How to Test Your Big Course Idea
Make sure it works before launch!
You have a great idea for a course. But the question is: Is the world ready for it?
We don’t mean in terms of how awesome it is. We mean in terms of the market. Is the world ready for a course like yours?
When creating a course, you have to make sure there’s nothing else like it. We know that! But you also have to test it for success.
Consider this your pre-launch checklist before releasing your course out onto the world. Time to set yourself and your students up for success!
Research the landscape first.
This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget: The first step of testing is research.
What other courses in your subject are currently out there? What do they cover? What knowledge are they not sharing with their students that you would like to share?
On a technical level, this means doing keyword research for the subjects your course covers. KWFinder and ahrefs are your best friends for this part of the process. Changing 1–2 words in your course’s title may drastically increase it’s chances of being found.
But horror upon horrors—there’s already a course just like yours out there!
Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean that you have to dissolve your course completely if you find that there’s one just like it already available. That just means that you may have to work harder to set yours apart.
For example: Could you offer more one-on-one time? Can you afford to lower your course’s price, or bundle it with something else? There’s no reason you can’t share customers with your competition.
Work from your ideal student out.
While you’re stalking other courses, check out those ones out you’re finding on similar topics to yours.
Only this time, come to them as if you were a student.
Are most of the classes in person or virtual? Do customer reviews suggest that one format works more than another? What words do they use to describe the course?
And you’re not done! If you can, look into the individual reviewers and what they have in common. What do they in their free time? Where do they live? Do they have children? Do they shop on Amazon or Etsy?
Spend some time in the places (online and otherwise) where you’d expect to run into your students. Once you’ve started thinking about your ideal course student, you can start tweaking the course according to their needs.
For example: If you’re teaching a course geared toward hobbyists, consider shortening the class times or making them self-contained (i.e. no homework). If you’re working with parents or people that may be prone to distraction, consider adding video or multimedia elements so they can catch up easily.
This is undoubtedly easier if you’re early in your course development cycle. But it’s never too late to tweak (or optimize) a course. Research what your students may have trouble with now, so you can avoid the complaints coming in later!
Say it out loud!
This is going to sound scary, but trust me.
Try a soft pitch of your course to the people around you. Describe a “course idea” you have on a post. Post about it anonymously in forums. Ask former students what they would think about a course with different themes.
Bonus points if you can describe the course in a single sentence! Getting to the heart of the idea will serve you in many ways going forward with the marketing.
Don’t be deceptive about how far you are you are in developing the course. If you’re far ahead in your process, say so. But keep in mind that the less attached you appear to the idea, the more honest people may be with you about how they feel about it.
Offer an exclusive first look.
If you have an established community around your brand, these are the people you need to be asking for feedback. They have a vested interest in how the course goes—they’ll want to be the first ones in on it!
If you don’t have an established base of people focused around your brand, the forums you’ve used for feedback will also serve this purpose. Approach specialized communities around the course topic, stating that you want to create something that they would find helpful and you need their help to make it happen.
You may wish to have your testers sign an agreement saying that they will not share or spread the materials you give them (you may wish to talk to a lawyer or the course hosting service to determine how much you can share with people before launch).
Once they agree to keep the course secret, give them what you wish! Depending on the format of your course, you can offer a link to the video sections or even give the testers a written script to analyze.
Encourage your testers to give feedback. Reinforce the fact that this is not an emotional process and your feelings will not be hurt by their feedback.
Maintain an attitude of service the entire time. It will “click” with testers and they’ll let loose with the feedback soon enough.
Don’t test so much that you’re afraid to make the course.
This is a very real danger for perfectionist teachers.
It makes sense to test things extensively. You want to make the best course possible for your students!
But over-preparing your course can lead to a different problem: Never putting your course out into the world at all.
Your course will never be perfect. It just won’t. There will always be someone out there that doesn’t feel served by your course.
This is not your fault. Really!
You can do everything right in preparation for a course but there will always be a few mismatches. It’s your job to minimize that number of students as much as possible.
With these steps, you’ll ensure that your course is ready to go by launch day and that you’ve set yourself up for success.
Just remember: Nothing is perfect. Aim to make your course the best that it can be!