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Creating a successful online course starts with uncovering the PERFECT course topic!
I’ve known MANY people who have created what they were sure was the PERFECT course topic. Spent weeks, months, even YEARS creating the course. When they finally did launch, they had no buyers! Crickets.
Can you imagine spending all of that time creating a course, only to find out that no one is going to buy it? It happens. A lot. And you don’t want to be one of those course creators – exhausted and throwing in the towel.
Despite what you’ve been told, it doesn’t start with creating the course. If YOU don’t know that there is market demand for it, you don’t want to spend time building and creating it only to have a $0 launch.
The very first step of creating your first course is uncovering the perfect course topic.
The perfect course topic is:
- Hyperfocused – Addressing a very specific problem your audience has
- Results Oriented – Offering a solution to their problem
- Unique – Only something you can teach or create (the way you teach or create it)
- Something your SPECIFIC audience NEEDS!
How much time have you spent brainstorming all of the possible topics you could create an online course on?
Most of us get stuck on the few ideas we’ve come up with for course topics, then spend too much time dissecting them and coming up with reasons (excuses) about why we’re not “expert” enough to actually teach those topics.
Then what happens?
We talk ourselves out of ever moving to the next step!
Before moving onto the exercises, get out a notepad (if you prefer to write) or open a new Word doc, Google doc or spreadsheet to record your findings.
This exercise is to come up with a topic for your course that your audience needs, that you’re competent to teach and that you’re excited to teach!
Step 1: Find a quiet space with no distractions. It’s time to get creative!! DO NOT EDIT as you’re brainstorming – just let it flow.
Step 2: On a piece of paper draw a table with 4 columns.
At the top of column 1 write TOPIC.
At the top of column 2 write NEED.
At the top of column 3 write COMPETENCY.
At the top of column 4 write EXCITEMENT.
Step 3: In column 1, brainstorm all of the topics you’ve considered creating an online course on. If you get stuck think of topics people ask your advice on, training/certifications you have, obstacles/challenges you’ve overcome and learned from, talents and skills, services you’ve been paid for, problems you see your audience having, or blog posts/videos/other content you’ve produced which has had a lot of traffic and/or engagement.
Step 4: In the last 3 columns check the box beside each topic if you:
See a need for this topic in the market (check under NEED).
Consider yourself competent to teach or train in this topic (check under COMPETENCY).
Feel excited to teach or train in this topic (check under EXCITEMENT).
Step 5: Based on the results of this exercise, choose the top 3 potential topics (should have all of the check boxes ticked) and highlight them.
Start with the first of your top 3 course topic options and go through this entire exercise, then do the same thing with your other course topic ideas. This exercise is to find out if people are searching for solutions to problems that you can solve with your course.
Step 1: Google Research
- Open a new tab and go to Google
- Type in search term how to [course topic idea].
- Skip past the snippets marked ‘Ad’ (the ads) and look for blog posts, articles with comments, etc. Record the first snippet title and link in your research notebook, document or spreadsheet.
- Click on link and go to the resource.
- Record key points of the article, blog post, etc.
- Record questions from viewers or readers.
** Important ** Copy and paste. Do not paraphrase.
- Return to the original search term. Look at the bottom of the search engine results page (RELATED SEARCHES) and repeat the process for the suggested searches. This is Google telling you what people are actually searching for!
Step 2: Youtube Research
- Open new tab and go to Youtube.
- In the search bar start typing in how to [course topic idea]. Youtube will literally tell you the topics that people are searching for! Record those in your research notebook, document or spreadsheet.
Step 3: Ubersuggest Research
- Open new tab and go to Ubersuggest.
- Type in the search box how to [course topic idea] and hit the SEARCH button.
- Click on Keyword Ideas then sort by search volume. Ubersuggest will give you a list of search terms and monthly search volume. You can either export these results to a CSV file or copy them to your clipboard and paste onto a doc.
By the end of this exercise you should have a good indication of whether the topic(s) you’re wanting to create a course on are topics that people are searching for.
Remember – no one searches for a course! People search for solutions to their problem (and hopefully your course will solve their problem!)
Now that you’ve completed the initial part of your research, it’s time to look at / consider some additional factors:
- Are there other online courses on this topic? You could search Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy, and other marketplaces to find out how many courses with the same topic are there, the content they’re covering in the courses, and (most importantly) read the student reviews to see what they liked, didn’t like, or wanted more of. Finding other courses on the same topic is a good sign!
- Do you have an audience for this topic? If you’ve been creating Youtube videos or building an email list catering to people interested in Communication In The Workplace but you want to create a course on Cake Decorating, you’re going to be starting your audience building from scratch. It’s time to survey your audience!
- Who IS your buyer persona for this new course you’re going to create? Do you know them like you know your best friend? If not, time to do some interviews with (who you think will be) your buyer persona to find out more about them, their desires, fears, pain points, and needs and survey your audience!
Once you’ve decided on a topic for your first, or next online course, it’s time to either develop and deliver a pilot program (to further validate your course, get valuable feedback, etc. without going ‘all in’) – if you already have an audience of this buyer persona, or start to build your audience so you have people who will enroll in your course once you roll it out!