Troy Dean helps entrepreneurs leverage their income and impact by turning their knowledge into an online course so they can stop trading time for money.
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3 Key Points:
- “Gamification” is everything when it comes to structuring online courses.
- Presell a course or product if possible.
- If you’re not getting the results that you want from your product, you’re probably not being helpful enough or adding value to the marketplace before asking for the sale.
- Billy Gene is Marketing: If you’re a marketer focused on helping local businesses, then check out this free training from my friend Billy Gene, where he’s going to show you the best performing Facebook and Instagram ads that get results!
Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:51] – Troy started as a freelance web designer
- [01:07] – Troy has always been fascinated with instant connection
- [01:20] – Internet provides that instant validation to what he’s doing
- [01:26] – Troy turned his services into a digital product
- [01:52] – Troy sees his life in two spaces: pre-Internet and post-Internet
- [02:01] – “The Internet is just amazing!”
- [02:20] – Troy was in Episode 494 of EOFire
- [02:37] – Troy’s expertise is using technology to improve business
- [03:36] – “Technology should only be used to leverage what is already working”
- [04:10] – Technology would only amplify what is already there
- [04:30] – The “Gamification” of online courses; turning learning into a game
- [05:00] – Troy provides virtual classrooms, badges, certificates and rewards for courses
- [06:45] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: When Troy released a great content course but only a few students signed up
- [08:21] – Troy told his audience about how helpful the content of the course would be
- [08:32] – “If you’re not getting the results that you want for your product, you’re probably not being helpful enough or not adding value to the marketplace before asking for the sale”
- [09:10] – Before releasing a product, test which content will work
- [09:40] – Develop content to gain organic traffic
- [11:25] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Before you do anything, put up a sales page and sell tickets. That will help you learn from your audience and gauge what pushes their buttons
- [12:57] – One way to make your students happy is to teach them what they want to learn
- [13:28] – People are nervous to price their courses at a higher fee
- [13:40] – “If the courses are too cheap, there’s not enough skill in the game”
- [14:07] – Troy is a member of Podcasters’ Paradise
- [14:38] – Troy offers upfront payment or payment plans
- [16:24] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from launching your first course? – “The overwhelming process of all the moving parts”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received when it comes to launching a course? – “Teach what you are passionate about”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to the success of course creators? – “Regular exercise”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – LearnDash
- If you could recommend one book or blog to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Think and Grow Rich is a game changer and Teachable.com is full of helpful tips for content creators
- [19:42] – Visit RockStarEmpires.com/fire to get your free 20-point checklist on getting started with your online course!
Interviewee: Yes, sir.
Interviewer: Troy helps entrepreneurs leverage their income and impact by turning their knowledge into an online course so they can stop trading time for money. Troy, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Interviewee: Sure, man. I started out as a freelance web designer, and after about three years just kind of maxed out and went, whoa, there’s just no way you can scale this thing, and you just end up stressed managing lots and lots of clients. And I’ve always been fascinated with technology, and I’ve always been fascinated with instant connect. I’m a little bit sort of ADD, and I need instant validation that what I’m doing is working. The internet has always sort of allowed me to get that really quickly, as you would know. I kind of took my services, client services business and turned it into a digital product, and that’s kind of where we are these days, is just serving more people, having more impact, more reach, and obviously creating more revenue by using the internet to leverage a previous business model. So instead of consulting with clients and giving that knowledge one to one, we’re now doing it one to many.
And it’s funny, I was talking to friends the other day at a barbecue, and I’m like, I can clearly delineate my life as pre-internet and post-internet, you know? I remember what it was like before the internet. I’m that old. And it’s just amazing. The internet is just freaking incredible. I just love it. I just cannot get out of bed quick enough every day because I’m so excited about what I’m gonna learn next, you know?
Interviewer: Well, you and me both, Troy. I am fired up, because it’s been over 1,000 episodes, which in EO Fire-land is over 1,000 days since you and I have spoke on EO Fire. You crushed episode 494, so Fire Nation, go back and check that out if you want to hear Troy’s story, and just all the origins, etcetera. But, what I want to talk about right now, Troy, is what you currently consider your area of expertise. Expand on that in just a couple sentences.
