Boost your business and generate income by creating and marketing online courses! No matter your industry, online courses can establish your brand, increase awareness, and showcase your expertise. Nicki Krawczyk, creator of the Circuit Sales System, explains how online courses help us educate customers, demonstrate industry leadership, and expand our offerings to help grow our business.
Add New Revenue Streams with Online Courses Episode Summary
- Live launching courses a few times a year is risky and stressful. It’s better to have an automated ongoing sales process.
- Evergreen funnels with free content don’t convert well. Need deadlines and proper sales messaging.
- The “circuit” model provides ongoing automated sales opportunities when prospects are most likely to convert.
Benefits of digital courses
- Reach many people easily and quickly compared to 1:1 services
- Provides a “try before you buy” offering at lower cost
- Very scalable – create once and sell many times
Challenges with live launching
- Risky and unpredictable to limit sales to a few weeks per year
- Frustrating for prospects who want solution now not in a few months
- Difficult to build a scalable business with such variability
Challenges with evergreen funnels
- Need deadlines for people to take action
- Giveaway model doesn’t convert that well
- Prospects languish on list until next launch
The “circuit” model
- Automated but uses sales messaging matched to when prospects likely to purchase
- Closed loop system provides ongoing sales opportunities
- Keeps prospects engaged with regular content emails
- Focuses on giving great experience to paying students
Best practices for the circuit model
- Get feedback from copywriters on sales messaging
- Put as much care into later sales sequences as the first
Examples of upsells and downsells
- Offer productivity course after main course purchase
- Intro course for those who didn’t initially purchase
- Coaching calls and private Facebook group for students
- Chance to get individual questions answered and work reviewed
Follow up after purchase
- Welcome sequence and celebration of decision
- Regular emails guiding them through the course
Follow up after completion
- Offer a next level mastermind for successful graduates
Add New Revenue Streams with Online Courses Episode Transcript
Rich: As the CEO and founder of Nikki K. Media, today’s guest loves to challenge the conventional norms of live launching and traditional evergreen strategies. Her proven methodologies provide course creators with a predictable path to success, freeing them from the stress and limitations of outdated approaches.
In addition to her circuit sales system course, she also offers additional programs through her Filthy Rich Writer and Fired Up Freelance brands for would be copywriters and freelancers alike.
A sought-after speaker and guest on various podcasts including, The Traffic Conversion Show, Luscious Hustle, and Life Skills That Matter. She loves to share her wealth of knowledge and insights, inspiring and motivating course creators to elevate their businesses to new heights. In addition to guesting, she’s also the host of two podcasts herself, Build Your Copywriting Business and Energize Your Online Business.
Beyond her expertise in course creation, she finds joy in exploring the world through travel, seeking new adventures, and nurturing her own personal growth mindset. Today we’re going to be looking at adding digital courses to your offerings with Nikki Krawczyk. Nikki, welcome to the podcast.
Nicki: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Rich: So I’m curious, how did you get started with putting on digital courses?
Nicki: Well, my background is in copywriting. I’ve been a copywriter for more than 20 years now. And several years ago, like 12, 13 years ago, I was working on staff at a company, and they had acquired a new brand and needed a bunch of copywriters really quickly. So long story short, I taught a bunch of writers how to write copy.
And you know, your audience is all business owners. They know how important messaging is, but how tricky it can be to actually get it right. So after I taught these writers how to write copy for that company, I thought, you know what? There aren’t a lot of great resources out there to learn copywriting. You can’t major in copywriting in college, which for that brand I’m very happy about it, but it’s a little bit crazy. So I thought, all right, well, let me see what I can do.
And I put a course together and the little baby entrepreneur I was thought, I’ll just put a course together and I’ll just put it out in the world and people will just buy it. Which of course is not how it works, unfortunately. But since then have been selling that course, selling all three of our programs, have perfected a system for selling our courses on autopilot without live launching. And to date on that copywriting course we’ve had more than, I say 10,000, it’s probably closer to 11,000 students through that program now. And then of course, all of our brands are continually growing.
