In today's online course success story in our Bright Sparks case study series, we are interviewing our very own Sarah Arrow! Sarah is a successful business coach, runs 2 online academies and is a long time user of Content Sparks.
In this interview and blog post you'll discover
- How Sarah turned an ebook into blog posts… Then turned those blog posts into an epic series… and then back into an ebook that won a major award
- How she used PLR initially and how she uses it now
- An exact copy of Sarah's lead magnet that garnered 47,000 subscribers
- Behind the scenes look of not just one, but two of Sarah's academies.
- Why funny dogs are more engaging than cityscapes
- Plus much more.
OK, so today we are talking to Sarah Arrow, who you may already know from team Content Sparks, but long before that she was a customer of Content Sparks and uses a lot of our courses. So, Sarah, I know you have a ton of wisdom that you're going to share with everyone in this in this interview and your case study.
But could you just spend a few minutes first introducing yourself, maybe who you serve, how online courses fit into your business model, maybe even a peek inside and how you've used our Content Sparks courses too?
Thank you for the introduction. I'm very grateful to be here and part of Bright Sparks.
I've really enjoyed interviewing all of the people that we've spoken to so far and now I'm sweating because I'm on the other end and in the spotlight. So my name is Sarah, and I live in Essex in England. I discovered Content Sparks prior to its rebrand when it was called something else (we won't mention what), and I found Sharyn through a guest post that she'd written on a site.
And it was so engaging that I followed it back to her website. I really liked how she wrote and I became a customer. So it is a very quick process of:
- Reading an article.
- Loving it so much that I then move to the website…
- …Where I saw more content (I love that too)
- Became a customer in the space of about 15 minutes.
So I believe in moving fast. And I've been on Sharyn's list ever since and I have pretty much all of her programs. Every now and then I like to surprise her and say “look, it's vintage Sharyn Sheldon” and dig one up from 2012.
I first started looking at courses because, in my corporate career, I did a lot of training, I did a lot of supervising. I was in charge of a team of 60 people and I had one of the highest recruitment to retention rates in the country. So I was highly sought after to share my processes and how I took somebody who'd been long term unemployed, written off by society and rehabilitated them into a fully functioning member of society.
Now I'm using the language that the government used. I saw it as just helping another person have a hand up rather than a handout.
I spent a lot of time training teams, training people in processes. I got a stream of training qualifications, none of which I use today. But at the time they were super important.
So when I was on maternity leave and my husband brought me into his business, I had to learn the blogging.
I was faced with learning blogging or podcasting as a form of marketing our business.
And when I discovered that podcasting was speaking to people, I said, “hell, no. Never going to do that. I'll do the writing.”
And at this point, it's good to know that the most writing that I'd ever done was at school. I've never had any job that required me to write anything, and I was in a position of being unable to write, but also absolutely petrified of having to speak to people. So it was the lesser of two evils to learn blogging.
Which is surprising because when we get together and do any kind of live stream, we can't get you to be quiet.
And here I am being really quiet today.
So I was introduced to PLR from the people whose email list I was on. And as we started to go through the 2008 credit crunch slash recession, destroyer of worlds and economies, whatever you prefer to call it. I found we didn't have the budget for the training skills that I needed. So PLR fit that gap. I could learn from it, but I didn't have the confidence to teach it because at that point I didn't know what I was learning.
So I would spend about one hundred dollars a month on PLR to learn myself. And somebody said to me, that's a real waste of money. And I never thought it was a waste of money because I could learn something really fast. I could learn how to put things up on LinkedIn through a PLR piece of content rather than scrabbling around for days trying to work it out myself. I could buy some PLR videos and learn how to do WordPress better rather than fathoming it all out myself.
So to me, it was just brilliant that I could learn these things.
I set up a site called Essex Connections, and on this site I wrote about my adventures in marketing and I would say “Today I've been stumbling websites.” I don't know if you remember StumbleUpon?
And then I would write a tutorial on how to use StumbleUpon. And very soon, our transport blog that had seven hundred visitors a week was overtaken by my Essex Connections that was having seven hundred visitors a day, and this was from sharing my little tutorials.
Again, I was still too scared to use the content that I had because whilst it was great for learning from me, I could fill in the gaps and connect all the dots together. Because PLR quality back then was not as good as what yours (Content Sparks) was back then, and it's not as good as what yours is right now, so I couldn't use it because it just wasn't the quality that I would want to put my name or my brand too. So I kept on with Essex Connections and then I set up Birds on the Blog.
And at this point my website started eating up content like nobody's business. And I had to use some of the PLR, but I was really scared to use it because… There were lots of gaps, there were lots of room for personalities, I generously call it, but in truth was poorly written content. So when I found you shortly after I launched Birds on the Blog, I was so excited because this content was really good, I could add my voice to it.
There wasn't a lot of editing out. There wasn't a lot of gaps. There was room for story and there was room for personalization, but there was no big glaring holes in the content and that to me, saved me hours.
So I started using your content on Birds on the Blog. I took one report called Boost Your Blogging Income, which was 10 sections. Do you remember that?
I do remember that, yes.
Yes, I took that.
