Imagine a professor standing at the front of her lecture hall waiting for her students to show up to class. She has no idea if they are young or old, excited or lazy. She can’t tell you what they know about the subject she’s teaching or if they care to learn it. Do they need homework? Don’t know. Do they need a degree? Don’t know.
That’s how most of my clients operate. They have great ideas and jump straight to the solution without much thought about their students’ problems.
One hundred percent of people buying courses are trying to solve a problem. Get the problem wrong and you’re throwing away time and money. The single biggest mistake I see people make with their course is they can’t tell you who their students are or the problem they’re trying to solve. Professional educators don’t operate that way. They can’t. They wouldn’t be able to charge big bucks for their classes if they were always focused on themselves rather than their students.
In this article, I’m going to show you a few ways to figure out your learners’ problems so you can build a course that sells, and, more importantly, works.
I was a journalism major during my undergraduate years. My school offered the degree and even had a list of classes I needed to take and pass to get a degree in Journalism. Each time I walked into a class my professor was ready for me. The lesson plan was clear. I had all of the right books and assignments. And we both knew exactly what I needed to do to pass the class. No guessing.
I guarantee my professors could tell you about their students. They could tell you their age and how long they’d been studying journalism. They knew how well we knew the subject and the skills we brought to the class. Each lecture and assignment was tailor-made to help us take the next step in becoming better journalists.
Things work differently when you are building and selling your own course. Outside of the university setting course builders need to rely on MOTIVATION. People will only take (or pay) your course if they want to. They don’t need your degree and nothing is stopping them from sleeping through half of your classes. They don’t need your sign off, your information or your permission. They need your answers. They want you to solve their problem.
I guarantee you aren’t solving their problem if you can’t describe them. In my experience, the person you think you’re helping is often not that interested in what you’re selling. It’s the person in the fray. The one who has been working their way through a number of different ideas and solutions on their way to landing on yours. Do you know who they are? If I gave you 30 seconds to describe them could you do it?
Here are 7 things you should be able to describe BEFORE you build a course.
You should be able to answer all of these questions BEFORE you spend any time designing, building, or trying to sell a course. Otherwise, I hope you’re ready to wander around until you figure things out the hard way.
A course is nothing more than a tool used to fix a problem. People are coming to you to get help with something they’re struggling with right now. You should be able to describe that problem and the person who wants to solve it. You should be able to describe the things they’ve already tried and why it didn’t work. You should know exactly where your student or customer is right before they click the BUY button. Are they frustrated? Hopeful? Annoyed? You should know all of those things.
What are the things you are going to help people do? Don’t waste your time telling people what you want them to KNOW. That’s a fool’s errand and you’ll never be able to do it. But, you can help them DO something different, better or new. You can solve their problem.
I like using mind maps and other ways of generating lots of to-dos. It’s really helpful to dump all of your ideas out on a piece of paper or somewhere you can see them.
Once you have a big list of ideas, put all of your to-dos together and look for 8-10 fundamental things you want to teach people to do. It’s a bit easier if you use a phrase like this.
There are a lot of things that go into building a mobile app. However, the 8-10 things that all successful app builders need to be able to do are ______________. Skip any of those steps and you might not see your app come to life.
I use exercises like this with my clients to help them hone in on their fundamentals. They often want to cover a lot more things than are necessary. But, without those fundamentals, there’s no way they’re going to cover the right things or solve someone’s problem.
Here’s an example of what a final list of 8-10 fundamentals might look like for a course on How to Build an App.
Someone interested in building a mobile phone app needs to be able to:
Every item on this list is an action - something people need to know. Knowledge comes from the doing. Ninety percent of the courses I see fail miserably at focusing on what people should do. They are often taught by instructors assuming they know what the learner wants and how they want it. The courses that perform and sell best don’t do that. They focus on helping people get a little better, one small task at a time. Tell me what you know and I’ll tune you out in the first 5 minutes. Show me how to do something helpful and I’ll stick around for hours.