Rich: Excellent. So for someone who has never put on a digital course, and maybe wondering if it’s really even up their ally, what do you feel the benefits are?
Nicki: The biggest benefits are that you can reach a lot of people in an easy way and in a fast way. I think a lot of people tend to move to digital courses from one-to-one services, whether they’re maybe an agency or maybe they’re a coach of some kind or something like that.
You’re obviously limited in the work that you can do. There are only so many hours in the week, and there’s also only so much you can charge per hour within reason at least. And what a course lets you do is take your expertise, and instead of just offering it to one person, you can offer it to as many people as you’d like to, and you could still certainly include live interaction if you want to.
In all of our programs, we have coaching calls, because it’s fun to interact with our students. And also it gives me the opportunity to answer their questions, and their individual questions, versus kind of guessing in advance. But you also then have the benefit of creating your training once, and letting them consume that. And then working with them to answer the questions versus teaching the same thing again and again and again.
Rich: So it sounds like it’s pretty scalable. You create one thing and then you can do it. And I would also guess that maybe some people find that this allows them to offer a ‘try before you buy’. So whether you’re doing the course for free or you’re charging for it, there’s probably less than what you would charge for one-on-one work. So this is an opportunity for you to go on a first date, so to speak, with a business before you really fully commit.
Nicki: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a great point. And there are a lot of different ways you can kind of give people a taste of what it’s like to work with you. And then the same point and the same token too, a lot of people will use courses to upsell to a higher ticket offer. Maybe that’s a mastermind, or maybe that is their one-to-one coaching becomes the higher ticket offer because they only have so many hours. There’s a lot of flexibility that you can build into it that makes it really fun.
Rich: Awesome. So you say in your bio that you like to challenge the conventional norms of live launching and traditional evergreen strategies. So for somebody who’s not in this world, what are some of those norms and why do you feel they don’t work?
Nicki: Yeah, the go to methodology for selling courses is this concept of live launching. And the idea is that a couple of times a year, some people will say just once or twice, some people do more like once a quarter, but you essentially kind of open your cart, open a sales opportunity for people and you say, okay, if you want to get in you can get in now, but only within this one week.
And the idea too, they call it ‘live launching’ because you are there live. You’re on, you’re doing webinars. You’re doing live events, you’re doing live challenges or bootcamps or whatever it is. But the idea is that you have to be there, and you have to be there live. And there are a number of reasons why this doesn’t actually make any sense.
First of all, it’s very, very risky to limit your sales to, let’s say you do it once a quarter, to limit your sales to four weeks out of the year. That means you have to pick the right week. I definitely know friends who live launch, and they pick a week when, unfortunately, there’s some kind of banking crisis or there’s some kind of social unrest where rightfully, people are not focused on. Well, whether rightfully or not, but are not focused on purchasing a course. But unfortunately, if you have set that up as your week when you’re going to be selling, you’re out of luck. So it’s very risky. It’s unpredictable. It also doesn’t do our audience any favors.
When our audiences first find us, whether they first follow us on social media or they opt in for our email, they’re interested in us because of the solutions that we offer. So what live launching does is someone gets there, they’re at their peak excitement, they get on our list, let’s say. And they’re interested in the solution that we have to offer. And so what immediately happens then is they get on our list. They want to hear more. And essentially what we’re saying to them is so great. I have the best solution for you. You’re going to love this. I can absolutely help you, and I can help you in two or three months when I’m ready to sell this to you. Which doesn’t make any sense at all.
And most people, unless you’re the one or two big names in the course creation industry, most people are not going to wait two or three months to get the solution from you. Once they know there’s a solution possible, they’re going to go buy from your competition. So it’s risky. It’s unpredictable. And it’s really stressful to limit your selling window to just a couple of weeks of the year. It’s really hard to actually build a scalable business when you have no idea how much you’re going to actually make.