I rewrote it into 10 blog posts and added in my experiences what I felt was really good, what was a pitfall. And these became two thousand word articles. I then packaged those two thousand word articles back up into an ebook and it won an Echelon SEO award.
Wow. I did not know that! Those were the days when you could use some of that on your blog, some of our content, now, a lot of it is meant for a lead magnet or a paid course, but we do have blog posts and emails also.
Yeah. So maybe take one second and explain what PLR means for anyone that hasn't heard that term before.
It's private label rights. Which means you've got a license to use this content and customize it and put your name to it. Now in the report that I purchased from Sharyn, each one was around 500 words per section and I turned mine into two thousand word blog posts. So at the end of it, I had a twenty thousand word e-book. But that isn't how it started out. I'll also say it (my ebook) was very badly branded and contained no images whatsoever, yet it still won an award from Echelon SEO.
Shortly after that, we had Forbes' discover… that's Forbes magazine… on Birds on the Blog, and they created a list of their top 100 websites for women. And at this point, I had no lead magnet on the site. I had no optin for anybody. And I went from around 7000 visitors a week, which sounds a lot to two hundred thousand visitors a week with no opt-in.
That's incredible. It's also very sad because you had no opt in. You weren't capturing them and you missed loads of people.
So I had to do something fast. And I took a piece of Sharyn's PLR and turned it into a lead magnet. And whilst it wasn't a planner that was given to me, that's what I turned into. I turned into a 30-day planner. I opened up PowerPoint, I pasted in the text. Then I added beautifully branded photos. I'll give you a copy so you can actually have a look at it.
Birds 30 day business planning CS <—- Right-click then “save-as” to your desktop.
Oh, that would be great.
Yeah, I spent about four hours on this lead magnet, so not a huge amount of time. And then I put a pop up on the site and my list went from zero to 19,000 people in the space of six months because that Forbes list, whilst the traffic died off to a steady 10 to 20 thousand visitors a week, they were still coming through. And next year Forbes did the same. And we were in the top five positions and I was ready.
At one point my email list was 47,000 people! It's now down to sixteen thousand people, but they're all segmented lists. The biggest list is five thousand people who are bloggers and I have around fifteen hundred people who are Kindle people. So I have 16,000 in total, but there's smaller lists because they're all segmented based on their interests. And then I have the people in my blogging challenges and then I have the people who are in my training, the people who are in a training academy.
I moved off of the main email into a training list, and that's because the training academy software that it's built on has built-in email list. So it doesn't cost me any extra to have them there. So that might sound very complicated, but it's very cost-effective.
It works for you then it makes sense to do.
At this point, at 2013, I was buying Sharyn's PLR regularly, but I still hadn't turned any of it into a course. The most I did with it was take what I could use as blog posts and expand them and get people on to the list to download the planner-that-wasn't-originally-a-planner. So I had this cycle of building a list but not selling to the people on the list.
And it was getting really frustrating. And at this point, Sharyn said to me, what is it you want?
And I said, I want blogging stuff, because I'm had done a blogging course, but my blogging course was like an all you could eat buffet of blogging. There was roast, there was desserts, there was new rules, you name it. There was it. And people didn't know what to start. And what people wanted was a very simple three-course meal with a set menu.
But I was like, here is a smorgasbord of food – help yourself.
And it was overwhelming.
So I had the knowledge, but I didn't have the ability to make it into a course. And despite having the training skills, they dont tell you how to design a course. They say this is your materials, learn it, teach it.
So I was in this cycle of having all of this knowledge and all of this experience, but not able to monetise it due to time and a lack of skill.
So when you said to me you would do a blogging course. Yes! Just what I've been waiting for and I had purchased in other places, blogging courses and I have a 30-day blogging challenge. So any blogging course that I was going to deliver had to meet my exacting standards. And I purchased blogging PLR over the years. And at this point, there were very few people that were meeting the standards that I'd set so I could never teach what somebody else had put out simply because it was wrong.
There was all of this. Build it and they will come and they don't come.
You have to go out and actively be in the community that you are looking to serve. And you have to absolutely be of service in that community. You can't rock up when you've got something to sell.
You have to show up all of the time.
- You have to welcome people.
- You have to greet them.
- You have to answer questions.
- You have to answer the same question multiple times, sometimes to the same person multiple times.
So I was really excited to see Blogging Mastery come out. And then I looked at it and thought, I can't teach that, it's not enough. And I'll be honest, I didn't even try to teach that which is all on me, and then Strategic Website Content came up and I'm like, brilliant, this I can smash together. I called it Content Marketing from Scratch. You also had a program called Content Marketing from Scratch. But I used Blogging Mastery and Strategic Web Content smooshed together to give people the gaps between the blogging challenge and to grow from that. So Strategic Web Content was the next level content to the blogging challenge, and that is how the blogging challenge has been for years. People come on onto the email list. They go into the groups. I've had in total, seven hundred and fifty thousand people through the blogging challenge.
And I have had lots of people go through Content Marketing From Scratch, as it was then called, which was Blogging Mastery and Strategic Website Content merged. And that worked really well for me.
