I chatted with Sid Bharath from Thinkific on a recent livestream. We chatted about online course creation as well as content marketing and what is currently working in the online marketing space.
What is Thinkific?
Thinkific is an all-in-one platform to create and sell your online courses. The benefits of having a platform is that you as course creator don't have to worry about the technical details of setting up a website, the checkout process, student management, payments and emailing. It can be a technical nightmare, especially if you're not very technology savvy. Even if you are, it's still gonna take a lot of time and money to maintain, upgrade and secure everything.
Thinkific provides all the tools for you without having to worry about so you can focus on creating content. Thinkific does it all – you can put it up online and then send it out to the world and automatically collect students emails and payments, it's all set up for you.
What would you say is the number one challenge you've seen from course creators when it comes to actually launching an online course?
I often see, for new course creators, people trying to get everything perfect, trying to have everything in a row and it takes them months and sometimes even years. I've seen people who have said they have something really interesting they’ve been working on for two years, and all this time while working on it behind the scenes, they haven't told anyone about it! So no one knows its coming and when they launch it after a few years of hard work, it's like crickets.
The biggest mistake and the biggest problem is people are trying to make everything perfect upfront, when what you should be doing is to maybe pre-launch – just put out some content, start engaging people, don't worry about making mistakes. Put something together even if it's a small mini-course and then build from there.
If you don't have an audience then your big challenge is marketing. Which is why we also say to pre-launch that course. Try to build up that audience before you actually launch the course and then when you launch it, you have an audience to launch it to. But even after that, you still need to keep marketing that course, do some launches or have an evergreen style course that continuously brings in new traffic and sales.
What is working now in terms of content marketing and what have you seen works in pushing content out to get heard amongst a crowd of voices?
I think that content marketing should come with a caveat that it's not an immediate result. You don't just put out one piece of content and suddenly get sales. It's a process you have to be consistent – that's one big thing – and you have to have good quality. Every piece of content you put out, whether it's a video, blog post, YouTube, Facebook live, Zoom webinar or podcast has to be really good and you have to be consistent with it. Then, over time, that audience will build up.
What I'm seeing as a trend these days is people creating Facebook groups to maintain that community, where previously it would just be a blog, asking people to sign up for an email list, then you'd communicate with them via email. You can still do that, but you also want to build that community on Facebook because people are on Facebook all day long, every day, and you can easily create discussions with them and become someone they trust as a source of information and authority.
What would you say if a future course creator had a week to work on their idea and had nothing created yet? Where should they start?
I think you should start with building your audience, whether it is through blogging, emails, webinars or Facebook ads. At the end of the day you want an audience or community of people, and then you can take it from there.
If at the end of the week, you have even a hundred people on your email list or in your Facebook group, that's a source of information for you where you can talk to each of them. You can say “hey, look I'm thinking of creating a course around this topic, what are your biggest pain problems, what are your frustrations, what solutions do you need?” Then you can really create a course around that and use those first 100 people as your, for lack of a better term, guinea pigs.
What blogs have been instrumental in giving you a foundation for understanding all this stuff?
I got started in content marketing about five years ago. Back then, I followed people like Neil Patel and Noah Kagan. For 2017, there are some really good blogs like Moz, Unbounce, Kissmetrics, and Optimizely.
I get most of my information from inbound.org, which is a community for marketers and inbound marketers. I don't really follow certain people or blogs anymore, I actually go to the community at inbound.org and find the best sources, like one source called growandconvert.com, These guys are doing some really cool stuff with blogging. They started a blog about six months ago and had this big challenge to reach 100,000 viewers. They're creating this amazing content and explain the process of what they actually did. So if there's one particular blog you want, that's them.
Back to Thinkific, how often do you find people signing up and then just getting stuck? What's your advice for them?
It happens so many times. People sign up, and it's free to sign up for Thinkific, so they take their time with it and then life gets in the way. People don't block off time and say “I'm gonna work on my online course, I'm gonna take one step and just do this one thing today.”
And then, as I said earlier, everyone's just trying to be perfect. So they're trying to get everything right first and just never, never, never launch. Now, the reason they're trying to be perfect is because of that fear that if it's not perfect, no one's going to buy it and then it's going be a waste of time, right? But, if you get that proof of concept, you can pre-sell it and you don't have to create a course at all. Put up a landing page, say “hey this is what my course is going to be about, this is the problems it's going to solve for you, if you're interested sign up here or pay $10 just to show that you're willing to pay money.” And when you get the sale then you have your validation! Now you can go and create the course.
Enjoy the interview? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share your greatest challenge in creating an online course.