If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’ – Bob Dylan, The times they are a-changing.
The COVID pandemic has been a cruel slap in the face for any business that relied on in-person business.
Are you ready to change?
Conferences have been canceled or postponed and staff meetings have been reduced or stopped completely.
If your business was based on standing in front of audiences you are now standing in front of a blank calendar. And it’s unlikely it will ever fill up like it used to.
Meanwhile, the world is moving quickly to online learning, products delivered to your door with a few clicks, and Zoom meetings are commonplace.
Now is the time to catch up with your business.
The challenge is that moving your consulting or speaking business from traditional, in-person delivery to online is not as simple as getting a Zoom account or building an online course.
- Communicate with your customers
- Research new solutions and test
- Build your products and delivery
- Launch your program
- Refine and relaunch
For many business owners, moving your existing products and programs to online platforms can be daunting.
Not only do you have to re-invent your products to online delivery, but you will also have to start using new software and learn how to communicate differently with your customers.
Let’s start with communications…
1. Communicate with your customers
You’ve spent years gaining the trust of your faithful customers and followers, now is the time to communicate even more than you have before.
But don’t just promote and sell—share what you are learning and changing with your business.
You might be surprised how many of your followers are interested in your journey to online. Let them know what you are working on, share updates, ask for feedback – even share your missteps.
You should also create a simple Content Calendar of topics you plan to share over the coming weeks. Here’s how to create one:
- start with the main topic of your business,
- break that down into categories, and
- brainstorm topics under each category.
If you are an expert on leadership in the workplace your main topics might be:
- coaching, and
From that list you can break “delegation” into categories, like:
- steps to do it,
- mistakes to avoid,
- Praise, and
From there, you can brainstorm a list of possible blog, video, and social topics for each category.
If you get stuck, this article has 36 popular blog topics to kickstart your brainstorming exercise.
2. Research new solutions and test
If your business already has online solutions you’re well on your way to shifting to a fully online business.
If you are new to online delivery it’s important to research and test new online solutions before you jump in with a full launch campaign. The biggest questions you need to answer are:
- Is there an existing demand? If you don’t see people buying a service like this…that’s not a good sign. You do not want to be using your limited budget and time to invent a market—go where the money is.
- Can you create something unique? Look to include a unique approach, delivery model, or adding live coaching.
- Do you have a strong community? Now is the time to build your email list and nurture that list with regular updates.
- Can you handle the technology? If you are a technophobe, learn how to quickly outsource tasks that you hate doing and are repetitive.
- Are you willing to fail? Finally, are you able and willing to create a launch campaign, possibly not reach your targets and then rally yourself to do a second, more successful launch?
My first foray into online delivery was a failure.
I had attended a live training program and saw how well the speaker was selling his audio and DVD box set. I wanted one!
But, instead of researching my idea and testing my market, or starting small with a small investment into a smaller product I set about recording and building my new product.
It didn’t sell.
Fortunately, I was able to lick my wounds and shift to a mid-5-figure launch of an online course.
If you want to avoid my failed start, here are some of the ways to research your market:
- Online survey – use tools like Survey Monkey to ask a combination of closed-ended and open-ended questions. You might not get a high return rate, but you can follow up with interviews.
- Free webinar – webinars are a low-cost way to test topics, solutions, marketing, and delivery on your audience.
- Email campaign – something as simple as open rates on emails can give you feedback on popular topics.
- Lead magnet – the gift people get when they opt-in to your list is a form of research. Tools like Optin Monster allow you to split test different offers.
- Low-cost introductory product – test your market with an ebook or short video course that is inexpensive to create.
- Client interviews – the most rigorous, in-depth research is always one-on-one interviews with customers. Using tools like Zoom allows you to record the conversation to review later.
3. Build your products and delivery
Now for the fun part.
You’ve done your research, tested your market – now you get to build new products!
There are a number of proven solutions for online course delivery. But, be aware each one comes with varying degrees of complexity.
In the list below, I will give you an idea of what it takes and how to get started with each product solution.
One-on-one coaching – the easiest way to serve clients. You can use the telephone(!) or tools like Zoom to make and record the call.
Group coaching – if you have corporate clients or work in niche groups (like therapy, or women’s groups) a step up from one-on-one coaching is group coaching. A popular feature of the Zoom platform that can help facilitate smaller discussions is breakout rooms.
Online workshop delivery – transitioning from live presentations to online presentations is getting easier with better Internet connections and clients getting more comfortable with the idea of paying for the service.
Live workshops and retreats – one step up from online workshops are small groups, live workshops, or retreats. You can charge more, create a more intimate setting, and develop deeper relationships with your participants.
Create an online course – the most obvious alternative to live presentations is an online course. This is also the most complicated product to create and deliver. Software like Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi makes launching and managing the course easier.
4. Launch your program
You’ve done the research, tested, built your product – now it’s time to launch. In the “old days” sending a bunch of emails and posting on social media was all you needed to do to launch a new program.In the “old days” sending a bunch of emails and posting on social media was all you needed to do to launch a new program Click To Tweet
If you want a return on investment for all your hard work you will need to think “campaign”, not “announcement”. Here’s the secret to planning a successful campaign:
Start by working backward from your close date and map out all the steps in your campaign:
- emails to announce the launch,
- webinars (including follow up emails),
- one-on-one coaching bonuses,
- promotional videos, and
- closing dates for your offers.
If you want people to take action and join your webinar, read your emails, and sign up for your product you need to create a sense of urgency.
It’s no different than a store having a sale end date—urgency moves people to pay attention and take action.It’s no different than a store having a sale end date—urgency moves people to pay attention and take action. Click To Tweet
5. Refine and relaunch
Finally, you need to plan to refine your product and have a second launch.
The reality is you will never find all the mistakes, weak points, unpopular lessons, or places where your students drop off your course until you experience your first launch.
The first year I launched my speaker training program I had 26 modules for an 8 week course, plus weekly group coaching sessions. By the mid-way mark, I noticed fewer people making it to the live sessions. By experimenting with different days of the week and time slots I was able to get my attendance higher.
The earlier you start to move your business completely online or add a program to augment your income the better. Any option you choose will have its complications and there will be a learning curve as you master the technology or new way of delivering your solutions.
Getting started could be as simple as finding similar programs and reviewing them. It’s always wiser and cheaper to learn from other’s mistakes and successes.
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