And then I started getting people asking for one to one, which was great. but someone would say to me ‘I need to do sales sessions'. I could do sales sessions, I'd learnt how to do them. My husband, Kevin, is a fantastic salesperson. He'd coached me and show me how to set up the processes and what to ask for, what was a fit and what wasn't. And I could do it, but I couldn't teach it because firstly, it wasn't my process, it was my husband's. And secondly, I didn't know how to structure that.
So when From Prospect to Paying Client came in, I was like, “yes, this is so amazing”. Because I could whip out the pieces that weren't relevant, adding to the pieces that Kevin felt were super relevant.
And it became a program. And I had a call with somebody who wanted to work with me and they said, I really love how you do your calls. And I'm like, “OK, what do you love about my calls?”
“The no-pressure, the no-nonsense. And you just say if you can't help somebody. Not everybody's like that.”
But there you go. And they said “I want to learn how to do this process.”
And I'm like, oh my gosh.
Last week, Sharyn's released From Prospect to Paying Client and here I am with somebody who wants to learn that process. What am I going to do?
I said, I'll teach this one to one and it will be three thousand dollars and I will send you a recording and test you at the end of the week. So on Monday you get your recording and on Friday will have a test to make sure that you've learned the skills. So I delivered this 12 week, 12 modules over 12 weeks to the client video on Monday test and on Friday.
I couldn't have done that without the Content Sparks course because although there was lots of Kevin's wording in it and Kevin's language, I didn't have the structure or the framework. And that's something that I can't put together myself because it becomes the smorgasbord again. It becomes overwhelming for the student and they don't get those key takeaways.
Yeah, I see that all the time with people who have a ton of knowledge and expertise and even know how to teach you. But it's very difficult to figure out how to structure that into an effective learning experience, like you said, without going overboard and putting all your knowledge into it and also structuring learning activities for people. But how much did you actually spend on buying that course?
Yeah, I spent a whole… brace yourself… Ninety-seven dollars, so I made two thousand nine hundred and three dollars profit, from that ninety seven dollar course
Right away, I assume you've sold it since then.
Oh yes. It's now repurposed into a leads to sales program, as in it takes somebody from their leads to the sales and walks and through the steps. And it's delivered by my husband because he's really into the sales process and how to do that kind of thing. He's also got some really fantastic examples, which is really good. So it didn't earn for me just once, it earns for me all of the time, and is it OK if I show you it in my academy?
Absolutely. Please, we want to see. I'm curious also whether you used the Essential Sales Skills one at all, but I won't interrupt again.
We'll come back and this is the logged-in home page. So there's a welcome video and… All of our courses are here now, although there are some prices on things, our sales pages are built in Thrive Cart and they hook up into this academy. Where it says zero or free, it's not actually zero or free, it's coming in through Thrive Cart. So we've got Content Visibility Boosters – that's a report from you. Content Accelerators which is Strategic Website Content. Courseworks which is one of our own.
At the start of lockdown, I had twenty-six people go through that and then I made it pay what you can afford. And had another few hundred go through that.
The Launch & Market Your Online Course – didn't change the name for that, I was a bit lazy in that one. I kept the working title. Rebel Book Marketing. That's the book marketing; Promote & Market Your Business Book, that you bought out earlier this year. I give away around twenty-five thousand books a year and I also sell around probably around the same number. I know quite a lot about book marketing and I was really excited for this one because I've got a Kindle group, a ready-made audience that I can sell this one to.
I'm not [selling] that yet. I've only just finished recording that. We've got Ethical Selling Masterclass..
Was that Essential Sales Skills?
No, that might have been ethical selling. I think it was a Beacon.
I am not sure but that's part of the point of using this, you shouldn't recognize it entirely.
Then we have leads to sales, which was From Prospect to Paying Client.
And then we have another one of my blogging things, blogging black book, which is a principle that you have all your metrics tracking and so on in it. Then we have Active Campaign Fast-Start, which is one of mine, mostly your metrics. This was one of my best selling all time, and this was what you called Understanding Google Analytics. We took that report, recorded videos because it was just a book. So we turned it into videos we had three years ago,
we had two and a half thousand people enroll in this. I think it was thirty seven pounds. It's now ninety nine and in need of a bit of an update. And to be honest, quite a lot of an update, but it still got really good knowledge in there. Lots of people don't know how to do the goals or reports on Google Analytics and that was in the report. So Kevin turned that into a watch over his shoulder video.
That's not available any longer on our site.
It does need a massive overhaul.
That's why we try and keep everything we sell now evergreen, so that you don't have to do updates. And it's why we retired that one.
Email Copywriting Essentials, I started that with the cats, as you can see. I never finished recording it. I have lots of people who have products in my academy, who try and buy this, they are gagging for it and I still haven't finished recording it.
Yeah. 90 days Content Inspiration was what I sold last year. It's Trello board full of ideas. And we all know how popular the Trello boards are.
Oh, yeah, people have been loving those. They're mostly bonuses that we give during a launch.
It [Trello] really makes things easy for people. So if you've got things that you can turn into Trello Boards… lots of the action guides that you supply are really good to turning boards. People can keep track of them, like tick the boxes and it feels interactive to them. And Trello is free for the majority of users.
Content Ignition is your Essential Business Writing Skills that sold at the end of the blogging challenge.
And the list goes on!
Yes! You can't just have one course!
