3 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your Online Course or Membership

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The world of online learning has exploded! And it seems like everyone and their cousin’s best friend are selling a course or membership. But it’s no wonder – they work!

The online education market will reach $350 billion by 2025 according to Research & Markets.

Especially with the COVID pandemic shaking up the way we work and learn, small & medium businesses and large corporations are the biggest consumers of online learning, with education sectors increasing demand exponentially. 

With that kind of demand, it would be foolish NOT to take your expertise and package it up in a way that people will pay to consume.

I know what you’re thinking…”but there’s already a course on becoming a cat lady – why should I create another one?” 

Why not make a course on how to be a cat lady?

Yes, you may be duplicating the content of something that’s already out there. BUT,  you present your material in a way only you can. The right person is out there that needs to hear your delivery and the way you explain it differently than anyone else.

But before you go spending your life savings on hiring a developer to build you the fanciest membership portal you can think of, you need to start by carefully planning your course or membership first.

And while you’re doing that, here are 3 mistakes that guarantee your program will flop.

Creating the Course YOU Want (Not the Course Your Audience Needs)

You may have a great deal of knowledge in a particular area that you can teach others. You might think you know exactly what kind of course your audience would like. But it’s a fatal mistake to create the course you want rather than the course your audience needs.

It’s easy to dive right in and create a course based on what you think you should teach, but it’s not likely to reach a great number of people or earn you a profit. And then, what’s the point? You’ll have a highly informative course that no one signs up for.

Instead, you should start by considering your ideal customer. What problems are they struggling with? What do they need to know? What are their interests? Once you have some ideas, consider how you can help them. Try to match your audience’s needs to your skills and expertise.

For example, you may find out through surveys that your email subscribers want to know more about using LinkedIn. You can take your knowledge and experience with LinkedIn and create a course that teaches them how to set up a profile and use it.

And don’t forget about delivery and experience. When you’re surveying, be sure to ask how your audience likes to learn. Do they prefer videos or audio? Short, bite-sized clips or longer lectures? Do they need a schedule to follow each lesson one-by-one, or do they want to access the entire content and pace themselves?

These factors will impact sales, but more importantly, they’ll impact the number of users who actually complete the course, rather than tiring out and stopping part-way through. 

(Hey, if this makes sense to you, please share with your connections on Twitter – just click below)

Making Your Course Too Long and Packing it with Too Much Content

Naturally, you have a great deal of knowledge you want to drop on your course participants. It also makes perfect sense that a longer course is more bang for the buck. A long and thorough course theoretically offers more value to its participants.

The problem is that if your course is too long, it might overwhelm your students. You might lose some of them along the way. The best courses are tightly focused. They teach what they need to teach in order for students to overcome the problems they’re struggling with. Your course should be just long enough to do that and your membership should contain exactly the right elements to assure the success of your students.

Don’t be tempted to throw in all kinds of bonuses, extra lessons, and guides just because it seems like more materials will add more value.

The ideal length for an online course really depends on how complex the content is and how long you expect participants to consume it and do any accompanying homework. 

Ask yourself how long you expect it to take to learn what you’re teaching. Let’s say it’s 6 weeks. Then, break down your content into 6 sections of equal length. Each section taking one week. Don’t give more than someone can do in 1 week’s time, or however long you’ll give them for each section. 

That might mean breaking some topics into Parts 1 and 2 if each part will take more than the allotted period to complete. Each topic (you could call these modules) should have three to five steps or small sections. The sections should consist of a short video and any accompanying download or worksheets needed. 

Be careful not to overwhelm with videos that are too long, too many downloads that aren’t relevant, or too much homework.

And, remember that each student consumes material differently, so offer lots of options for watching videos, downloading a transcript, or listening to audio.

Each course has its own needs structurally and in terms of content types though, so this is just a guideline.

If you find your course is too long and you feel the information is very valuable, you can remove one module and offer it as supplemental material – a bonus add-on, or an additional resource for participants.

And be sure to let them know on your sales page how much time they should expect to spend on the material and homework so they’ll know if they can realistically complete the course.

Putting All of Your Effort on the Course but Skimping on the Marketing

It takes a great deal of work to put together and run an online course, but you can’t forget to market it. It’s easy to get consumed with creating the course that you don’t spend enough time creating a marketing plan.

It’s arguable the marketing plan is more important than making the content just perfect the first time you offer the course. You can always edit the material as you go, as students won’t be able to consume all of it at once.

Before you even get started, make sure you have a solid marketing plan. What is the transformation you’ll take them on from point A to point B? How will you adequately convey that transformation to them? How will you get your course in front of your target audience? How will you advertise it and put the word out? Which marketing channels will you use and how will you use them?

If you have a topic that aligns with your target audience’s interests, a tightly focused course, and a marketing plan in place, you’re virtually guaranteed a successful course.

But, there are several places your marketing can fall apart. Think of it like a journey you need to take everyone on. Not everyone will come with you on the entire journey right to buying your course. They’ll fall off along the way.

Make sure that as you take them on the journey from learning about you and the material you offer, all the way to deciding they need the help you can offer, to deciding if your course is right for them, to purchasing, you are aware of where they can fall off along the way.

Make sure your marketing journey is consistent along the way and you don’t lose anyone in places that are easy fixes – like tech errors, missing or incomplete information, vague or unconvincing copy, and difficult pricing or packages.

If you avoid these deadly mistakes and create something your buyers need, can convey to them how it will give them a transformation, and can teach them in an effective way, you’ll easily make sales and having raving reviews!

Interested in my favorite tech stack for course and membership sites?
I love:

AccessAlly – a WordPress plugin that controls access to the course materials, plus a whole bunch of extras to make the course engaging.
ActiveCampaign – Email automation to communicate with your students over the span of the course. There’s no limit to the support you can give them, timed perfectly with their progress in the course.
LeadPages – Easily create landing and sales pages to promote and market your programs.
Stripe – The easiest payment processing solution that integrates with the above tools.
Vimeo – My pick for video hosting. Integrates perfectly with AccessAlly and allows you to personalize the video player to match your brand.