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November 17, 2022

My 8-step Formula to Build My Course in Public to Guarantee Sales

Kevon Cheung

Founder & Head Teacher

“I am thinking about building a new course!”

Is that what you’re saying to your friends these days?

I get it - because I get emails like this all the time.

This is great because you and I both know that online education and the creator economy is skyrocketing in the last few years. But wait …

Have you thought about the 2 most important things?

  1. Do people need your course and what should go into the curriculum?
  2. How will you put the course into the right people’s hands?

Having clarity on these 2 questions will bring you wild success with the course, but a mind-boggling fact is that many people new to course creation actually don’t think about them.

For someone like me who has a few digital products and a sizable audience already, I still hone in on these 2 questions every time I build. Because if I don’t, I’d have a failed course no one wants!

You can’t enjoy success if you keep building inside your head!

And this is why I want to document the 8 steps I used to create my video course, Easy Content Magic. I want to show you how I did it from validating the idea to selling the course.

Are you ready to jump in?

What brings you course sales?

What is fascinating is that a course with a high-quality curriculum is a prerequisite to tremendous course sales, but it is not what drives a ton of sales.

If you want people to come knocking on your door and tell you “I want your course!”, you have to plan for it. The way I did it was by using my Momentum Marketing framework to create a buzz from the very first day I worked on the course. The momentum was built all the way to pre-sale and launch to make sure people want your course.

And you’ll be getting a deep dive today on Phase 1: Building the Product where I’ll show you the 8 exact steps:

  1. Validate your early idea using data
  2. Set up a 60-min live workshop
  3. Draw people into the workshop
  4. Deliver a WOW learning experience
  5. Observe, gauge, and ask
  6. Iterate and repeat
  7. Validate again by selling early
  8. Launch your course

1. Validate your early idea using data

My students at Build in Public Mastery often ask me, “Kevon, how do you validate an idea?”

In short, there’s only one way — you listen to what people are saying. This is why Product teams do user research and interviews to get raw data.

So if you have some people in your community right now, there are so many ways to get people to tell you things. I have done:

  • Tweet specific & slightly open-ended questions to hear what people say
  • Send out a short survey and promise to pick 2 winners to offer something free
  • Chatting people up in private messages

I gathered 400+ data points across a year and saw that my audience has the same pain points:

This made me go, “What can I do to make <thinking about what to share> easier?” This was how the early idea of Easy Content Magic came about.

But now you might be saying “What if I don’t have a community or audience yet?”

Well, I intentionally put “chatting people up” on the list above because I want you to know that no matter how big of an audience you have, this is still the best way to get data to validate your idea.

A creator with a 6-fig business or 1,000 students still has to do to build a new product. For you, it means that it is a must-learn skill and you want to put a ton of effort to learn how to do it right.

When you see patterns of the same questions, frustrations, or complaints, you know enough people are interested in getting “this thing” resolved. It is then up to you to solve it for them. These people? You chat them up to understand why they struggle. P.S. at this point, it is not about pitching your idea.

2. Set up a 60-min live workshop

If you’re itching to jump into building your course now, don’t! This is another mistake new course creators make and I just have to stop you now.

The reason is that you might have some ideas about what to teach to solve this problem for people, but you haven’t really proved that you’re on the right track. The next step is not to spend 100 hours building the course, it is actually figuring out the one thing that requires your minimal effort to validate that people indeed need this.

Now let me ask you a question. A video course is about you showing up on video to teach people, so what do you think people care about before they buy a course?

Okay, giving you 3 seconds here. 3-2-1.

They would want to know whether you know how to teach, whether your delivery is easy-to-understand, whether you’re an interesting teacher to listen to, etc.

And what’s the fastest way to get proof that you can do these nicely?

For me, it is a 60-min live workshop where you teach a small group face to face. If people leave the workshop screaming “This is AMAZING!” You know you have what it takes to create a course that will make terrific sales.

You can also find out immediately what parts people find boring so you can take it out from your course or at least move to the 2nd half of it. You can pick the parts people love the most and put them at the beginning of the course to front-load your value-add so people are happy.

So many things you get to learn from running a live workshop. Are you convinced?

But if you now go “Kevon, alrighty! Let me design a workshop now!”

Don’t! Not yet. Remember about the “minimal effort to validate that people indeed need this”? You don’t know if people want this workshop yet, so this is what you’re going to do.

3. Draw people into the workshop

What you need to do now is to design a workshop sales page to pitch how you’re going to resolve this struggle for people.

If you have an email list or social following, use them to get signups for the workshop.

Should you make this a free workshop? No.

If you’re doing a workshop to build your audience, you can absolutely do it for free! But in this case, you’re trying to validate the idea for a paid video course you’ll build. This is why you cannot do it for free.

Free means you attract a lot of people who won’t pay later. Free means their feedback is not as relevant. Free means people care less and the word-of-mouth effect is weakened.

Only when you make it paid then you can get a sense of how many people are willing to pay how much for your teaching. I set it at $19 because I wanted it to be a no-brainer price that people could act on in less than a minute.

If you don’t have an email list or an audience, then go back to my greatest wisdom ever shared: chat people up privately.

In my early days, I definitely shared what I was doing a lot as I talked to people. A casual mention can draw a lot of people in. And people appreciate that they’re getting an invitation instead of a mass email.

If … let’s just say if you are not sure whose door to knock on, here’s my bad news: then you’re likely not ready to build a video course.

If you don’t know who the student should be or where to find them, you don’t have the right data to validate your early idea. And building the course cannot solve this for you.

Instead of moving forward, you want to go back to step 1.

If you’re ready, then I have one more tip for you. I mentioned to these live workshop signups that they were beta students for my new course. And when I finally built out the full course, they would get it without paying more. This made it super attractive for people to want to get in right away.

