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[Podcast] Create Online Courses that People Love (Nathalie Lussier)

By Bob Sparkins  |  Published Jun 15, 2023  |  Updated Jun 30, 2023
Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A marketer with 17 years of experience, Bob has taught over 1,000 webinars and spoken at over 50 events.

Blog Nathalie Lussier 2

If you’re someone who wants to have a positive impact on people you've likely created or thought about creating an online course.

Nathalie Lussier is the founder and creator of AccessAlly, one of the best course and membership platforms available for WordPress.

During our discussion, Nathalie shares lessons from her journey as a software developer turned marketing consultant turned SaaS founder. She also talks about strategies to create and sell your own online courses, and how to help your students get more value from your programs.

Learn more about AccessAlly online course and membership software.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose your own path. Nathalie Lussier decided to start her own business after school instead of taking a high-paying job. Even though it was tough at first, her computer skills and ability to learn helped her succeed.
  • Work together with a partner. If you're working with a partner, it's important to decide who does what. Good communication and letting other team members help make decisions can prevent arguments from taking over.
  • Understand what you’re selling. Selling consulting is different than selling software. When you sell consulting, it's about you and your unique skills. But when you sell software, people often compare your product to others.
  • Work towards your ideal lifestyle. Nathalie and her husband decided to buy a farm and work only four days a week.
  • Find a narrower niche to help your YouTube channel. Each YouTube channel can have a different audience and topic. For her, videos about dairy sheep were more popular than more general small farming videos because not many others were doing them.
  • Scale your business and help more people with an online course. Courses can help a lot of people at once without needing much one-on-one time, while providing value to learners through tools like private notes. You can also create systems that you can sell to others, such as to groups or companies.
  • Focus your course on one outcome that your audience desires. Avoid stuffing your course with too much stuff, and talk to people about your course idea before you create it.
  • Promote student success in your course. Use features like progress tracking, automated emails, and gamification to help your students stay motivated.
  • Provide course features your students will want. Whether you release content all at once or sequentially, or enroll people 24/7/365 or in cohorts, all the decisions you make should be driven by what will help your particular audience.
  • Re-release your course with revisions. Use feedback to enhance the learning experience for the next round of students before you move on to your next course.
  • Generate additional revenue from your courses. Apart from selling the course itself, creators can offer an accelerated version for an extra charge or cross-sell other available courses. Try creating a free course with a paid upgrade, and supplement your course with relevant recommendations via affiliate marketing.
  • Build in community elements with your courses. Sometimes, the real value in a course is not the curriculum, but the community built around it. Learners can support and motivate each other, helping everyone stay accountable.

Resources Mentioned

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Who is Nathalie Lussier:

Bob: Nathalie, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Leadpages podcast.

Nathalie: I'm excited to be here.

Bob: I’m really looking forward to diving into strategies for getting people to benefit from online courses and especially getting their students to benefit from the courses they create. Before we do that, though, I'd love for you to share a little bit about how do you transform the lives of the customers and clients that you work with.

Nathalie: Yes. So I think what we do for our customers is really take a lot of the stress out of running an online course business or a membership type business so that things just run and are semi-automated and really takes a lot of that stress out through integrations and through other types of automations that we have, so that people who are creating these courses and marketing them know that their customers are taken care of and they don't need to stay up at 03:00 a.m. hoping that everything's going to work on launch day and all of that stuff.

So I think that tends to be where us as software providers for WordPress and course creators kind of come in and help take that burden off people's shoulders.

Bob: That's awesome. And we're going to get into all the cool things about AccessAlly and course creation in just a little bit. But I think that there are some people that maybe don't know the Nathalie Lussier story.

So let's just go back in time just a little bit and talk to me and the rest of the people listening a little bit about how you came out of college as a software developer and you had some nice offers for working at some really nice places. So talk to us a little bit about how come you did not pursue those cushy Wall Street software gigs.

Nathalie: Yeah, so I was really lucky. I was studying software engineering and I had internship opportunities and one of those internships was on Wall Street and they offered me a full-time job at graduation.

There was just a part of me saying, if you take this job, you're going to regret it when you're in your 40s or 50s or kind of looking back at your life. And there was always a part of me that wanted to start my own business. I was like, if not now, then when, right?

And it's always tricky and kind of scary to take that jump, but I decided to just listen to that inner voice and start my first business right out of college instead of taking a job. And definitely my parents were like, what are you doing? You just went to university. You just graduated. You had a job, you turned it down.

A lot of my friends obviously went off to amazing jobs, too. And so it kind of felt like I took this step back on the trajectory that most people have.

And yeah, I started my first business. It was definitely not an amazing, huge success right out of the gate. I had to learn a lot about marketing, about all kinds of stuff, but I definitely had the tech side figured out. So I had that going for me, luckily.

