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Grow your online business from first sale to full scale - EVERYTHING you need to know

Do this before making your first product

If you’re a creator looking to turn your passion into a meaningful income, we made this video especially for you. Ahead, we’re going to walk you through each stage of building a creator-based business from building an audience and choosing your first products, to turning your biggest fans into ambassadors and scaling your business. We’re going to take you from first sale to full scale. Let’s get into it.

Before we dive in, let me just say that many will be watching this from various points on their creator journey. I’ve included chapter markers throughout this video and an outline with timestamps in the description so you can find what’s relevant to you.

Now, let’s talk about three essential steps you need to take prior to making your first digital product:

They are finding your audience, sharing free content, and building an email list.

First, let’s talk about finding your audience

Determining who your audience is (and who they’re not) can be a challenging first step. Many first-time digital entrepreneurs have a difficult time narrowing down to a specific group. They think, “My audience can be anyone.” And it seems like it makes sense… cast a wider net, gather more fish, right?

But if you don’t define who you’re trying to reach, your audience will have trouble trusting that your content, products, or platform are a perfect fit for them. The more specific you are, the easier it is for the right people to find you.

Now that we’ve established that getting specific is a good thing, let’s answer the following questions to help us determine who we’re trying to reach.

What are you passionate about?

This is a great place to start because when it comes to sharing content or building products, the things you’re most passionate about are the things people will resonate with the most. If you’re passionate about something, the audience you want to reach will also be passionate about it.

What are your skills?

What is something you’re good at? You don’t have to be the best in the world, just better or more experienced than the people you’re trying to reach. Where your passion meets your skills, you’ll find people who are eager to learn what you know.

What is your current expertise level?

Many people think that you have to be a level 10 expert in order to teach something, but a level 10 expert is going to have a harder time relating to the struggles of a beginner than someone who is a level 3 or 4. Knowing your level of expertise can help you determine the level your audience would have to be to most benefit from what you know.

Second, share free content

Now that you know who you’re trying to reach, it’s time to attract those people by sharing valuable free content, or content marketing, which can begin even before you’ve got a product to sell. In fact, it can be one of the key ways you discover what kind of product your audience would be willing to buy.

There are many different ways to share content with your audience–blog articles, podcasts, videos, graphics, social media posts–and it’s likely that each of these methods would reach some portion of your audience. But if you’re just starting out, it’s best to start with one medium and build from there.

Choose the one you think fits best after asking these three questions:

  1. Which medium do I already know how to use?

  2. Which medium do I most enjoy using?

  3. Which medium does my audience prefer?

Once you’ve determined where and how you’re going to reach your audience, you can begin the process of growing an audience that you own. An email list is still one of the best ways to do that, so in our final step, we’re going to talk about growing an email list.

By the way, we post new videos every week designed to help creators just like you. If you’re finding the information in this video helpful, subscribe and hit the notification bell so you don’t miss any future videos. Now on to our last step.

Third, build an email list

Email allows you to build a stronger connection with your audience and makes it easier to develop, market, and sell products. A report from McKinsey & Company says that email is 40x more effective as a marketing tool than Facebook or Twitter.

So how do you get people to sign up?

First, let people know you have an email list. As a part of your content marketing, make it a point to mention your email list every once in a while.

Second, give people a reason to sign up. You can share exclusive or early access to some of your content. You can also create a free digital lead magnet that will automatically be sent to them when they sign up.

If you don’t already have a lead magnet, you can use a free tool on our website, at podia.com/digital-download-generator, and follow the steps to create something simple and valuable to offer subscribers. Once you’ve finished, we’ll email you a pdf version of your digital download.

Third, make it easy for people to sign up. It’s important for the signup process to be as simple as possible. With Podia’s email marketing tool, you can add an email list signup form to your Podia site with the click of a button.

Folks who want to subscribe only have to enter their email address and click “Sign up”.

You can even create an automation that sends a welcome email with your digital download to new subscribers.

And those are the three initial steps you’ll want to take before creating a digital product.

Next, we’re going to go into more specific detail on growing your email list, including best practices for getting and keeping subscribers and how to prep them for the launch of your first digital product.

How to grow an email list

An email list can be a powerful sales-boosting tool when you’re ready to launch your first product. But how powerful depends not just on the size of your list, but how engaged and primed to buy your subscribers are.

Ahead, we’re going to cover how to get subscribers to sign up for your newsletter, how to keep them engaged, and how to get them excited to buy your product.

First, let’s talk about getting people to sign up.

Email is still one of the most exclusive and intimate places you can communicate with someone online. That’s why most people don’t just give away access to their inbox. If you want to earn people’s trust and convince them to subscribe, check out these five tips.

Think of your email list as a product

This is foundational to having an email list. Even if you’re not selling access to your newsletter, your subscriber is making an exchange; access to their inbox for whatever value they might get by signing up.

When you think of your email list as a product, it’s easier to consider the transaction from your subscriber’s perspective and answer questions like, “Who is my newsletter for?” and “Why would someone want to sign up?”

Share your email list

In order for someone to sign up for your email list, they have to know it exists in the first place. Don’t be shy about letting people know, and make it easy for them to sign up.

Some great places to share are on the homepage of your website, alongside helpful articles, and at the end of valuable social media posts. Position subscribing to your email list as the next logical step for people who follow your content.

Set clear expectations

While surprises can be fun, it’s best to give potential subscribers a good idea of what to expect when they sign up for your newsletter. Be sure to answer these four questions:

  1. Who is your newsletter for?

  2. What will subscribers get?

  3. When will they get it?

  4. How often will they get it?

Doing this removes any ambiguity and makes it easier for the right person to want to sign up.

Offer exclusive or early access to content

If you already create content, you can offer early access to that content as an incentive for signing up for your newsletter. You can also create exclusive content just for your newsletter subscribers, and you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch. You could use an old article as a script for a video that you attach in your newsletter. Or you could transcribe a podcast episode and share the highlights.

If you get creative, you can give your subscribers an exclusive experience without having to do a bunch of extra work.

