Creating courses 1: Three questions you must answer before you begin

- May 7, 2015 4 MIN READ

Creating courses is a great way to make a business more scalable as it removes the direct exchange of time for money. The big question is, however, should YOU be doing it?

It sounds so simple: “To grow your business, teach what you know!”

Creating courses is quickly becoming the go-to solution for increasing revenues, building a platform, and breaking away from one-on-one client work.

And for good reason: modern technology presents us with a relatively low barrier to entry. A global economy means we can reach customers anywhere in the world.

As recently as a few years ago, you might have been able to stand out just by offering an online course. Today, that’s no longer enough. In many sectors, offering educational products and services isn’t just popular; it’s ubiquitous. Expected. Normal.

To stand out in this increasingly crowded market, then, you need to create something that really is exceptional; something that gets results for you and your customers.

So just how do you go about creating courses and offering a course that stands out?

The first step is to determine whether or not you should be building an online course in the first place. To do that, you need to first answer these three questions:

1. What are you really promising?

When you get right down to it, people buy from us because they want to experience a transformation.

They want to go from being hungry, to being fed. From feeling ugly, to feeling beautiful. From barely scraping by, to having a growing bank account.

And of course, not all transformations are created equal. Teaching a different way to tie your shoes (for example) may be cool, but it’s not likely to change lives.

That’s why the first question you have to ask yourself is this:

What degree of transformation are my customers looking to experience?

Customers come to us with a set of preconceived notions about how different levels of transformation are provided.

Simply put, you probably won’t be able to sell someone an 8-week course to help them learn a basic skill, like say, changing the oil in their car. If, however, you were purporting to help them experience a career change by becoming a mechanic, then that’s a much higher level of transformation. One where a training course, mentorship, or certification program would make sense.

2. How do you bring your highest value?

We all have a different way in which we bring our highest value to the world. This is the central message of Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton, which encourages us to focus on leveraging our strengths rather than improving our weaknesses.

But have you ever stopped to think about how identifying those strengths can help you determine the best formats for providing value to your customers?

Take me. I’m at my best when in conversation and dialogue. My highest value is when I’m able to collaboratively lead people through the deep, strategic work that leads to remarkable results.

Others are better when they can prepare a message (as opposed to responding on the fly). Maybe your strengths are in working with thousands of people at once, providing high level guidance, inspiration and direction.

The ways that you bring your highest value will have a direct impact on the success you’ll find in offering an online course or program. When you do things that aren’t aligned with your highest value, you short-change both your customers and your business. But when you are able to create that alignment, everything becomes easier.

3. What relationship makes sense?

Once you’ve sorted out what transformation you’re promising and you’ve defined how you bring your best value, you’re ready to look at how those two pieces inform the final piece of the puzzle: what type of relationship makes the most sense.


To help you think through this decision, ask yourself questions like these:

  • Is this a situation where a deep, lasting relationship is warranted? Or is a fast, in-and-out turnaround the key?
  • Does your customer want to achieve this transformation on their own? Or would they prefer someone to just do the work for them?
  • Are they feeling alone, and wanting community? Or feeling lost in the masses, and seeking personalisation?

Some of the answers here will be obvious; others, less so. But it’s worth spending the time to think through each possibility. You don’t want to hare off and start working on a six-month group coaching program only to discover that what really suits you and your clients is a ‘fast, done-for-you, highly personalised’ type of course.

So should you be creating online courses?

After you’ve wrestled with and tackled those three questions, then – and only then – can you decide whether an online course is right for your business.

And if you decide it’s not, then that’s okay. Just because creating courses is a popular thing to do, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Your business, your work, and your ideas deserve better than to be turned into a course, simply because that’s the flavour-of-the-week thing to do.

But if it does pass the test – if it is the best way for you to help your customers achieve their goals – then it’s time to go on to step two: crafting your curriculum strategy. And that’s what I will be sharing with you next week.

For now, I want to hear from you: are you planning to create an online course or educational product for your customers? Leave a comment, or send me a Tweet.