Are courses and membership sites really that valuable?
It’s a question we get asked all the time. Because it’s difficult for small business owners (who work ridiculously hard every day) to believe they can make money - good money - without working more hours.
It doesn’t help that the internet is packed with information. Free information. The same information that business owners might want to include in their course or membership site. Who’s going to pay for content when they can find anything they want by searching the web?
Today, we want to explore two common questions:
What really makes courses and membership sites so valuable?
How do you organize your content so you can charge what it’s worth?
If you’ve already determined there is a market for your offering, this information will help you create a successful, profitable course or membership.
Why Courses and Membership Sites Are So Valuable
Let’s address the very common concern that the internet has made courses obsolete. If anything, the massive amounts of content being dumped online everyday makes courses and memberships even more valuable.
Because there is too much content online. Too many opinions. Too much information to sift through. And nobody in your corner, helping you make sense of it all.
It’s the same reason our kids go to school. Technically, anything a child needs to learn can be found online. There are thousands of educational sites, videos, books, etc. to teach kids math, reading, and functional skills like telling time. But most of us send them to school.
The curriculum is structured. One concept builds upon another concept to systematically teach your child what they need to know. They don’t even see information that’s beyond their current scope of knowledge. Why confuse them with new ideas and concepts they don’t have the capacity to understand?
The support is built in. If a child has questions, they raise their hand. The teacher is standing there, in the classroom, ready to help each child overcome learning hurdles. While you may not be ever present with your community, most course and membership site creators offer support in the form of open office hours, email, a community, etc.
We trust teachers to know what they’re doing. Because they teach all day. Many of them for decades. So there is an unspoken level of trust - if I send my child to you, you will teach them what they need to know.
Curriculums are designed to create specific outcomes for students. Knowledge for knowledge's sake really offers no value to anyone. By the time a kid leaves school, theoretically, they have the skills to get and maintain a job, manage interactions in society, and continue learning as their situation demands.
All of that applies to courses and membership sites. For anything new we’re trying to accomplish, information is not enough. We need a structured curriculum, support, trust in the content creator and a specific goal or outcome we’re trying to achieve.
That’s why courses and membership sites will always remain relevant. People are willing to pay a decent price for the curated, clear, authoritative knowledge that gets them from point A to point B.
So how do you create/organize your content to be such a valuable resource?
The same way teachers create their curriculum.
Determine The Prerequisites for Your Course
I’m sure you’d agree that not everyone who buys your course or signs up for a membership will be ready for your offering. No matter how basic your information, each prospect needs to know “something” about your industry.
First and foremost, figure out what your prospect needs to know before they can get value from your knowledge products. Then, you have two options:
Make sure you’re marketing to the right people and that your sales pages clearly identify the content that will be covered.
Share “prerequisite” content as lead magnets, blog posts, emails for your community, etc.
Either option works well. But make sure you do that groundwork to figure out what level of knowledge your customers are coming in with. Otherwise, you could lose them before they even get started.
If you’re not sure what people know and what they don’t, include plenty of resources to help them get up to speed. Those resources might include definitions for industry-specific terms, pre-assessments, and potentially an on-boarding call.
Once you know you’ve got the bases covered, you can move on to the content you’re planning to include in your course or membership site.
Assess Your Content for Knowledge (Versus Information)
We addressed this briefly, but the terms information and knowledge are now being distinguished as two very different words. Information is merely a collection of data. But information can be misinterpreted or your students might not have the skills to take action based on the information they’ve been given.
Knowledge, on the other hand, is the application of that information. It’s the case studies. It’s the step-by-step process you share. It’s the relatable stories you tell in your videos.
It’s the reason we talk about Knowledge Platforms and Knowledge Products. Because what you offer is more than just content.
In an interview with Forbes.com, famed course creator, Amy Porterfield said this:
“One of the biggest mistakes that course creators make is to throw everything they know at students and overwhelm them. Instead of quantity, my programs focus on quality. I teach exactly what my students need to know. No fluff. No extra. Nobody has time for that.”
At this stage in your organization, you have to determine what content (and you undoubtedly have a lot to sort through) moves your prospect from learner to doer. With no fluff.
Keep in mind...you may have to throw a lot of content out.
Need an example? This blog post doesn’t belong in a membership site. But why not? I’ve taken a few hours to write it. I spent some time coming up with a topic I know our community needs. It’s valuable information. But we’re not actually showing you how to assess your content. We’re telling you that you need to do it, and letting you figure out what that might look like.
If I was going to include it as part of a course or in a membership site, I would undoubtedly create an assessment sheet. A rubric of some type against which to judge your content. Which, who knows, may become a blog post later on.
Focus on Small Objectives to Achieve Big Goals
Ultimately, you’ve got to view all of your customers as students. At the end of your course or at some point in their membership, you want them to be able to accomplish a specific goal. So it’s critical to organize your content around those specific objectives.
Break it down into linear events. If the goal of your offering is to get your customer from point A to point Z, then your course or membership site needs to focus on reaching points B, C, D, E, etc.
People do best when they learn and practice their knowledge in bite-size chunks. A copywriter, for example, wouldn’t bother to teach you the 200+ formulas in copy. They wouldn’t expect you to write a sales page in “3 easy steps”. They would break down each copy component and start by teaching you how to write a compelling headline or subject line.
Think of it as stairs or steps or a ladder. You’ve got to tackle one before you can take on the next.
Does your course or membership site spew out random information or is there a clear, specific path to be taken?
Evaluate User Understanding
How do you know if something you’ve produced is meaningful? Well, easy. Your customers/students are able to put their new understanding to use.
But how will you know your customers are reaching their goals? Either they’ve got to come back and tell you your offering works. Or, you need a way to evaluate their new knowledge as the course wraps up.
This might include a “homework” assignment that you’re willing to grade. It might be a test. It could include an evaluation feedback form.
Teachers don’t let you move on to the next grade if you can’t pass your test. Neither should you be pushing students through your course or membership unless they’ve learned what they meant to learn.
You decide the best way to gather information on your offering. But make sure you have something in place. With customer feedback and an evaluation of some kind, you can make regular tweaks and improvements to your offering.
Imagine how much more you can charge for your Knowledge Products when they successfully deliver the outcomes that are promised.
Is there more to creating your membership site or course than we’ve outlined here? Yes. Of course. But this should give you a starting point to get a little more organized so you can be more profitable.
When it comes to organization, we can all learn simple lessons from organization expert, Marie Kondo, who says:
“All you need to do is take the time to sit down and examine each item you own, decide whether you want to keep or discard it, and then choose where to put what you keep.”
Happy organizing! And once you’ve got a basic outline for the course or site you want to create, don’t forget to sign up for a FREE, 30 day trial of CustomerHub.