Have you ever felt stuck on the path you’re on in your business? Well, I want you to know that it’s okay to change your mind! It’s okay to change your course and restructure your programs so that they’re serving you and your customers.
A few years ago I was stuck. I was so stressed out and burned out from teaching my course that I just shut it down. I still loved the subject but I was too frustrated to continue. I was sure that I would never teach on that topic again.
But a year or two went by and I was still super passionate about the topic. So I asked myself, why does it have to be all or nothing?
If something isn't working, sometimes the solution is to let it go. But I believe that often, the solution is to tweak it, to fix it, to restructure it, to really sit down and think critically about all the pieces that don't work. Ask yourself why they don't work then look for solutions.
I hope that if you have some sort of online course or an educational system or program that you run, you'll get a lot of insight from this episode as I dig in and explore how I found my way back to teaching my passion after throwing in the towel. If you haven’t started a course yet because you’ve been deterred by the burnout you’ve seen in others, I hope you will find encouragement here to go ahead and get started.
Are you ready to dive in?
Press play on the podcast player below to hear the full episode.
Where it all began
My first Facebook ads course was called FB Brilliance. I started the class because other business owners saw the success I was having with Facebook ads and wanted to learn how to use ads too. My first course launched in 2016 for $200. I had a second launch that year at a higher price of $497 and it was my first six-figure launch. I had another six-figure launch in 2017 but unfortunately because of the way I had structured my course, it was no longer sustainable and was causing me a lot of stress and burnout so I shut it down and walked away.
Want to know what went wrong? Keep reading…
Problem #1 – Unlimited Free Stuff
A lot of courses include a free Facebook group where students can go to ask questions and get help. Ideally, everyone in the group contributes answers but realistically it often falls to the course creator and her team, if she has one, to field all the questions. This free group will continue to grow over time because students are granted forever access.
Another feature of many courses is lifetime access to the course and all future updates. In my case, there are always updates because Facebook ads and the Ads Manager are constantly changing.
Group coaching is another benefit offered in my course. Initially, I would do weekly coaching sessions for about a month or two then drop back to monthly coaching sessions between classes. All of my students were allowed to participate in any (or all!) of these coaching calls. Just like that free Facebook group, the numbers in the coaching sessions are also constantly growing.
So that’s where I was with my class, Facebook Brilliance. Students paid a one-time fee of $497 then had unlimited access to all that stuff forever!
Now let’s imagine offering the same thing with a physical product. Your customers would pay once then have access to more and more of your products over time without paying any more money. That’s crazy! It immediately becomes obvious what an insane idea that is and what a physical and financial drain that would be on your business.
Just because our product is digital, doesn’t make it free.
There is time and money involved in providing those services. You’re teaching the course, you're providing support in the Facebook group, and you’re offering coaching calls That's your product. Updated course videos- also your product. So if you reframe your mindset and imagine all of those as a physical product, instead, it becomes so much more clear exactly what you’ve been giving away. You think, “How could I possibly just keep giving this out forever and ever for free? That just wouldn't work!”
A counter-argument to this is that most people don’t take advantage of the unlimited option. They’re not retaking the course or using the ongoing coaching.
But stop and think – do you really want to offer a course that isn’t getting engagement from your students? If you’re really engaging your students and being super helpful to them and if your team is working hard to be helpful, and you’re dedicated to giving your students great advice and strategy (which I hope you are!), then 90% of your audience isn’t going to just fade away after the initial course investment.
If you're providing the exceptional service that I know you want to give, your students are going to love that and they will stick around and they will continue to ask questions and they will continue to implement. And so that’s where we run into this problem of offering unlimited access.
Ethically, as a business owner, my goal isn't to sell someone a program that has a decent cost to it and then cross my fingers and hope they never ask me a question show up to coaching calls. I shouldn’t cross my fingers and hope that they lose interest a few months from now. That just doesn't feel right to me at all. My goal, if someone is joining one of my programs, is to help them in a big, big way.