I ended up starting a business about my passion, which was healthy eating. And that was what I call my training business, because I kind of realized about a year in that if I wanted to keep going down this path, I would probably need to get some sort of official training about nutrition and all of these things. I couldn't just talk about green smoothies forever.

So I decided to really kind of pivot at that point because a lot of people around that time were starting to ask me, who built your website? How are you doing all this marketing stuff? And so I kind of pivoted into web design and then into consulting and then finally kind of led to where we are today in the software space is that I realized a lot of my clients were not that technical. I had that tech background, and I knew that we could provide solutions for them that wouldn't require them to learn how to code like me.

That's how I ended up full circle in the tech space and starting a tech company. But actually this company that we have today, AccessAlly, was really built around our online course that had a ton of students in it, but we were using another WordPress plugin, and we were continuously running into tech issues. Like the plugin was just crashing our website. And finally my husband and I, who are both developers, we’re like, hey, let's just fix it and build our own thing.

That was like a band-aid solution for that one problem. And then after we built it, we were like, oh, well, now that we have our own solution, what else do we want to do? And that ended up creating AccessAlly Courses and all the other stuff. And now it's been many years after and it's many millions of lines of code later, so it's definitely grown a lot since then.

Bob: Yeah, you've just hit your 9th year and first of all, congratulations to that. We at Leadpages hit our 10th year earlier this year, and it's hard to get past that year two or year three for a lot of folks, especially in SaaS. So congratulations for that longevity.

Working Effectively with Your Spouse in Business

It must be cool to have a husband who's a developer as well and the two of you co-creating something. I know we're going to talk a minute about some other things that you've co-created, but talk to us a little bit about what's it like to work with your husband on a project like AccessAlly and any advice you'd give to people listening that might be working with their spouses and partners at home.

Nathalie: Yeah. So my business had gotten successful enough that I was like, okay, Robin, my husband, please quit your job and join me. I was at this point where I was like, it would be really great to be able to both work from home. He was working crazy hours at his job, and I thought, let's kind of build this life together.

It took some convincing to actually get him to quit because he had all these things in his mind of, like, he had to be the provider and all of these things, but I was like, we can do this together. So that was step one.

Then after that, he had to sort of detox a little bit, and he just played video games for a couple of weeks to just reset. And then after that, he was like, okay, what can I actually do in this business? Like, what is it that I can bring to the table? And so then we kind of hashed out our roles, and we realized that he's definitely the strong developer. He has the very long-term thinking around coding and infrastructure and things like that. Whereas I have more the marketing and idea side. And I knew that those two things together could really work well.

So we have very defined roles, and there's definitely been years. Throughout the years, we've definitely talked about what we want in terms of the business and what our customers need. So we sometimes clash around what features we need to develop or which direction to take the business in. But I think that because we have a strong personal relationship, it actually makes it better and easier for us to communicate and have those discussions because we know at the end of the day, we're staying home together, so we can't really be arguing about the software features that much.

But another thing that we've also done is to just enroll more of our team in some of these decision-making discussions. So it's not just me versus him all the time talking about, oh, yes, I think we should do this, or no, I don't think we should do this.

And so that has really helped our relationship, too, is to not just make it the two of us be the final decision makers, but just having other people on the team be responsible for product and the direction of the product. So those are some of the things I would say. If you are only two people in the company, definitely having very clear roles and who's responsible for what, that can make a huge difference too.

Bob: Yeah, it's really good advice.

Moving to a SaaS Business Model

You've been able to run a successful software business and you had also done a lot of consulting. Any specific differences that you can point to that surprised you around the software business that any of the coach consultant type folks that are listening who might want to jump into that area that they could learn from?

Nathalie: Absolutely. So what I like about consulting and courses and all of that is that essentially you are the business. So there's almost like no competition, right? Because people are not going to compare you as a human to another human or even your course to another course because they know they're super unique and they probably have different features or benefits.

But when you get into the software space, people compare software a lot more like apples and other apples, right. They kind of compare them more on a commodity level than they do consulting or courses, for example. So I think this is where being a strong marketer is really important when you're getting into software as a service (SaaS).

And I would also say beyond that, just kind of checking those boxes of like, yes, we have this integration or this feature, you also need to have a bigger vision of what your company stands for. And I think coaches and course creators and all of that have that in spades. They know why they're doing this kind of work and what they want to help people with.

So I feel like that's also a unique advantage if you're getting into the software space.

And also I would say if you're not a technical person yourself and you're not a technical founder, for example, knowing enough to be dangerous is really important so that you know how long things should take. And obviously things always take longer than you expect when you're working on any type of development project. But knowing what's realistic and what's not realistic is really important too, so that you don't overpromise in your marketing or in other places so that you can actually deliver the things that your customers want in a realistic time frame.

