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Five-step funnels, ambitious offer stacks, cookie-cutter blueprints to six-figure success: much like Taylor Swift, the online business space has seen multiple eras and set many trends in recent years, and is going through a massive shift right now. But don’t worry: if you’re an entrepreneur striving to build a simplified, freedom-driven business (which I’m guessing you are!), then this is actually very good news.
Your grandma’s funnels
You don’t have to spend too long in the online space to encounter the old paradigm of funnels. First, you entice people into your cozy corner of the internet with a freebie, then offer them a low-cost self-study option to whet their appetites and show off how amazing you are. At this point, they surely love and trust you enough to sign up for your high-ticket signature program featuring some sort of group element, and from there, the most dedicated and dreamy ones will jump on the opportunity to seize the crown jewel at the pinnacle of the investment mountain: your premium 1:1 offer.
The core assumption of this model is that each step in your funnel builds on and offers a solution more complete than the last, while the person in the funnel goes through a sort of evolution, transforming from lurker to raving fan.
While this model does have its place, it is highly idealistic, primarily because the person signing up for your DIY thing is often not the same person who throws the big bucks at your bespoke service. Just think about it: if someone wants to hire you to build a website for them, they really couldn’t care less about a 3-part video series on how to set up WordPress, let alone a full-blown 15-module course titled “How to DIY your website so it doesn’t look like your 10-year-old niece made it”.
Stop creating programs you’d hate to go through
Not only is this model overly idealistic, but it also brought about two of the leading problems of online education today: content fatigue, and, paradoxically, the compulsion of offering more and more content. Business owners, understandably, have gravitated towards the offer types they can scale, pursuing the promised land of passive income – and, in the process, flooding the market with an endless stream of courses of varying quality. At one point, it was the wild west out there: signature courses from big names flaunting tens of hours of professionally shot and edited content, and smaller creators trying to find their foothold and get their piece of the course revenue cake.
To this day, creators are battling with the mindset that more is more, crafting offers so packed with all the things (14 modules! bonuses! a vault of 94856 PDFs!) that surely every human far and wide can see that they’re an absolute steal for the price.
Do I believe that all of this comes from the greatest of intentions? Hell yeah, I do.
Do I also believe that this is a way to bind money anxiety, and try to justify the price because, for some reason, you don’t feel like the offer is strong enough to stand on its own? Abso-freakin-lutely.
And, if this is you, it’s not your fault – we’ve all been there. We all have our insecurities around our businesses and our offers, we compare ourselves to those who we think “made it”, and we’ve had the good old content is king paradigm ingrained in our gray matters for way too long.
But, here is the thing:
Somewhere along the way, we as consumers noticed that we are drowning in content, and we are just waking up to the fact that more content just for the sake of it is not a value-add, but a distraction. Instead, we are yearning for a thoughtfully created and curated package that helps us solve the exact problem we’re facing, without the fluff and definitely without having to sit through 40 hours of videos.
So why do we, as creators, feel the need to create programs that we, as customers, would open, get overwhelmed, and stash away into our Online Course Graveyards, only to collect internet dust until the end of times?
DIY is dead?
By this point, you might be thinking that I have some weird vendetta against courses, and content in general, but that couldn’t be further from the truth (hell, I’m generating content as I’m writing this article, aren’t I?).
I believe that there will always be a market for self-study courses because there will always be people at the beginner-to-intermediate stages of their businesses (or skill levels) who are hungry to learn, and who would want to DIY. I do think, however, that in order to keep delivering results, courses themselves need to evolve to keep up with the ever-changing needs of students – we’re past the point where creators could get away with assembling a random content dump, slap on a 2k price tag, and call it a course. Again, thoughtful curation is the key here, and asking “how can I help my student get to the transformation as quickly, as conveniently, and as painlessly as possible?”, instead of “what else can I add to this course to justify the price?” will move you towards the right direction.
As you can hopefully see, I don’t hate courses, and I don’t hate content. Instead, the case I’m making here is that we need to be moving away from the idea that more is more, and that scaling necessarily means launching a self-study course while automating yourself out of the picture. By putting down the old rulebook and moving into the modern way of doing online business, we are paving the way to more memorable brands on the one hand, and much better completion rates and student results on the other hand.
High-end, high-value group programs – the magical unicorns of the online education space
So, here we are – our potential students are busier and more sensitive to BS than ever, especially if they are in the intermediate-to-experienced stage of their businesses. Understandably, they are completely unwilling to sit through hours of content for something that could’ve been a template, and their buying decisions are now highly influenced by not only how well-tailored our offer is to their exact situation, but also how much time it is going to save them.
Therefore, it’s no accident that we see a renaissance of group programs. These offerings seem to hit the sweet spot, so it’s not surprising that they have become the current darlings of the industry – they are almost infinitely scalable (amazing for you), and they put an emphasis on support instead of sheer content volume (amazing for your students).
There is just one small problem:
Not all group programs are created the same. The most successful ones, the ones I call high-end, high-value group programs, are the ones designed with a giant dose of intention, and with a crystal clear vision of a thought leader (yup, that’s you). The gap between that and a glorified course with weekly calls slapped on top is astronomical in terms of inherent and perceived value.
The inherent value of a program comes straight from your brain: it’s what you teach, how you assemble your curriculum, and how you support your students. By introducing thoughtful curation to the mix, you are actually introducing the hottest value-add of our time: the willingness to empathize with your potential students, the ability to understand their problem deeply, and the courage to put together an offer that provides them with everything they need and, perhaps more importantly, nothing they don’t.
Perceived value is all about how your potential students view your program. It’s the magic of positioning – highlighting not only the features you included but also the thought you put into assembling your offer in a way that keeps your people and their hopes, dreams, needs, and learning styles in the spotlight. Think about it this way: the difference between a “meh” group program and a high-end, high-value group program is the same as the difference between walking into an H&M and a Gucci store. Sure, both will get you dressed, but one is a seemingly endless list of options to wade through, and the other is a boutique, luxurious vibe featuring a limited, yet thoughtfully curated set of items. One is not universally better than the other, but it is undeniable that the latter comes with a significantly higher price tag, not least because of the added value of this white glove experience.
In my next two posts, I will walk you through the 3+1 pillars of excellence to ensure that your group program falls into that magnificent high-end, high-value category. We’ll start with an exploration of design, and talk about how to craft your program in a way that it’s not only a joy for you to deliver, but also keeps your students hooked. Then, we’ll navigate the tricky terrain of providing personal touch at scale, and go on to create some systems that’ll free up some serious space in your calendar. Finally, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of keeping yourself organized and tracking what matters – even if you’re not exactly in a passionate love affair with numbers. See you back here soon 🙂
Juci Kisistok – aka The Woman Rescuing Your Program From The Online Course Graveyard – is the founder of Code & Glitter, where she helps thought leaders create rave-worthy online courses as ridiculously addictive as Netflix. (Yup, we’re talking Squid Game-level addictive.) You can connect with her via her website, codeandglitter.com, or find her at the nearest dance floor busing some sweet Lindy Hop moves.