I want them to see tangible improvements. In my case, since it's all business related, I want them to see tangible improvements in their business. For you it may be tangible improvements in another area of their life, depending on what you teach about. But the goal should never be to have shadow customers who aren’t actually using what you’re teaching. I would ask why am I running my business? Yes, some people are able to run these ghost town Facebook groups through their course, but that should not be your goal. That's not the right financial strategy in order to make your lifetime group and support financially sustainable.
Problem #2 – Lifetime Updates
In my case, I teach about Facebook Ads. As you know, Facebook is constantly changing. I promised updates to my students but I wasn’t clear about how often I would provide the updates. Would I publish a big update once a year or would I be offering monthly trainings about recent changes?
That became really stressful because I wasn't organized and clear enough in letting my students know when those updates would happen. And so, of course, if somebody has an expectation of more frequent updates in their mind and meanwhile I’m feeling like I can barely keep up with the questions that are coming in much less focus on creating and providing updates to the course. Now there’s a disconnect between my audience’s expectations and what I’m providing.
You’ve got to avoid this problem with updates by being clear from the beginning on how it will be done.
Problem #3 – Not Narrowing My Audience
Honestly, this was the biggest of them all – the biggest of the big – and this is something that I hope everyone will really take to heart.
I was trying to serve too many different types of customers.
I was trying to make my ads program work for just about anyone with a business and that doesn't work. The strategies that you use when it comes to Facebook ads are very different for local business compared to service-based businesses. Also, the strategies you will use with Facebook Ads when you can insert the pixel to track purchases is different than when you can’t use the pixel such as for people who are part of an MLM company like Beach Body. MLMs also present a challenge because in my course I am really focusing on getting my students to differentiate themselves from the competition. They need to be able to show why their product is different from others and why it is perfect for their target customer which is just one of the many reasons that MLM companies are hard to work with when it comes to successful Facebook ads.
I was trying to be all things to all people with my ads program. Why? Because that felt like the nice thing to do. It's not a good feeling to tell someone no, I don't really know if I can help you or I don't really know if you're a good fit for the program. That doesn't feel good. I want to be that person who says, Hey, everyone is welcome and it's going to be great. But I quickly realized that that wasn't serving anyone.
I wasn't able to narrow in on one amazing, fabulous, cohesive ad strategy and system from start-to-finish that would work for my customers.
My course was cobbled together, scattered and confusing for my students. It wasn't an organized journey that all of my customers could follow with an organized roadmap. Course experts will tell you how important it is to have a roadmap and a system for the students to follow. It should never be just a random mish-mash of materials which is exactly what I had at the time.
With Facebook ads, there does come a point when we start to test and tweak but there is still a path to follow to that point.
Remember – I was trying to serve everyone. I finally had to stop and really think about who I could best help and focus in on them. What was my experience and who could benefit the most from that? For me, it was physical and digital product sellers.
One Step Closer to a Better Course
By 2017 I had recognized the problems that I just mentioned and made some changes to my course offering. I narrowed my focus to know which customers I could help the most and I had a clear path to teach Facebook ads for physical and digital product sellers. I had set limits and expectations about how long the group and coaching would be available. Unfortunately, I still had a problem.
I launched my course as an open/close cart and even though I had an ideal customer in mind, anyone could purchase the course. I ended up with students who weren’t the right fit. They were frustrated because the material wasn’t geared towards them and I was frustrated because I was spending time on someone who wasn’t a good fit and who should never have purchased the class in the first place.
They'd be better served by a different teacher and I'd be better served by working with the students I can better help.
I also ran into the problem of students enrolling in my course who just weren’t ready yet for Facebook ads. Their products weren’t great and their sales pages were in desperate need of improvement before they would even come close to being ready for ads. They somehow convinced themselves that I was going to be that miracle worker to take their not-so-great product that nobody really wants, and somehow turn it into this miracle million dollar product.
Remember when I said that I didn’t want to turn people away? Even after the changes I made to how I ran my course, I was still finding myself in the position of having to tell someone that their product just wasn’t great or that they weren’t a good fit for the course. I even gave a few refunds to students because I didn’t feel like ads were ever going to work for them. I don't want to have to remove people from my programs who are excited to be there and want to learn. That's a really hard decision to have to make. So to me, it's much better to just have a process on the front end that makes that decision for me, so that I am only left with the students that I know I can help and that I think will be a good fit.