Bootstrap vs. Funded

Bob: Cool. And some people who want to create a SaaS business, they always have to come to this decision in their life around funding: bootstrapping or taking on VC money. Where do you stand in that particular discussion?

Nathalie: I think it really comes down to the mission and the resources that you already have. So we were really lucky with AccessAlly because we had income coming in from software and courses and memberships. We were able to bootstrap and we're able to use that to kind of fund development. And then we also created something called Pop Up Ally that was kind of our smaller test product and that sold really well, so we kind of knew, okay, yes, we have something we can kind of reinvest. We know this will work.

I will definitely say that with AccessAlly, it took a lot longer to get to a very steady cash flow. And I think that people don't realize that when they start a SaaS, they're like, okay, I'll charge $50 a month, and then if I just have X number of clients, we'll be fine. But getting those X number of clients is tough because people leave. Right. So that's something to think about, too.

But, yeah, I think getting investment, I would say there's all kinds of cool funds and all kinds of cool kickstarter type stuff that you can do to kind of raise funds to get development done. If that's something that you need to invest in, in hard money.

We pretty much put in sweat equity, so we're really lucky for that because we have the skills to do it. But if you have to hire developers and things, obviously you're going to need the cash to do that. Yeah. And I think it's totally cool to go either way. It just kind of depends on your situation and what you're looking for. I love bootstrapping, just because that's my experience, but I know that it doesn't serve everyone equally.

Bob: Yeah, exactly. Cool. So, in a moment, I do want to dive into getting people on board with courses, or at least taking their course business as it may already exist, and ramping it up.

Farming as a Side Hustle

But there's one other key topic that I think people need to know about you, and that is that you and your husband bought a 17-acre farm, and in addition to running a business, you are now going to a four day work week. And I just would love to hear a little bit about why did you decide to build a farm. And if there's one specific kind of lesson you think that our audience can learn from your status as an agricultural kind of an expert as well, not expert that you were when you started. Right, because you've learned along the way. But I think you get the point of the question.

Nathalie: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, we have been sort of dabbling in gardening and planting trees and things like that for probably since we started AccessAlly around the same time.

The first time we planted trees, we were super excited. They all died. So I feel like we all kind of start even in business, you do something, you try it, and it fails, and you're like, I thought this was going to be the thing. And so you learn from that. You learn from your experiences. And I think that's definitely been the case with farming, too.

We got chickens and ducks and geese and we got sheep and there's such a huge learning curve to all of those different animals and taking care of all of that. So I think for me it really comes down to we decided to move to a farm because we wanted to grow more of our own food and kind of have this lifestyle for our family and our young kids.

But we also knew it's something we're really passionate about and we like to learn. So we watch a lot of YouTube videos and we read a lot of books about it. And I feel like it's exactly the same when you're starting a business or trying to grow a business. If you're super passionate about learning about it and experimenting and trying new things, that's when you grow, and that's when you're able to reach those new milestones and be like, oh, yeah, now I get it because I tried it. It either worked or it didn't. And then I learned from it and iterated so that's something that I think is definitely applicable to a farm, but also applicable to a business.

Bob: Yeah, it certainly is. And I think it's awesome that you have another YouTube channel for Waykeeper Farm and Nerdery available for people to watch to keep up with the journey that you're on with that. So make sure those of you listening, take a look at that. It's a fun channel to watch.

Find Your YouTube Audience

Now obviously that channel is a little bit different than your AccessAlly channel. Anything that you've learned around growing a YouTube channel? The last few episodes of our previous season of our podcast, we interviewed quite a few people that were really good at doing YouTube promotion, channel growth, et cetera. Anything that you've learned from the one that you moved over to the other that you'd like to share.

Nathalie: Yeah, so it's so cool to kind of have two channels to play around with because I found that the farm channel has a much wider appeal. A lot more people are watching that type of content. Maybe it's a little bit more relaxing, I don't know. You don't have to have your own business or your own farm to watch and learn other people what they're doing on their farms and what they're planting and all of that.

So I've definitely seen things that work really well on the farm channel is to kind of look at what else people are doing, what they're talking about, and then also seeing what's missing.

What I realized very early on is that I was doing videos about chickens and videos about all the different things we're up to, but there was a lot less videos about dairy sheep and so that kind of became my niche, if you will, in that space, because not a lot of people have dairy sheep.

I kind of figured that out and those videos just started taking off very quickly. So figuring out your niche on YouTube is definitely a thing.

I think on our tech channel, our niche is essentially WordPress and courses and memberships, but it's still very broad and I think we haven't quite figured out our niche in that space yet. So there's obviously on that side of things, there's like productivity and business. There's a lot of different topics you could talk about, but I feel like there's not as much of a hole, if you will, that I've quite discovered on that side of things. So, yeah, it's been interesting to compare the two. And we get way more views on our farm video channels, which is kind of mind-boggling, but also exciting. So yeah.

