What makes some courses vastly better than others?
The answer lies not in the content, or the instruction, but rather in the set up. But why is setup so crucial? Setup becomes vital because it gets rid of clients that don't follow instructions and gives you the cream of the crop.
You get clients that follow through and therefore get better results. The more consistent the results, the less you have to market your course. But the question is: how do you set up a course? Let's find out.
Do you know which is the longest winning streak by any athlete in top level professional sport?
If you dig into the Guinness Book of World Records, you'll find the name of Jahangir Khan. From 1981 to 1986, Khan won the world open six times in a row and the British open a record ten times.
His domination of the game was so complete that he was unbeaten 555 games back to back. And the weird part about this story is that Jahangir didn't feel the need to have any fixed training system in place. He didn't have a precise diet either.
He said he was happy to eat anything as long as it is hygienic and as long as he drank two glasses of milk everyday. Now Khan's approach to being better than anyone is seemingly erratic. It's not systematic, but he was merely dealing with his own personal needs and the way he saw everything fitted in his world.
In a course, it's not just one person that needs to be considered. We need to consider many people, which is why setting up things in advance and having a decent amount of precision is crucial to making things easier for your clients as well as for yourself.
In this episode, we'll look at why some online courses are better than others and let's look at three things that really matter.
The first is about barriers as a filtration system. Then we look at testimonials as a secondary filtration system and finally we look at the size of the groups and these three things are relatively crucial to getting an online group working better than ever before.
So let's start off with the first one, which is barriers as a Filtration system.
Section 1 – Barriers as a Filtration system
Many years ago, we hosted a monthly marketing event in Auckland. It was free and promised no up-sell or any kind of promotions. We even went so far as to never put in any Psychotactics branding anywhere at the venue.
And month after month the room would be filled with about 40 entrepreneurs keen to listen to the presentation. However, these business folk couldn't just show up without first crossing a barrier.
The barrier was to show up consistently month after month. Free events tend to be easier to ignore, and it's not uncommon to have people avoid the event just because it's too cold or too rainy.
However, if the client didn't show up consistently, they would slip from the priority list. Others would take their place, and they'd have to wait until someone else fell from grace.
That was just one barrier
The other was the door itself. The event would start at 8:02 am. At precisely 8:02 the doors would be locked. Anyone showing up after that point in time would be met with a Post-It that said: Please don't knock or try to get in. The doors are locked. See you next time.
For a fledgling business, such barriers seem like a risky gambit
Yet, when you have a restriction in place, it's only the most eager and more diligent clients that show up. The above example was based at a venue and offline, and online courses can be much harder to control. After all, you can't round people up online. They're at the computers at different locations and can choose not to do what you ask.
Yet, that's not the reality of the situation
If you open the doors to everyone, you get everyone. It's then difficult, if not impossible, to keep the lazy, non-diligent apples out of the mix. While you're spending your energy on the people who are not necessarily following your instructions, the other keen clients are missing out. Hence, the barriers.
And the barrier needn't be a big one
In our courses, both online or offline, you can't sign up unless you've bought The Brain Audit. The course may well be over $3000, and The Brain Audit less than $10, but if you default, you're not accepted.
When we conducted the Protégé Program, Clients paid as much as $10,000 but were chosen only after they filled in a detailed form and sat through a phone interview. In other cases, clients might be sent three separate questions. Those that respond within the time frame are accepted. Those that don't will be rejected.
The net result is that you've created selection criteria
It may not be extremely sophisticated. You might not have put them through tons of hoops, but it's still enough to separate the ones that will work with instructions vs those that choose to ignore them.
It's not as if to suggest that there are good clients vs bad clients. We are in no position to make such judgments. However, as a coach or teacher, your job is to use your energy to the benefit of your clients.
If you have people that aren't going to follow your instructions even before a course has begun, they're more than likely to follow the same pattern later.
This slows down and frustrates not just you, but the entire group. A group doesn't always move at the same pace, but someone that's going to cause mayhem all the way is best not allowed in, in the first place.
And there's a cool filtration system in place that goes beyond barriers. They're called testimonials.
Section 2 – How testimonials help the client filtration system
When I was in my teens, I found myself in a strange auditorium.
I'd been invited to see a play, and I took my seat before the lights dimmed. However, as I sat down, I noticed that I seemed to be the only male in the rows both in front and to the rear of me.
Later, when the play ended and the lights came on, I realised that I was the only male in the room. There were about 200 girls in that room, and I was pretty much alone.
Knowing this fact in advance, would I have gone into the room?
It's similar when clients look at your website and your testimonials. They tend to look for a sense of similarity. If all your testimonials seem to indicate that your clients are from Boston, it's unlikely to encourage someone from San Francisco. This similarity plays out when clients are choosing to be part of your online course as well.
If your testimonials have a consistent message, clients will understand what to expect
Take, for instance, the Article Writing Course. We sell it as the hardest writing course in the world. The testimonials, in turn, talk about how it was tough. Yes, the clients may talk about how rewarding it was, how it helps them every day, etc. But by and large, one message goes out consistently. It's hard, and if you want to be part of the course, you better be prepared to make the sacrifice for 12 weeks.