Even if you say, all right, I’m going to do the exact same thing that I did for this launch last time, except maybe I’ll put more into ad spend or whatever. It will often be the case that you can do the exact same thing from one launch to the other, and one will do incredibly well, and one will just tank. So it’s, it’s hard to build a business that way, and it’s unnecessary.
This is also, by the way, the only industry that does that. The only industry where we have the advice to only make something available just a couple of times a year. You know, Apple will launch their new iPhone or their new product, but it’s not like after a week if you go into the Apple store, they go, “Nope, sorry. Come back in three months and we’ll be happy to sell it to you then.”
Rich: Nicki, you talked a little bit about why you don’t feel that live launching is the best way. But what are some of the limits of evergreen funnels?
Nicki: They’re really kind of two things when it comes to evergreen. One is the idea of evergreen in that, you want to sell your course, great. Just put it up on your site and let people buy it whenever they want to. And I understand the impulse there, right? Then we get into the, “Oh, people found me. They want to buy from me.”
But the problem with that is that when people can buy at any time, they don’t. Human beings need deadlines in order to take action. There’s a reason why every single coupon has an expiration date. That’s why in school when we had to write essays, it was, here’s, here’s when it’s due, because it doesn’t happen if we don’t have a deadline. So there’s that problem.
The other problem is that people create evergreen funnels. And the idea is that, “Oh, people will opt in, then I’ll put together some sales emails, then they’ll purchase, and then it’d be great. It’d be super easy. That’s all I need to do.” The biggest problem with evergreen funnels is that they are built on poor marketing tactics. Things that just don’t work. Teaching like crazy, this whole idea of, oh, give away all your best stuff. That’s exactly what you need to do. It does not work as nearly as well as we course creators would like to believe it does. We always want to lean back on, well, I’ll just teach. I know how to teach. I’ll just do that. And that’s not what gets people excited to purchase.
And so what happens then with an evergreen funnel is because fundamentally it’s one way. You get people in, you kind of bore them with your sales offer, they don’t purchase, and then they languish on your list until you go, “Oh, evergreen doesn’t work. I guess I have to go back to live launching.” So the languish on your list until your next live launch. So neither one of these is a really viable solution.
Rich: Okay, so if one extreme isn’t right and the other extreme isn’t right, I feel like there’s this Goldilocks solution, something in the middle. Is there a third option that you’ve discovered that works well for you, or works for you and your clients?
Nicki: Yes, absolutely. All of this we’re talking about is the stuff that I was struggling with back in 2018 when I was trying to sell our copywriting program. It was a program, like we’re saying, that teaches people to become professional copywriters, and I knew it was a great program. Because people would kind of stumble on it and buy it and they would email me saying, ”Oh my gosh, I have this new career. I’m making more than I ever made.” So I knew it was a viable program, but live launching wasn’t working, and evergreen wasn’t working.
Well, so what I did was took a step back and say, instead of listening to what everybody says you have to do. What do I know? I know messaging. I know customer psychology. And I also know what I don’t want to have to do. I didn’t want to have to do live launching. I didn’t want to have to do free Facebook groups and give away all kinds of stuff, and have to be in there every day, paying more attention to the people who have not yet paid me than the people who actually have.
So what I did was I put together a system that is automated, but also the messaging is very different from the way that we’re all taught to put together the messaging. The schedule, the system gives people the opportunity to buy when they are most likely to want to purchase. And it’s also not just a one-way street. What I now call the ‘circuit sales system’ this past year, because other entrepreneur friends asked me to start teaching them how to do it, so I had to name it.
But we call it the ‘circuit sales system’ because it’s a closed circuit. Once people are in, yes, a lot of people are going to purchase at the beginning when they are most excited. But for some people, it just won’t be the right time to buy, right? Maybe they legitimately can’t afford it. Or maybe just for one reason or another, it’s not the right time to buy.
But what we do is we build out additional automated selling opportunities, purchasing opportunities. And so once they’re in your circuit, they just go around again and again until the right time is until the time is right for them to purchase. And then of course that’s. They then they become part of your put your part of your customer equals ecosystem, but we never give up on anybody in there.
