Before I launched any of my online programs, I was running in-person workshops (because online programs weren't a thing yet). Once they became a "thing," people started to catch on to how incredible they are! All of a sudden, geography wasn't a limitation, and we could deliver the same content to a much wider audience while granting them access to it whenever they wish (which is rather convenient with people's full schedules these days!).
Online programs have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for people, and it seems that almost everyone either has an online program now, or plans to create one, which I think is wonderful!
You might be surprised to learn that I don't recommend creating an online program right away though, as there are a number of things you should have in place in your business before considering launching a program.
For that reason, I don't recommend introducing an online program if you're in the early days of your business. Take the time to build a strong foundation of your business (i.e. establish yourself on all social platforms, start a mailing list, etc) and build an engaged community. Those are two key components you'll need if you want your online program to be successful.
And before we go any further, let me just clarify something — online programs are NOT your one-way ticket to passive income.
They require work – a lot of work! They are no different than a physical product sitting in your shop. Even when the production of your online program might be complete, it's not a "build it and they will come" situation. You still need to create a comprehensive marketing plan that drives people to your program and helps them to understand why they need it.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get into it!
Things You Must Do Before Launching an Online Program
1. Get clear on the problem you're trying to solve
I understand the excitement of creating an online program, but before you do, it's important to get clear on the problem you're trying to solve. If you aren't solving a problem or meeting a specific need, then it's not clear why people should take your program.
A great place to start is to define your "why". Why are you doing what you're doing? Where does your drive and passion come from? What impact do you want to make in the world? What personal experiences have led you to where you are today? These are the things you want to think about when getting clear on your "why" (which we expand on more in the Joyous Health Business program).
Next, ask yourself – what problem are you trying to solve? A wellness practitioner who left the 9-5 after experiencing bouts of anxiety and high stress might respond to that with something like, "I provide wellness solutions to corporations to help boost happiness, productivity and performance of their employees."
The more direct and concise you can be with this, the better you will be able to speak to your ideal client. You want them to be able to read a statement on your website or sales page for your online program, be able to identify with it and think "that's me!".
2. Find out if there is a need for what you have to offer
Once you get clear on what it is you want to offer, you'll want to research and find out if there is a need for it. An online program centred around eating more healthy fats is great, but do people need it and is it solving a problem? Remember, it's all in the way you frame it! A course around eating more healthy fats might fall flat on your audience, but if you brand it in a way that it will help to boost energy, mental clarity and focus, well, now you're meeting a need!
To find out if there's a need, put out surveys, poll your community (Facebook and Instagram Story make this super easy now with their polling tools) or consider running a small beta test group. A beta test group will allow you to test out your program on your ideal client(s) and receive valuable feedback. After all, you want to make sure it actually works and there's no truer test of that than hearing it from people who are in line with your ideal client(s).
You can also share your idea with family, friends and fellow entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can be super isolating at times and when you're in your own head (without a team to bounce ideas off of), building out an idea can be tricky, but that's why we love entrepreneurial communities so much, because you never feel alone and you feel like you have a super solid team that is always eager to provide valuable feedback!
3. Determine How You're Going to Deliver the Program
Ok, you've nailed down the problem you're trying to solve and you've confirmed there's a need for what you have to offer, so now what?
Before you start pouring the hours into creating an awesome program, you need to figure out the nuts and bolts of how you're going to execute the sales and delivery of your product. To help, here are some things to consider:
These are just some of the factors to keep in mind when determining how you are going to deliver your program and highlight some of the most important elements of any successful program.
These are also some of the most overlooked elements by first-time creators. Often, they are so focused on creating the actual program (which is obviously important as well), that they overlook how they are going to get it in people's hands.
At the end of the day, deciding how your going to deliver your program isn't about being technical; it's about providing an experience and ensuring it's an enjoyable one for your customer.
There's nothing worse than creating an A+ program and delivering a C+ experience.
4. Make sure you have someone to sell to
This is a big reason why I don't recommend launching an online program right when you're starting your business, because you need to have someone to sell to. Unless you already have a super engaged online community, this is where you'll want to focus your efforts.
The things that you publish on your social channels and blog should be in line with your "why" and reflect what you have to offer. It also gives people a taste of what they can expect if they eventually decide to invest in one of your programs.