Bob: It's got a real good reality feel to it. So I think that's really fun to be able to see how you're doing that and how it's coming along really nicely. So kudos to you for that.

Scale Your Value and Impact with an Online Course

Let's shift gears to the course content creation, monetization growth, et cetera, that I think a lot of people who are smart and really good at what they do, the people listening to this show right now. First of all, if somebody is doing one on one coaching or group coaching, doing a lot of interactivity, they've probably heard that online courses should be a thing. They might even hear whatever your answer is going to be. But I'd love for you to give the pitch for why should somebody who's in the mode of service should bring in an online course into their business?

Nathalie: I think the word that comes to mind is scale. So with online courses you're able to reach more people without as much one-on-one time with you. And I have people come to me saying, well, I don't want to lose the value that I offer in my one on one. If I move to a course, how can I help people at the same level than if I remove myself essentially right from my course?

I think there's a lot of different ways to replicate some of that. So in AccessAlly, we have something called private notes. So people can ask questions or maybe post a video or a photo or something and you can give them feedback one on one that no one else will see.

And so there's ways to have sort of these micro connection points that are asynchronous so you don't have to be on a call with them, but you can still provide that value one to one. So that's one way to kind of make sure you're scaling, but also not removing all of the value that you provide.

Then also when you're trying to sell a course, it really forces you to kind of boil down or synthesize some of the ideas and the things that you do one on one with people into a pattern that might be more repeatable. So that can also create a lot of great proprietary systems and value in your business that you can sell.

A lot of times people come to us and they're like, I have a training, I know I can sell this to groups or teams at companies. And so they're able to sell not just one to one, but also within organizations. And that helps them scale up in a way that they might not be doing if they're selling in a one-to-one kind of way. And so they can actually sell, say, ten licenses at a time to their courses into their intellectual property and sort of license things in a much bigger way as well. So those would be my kind of big reasons to go to courses and kind of think about scaling through them.

Bob: Yeah, it's really cool. And one of the things I've seen a lot of people succeed in this area is once they have that course, a lot of people think of it as the stepping stone towards getting more one on one clients. But on the flip side, your one-on-one clients now have this foundational piece of curriculum that you know they can have as a support for any other interactions that you have. So a lot of ways to think about that. So thanks for that answer.

Two Critical Course Creation Problems to Avoid

One of the things that I know people might have is a misconception about courses. So as you've seen, all the people that have come through both using AccessAlly and you've been in the marketing sphere for well over a decade now, what are some misconceptions people might have about courses that you'd love for them to not take on as they get started with their first course?

Nathalie: Yeah, so I think a lot of times people think a course should contain everything that they possibly know about a topic, and that can be super overwhelming for participants and students. So I think really getting clear on the one outcome of your course or the one promise that your course can deliver on is really, really beneficial for people so that you don't overwhelm people and people actually complete and get the value that you wanted them to get from the course. And it's really hard. Like, when I say this, it seems like, oh, of course you're not going to put everything, you know, but when you sit down to try to map out your curriculum and figure out what you're going to teach, people have a tendency to want to put everything because they want things to be very high value.

But I think that the reason people buy courses is because they want the outcome and they want it usually in a fast and sort of shortcut way. So if they wanted to do all this research and wade through all the information, they would just search on the web. Right. And I feel like that's not what a course is.

So I think that's a really big misconception is that it doesn't have to be the be-all, end-all on the topic. It just has to have a solution that people need, whether that's training in a specific aspect of their life or their business or their farm, whatever it may be. And that to me is really important when you're getting started creating a course.

And then the other thing around this too is a lot of times people spend a lot of time figuring out the tech of their course and they don't know whether people will buy their course or not. So they might spend months creating this course behind closed doors and figuring out which tech tool to use. And then when they launch, it's like crickets, because they didn't quite figure out exactly which course people wanted from them.

I'm saying that because I'm guilty of this myself. In my first business, I launched a course, I had zero people buy it and I was like, what did I do? Like, what was missing? And then when I actually talked to people, which is kind of the magic part of this whole thing, is you have to talk to people, I realized, oh, that wasn't actually what people wanted. They needed help with a very, very specific part of healthy eating. And in my case, in my first business, it was cravings. And so I kind of pivoted my course all around how to deal with cravings. And then when I relaunched, which was pretty close to the same content, but I just kind of rebranded and really made it specific, I had 20 people sign up. So I think that is also really key is to actually make sure that you're designing the course people really, really need help with and not just what you think they want.

