Transcript: How They Did It: Three Inspiring Stories of Membership Site Success

May 16, 2019


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Hey, there. Amy Porterfield here. Welcome back to another episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast. I am so thrilled to be here with you today because we are talking about a very powerful marketing strategy that will help you seed the idea of your digital course so that when you’re ready to promote, your audience will be ready to buy. This episode came about because so many of my Digital Course Academy®️ students asked me the question, “Amy, should I talk about my course before I launch it, and if so, how do I talk about it without sounding too sales-y?” Such a great question.

Okay, so, back in the day, when I first came on the online-marketing scene, it was like this thing to keep your course super secret and then you spring it on your audience the day you launch. So it's like these Internet marketers were working behind the scenes on something really big, they did not say a word about it, and then, all of a sudden, boom, they've got a course, they're marketing it. People were really excited, but I don't know why there was this secrecy before it came out.

These days, it’s very, very different. The vibe online has changed, and authenticity and transparency are alive and well. Those aren't just buzzwords. People really are living up to this goal of sharing the behind-the-scenes making of the courses, and what's going on and how things look and how things are coming together. And I'm here for it. I love it. And so with that, there's no need to be secretive. Of course you can talk about your course as you're creating it. And of course you can talk about it after you've launched it and when you're going to launch it again. I really encourage you to do so. But there's really cool ways that you can seed the idea of your course or talk about it in advance, and I want to share those with you today.

And as you know, most of our tribe members don't just wake up in the morning, with credit card in hand, ready to buy, especially if they don't yet have a long-term relationship with you online. And they're for sure not going to be ready to buy a digital course until they truly recognize the need for it, and, more importantly, until they really understand what kind of results they're going to get from it. Now, sure, you can explain all of that during your launch, and that's the power of a webinar. You can walk them through what’s possible and what's doable and really future pace them to see the kind of results they're going to get. But what's even more powerful is if you start the conversation early, and not just the conversation but the relationship. There's got to be some relationship building that takes place well beforehand to build that know, like, and trust factor that is the key when selling any digital course.

Now, here's something I'm going to start saying a lot, and not just saying but talking about it and really helping you understand, so pay close attention. If you're multitasking, come back to me. This is something I really want you to get, really understand. I believe that the number-one way to hit your revenue goals during a launch is to be very intentional when you're not launching. The work you do when you're not launching is going to help you generate the kind of revenue that you've set for yourself that you've put as that big, bold goal for the year. The work you do when you're not launching. It’s that crucial time when you're showing up daily, sharing behind-the-scenes stories and experiences, letting your audience in, honing in on your unique voice and your message because you're showing up consistently so your message is getting stronger, posting original content, blogging every week, podcasting every week, or doing a video every week, and engaging and listening more than you talk, and adding value at every turn. That is what it looks like to be intentional when you are not launching.

So, in this specific episode, this mini training, I'm going to show you how to seed your course, or another way to say it, I'm going to show you how to prime the pump, so that when you launch, your audience is familiar with you, familiar with your message, understands your message, and feels that they have gotten immense value from you, so that they are ready to buy.

So before we get there, let's do a listener shout out. Okay, so, this one is from Louisa Nicola, and she left me a review in iTunes. She said:

“Amy, you are a great teacher, mentor, and motivator. Your podcasts are beautifully curated, and you give back to your community tenfold. Thanks for being the marketing light to the masses.”

Oh, come on. So very, very generous of you, Louisa, and thank you so much for listening. I hope you know it means the world to me.

Okay, so, one more thing. This episode is sponsored by my free master class all about list building. So one of the ways that you can be incredibly intentional when you are not launching is to build your email list every single day. The energy of your business is directly tied to the strength of your email list, and so you'll hear me talk about list building so much on my podcast, in my Facebook Lives, and in my private Facebook groups, and in all my courses. List building is essential to the growth of your online business. So if you want to learn how to get started with list building, if you want a free training, go to And you can dive in and get some really great takeaways that you can apply to your business right away. So don't wait. Go check it out.

