To keep giving you relevant and timely content, we update our most popular posts. This article was last updated on April 28, 2021.
You’ve heard the marketing gurus who swear by online courses, digital products, and group programs that help you reach more people and create a repeatable system that “makes money while you sleep,” so you can live a lavish, six- or seven-figure lifestyle.
But if you’ve tried to sell a course, product, or group program, there’s a good chance you got less than stellar results, and you’re wondering what the heck went wrong.
The truth is, selling “The Digital 3” (courses, products, and group programs) can be far more challenging than any of those experts let on.
So if you’ve tried—and failed—I want you to know you’re not alone (and you’re most certainly not a doomed businessperson!).
There are some specific reasons why you aren’t having the mega success you expected, and today I’m going to fill you in, nothing held back. (As if you’d expect anything less from me!)
You’ll uncover what’s not working with your attempts so far and discover a more effective way to build your business, so you can reach more people, make more money, and find the freedom you’ve been seeking.
Sound like something you want? Let’s dive in.
The Challenges with Online Courses
Before I tell you my proven approach to building a thriving, successful online business, we first have to address the elephant in the room: the reasons why so many Digital 3 attempts end in utter failure.
You know how I said you’re not alone in your failures so far, and even Ramit Sethi admits, “The vast majority of people who try to create online products fail — like 99%+. This is the elephant graveyard where the dream of passive income goes to die.”Click to Tweet“The vast majority of people who try to create online products fail.” @ramit
But that doesn’t stop many business owners from trying!
And here’s how it usually goes…
First, you go back and forth about your niche, because you don’t have it completely nailed down.
Once you finally decide on who you want to sell your program to, you pour tens or hundreds of hours into creating what you think is the perfect course. You plan out each module, record videos, create worksheets, write sales emails, plan your social media posts… the lists go on and on.
In addition to creating killer content inside your program, you have to figure out the techy back-end, master mass-sales marketing, and have a hefty sized list to sell enough to make ends meet.
When launch day comes you’re a bundle of nerves, excitement, and anticipation. “This day,” you think, “is going to change everything.”
You hit send on your first sales email and wait. And wait. And wait.
Nobody buys on day one. Or on day two. Or on day three.
Maybe you’re lucky with a few bites before you close the cart, but overall, you didn’t get the results you’ve read about, and you’re not totally sure what went wrong.
Was it your sales emails? Your landing page? The offer itself? Something else?
The answer could be all of those things—or none of them. To know for sure what’s going wrong, you have to take a few steps back.
Here’s What You’re Missing
If you’re struggling to fill your group program or sell your product, it means you’re missing the mark with one or more of the following key pieces (even if you think you aren’t).
Knowing how to speak your clients’ language and write great copy
If you haven’t worked with enough people and you’re conceiving a product based on your own knowledge, you’re hands-down going to default to jargon. The words you would use to describe your clients’ problems aren’t always the words they would use.
Until you learn how to speak your clients’ language, people won’t understand how you can help them, and they won’t buy anything you sell, no matter how good it is.
Having the right-sized email list
Selling an online course requires a bigger list than if you’re selling one-on-one services, so it’s crucial that you have a large enough list to sell to.
(Not sure how big your list size needs to be to hit your income goals? Check out this free email list calculator.)
Knowing exactly what marketing techniques work for you and your audience
If you don’t have the right language, creating the right marketing materials to sell your product or program becomes nearly impossible. Your sales emails, sales page, and everything you do to promote your offer will fall short.
But even more than that, here’s the biggest challenge with online marketing techniques: they are constantly changing.
The idea of “set it and forget it” marketing is a total myth.
To my own frustration, I’ve seen this in my business. What worked in January didn’t work exactly the same 7 months later. And big businesses out there are seeing this as well.
At a recent conference I attended, Reid Tracy, the President and CEO of Hay House, told the audience that evergreen products “require constant monitoring.” And if that’s true for a business the size of Hay House, you better believe it’s true for businesses like mine and yours which are a fraction of the size.
This means not only do you have to figure out what’s working right now, you also have to figure out what’s working tomorrow and the next day and next month and… You get the idea.
Knowing with certainty exactly what people want and how to sell it to them
You must test the market and create a viable product; otherwise, you’re completely wasting your time and efforts.
So how can you ensure that you have all of these pieces in place and guarantee massive success with an online course?
The answer might surprise you.
Start with, and Stick to, 1-on-1 Services (for as Long as You Can)
Yes, you read that right. To create a successful online course, product, or group program, I recommend you sell one-on-one services.Click to TweetWant to create a successful online course, product or group program? Start with one-on-one services.
Before you roll your eyes, hang tight.
There are so many reasons that one-on-one services benefit your bottom line—both today and going into the future.
First, one-on-one services are becoming a bigger commodity because everyone is jumping on The Digital 3 bandwagon. More and more people are craving high-touch, personalized experiences.
Second, without the experience of working with clients one-on-one, you’re just guessing what your potential clients want. (This means both the quality of your product and your marketing are guaranteed to suffer and you’ll be wasting a ton of time!)
Think about it this way: On average, it could take about 100 hours to create a product. Add to that another 100 hours of marketing prep work (if you do it right). Without all the pieces in place that I outlined above, it could result in $0!
Now, imagine using those same 200 hours to market to and serve clients one-on-one. How much money could you make that way? (Hint: It’s probably a lot more than $0.)
I’m not saying that The Digital 3 should be avoided or never ventured into. There is money to be made from them—and lots of it. The online education market is valued at over 100 billion (yes, billion) dollars, and it’s projected to grow to 374.3 billion by 2026. And I want nothing more than to see you be part of those billions if that’s what you want.
What I recommend—and what worked for me and has worked for my most successful clients, including both newer-to-business clients and more experienced women—is that you work with people one-on-one and use that experience to transition into selling a successful course, product, or group program.
Why this approach is so successful
Do this for long enough, and your course, product, or group program will practically create itself!
Even better, when you’re ready to sell The Digital 3, you’ll know the exact language to use to market your offer successfully, so there will be no throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it will stick.
What really sold me on this approach in my own business was that the thought of putting all of my eggs in one basket terrified me.
When you have the financial backing of your solid, consistent, one-on-one offers, you can easily take some risks in developing and marketing The Digital 3, without the financial pressure of having to make it work to pay the bills.
This is why starting with and building a wildly profitable one-on-one business is such a no-brainer! (Yes, done right, a one-on-one-focused business can get you to multi-six figures in less than 30 hours per week.)
When you nail down this consistent, reliable income through one-on-one offers, you can transition into The Digital 3 with more confidence and less risk than just leaping recklessly, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best.
I don’t know about you, but I love a “sure thing,” and done right, one-on-one work is as close to a sure thing as you’re gonna get.
Which Path Is Best for You?
Armed with these insights, think about your short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
Should you stick with one-on-one services?
Are you ready to dive into creating and selling online courses?
I’m really curious about where you stand when it comes to your next steps.
Fill me in by leaving a comment below.