Bob: That's cool. And one of the things about your first point I wanted to bring up is to give yourself permission that this is the first of hopefully many courses. So if you are thinking you have to include everything and you're listening to Nathalie's advice here, don't include everything. And if you feel guilty about that, know your second course can include more and your third course can include more. You don't have to stuff it all in into one thing.

Improving Your Students’ Success in Online Courses

I also think it's important for people to take on this concept of getting people to that outcome.

So I want to talk about that a little bit further. One of the things I love about your mission in the world and what Access Allied does is you're really focused on the success of students in courses. I think a lot of people think about courses as a scalable way to generate revenue and relatively passive income.

But at the end of the day, you have to have student success for that to move forward. So talk to us a little bit about why do you focus on that and what are some ways that a course creator, whether new or experienced, can really focus on the success of their students as a way to move their business forward.

Nathalie: Yeah, so I think there's so much that goes into this. So when somebody signs up for a course, they're excited about it. They want the outcome or the result that they wanted. And a lot of times life happens, right? People stop logging in or they get busy, they forget they signed up. Maybe they weren't feeling like they were making great progress.

So one of the things that we do in the AccessAlly WordPress plugin is we have progress tracking, we also have gamification and people can earn points. So there's all kinds of different ways to kind of get that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation happening for people. So they're really feeling like, oh yeah, I'm actually making progress and I can see where I'm going and how far I've come. And that really helps them actually complete the course and get the results that they wanted. So part of that is through the software so that's putting those progress tracking items, maybe giving little bonuses after they complete a module or a lesson, so people feel like, oh yeah, this is cool, I'm actually moving ahead and getting little extra things at the end too.

And then also with points. So I've seen some really amazing ways people are using points. And the cool thing is that it's so flexible. You can design them to be anything you want. They could be sort of like air miles where you can redeem them for something. They could be more like points or stars that you show in a leaderboard where people can see who's going fastest and who's doing the best. There's so many different ways to use them in a motivational way.

And then we also see people do really cool things like redeeming those points for say, a coaching session or redeeming points to get a review on something. So there's like all these different ways you can really use gamification too.

We've also seen people do something like a streak. So if you log in every day for a week, for example, then you have like a five-day streak and then that means maybe you get something else, like an extra bonus or something. And so people don't fall off the wagon, they're a lot more likely to kind of stay and keep getting all these great benefits from your courses.

You can also use automation with email. So this is also very beneficial if somebody has not logged in for say, a week or two. Or maybe you notice that most people finish a module within a week or within two weeks. You can follow up via email and say, hey, you just left off and click here to go back to where you were before. And that really helps people actually come back and get the value that they wanted when they signed up.

Bob: That's awesome. So many cool things. And it reminds me of the 60 day streak I currently have on Duolingo as I'm trying to learn Spanish to keep up with my kids who are in a Spanish school. If you need an example of really great gamification, that's a really good platform for that. And then utilizing what AccessAlly already includes I think is really brilliant.

So really cool that you have that built in.

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Should You Unlock or Drip Your Course Content?

Now, something that you've sort of touched on. But I think it would be good to dive a little bit more clearly into it is the pace at which people go through courses. So you have the opportunity to give everything to everybody, right? Like a Netflix series, bins just everything's at once. You also have the ability, if you wish, to drip things out over time. So what are the advantages of either route? And do you have a recommendation of which way that people will get the best benefit from their courses?

Nathalie: Yeah, so you're totally spot on. So people could get everything unlocked on day one and then kind of pick and choose things that they want to work on or focus on. Or it might be that the type, of course, you have is a little bit more structured and they need to know step one before they go to step two or step three.

What we've also seen people do is sort of a quiz. So people come in, they get a super quick assessment quiz and based on how they answer, certain things get unlocked so that they focus just on those pieces. And then after they complete those, then the next part gets unlocked. So there's a lot of different ways to drip the content based on each individual. So it's not just everybody gets the same setup.

You can also do things that are based dripped on content. You could also do things where people can drip based on their progress. So as they complete something, then you unlock the next piece. And what I think really depends is what kind of content you have, what kind of course you have.

So what I really like to recommend for people is the first module or the first kind of intro part of your course should really be the overview and it should really give some of your best stuff right up front. Because that way it really reduces the buyer's remorse and the feeling that, oh, maybe this isn't quite right. Maybe this isn't quite what I wanted. It might not solve my problem.

So you really want to deliver kind of upfront something that is really amazing and really powerful and then after that you can go into the more detailed aspects of the things that you're teaching.

So that tends to really take some of that edge off of people like oh, I regret this decision and so they're a lot more likely to keep going. And then in terms of how you drip it, I think it just kind of depends. So we have people who teach piano and so it really depends on how advanced you are with piano.

We have people who teach photography, people who teach 911 responders. It really depends on what type of business it is and what type of course it is.