Okay, so, if you're ready, let's dive into how to talk about your course so that your audience is ready to buy when you are ready to sell. As I mentioned at the get-go of this episode, I believe the number-one way to hit your revenue goals during a launch is to be insanely intentional on how you spend your time in your business when you are not launching. The time when you're not launching, which should be the bulk of your years, and you likely are launching once a quarter or somewhere close to that, the non-launch time is your opportunity to position yourself as your audience’s guide so that when you're ready to launch, they recognize you as their go-to source and will be ready to buy.

In a broad sense, this priming period is all about how you're showing up for your audience: your consistency, your engagement, your excitement about what you do, your willingness to support your audience, you showing up live every week on Facebook, that's part of this experience, and all my students know that I encourage them to do so. Your willingness to answer questions and be there for your audience, the way you greet people at networking events in real life, all of that matters.

So, sometimes when you think, “Why am I answering all these questions on social media? Why am I getting into my DMs? I don't have time for this. I should be focusing elsewhere,” well, should you? If you're really engaging with your audience on the off time, when you're not launching—I'm going to tell you something that I've noticed in my own business. People remember the fact that you reached out to them in a DM on Instagram, let’s say on a non-launch time, so you’re not launching, but you’re just putting out great content, and people are talking to you in IG on a DM, and you respond back, or maybe you take it a step further and you do an audio file on IG stories—you know you can do that, right?—so they’re hearing from you, they will remember that when your webinar comes out and when you start to promote your course. All of that starts to add up.

So, I think the ticket here is to be intentional, not just do it because you think you should or when you get a minute or whatever. When you're intentional, it feels like you're doing the right thing and you're moving in the right direction. You know when we create a business, a lot of time—so if you feel this way, you're not alone—like, “Am I doing the right thing? Should I be spending my time here? Is there a better place that I should be spending time?” Well, if you sit down and you say, “Okay, here's what I'm going to do. This is how I run the business. This is my front stage, when I'm spending time with my audience. This is my backstage—“Michael Hyatt references—“so, this is how I run the business,” if you sit down and take a little time to be intentional about what that looks like, when you are doing front-stage stuff, which is responding to DMs and talking to people, and you’re on Facebook Live, and you're getting in the groups and answering questions, you're not feeling as though, “Am I wasting time? Is this a good use of my time?” You’ve already decided it is. And the reason for that, the why behind it, is you subscribe to the belief like I do that the time you're not launching, the time that you're engaging and building those relationships, is actually going to boost your revenue and impact during your launch. So it's just a mindset shift, but also the mechanics of finding the time to do some of this stuff so that you are intentional. So, just wanted to put that out there.

All right. Let me get really specific with you because when I say “be intentional,” you might say, “Okay, so show me what that means. Talk to me about where this might show up.” So I've given you a bunch of broad examples, but let's get a little bit specific. I'm going to give you three different ideas to seed your course before you're ready to launch. So seed your course, prime the pump. I really struggled with what I wanted to say, like, how I wanted to say this. Tease your course idea. Whatever it might be, however you want to look at it, you get the point, right?

Okay, so, my first suggestion for you is to use stories about your journey or your student’s journey to seed your course. So this will allow you to make the struggles and the challenges and wins more real and tangible. Now, notice I did not say “collect testimonials.” That's important, but that's for your launch. Testimonials are for your launch, on your sales page, maybe in your webinar, on your order form. “I took Amy's list-building course, and now I have two thousand people on my email list because I followed her step-by-step plan.” That is a testimonial. A story is when you make it about your student. And I’ll back up if you don't have students yet, and you're like, “I have never sold my course. What do I do?” I got you. But before we get there, if you do have students, a story is more about them, and it typically focuses on where they were before, what they struggled with, what held them back, and what they needed to do in order to move forward.