Create a lead magnet

By far, one of the best ways to attract new subscribers is to solve a problem for them with a digital product. It doesn’t have to be a huge problem or a big product. It could be a checklist, pdf guide, short ebook, or mini-course.

With Podia, you can set up an automation so that as soon as someone signs up, the lead magnet is waiting for them in their inbox.

There are lots of different ways to build an email list, but hopefully using these five tips will get you the results you’re looking for.

Next, let’s talk about how to keep your subscribers engaged.

Getting people signed up for your newsletter is only half the battle. Actually, it’s probably less than half. Because even if you have a ton of subscribers, you’re going to have difficulty selling to them if you haven’t kept them engaged.

When we use the word engaged, we’re looking for people who open, click, reply, and even share. To get subscribers to do that, follow these five strategies.

Send your first regular email within the first week

While you should send your lead magnet right away, it’s important that your new subscriber receives your regular newsletter soon after signing up. It’s close enough to when they originally signed up that they still remember what they were thinking and feeling that led them to subscribe. Sending your newsletter within the first week signals to them that they are now “in” and that you will follow through on your commitment.

That actually leads us to the next tip.

Follow through and be consistent with your newsletter

If you tell subscribers that you send a weekly newsletter every Thursday morning, it’s going to be a lot easier to keep people engaged if you stick to that. People like predictability, and knowing what to expect makes it easier for people to feel prepared to respond or share.

Give special attention to your subject line

Great subject lines are like well-designed book covers. If I like the cover design, I’m going to check out what’s on the pages. Many creators treat the subject line like an afterthought, but it could make all the difference when it comes to people actually seeing what you have to share. Follow these helpful guidelines for effective subject lines:

  1. Use a tone that matches your audience relationship

  2. Avoid overused phrases or techniques as they may be ignored

  3. Use words that work for search and filtering

  4. Use the five “Ws” and one “H”. Where, What, Why, When, Who, and How

  5. Try to limit your subject line to between 50–65 characters

Check out this video for a more in-depth look at writing great email subject lines.

Deliver on the promise of your newsletter

Earlier, we talked about thinking of your newsletter like a product. If someone has given you access to their inbox in exchange for the promise of valuable newsletter content, make sure to honor that transaction.

Encourage dialogue

You don’t necessarily have to do this in every email, but asking questions and encouraging responses can get you a lot of valuable information about your audience. People won’t often reply unless they’re asked, so make sure to ask a single question and let them know you value their response.

If someone does respond, make sure to reply and keep the conversation going if you can. This is a fantastic way to learn more about your audience’s specific problems and possibly discover a product you could sell as a solution.

Finally, let’s get your subscribers excited to buy your product

The right strategies can easily turn an engaged audience into an audience that’s excited to hit the buy button. Check out these three tips for priming your subscribers to buy:

Let your subscribers be the first to know

Even before you’ve started making your product, let them know you’re building something for them. If you’re excited and eager to share it with them, they’ll share your enthusiasm and want to be kept in the loop. You could even let them know that there might be discounts for pre-orders or an exclusive beta version.

Share your process from the very beginning

Let them see behind the curtain as you’re building your product. This not only keeps them mindful that you’ll soon have a product to sell but also allows them to offer valuable feedback along the way, which you could use to make the finished version even better.

Ask for feedback

But don’t just rely on people offering unsolicited feedback. Make a point to ask for specific feedback about the product you’re building. Maybe you’re thinking about making a video course. You could ask if you should just do slides or if they’d prefer to see your face on the screen. You could ask if they’d like some kind of online quiz or a worksheet they could print at home.

When people are able to provide feedback on a product in development, it boosts their confidence that it will be an effective solution for them.

Hopefully, now you feel like you’ve got some good strategies for building your email list, keeping subscribers engaged, and getting them primed to buy.

Next, we’re going to talk about how to determine what your first digital product should be.

What should my first digital product be?

One of the toughest questions to answer when making your first digital product is “what should it be?” There are so many different digital product types to choose from, and you might even have several different ideas. How do you decide which to do first?

Let’s talk about five strategies to help you discover a great first digital product idea that customers will be excited to buy from you.

Talk to your people

One of the best places to start is the people who know you and care about you. Make a list of 15–20 of your closest friends and family members and schedule some time to have a quick chat with them.

You may have to explain a bit about how digital products work and what you’re trying to do, but then you can ask questions like:

What do you think I’m good at or know a lot about?

What are some ways I’ve helped you with my experience or expertise?

What problems do you hear about that make you think of me as a recommendation?

We’re not always great at sharing with others what we think they’d be great at, so you never know what hidden insights might just be waiting for you to uncover.

Likewise, you can go to your audience. Whether through your email newsletter, on social media, or in a video, ask them why they follow you and how your creative work has made a difference in their lives.

Even if you’ve already got some ideas, this can be a great way to validate the ones that will resonate the most.

Do some Reddit research

While there are lots of online forums and communities, Reddit is one of the best because it’s well moderated, there’s a huge diversity of topics, and a wealth of honest comments and questions.

Start with a search for the topic of one of your product ideas and then put in quotes a phrase like “how do you”, “I’m having trouble”, or “please help” to get a list of discussions that contain those phrases and your keyword. As you look through the discussions, notice how people describe their problems.

Are people getting fired up? Are they emotional about the problem? The more passionate people are about solving a problem, the more profitable your solution could be.

Use the Passion/Profit Matrix

The Passion/Profit Matrix is a tool you can use to categorize your product ideas to find a product with high earning potential that you’ll also enjoy creating. Here to explain how it works is Podia’s CMO, the master of marketing, Len Markidan: take it away, Len.

Boom! That’s the goal. You want to choose something that makes money, but that’s also not going to cause you to burn out six months down the road.

Take your list and score each idea on how profitable it is and how passionate you are about it.

Markers of a profitable product include the following:

-It’s targeted toward people who have money.

-It helps people make money.

-People get fired up when they talk about the problem it solves.

Once you’ve scored your ideas, plug them into the passion/profit matrix with low profit to high profit going from left to right, and low passion to high passion going from bottom to top. The ones in or closest to the upper right are your best bets.