4. Deliver a WOW learning experience

It is show time! No matter how many signups you get, you run the workshop. Yes, even if there is only 1 student. This is your chance to practice showing up on camera to teach - an important skill if you want to have a super successful video course.

Your one job here is to delight your attendees so much.

What I did was that I was honest and upfront that the workshop was a beta version. This way my attendees adjusted their expectations and were more willing to share their feedback. If I didn’t mention it, most people would take the workshop, make a quick judgment call on their investment, and move on.

If you deliver a mediocre experience, you leave a dent in people’s minds. You don’t want that.

There’s something you should know. I sold 22 seats to this live workshop and 15 people showed up. Not everyone would show up and that’s okay. Some people want to get in early for a good deal. Some prefer to watch the replay. Everyone has different needs and learning styles. It is all good.

5. Observe, gauge, and ask

After the live workshop, most new course creators evaluate how it goes by feelings. “I think I did a good job!” You don’t want this.

There are a few ways that give you a signal on whether it is a job well done:

  1. Did the attendees show enthusiasm and reactions throughout the workshop?
  2. Did they stay behind to ask you questions?
  3. Did they share positive & constructive feedback with you after the workshop?

If these are the signals you want in order to gauge, you have to design them.

This is what I usually do at live workshops:

I also told them at the start that I was happy to stay behind for 10 mins to answer any questions.

I designed a short survey and clearly stated there were only 2 questions and that it should take 1 minute. I sent them right after the workshop wrapped up.

I got 11 responses out of the 15 live attendees. You want to hear from them when they’re still feeling the “high” from your workshop.

And if you want to increase the response rate, offering a small reward is always going to help. You can say once they complete the survey, they will get a link to <one of your valuable creations>. It can be a paid thing for free or simply a link to a free thing. It doesn’t matter as much because people love to win something or get rewarded.

6. Iterate and repeat

After the workshop, it is time to be honest with yourself. If you don’t, it is only going to waste all your effort in building a course that no one wants.

  • Did you run a workshop where people scream “AMAZING”?
  • Do you feel that you’ve won a new supporter?
  • Which parts can you improve to make the workshop better?

If you feel that you can do a better job, it is a brilliant move to run a 2nd workshop to fine-tune this with a new group of people. Why is this brilliant? Because with each workshop you run, you’re showcasing yourself and your ability to more people. These people give you feedback. They become your community. They are the source of your testimonials. It means you have more of everything!

These days, people want non-fluffy, straight-to-the-point learning. So you want to take out all the parts that people don’t want. I purposely made Easy Content Magic less than an hour long because I want my students to spend more time executing my frameworks, not watching my frameworks.

So because I have experience building courses, I decided I didn’t need to run the 2nd workshop. But if you’re new to teaching, it might be a good idea to get better at teaching and connect with your audience live.

7. Validate again by selling early

Whenever you feel ready, you can start planning a pre-sale. At this point, you don’t even need to have your course fully built yet. All you need is a clear direction and a plan to execute.

If you think you need another 4 weeks to finish the course, then set the launch date to be 4 weeks later, and pre-sale to be 2 weeks later.

The best thing about having run the live workshop is that now you have a relationship with all attendees. You can use their feedback from the survey as testimonials. You can even ask them to write a few new lines. Another signal to you: if you did a good job, they should say yes easily.

In the Momentum Marketing framework, later when you launch the course, you can also ask them to help out and spread the word.

I decided to offer the same price $19 to the first 20 pre-sale signups. Then later I would price the course at $27. If you have more room between the live workshop price and the final price you’re thinking about, you can definitely offer something in between for pre-sale.

So far from steps 1 to 7, if you have been building the course in public, you just need to bring up pre-sale once in a while and people will gradually sign up for it. It is more about getting sales over time instead of having an explosive day.

When you have pre-sale numbers, you can also use them to create extra momentum for the big launch.

8. Launch your course

Finally, you’ve been patient to build this course for your audience. If you follow the steps carefully and mindfully, you should have a course that people are dying to learn from.

Through this process, all the exact words that you hear from workshop attendees and your audience, you want to use them to improve your copy on the sales page. If you speak their language, they resonate. If they feel you understand them, they’ll take your course.

When you’re close to your big launch, you can ask all the people who you’ve interacted with so far, especially the workshop attendees, for help. If you give them a ton of value, they’ll be more than happy to help you even though they had to pay to attend the workshop.

If you’re new to the course world, your video course should not just be a tool for you to make passive income. It is actually a way for you to add value to people’s lives. It is you helping them. This is a perfect place to kick-start relationships. They might want more of your help in the future. They will also help you spread the word for all your future creations.

That’s the beauty of building in public with your community.

My final words to you

I hope that my process of building Easy Content Magic in public here shows you why your last course didn’t work out the way you wanted.

You can also see how Building in Public is working its magic to set up a strong foundation for you to scale. And you use Momentum Marketing to significantly improve your chance of success through your launch.

A successful course is not luck. The more effort you put into engineering each step of the way, the more results will come back to you. Focus on reversing the process and identify the smallest effort to prove that you’re ready for the next step.

And trust me, 80% of the time, a lack of sales doesn’t mean your course is bad! You just need help figuring out the other things like getting feedback, signals, testimonials, community help, etc.

Now go on to build your next course in public!

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Find Joy in Chaos

My book has been read and used by 1,000+ creators to build their Twitter/X presence. You’ll learn how to systematically attract fans and opportunities.

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Find Joy in Chaos

My book has been read and used by 1,000+ creators to build their Twitter/X presence. You’ll learn how to systematically attract fans and opportunities.

Get Find Joy in Chaos