So yeah, it's hard for me to say dripped content always works because there are going to be some people who are super excited and super eager to go through everything on day one and they're just like, give me everything. And there are going to be people who need that kind of more structured, go along at your own pace, but don't get behind and don't miss anything either.

Bob: I really love this opportunity to drip things out as people progress as opposed to it's day seven, day 14, day 21. That might work well for some, but that idea of staging it just based on performance I think is really cool and a clever way to go. As a professionally trained teacher, I think that would have been really nice if I was able to do my public school classroom with you got it achieved. Okay, it's not the first quarter anymore, it's the second quarter. No, we can just do everything in this rapid succession if we want to. Would be pretty cool. Very nice.

Cohorts vs. Evergreen – What's Best for You?

So there's another topic that I think people are hungry about and that is cohorts versus Evergreen kinds of courses. And obviously you can do both with your platform. Any kinds of suggestions or thoughts that you would recommend people think about to choose which path would be best for them?

Nathalie: Yes, I love this topic so much. So I feel like Evergreen is great for a lot of different types of businesses and courses and people because if somebody just finds you and they have this burning desire to learn the thing or solve their problem, they need to be able to just sign up and do it right away. So I think there's a lot of courses that are very self-paced and might not need as much one-on-one attention or group attention that lead themselves to be evergreen and that works really well.

Then when it comes to something where you need a little extra motivation, like maybe a group to kind of help you go through everything and keep you accountable, then I think cohort-based courses make a lot more sense there. And so I've participated in both myself.

Sometimes I love just I get a hankering for something, I buy a course, I go through all of it and I do all the exercises and everything and I'm like, this was perfect, I did it in a week and I'm done and I'm super happy with it.

And then other times over time having a group and more community aspects too of like, hey, this is how I answered this question. What did you think about this exercise? Those tend to be really insightful and helpful for learning a new topic, too. So one thing I think is really cool when you want to do cohort-based courses. And if you're kind of trying to decide between the two and maybe a hybrid of the two is this ongoing enrollments.

So you could do cohort-based enrollments maybe every month or every quarter. And you can also kind of automate some of that, too, so you don't have to manually go in and create your waiting list and all of these different things each time. But AccessAlly can actually help you with those, too. So you can actually set the date when you want enrollment to start and close.

You can also set a limit to how many students you might want in a cohort, too. So that creates like, true urgency and scarcity. And so if you know you can only support 20 people in a course and really give the level of support you want to them, then AccessAlly will also kind of automatically say, okay, we've reached 20 people time for the waiting list. And then after that, it will open up for the next cohort.

Revising and Elevating Your Course

Bob: Very cool. Soon you have your own course re-releasing, I'd love for you to talk to us a little bit about how you're doing that, specifically, what's the marketing of that going to look like? And what about it do you think people would really be able to benefit from?

Nathalie: Yeah, so I have a couple of different things. So we have our scaling on your terms workshop. So this is basically where I wanted to do it live. And so I think there's a lot of benefits to doing live courses as well because you get that interactive feedback, you get questions live. You know exactly where to spend more time and less time based on the actual feedback that you're getting. So I definitely recommend the first time you run something, if you have maybe your actual teaching is live or you facilitate the content, so maybe you have some pre-recorded or pre-done text or whatnot. And then you do some facilitation live. I think that tends to work extremely well.

And then we also have a free course called AccessAlly 101, and that is more of a technical training. So that is self-paced. People go through it at their own pace and it's free. So basically people can sign up. It's evergreen. People can sign up anytime.

And what we've done with that is we use some of those private notes that I talked about. So if people do have questions throughout the course, whether it's technical things or whatnot, then we're there to kind of answer those specific things as they come up.

So when I say private notes, that's an AccessAlly feature. But if you're not using AccessAlly, there's comments or other forum-type things you could also use to kind of help people if they're doing a self-paced course so that they're not left hanging with questions.

So, yeah, those are some of the things. And then we have our 30-day list-building challenge, so that is also free and also self-paced. So they get a video a day for 30 days, but at the same time you can unlock everything on day one if you want. And that's actually a paid upgrade. So I think that's a great strategy too, if you are wanting to offset the cost of doing ads, for example, or other types of promotions, it can be an affiliate promotion where people send people your way and then there's like a small upgrade that people can purchase. So happy to talk about that a little bit more too, if you want.

Market Your Course with Leadpages

Bob: Yeah, I think that's great. I want to dive into that in just a second. But I also think this is a cool opportunity to chat for a second about how you're combining your Leadpages marketing with the back end of AccessAlly to deliver what you sell through your Leadpages pages. So talk to us a little bit about how you like to combine those two technologies together.