Now, you might say, “Yeah, but the way they moved forward, Amy, was by taking your course.” Yes, but there’s also some specific strategies or mindset shifts that you can talk about without having to talk about your course. So, in a story—well, let me back up. In a testimonial I might say, “Jane followed my step-by-step, three-part system to grow her email list.” In a story I might say, “Jane finally got the courage to show up and do Facebook Lives every single week on her Facebook page.” That’s a strategy I teach in my list-building course. However, notice that in the story, I just talk about what Jane did. Or I might even say even more powerful, “Jane made a mindset shift that she was no longer going to be scared to show up in front of her audience.”

So, you see the difference? The stories are real and gritty and human, and they focus on emotions and feelings, and they're powerful. And I want you to get into the habit of telling more stories. Now, you want to tell stories as well as testimonials during a lunch. You actually want both. You don't just want testimonials during a lunch. But the stories are really great to seed throughout your non-launch period. Now, of course, you're saying this person is your student, so right away they know that you had an impact with that person. That's all you got to say. “Let me tell you a story of one of my students who built her email list, and let me tell you what it looked like before she did and what it looks like after.” You've already said your part of that. They already get it. But now you’re making it about them.

Now, if you do not have students yet, and you're launching your course for the first time, which is many of my Digital Course Academy®️ students—shout out to all of you who are launching your very first course—you've got two options. Number one, you do a beta test. You do a beta test or a beta experience with your course, and you have a few people go through your course for free before you launch it, and you go through the experience and journey with them. They give you feedback every step of the way. They get results; you get their story and their testimonial. That's a really great way to do it if you could slow down and do that before. But a lot of people either don't have the bandwidth or time to do the beta testing, so I get it. I don't make it a prerequisite with all my students, because I used to and nobody would do it. And so we have other ways to validate your course idea before you go out. But if you can do that, great. If you can't, then you've got to tell your story, and if you've gotten results, obviously, you're not going to launch a course unless you've gotten results for yourself or somebody else. You have had to have gotten results before you actually put together a course and get it out into the world. That is where the integrity of what we do comes in, right? We've got to make sure it works. So you either got results for somebody else—you tell their story; or you got results for yourself—you tell your story, and your story is powerful.

One of the biggest reasons why I promote Marie Forleo’s B-School is because I get to tell my story of how that course changed the trajectory of my business. It's very personal to me, and I get to tell how I used the course and what I was thinking and feeling and what I did. So I bring that whole thing to life when I promote that program. That's what you're doing when you promote your own program. You bring your story to life.

So talk about it often when you're not launching, but if you walk away with just one thing from this mini training today, I hope it's that you understand the difference between a story and a testimonial, and you use both of them. And I'd venture to say that stories are more powerful than testimonials. And where we are with just the savviness of our tribe, our customers, our community, they definitely will resonate with your stories more than your testimonials. So just a heads up there.

So, that's one way you seed your course. You talk about your students who have gotten results. Right away, that is hinting at your course, but more so, you're just making it very, very human and real and bringing it to the surface at a level they can really resonate with and they understand. So that's number one.

Number two, talk about specific lessons, formulas, frameworks, or strategies that are in your course. So let me give you an example. You can do this before you ever launch for the first time, or you can do this after you launch, and let's say it's your second or third time. I do this a lot. So I'm going to give you a specific, very specific, example from my world. Inside Digital Course Academy®️, my very favorite lesson I've ever created is module five, lesson two. And module five, lesson two is where I take a webinar that I’ve done that made me over three million dollars in one launch, and I walk through it slide by slide by slide. And I tell my students what I did on each slide and why I did that slide, why I created that slide, like, why it played a part in the overall framework of the webinar, because for years, my students have asked me, “Tell me how to put together this slide deck. Don't just tell me how to do webinars, but what do I put in my slides?” So I'm like, “Okay.” First, I created a framework, and then, I showed them in module five, lesson two how that framework comes alive in my own life, in my own experience with my business. So that is a very powerful lesson.