Hopefully, at this point, you’ve narrowed your list down a bit. It’s time to move on to the next strategy.

Search for the product you want to make

Has someone already made a product similar to the one you want to make? That’s actually great news. If people are already buying a product, that means there’s a market for it. Not only that but looking at similar products gives you an opportunity to improve on what’s already out there and offer something unique.

Let’s say you want to teach beginner singing lessons. We can look for online singing lessons on a site like Skillshare, where people leave reviews about their experience. In the lower starred reviews, there are often clues about what that product was missing or how it fell short of the customers’ expectations.

You can take what you’ve learned from those reviews and turn them into ways to make your product even better.

Now on to our last strategy.

Choose the medium that works best for your audience

Once you’ve found a great product idea, it’s still important to choose the right medium for that product. Should it be a digital download? A video-based online course? A webinar? A membership? There are actually a lot of different mediums to choose from. Sometimes you can find the answer in the previous step. What did customers of existing products have to say about the delivery method? Would they have preferred a different medium?

Aside from that, there are two important things to consider when choosing a medium for your product:

1. Which delivery method is the best fit for your audience?

For example, if your target audience is young parents with limited free time, a short audio-based product might be a better fit than a long video-based online course.

On the other hand, if your target audience is business professionals who budget time and money for in-depth training, something long-form like a video-based online course could be a good fit.

2. Which medium do I feel the most comfortable with? Answer this question both in terms of what you feel technically capable of doing and in terms of your preferred communication style. Video-based online courses are popular, but if you feel really intimidated by filming and editing video, it might be better to start with something simpler. You might also feel more comfortable writing than speaking.

And it’s okay to start small. In many cases, a great place to start is some kind of small digital download like a pdf guide or checklist. You don’t have to come out of the gate with a 40-hour video-based online course. Doing something small means getting your product out and getting feedback on that product sooner so you can continue to tweak and improve until you’re ready to create something more in-depth.

Hopefully, these strategies have helped you identify a product idea that you’re excited about and that will make you money.

Now, it’s time to talk about how to market your product so you can get people excited and eager to buy.

How to market your first digital product

Congratulations! You’ve made your first digital product. Now how do you market that ebook, or pdf guide, or online course, or whatever you’ve made? Or maybe you haven’t finished making your product yet, but you’re thinking ahead to the marketing part. You planner, you.

I’m going to take you through five marketing strategies you can use even before your product is finished to get customers excited to buy.

Strategy number 1: Email marketing

Topping our list is one of the most effective marketing strategies, and that’s email marketing. If you haven’t already built an email list, definitely check out the first video in this series where we talk about how to find an audience and build your email list.

Email marketing is still a highly effective marketing channel, and with email automation, you can build a sales funnel that will continue to market and sell your product while you sleep.

For most digital products, we recommend creating some kind of lead magnet to get people to sign up for your list and then using a five email drip sequence to sell your product. That’s a series of five emails that will go out to new subscribers automatically on a schedule, with each email designed to pull the subscriber further and further down the funnel, so that by the last email, they’re ready to buy.

In this video, we go in-depth on the five-email-drip-sequence and how to set that up in Podia. For now, I’ll explain the purpose of each of the five emails.

Email 1: Introduce and engage — Use this first email as an opportunity to introduce yourself and ask a specific question related to the problem they might be experiencing.

Email 2: Share key insights — In this email, you’ll share specific knowledge or insights that solve the problem you mentioned in your previous email.

Email 3: Reveal your solution — Now that your new subscriber trusts you and sees you as an expert, explain how your product can solve their problem. This is what we call a soft sell. You’re not trying too hard to get them to buy, but if they’re convinced and ready, you want to give them the opportunity.

Email 4: Overcome objections — Use this email to address some of the common concerns or questions that might make them feel hesitant or hold them back from buying your product.

Email 5: The final pitch — If they’ve made it this far and you’ve done a good enough job answering their objections, it’s time to sell, sell, sell!

We recommend scheduling your first email to go out as soon as they sign up for your list, with the others following in no more than two or three day increments. You could even send them out daily. Many people join an email list already primed to buy, so don’t let too much time pass before you turn those subscribers into customers.

Strategy number 2: Guest post

Guest posting for an online publication or another creator with an established following can be a great way to introduce yourself to a new audience. This strategy can work as a way to build your email list as well as selling your digital product. On the Podia site, we’ve got a great article with best practices for making the most of this strategy. I’ll link to it in the description so you can check it out. For now, let me cover some of the highlights.

Find creators or publications with a following that looks like your target audience. The more alike your audiences, the more value you’ll be able to provide and the better your chances of winning over some new folks.

Center your proposal around providing their audience value. The next best thing to directly providing value to our audiences is pointing them to people or resources that will help them.

Offer yourself with no strings attached. More often than not, the person or publication for whom you’re guest posting will give you an opportunity to tell people who you are and where they can find you online. In some cases, they’ll even encourage you to make a sales pitch. Don’t go in expecting this, but be ready to sell if they give you the opportunity.

Don’t just go after the big names. While it’s definitely possible to work your network and connect with someone who has hundreds of thousands of followers, marketing data suggests that guest posting is most effective, meaning you get a higher percentage of engaged subscribers, when guest posting for micro-influencers, or influencers with an audience size between 1,000 and 100,000.

It’s important to note that while this is a powerful strategy, building the relationships necessary to make it work takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a ton of yes’s right away.

Strategy number 3: Host a free webinar

Webinars are a fun and engaging way to sell your digital product. They’re similar to the email marketing strategy in that you typically offer some kind of free value to get people to show up, then use the webinar as a kind of live sales funnel, encouraging attendees to buy your product by the end of the session. We made a whole series about webinars, including equipment recommendations and tips for making them more engaging, which you can check out here. For now, just remember these tips:

Get people to attend by promising to solve a small problem related to your product.

Be sure to fulfill your promise with the content of your webinar.

Explain how your product could solve a bigger or related problem.

Consider offering some kind of bonus or deal to people who buy your product within a certain window.

