believe (Andy and I), the challenge and solution lies in our ability to inspire and lead people to achieve lasting transformation. We know we’re not the only ones who think this way.
“With transformations, the economic offering of a company is the individual person or company changed as the result of what the company does. With transformations, the customer is the product! The individual buyer of the transformation essentially says, ‘change me’.” – The Experience Economy (Pine and Gilmore)
The transformation can be learning a new skill, overcoming an illness or struggle, even gaining a new perspective on life or a situation. It can even be learning to create an incredible eCourse that aligns with your truth. The key is that it is a deep, meaningful and lasting change. If the student “loses” the transformation after the training, it wasn’t a true transformation.
Going through a transformational process can often be extremely uncomfortable for our customer. This is true even when they have a high desire for the change.
It is our instinctual human nature to resist what causes us to grow and change.
For example: A lot of the people when starting out on the eCourse Creation journey come to us thinking it’s going to be as easy as writing a few PDF’s, shooting some videos and slapping a $1,000-2,000 price tag on their course. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
When the reality sets in and they realize the massive investment of time, creativity and energy it takes to build something remarkable, professional and transformational, most people tend to get overwhelmed or experience a mega-ton of resistance…
If your motivations aren’t clear enough, then the resistance can be bigger than your WHY, causing you to give up, seek out an easier opportunity or cop out and create something that doesn’t live up to your potential (or heart’s desire).
Resistance is a natural part of the process when we set out to achieve something big and awesome.
Why? Because we have to step up, show up and become the person we need to be in order to achieve that goal.
This requires growth, learning and change. A few things the good ol’ ego hates.
eCourse Mastery happens when we can guide people on a deeply transformative process in a way that supports them to overcome their resistance, internal obstacles and achieve the original promise you made that inspired them to sign up for your eCourse.
Our primary duty as eCourse Creators and guides is to do whatever it takes to facilitate that transformational process for our tribe.
If we can not do this, then we have failed. We’re only successful when our students or customers are successful.
From Information to Transformation
When coming up with the idea for our latest project, the Great eCourse Adventure, our number one priority was to create an experience that keeps our customers engaged and excited for all the steps they have to take and hard work that lies ahead.
We also wanted to find a way to incorporate all of our passions and creative gifts into the creation of our eCourse. Mostly because what we were doing before with our previous courses still felt like “work”. They weren’t fully stoking our creative fun fire.
The other question we pondered was, “how do we actually create something that stands apart from anything else in the industry?” We wanted to build something original for our tribe.
We were extremely clear that whatever our next eCourse was going to be, it had to be fun (for us to create and for our participants to go through) and it had to be transformational. The days of sitting in front of a camera and talking at our participants about our step-by-step blueprint were over. Hallelujah!
These intentions and the questions we asked ourselves led to some of the biggest breakthroughs of our lives.
We said goodbye to “the box” and hello to stoking the flame of possibility that lives within all our imaginations.
Are you ready to hear what we did?
So how did we create our ultimate eCourse experience?
Before you read what we did, I will tell you how we did it…
It wasn’t until we got crystal clear on our WHY – our key motivations for creating this eCourse, that the puzzle pieces came together.
Disclaimer: if you’re getting into building transformational eCourses, you can’t make your motivations about money or your own personal freedom. It is 100% about your customer’s experience. Not yours.
Now that we’ve got that little piece out of the way, here’s what we did…
We have combined our love for entertainment, skit comedy, gamification, education, transformation, art, business, marketing, and being over the top creative to fuel “The Great eCourse Adventure.”
Here are the ways we utilized the power of media to create a truly unique, creative and transformational learning experience:
We decided that our eCourse is a work of art. The true underlying motivation for creating our course is to craft a masterpiece. By plugging in our innate talents and passions, the entire process has been an absolute joy. It is no different than a painter immersed in the act of placing paint on a canvas. This is our art.
We built a virtual world and storyline about our eCourse participants climbing a mountain to the peaks of “Launch Summit”. We bring this world to life through every single aspect of how we facilitate the course (videos, sound effects, online platform, languaging, community, emails, etc). It’s all about the adventure!
We made our video lessons entertaining, fun and engaging. Some of the lessons are even taught by mystical creatures and outlandish characters. Participants never know what surprise we have in store next. ?Hello engagement and fun!
We gamified the entire journey to make action-taking an even more enjoyable, rewarding experience for participants. Let’s face it, we all love games. Our commitment is to bring more play to the business world. ?
We got super creative with our auto-responder emails, making it a fun and exciting experience for our adventurers to open their inbox.?
We created an amazing journaling system that goes above and beyond the standard PDF, allowing participants to plan, build and organize their entire eCourse in one location. We’ve never seen any other courses use the system we’ve created.?
We’re growing an immersive online community that inspires the kind of intimacy amongst participants that you’d experience if you were going to summer camp. We called this magical place for conversation and connection, “The Campfire.” ?
We understand the need for support on adventures like this, which is why we built into the community experience opportunities for Adventurers to do spontaneous masterminds together (at no extra cost), pair up with an Adventure Buddy for accountability purposes and all sorts of other incredible things that pack on the support to help our tribe succeed.
