Jumping into the Pool of Online Courses
How we created "Facebook for Quilt Shops" and what we learned along the way
Have you ever jumped into a new business idea before thinking it through? Dived in head first without knowing what’s under the surface of the action you’re taking? Started swimming in a pool of unknowns, unsure what the risk or rewards will be?
It’s not what most business experts advise.
That’s JUST what we did last fall when we created Facebook for Quilt Shops, an online course designed for quilt shop owners connected to Janet Lutz’s Row by Row Experience™.
It started with a casual conversation after looking at survey results (Janet is our client and asked us to send the survey) that told us people needed help with Facebook.
Who’ve thought, right? Doesn’t everyone know how to use Facebook? Not so much, it seems.
More than 1000 small business and quilt shop owners responded with a resounding ask for help to understand the Facebook Business page to better market their shops.
So, even though we’d never created an online course. Even though we didn’t know how to deliver a webinar. Even though we didn’t know if anyone would respond to take the class, we jumped into the pool of creating a series of online classes to teach shop owners the basics of Facebook.
Now, back in November when this all started, we couldn’t have anticipated the road we would take to create and deliver those classes.
First of all, there was time. Lots of time. Hundreds of hours to choose content, develop the course, create handouts, design PowerPoint slides, research and set up webinar software, and work out the kinks to deliver an online course.
Then there was the practicing part. Practice and practice and practice delivery of the course so it sounded like we know what we’re talking about. Actually, we do know quite a lot about Facebook for business. But there’s a difference between knowing it and teaching it. Any teacher will tell you that.
Then there was setting up of the website and payment and email marketing to reach our audience. We had the benefit of Janet’s endorsement and access to her contacts. But making all the pieces work smoothly so her Row by Row shops would be motivated to spend time and money to take a class was challenging.
More than 100 hours later, we presented Facebook for Quilt Shops to our first group of shop owners.
That first class was good. But it wasn’t pretty. We had a long way to go, or to use the water metaphor - we were seriously treading water and needed to get a stronger breast stroke going if this was going to be successful in the long run.
Yet, we were encouraged because in that first class, our participants - 11 paying customers - told us they learned something. Bingo!
That small number grew to more than 100 class registrants in the next 3 months, which is still a small number. But it’s not nothing. And we’re encouraged. It’s enough of a number to keep us going.
Helping business owners learn and get better at using Facebook and other online platforms has become a new service offering worthy of our time and attention.
There are others doing it for sure. But the pool is big and we’re committed to finding our audience.
At this point, we are dedicating ourselves to improvement. Delivery options, upgraded visuals, improved presentation, easy payment and sign up options.
We know that we are building this part of our business and that we’re going to work hard to get better and better at it. It’s exciting to know that offering online courses, taking a risk to do something we’ve never done before, is paying off by presenting us with more opportunities.
Here’s what we learned after jumping into the water of teaching online classes:
- It’s content that counts
Our first course wasn’t very good from a technical standpoint. But the content was good. Really good, according to our class attendees. That kept us going. We just had to get better at ‘swimming’ by tweaking and improving the delivery and technical parts of online course delivery.
- Roll with small mistakes
In the beginning, we thought our videos needed to be perfect - scripted, live, and free of technical glitches. After months of working at this, we now know the online course world is pretty forgiving. Natural conversation is preferred over scripted content. Recorded videos with live streaming is fine.
- Technology struggles happen
Everyone, and I mean everyone, struggles with technology from time to time. Staying transparent about problems with technology levels the field and helps people connect. In the end, it helps to build trust as we worked through the occasional technical difficulty.
- You know more than you think
Nobody really thinks of themselves as an expert. But you know more than you think. And for sure you know more about the things you’re in business for than the people you’re teaching. There is a lot of opportunity out there to help people. Figure out what you have to offer that others need to know and you’re golden.
- Don’t’ be afraid to learn as you go
I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Go with your base expertise and dive in. We never would have done this if it was based on our knowledge of creating and offering online courses. We didn’t know much but it was enough to get us going and then we grew from that point.
- Get comfortable in front of the camera
The more we’ve done these classes, the easier it gets to talk to the camera and feel like we’re actually talking to our class attendees. In this case, the lesson is obvious - practice makes perfect. Or practice makes it easier to deliver.
- Create content your customers can relate to
It goes without saying that your offer needs to meet a need. Even better is when you speak the language of your intended audience. We created a basic class on Facebook for business owners specific to the quilt shop industry. Using images from shops. Talking about quilts and fabrics in our examples. Referencing their stores and shops and experience with Row by Row Experience®.
Why not join us and dive into your own new adventure? Not sure where to start? Consider taking one of our online courses to help entrepreneurs like you get comfortable with Facebook, Pinterest (class coming soon) and more!
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