We do a bundle in November over Thanksgiving. US Thanksgiving, Black Friday weekend. And we call it the gratitude bundle that tends to contain five or six Beacon courses. And we put them together to make a bundle and sell them as a really good value. And we sell those from 49 pounds to 99 pounds, depending on how many we've got in that bundle. We have a smaller book marketing product. This is some planners and some other things.
This used to be the end of the blogging challenge, which was a series of updates on how to turn your blog content into a Kindle book and expand on that content. So it was unique for Kindle. Now, I don't even think I have the KDP aspect in there. And I think it's six PDFs telling you how to title your book. So I have Express Yourself, which is Expressing Your Brand Voice on your site. I only recorded that. I think I owned that for four years and I only recorded that earlier this year. So don't think you have to do them straight away.
Another reason we have to keep them evergreen is for people like you who are hanging on to them until the exact time you want them.
The Ideal Client Masterclass is whenever I'm teaching something like Content into Cash. This is a program that I teach live. Ideal Client Masterclass is the first component and that is your Know Your Customer – the surveys. So we get people to do the surveys to build up an ideal client avatar. And I even include I think it's one hundred and sixty questions.
There's your stuff there as the framework. But my stuff expanded it right out. I think that was a beacon and not a Blaze, I can't remember. The size of this, although it says master class and can be done in a morning, it's a really densely packed… it's a protein bar. Of course, it's high calorie, high density, and you feel full up after it. It's the foundation of all of the other courses.
I just ran a special on this, and I run a special on it once a year. And I'm just took in about 20 people on this.
I love that because that's one of the things that most people don't do well. And it's something you have to revisit often. It's why a lot of our courses have some degree of that as the starting point around identifying your target audience, but having it as a bigger course with a lot more depth to it makes it a good foundational one for everything.
Yeah, it's good because it means that I can bundle it in with things. So if somebody is doing Content Ignition and they want to buy that, I will throw that in as a bonus. And if somebody is doing Leads to Sales, they absolutely need to know who their ideal client is. So I throw that in as a bonus. So this one is like my go-to piece, it's a bonus for everything. It's the one if somebody says to me “oh, can you do us a giveaway? Can you give us something?” That's what they get.
I couldn't tell you off the top of my head how many people I have enrolled, but I have a lot of people enrolled in the ideal client master class.
How to Start an Email List From Scratch, again, I didn't record that one until late last year and I had such fun recording it, it took nine hours to record this from start to finish and it was my favorite course that I've ever recorded. And again, that was called Email List from Scratch didn't change the name. And I didn't really do anything. I think part of the fun for this was the little dogs that are part of the branding.
I was just going to say I love the dogs. Yeah, especially the dog with the with the drink. Is that a martini?
Yep. This reminds me. So when I create a course, each one of them has its own brand. So email from scratch is full of dogs, book marketing is full of books. Ideal Client Masterclass is full of pink and white light bulbs. So all of the imagery that you see is on every single aspect. So from the ad, if I use an ad, I don't do ads very often, to the sales page, to the checkout images, to the course, to the follow up emails… All of the branding is consistent throughout.
So if somebody is on email list from scratch, they will see the dogs and they will see the dogs in the email and they will see the dogs in the course. So it's all a smooth experience and the dogs really just are such fun. You can pick them up on Deposit Photos. If you search funny dog or funny cat, you will come up with lots of little pooches drinking martinis, sun bathing, doing all sorts of crazy. And there were real big talking point.
I had the dogs on the very first edition of Content into Cash, which was called Biz Blogging School in 2016, and all the participants were just raving about the dogs. There were thirty-three in that first one. So it wasn't a lot of people and it was one hundred and ninety-seven pounds. It wasn't hugely expensive. It was delivered live over six weeks and it started with the ideal client master class. And we went through the six pieces of content that you need for lead generation and sales.
So these are the pieces of content that essentially make up your sales funnel and people just love the dogs. And the last time I delivered this live was last year. I didn't deliver it live this year. And we had city blocks and skyscrapers and so on. The dogs brought in thirty three people and they were highly engaged The skyscrapers and city, two hundred and twenty people of which about 30 people were engaged. So whilst I had the sales for the last addition of Content into Cash, I didn't have the engagement.
I whilst I have this here, I haven't taken down the videos from the group and put them into a course. I always deliver Content into Cash live because it's so much better live.
So does that mean that the price that you have there, people cannot actually buy it?
No, they can't. They can't buy this. All the people for this program are currently in a Facebook group with all the videos. They're waiting for me to bring it down, edit it and upload it. And at some point I'll crack and get a VA to do it…but it ain't this week!
We also have Keyword Kaizen. I forget what you call it, the SEO basics (Introduction to SEO & Keywords)?
Keyword Kaizen is about continuous improvement of the language you use on our website. And the word Kaizen itself means continuous improvement. And lots of people think, oh, you only do keyword research once and that's it. You never have to do it again. That's not the case because keywords come in and out of favor. Who knew that COVID-19 would be the keyword of 2020? None of us did. How many of us had even heard of the word pandemic prior to January this year? It's in horror novels and thrillers.
