Working with clients 1:1 is great and can be very rewarding, but with more people working virtually and the ease of setting up online group programs, it doesn’t have to be your entire business model if you learn how to create online group programs. If you’re ready to start serving more people, let’s go through what’s involved in designing, implementing and running an online group program.
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I’m a big advocate of mixing things up in your business in order to create leverage for yourself and avoid the ups and downs, pressures and strains of 1:1 consulting or coaching work.
And what’s really neat is there’s no cap on your income when you create an online group program because you can design it to cater for high numbers. And for your clients, well, people really love a good group program so it’s totally win-win.
Working with clients 1:1 is great and can be very rewarding, but it doesn’t have to be your entire business model.
Ideally you should have a mix of high-end clients and mid-end customers. I love that I can help people through my group program, people who would probably not be right for our consulting services.
Contrary to the whole load of work that you think business growth requires, to maximise your reach and revenue you actually need to use the golden rule of “less is more” – narrow your focus, streamline your process, package your system.
You want to work towards achieving more with less – leveraging your expertise in terms of what you offer, to whom you offer it, and how you deliver it.
There are a lot more people who are happy to pay for your knowledge in online group programs or aren’t yet at the point of affording or needing your personal attention. It’s a bigger market and it’s an easier price point for them to say yes to.
So I’m going to tackle this in two parts. Today, in this episode, part 1 – we’ll look at creating the offer, designing online group programs and unpack what’s involved in implementing how you deliver one.
Then next week, in part 2, we’ll look at building the sales process to help people find out about your program and make the decision to buy.
So let’s get started by just reminding ourselves why it’s worth spending time and perhaps even a little money to create an online group program.
Why Create Online Group Programs
When you create online group programs, you’re able to leverage your expertise and offer that package several times a year or once a year for a big program. You’re able to work with more people while offering a premium option for those who want to go deeper and have you help them implement their projects.
Because when you only have a high-end consulting offer, you’re limited to how many clients you can serve. Create an online group program that includes a variety of courses, resources and support, and your expertise can be delivered in a much more flexible and interactive way.
You need to be bringing in revenue in a reliable and consistent and dependable way before you start scaling things up, because it shows you have proof of concept, that people want what you have to offer. This is why the best advice is to pre-sell a pilot program before you start creating any modules or content.
I help people get to the stage where your message matches your market and that your sales process is effective.
If you’re ready to start serving more people, let’s go through what’s involved in designing, implementing and running an online group program.
Here’s what we’ll cover in part 1:
Ideation and Clarifying the Audience
Packaging a Compelling Offer
Navigating the Delivery Logistics
Content Planning and e-tivities
Mapping Your Implementation Workflow
I’ll start with a little backstory, for the last decade of my life I’ve been producing online courses and programmes but never really shared the intimate details of how we approach that and what I do.
Recently I’ve been working with a business group who are getting into the training provider game and had this approach that ‘materials’ was the course. One guy showed me his course and the curriculum was really all over the place, just one powerpoint and no clear structure or way to take the learner from where he’/she is to achieve the learning outcomes of the course.
And it wasn’t designed to be at all well marketed. I felt this was really sad. Because it just wasn’t well done and yet he’d poured all his mind and heart into to. For years, people have been coming to me to help me design their courses and professional development workshops and so forth.
So finally, I’ve created a framework that takes people through exactly how to design a great group program – from start to finish.
In fact, this two-parter is a slice through what’s covered in more detail in my own online group program, the Leveraged Business Accelerator programme – LBA for short!
Through LBA, I help my clients tackle the three big pieces of the puzzle of creating great offers that sell – Clarify, Package and Scale.
1: How to Clarify What You Do to Attract More of Your Ideal Clients
2: How to Package A Core & Compelling Offer that Delivers Results for a Hungry Audience
3: How to Create a Fast, Effective and Scalable Sales Process
And indeed, half of what I include in my book are principles and process and the other half are the practicalities – how much clarity, what kind of packages, how do I decide on pricing? How scalable are group programs?
So, let’s tackle a few typical questions I get from clients (and prospective clients in our Strategy calls).
Ideation and Clarifying the Audience
Interestingly, when I talk about the three steps of clarify, package and scale, where many people get stuck probably 8 times out of 10 is in the clarifying stage.
Here’s a typical email message I get:
My question is about the clarify part. I’ve spent a lot of time looking to align my purpose with my target audience but I’m still struggling to nail my niche?
We looked into this in my interview with Rebecca Tracey for the Leveraged Business Podcast back in episode 16 – we talked a lot about the importance of this initial foundation work, but how many people get stuck in perfectionism that impacts success. Becca shared a way you can think differently about what your niche might be. So I won’t go over that again here -have a listen, it was super helpful.
What I will say is this:
When you start focusing on the challenges you help your clients overcome instead of focusing on the services you offer or the course you deliver, you’ll notice a turnaround in both engagement and take-up.
