How to Come up with a Winning Online Course Idea (Or Several!)
You’ve been thinking about creating an online course for a while now.
But the problem is… you don’t know what kind of course to build. Maybe you don’t have a single idea — or vice versa, you have too many ideas and struggle to narrow it down!
Today’s article is for you.
This week, I’m going to show you three paths for uncovering a viable, profitable digital course idea for your business. Even if you have zero experience with online courses, these will give you clarity and direction to move forward.
Before we begin, though, I want to make one thing clear:
This isn’t about picking one path you like the most and sticking with it. Instead, I want you to think of these as “lenses” through which to examine your course creation efforts.
Don’t just settle on one of these strategies and ignore all the rest — instead, try all three and see if they reveal one common idea, or even a few of them! That way, you will increase the odds that your chosen topic has the potential to become a high-quality, high-converting online course down the road.
Sound good? Then let’s start with the most straightforward path that many entrepreneurs still ignore at their own peril…
1. Ask your audience what they want to learn
If you have an existing following of potential customers… and you want to create a digital course that you know isn’t going to flop… what’s the best way to make it happen?
Easy: ask your subscribers and followers what they want to learn!
Most business owners just assume that they already have a good understanding of what their audience wants, so they waltz right past this step — with disastrous results. But you’re smarter than that. You’re going to go straight to the “source” and figure out what kind of topic is already in demand within your target market.
This seems like a super obvious step, but it will save you a ton of trial and error in the long run.
Now, here’s how you want to go about it for maximum results:
- Ask your existing customers what kind of course they’d like to see from you. These people have already given you their money, so they’re much more likely to do it again! Figure out what they need and use these insights to create an online course they will actually want.
- Get input from your subscribers and social media followers. Send them an email and create a post with a simple open-ended question: “What’s the #1 thing you’re struggling with around [your niche]?” This will give you high-quality responses to dissect and study — and you’ll find a profitable course topic in there (or several!)
- Do interviews with your ideal students. Pull them from your existing customer base or from your subscribers and followers. Ask them what kind of course they’d like to take, and how it would need to be different/better than existing solutions on the market.
All of these are tough strategies that will pull you out of your comfort zone… but they will save you hundreds, if not thousands of hours in the long run. Because instead of pouring your heart and soul into a course nobody will buy, you’re going to create something that people already want!
2. Productize your service / “upcycle” an existing product
If you run a service-based business, online courses can give you a way to scale and grow way beyond what you thought possible.
For example, if you sell a high-ticket, done-for-you service, you can craft a digital course that fully replicates your process and delivers similar results. And by doing that, you will transition from trading time for money in a one-on-one model into a much more flexible “one-to-many” kind of setup. That way, you will get the ability to take on many more clients all at once and drive exponential growth for your business.
Another possible solution is to create an “entry-level” type of course that’s much more affordable and low-touch than your main service. This will help you capture a segment of customers who might not be ready to commit to your full-priced service, but still want to work with you.
The best part about this is: some of those buyers will get a taste of the kind of results you can create for them and will want to “graduate” to your full-priced service later on! So you’ll not add another stream of income to your business and extend your lifetime client value — all in one fell swoop.
Also, yet another way to use online courses effectively is if you’re already selling an information product — say, an ebook or a one-shot masterclass — on a very focused topic. Then, you can expand and repackage its content into a digital course with a higher price tag and replace your initial product with it!
Of course, sometimes you don’t want to replace your existing product or service as much as create another offer that would build upon it. Which brings us to…
3. Teach a skill that complements your product or service
As a business owner, the third most logical, natural path for you to leverage online courses is simply…
…teaching something new that complements, enhances, or expands on your existing offer!
That way, you don’t have to worry about “stealing” sales from your other products or services. On the contrary, you’ll build a synergistic, self-sustaining ecosystem where:
- Customers buy one of your courses and later go on to purchase one of your products or services… and
- Customers begin by buying your “core” offer, and then invest in one of your courses because they are hungry for more value
Here are a couple examples of how this might work…
Let’s say that you sell email marketing software to small business owners. What kind of digital course could you develop and offer to them?
The obvious answer is an email marketing / copywriting course that will teach them how to get more sales with email! But you could also do a course about marketing automation, building a high-converting sales funnel, list-building through organic or paid traffic… you name it!
Another good example is: if you run a social media management company, your clients will benefit from a course teaching them how to engage with people professionally on their assorted social channels. You get the idea.
Like I said, anything that enhances, complements, or builds on your existing offering is fair game for an online course!
Also, here’s another underrated strategy that most entrepreneurs don’t do… You don’t have to leverage your course as a paid product — instead, you can offer it as a lead magnet to qualify and capture incoming traffic and later convert it with your “core” offer!
While this won’t grow your income in the short term, it will absolutely give you more high-quality leads, prospects, and customers overall. An extremely valuable free course makes for a killer opt-in bonus that can seriously grow your business.
Bottom line is, there’s more than one way to increase revenue with online courses! You just have to be willing to think out of the box and really hone in on what your target audience wants.
Want to create a digital course that grows your business?
I know the perfect place to start!
My good friend Amy Porterfield — THE authority on digital courses — is hosting a 30-day bootcamp for online entrepreneurs who want to build their first (or next) course.
Join her free bootcamp group on Facebook, and you’ll get:
- A 30-Day plan to take you from totally confused and overwhelmed about how to build your course to clear, confident, and surrounded by people who believe in you!
- Live Trainings on the 7 Key Decisions every would-be course creator needs to make in order to be truly successful
- Workbooks and assignments for each training designed to help you create momentum and clarity on exactly how to bring your course to life
- Live Q&A sessions with Amy herself — after a decade of creating and selling digital courses (I don’t think there’s a question she hasn’t heard!)
- Fun contents, giveaways, challenges, and access to an engaged and uplifting community of other dreamers and achievers
And more. If you’re eager to leverage digital courses to grow your business but have no clue where to start, Amy’s bootcamp will give you all the tools you need!