And a bonus tip for webinars. Live webinars can be really engaging, but pre-recorded webinars can be just as useful as a sales tool, or even as a stand-alone digital product.

Strategy number 4: Get customer reviews

Reviews provide a vital piece of the marketing puzzle: social proof. But how do you get customer reviews before you’ve gotten customers?

Two words: Beta-version.

Find a group of 15–20 people. These could be people in your audience, friends, or even family, but try to get folks who are most like your target audience. Invite them to be a part of a special group who gets access to the “beta-version” of your digital product in return for their honest review.

Most people will be excited to get access and happy to share their review, though you may need to give them a gentle nudge. When asking for a review, ask for specific feedback about their experience with your product. Ask them for stories of how it helped them or solved their problem.

You can use these reviews on social media, in your email marketing, in your webinars, and most importantly, on your sales page, which is what we’re going to talk about next.

Strategy number 5: Build a sales page

Even before you’ve finished making your product, you can build a sales page and even start getting sales prior to launch. In the next video in this series, we’re going to do a deep dive into what makes an effective sales page. For now, in addition to a big beautiful buy button, consider including the following:

A product description. When describing your product, focus the content on your potential customer’s problem and the specific way in which your problem solves it.

Testimonials. Social proof helps potential customers feel like they’d be making a smart decision by purchasing your product.

Frequently asked questions. Take this as an opportunity to address common concerns, questions, and objections.

A creator bio. It may seem like talking about yourself on a sales page would be counter-intuitive, which is why your creator bio is not going to be about you, but about your customer. Or put another way, it’s about how you became aware of their problem, and what qualifies you to create a solution.

An email list sign-up. Not everyone who visits your sales page will be ready to buy right away, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Your email list provides a way for them to stay connected to you, opening up the possibility that they’ll buy something from you when they’re ready.

Now that we’ve covered these five marketing strategies, it’s time to go even more in-depth on building an effective sales page.

How to build an effective sales page

After all the work you’ve put into building an audience and creating and marketing your product, you deserve a sales page that will actually convert and turn your visitors into customers.

In this video, we explained what the sales funnel has to do with sales pages and how to build a sales page that covers each stage of the customer journey.

The sales page elements we’ll share ahead cover the last two stages, decision and action. They will help your customer make their final decision and make it easy for them to take action and buy your digital product. Let’s talk about the first one.

Call to action

Selling sections can come in many different forms and can be used multiple times throughout your sales page. The most impactful of these is the call to action section. For most sales pages, it’s best to have a strong call to action at the very top and at the very bottom of your sales page. If a visitor arrives on your page and is ready to buy, you don’t want them to have to scroll through a bunch of info before they click the buy button.

So what makes an effective call to action? Use the following:

  • Product title

    Your product title should speak to the end result you’re creating and for whom. The more specific you can be about the result and who it’s for, the more compelling it will be.

  • Subtitle

    A subtitle allows you to provide more detail about your product. You can answer questions like: How many people has it helped? What results has it produced? Do you have a special approach or unique framework?

  • An image, graphic, or video

    If you use an image or graphic, make sure it’s related to your product. But if you can, make a video. Video is much more engaging, allows you to convey additional information, and gives people a chance to get to know you, which can build your know, like, trust factor.

  • A purchase button

    Your purchase button should be easy to spot and make it clear what you want your customer to do: buy your product.

You can also include a promotion or limited offer to add urgency, but try to keep it as simple as possible so your visitor has no reason to hesitate to click the buy button.

Testimonials

Testimonials provide social proof and help visitors experience the results of your product through another person’s experience. About three or four solid testimonials is all you need to give your visitor the sense that your product could work for them too.

When collecting testimonials, try asking these questions:

  • What problems were you experiencing before you used my product?

  • What made you decide to try my product?

  • How are things different or better after using my product?

This will produce a story that visitors can relate to and make them more likely to make the purchase.

A product breakdown

This section outlines what your customer will get if they buy your product. For example, if it’s a 4 section pdf guide, describe each section. If it’s some kind of framework with a checklist, describe both and how they’ll work. If it’s an online course, lay out the course structure, lesson titles, and course delivery method. The more informed your visitor feels about what they’ll get when they buy, the easier it will be for them to make a decision.

FAQ

A frequently asked questions section is a great place to overcome objections and address some specific questions your visitor may need answered before they commit. You might answer questions like, is there a refund policy, when or how will my product be delivered, what happens if you change or update your product in the future?

Your visitor may just need that final nudge over the edge to make a purchase, and the frequently asked questions section is frequently a way you can get them to buy.

Guarantee

Any time we buy something, there’s a risk that the product won’t solve our problem or satisfy our needs. If you’re willing to take on some of the risk by offering a guarantee, your customer will feel more confident and willing to make a purchase. This is called risk reversal, and a money-back guarantee is one of the most common strategies.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to offering a guarantee. You could do a specific time frame like 60 days, 90 days, or even lifetime. You could do a specific percentage like 50% money-back, 75% money-back, or even full refund.

It seems counter-intuitive, but sellers who offer some kind of money-back guarantee almost always outperform those who don’t. Remember that this strategy is about taking on some of the risk so that your visitor feels more confident in making a purchase, so do what feels right for your product.

Those are our top five picks for the most effective sales page elements. And again, check out this video if you want to go even deeper on this topic. Next, we’re going to talk about a shortcut for expanding your product offerings and how to use the digital product you’ve already made to create a full-scale online course.

Shortcut for making your first online course

Up to this point, we’ve focused mostly on smaller digital products. Now it’s time to expand your offerings. If you’ve made a pdf guide, checklist, or some other type of digital product or lead magnet, that can be a great jumping-off point for your first online course. Ahead, I’m going to show you three different ways to turn your existing product into an online course so you can offer even more value to your customers. They are:

  • Change up the format

  • Go deeper

  • Take them further

Before we dive into the first one, I want to share an important principle. Any product you sell is about taking your customer on a journey from where they are to where they want to be. A customer starts with some unfulfilled desire or need, and your product is the bridge that helps satisfy their desire or need.