So words change and words flow in and out of popularity. So Keyword Kaizen, built on the SEO basics, shows people how to do keyword research and shows them how to put together a plan for continually doing the research that powers their website. And that's something that I often bundling with, again, the Ideal Client Masterclass class as a bonus to various courses, this sells really well on its own when I promote it and doesn't sell when I don't promote it.
So clearly, the keywords I've chosen to call this course were the wrong ones. I should have called it keywords that sell.
My final one that I've got in here is this is checklists, worksheets, planners, things that I do. So say I bought email list from scratch and it didn't have a checklist. I would create a checklist to go with that program and then I would pop it into the Marketing Standard Operating Procedures program, which is just a series of downloads and checklists for people who want to know how to do things. And if I have to do something for my VIP group or a client, like I have to show somebody had to add a pixel, I'll document the process and add into that. So this is one of our best-selling programs. We usually release that in the autumn every year and we update it every year. That's currently about one hundred and twenty five different checklists and planners showing people everything from how to add pixels to how to use things in Canva. You name it, we've got a template for it so that people can learn the process. This process is just a series of instructions.
And then do any of them then link to your other courses so people can learn more?
No, none of them.
Because I missed a trick there!
I've shown you our academy. We've actually got another academy, which I won't show you, but it's called the Rebel Business Academy. But what I will show you is how many I sold this month. Now, this is a really scary conversion, right? Simply because I use Thrive Cart to take my payments and bring them over to…this is built in New Zenler, my husband's a consultant for them, so I have to disclose that I do not pay for New Zenler currently, although I have paid for it in the past.
So we have six hundred ninety-four people in August and they all came in to Launch and Market Your Online Course. Now I started to build this up and as you can see, it's got its own branding like all of my courses I have, and I will have their own fonts and their own styling that makes it part of that course experience. So. I thought, I'll call it Launch and Market Your Online, that's what it says on the tin, that's what it does on the tin and that's my working title. And I got to the end of it and I could not think of a title. So I was really lazy with this one. And when somebody joins, they come over to here and I'll click start and you can see all the buttons are in our branded colors and you can see all of the little elements on the branding are our colors, the pink, red, the blue and in this scenario, we've added the gold.
So somebody comes in, they go straight to the course welcome hub. And they have a video here, I'll press play, I think you can see that.
So the videos are rounded up with a bit of music, (which I don't like). And then we show them around the program. Now this is mandatory. I found I was getting a lot of support calls asking where do I find this? How do I press this?, how do I download this? So I made it mandatory that all of our courses start with a thank you for coming…. We're really grateful you're here. This is how you use the platform and they can't progress. They can't come onto this page and progress to the next one until they've watched that video, which is a whole five minutes.
I still get tickets saying ‘I don't want to watch the video'. And I say to someone ‘watch the damn video or have your money back'. They watch the video.
So then we have the book which is embedded, you can do this in Teachable and you can see that it's still branded up to fit the slides. So whatever's on the slides is also on the documents and the handouts. So they have the complete branded experience. And if somebody is got more than one of my courses, they can tell instantly which one it if they print things off simply by the branding around it. So they know that if it has a dog on it or a cat on it, it's the basics.
And if it's got gold on it, I was doing something fancy. And then of course they can download the course book from there, but it's also embedded so they can scroll through and read. So if they lose it or they want to redownload it, they know it's in the hub. And then there's the course spreadsheet which we've actually put into Dropbox. I really should put that into Google sheets, but I haven't got around to it yet.
When they've done that, they click next lesson and then they can go on to the next thing. And you can see it's nicely laid out for them to move through all of the things. And I don't know what I've got as bonuses here, so I'm going to click bonuses.
Everybody expects bonuses when they buy online. So I have a module at the end that says bonuses and once they've watched the hub welcome video, they can actually go down straight away and download the bonuses.
So this is a nine-page doc for recruiting your affiliates, a program that we called, Of Course, and that's defunct and isn't in this academy. So we've got that and it can be downloaded. And then we've got Instagram ads for Launches that belong to a course, as well. And then we've got the Instagram checklist and then worksheets. Clearly, that's a mini-course that I've meant to do, something we've never did, but it never goes to waste because it all becomes part of your hub. And in this case, it becomes part of Launch and Market Your Online Course.
So never start creating something from scratch until you've looked at what you already have on your hard drive, whether it's something from another course that you've done or something from us or another person.
So what are your next plans are so much in there? Oh, actually before I ask that, for that one on Launch and Market Your Online Course, since you did it relatively recently, how long did it take you to get that setup, and ready to sell?
Five days. And when I say five days, I don't mean five full days. I have my branding templates which content sparks will have a set for you soon, and I pop them into the PowerPoint. The first thing I do is open up the slides and throw away everything that I don't want. So I just sit back and delete, delete, delete, delete. And people sit there and you might be cringing as you hear this, but I just throw anything that doesn't sound like me, because if I leave it and think I'll come back to it later, it will stay there.
But it isn't me. So I throw out anything that I don't like, anything that I don't use. For example, I don't use the debrief, so I just throw out all the debrief slides and at the end of it I've got my slides in place. I use the ‘reuse slides' function from PowerPoint and insert my welcome slides and then I go in and customize the action steps. I put in the image first – if it's a dog, it's a dog with a martini on the action steps page. If it's a cat, it's a cat with a typewriter. So I use a specific image for all of the action steps and then I go back and add in that action steps image. And then I look at the module titles and I start going through them and rewriting them. And then I go back to the title because by now I've absorbed a lot of the content and I've got my own ideas as well. So then I say, oh no, I don't want to call it this, I'll call it something else.