It was time for even more changes to my process.
Problem #4 – Students Not Taking Action
This was an issue for my earlier version of the class and it was still a problem even after I relaunched in 2017. Students were not taking action. Too many of my students were not going through the course materials. They weren’t setting up their ads manager or running any ads. They paid for the class but never finished. As I said before, that’s not the type of business I want to run. I want my customers to be successful and happy.
Course ghosts are bad for both you and the customers. It’s bad for the customers, obviously, because they have invested their hard-earned money into your class and they aren’t getting any return. But it’s also bad for you and your business because if your students aren't taking action and getting results, you have no happy customers with testimonials to share. The next time you open up your program, you absolutely must get students who take action, or ultimately your program will not survive.
At a certain point, people are going to stop enrolling in your program because if you have a ton of customers but none of them are able to report back on the tangible, amazing results they got, that's a problem. Eventually your program dies off because people realize something's not right here.
The problem isn’t necessarily the quality and the contents of your course. Maybe it’s amazing. But if your students aren’t engaging and actually doing the work, then no one will know that your course gets amazing results.
How to Encourage Your Students to Take Action
I can’t go to each student’s house to force them to do the lessons, right? And I’m not content to sell a course and take people’s money whether they implement or not. So, what’s the answer? How do I encourage my students to engage in the course and implement what they are learning? Because you better believe I'm going to do everything within my power to help them to take action!
Let's talk about how I restructured things to make my new ads program, a much better experience both for my students and for me, and a better financial experience as well.
My new program is called the FB Ads Intensive and true to its name – it's intense. It’s a twelve-week program with a live lesson every week. These lessons are about ninety minutes long and packed with content – about 200 slides each week. At the end of the lesson I take questions and I also offer a weekly coaching call to answer more questions. There’s a Facebook group for the class as well where you can ask questions between calls and I have a team of Ads Mentors available in the group, actively answering questions and interacting with the students. And if that wasn’t enough, I also have weekly homework assignments designed to help the students stay on track and take action and get results. If the homework is completed and submitted in the homework thread of the Facebook group, the student is entered into a weekly giveaway for a $50 or $100 gift card of their choice. The more important assignments get the higher reward.
I keep the number of students low – there are fewer than 100 students per round – so that between me and my mentors we have time to be able to help everyone.
Benefits of a Live Class
I believe that having a program where everyone starts at the same time is very beneficial. Everyone is on the same page just like they would be if they were attending a college class in person. In college you show up to class together and everyone is consuming the lesson at the same time, having tests at the same time, and doing assignments at the same time. This brings a sense of community that is very different from an evergreen program where people are joining, entering, and exiting at all different times. They're all at different stages of the program in an evergreen course.
I have also hired ads mentors to help in the group. They are peers with slightly more experience who can also bring different perspectives than just mine as the instructor.
There is just something so powerful about having a group of students all on the same page together. At the end they have systems in place that can grab new, ice-cold traffic that also increases their email lists and customer base which makes their future launches and promotions that much more successful.
Some of my students have said that my class feels like a business boot camp. They have bonded and built up a camaraderie as they make their way through the intense program. They support and encourage each other in a way that is so powerful.
In addition to the group support and live instruction, the homework assignments are another way to add accountability to the students. They know they have to make time each week to do the homework so that they are prepared for the next lesson. They don’t want to get behind. Even though there’s no penalty attached to not doing the homework, the peer pressure of being a group, going through the class together often keeps people on track. It’s harder to give in to our own excuses when we see other people finding a way to make it happen.
Benefits of an Application-Based Program
As I mentioned earlier, I have had customers buy my program even though it wasn’t a good fit for their type of business or their products. By switching my program to an application-only process, I’m better able to pre-determine whether or not a student is a good match and will be able to succeed with the class.
I was really nervous to run a program like this, but I knew that I didn't want to have all of these students purchasing my program and trying to come into the group who just had business models that I knew I couldn't help, or that I knew were not the right fit. I learned that it becomes it's a time suck and it's a hassle which is not what I want to do. And so I knew the better solution was to have an application.