And again, it’s all automated. So instead of you having to worry about scheduling out your live launches or scheduling out this or creating some new freebie or something like that, it all happens. Automatically. So instead of focusing on that, you can just focus on getting people into your circuit, certainly, but also then giving your time and attention to the people who paid you.
The one thing I hear again and again from our students is that they have to spend so much time trying to sell to people. That they end up feeling like they’re shortchanging their students and their clients, and that’s never how it should be. The people who’ve paid us, our students and clients, those are the people who should be getting the best of us. Especially when it’s absolutely possible to sell like crazy automatically.
Rich: So where most people think about funnels, you’re talking about a circuit. So what are some of the ways that you keep people engaged and keep them on your list while they’re going around and around, before they finally decide that this is the course that’s going to take them to the next level?
Nicki: Absolutely. So we have two different parts of it. There is the sales element, which is obviously that is part of the circuit. And there’ll be time in between these sales periods. And we have additional enhancements that we teach our students to add. You can add in things like challenges and boot camps, that kind of thing, but all automated. You build it once, your students still get all of the great content, but you don’t have to be there live for it. So all kinds of other enhancements, upsells, downsells, all kinds of great stuff.
In between time though, that is when you’re still going to send the content that you had been sending before. If you do blog posts, great. You send a weekly email with your valuable blog content. Or if you have a podcast, you send your weekly email letting them know that the new podcast episode is up and here’s why it’s so great. So in between time, they’re still getting that valuable content from you. They’re getting more and more invested in you, which is just going to help them the next time that sales period opens to kind of tip the scales even more in your favor.
Rich: In this process, what are some of the best practices and maybe what are some of the mistakes that you’ve seen people make?
Nicki: You mean in building out the circuit? In terms of creating a circuit, yeah. I think the biggest mistake that I see people making, well, a couple really now. In our program, we have a twice monthly coaching calls, but we also have a student only Facebook group. And within that student only Facebook group, we have copywriters that are not just trained in copywriting by me, but also specifically trained within the circuit sales system.
And I think the first mistake that I’m constantly, and I think now few students are doing it, but constantly encouraging people to do is to get feedback. Because the messaging is going to be very different from other ways that you’ve been taught to message your target audience. Use me, use these copywriters, post what you’re working on and get feedback. Because, you know, sometimes you’ll get real close and just a little bit of tweaking will make it that much better.
Or sometimes, and this happens to all of us, we’re so close to our businesses we can think, “Oh, I have to go down this path.” And then an outside party will say, “Yeah, but your target audience probably isn’t thinking in this way”. So anyway, the number one maybe it’s not even a mistake but strong recommendation, is to use the resources we have.
I think the second one is that people can get very excited about building out the first portion of their circuit. But after that, you still do want to make your additional sales opportunities still as exciting as possible. And I think sometimes when you put so much work in upfront, you kind of just want to sit back and relax. And you absolutely do have the time to do that. But you want to make sure that you invest as much energy and care into your additional sales sequences as well. Because anytime somebody interacts with your sales emails, your sales videos, you want them to get that same feeling of energy and excitement.
And like I said, we have I want to say 13 or 14 different enhancements that we teach our students that they can add into their programs to make it customized and make it unique and make it fun for both themselves and their target audience. But I think it can be tempting, because a lot of our students see a really high conversion rate within that first sale sequence, but we never want to forget about the rest of the people on the list. The people who just for whatever reason, again, it just wasn’t yet the right time to purchase. They should still get some love and attention and fun in the rest of the sales sequence.
Now, the nice thing is because there’s a break in between those sales periods, you do have time to rest a little bit and then dig back into it. But I think treating your whole circuit with the love and care that it deserves, I think is really important as well.
Rich: Nikki, you mentioned the upsells and the downsells that could be part of a sales circuit. Can you give us an example of one of each?