And that becomes its working title. And then halfway through it, I'm once I've done the slides, I then move over onto the coursebook to make that align with the slides. And as I go through the course book, I absorb it on a deeper level again and then I change things and then I've got to add in things that I've added into the slides but are not in the book.
And so this now probably takes me onto day two. Then I look at the student materials. Now I used to ignore the cheat sheet… I know! Now, I call that the fast start planner or the fast start checklist and why you've got tick boxes. I changed those. You've got ticks. I change those to boxes so people can tick off when they've done that section. And I find that really good that if I break that up into individual sections and add them to the modules, that somebody can print them out, listen to the video and tick off when they've heard that part. So it's reinforcing their knowledge.
So from the course book, I go to the cheat sheet, adjust the cheat sheet so it matches the slides and the coursebook. And at this point, I step back and Kevin takes over. He says, what's this? And I say, it's X, Y, Z. And then he takes the content list and turns it into a template for the sales page. And it is a really rough and ready sales page.
He will load up the emails. I never used the emails until I got New Zenler. So if somebody joined the course, I never onboard them. I've only just started onboarding them. These are some of my most opened emails. So I've now got onboarding your customers, which has been rebranded and called follow up junky and that's going to be released at the end of September. So as I learn and implement these things myself, I go back to the program that I've done and turn that into a program for the customers, too.
So with that all done, I then tend to come away from it because my head is swirling with the content and we tend to start this on a Friday. So when I reach Monday, my head is swirling with all of the content. And it's at this point that I start to record the videos and I would record them in a day. So once I start on the recording process, I don't stop. So once I've got the light right, the sound right, the settings, right, I just steamroller through it and record it because otherwise, I've got to remember where I stopped. If I've got a cold or I've got a little husk to my voice and I stop, my voice sounds different in the next batch of recordings. So I do it in one stretch. The longest one that I've done was email from scratch and that took nine hours.
So I record. I try to keep each one less than 20 minutes. Sometimes I get caught up in a story and go off on a tangent, but the next slide always brings me back. I've got very few videos that are over 30 minutes, so I have some that are five or six minutes long, like the Welcome to the Hub. I have some that are around 10 to 15 minutes long. But in the perfect world, I don't want to record something for an hour at a time because that's more editing. It's more fiddling. It becomes painful to turn that content in courses. And the more uncomfortable it becomes for me, the more I don't want to do it.
And it's overwhelming for any student. Having it at 20 minutes or less is more of a best practice. So it works better for you and for the student as well. And there's less chance of something going wrong and you then having to rerecord a whole long section.
Yeah, I used to do a course where I would do a training on a Monday night and I would deliver the training for an hour. And then I would do the same the next week for an hour and next week for weeks, for an hour each session. And they were really good pieces of content. They were really great courses. But it was a long time and you've got lots of chit chat and answering questions as you go along. But it's really hard to turn that into a course, which is why Content into Cash is still in the group, because I know when I download them, there's a huge amount of editing to make them sound normal so that somebody who is watching it, they're not hearing. Yes Jo, you're right. And Have you tried this? and Have you tried yoga? they get all of that if I don't edit it, which might be enjoyable for some people. And I've seen some people deliver courses and they've delivered it live and all that chit chat is in there. And I hate it.
Yeah. You feel like you were left out when you go by the course that has the videos. If there are other people conversing, you feel like you weren't part of that experience, you almost were cheated out of something.
Yeah. And I also think why are they so lazy? What's wrong with them? And I've paid good money for somebody else's conversation.
And that's why when we had one of our VIP live calls recently, one of the people on the call said that she was doing a challenge that she wanted to sell. So she was very careful when she did her live stream to not add anything in that would not be evergreen or that would take away from someone else's experience later watching the video. So you have to keep that in mind.
Yeah, and it is very important. And I'll be honest, there are times where I say crumb's, I want to buy something kind of not budgeted for itself. I've not got time to record it, I'll deliver it live. And, you know, there are times that those [style of course delivery] suits. In my experience, in 2018, I delivered six of these four-week programs back to back. Not one of them made my academy.
And it wasn't because they weren't good, it wasn't because the content was poor or anything of the sort, it was because I just didn't have the time to pull it down and edit. And, you know, I could give up sleeping. I could not feed my children. I could give up my consulting and put all of these in. And that would be great. But you have to have a life, too. And having all of these courses and having a full academy where people can come and say, can I buy that?
And I say, no, you can't, because I haven't taken it down yet. It is really good because when somebody graduates, I can follow up in a graduation email and give them 50 per cent off of another course and so on. I get a lot of people who buy the book marketing program, my PDFs and then hire me to do a book marketing strategy for them. I've just done The Witch House for the author Ann Rawson, and we put together some spooky little videos and she got tremendous engagement.