In this sense, digital downloads are typically smaller bridges, while online courses are typically larger bridges. Of course, the size of the bridge doesn’t matter as long as it effectively gets your customers to their desired destination. With that principle in mind, let’s talk about the first way we can turn a digital download into an online course.

Number 1: Change up the format

Most digital downloads are formatted as something simple like a pdf or jpeg. One way you can take the same material and turn it into an online course is to create an audio or video version of that information.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a pdf guide that teaches young adults how to structure a household budget. You can take that same pdf and record yourself on video going over each section of the budget. This provides a more immersive experience for your customers, and in many cases, you’ll end up providing extra details and insights that will make the material even more valuable.

And if making videos sounds intimidating, don’t worry. We actually created an entire playlist walking you through how to create a video-based online course using just your iPhone. Now onto the second method.

Number 2: Go deeper

A digital download is usually meant to offer a quick solution, which means it doesn’t often go as in-depth on whatever topic it covers. Your digital download can be valuable and effective but can still leave gaps your customers will need to fill in on their own. One of the ways you can turn your digital download into an online course is by identifying and creating content to fill in those gaps.

For example, let’s say I offer a pdf checklist for people creating their first YouTube channel. I may list things like:

  • Choose a dedicated time for filming, editing, and publishing

  • Identify who your channel is for and what kind of content they’re looking for

  • Write down 60 topic ideas

A customer who actually works through that checklist is going to get some value, but with an online course, I can go even deeper into each of those items and make it more likely that my customer will succeed.

So “Choose a dedicated time for filming, editing, and publishing” could turn into one of the course modules with three separate video lessons about filming, editing, and publishing.

“Write down 60 topic ideas” could be broken down into additional steps like doing keyword research, using creator tools like TubeBuddy, and crafting irresistible titles.

An online course brings your customer to the same destination but does so while equipping them with even more valuable information that they’ll need to succeed.

Going deeper is just one way to offer more value, but what if you want to lead your customers even further along in their journey to a whole new destination? That brings us to our third method.

Number 3: Take them further

Using the bridge metaphor, the first two methods are about bringing your customer to the same destination but with a stronger, better bridge. With this last method, we’re picking up where our digital download leaves off and building a whole new bridge to the next destination.

For example, let’s say you offer a pdf guide teaching people how to play the guitar. You’re taking your customer from where they are–wanting to play the guitar but not knowing how–to where they want to be–being able to pick up a guitar and play a handful of chords.

A natural next destination could be teaching your customer how to write their first song on a guitar. This approach builds on what your customer learned from your digital download and brings them to a whole new destination.

You can use any one or all three of these approaches to take what you’ve already created and offer even more value through an online course. And the best part? You can use your digital download as a lead magnet to get new customers to buy your online course.

Next up, we’re going to talk about how to build a sales funnel with multiple digital products to maximize your selling potential.

How to build a sales funnel for your online business

Anyone who’s ever purchased anything had to go on some kind of buyer’s journey. Creators who are most successful at getting people to buy their products at the end of the buyer’s journey build what’s called a sales funnel. One of the themes we discussed in the previous section was how most valuable products take someone from where they are to where they want to be. That part of the journey, after a customer has decided to purchase your product, can’t happen unless the customer completes the part of the journey before. The buyer’s journey.

Ahead, we’re going to talk about how to intentionally shape the buyer’s journey with a sales funnel, breaking down each stage of the process and providing examples of how Podia’s marketing tools can work in each stage.

There are four stages to an effective sales funnel. They are awareness, interest, decision, and action.

First, let’s talk about awareness. Before a potential customer can consider whether or not they need or want your product, they need to be aware that it exists.

Many creators build awareness through posting on social media, affiliate marketing, networking with people in their niche, and content marketing.

While many of these things happen outside of the tools Podia offers, there are two tools that can help you create awareness.

The first is community. Community can be sold as a product by offering different types of membership plans, but you can also offer a free plan and post public topics that anyone can view and share. This can be even more powerful if you have existing members who share your public content.

Second is affiliate marketing. One of the best ways to raise awareness is through word of mouth. Affiliate marketing does this so effectively because it provides a monetary incentive for people to share your products with others. Podia offers affiliate marketing on Shaker and Earthquaker plans and makes it super easy for you to track and pay your affiliates.

Now that you’ve got a structure in place to help people become aware of your products, it’s time to move them down the funnel into the next stage, interest.

A potential customer is interested when it’s clear to them that your product might be a potential solution to a problem they have. Interest can range from very broad, like someone who needs to make more money in their business and sees that you sell business coaching, to very specific, like someone who needs to fix their hiring process and sees that you teach how to attract and hire great employees.

Interest can be achieved through things like a lead magnet, email list, or free webinar.

In this series, we’ve already talked a lot about how to make a digital download. A free digital download makes a great lead magnet because it allows your potential customer to experience your ability to solve their problem without them having to spend anything.

Another tool you can use with Podia is email marketing. An email newsletter is a great way to provide value while building a relationship with your potential customer. Your connection with the customer is super important in the next stage, and an email newsletter does a great job at deepening that connection over time.

You might also consider offering a free webinar. Webinars are also available through Podia and can be a fantastic way to take your potential customer all the way through the later stages of the sales funnel. Webinars gain a customer’s interest by promising to solve some small problem they may be experiencing. In this video, we talk about how to run a successful webinar. Definitely check it out if you want to know how to run a webinar like a pro.

The key to using these tools is to prime the customer for the next stage. Promise to solve a small problem, deliver on that promise, and then once they’ve seen that you can deliver, show them the solution you’ve built for their bigger problem. If you can do this effectively, you’ve led them into the decision stage.

The decision stage is where customers are convinced that your product is a potential solution, but they still have questions or concerns. Your job in this stage is to answer their questions and concerns and to make it clear to them that your product would be a great fit.

With Podia’s messaging feature, potential customers can chat with you in real-time to get answers to their questions. Many Podia creators have helped customers through the decision stage using this tool. The ability of the customer to reach the product creator and get answers to their questions right away is a huge plus when it comes to their decision of whether or not to buy.

