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The 4 Biggest Mistakes Course Creators Make

The 4 Biggest Mistakes Course Creators Make

Have you ever wondered why some online courses have profound effects on students while others made no difference to them? It might be because the creators are making a few common mistakes when they are putting together their courses.

There is a lot you need to do when creating a course. You have to pick the perfect idea, ensure there is high market demand, create engaging content and market it to the right audience. But even though you might think you have all the necessary steps, there seems to be a few common mistakes that every course creator makes.

A course creator is not just someone who is a YouTube or Instagram personality. Course creators range from the mom and pop Kettle at home trying to record their first program on an iPhone, all the way up to corporate whizz bang gurus who are trying to create internal programming for training, learning and development content, or even expand a product line through an online course. The course creators that we have worked with make the same mistake despite being at different stages of their career –  from garage studio recording to hundred-million dollar corporations. And the thing is, these mistakes are avoidable.

Today, we are going to look at the 4 biggest mistakes these course creators make.

Mistake 1 – They Don’t Harness the Power of Storytelling 

Entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants and corporations come to us to develop learning products for various purposes. For instance:

  • To teach new prospects how to make sales
  • To use the learning and development programs to train people to reduce cost or optimise a company’s processes.

But the average customer that we work it spend as much as 18 months working on a program and has zero results.

Why is that?

When you look at the strategy of these creators, all you see is an outline that is content, content, content. They have a series of points that are important, then sub-points that are also important and it is a mess. This is “outline vomit”. You are throwing information at your students and not showing the real connection. When you do this, you’re removing all the humanistic qualities that people look for in great teachers. Think about when you had your best learning experiences. They were always at the hands of a great teacher. You probably don’t even remember the people who sat in front of the class just hitting bullet point after bullet point.

One of my best teachers ever was a professor I had at St. John’s University. He was one the most compelling, story-focused teachers I’ve ever had. I don’t remember anything from that class but nearly a decade later, I remember his stories and the lessons he taught with them. He used a story to persuade me to stop being a lawyer and pursue something I would enjoy.

Stories are the best way to learn. Stories helped me learn kickboxing, jujitsu and how to play chess.

Storytelling helped me learn how to meditate and it ultimately helped me to do marketing and run my business.

 Polishing up

The biggest point of inflection in my career was listening to Joe Polish tell the story of how he got started. He was about 90 or 100 pounds and using cocaine, with no future in sight. But he was able to turn his story around and help me turn mine around too. I needed a roadmap and I needed someone to believe in.

If he had just shown me bullet points with marketing information, he would be like every other guy trying to teach marketing in the world. That wouldn’t have worked for me. I wouldn’t have been able to apply his teachings almost a decade later and I wouldn’t have been in the fortunate position I am in to call Joe a friend. I would’ve been just another guy who heard a podcast in 2012 and working a normal 9-to-5 job now. But I was able to relate to his story. I believed that if Joe could do it, then I could do it too.  The fact that we are both called Joe was only 10% a factor.

Storytelling is the most critical component for engagement. If you can’t engage your audience, then you will bore them.

All of us have experienced teachers who come into the classroom and teach straight out of a textbook or just spoke from PowerPoint slides. I bet the thoughts that came to your mind while you sat in those uncomfortable, creaky chairs with those sticky, weird desks in a room that was either too hot or too cold with people chattering around you, were that you didn’t even need to be there. You could have just gotten the book and read it from the comfort of your home.

This is exactly what your students would think when they watch your courses with traditional outlines. You need to add your story to your teachings. Your stories are interesting and unique to you. I can’t pick up a textbook and know Joe Polish’s story. You can get a lot of theory from his teachings but it’s his story that makes it compelling.

Mistake 2 – They Fail to Set Mastery Goals

Mastery goals are very important if you want to have courses that produce outcomes and actions.

There are too many people on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn who call themselves “thought leaders”.  But we have thousands of thoughts a day. No-one needs more thoughts. What people need are action leaders. If you want to make a great program that makes a difference for the people you want to be a hero to, you need to be an action leader.