So, here’s how your seed something like that. When I am talking to non-students, maybe even on this podcast, I might be teaching something around webinars and frameworks, and I'd say something like, “I believe the best way to sell your digital course is through webinars, and I teach what is called the Profitable Webinar Framework in my program Digital Course Academy®️, where you learn the whole process step by step. So if you want to use this framework, I’ll be opening up my doors again in September. You can get it. Until then, here are a few tips to think about.” And then I talk about it. So I say, “Look, I teach this in my course.”

But did you notice I called it the Profitable Webinar Framework? Giving a name to your formulas or to your processes or systems or strategies or specific lessons, giving it a name allows you to reference it really easy, makes it sound a little bit more official, and it just rolls off your tongue. You're always thinking of it. So notice I didn’t say to non-students, “It’s module five, lesson two.” Non-students don’t care. I'm just saying, “Hey, I'm teaching something. And by the way, I teach this in depth in my course. So doors aren't open now,”—which is powerful as well to say “doors aren't open now”—“you can't get it now. But when I open up again in September, you might be interested.” I'm not selling. I'm not pushing it. I'm just saying this is something I cover in depth. So once your course is done, reference those lessons and frameworks and formulas in a really easy way.

The thing is, here's a little tip for you, whenever this feels like it's forced, then you're selling, or it's just, you got to change it. Like, don't do it just how I do it. Do it how it feels good to you. So whenever it just rolls off my tongue like, “Oh, I've got something good in my course that covers this,” that feels good to me. Now, I'll always give them a nugget, always. I never say, “Well, you’ve got to buy my course in order to figure that out.” I always give some great value around that, but I'm never going to teach as much in detail in my free stuff as I do in my paid stuff. So that's the thing. So, again, talk about specific lessons, formulas, frameworks, or strategies that are in your course, and let them know that you’ve dialed it all in, so the next time you open those doors, make sure you grab it.

Okay, moving on to number three, create exclusivity. This is a very important one, and it's all about the idea that you want your non-students to want to be a part of your special insider-circle community. So when I give a shout out to all my Digital Course Academy®️ members, I do it for two reasons. Number one, I want my students to know that they are top of mind, that I'm cheering them on, that I'm so proud of them, and I know they're working their butts off. So I love to give shout outs to my current students, and I do so a lot in my podcast.

The other reason I do it is that it's such a great way to say, “Hey, I've got something special. And if you love this podcast but you want more, you want more access to me, my team, my lessons, I've got an exclusive opportunity, but you have to be a student of mine.” And so creating that exclusivity by mentioning my current students, by talking about my inner circle, makes a huge difference.

And you want to create that. You want people to want to be a part of something special with you. And so they will never feel that way unless they know you have something special. And another thing, when they hear and see you connect with your current students, when you talk about them, when you tell their stories, they want to be a part of that. They want to know that they get to be a part of your world, and you might even talk about them.

So, that’s another thing and another reason why stories are so powerful. People that are not part of your inner-circle world yet might think, “One day, Amy’s going to talk about me on her podcast. She’s going to brag about my huge success.” And I have students that tell me that all the time, and I frickin’ love it because I'm like, “Yes, that is a good goal.” Nothing about me talking about them, but the fact that they hit that goal and their story’s good enough for someone to say, “I’ve got to talk about you all over the web,” that’s an awesome goal. I love it.

So that exclusivity, any way that you can do it in a really loving way. Like, be mindful. You don't want people to feel left out. I’m a sensitive girl, so I think of stuff like that. But you want them to think, “Ooh, I want to be a part of that. I want in that inner circle.” So, ways that you can talk about your current inner circle to entice others to be a part of it, always a good idea.

Okay, so, with that, I’ve given you these three different ideas for you to seed your course, to talk about your course before you're ready to launch. And with that, I want to give you three tips that kind of follow these lessons. Good? Okay.