Email marketing works in this stage as well. With Podia’s email marketing tool, you can build an automated email sequence that sends a series of emails on a predetermined schedule. In this video, we talk about how to build a five email drip sequence that will take your customer through each stage of the funnel and get them to buy your products. The best thing about the drip sequence is that once you’ve built it, it does the rest of the work for you. Like, you could actually be making sales in your sleep. Not a bad deal.

One of the most important tools Podia offers for this stage, and really every stage besides awareness, is the Podia site builder. With the Podia site builder, you can build a sales page that includes important elements to help your customer make a final decision. These elements can include an FAQ section, guarantees, testimonials, and special offers. Check out this video if you’d like a more in-depth look at how to build an effective sales page.

Once your customer has enough information and makes a decision, it’s time for them to take action. It would be a shame if your customer made it this far, and it wasn’t one hundred percent clear on how to take action. In this stage, it’s your job to make it as easy and obvious as possible for your customer to click the buy button.

One of the most obvious places to do this is on your sales page. The Podia site builder makes it easy to create sales sections on any of your pages. They could be as simple as a buy button or elaborate as a call to action with a big title, description, video, and button.

With Podia’s Shaker and Earthquaker plan, you can also embed buy buttons and bring the Podia checkout experience to your own website.

You can also link directly to products in your emails, and Podia will track when a customer completes a purchase after clicking your product link.

Finally, with any Podia plan, you can offer upsells to other products or product bundles, so you can capture new sales when customers are most primed to buy, at the point of purchase.

So those are the four stages of the sales funnel and how you can use Podia tools to intentionally shape the buyer’s journey and lead them to your products.

Now you’ve got everything in place that you need to run a successful business. But you don’t want to stop there. Let’s talk about how you can level up your business by building a community around your brand.

How to build an online community

An online community can be a gamechanger when it comes to connecting with your customers, understanding their needs, and making great products. It’s one of those tools that works in just about any stage of your sales funnel to help you get more customers and make more sales, especially if you build it the right way.

But before we get into that, let’s talk briefly about what an online community is and why you should build one.

Online communities have existed for just about as long as the internet has been around. That’s because people love to connect around things they’re passionate about. In fact, 76% of internet users participated in an online community in 2019, according to the Global Web Index.

Today, you can find online communities in the form of Facebook groups, Reddit forums, and community platforms. Community even happens in the comments sections of posts and articles.

Building a community can enhance your online business in a number of ways, no matter how big or small your audience. A 2020 report by The Community Roundtable revealed that creators who build online communities for their brand benefit from more brand awareness, greater customer loyalty, and increased sales. Creators also get a front-row seat to conversations happening about their niche and products, which makes it easier to create digital products their customers will love.

So now you’re sold on the idea of building an online community, but how do you start, grow, and maintain it? Let’s dive into those questions.

How do you start an online community?

If you already have an audience, whether that’s in the form of existing customers, email subscribers, or social media followers, start there. People who are already familiar with you and have benefited in some way from your products or content are the best folks to start out with.

Not only are they the most likely to join, but they’re also more likely to spread the word about your community bringing new folks to your brand.

Whether you have an audience or not, you need to answer these really important questions: 1. Who is my community for?

2. What does my community do for them?

When marketing your community, you want to be clear about what kind of person should join and what they stand to gain by joining. Instead of vague promises like “You’ll become a better writer” or “You’ll get a bunch of YouTube subscribers”, try to offer something more specific and tangible like “Write the first draft of your first book” or “Get your first 100 YouTube subscribers”.

And, of course, in order to build a community, you need to find somewhere to host it. Many creators turn to free options like Facebook groups or online forums. Some pay for community platforms like Patreon or Mighty Networks. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s the right fit for your business and your audience.

If you sell digital products through Podia, using our Community feature to host your online community is a no-brainer. It just makes sense for your community to be built in the same place where you sell your products.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about our Community feature.

Now onto the next question.

How do you grow an online community?

Congratulations on starting your online community! Now it’s time to nurture it so it can grow. Use the following three tips:

  1. Make the rules.

    While this doesn’t sound like the most fun task, it’s vital in order to create an environment potential members will feel safe to join. Rules help people understand the appropriate ways to interact and engage. When a potential member sees that you’ve put thought into the rules, it communicates to them that you care about their experience, and it sets their mind at ease.

  2. Dial in your onboarding.

    When someone joins your membership, they’re often at their most enthusiastic. This is a great time to let them know the rules and routines, invite them to engage, and encourage them to share the community with others. There’s no right set of things to do with new members, but the most important thing is to have a purposeful plan for how you’ll introduce new members to your community experience.

  3. Encourage interaction.

    Even when members are enthusiastic, they sometimes need a little nudge to engage with one another. Help get conversations going by having an ice breaker session, suggesting topics, or scheduling routine interactions like a weekly check-in or Q&A session.

  4. Share behind-the-scenes content.

    Your online community is a great place to share early versions of products or projects. Community members feel special when they get a peek behind the curtain and are given an opportunity to share their ideas. It gives them a sense of ownership which makes it more likely that they’ll be excited to share your product, content, or project when it’s ready to go live.

When it comes to growing your online community, it’s not much different from growing a flower garden. Give it good soil, a safe place to grow free of pests, and make sure it gets plenty of water and sunlight, or interaction and content.

Now onto our last question.

How do you maintain an online community?

Running an online community can be exciting but also daunting. How do you keep people coming back? How do you keep people from getting bored and leaving? Check out these three tips for keeping your growing community humming along:

  1. Get a moderator.

    An online community thrives when there’s regular interaction from the people running it. But you can’t be online 24/7 keeping things interesting. That’s where a moderator or moderators come in. Moderators ensure that people are interacting within the community guidelines in your absence, but more importantly, they can encourage engagement and answer questions. Choosing moderators you trust and empowering them to act on your behalf takes some up-front work, but it’s well worth the benefit of a thriving community.