A related question goes like this:
I keep hearing about “packaging your offer”, but I’m not sure what that means – is it the branding or your copy or something else? What am I missing?
Before we talk about packaging, which quite basically just means how you ‘present’ your offer, let me preface my answer with your best starting points.
You see, there’s a critical component that has to happen right in the very beginning, whether you’re creating online courses or events or products or services, or quite frankly anything that you want people to buy.
And that’s to actually start by asking people for feedback. You want to make sure that what you’re creating and presenting is striking the right chord so you can know exactly what the main challenges and problems that people are having, and how they express them.
It’s really just enough to ask some very fundamental questions. So around this ‘thing’ that you’re creating, you need to pinpoint a few specifics:
What do people really want to know about? What topics are you most interested in? What are the details of what people most want to hear about?
What are your fears or concerns? What do you think you’re really going to struggle with, what would stop you from actually moving forward?
What would you have to know or hear from me to feel comfortable or safe enough to actually buy and enrol on a program that helped them with those things?
So if you haven’t already done this market research, work out who are you going to approach to find these things out, and where and how to reach out to them.
Packaging a Compelling Offer
Right, now let’s talk about packaging …
A PACKAGE is both the program design AND the wrapper to sell it.
In terms of program design, it’s the specific set of ‘things’ you need in order to help your participants get the outcomes/result they want, which your program promises to deliver.
So, that means the tangible embodiment of your delivery model (the program design and blend of modalities that are the means to achieving the promised result/outcomes).
And it’s also the framework you use – your unique methodology – a step-by-step to get your client from A to B.
Your packaged offer is based on your expert system. It should incorporate your positioning (your credibility, branding and pricing) – kind of why this, why now, why you.
Often the packaging extends to the sales page and includes the unique value proposition, based around your expert authority, benefits (to the organisation/team B2B or individual B2C). It sets out the features and cost. It’s laid out in your brand style.
The messaging is around what you will learn and/or what you’ll be able to do as a result of doing the program, why that’s important to solving your (ideal client/customer avatar’s needs/pain points) and why our program works better / faster than ‘other’ programs like this or alternatives, and why us to deliver it. Get specific on purpose, audience and modalities.
There’s another question that often comes up, and it’s another interesting one so I wanted to unpack it here for you too.
Jay, in your book you mention ‘value for money’ quite often, can you explain a little more what that looks like in terms of how you package and price your offer?
The price is set on a mix of various considerations, including:
o the perceived value (i.e. what the prospect thinks they’ll get/achieve)
o real value (in money saved, future earnings, cost of inaction terms)
o the strength of your positioning (i.e. authority/credibility in the marketplace)
o what the market will stand (e.g. industry standard rates, competitor pricing).
Great packages should be “irresistible” to a specific target market, so be specific about the transformation, about the audience’s motivation for the end result they want. Your offer needs to have a clear and compelling title, tagline and description, which really speaks to what the audience most need/want help with and are willing to pay good money to get.
When we charge high-end prices for our consulting or coaching, it’s because it involves doing a lot of high-touch work with clients.
If you move towards something that is more leveraged, that doesn’t mean they don’t get the results and there isn’t value in what you deliver. You can still earn the big bucks from online group programs.
The more interaction with you that you build in, the more you can charge, both because it affects your own time and cost-to-deliver and because the people get the results and they get a great group experience.
Navigating the Delivery Logistics
Another question that comes up is about the different modalities in delivering the program. Here’s what a client asked me in a strategy call – it’s a little long-winded but a great question.
I have an offer – it’s kind of a hybrid of pre-made modules and live group sessions, but it’s not something I can charge much for because it’s quite hands-off. But if I add in more of my time to customise it or to work one-on-one with a client, it defeats the purpose of something leveraged. Is there like a perfect recipe for a high-end program that doesn’t take up too much of my time to deliver it?
I had another client who was going down this same road and getting stuck, he said to get people the big end result they want, I need to customise it quite a bit, which is back to square one, it’s not very scalable.
So while I can’t address that directly without knowing the specifics, I can say mostly the solution lies in identifying the typical path you take any client through and building customisation around the core components through opportunities for dialogue – feedback, discussion, Q&A, masterminding.
That’s what determines the BLEND of modalities when you create an online group program. In education speak, it’s also called blended learning, although that originally was more to do with the blend of offline and online learning for university teaching.
What I can do is give you some examples based on online group programs I’ve helped my clients develop.
- So one is a series of 6 modules based on a lesson pack used previously in live sessions, where participants also have access to a workbook, live Q&A calls on zoom, and a little bit of 1:1 support.
- Another is 6 written modules, assignments feedback, executive team support.
- One was 7 video-based modules, weekly assignments/feedback, coaching calls.
- Or a variation on that, one lady offered two 2 hour pre-recorded in depth video trainings, a live mastermind, and follow on individual coaching.