Tip number one, don't be afraid to talk about your course multiple times in different ways. When I've said something in a podcast, and then maybe I mentioned it again in a Facebook Live, I mistakenly assume everyone has heard it. Have you ever done that before? So you talk about it in one podcast, and then—maybe this is me and my big ego, but this is what happens—I'll say it in a podcast, and then, I'll meet somebody in real life at a live event, and they'll say, “Oh, I love your podcast.” And so I assume, “Okay, they're listening to my podcast.” And then we're talking, and I'll mention something, just assuming they heard me talk about it in a podcast. And in that moment, and they look at me kind of confused, like, “I don’t remember you saying that.” In that moment, I realize, “Oh, it's not like they hear every single word I ever say just because they're a fan of my podcast.” Don't assume that because you said it once or twice that everybody has heard it, okay? So with that, repeat it again and again and again, just in different ways. So don't be afraid to put out the these different seeds of your course in different ways multiple times. Good? Okay. You think everyone's listening; they're not. Everyone's in their own little world. That's my point with tip number one.

Tip number two, if you weave this into the conversations, it will never feel sales-y or too pushy. It should feel natural and good. If you love the product that you've created, which I know you do, and you believe in it, you should want to share bits and pieces about it to your audience. And you know it's right for them, you know they need it, so it should feel natural. I mentioned earlier if it feels forced, you've got to change it up. So I never plan to talk about my course. It's just something natural that comes up. So just keep that in mind. And play with it. If it feels forced, play with it.

And tip number three, this is a big one. In order to make this seeding strategy work for you, you've got to make sure that you are truly launching when you say you're going to launch. If for some reason you decide not to launch or the launch dates change, it gets a bit awkward. I know this from personal experience. I made this mistake this year. So I'd been talking about my group coaching a lot, and then I made the decision to hold off on when I was going to launch it. So, take it from me that if you're going to talk about it, be careful if you're not totally certain about when you're going to launch it. Be more vague in that. Just say, “It's coming sometime this year.”

And if you might change it from group coaching to a mastermind to a digital course or whatever, don't come out and say you have a digital course coming out if you're not totally sure if it's going to come out in the form of a digital course. So, you do need to make sure that you’ve planned ahead. That’s the beauty of looking at your calendar and planning ahead and knowing what’s coming down the pipeline so you can confidently talk about it. You might mess up, like I did, and that’s okay. You can bounce back from it. But it is nice to kind of feel certain that it’s happening.

And here’s another cool thing about seeding your course before you launch it, and that is that if you follow a live-launch model, where you open the cart and then you close it, when you are talking about it and building anticipation for it because people have seen you live launch before, they know you're serious about cart opening and cart closing. And one thing that I've really noticed throughout the years is that every time I open the cart for a new program on day one, we always see a flood of sales, more so than, let's say, the last launch. And I think that is contributed to my audiences getting bigger and we're building a bigger business, but also, it is contributed to people have been waiting. They realize, “Oh, she's really serious that I can't get into this course until the date it opens up again. So when it opens up again, I'm paying close attention.” I have seen this as a pattern throughout the years. So I love the idea of letting your tribe know, “No, I'm really serious. Cart open and cart close.” There is a power in that.

Now, you all know I’m a big fan of building a business model around digital courses that includes live launching and evergreen. So with that live launching, really take advantage of cart close and cart open, because it makes a huge difference. And when you're seeding your course, people are paying attention, like, “When are you going to open that cart again?” So when you're certain of it, then definitely talk about it because there's power in that. Just be careful and try to plan ahead. You can learn from my mistakes.

But I will say there's nothing better than to hear somebody tell me, “Amy, I am saving for your course. So the next time you open the doors, I'm going to be ready to buy. I'm really excited.” I mean, when people plan to buy your course in advance, and when they're saving the money, they've got skin in the game, and those are the people that tend to get really big results because they worked hard to get into that course. So I love that there's anticipation over time.