Having a mastery goal means that you are guaranteeing that the end result of your course will be an action. It’s your promise to deliver something great to them, a change in their lives, a transformation. If you do not set a mastery goal, then you are just making content for the sake of making content. It’ll be nothing but a thought in the universe – it won’t be actionable, it won’t be engaging, it won’t be useful.

Every time you sit down to plan a webinar, a course, a lesson, or you are doing lead magnets or trip wires, or any instance where you involve teaching, ensure you begin with a mastery goal.

Mistake 3 – They Do Not Use the Ascension Model

If you think about it, every great skill you’ve learned started from the basics. You learned the fundamental skills and then built them up into more complex abilities until you reached a mastery level.

For instance, take learning how to play chess. The first thing you need to do is understand how to set up the board.  Then you need to understand the pieces and how they move. Once you get the basics down, then you can start looking at specific opening tactics or setups for different strategies.

It wouldn’t make sense if you sat down with the world’s best chess player, Magnus Carlsen, and he started showing you the most complex strategies. It wouldn’t help if you don’t know how to set up the board. He could show you the best opening move but if you don’t know how a knight moves as opposed to a bishop, then it will not make a difference for you. It would be just another thought but not an action-inspiring lesson.

So it’s necessary to design your curriculum to begin with the basics and slowly build them up to the mastery goal.

Mistake 4 – They Don’t Know What Their Audience Wants

In a recent consultation with a major corporation that generates about $800 million a year, it was clear right off the bat that they hadn’t done any research on their customer base to see what they needed or wanted to learn. But they decided to invest heavily in products without really knowing what the products should contain.

Before you do anything, you need to find out what the marketplace wants. Even if you have a mastery goal, if no one cares about your topic then your course would not be successful. My line of questioning about why they were doing the course and what research was done was met with silence, frustration and irritation. This is a good sign that you are making a difference though, because you can easily see that these questions were never asked.

Their market size is big so they will make a few sales but it won’t be as impactful. It won’t be something that will exponentially grow their business. This is the thing that people forget. You are not making products to grow your business linearly, let’s say adding 5% each year. Your products should be used to introduce a new arm to your business that exponentially increases our impact on the audience. It allows us to increase our lifetime customer value. It also scales not only our business side but our relationships with the people we’re putting them in front of.

If we produce things that don’t appeal to our audience or don’t answer the questions in their minds, it, then it would be pointless. They will see it and say that they never asked for that and they’ll know it’s a money grab. This is a self-serving business tactic rather than a value creation technique. People want to learn from people who they can see in the role of trusted advisor and value creator.

No one wants to feel like just a number or statistic. They want to feel like you are concerned about their problems and want to help them solve them.

A problem a lot of the time is that we bring in independent consultants or external people who have done something at an old corporation. But we don’t have a scale or measuring stick to vet what they are doing. There are few well-trained and proficient course creators. So maybe on LinkedIn we see that Annie Oakley or Jax Kellington made a course and they made some sales. Right away, we poach them to come to our corporation. But we really have no idea if their course made a difference in people’s lives. Maybe they have made some sales but did they exponentially transform a company? Good products, good curriculums, good value-creating trainings exponentially grow corporations, entrepreneurial businesses, coaching businesses, consulting businesses etc.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Some Care for Their Clients                              

But it all starts with who we need to be a hero to and what they need us to do to show up in their universe as a hero. You can’t be a hero if you don’t know what their struggle is.

My number one tip is to do your research. If you don’t, then you are 100% undermining that ethics and core values we esteem at Teach to Scale. We are always focused on being trusted advisors to the people that take our programming. We fall in love with our clients and want them to be successful. We want our students to take away actionable goals and be transformed. We want to be their action leaders.

We always give them more than they need – not less and not what we think they need. It is also important to take extreme ownership and accountability when something is wrong and when we do fail to deliver. But maintain a positive attitude at all times.

Once you focus on your clients and are committed to creating value for them and making a difference in their lives, then it makes it easier to avoid the 4 common mistakes listed above. This post hopefully sparks a change of perspective or a change of heart that takes you from being a transactional business vampire to a relationship-oriented business owner.

So what are some mistakes you have made when creating your course? Are you guilty of any on this list? Are there any suggestions that you want to implement? Share in the comments!

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