We also give our participants an Adventure Map instead of a to-do list. This little map will help them track their progress and get a sweet visual of what excitement lies ahead. It’s also an extremely fulfilling way to cross off the steps you’ve taken.
With all these moving parts working together, we believe we’ve found a solution that will make “doing the work” more enjoyable than binge-watching Netflix.
What we’ve built is just the beginning of this new style of digital learning experiences and we’re excited to see the wild, magical courses that our work inspires in the world.
What we’ve created could never be duplicated or copied by anyone. It is 100% unique and has never been done (as far as we know). Yet the process of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it is entirely teachable!
Here are 20 lessons we’ve learned from building The Great eCourse Adventure:
- Rather than creating an eCourse, create an entire world that immerses your participants in the learning experience. ?This can be done easier than one might think.
- Facilitating a transformation has nothing to do with the information you present. It’s all about the experiences and journey you take your customer through. ?
- The ‘Ultimate Transformation’ your eCourse or brand promises does not happen all at once. It happens over a series of carefully planned and facilitated experiences.? This is why the power of eCourses is only beginning to be understood. With a workshop or coaching experience, you can support a breakthrough. With eCourses, you can facilitate multiple breakthroughs and help them be fully integrated into your customer’s life.
- Building a successful eCourse is not about making a million dollars in sales, it’s about transforming the lives of those who need your course.?
- Information is less valuable than tangible Transformations. ?
- It’s important that you dig deep and find your own creative flavour. This is what brings your eCourse to life and gives it personality. ?
- Don’t ever try to be like everybody else. Otherwise you’ll miss all the people looking for you.?
- Build a team that you love, trust and enjoy working with. If you want to build something that is wildly unique and awesome, then it’s going to require more people being involved than just you alone.
- Don’t make an eCourse to create quick cash. Take your time, be methodical and when inspiration strikes take tons of action.?
- Focus on building a community and culture around your creation.
- If you’re planning on building a successful online business, be prepared to spend exorbitant numbers of hours in front of a computer screen. Be sure to balance that with plenty of exercise, nature time and by doing things you love on your breaks.
- Don’t try to get it perfect the first time. There is always time to improve and refine once you’ve created the first version of your idea. ?Perfect is a verb.You are Perfect’ing!
- Keep it fun. If you’re unable to have fun doing the thing you apparently love, then why the hell are you doing it? Honestly.?
- There’s no need to get lost in the hustle or the hype. If you create an experience that is truly transformational and unique, your customer will know if your thing is for them or not and they’ll be excited to spread the word.
- Pricing your eCourse is one of the hardest parts of the process. Deep down inside though, you’ll know what to charge. Don’t sell it for more than what you would honestly buy it for.
- Gratitude for the journey. Take your time and enjoy each step along the way. This is not a race, it is an adventure. Enjoy it.
- Until your WHY is clear, your WHAT will remain a mystery.
- When dreaming into your WHAT, take the shackles of limitation off of yourself. Anything is possible in the digital Universe. Dream it, then find the people (hopefully friends) to create it with. If you can’t find them right away, then create your first version as best as you can with the resources you have available.
- ABC = Always Be Creating. If you want to create your freedom lifestyle building transformational eCourses, then start creating today and never stop. Learn from doing.
- Value yourself. There are people who are waiting for your truth, wisdom and experience. If don’t create the ways for them to hear your voice and find you, then you’re doing them a disservice. All voices, all stories, all people matter. Honour and value the gifts you have to share by sharing them.
We recognize that the experience we’ve created with the Great eCourse Adventure is just one example of what’s possible. Since embarking on this creative journey, we’ve thought of so many other awesome eCourse ideas that we’ll never have time to build, but hope others will.
Here’s a few questions to journal about:
- What do you imagine this next chapter of online learning and eCourse creation looking like?
- What lessons can you take from this article and apply to your business or eCourses immediately?
- What is your motivating WHY to invest the necessary time and energy required to craft a highly engaging, transformational experience for others?
Want to experience the Great eCourse Adventure?
Join the first three checkpoints on the mountain for FREE -or- get the full Launch Summit Trail Pass for our $299 Beta Launch.
*Registration closes at 11:59pm PST January 9th. 150 full Trail Passes available.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about what we’ve shared in this article. Let’s imagine what’s possible for the world of online learning together. Join the conversation below.
About The Authors:
Bradley T Morris
Inspired by freedom, fun and a dream to sponsor himself to play Professional Golf, Bradley dropped out of college at the age of 21 to start his first online business. Skip forward after a decade of entrepreneurial adventures and he now makes his living creating transformational eCourses and coaching adventurous entrepreneurs to develop engaging, unique and creatively inspired eCourses that transform people’s lives. His various eCourses have now supported thousands of customers in more than 30 countries across the globe. More about Bradley at BradleyTMorris.com
Part tech geek, part musician, part entrepreneur, and part artist. When he’s not out playing music and producing dance events, Andy spends his days channeling his love for technology and artistry into the online space. He supports visionary entrepreneurs in creating powerful eCourse platforms and potent customer experiences.? His specialty is online design, brand architecture and crafting engaging customer experiences from websites, eCourses to in person events and beyond.? More about Andy at ZenTeach.com