Okay, let's do a quick review. So, now that you know the different ways you're going to seed your ideas, number one, using stories about your journey or your student's journey. Number two, you're going to talk about specific lessons or formulas or frameworks or strategies that are actually in your course, and you're going to give them a name so they can just roll off your tongue so easily. And number three, you're going to create exclusivity, making it really special that you've got this inner circle, and other people are going to want to be a part of that. So those are three ways you can seed the idea of your digital course before you launch.

And then, let me give you some places you would do that. So you could use these strategies I just gave you in your blog post, your podcast episodes, your video shows, your favorite social-media channels, in-person networking, live video, IG stories, so just about everywhere where you talk about your content, where you teach, where you add value, that's exactly where you're seeding these ideas, everywhere and anywhere. As long as you believe in the course you're selling, as long as you know it can change lives, create transformation, get results, then you should feel really confident that you are talking about something that can make a difference in your tribe's lives, whether it be personal, professional, whatever it is that you do. You believe in what you do, it becomes very easy to naturally and organically talk about it.

So, I guess I want to leave you with this. You don’t have to plan ahead to seed the idea of your course in all that you do. It should become a natural part of your conversation. Now, what you do need to plan ahead with is being intentional of how you're showing up when you're not launching, and that takes us back to the very beginning of the episode where I said be very intentional, decide on how you're showing up the front stage of your business—when you're showing up live, how often you’re posting on social media, when you're getting into the DMs, how you comment, how you answer questions. All of that front-facing front-stage kind of activity can be very intentional. So never do you have to say, “Am I wasting my time?” You know why you're doing it.

And I know it sounds crass when I say, “Are you wasting your time engaging with your students?” Of course, that's never a waste of time. But as entrepreneurs, we have so much to do, so many things we think we should be doing or we can be doing and opportunities, that it's easy to say, “Is this the best use of my time?” Sit down and figure it out and ask yourself, “Where do I want to spend my time when I'm not launching? What will make the biggest impact?” And I can promise you, you’ve got to have front-facing, front-stage time on that plan because the engagement and the listening and the time spent with your audience when you’re not launching builds the trust, builds the relationship, and creates curiosity about what you’re going to sell. So when you’re ready to sell, they’re ready to buy. Good? You see how it all comes together?

Okay, before I let you go, three things. Number one, have you subscribed to this podcast? If you haven’t, make sure you click that subscribe button wherever you listen to this podcast because you will not miss an episode if you are subscribed. And I do bonus episodes, and I don't email about them, so when I have a bonus episode come out, you will get it in your app, wherever you subscribe to the podcast. Make sure you do so.

Number two, or actually number one (a), leave a review because you might be my next listener shout out.

Okay, number two, this episode is sponsored by my free list-building master class. The energy of your business is directly tied to the strength of your email list. You can't have a viable online business without any email list. If you don't know where to start, if you've been struggling with this, if you've been thinking about it but not making it a priority, check out my free training.

And finally, next week, let's talk about it. If you are a living, breathing entrepreneur, then you're going to love next week's episode. If you have a pulse, then you likely have excuses for why you’re not getting some very important things done. And I want to talk about some excuses that I've never really talked about before, but I think they're going to, first, hit you in the gut, and then, two, you're going to say, “Okay, Amy. You're right. I’m going to make this small shift so that I don’t let this slow me down.” Guys, we’ve got big, bold goals that we’ve set for ourselves. Remember, you’re a big deal. You’re doing big things. It’s natural for some excuses to make their way into everything that you're doing, and it will keep you playing small. The excuses I'm going to talk about next week, you likely don't even know that you're making them. But I can help you make a shift so that you can keep moving on doing the big, bold things that you've set out for yourself.

All right. So I'll see you in next week's episode. Until then, have an amazing week. Bye for now.

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