Creating a Path from Your Free Content to Your Paid Course

If you aren’t doing it yet, you can start using content as a course lead-in. And, yes, even if you are not creating courses and have no intention of creating courses, you can still use most of the things we’re going to be talking about this and just map them to the service that you offer, right?

But that said, this is something I’m really excited about. I feel like it’s something that’s not being done very well in this space, there’s not a lot of information on how to do this. There’s a whole bunch of programs on how to create a good course, a whole bunch of programs on how to create a great sales funnel for your course. But there’s really nothing out there on how to use your content to naturally lead in where your courses lead, the next right step for your people.

I intend for this article to be a really good meat and potatoes article. And because of that, I want to start by referencing — this might be something you read, and start guiltily thinking:

  • “Oh, I haven’t been doing that right”
  • “I need to do that”
  • “Oh, I have to add that to my to-do list.”

And that is not the intention with which I recorded this episode. It’s not at all the intention. So I want to preface it with that.

I’m going to be giving you some really good guidelines on how to use your content as a course lead-in, how to create a path for people to find you, and then naturally progress to your course when the timing is right for them. But that doesn’t mean if you haven’t done it this way so far, you are inherently wrong. Maybe you can make a few tweaks, and get better, right? The whole 1% better thing? I do believe in it. But don’t feel like it’s a huge new list of things that you need to do.

I want to start off by referencing the content runway and the fallacy of the content runway as I was originally taught.

There are people out there–big-name gurus, I’m probably guessing that you can figure out who I’m talking about–who say that you need a four-week or a six-week or maybe they even go crazy and say you know an eight- or twelve-week content runway. You do. But that’s also not nearly enough. And I’m going to talk a little bit about why that is.

One, you need at least 20 touchpoints. By touchpoints, I mean times your audience has seen you talk about your course or content topic. You need those 20 touch points because today’s world is very, very noisy. (And as we heard from Lisa Simone Richards a few weeks back on my podcast, that doesn’t mean 20 touchpoints all on one platform.) There’s a difference between an audience-building content strategy and a nurturing-your-current-audience content strategy. So you know, maybe your email list is a great place. We’re not talking about 20 touch points just on your email list or 20 touch points just on your Instagram profile.

We’re seeing that they’ve seen your name and message 20 different times and maybe some of those are, you know, guesting on somebody else’s podcast or, you know, being a guest speaker in someone else’s Facebook group. Maybe that means that in an online networking group, they’ve seen your name mentioned, or you’re actually one of the members talking about things in there, right? Maybe they’ve seen you on Instagram and on LinkedIn.

I am simply saying, with those 20 touchpoints, we need to cut through the noise. So how are you going to make that happen in today’s very noisy world?

It means you need more than four weeks of content runway before you launch your course. You need to know whether your audience is ready for a course. And for that to happen, you really need a long extended time period, that you are using content to lead into contacting you, lead into getting them on your sales page, lead into them applying for a call. All of that needs to happen before you launch your course.

What the Content Runway Teachers Got Right

Your content runway is something that you need to do. I’m not saying don’t have a content runway. What the content runway as I was taught it by said guru got right, is that you do need to be consistent.

  • Are you emailing your email list the same day of every week so that they know they can expect it?
  • Are you, approximately–I’m saying approximately because no one’s perfect, right? But are you approximately putting the same number of posts out on LinkedIn or on Facebook or Instagram or wherever you are?
  • If you have a Facebook Live schedule, are you going live at the same time of day, and preferably the same day of the week, every week?

Again, if you want in-person interaction, or even on Instagram, timely interaction with your posts rates, people need to know what to expect from you.

Being really present one week and every single day showing up live or having posts is great. It’s really good to do a visibility push.

But if you immediately follow that up by not touching your platform for three weeks, it’s not doing you any favors. And when you are consistent like this, you need to remember that being repetitive is necessary. Everyone seems to say, “No, no, I already said that last week,” or “I feel like a broken record. I just I’ve said that all the time.” But your audience doesn’t feel that way. In fact, it’s often you who is the only person who feels like you’re being repetitive.

Your audience needs that repetition because the first time they’re barely paying attention.

