Perpetual planning will kill your business.
I think many people are drawn to starting their own business not because they want to be known as “an entrepreneur” but because of the benefits that come with entrepreneurial success. Specifically, not having a boss and controlling your own time. Both of these benefits were driving factors in my entrepreneurial journey.
As a teenager I would often think of businesses to start while sitting in my cubical at a summer internship (coincidentally, I was helping set-up a corporate university which included live courses and e-learning… funny how that worked out).
I would spend hours brainstorming, researching, creating logo variations and possible business names. I would get lost in this fantasy world. It was like a drug.
I learned that at some point business planning has to stop.
Granted there was no harm in being 19 years old and dreaming about entrepreneurship. It formed the foundation and drive I would use for another decade trying, failing, and finding moderate success in other business ventures. I then used this collective experience when I started a simple blog in 2012 about learning management on WordPress — and well, here we are today.
But I would have never gotten here had it not been for one thing: I stopped planning and started doing. Even if one of my ideas was crap I had no way knowing this until I got it out of my head and started to implement it.
The biggest problem I see with aspiring entrepreneurs is that they get stuck in perpetual planning mode. It’s something I notice everyday with people creating their online courses. They swap out WordPress themes, add plugins, remove plugins, tweak the sign-up process again and again. I can assure you that obsessing on these tasks is wasted time and won’t make any money.
The blog I started in 2012… it looked awful.
It had a simple theme with two pages (homepage and blog). It also had a pretty amateurish attempt at a logo that I made in Microsoft Paint. But I didn’t care because I had learned over my years of entrepreneurship up to that point that design elements weren’t going to make money. The sole purpose of this blog was to collect email addresses from people interested in a WordPress LMS. At the top of the blog was a place for people to enter their email address to learn more and to be notified directly when LearnDash became available.
Once that was set-up it became all about writing. I blogged every day for 20 days straight to gain a little momentum in the beginning. Then I continued to write several times a week. Sharing articles, networking with other bloggers, and (you guessed it) building an email list.
Being purpose driven with your efforts is the key to success.
My entrepreneurial story is not unique. It has been done time and time again by people who are way more savvy than myself. All you have to do is go to any popular entrepreneur publication or podcast to see it. Everyone who achieves any level of success has a clear understanding of what they want (or need) and puts every ounce of energy into obtaining that specific objective.
If you dream of starting a business selling courses then this same methodology can be used. I am not guaranteeing success, but I am guaranteeing that by shifting your focus from perpetual planning to putting yourself out there will get you closer to your goal.
So what could this look like?
Let’s say you have a course on weightlifting, specifically on how to build bigger arms in 30 days. Well, the ultimate goal is to get customers to take your course. You may think that you need to complete your course first but you actually don’t need to finish your course before you start marketing. Take time to determine your best advice and put it into a mini-course. Really make these couple lessons the highest of quality. The best you have to offer.
If that sounds like too much work upfront then instead take the time to create a 5-page PDF report that gives some really actionable tips. In our weightlifting example, it could be a cheat sheet teaching people how to add 5 pounds to the basic bicep curl in just two weeks.
Again, don’t obsess on the “what”. Figure out what it is and then put time into building it, and make it a really quality product.
Next, make sure you have a simple landing page or place on your website where people can sign-up to receive this incentive. There are literally hundreds of tools out there that do this. There is no “best one”, they are all good. If you’re looking for suggestions I’d say check out OptinMonster or use MailChimp (which comes with a free landing page builder).
See what you have done here? Instead of messing around with logos, “about” pages, WordPress themes, and dashboard settings you have focused your efforts on items that contribute to your ultimate goal: selling courses. This should probably take you a week, with most of the time spent on creating a really great incentive offer.
It is now time to start putting “feet to the pavement”.
The temptation for many people at this point is to return to the work they just completed and to try to refine it further. Changing the colors of the opt-in forms. Modifying the landing page images. Swapping out landing page templates.
I think the reason people do this is because putting your ideas out there can be intimidating, and it means that if you fail other people will “know”. It’s safer to just stay put and prepare to make money than actually go out and do it.
But we aren’t going to waste time. We have our landing page and incentive offer. It’s time to start driving traffic to it. For our example this could include:
- Participating in Facebook groups related to gaining muscle
- Answering questions on Quora around bodybuilding, specifically on arms
- Paying for YouTube ads targeting videos on arm exercises
- Writing helpful articles on weightlifting and health and sharing in groups and forums
- Finding weightlifting online publications and becoming a regular contributor
I could go on but I think you get the point. It’s time to start getting your idea out there. This is the hard part. This is also where most people give up and return to planning.
If you are feeling intimidated because you aren’t “a marketer” then I can assure you that you are not alone. I wasn’t a marketer by any means. I relied upon the stories and advice of others to gain confidence. Below are some resources I would recommend you add to your favorites:
- DigitalMarketer Blog – Fantastic data driven resource, but the tips here can be overwhelming with the amount of information.
- EOFire Podcast – Interviews with successful entrepreneurs. Search by industry or interest to find the most relevant ones for your business.
- LearnDash Blog – We have a category on selling courses.
There are more great resources out there but I am a believer in keeping things simple. These three alone will give you plenty of ideas for marketing your online course business.
Being an entrepreneur is all about perseverance. There is no such thing as a “failure”, just learning what does and does not work. The only way you will learn this is by being action-oriented on the things that will get you customers and make you money. You don’t have to do this alone either as there are plenty of groups out there with people in a similar spot (and if you’re using LearnDash then our Facebook group is a tremendous resource).
Get out there and start doing!