Content Planning and e-tivities
In designing my programs, I still always follow a framework I learned about two decades ago when I was in the midst of a career in e-learning. And you know, the fundamentals of learning don’t change, they can’t go ‘out of date’, only our thinking about how to use the new digital tools makes things possible, or easier or quicker to implement. We used to come up with amazing learning activities, but didn’t have the technology to deliver them online like we can today.
There’s two people from my university career days in the learning design space who I still follow for designing online group programs. Both Brits, both female – and don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of international people I borrow ideas from and men too so I’m just teasing.
The first is Gilly Salmon, (and she actually emigrated to Australia a while back, but I did some work with her at the University of Leicester in 2005. Anyway, Gilly’s 5-stage model for online learning course design is infamous and has really stood the test of time within the field.
And she also wrote a brilliant book called e-tivities: the Key to Active Online Learning. Despite the first edition being written back in 2002 – can you believe that’s almost 20 years ago!!! – to me, it remains an excellent source of ideas for what you can ask your students or learners to do that helps them learn, change behaviours and develop their capabilities.
The second is a friend of mine called Grainne Conole – who is another go-to-gal for online learning design. She created a framework called the 7Cs of Learning Design that I still refer people to for designing online courses. Just google it and you’ll find plenty of free resources and diagrams.
And I’ve added a link to a full presentation on the 7Cs to the episode show notes.
Another way to look at the design of an online group program is to think about the type of learning that needs to happen and the role of the teacher in relation to what the learner is doing. For instance, in my days of designing courses for CPD (continuing professional development), we looked at things as three-tiers.
There’s structured active learning. That’s where the program is very activity-led. It’s highly participative and interactive. And it’s typically proactive and great for practice-based courses – helping people not just know more but be able to do something better.
Then there’s reflective learning, where the participant is asked to read, watch or listen and to challenge their own thinking or practice. Usually, this circles back to active learning, if you add in an opportunity to discuss or mastermind the new ideas and come up with a strategy they will take forward.
And there’s also plain, simple self-directed learning, which is totally unaccompanied. Many people call this the true evergreen course, because you design once, deliver many times and don’t have to be there each time it runs or someone gets started.
Continuing professional development is something few of us are unfamiliar with. Even if you’re self-employed and running a business, there’s always things you will be learning and improving on.
In the workplace, it’s more formalised, in the form of industry-specific seminars, workshops, training courses, but it can also be informal through one’s own reading, news updates and research as well as in peer groups or mentoring.
When designing a great online group program, you’re bringing structure and support to like-minded people all looking to achieve a successful outcome from the work they’re doing.
Mapping Your Implementation Workflow
Although not strictly part of what’s needed to craft the offer and sell it fast – because you can pre-sell your online group program before you’ve even built the first module – I wanted to include a little bit on mapping your implementation workflow. One, because I love workflows and two, because many like to get organised and feel ahead of things.
And really, all I mean by this is that you have a clear sense of three stages of this whole process.
- You have to design the online group program – the steps here are to do the market research, to do the outreach to get interviews to talk about the focus and design of the offer, to identify that all-important problem language and understand how people want to learn and participate, and from there the second stage is:
- To create the narrative, the copy, that’s going to help people resonate with the offer, see the value, and decide if it’s right for them. And the offer can be made through a sales page, a discovery call, a webinar or a series of emails. All those things need to be created.
- And three, you need to put in place a process to take payments, onboard and orientate your participants and deliver the program’s activities.
So it’s worth mapping all of that out, so you can see what systems and VA support you might want to put in place to help you execute the process.
If you’re doing it alone, you’ll want to see the process clearly so you can set a realistic timeframe for getting everything done and decide on your launch date.
Just one thing to bear in mind, and this is super important.
Reinvention is the key to sustainable business success.
And I say that, because just now, I mentioned the dreaded word ‘launch’. And we need to think in terms of planning out launches, because every time you create a new offer and want to sell it, you need to think of it as a launch, even if it’s not an all-singing all-dancing launch, as I talked about in Busting Myths About Successful Program Launches a few weeks ago (podcast episode 21). In fact, each time to want to enrol people onto an existing program, a launch sequence will help you promote it and sell it.
As we all now, this past year more than ever, the market does not stand still. What worked and was in demand one year may not apply to the next. Look at this past year, who could have predicted the massive changes in our world.
The world is changing, we need to keep taking the temperature so we can respond in what we, as a business, are offering so we can keep serving and stay relevant to people’s changing needs and interest. Your professional identity and positioning may stay relatively similar, but the messaging changes.
Those who have done well over the last 12 months have understood the implications and pivoted their offer. If you think you can’t craft and sell a high-end offer fast when what people want and need has suddenly changed dramatically, then I hope today has been helpful.
Come back for next week’s article (and podcast) where I’m looking at exactly how to put an effective sales process into play to get those important enrolments for your online group programs.
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