  2. Be responsive.

    When community members ask questions, share concerns, or start conversations, try to engage as often as possible. This shows that you’re listening to them and encourages members to be more active. You can make it a bit easier on yourself by providing some basic instructions for people who want to engage in a specific way, like providing a topic board just for questions, or just for product feedback.

  3. Keep office hours.

    If you can be available in the community with some regular consistency, let your members know when you’ll be around. And when you won’t be around. This helps set expectations for when you’re likely to engage and keeps you from feeling like you have to pop in to your community all the time.

As you start your online community, I hope the answers we’ve provided will help you build an online community that will thrive and become a huge asset for your online business.

Next up, we’ll get into affiliate marketing and talk about how to turn your biggest fans into your best ambassadors.

How to run a successful affiliate marketing program

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful source of revenue for your business, but how do you attract the right kind of affiliates and set them up for success? In the previous section, we talked about building an online community and a little bit about how community members can serve as ambassadors for your business. Affiliate marketing takes this idea to the next level.

Affiliates are people who are both excited about your brand and have some kind of incentive for referring people to your platform. That powerful combination could be a huge benefit for your business if you can attract and empower the right kind of affiliates.

The following five tips will help you make life as easy as possible for your affiliates, so they’ll be equipped and eager to promote your brand to their friends and followers.

Tip #1: Target affiliates who love your brand

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if your goal is to get affiliates who genuinely love your brand and want to help you succeed, it begs the question… should you just let anyone into your affiliate program?

Having a public affiliate program may be the right move for some online businesses, but managing affiliates, even inactive ones, takes time and energy. If you want affiliates who will be worth your efforts, consider the following:

Have potential affiliates complete an application

An application gives you an opportunity to share and set expectations. It can also thin the crowd a bit since people are less likely to complete an application unless they’re truly enthusiastic.

Run an invite-only program

Some customers or members could make great affiliates if they fit certain criteria like they’ve purchased a certain number of products from you, or they’ve been a customer for a certain amount of time. Using invite-only allows you to set that criteria and puts you in total control over who’s in your affiliate program.

Recruit from within your community

If you’ve built an online community for your brand, it’s probably filled with members who would make great affiliates. These are people who share your products and content online, regularly participate in discussions, and who seem genuinely invested in your success. An online community is valuable in a number of ways, but in this case, it can be a great incubator for the kinds of affiliates you’re looking for.

Tip #2: Set a competitive commission rate

While it’s nice to find people who are excited about your brand, no amount of excitement is going to replace commissions when it comes to getting affiliates to sustain their marketing efforts.

The most popular form of commission is percentage-based, where your affiliate earns a percentage of whatever product or service they sell. Other forms include a fixed dollar amount per transaction and free or discounted access to your digital products. You may choose one or some combination of these commission types.

To help you decide, do the following:

Scope out the competition.

Find competitors in your niche and look at their affiliate program for ideas for how you might structure yours. Being competitive doesn’t necessarily mean offering the highest commission. It’s important to make sure that whatever you choose is sustainable for your business. When looking at competitors, determine what differentiates your brand from theirs, consider your business’ needs, and structure your commission accordingly.

Look at affiliate programs from non-competitors:

If you only look within your niche, it’s easy to get trapped in a conventional affiliate structure. Looking outside of your niche can uncover new ideas and help you determine a fresh, more attractive approach to your affiliate program.

Tip #3: Have an onboarding strategy

The most important question after “how do you get affiliates?” is “what do you do with them once you’ve got them?” The best way to capitalize on the initial excitement from an affiliate who has just joined is to use an onboarding strategy. An effective onboarding strategy should consist of the following:

  • A welcome message — to welcome and thank affiliates for joining the program.

  • Information about payouts — including how commissions are calculated and when and how they’ll receive them.

  • Frequently asked questions — to address some of the most common questions and concerns.

  • Tips for getting their first referral — so they can take action right away.

  • Links to marketing assets — so they have everything they need to share your business with others.

Speaking of marketing assets, that brings us to our next tip.

Tip #4: Provide marketing assets

This one is important enough that it deserves its own section in this video. Providing things like social media graphics, branding assets, promotional materials, and marketing copy can remove some of the friction of sharing your products because the affiliate doesn’t have to try to come up with those things on their own.

Consider having a dedicated place, like a cloud folder or web page, where you keep up-to-date marketing assets your affiliates can access any time.

You may also include script templates they could use in their posts, articles, or videos.

All of that said, the most effective marketing comes from affiliates who are able to articulate, in their own voice and from their personal experience, what they love about your products. Be sure to encourage your affiliates to tell their own stories in their own style, even if it means straying a bit from your branding guidelines.

Tip #5: Track and tweak

The long-term success of your affiliate program depends on your keeping track of affiliate activity and making changes when necessary. Use the following three practices to ensure your affiliate program will continue to run smoothly:

Check in with your affiliates.

Keep the lines of communication open with your affiliates so they can share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas with you. An affiliate might come up with a game-changing marketing strategy that hadn’t occurred to you. 

Communicate changes and special promotions.

Go above and beyond to keep your affiliates in the loop about changes and special promotions, and make it easy for them to integrate those things into their strategy by providing updated marketing assets.

Look at analytics and make changes if necessary.

When it comes to any marketing strategy, data is your best friend. It’s easiest to improve something when you can measure it, so when choosing where to host your affiliate program, it’s important to find a provider that gives you real-time data about your affiliates’ activities.

At Podia, affiliate marketing is available for our Shaker and Earthquaker plans and works seamlessly with your Podia site and products. It features a dashboard where you can keep track of your affiliate activity and where it’s simple to set, manage, and pay out commissions. Because affiliate marketing is offered through Podia, it integrates with other great Podia tools like email marketing and messaging, so you can easily communicate with your affiliates.

If you’re not already a customer, you can check out this and many other great Podia features at Podia.com/signup.

In the next and final section, we’ll put everything together and talk about the most effective ways to multiply your success and scale up your business.

How to scale up your online business

Creating products and experiences for your audience takes a fundamentally different skill set than what’s required to build and grow a business. Yes, to have a business, you need to have a product in the first place, but once you’ve created a product and attracted an audience for your business, how do you grow and scale it?