Is it any wonder that we have rarely had a slack client on the course for over ten years?
It's not that people don't drop out. Most of those who feel the pressure dropout in the first week itself. But those who get past the very easy first week go on to finish the course. But this isn't about the Article Writing Course, is it? It's about the messages that you're sending out with your testimonials. The words, as you can tell, really matter.
However, it's not just the words alone that count
The pictures matter too. Humans have an uncanny ability to see the photo of a person and like—or dislike—that person. It's not based on any information, but instead an instant reaction. If you go to a site where everyone is talking about quadrupling their income and exploding their profits, there's a pretty good chance you won't like the photos. Even without reading the words, you start to evict yourself from that kind of crowd.
Which is why we put pictures of our clients. It's impossible to put every single photo, as you'd imagine. We've been running courses since 2004, and we have hundreds of photos for many courses. You pick a few, get the message across, and the words and pictures combine to create an interesting attraction—or self-eject situation.
But what if you don't have testimonials?
All companies, big or small have this awkward situation at some point in time. You create a new course, and you have no testimonials. And that's perfectly alright. Bear in mind, however, that we've not necessarily put in testimonials from that course itself but any course.
There's still the chance that your business is brand new and you have zero testimonials. There's no need to panic. It's better to have testimonials, but not having them isn't a disaster either. When you complete your first course, you'll get the testimonials you need. This, in turn, will ensure future clients are diligent and get even better results.
It's easy to dismiss testimonials as a small part of your marketing strategy
However, people look for similarities. Which is why you need to get those testimonials as quickly as you possibly can. I tend to get the testimonials as part of the course itself. If we have a ten-week course, the 11th week is where clients give the testimonial (as part of their assignment).
This ensures we have a regular stream of high-quality clients that lead to high-quality results that lead to a great deal of calm and satisfaction on your part.
Put these two factors in place—the barriers and the testimonials and see how your groups get better even before you start your course.
Section 3 – How to set up groups (and why the size of the group matters)
No matter how many people are invited to a party, something curious always occurs.
Even if an event has hundreds of people, you'll notice that people tend to bunch up in groups. If you were to count the number of people in every group, you'd notice they range between 7-10. It follows logically that when we were setting up online courses, we too would have groups of between 7-10.
However, that was not the case at all.
Despite having small numbers on our courses, we didn't have small groups.
In every Psychotactics course, the number of people on the course don't exceed 35. We'd break the participants into smaller groups, but it's only after repeated client feedback that we created separate areas for every single group.
Instead of a client having to look at everyone else's work, they would mostly be confined to a smaller group of just 6-7. In this way, we were able to take 35 participants and split them into five smaller components.
But why choose 6-7 people in a group?
If you have 3-4 people in a group, and a couple doesn't show up for a few days, the group feels desolate and abandoned. However, if the group size is 6-7 and one or two don't show up, you still have a vibrant group of five.
Over the years we tried several group sizes and finally settled on the group size of 6-7. It was small enough for people to get to know each other intimately and big enough to allow the group to get through almost any problematic period. But what is it that makes a group so resilient?
The answer lies in how you choose the group
We know a lot of our clients very well. And Renuka will take great pains to pair up groups by:
Existing vs new clients
The reasons for these permutations is simple
The primary role of the trainer isn't to teach or give information. Their purpose is to create a safe space for the clients. Put one man in a group full of women, and he may be quite comfortable. However, that is a chance you're better off not taking.
The same applies to introvert/extrovert and new/existing clients. The more there's a pre-designed mix, the higher the chances of clients settling down quickly. It's only when the intimidation factor is reduced to a shallow level, that the real learning begins.
Instead, a lot of training has random group placement, If there is any placement is done at all.
One of the reasons why we had such small numbers is because I'd been part of online groups where there were hundreds of people all jostling for space and attention and getting precious little.
However, it's not enough to merely reduce the size of the group. Your primary role is to create a reduction in the intimidation level.
But what if you don't know much about your clients?
How are you supposed to know who an introvert or extrovert is? What if you don't have any existing clients and they're all new? If you don't have information of this nature, then you do the best you can.
You reduce the group size to 6-7, and that's a good start. When starting any venture, you might not have enough information and not even enough of a balance between men and women. In such a case, the least you can do is keep the group size manageable for the participants.
And what if you don't have 6-7 members to a group?
Your group may be smaller than 7. In such a case, you have no option. If there are just five in the group, so be it. If there are only three, that's fine too. Clients join a course to get the attention of the teacher. They don't care that there are fewer because that means they get additional attention from you.
However, as soon as you possibly can, you should do your utmost to increase the numbers in groups and not just from the point of revenue. A sizable group has a greater back and forth flow of ideas, feedback and camaraderie.
A smaller group finds it hard to sustain energy, and there's a far greater chance of dropout. Yes, your group has started smaller than you expected, but it's in both your interest and the client's interest to make the group grow to at least 6-7 people.
What you've done so far is created a filtration system with barriers and testimonials.
You've also made sure the group numbers are intimate enough, without being too small.