On the application I’m looking for sales pages and prior sales performance. I’m also looking to see if your pixel has already been installed and gathering data. But the biggest thing I'm doing is just taking a really good look at each and every business owner to see if this someone I truly believe that I and my program can help to be successful. And if I don't believe that I can help someone to be successful with that, I'm not going to accept them into my program.
I’ll be honest. I don’t always get it right. I’ve had a handful of students that despite our very best efforts (my team as well as the student), we were not able to make ads work. Recent events – a pandemic and the election! – have certainly made the ads environment a lot trickier this year. But if the student is really giving it 100% (and yes – we can tell when you’re just trying to skate by!), the success rate has been phenomenal.
The success rate now is so much higher than I ever saw from any course or program I ever ran before. I believe it's all those live components and pieces of accountability and community and support. But it's also the fact that I have an application on the front end.
On average, I only accept about one out of every three people into the program and I expect that to go down as word of the program spreads and as my marketing efforts improve.
Full transparency- It doesn’t always work. Sometimes despite seeing potential in a newer business and our best efforts, the ads don’t work. Sometimes people have immediate, amazing success and sometimes it takes a long time and a lot of work to finally get the ads to pay off.
Offering Ongoing Support
I talked about the free Facebook group that I used to offer. I knew that I wanted to be able to offer ongoing support but I also knew that offering it for free wasn’t sustainable. So now I have a paid membership group.
My group si not a typical membership group though. The group exists simply to serve my students who've graduated from the ads intensive. And when I say graduate, I do mean, you must have done the work in the ads intensive. You must have tweaked and tested and had enough determination to make some level of sales with your ads and if you haven't gotten there yet, then your job is to keep going through the course materials and get yourself there because we worked as hard as we could to help you get there during our 12 weeks together. Now you need to take yourself to the finish line as far as a proving yourself with some profitable sales.
Then if you want that ongoing support, the coaching calls, the Facebook group to ask questions and get help, and video update posts from me about what's working right now with ads, that is a membership that you pay month to month to be a part of.
As I said, it’s not a traditional membership full of training. Members are paying mostly for the support and because they know I will continue to test and tweak within Facebook ads and share what I have learned. Everyone who is a member has been successful with ads and we all learn from each other.
So if you’re considering offering a membership for ongoing support, I will say that this model has worked well for me. Don’t be afraid to charge for your time that you put into the group. Remember if you turned your service into a physical product that you would mail to them each month, you would understand that the need to charge for it to make your business sustainable. It's the same way with ongoing support from you in the digital world.
How I Maintain Course Updates
I have found another benefit to the live course model when it comes to course updates. If your course is all pre-recorded videos, then you will have to record new videos with updates. But if your course is live, you are already incorporating the updates into the class as you teach it.
This works great for me because I’d rather play with my ads than make course updates. But the deadline of a live class keeps me focused on the task so that it gets done. It’s holding me accountable as I look at my slides each week for the week ahead, and making any necessary changes. It’s a lot easier to change a couple slides than it is to update an entire lesson.
I am updating the slides for my current round of students who have paid to be there. Previous students then have access to the updated materials as well.
How I Changed My Course Process for the Better
- Having an application to enroll
- Being clear about who you can best serve
- Live lessons updating in real time
- Bringing in extra help to support the group
- Weekly assignments and giveaways
- Having a place where the students can go to ask questions outside of class meetings
- Weekly coaching calls
Implementing those seven changes has greatly improved the success rate of my students and it has allowed me to enjoy my passion for teaching Facebook ads again in a sustainable way. And I will continue to make changes as needed to make it even better for me and my students!
Three Benefits of Tweaking and Improving Your Course Process
- You’re helping your customers more.
- You are less stressed out and overwhelmed and actually enjoying your program.
- Your program is more financially sustainable.
Hopefully you have found some helpful hints here to improve your own educational offerings. Stay tuned for future episodes as I dig even deeper into the subject.
In the meantime, if you are interested in applying for the Facebook Ads Intensive, click here!