Nathalie: Yeah, so with the 30-day list building challenge, we were using a Leadpages landing page and then that whole challenge is about building an email list and lead generation. So it's all about getting people to build an opt-in and all of that. So it makes sense for us to also recommend a tool like Leadpages there because not everyone is super technical and they might want to just have something up and running quickly for their landing page and for their opt-in that we talk about how to create in the challenge. So it really does work beautifully like that as well. And so it's an example of it and also we teach how to use it a little bit more too.

Bob: Very cool. And we appreciate the recommendation to your people, of course, for that.

Increase Your Revenue from Courses

Now let's turn back to that monetization question that you opened the door for. There's a couple of different ways to generate revenue from a courses business. Obviously, one is just selling the course, but you just mentioned example of something for free, but you have an accelerated version for an extra charge. What are other ways that you like to generate revenue from your online courses?

Nathalie: Yeah, so there's this concept that we came up with called the login opt-in. And this is basically where you have an opt-in, people opt-in on your lead page and then they're taken to a course dashboard.

And so here they can see what you have available, they can also see what they just opted in for. They can download it if it's a downloadable, if it's a mini-course, they can watch it or interact with it and then they also see what else is available. And so that's kind of the cross-selling dashboard effect.

So kind of like when you're on Amazon and you see people also purchased or you kind of go on the checkout aisle and you see all these very enticing snacks that you could buy before you leave. This is kind of the same idea inside of your members area where you can see what other courses exist or maybe other paid upgrades that are there too. And so we've seen people sell almost like 20% of the people who come in and see other things. Like they opt into a free thing and then they see a paid thing in a nonpushy, not in your face way and they're like, oh, I didn't even know that existed.

Maybe it wasn't super prominent on the main website or they came to the landing page so they never even saw that existed. And so they're able to upgrade and purchase and also use like a one-click upsell. If they've already purchased something then they can purchase more without entering their credit cards again.

So that kind of cross-selling effect is really powerful. Obviously you could do a paid bootcamp or a paid course, but if you do a free course with a paid version like I just talked about, that can be really powerful.

And I want to say, I want to give credit to the people who came up with the idea, which were just people who joined our challenge and they said, hey, I don't want to wait 30 days, can I just pay you for instant access? And I was like, I never thought to do that. And so we decided to just put up a purchase page and quite a few people took us up on that. I think it's 4% of people end up purchasing from the people who opt-in for free.

So that was kind of a cool accident of just somebody saying I want to pay for this. So yeah, I think also listening to what your people are saying, if you create an opt in or if you create something and then people are like, do you have this? And I'm willing to pay for it, that would be a really great way to kind of create that next-level offering that people might be looking for.

Boost Your Revenue with Affiliate Recommendations

Bob: That's awesome. Now another way that you generate revenue for your business is as an affiliate. Right? So you've already mentioned that you have a course where you're going to be recommending Leadpages. I imagine there's a lot of other types of tools that you are able to recommend. Talk to us just for a minute about the importance of affiliate marketing as a way to increase the revenue for your business and is there a tip or two that you have for how to go about it in a way that feels very good to not only yourself but also to the students going through the programs?

Nathalie: Yeah, so I have been an affiliate in a number of different capacities. So I've been an affiliate for software tools that I know and love and use. And I think the way that you can be an affiliate for tools is really to provide extra value. So that means a really in-depth review so people know if it's the right tool for them, maybe extra tips or advice or tricks for using it. So when people who are curious about which tool to use, if they find your tutorials or your trainings on it and it kind of solves their problem, they're a lot more likely to sign up through your affiliate link.

I've also been an affiliate of courses and other kind of coaches and creators as well, and that usually comes with a launch period and like a big promotion versus software, which is kind of evergreen and people can buy anytime. So I think for those, what tends to work really well also is to provide bonuses or extra value on top of what people are purchasing. So I've done bonuses of my own courses if somebody buys somebody else's course through my affiliate link.

And the same goes for our software. We've tried all kinds of things, giving people extra bonuses when they sign up through our links. These days, our affiliate revenue is kind of a smaller portion of our business revenue, so it's more on autopilot when people find our reviews and when they see our comparison pages of this tool versus that tool, which one should you pick? That tends to be how we find people for these and who end up signing up through us.

The Course Community Difference

Bob: So my last question around the courses you've already hit on a little bit, but I'd love to make sure that we're really clear and that's around this community aspect. So why is it so important for course creators to consider having a community element? And what are some of the more interesting ways that you're seeing that played out either in your own business or those that are using AccessAlly?

Nathalie: Yes, so this is sort of a controversial take, but I think that sometimes the value that your course provides is not the curriculum, but it's the community that you build around it.