But that also gave me examples to put in the rebel book marketing. So I've now got an author who's used the techniques that I'm teaching and I can use them as examples and show people how to do it on. One of the bonuses is watch over my shoulder as I create a trailer. So it's really good stuff to have in your academy. If you're thinking you can make a good living with just one course, you're absolutely right, you can, but you can make a much better living by having a whole curriculum, by having complementary courses. You don't have to have them in an academy like I've got. You can put them in Facebook, you can have groups, you can have other communities where people come.
I find having the academy creates a better learning experience:
- There's no distractions.
- There's no notifications flashing up.
- There is a fully branded experience that I control.
- There is no advertising in it
And people can go through it. And it is a really good learning experience and that is something that Content Sparks has given to us as a business. It's shown us the importance of the learning experience for the people, and it's shown us from…. I remember when the learning objectives first appeared, I'm like, what the hell are they in there? And Kevin's looked at and he's going, Oh, they're really good. They tell me I'm on track and I'm like, OK, we need to use them.
Those are a basic instructional design component, I guess I would say it's part of the process of creating any training program, but we didn't use to include them because most people who are going to be teaching any of the online courses don't know what they mean. They don't know, like you said, what a learning objective is or learning outcome. But then people started asking, asking us more specifics about it and what people were going to learn, so we put them in
Kevin was absolutely right when he saw them. It helped him focus and keep on track. And now any courses that we do that are not based on elements of Content Sparks material all have to have the learning objectives. They all have to have the action steps. And we have to follow the format that you've laid down. Even when it's not your content, we have to follow that framework.
So how many courses are you putting up a year?
This year I've probably put up the most, I've probably put up 15. Part of that was having some downtime with the pandemic. I'm very lucky that my children didn't need so much hands-on tutoring.
And also being part of Team Sparks means I knew Promote and Market Your Business Book was coming and I was very excited for that. And I knew Build Your Audience with Social Media was coming and I was very excited for that. I knew How to Overcome Sales Objections was coming and I got an advance of that and that was really good. Hang on a minute. I will show you the Rebel Business Academy…
So the Rebel Business Academy homepage isn't done. I've just thrown something up with a quiz that doesn't opt into anything, but if I click on login, it takes you to the Rebel Business Academy, And here we have ‘Getting to Yes'. Which apparently I can use because it isn't copyrighted, but it is being changed.
The name is changing. Right, because there is a book already of that name
Ye, quite a famous book that I'd never heard of. So this is actually going to become sales conversations that Convert. And this is delivered by my husband. And you can see it's got the welcome part and these have been renamed. And the testimonials, again at the moment, it's coming in from somewhere else. So that's why that is zero. And then we've got our frequently asked questions etc.
I remember you doing it over just a weekend.
Yeah. Kevin started talking about that on the Friday when you released it to us, it didn't go out to the general public until the following Thursday. Kevin released that, as in he started talking about it Friday, Saturday, and he'd already sold some come the Monday and we hadn't even put it together. We've got six enrollments currently. We've not actually marketed this beyond word of mouth simply because … where are my curriculum pages?
It was something we wanted to put together to show how fast you could put together a program. It was a beacon program we started on the Friday. It was ready-ish on the Tuesday. Then we found out the name was wrong and we had to think about it. But it's going to be changed to Sales Conversations that Convert, we will still keep the neon spot with the paint splatter. It will just go to conversations that convert. And if I click the welcome start here.
I love that name also because it's in line with other things that you've gotten from us and made into courses. For instance, I know it's in line with From Prospect to Paying Client and also Essential Sales Skills, which talks about conversations.
Yeah. So we've got the start here video. This has got a slightly different intro because it's a different sites and then we have the text, which is good, and then we have our roadmap, recognized that?
The first time I did this one, I was uploading this and I saw I forgot to change some of the terminology and I was kicking myself because I had to go back into the PowerPoint and change the headings on this to the ones that would change them to, not the original Content Sparks ones and then save it as an image and then upload it again. So they get their roadmap and they get the Getting to Yes.
And you keep it relatively simple because otherwise, if you put a ton in, it's distracting.
It is. And we've also found we were starting to get complaints. People were complaining that it takes a lot of ink to. Print them out. And again, once they've done that, that is mandatory that they go for the welcome here. And then, of course, we've got this. The only thing this one is missing is its bonuses, we actually haven't got any put together. I'm putting together what's known as the rebel sales planner, and that way people can track their calls, how they feel about the calls and what the outcomes were.
And also it will upsell into prospect to paying client or leads to sales, as we call it, that may become rebel sales sessions over on the rebel academy. So even though the core content is the same, the language is changed for the audience. So the online visibility academy is for bloggers and content marketers and small business owners that sort of fall into blogging and discover me by accident. The Rebel Business Academy is for people who have been told that they shouldn't start a business but start one anyway. That were told that they shouldn't write a book but write one anyway. They're the black sheep, the people who don't quite fit in into the business world. So the Rebel Business Academy is their home and it's not fully launched. It won't probably be fully launched until October because Kevin still has to record rebel sales skills, which, you know, is Essential Sales Skills. And he's got the ethical sales master class, which has to become something rebel.