Interviewee: It’s funny, because I’ve been thinking about this recently and doing some work with some mentors of mine and helping each other out in some masterminds. And I think my sweet spot is using technology to improve businesses. The way that we’re doing that at the moment is through taking in knowledge that you would normally give consulting clients for a fee and turning that into an online course that you can leverage. But, there’s a whole bunch of other ways that you can use technology to improve business, and so I think I’m really good at optimizing businesses to make them run smoother and be more profitable by using web-based technology. That really is my sweet spot.
Interviewer: Okay, so within that, that web-based technology, tell us, Fire Nation, entrepreneurs, small business owners, tell us something that we don’t know that we probably should.
Interviewee: That’s a really good question, and this is kind of a mindset thing. One thing that I think a lot of entrepreneurs do in small businesses is they try and use technology to improve things that and technology is the wrong solution. So, I believe that technology should only be used to leverage what is already working. So, if you’re doing something manually and it’s broken and it’s not working, don’t throw technology at it. Improve the process; improve the way that you do that whether it’s internally or client communications or marketing or finance, whatever it is.
Improve that without technology, and then use technology to remove the humans from it so that you can scale it. And I think that’s the big problem that a lot of entrepreneurs and startups have, is they just try and use technology to scrap something together, and I think that you should actually prove something works without technology before you apply technology to it, because technology’s just gonna amplify what’s already there. And if it’s broken, then technology’s just gonna make it broken in a bigger way.
Interviewer: You help entrepreneurs leverage their income and impact by turning their knowledge into an online course. Give us a ninja tactic about online courses? What’s something that we haven’t heard about that you think is pretty cool and we probably should know.
Interviewee: The big thing for me is gamification with online courses. A lot of people sell an online course, people enroll in the course, and then the entrepreneur thinks their job is done. Hey, we made some sales, we did a big launch, we’ve got a few hundred people in this course or whatever it is, and now we can go sit on the beach. And I actually believe that’s when your work starts. We’re really big on gamifying our online course environments and having a lot of healthy competition amongst our students.
We really try and build a virtual classroom and use badges and certificates and rewards. More carrot, less stick if you know what I mean. And our completion rates are through the roof. Like most online courses, we know from the studies we’ve done – and there’s lots of research on the internet that will indicate this. Most online courses get a completion rate of around about ten to 15 percent, and that’s if you’re doing pretty well. We’re getting 65 percent-plus completion rates because our students are highly engaged in the course, because they’re kind of racing to the end because it is like a bit of a competition, because there are prizes involved.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, gamification literally is everything, I can tell you this. On so many different levels, but let’s even talk about JVs, joint affiliates. I mean, there are just so many times when I am part of some joint venture and we’re promoting a product, and what do they do? They come up with a leaderboard, and we’re like, oh, my God, where am I on the leaderboard? Okay, maybe I should send her another email so I can get higher up on the leaderboard, and there’s all these prizes and giveaways and the timing, and it’s a game. We are human beings. We love games. So, listen to Troy when he’s talking about gamification works. It works on all levels; courses, promotions, webinars. Make it a game. I love it.
Troy, let’s shift a little bit here. And again, we had you on episode 494. You told us what up to that point was your worst entrepreneurial moment, but let’s be honest. It’s been 1,000 days since then. Let’s kind of dive into something that you’ve really been struggling with over the past couple of years. Hopefully a specific scenario, specific moment. I kind of want to talk to you about that, because I love bringing EO Fire guests back on. And you know, you were a successful entrepreneur then, you are one now, and you are in the middle. But it didn’t mean you haven’t struggled since then. Let’s hear about one of those times.
Interviewee: Yeah, well, the one that springs to mind is the first time that we tried to roll out one of our high-end courses. We sold five copies. And John, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Facebook groups, but let me tell you something. A Facebook group with five people doesn’t really work. And in fact, only one of those students joined the Facebook group.
Interviewer: Can you say crickets? Crickets.