Nicki: Yeah, absolutely. So actually, our copywriting course is probably an even better example. So the course is, unfortunately I feel like I keep saying this to you, I don’t know why. But it’s the course for people to become professional copywriters, so I won’t need to say it again. But as part of the course, they learn everything, absolutely everything they need. However, we know that sometimes people get into our courses, and they just don’t take action the way that they need to.
We break out the suggested course order. It’s a very big course, but we break out the suggested course order, but sometimes people just need a little bit more help structuring their schedule, going through everything step by step, sometimes even a little bit of mindset stuff. So currently within our comprehensive Copywriting Academy, after people make the, ‘yes, buy now’ purchase or ‘buy now’ button press, we take them to a video that talks about our power productivity training. Which again, it helps the people who have a little bit of trouble taking action sometimes, which I absolutely fall into that camp myself. It helps make it just a little bit easier for them to take that action. And we usually see about like a 25% take on that.
And then for people who don’t purchase, if they go through all the first sales sequence and they don’t purchase, a couple of days after it all closes they have the opportunity to buy our intro pack, which is a couple of key trainings about copywriting to kind of give them a sense of whether or not copywriting is something maybe that they want to do and give them a taste for it and to start that learning process.
And then of course with the downsell, if they purchase that they will get a coupon to apply the cost of that downsell to the next time it opens. But we also, once they purchase that downsell, we have an automated sequence where they get another opportunity to purchase a little bit faster than that as well.
So there’s all kinds of fun stuff that you can do to customize it and really catch people’s attention. And maybe even more importantly, meet their specific needs. And across all of our brands, we’re constantly thinking about ways to overcome objections, help people take action, give people the resources that they need when they need it.
Rich: So you mentioned a couple of times a live aspect. So tell me about the live aspect of one of the courses, and how do you implement that into the overall product?
Nicki: Yeah, absolutely. So on our circuit sales system, for example, our students get lifetime access to our course, including anything that we add. Which we’re always adding things. And then on that brand, they get six months access to our Facebook group and six months access to our twice monthly coaching calls with me.
And what ends up happening in both of those places is they have the opportunity to dig into the program and ask any questions that they have. So it might be questions about copywriting, it might be questions about pricing, or structuring their program, or any of these kinds of things. But it’s an opportunity for them to interact, for all of us to interact together, and to get not just my eyes on their work, either/or our copywriting coach’s eyes on their work, but even just feedback from their fellow students can be really, really helpful. So it’s the opportunity to take what they’re learning and implementing it, and just really make sure that it’s as dialed in and as good as it can possibly be.
And the thing is, you can’t necessarily know what questions you’re going to have until you get in the program and start doing the work. So we feel it’s really important to have that live support for our programs. I definitely know we have students, and I know other business owners who don’t have a live element to their programs. But especially with actually on all of our brands, because people are learning something that’s so new to them, it’s important to me that they have that live support.
Rich: Okay. Nikki, what do you feel should come after the sale, or perhaps after the course is over? It sounds like, you keep on bringing back the idea of a circuit and it you mentioned lifetime membership. So what do you do? And what do you recommend when somebody has clicked that ‘buy now’ button? And also perhaps when the course has come to its completion, if there is something like that.
Nicki: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. So I think a miss that a lot of people miss after people purchase, is missing out on a welcoming. There should be a welcome sequence in the emails. There should be a feeling of celebration. Hey, you’ve made this choice. Look at this wonderful way that you are going to transform your life. You should match their excitement. So as soon as they purchase, they should go to a page that welcomes them, tells them exactly what’s going to happen next. Because remember, we are so close to our courses, we know what’s going to happen, but they don’t. And they just trusted us, a stranger. They gave us their credit card, sometimes for a decent amount of money, which is certainly worth it. But there’s that feeling of risk, of nervousness, of is this the right thing for me to do or not?
As soon as someone makes that purchase, we need to make them feel like, yes, you absolutely did do the right thing. And then take them by the hand and tell them exactly what to expect. But not just in that initial interaction, in that first email. There should be a regular sequence of emails guiding them through the process.