And I've also got to write rebel authors, which is how to write your book in Content Sparks or Write Your Expert Book. So there's stuff that needs to go into this, that has to be branded for this audience. And that means changing the branding, changing the language and changing the sales page to fit that audience. Because my people, when they see the online visibility academy, it's for them. And when they go over to Rebel Business Academy, they shouldn't feel the same feelings because it's for a different audience.
So even though the core components of the courses are the same, the language and the branding is different.
So you have lots and lots of plans. And I think you've also shown people all the possibilities for what they can do with multiple courses. What about any final words of advice for people that are maybe a little overwhelmed at the idea of all of this and so many courses? Do you have some words of wisdom for those that are starting out?
I would say choose the course closest to the skills that you've got, that you can tell stories about and then do it. And if you're on the VIP challenge, you've got the Trello board that will map it out, do this on this day, do this on this day and follow it. Lots of people don't have the focus and discipline to do what it takes to get a course up. But the way I see it is, I do this on a Friday night it's ready to sell on the Tuesday. I can have the next 10 days off if I want. I don't, but I could.
And when my daughter comes in and says, I want a psychology internship weekend and that cost five hundred quid, I've got the money to pay for that. And when the pandemic says people can't go out to work and they're working from home or they're furloughed or they've lost their job, I've got solutions to help them, even if they're just paying what they can afford, 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 50 pounds, whatever.
I've got options. And one of the things that really upset me with my email list was I got several emails back from people saying it's all right for you, you know how to do this, but I didn't know how to do this. I had to learn from Content Sparks, I had to trust Content Sparks to give me the content framework that I could throw in my personality and my experience. And everybody can have that, they have to make that leap of faith, and if you're nurturing an email list like I am, like Sharyn is, and your people are telling you it's okay for you, you're lucky, they've got mindset issues, I just unsubscribe them. The first time I got those comments, I used to cry. Now I just delete. Delete. You're not going to be able to help these people. They're not ready for it. But that doesn't mean to say that the silent other thousand people on your list are in agreement with them
And many of us, all of us who have an online business like this started with a zero list. My friends have no interest in what I do. I had to start from zero and network and find places to make connections. And maybe we have a lot of courses now, but we started from that point of nothing as well. And like you said, if you are starting right away or starting with with one from scratch, just use one course and focus on that, even though you might have in your head that you want to have a great big academy as well.
And the thing is, this year has been exceptional in terms of timing, and it's been a culmination of 10 years experience that I can knock out 15 courses. Five years ago, four courses a year was all I could manage. Eight years ago, one course was all I could manage. It's progressive, you get better and you only get better by doing.
Sitting on your content and not delivering it… Firstly, it's not beneficial to you as a business owner because you've essentially wasted that content, unless you learn from it yourself.
But even if you've learned from it yourself, the best option is to then teach it so you can learn it, do it, follow what works for you and your audience and then teach it. And it's not hard, but lots of people want to make excuses. Oh, it takes too long to record. No, you can deliver in segments. You've got six modules that six weeks deliver live. You know, you've got lead magnets in pretty much, the beacon and the blaze and the flash packs are lead magnets, aren't they?
Yeah, it varies from course to course. So they're are different sizes. And they all interconnect, so it snowballs when you start with one and you sell one to an audience so long as you are clear on who your ideal audiences, which is why that course of yours is so important, then you can keep adding on courses that that same audience wants. And once they've experienced one, they're going to want another and another and you'll have cross sales. That's what I mean by it snowballing, your business will just exponentially grow verses just one piece at a time.
Yeah, and it starts with doing and I've had courses offer people who are huge, big names where they have sat, umm-ed and ahh-ed and heard them say ” is the camera working, is the camera working”. And I have sat there horrified, that people like me who have paid five hundred dollars for this course, and I just think to myself, if these big names can put up content full of ums and arghs and don't edit them. The little effort that you make is going to be really appreciated by your audience,
Even just adding something like a worksheet or a cheat sheet, which a lot of those big names who are creating courses, they don't do that necessarily. I've been through ones that are just all video. Well, not everyone wants to just watch a video. They want that extra little bit and it doesn't take that long to do, especially when you have something already to work with.
Absolutely. And in terms of usability all videos for courses are going to have to have captions on them from next year so that people who are disabled can read them. And if you're not doing these little extra steps, people think it's the big fillable PDF and all of that, it's not, it's your content delivered in a really heartwarming way, filled with your personality, filled with your course books, your action guides your planners, your cheat sheets. All of those are what make people happy customers. You don't have to be looking pretty on the screen. I mean, look at me. You've got the lipstick on, my mascara on, and nothing else. You don't have to have all nice photo shoots and all of that, none of those sell courses, they catch your eye, but they don't sell courses and yeah they may look good, but behind it… Like I say, they don't bother to edit their videos and things like that and all of those make a better learning experience.
So that said, where can people find you, with all your personality and Kevin to see all the different courses? What are the URLs for them?
I will add them. I won't spell them out on the video. But you can find us on Facebook as well as other places:
Thank you so much. And for anyone who's watching the video of this interview, you can also find Sarah when we do our live streams and hear more, because a lot of our live streams, when we're doing launches or other topics, Sarah is in also and sharing and we have these conversations back and forth, where you'll get a lot of ideas.
So thank you so much for taking the time, Sarah.
Thank you for inviting me.
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