Interviewee: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, that kind of didn’t really work. And I think the reason it didn’t work is – I don’t know if we’re going to get into the lesson – but you know, the thing for me was that it was all about my intention. I was trying to sell an online course because I was trying to make money, and I hadn’t added – what I learned is that I just hadn’t added any value to the marketplace before I put a course up online. So, nobody knew what the course was about, nobody trusted that the content was going to be helpful, nobody trusted that I was a good teacher. My intention was all wrong. I just saw it as an opportunity to make some money. And on reflection, I think that’s why it failed.
Interviewer: Let’s kind of dive more into that. I mean, specifically you thought that you were going to come in, cash in, and see what happened with that. And a lot of us kind of go in with that mindset, and of course, you knew the content was going to be good. You would be delivering a lot of value within that. But, looking back in hindsight, what should you have done, or should you just have not done all of it?
Interviewee: I did it all backwards, basically. I put the – I made this great course, and it was. The content was really good, and we’re still using it. The funny thing is, we’re still selling some of that content in courses today and doing really well. So, it’s a completely different ballgame. But, I put the course up on sale, and we didn’t make any sales. Then what happened is I went out and I started to educate the people in my audience about why the course was so good and what was in the course, because I was – I was in disbelief that it didn’t sell. And of course, what I’ve learned from that is that you should do all of that first. The more value you add to an audience – and I know this is a bit of a cliché and everyone’s tired of hearing it, but I’ve got the war wounds and the battle scars to prove it.
If you don’t – if you’re not getting the results that you want from your product or your audience or your online business, the reality is you’re probably just not being helpful enough. And you’re not adding enough value to that marketplace before you’re asking for the sale. What we do now – specifically what we do now is we quantify what our audience wants by split testing a very simple lead magnet. So, before we write any content, before we do any blogs or podcasts, we’ll split test the lead magnet to work out what converts, and then we will produce tons of content really, and not volumes, but really good quality content around that specific topic, because we know that lead magnet already converts, which I think what we did in the past was produce a lot of content, and then put out lead magnets thinking the content would win the race.
And what I believe now is that high-quality targeted content is better than lots of content that doesn’t really resonate. So, that’s the strategy these days, is split test the lead magnet, then go develop content to bring in organic traffic, and then develop a course around that, because we know that it’s already converting.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, people vote with their wallets. They vote with their wallet. They don’t vote with their voices. They don’t vote with their actions. They vote with their wallets. So, presell. If you can presell the course, you know that that’s real. Say, hey, I’m gonna have a beta program. You’re gonna get 50 percent off, you’re gonna get first access. Make it really appealing, and people will actually part with money before something is even created. You know you’re onto something.
Now, what I kind of want to shift to, Troy, is this whole gamification thing, because I love the talk that we did about it, and to me, you just nailed it. That was an a-ha moment. That was a lightbulb that went on, and it’s working. I mean, you actually have taken me behind the scenes, and you’ve shown me how it works, and I was just like, dude, this just works. It just works. So, that was one of you’re a-ha moments that’s working, that’s getting people through the content, it’s getting them excited about it. They’re sharing with others. They’re like, hey, come join the game. Who doesn’t want to join the game? Great a-ha moment. Give us another lightbulb that went on when you were doing this, when you were really understanding what it means to create a course that not only people will buy, but they’ll consume and that they’ll become testimonials.
Because that happens, Troy, and Fire Nation, think about it. When you have great testimonials, like right now, there’s over 1,900 podcasts that have been launched through Podcaster’s Paradise. Every one of those is a testimonial for Podcaster’s Paradise, because they completed that course. Think about that. And now what happens with you, Troy, you have people completing your course. They’re going out and raving about it. So, what’s another a-ha moment you’ve had that can really help us as entrepreneurs?
Interviewee: Here’s my methodology these days for courses. Before you build the course, in fact, before you do anything, I put up a sales page for a webinar or a series of webinars, and yes, that’s right. You heard me right, John. I will sell tickets to webinars. I know it’s crazy.
Interviewer: I love it.