And I've seen this play out in my own business. I've seen it play out in other courses and communities that I've participated in. And what it comes down to is you can bring people together with a shared mission or a shared goal of learning something or changing or transforming, and the other people in the community are just as committed as you, and that helps you really see those results because they're pushing you forward. They're helping you stay accountable. They're motivating you when you kind of fall off the wagon a little bit. And I think that's the power of community, and there are so many different ways of doing it.

It could be small group zoom sessions where you kind of pick people up to kind of come together and chat about the topics. It could be accountability groups or buddies where you kind of pair people up and have them kind of keep going together.

It could also be forums or kind of actual community like Facebook Groups and all of that. I know people are kind of moving out of Facebook Groups a little bit because there's just so much distraction on that platform and people want to kind of own a little bit the experience of their communities.

So there's tons of other options for that too, like Mighty Networks and Circle and AccessAlly has its own community tier as well too.

So I think it comes down to also just knowing how to manage a community because just because you put up a forum doesn't mean people will use it. Just because you have a Facebook group doesn't mean people will be super excited to talk.

So I think when you're creating your content and your curriculum, thinking about ways to encourage people to connect with each other, to support each other, and to kind of be generous with each other, I think is really important too, and can make a huge difference.

A lot of people who sign up for certain courses recommend the course because of the community. It's not just the curriculum that they're recommending. And I think that if we forget that as course creators, then we're missing out on probably like a good third of the value that we're really providing.

Bob: Do you wind up providing the support of that community yourself? Do you find the peer support elevates and you can kind of get a moderator picked out of that community? Or is there some other way that you're handling the actual time investment that is required to make sure a community takes off?

Nathalie: That's a great question. I think it comes down to what resources you have. So in the beginning, definitely I was the one leading the community, making sure people were active and all their questions were answered.

And then over time, as you're able to have other people either join your company or like you said, you can elevate people who were just super active in the beginning and kind of make them peer moderators and things like that, that can be extremely beneficial.

And a lot of times the people who are part of your community make amazing community leaders because they know the culture that you were initially going for and they already know your product and your course and your content and all of that. So they're a lot more likely to be kind of ready to hit the ground running.

And actually on our team at AccessAlly, we've hired a lot of people who were AccessAlly users and experts in the beginning. So yeah, I think there's a lot of benefits to sourcing from within the community as opposed to trying to find somebody on like a job posting who has a community manager title so that you have somebody who has the values, has the background and all of that already built in.

Bob: Very cool.

The Spiral Staircase

Nathalie, this has really been fantastic to dig deeper into the success that course creators can have. My final question for you is I'm sure along the way in your journey the last decade and a half, you have run into some roadblocks challenges, et cetera. Is there a quote, a mantra or something that you turn to that helps you get over the obstacles that you are presented with?

Nathalie: Yeah. So, I really like the concept of the spiral staircase. So I feel like in business, we sometimes feel like we're back at square one or we feel like we're kind of doing the same thing we've been doing for a while, and we're kind of stuck. Or, like you said, we kind of reach this obstacle place.

But a lot of times, if you look back, you realize that you've actually done a full circle or might be more than one on the spiral staircase and you're at a more elevated level. Like, you actually have a lot more experience to deal with this now. You have a lot more perspective. You have a lot more feedback and kind of just, you know, a little bit more about how to handle things. And so that in itself, just that realization can be enough to help you keep moving forward.

And then also just it's okay sometimes to feel like you're kind of circling and you don't know exactly where you're going because you are actually moving ahead. It might not look like it from one perspective, but in the grand scheme of things, you are definitely moving forward.

And also, I think a lot of times, we're so hard on ourselves, right? We feel like we should be further ahead. We should have already done x, y, and z and reached all of these big milestones and goals that we have for ourselves. But at the same time, if we look back to how far we've come, we can see we've really made progress and we've really built something amazing. And whether you see that or not is up to you. But at the same time, I feel like that is motivation and powerful enough to kind of keep you going and keep you going to that next level.

Bob: That's really cool. Kind of get this idea that you're trying not to compare yourself to other people but your past you versus your present you, versus your future you, and really being appreciative with some gratitude of where you are in that journey.

Nathalie: Exactly. You nailed it.

Bob: Very cool. Well, thank you so much, Nathalie, for being a part of our show today, and I'm looking forward to more great things coming out from you and the AccessAlly team, and really grateful that you were able to join me today.

Nathalie: Thank you for having us. I love Leadpages. This is awesome.

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Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A former high school history teacher turned entrepreneur and marketer, Bob has educated business owners worldwide on how to leverage lead generation to grow their brands for over 18 years. Bob is a conversion expert, specifically when it comes to landing pages. Hosting over 1,000 webinars, he has walked thousands of business owners through advanced strategies to help them optimize their pages and maximize their leads and sales. Bob works with Leadpages affiliates and users to ensure they have all the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to build high-converting landing pages that grow their businesses.

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