How are you planning on growing your personal brand during this time?
If you already have an audience, there’s a few popular options – live-streaming, recorded videos or extended newsletters. But there’s one option you may have skipped over – and that is putting your expertise online in the form of a course.
As all markets shift from physical to digital, courses are a great way to diversify revenue streams that lead to recurring revenue later (and give your audience a way to connect, virtually).
I talked to Thinkific, one of the leading software platforms enabling entrepreneurs to create and sell their own online courses about how you can grow a personal brand in the age of COVID-19 using courses.
Goldie Chan: Why is branding in today’s digital age so important for business owners? How can courses help achieve this?
Elise Asanias: Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer or business owner, there’s never been a more important time to build a brand. In the wake of COVID-19, we’re seeing a shift in the market where more businesses, learning experiences, and social interactions are going online. For anyone looking to succeed in this digital marketplace, you need a strong brand and online presence to stand out from the increased competition.
A great way to differentiate yourself and connect with new audiences is by offering education that positions you as an expert. Many consultants and businesses have realized this and are actively creating online courses to share their expertise, build their brand, and drive revenue.
Chan: What kinds of industry trends are we seeing with businesses creating courses to build a brand and drive revenue?
Asanias: In early 2019, the online course market was forecast to be worth $300B by 2025. The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly accelerating this timeline as we’re seeing a surge in entrepreneurs, businesses, and teachers moving their content online. The online course industry grew by almost 200% within the last week.
We’re seeing a dramatic increase in online course creation across every single industry and business type. Over the past month, the industries that saw the largest increase in online course creation were health and fitness, arts and entertainment, personal development, business and marketing, and software and technology.
Experts who traditionally deliver their services face-to-face like music and fitness instructors are moving their businesses and brands online. Ecommerce businesses that sell physical products on platforms like Shopify are creating complementary online courses as a way to diversify their revenue streams and reach new audiences.
These trends are happening on a macro level and affecting almost every country. Within the past month, the biggest spikes in course creation were in Australia (up 302%), the UK (up 278%), India (up 227%), Canada (up 189%) and the United States (up 151%).
In addition to businesses moving online, the demand for online courses is also significantly on the rise. In the last week alone, more than 922,000 new courses were taken on Thinkific. This is up 68% over previous weeks.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to build your brand through courses, now is the time to leverage the tidal shift towards online business and education. Anyone can get started completely free on Thinkific to test out if the platform is right for you.
Chan: What are some of the ways you can use courses to build your brand, and what are the benefits of each?
1) Attract more clients. If your goal is to grow your audience and increase visibility, a good strategy is to create a sharable free course to generate leads. This is often a short course that provides actionable content for your audience. For example, if you’re a fitness instructor, you could offer a few workout routines for free to give prospective clients a glimpse into your paid services.
2) Increase your credibility and authority. By offering niche expertise in a course format you grow your profile as a thought leader and expert. Being a trusted educator in your field makes it easier to be featured in the media and secure speaking engagements on your topic.
3) Build community and loyal fans. Your brand’s worth boils down to the connection your audience has with you. For your brand to stand the test of time, you need to develop brand advocates. A key way to do this is by creating an online community through a course or membership site.
4) Drive scalable revenue. Courses enable you to productize your expertise and drive scalable revenue – dollars you can invest back into building your brand. If you’re a consultant serving clients one on one, courses help you scale your impact and business growth beyond the limited time in your calendar.
Chan: What are some examples of entrepreneurs who use courses to build their brand?
Asanias: At Thinkific, we’ve seen entrepreneurs and businesses from every industry and walk of life create courses – from hula hooping to cake decorating and corporate finance! Here are a few entrepreneurs who have used courses to create killer personal brands and businesses using Thinkific.
Lewis Howes is a lifestyle entrepreneur, podcaster, best-selling author, and coach. He offers courses on self-development and entrepreneurship. He started by teaching people how to use LinkedIn and grew his following through his podcast, interviewing other successful entrepreneurs. As he developed more training content and impacted more people, his brand grew into the success it is today – he now runs multiple events, authored best-selling books, and received recognition from President Obama as being one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the US under 30.
XayLi Barclay is a visual content creation coach. She founded the Start, Shoot, Grow Academy where she teaches entrepreneurs how to stand out and make an impact with video. XayLi’s membership academy includes a suite of courses where she actively engages with her community of loyal fans. Her courses have helped establish her an expert in the crowded landscape of video creators.
Lastly, Dorie Clark is a best-selling author, communication coach and speaker. She offers courses on personal branding, writing, and career development. After authoring a successful business book, Entrepreneurial You, she converted her content into a premium priced course and earned six figures within five months of launch. With courses acting as another revenue stream, Dorie had the time and resources to invest in other strategies to grow her business and brand.
Chan: What are your top tips for creating a successful course?
Asanias: After analyzing thousands of courses on the Thinkific platform to find out what makes them successful, we’ve found a few elements that are consistent among top courses. Here are three tips to help set your course up for success:
1) Use different content types. Courses with the highest completion rates and student satisfaction heavily use video, along with a mix of other content types like text lessons, and PDF resources. This helps you appeal to different learning styles.
2) Build in interactivity. Use interactive elements like quizzes, polls, group discussions, and certificates to keep students engaged throughout the learning process – these are built into Thinkific and easy to add to your course. Courses with these elements see higher levels of course completion and student satisfaction.
3) Embed community. Create opportunities for your students to connect with you and one another throughout your course. This could look like setting up a membership site, exclusive course community, and frequently communicating with your students through automated emails.