Interviewee: Everyone’s doing free webinar, free webinar, free webinar. I’m like, no, no, no, screw that. I want to get paid to run a webinar, because, as you said, people vote with their wallet, right? So, I put up a sales page for a paid webinar. And if I can’t sell a paid webinar, if I can’t sell a series of webinars for $1,000.00 to 30 or 40 people, then I’ve got no chance of selling this as a course. So, the first thing I do is I put up a paid webinar to learn about my audience and how to market to them and what pushes their buttons. Then I’ll get 30 or 40 people in a beta program for a series of paid webinars, and I’ll run the webinars based on what I think they want to learn, but then I’ll have huge Q&A sessions.
I’ll do 30 minutes of teaching, and then we’ll have an hour and a half of Q&A on each webinar, and I’ll just be answering tons of questions, and then I’ll gob ack and listen to the recordings of those webinars, and every single question that came up in that webinar gets built into the actual course that we’re gonna sell. I know that our course is gonna answer every question that our students have, because I actually get my students to help me design the course through that first series of webinars. And that’s been a huge shift in the way that we approach this. Our refund rate is less than one percent. And as I said, our completion rate is over 65 percent.
Interviewee: I know. And it’s not – I don’t think I’m the best course producer, I just think I’m a really good listener. And that’s the key distinction. The best way to keep your students happy is to teach them exactly what they want to learn, not what you think they want to learn.
Interviewer: You’ve thrown out a couple numbers, like $1,000.00 for a series of webinars. What is your thought process, your belief system around pricing courses? How does that work?
Interviewee: That’s a great question, and it’s interesting, because the first course we sold, we mad five sales, I told you about. That course was $197.00, right? Courses we’re doing these days are $997.00 to $1,497.00. So, $997.00 to $1,497.00. I think people are nervous about pricing their course at a higher ticket item, as a high-ticket item, and that makes sense, because we’re nervous. We don’t know if people are going to buy from us. But, I think that if your course is too cheap, then there’s not enough skin in the game, and people won’t actually care if they complete it, because ah, I spent $200.00 on a course. Well, you know, for some people that’s a lot of money, but for a lot of people, it’s like, well, I’m not gonna perish if I don’t get a return on that investment.
But, if I spent like, $1,000.00 on a course, man, you better make sure I’m gonna turn up to every one of those classes, and I’m gonna go through, and I’m gonna get – and I remember when I did Podcaster’s Paradise. That was like, an investment. It was like, $97.00 a month for however long it was, and I was like, I’m not just gonna sit there and let that not do anything. I’m gonna log in and I’m gonna watch all those videos and I’m gonna download everything and I’m gonna do everything that John says. And it worked, by the way, so thank you.
Interviewer: Well, that being said, like you said, it was $97.00 a month, because I offer pay plans as well as a one-time pay option. So, let’s kind of get into that maybe. What are your thought processes behind pay plans, one-time. Some people do like, you know, where it’s $1,000.00 or three pay plans of $397.00. I mean, what are your thoughts on that?
Interviewee: Yeah, we’ve got a course at the moment actually which is the door is open in about 45 minutes, and it’s $997.00 up front.
Interviewee: Yeah, it’s pretty scary. It’s $997.00 up front, or we do a six-month payment plan of $197.00, so do the math there. It’s like, $1,000.00 up front, or it’s $1,200.00 over six months, or we have a twelve-month payment plan of $147.00. So, I don’t know, I can’t even figure out what that works out. Or no, twelve-month plan of … Whatever it is. Basically you get a little bit of a discount if you pay up front, but if cash flow is tight, then you can put it over a payment plan, you just end up paying a little bit more because effectively, we’re funding you through that period when you’re on a payment plan, because we’ve still got our staff costs, we’ve got support staff, we’ve got admin costs, we’ve got – there are still costs involved in having that student in the course.