Some key community-building tips you'll want to incorporate right away are:
When building your community, don't get too caught up in the numbers. The goal here is to build a qualitative audience. I would much rather see you have a super engaged community of 500 people, rather than 5,000 people who aren't very connected to your business.
Because when it comes time to sell, it doesn't matter how many followers you have. What matters is that you have the right people in front of you to sell to.
5. Share supportive content
It's rare that you're going to convert someone into a paying client simply by sending them to the sales page for your online program. Oh, how I wish it was that easy! You need to educate your audience and show them why they need your program by providing supportive content.
Prime example: we don't expect people to buy our Natural Shampoo and Conditioner simply because it's available in the Joyous Shop. Instead, we focus on educating our community through free resources to help them to understand why it's so important to make the switch to natural hair care products.
We do this by posting educational blog posts about natural hair care (which we share across our social media channels) and hosted an on-going free Natural Hair Care Challenge (which we also promote on social media and through promo blocks on hair care-related posts).
You may feel sheepisih about providing so much free content, but it's necessary and it pays off. Hosting that Natural Hair Care Challenge when we first launched our Natural Shampoo and Conditioner in the Joyous Shop helped us to sell 250+ bottles of it in less than 2 weeks! We didn't do that by constantly bombarding our community with gimmicks or sales messaging – we simply communicated the true value behind the product and those that connected to that value took the leap. Selling can feel good and we talk about more strategies like this in our Profit with Passion and Purpose webinar, which we'll be bringing back soon!
These are all great things you can be doing to educate your community and support your online program:
Some of these can even act as a lead magnet for your program. See next point!
6. Create a lead magnet
A Lead Magnet acts as an incentive that is offered in exchange for an email address to help build your mailing list. This can be anything from a free guide, ebook, video or free challenge; similar to what I mentioned above.
We have a number of lead magnets across Joyous Health, which we share in the Free Downloads section on the website, including:
Simply providing a form for people to sign up for your newsletter is not enough. People are protective of their email address and by handing over an email address, that person is saying, "YES, you can come into my home!" When they do that, they want to make sure they're not letting in the people who are going to walk through their home with muddy shoes and litter it with non-sense and only allow those who are going to be respectful, bring in value and make it a better place.
Did I lose you? I felt like that was a good analogy, haha! The moral of the story is, you've got to deliver value first if you want to get someone's email address.
7. Build your email list
There's so much fuss about building your list these days, but for good reason! The great thing about having an email list is that you don't have to fight through any algorithms to speak to your community (and potential clients/customers).
Keep in mind, they have also already said "YES" to giving you their email address (or "YES" to welcoming you into their home!) so we already know they are interested and curious about the information you have to share. This makes it much easier to communicate, rather than sending your marketing messages into the great abyss of social media!
Once you've set up your lead magnet and have started to collect email addresses, you should be putting those people into an email automation and continue serving them relevent content to support your online program offering. As for what CRM/email program you want to use, is entirely up to you based on your unique needs. This is something we talk more about in the Joyous Health Business program.
What the whole sequence of this might look like, if you were trying to sell a detox-related program is:
1. Create a lead magnet (this might be a detox-friendly recipe ebook or an informative infographic on the importance of detoxing, like we have here)
2. Collect the email address in exchange for the lead magnet
3. That person goes into an email automation where they will be served educational content about detoxing, while making mention of your online program throughout (type of content might include: 5 ways you can start detoxing today, tips to detox your life beyond the food on your plate, what is dry skin brushing and why you should do it).
8. Sell that program!
And if you did all of the above correctly, you should be dancing around and celebrating all of the sales you're bringing in from your program!
As you can see, there are many, many things that should be considered before launching an online program. I don't share this to overwhelm you, but to best prepare you for when the time comes to launch your program.
And if you want to be in an even better place when it comes time to launch, I invite you to learn more about the Joyous Health Business program, which is a 12-week online program to help current or aspiring entrepreneurs turn their passion for wellness into a thriving business! The program starts on September 16th, but registration officially opens on May 13th (and there will be some super exciting offers for those who get on the list early!). You can get on the waitlist to learn more over here.
Have you launched an online program, or are you hoping to in the future? Let me know where you're at in the comments below!