The second time, they’re just glossing over it. The third time, they might actually read it. But again, noisy world, they probably forget it 30 seconds later. The fourth time, they might start understanding, actually comprehending what you’re saying. The fifth time, they’ll start thinking about it, even after they finish reading it. Maybe the thinking goes on for a half-hour, maybe it pops up as they’re going to bed that night. That’s how people actually pay attention

And just as a little aside here: if someone in your audience actually complains, like they actually have the balls to do that, that you’re repetitive, take it with a grain of salt. If they’ve noticed your message is that repetitive and they’re still not buying from you, they’re never going to buy from you. They’re just not your people.

Being repetitive is not a problem. Being repetitive actually shares with people that your brand promise remains the same, that you are consistent, that you know what you’re talking about and you’re willing to shout it from the rooftops because you believe in it that much. It helps you build authority.

Is your content creating an open loop that leads to your bread-and-butter offer?

I’m going to say that again because it was something that really took a long time for me to understand. Is your content creating an open loop that leads to your bread-and-butter offer?

So the open loop is getting them on board, helping them have a quick win, maybe answering problems numbers one and two on a one-ten scale, and letting them know that to answer problems three through ten they need to buy your offer. Now, this is not a bait-and-switch thing. I’m not saying give people a false win. I’m saying give them a quick win.

Why do we do that? We want them to think differently about their problem or their goal. Whatever the problem is that they don’t want to have or the goal that they have not yet achieved. We want them to think differently about that.

Why do we want them to think differently? Well, it’s like that Einstein quote. You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. It’s that old adage, right? Whatever got you to where you are right now, you haven’t fixed your problems, you need to think about it differently to actually fix the problems and achieve the goals.

You want to make your audience realize that all the things that they have tried haven’t worked for a reason. What is that reason? That is what your content needs to address.

And then, as the second part of this, the corollary, you want to make them understand that this free piece of content you have out there, in a podcast, in a YouTube Live, this free piece of content is not the end solution. It’s only the solution to the beginning of the problem.

What does that mean? Well, again, let’s say you have a hierarchy of problems one through ten, all on the same topic. The first step is usually realizing that there is a problem. The second problem is realizing that you need to make a change, or you need to add something to your life or release something from your life to actually see the rest of the problem. Those are the quick wins that you can offer in your free content.

But when you offer those quick wins, don’t let them think, “Oh, yay, I fixed this thing and now I’m good, I don’t need to do anything else.” Because if you allow that to happen, they’re not going to realize you’re an actual authority, because you’re only going to help them with a tiny little part of it and they’re gonna think that that’s all you do. So you need to be very explicit, very clear, when you’re putting free content out there, that you want to help them get this little thing so they see you as part of the solution to fixing the next level of the problem.

How do you do this? Well, here’s a little hint: look at the features and benefits of your offer on the sales page and map it back to which worry your best client has that that feature answers. These are the problems that you address in your content.

So as an example, when I was putting together my client Janet Allison’s sales page for her Decoding Your Boy: Less Yelling, More Connecting program, we mapped out a bunch of worries that parents of boys have about raising their child. And then we mapped all of those worries to features in her year-long program. Okay, you’re worried that your boy has stopped caring about school. So one of the features of our program is how to help him create a plan and stop procrastinating over his schoolwork. It’s as simple as that.

What are your audience members, and specifically, what does your best client most worry about, and then address that in your content, help them get the first one or two portions of that rectified and one of those quick wins that your content can offer. And then let them know, “You’re going to run into other hurdles. We cover that in this program.” It’s as simple as that.

Alright, guys, so for a little recap here, we talked about

  • why we want to use content as a course lead-in
  • the fallacy of the content runway as it has been taught by so many of the course creation gurus out there
  • when you need to start your content runway
  • what the content runway gurus got right, and that is consistency and being repetitive
  • how to create an open loop with your content that leads to your bread and butter offer

If you’re not a course creator and don’t want to be, then your open-loop content needs to lead to your service offer. If you’re a website designer, it probably needs to lead to why your website isn’t performing. “The website I would create for you would do this and accomplish this,” right? If you are a fitness instructor, whatever that bread and butter offer is, whether it’s like online personal training, you need to create open loops that lead to that offer.


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