You know, I think on all of our brands, I want to say two or three weeks. And the cadence is a little bit different depending on the brands, but we have an email that talks about if you’re starting to fall behind, because we found that that is the time period that people start to fall behind. If you’re starting to fall behind, don’t worry about it, everybody works at their own pace. Don’t worry about it. But here’s some tips for getting back into it. So the more that you get to know your students, the more that you can create. And again, this is all automated, but it matters to our students a lot.
So looking for ways to support our students once they’re in the program is really, really important. It makes them feel supported. It makes them more excited about the outcome they’re going to get. And it also, not unimportantly, it makes them more likely to say, wow, this is a great program. I have to tell my friends about this.
Now on the other side of that, once they finish your program, once they have achieved the goals that they want to achieve that is, it’s really kind of up to each business owner, but is there something additional that you could offer them? Is there a next level? To the experience in our copywriting program.
For example, we had quite literally, we have a, a next level mastermind program for students who have achieved a certain level of success in their copywriting career. And now they want to branch out a little bit, you know, maybe now they want to try adding a digital component. Maybe they want to start outsourcing to other copywriters and kind of creating a, a little bit of a, an agency or maybe they just want to, to maximize their income and start offering higher ticket options.
To their clients. So if, and again, this is not every program has to do this but if once they achieve this goal, if there’s something else, kind of a, a next step for them, that can be a great time to, to. Offer that to them. And they’ve just, they’ve gotten off the high of experiencing the success with your original program.
That can be a really great time to say, Hey, congratulations. You’ve done a fantastic job. Now, if you want even more success, if you want to take your wins to that next level, here’s another opportunity.
Rich: So I can obviously, and I think our listeners can obviously the benefits for something like this for coaches and consultants, I’m wondering if you’ve run into, you know, as you’re putting on this copywriting class or how to create your own courses, if you’ve run into any businesses that are more brick and mortar? Or what is the strangest or most surprising student you’ve ever had when it comes to maybe taking some of these online courses and running with them?
Nicki: Yeah, I will say we have had brick and mortar students create online courses and then use the circuit for it. I don’t think that most brick-and-mortar businesses it would make sense for. Because if you’re brick and mortar, generally it’s just going to make so much more sense to drive people into store. And there are a lot faster ways to do that. And then just optimize the store experience so that when people get in the, it’s almost kind of like a live circuit, right? Once they get in the door. Optimize the experience so that they have the exact experience that’s going to be much more likely to lead to them purchasing.
If you make your sales through a physical location, then you want to get people in the door. Now, the other hand, if you have a physical location and you also sell online, then you have the opportunity. But you don’t want to cross – not cross your traffic – but if you want people in store, get them in store. But if you do sell things online, then there is that opportunity.
I would say I’ve had some students ask me about e-commerce products and it absolutely can work. I would just say, if you’re selling something, you know, if you’re selling a $30 hand cream, this is going to be way too much work to do to sell a $30 hand cream. You’re going to be looking at a higher price item, maybe something that requires a little bit more education, a little bit more context to really understand why it’s so valuable. But it absolutely can work for e-comm as well as courses. And in for that, I should say too, courses, group coaching. But we also have some clients that offer one-to-one services that want to fill up their one-to-one services on autopilot as well.
Rich: Awesome. Nicki, this has been fantastic. If people want to learn more about you, about the courses that you’re putting on right now, where can we send them online?
Nicki: Yeah, absolutely. You can follow us on Instagram and on Facebook at Circuit Sales System. And then of course, if you kind of want to dig in a little bit more and learn, maybe it’s for you, you can go to circuitselling.com. And there’s a video there for you all, free of course, on demand. And you can dig in and learn much more about what goes into all of it.
Rich: Awesome. Sounds great. Thank you so much, Nicki, for your time today. We’ll have all those links in the show notes, of course.
Nicki: Super. Thank you, Rich.
Nicki Krawczyk believes that learning is just the beginning, and her motivation is helping her client’s achieve success. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook, and learn more about her Circuit Sales System.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.