So, if you pay up front, they get a little bit of a discount. But I think for me, like, I wouldn’t be selling a course for anything less than $500.00 these days, and that’s just because the market that we’re in is – anything less than that I think it’s just kind of perceived that it’s not gonna be very good. It does depend on the market that you’re in, but I would encourage anyone listening to, you know, if you’re a little bit nervous about selling something for $100.00, then try and sell it for $200.00, because the thing is also, the higher the price, the more you’ll learn about how to market to your audience and what actually pushes their buttons.
And if you’re really good at selling a course for $50.00 on YouDemi, well, you know, you try and sell a course for $500.00 to that same audience, and it’s a whole different conversation. The higher the price point, the more you’ll learn about your audience.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, we’re having a special lightning round. It’s a course-focused lightning round, so don’t you go anywhere. We’re gonna take a minute to thank our sponsors. Troy, are you prepared for the special course lightning rounds?
Interviewee: I do believe I am.
Interviewer: What was holding you back from launching your first course?
Interviewee: The overwhelm of having all the moving parts. That was the thing that held me back, and eventually we figured that out with a series of mind maps and spreadsheets.
Interviewer: What is the best advice you’ve ever received when it comes to launching a course?
Interviewee: Teach what you are passionate about, because I believe the more engaging you are as a teacher and the more your eyes light up when you start to teach your topic, the more people resonate with you and the more they will trust you.
Interviewer: What’s a personal habit that contributes to the success of course creators?
Interviewee: That’s a funny one. Exercise, man. Regular exercise. I’m telling you. Because without that, I am useless.
Interviewer: Can you share an internet resources with Fire Nation that benefits course creators?
Interviewee: LearnDash, which is an awesome little WordPress plugin, which is basically a learning management system in a box for WordPress. It is just damned epic. I love it.
Interviewer: If you’d recommend a book or maybe even a PDF online resource, website even, that would help people creating their course, what would it be and why?
Interviewee: The book for me is Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It’s a classic. It’s an absolute game-changer, and if you’ve read it, go read it again, and if you haven’t, it’s an absolute definite must. If you want to think about a blog for online courses, go visit the blog at Teachable.Com. those guys are awesome, and they’ve got a fantastic blog which is full of really helpful hints and tips for course creators.
Interviewer: Yeah, and you always see them on Facebook. They’re always throwing some free webinar. I think you get to talk to them, Troy. They’ve got to charge for that.
Interviewee: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Interviewer: So Troy, let’s kind of break this down now. We’re kind of coming to the end of the interview as we speak, so just kind of take a second, just share with Fire Nation how you want to close this down and kind of give us some ideas about what you have going on. I mean, this course that’s launching in 45 minutes, per se, however you want to close this down. Let’s hear it.
Interviewee: Why beats how. I’ve spent, you know, the last sort of eight or nine years trying to figure out how to leverage this thing called the internet for my business, and what I’ve realized as I’ve matured as a person and as an entrepreneur is why trumps how every day of the week. Like, if you know why you get out of bed every day, and for me, I know this sounds like a cliché, but I get out of bed to serve my students every single day. That’s why I cannot get out of bed quick enough, because I want to serve my students and I want to help them.
And that why is so big for me. It’s so much a motivator that I now have no problem figuring out how to do things and who to hire to help me do that, because my why is so big, it’s my mission. It’s like a cause. It’s like something I believe in so much that it makes me resourceful to figure out how to do stuff and who I need to help me get there. So, that’s kind of a mindset thing. And then from a technical thing, I want to give away our checklist to your audience. And it’s our 20-point checklist that we run through. Every time we build an online course, we’ve got to run it. It’s got to have these 20 elements in it, otherwise we know that it’s not gonna be as successful as we want it to be. So, you can get that at RockstarEmpires.Com/Fire, and you’ll be able to download our 20-point checklist there for getting started to build your own online course.
Interviewer: RockstarEmpires.Com/Fire. And Fire Nation, you know this. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with TD and JLD today, so keep up the heat, and head over to EOFire.Com. Just type Troy in the search bar. His show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Best show notes in the biz. Timestamps, links galore. And again, one more time, that is RockstarEmpires.Com/Fire. Troy, thank you for sharing your journey once again with Fire Nation, and all your knowledge. For that, we salute you, and we will catch you on the flip side.
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