We’re going to take these last moments together to build on what we’ve discussed in the previous sections and take you through five steps to scale your online business. Let’s jump into number one.

Step 1: Connect with experts

Most of us grow personally and professionally by seeking the advice of experts. When it comes to the next stages of your business, there are many ways to do this. You can listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read books, but if you’re looking for a truly powerful and direct way to gain insights into how to scale your business, try the following:

Join a mastermind group

A mastermind group is a small group of people, generally around 6–8, who are in a similar place in their business and are committed to growing together. It gets its name from the idea that when great minds come together, they form a “mastermind”.

Mastermind group meetings happen at some regular frequency like weekly or monthly and usually consist of members sharing what they’ve learned, what they’re struggling with, and their vision for the future of their business. They serve as a way to gain new insights, get unstuck, and as a way to stay accountable for the things you’re working on in your business.

You can probably sit down for five minutes and come up with a list of at least 10–20 people who could make great mastermind group members. Or, someone you know may already have a group that you could potentially join. If you’re interested in learning more about how to form or run a mastermind group, let me know in the comments.

Get a business coach

Where a mastermind group can help you with business insights related to where you are currently, a business coach can use their experience and expertise to show you next steps and what you should be planning for further down the road.

Business coaches can be very involved, like someone who meets with you weekly and has a deep understanding of your business operations. They can also play more of a consultant role, checking in with you quarterly and keeping a bird’s eye view to keep your business on the right trajectory.

Getting a business coach can feel like a big step. It’s best to think of it like an investment. If your business already makes money and a business coach could help you scale that up while avoiding major hiccups along the way, that’s an investment worth making.

Step 2: Automate and integrate

Do you ever wish there were extra of you? One to handle the creating, one to handle the marketing, one to handle bookkeeping. Instead of cloning yourself, consider the following Podia tools to increase your sales while saving some time:

Build an email drip sequence

Earlier in the video series, we talked about how to build an email drip sequence that can help you make sales in your sleep. If you haven’t already done so, start right away. An email drip sequence is a powerful and low-maintenance tool to help you get sales.

With Podia, you can easily set up an email campaign, choose from various entrance and exit conditions, set the number of emails you want in your drip sequence, and the frequency at which they’ll go out.

And it’s easy to make edits if you ever need to tweak something to make your sales machine run more smoothly.

Embed buy buttons on your website

Podia offers a custom website tool where you can share and sell your products with a fully integrated checkout system so you don’t have to mess with plugins. But, if you happen to have a separate website and you’re on the Shaker or Earthquaker plan, you can offer the same great checkout system by embedding buy buttons right on your website.

You can do this right from your Podia dashboard in your “Products” tab and copy embeddable code for a link, buy button, or product card to paste into your website so you can sell your digital products more easily.

Putting these features in place can help you feel a little bit like you’ve cloned yourself… at least until they figure out how to do it for real.

Step 3: Leverage your audience

You might think of your audience in terms of a single interaction like a purchase or a social media comment, but it’s much more than that. When someone engages with your business, that’s just the beginning of the customer relationship. If you’ve cultivated trust and goodwill with your audience and people are enthusiastic about your business, you can leverage that enthusiasm into action. Try the following:

Invite a community member to moderate

If you have an online community, keeping up with your community and engaging with people can be super time-consuming. A moderator helps lighten the load by ensuring that members are following community guidelines and, in some cases, engaging for you when you’re away.

Build an affiliate program

An affiliate program allows you to incentivize your biggest fans to share your business within their circle of influence. This can be a great way to reach an audience you might not otherwise have access to. In the previous video in this series, we showed you how to build an effective affiliate program. Definitely check that out if you’re interested in starting one for your business.

Step 4: Use the umbrella method

The umbrella method is an approach to creating new products for your business that meet the customer where they are. If you think about an umbrella, there are multiple tips at the end of each rib. For your business, these represent your products priced from low to high. Some customers will come to your brand ready to invest a lot, while others may only be able to invest a little, and everything in-between.

Maybe right now you’ve got a low-dollar product, like an ebook or checklist in the $10-$50 range. Think about what types of products you might create to fill in the rest of the umbrella. On the next tip, you might have a mini-course or webinar in the $100-$250 range. The next tip might be a full online course or group coaching meeting in the $500-$750 range. The next tip could be an online community membership for $1000-$1500 per year. The last tip could be a one-on-one coaching meeting in the $2500-$5000 range.

The purpose of this exercise is to find as many ways as you can to match the value you can provide through your products with what the customer is ready to invest at that time.

Step 5: Add teammates

At some point in your business, you won’t be able to keep growing unless you get help. That help can be in the form of anything from a virtual assistant to a full-time partner. With Podia, you can bring on teammates and set role-specific permissions so they’ll have access to only what they need to fulfill their role in your business.

If you’re on our Earthquaker plan, you get five free teammate seats. After that, and for other Podia plans, you’ll only pay an additional $20 per teammate per month.

One of the most difficult questions to answer when considering getting outside help is, “Which parts of my business do I delegate?”

Generally, tasks related to your business fall into one of two columns:

  1. Things that you’re good at, you enjoy, and that require your voice.

  2. Things you’re not good at, you dread, and just about anyone could do.

Early on, it makes the most sense to delegate tasks that fall under the second column. The more your business grows, the more you may need to delegate tasks in the first column. In a future video, we’ll get more into the details of this process.

One more note about getting help. It can feel scary to bring someone else into your business, and you may not find a great fit the first, second, or even tenth time. Just like anything else, it’ll take practice, experimentation, and patience before it feels comfortable, but you’ve come this far, so you’ve got this.

And that concludes the “First sale to full scale” video! Thank you for coming along this journey with us. I hope you’ve picked up some valuable insights along the way and wish the best for you and your business. If you have any questions about anything we’ve covered in this video, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

If you found this video helpful and you want more content like this, click the subscribe button and hit the notification bell so you’ll be sure not to miss any future videos. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time!

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About the author

Ben is a video content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive.