The Zero Spend, $55K Course Launch!
Depesh Mandalia Thursday, May 3, 2018
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Back in the summer of 2017, shortly after starting my agency, I found myself struggling to repeatedly train up new members of my team on how to implement the growth strategies I was using on client accounts. So, the natural thing was to explore courses on the marketplace to complement my own coaching within the agency. But it proved fruitless as they weren’t quite what I wanted. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone: create a course for my agency and for the public in one. Pretty simple to get going right?
PHASE 1: START WITH A GROUP
Not quite, because of two massive challenges: comparative mindset and imposter syndrome. Both are roadblocks to progress because they fill you with all sorts of doubts about whether you’re good enough for others to want to follow you and whether what you have is better than what’s already out there. I first read Dotcom Secrets and Expert Secrets early 2017 and joined the ClickFunnels community thereafter. For someone that has been in the online industry for around 15 years, whilst a lot of what Russell wrote wasn’t a surprise, the absolute clarity was.
But for someone lacking time, I decided instead of following and implementing what is clearly laid out, to hire a funnel expert. After a few months, I identified Akbar Sheikh as the person I wanted to work with to develop and build my funnel; someone that had built funnels and created wealth for others with grounded principles I believed in - what followed was, however, far more than funnel building.
For weeks I faltered and stuttered, working through a Perfect Webinar pitch, but all the time not confident in what I was doing and whether in an industry full of experts there was room for one more. The mindset roadblock was a tough one to overcome and one I’m not even sure I would have overcome, except for Akbar forcing me to test whether I really did have something worth sharing. I posted a case study in a few groups of helping scale a company from 6-figures to $26.5M in revenue in 18 months through Facebook ads and well, the rest is history. Following a huge response, I had my validation. So much so that I couldn’t keep up with the requests for support which led me into another breakthrough in building a following and support - I created a Facebook group to field the questions from people eager to learn. Since launch late 2017, the group has grown to around 2K followers and whilst not a comparatively huge number, what’s amazing is our rate for people to join is around 40% with high engagement - I wanted to build a group for people who were actively advertising on Facebook and therefore a group I could both directly help, and also prime to take a step up into my course.
Without the help of an experienced mentor - someone that’s been there and done that and seen the challenges people have faced before, it will likely take longer if you’re not able to overcome the mental challenges. Defeating yourself is such a big step forward and I’m better for working with someone that has trodden that path I wished to take. Taking on a trusted mentor regardless of niche or product will pay back in more than just numbers.
With the group in motion I began attracting the right people that would help me in better understanding the pain points my market had and how to overcome them. Whilst the group started small, I ensured I linked to it from my Page and from my personal profile, all the while adding value into lots of other groups. People would check back on my profile and gravitate towards the group.
The biggest challenge with groups is engagement and I had this completely wrong early on - I didn’t want questions in the group, just pure knowledge. However, since I was the only one sharing, and sharing lots of big numbers and successes, it made people feel inferior and scared to share (yep, exact words) - so I took the restraints off and let people post what they wanted.
Conversations started, engagement kicked in and not only did the group become more active, this triggered Facebook’s search algorithm to start showing my page in the search results. I ask people how they heard about us and I still receive people looking for Dan Henry’s Facebook group that land in my group - I have absolutely no idea how and why, but it’s all good. I absolutely recommend asking why they want to join and how they heard of your group to help you better understand them and serve them. You’re permitted to ask 3 questions and the third should ideally ask for an email address in return for a free PDF - great way to lead capture and start the email indoctrination early!
PHASE 2: ALPHA
The first part of developing the course, once I’d overcome the mindblocks, was to invite a small group of around 12 people to participate in an alpha discussion on how best to develop the course. What were the key areas I could focus on? How could I ensure there was enough, but not overwhelmingly so. In return, I jumped on live call calls and shared.
Around the start of 2017 I asked people in my Facebook circle already running Facebook ads, most of whom I’d never met before but formed relationships with online, to join - they simply had to provide feedback on early ideas and videos for the course. In response, I’d be in a private Facebook group to answer any questions on Facebook ads or their business. Since my hourly rate isn’t insignificant and my experience quite the opposite, this was a good deal. It’s something I’d recommend: trading time for valuable feedback early on.
It worked extremely well; one video I posted of about 19 minutes in length explaining how to analyse and action bad performance was shot down. It was too long, too technical and whilst a minority of people valued the expert level breakdown, the majority felt it was too inaccessible.
It was these kind of insights that went on to make a big play on the structure and delivery - it rang clear that the videos themselves had to be as short as possible and to remain on point as much as possible, unbundling them into separate videos if there were too many core principles to take away.
Whilst the feedback was going on, I was building out the course in Google Slides and testing small videos internally within my agency and with the Alpha group. I wanted to give the Alpha group way more value than I received to ensure they were also interested in joining the Beta.
No revenue was generated at this stage.
PHASE 3: BETA
The beta phase was a 6-week programme where I invited those that had contributed to the Alpha phase to join for free, in return for a testimonial and as a thank you for their support in the Alpha. I also pushed the Beta out to a small number of people on my email list, which by the way, I collected leads from my Facebook Group and profile with the promise of an early beta launch discount which I duly delivered.
I took advice from a number of people on whether to charge for the Beta phase which, for all intents and purposes, was a half built course and a work in progress to develop with students. The overwhelming response was YES! I upped the stakes, however, for the Beta group by offering them TWICE weekly Live Q&A calls where I would be on hand to answer anything Facebook ads or business development related. I created a new Facebook group for these students which would eventually become the main private Mastermind group for students.
This went down extremely well with good overall attendance to the live calls and engagement in the group. It was clear who was consuming the training and asking questions, and again who were the better target customers too - for me it was solopreneurs, freelancers and agency owners. For those on the free version of the Beta, they were offered to either walk away with no obligation or to convert into the 50% off deal - of which around 70% did which was great - partly to receive ongoing access to the full course and updates, and partly because the private Facebook group to support students had been so useful
This phase brought in $16K.
PHASE 4: GAMMA
I call this the Gamma phase because whilst the Beta had finished and I had a full blown course developed alongside the Beta students and my internal agency team, I now wanted to give the course a dry test run with a new batch of students entering fresh before pushing cold traffic.
In addition, I invested part of the previous income in hiring in a course development expert Lindsay Padilla to further refine the course to focus on student success. Past courses I’ve purchased have felt a little isolated, without support from the person selling it or didn’t feel like it was structured well. To ensure the course could be at its best Lindsay and her team ran a thorough audit of the course, sifting through every video and download, plus analysing the sentiment in the group to understand how successful the course was at achieving student results. We were making tweaks as the learnings came in and measuring impact.
On the cold traffic front, whilst I’d developed a Perfect Webinar, it was put on the back burner due to the focus on finishing the course material. The Gamma phase was unplanned - the idea was to not promote the course until the Webinar script was complete and a funnel built to traffic a cold audience into. However, those attending Funnel Hacking Live 2018 will get where I’m coming from - part way through the 4-day event I went all in and developed a landing page, email sequence and literally launched my funnel the day I landed back from Orlando into London to my list of about 400 people. I took the lead from Lady Boss and decided to switch up my VSL into a straight ‘SL’ - or sales letter as I didn’t have time to finish the Perfect Webinar script and record.
It wasn’t the most polished and I have a tonne of things to improve but what was important was that the page converted ok, at around 3% - honestly for a warm list I would have expected 5-6%, but since I had very little experience with ClickFunnels and hacked this together in Disneyworld and the flight home, I was happy with it. For reference, the cart page converted at 20%. Again, slightly lower than I’d expect (25%) for a warm list but not complaining based on how poor my designs and content were.
I ran another 50% ‘pre launch’ offer - this time without the perks the Beta team enjoyed twice weekly access to me as the course was now pretty much complete. This group of students were receiving the full course and access to the private Facebook group.
This phase brought in $39K.
It was always about how many people I could bring in, not the monetary value. I had a target of 50 people at this stage. I fell short by about 10 but overall I was happy with the outcome.
Had I decided to not promote the course further, I’d have waited until my cold funnel was developed and left $39K on the table. It’s something worth considering when you have a product and a list, to create new offers and opportunities to provide value. Something I’ve learned throughout this journey is to over-deliver on insane amounts of value to build trust and authority, and to continue delivering this after purchase.
I also ran Facebook ads and it's worth noting how well they performed, too. As I preach to students about the importance and power of Facebook retargeting ads, I practice. The money with digital ads is made on the retargeting campaign and the goal of lead gen at the top of the funnel is to break even or profit. In my case, I had generated free leads through my Group and so the retargeting campaigns were pure profit, capturing sales emails didn’t.
From an ad spend of £30 I generated £5K with a 16,524% return on ad spend. The key here is to keep your product/brand front of mind, so I pushed for high ad impressions as you can see in the frequency column below. As I rotated the ads and kept them highly relevant and mildly entertaining, the CTR (click through rate) and CPC (cost per click) remained good which helped to bring in a good overall response.
PHASE 5: HIDDEN FUNNEL
Part way through the Beta stage I was offered the opportunity to lead a Masterclass on testing and scaling with Facebook ads. The hosts gave me the full recording and whilst I’d previously and naively shared it in my Facebook groups, a mistake I made when I made my first million in revenue through Affiliate Marketing came to the front of my mind: I lost that business because I didn’t create a list.
I decided instead to create a new section in my training portal, where I’d give people FREE access so they can view the full Masterclass once they’d created an account on my training portal. Once logged in, they can only see the WELCOME module, with 3 links below. I created a new page including the full course structure and information on every single topic, below which I included a link to the Masterclass. This has literally doubled my list size in a space of about a week, after promoting it in my Facebook Group and anywhere else I can organically place it. It also starts a secret indoctrination journey, because the hour long Masterclass is a deep insight into profiting and scaling with Facebook ads, without giving away everything which they need to buy the full course for.
This funnel has only just been setup, with no email sequence or Facebook ads retargeting but has the potential of being a smaller, secondary route into the course alongside the Perfect Webinar route.
If you want to try this in ClickFunnels, I’ve added the course ‘products’ to the restricted access setting for the main course modules, but not added restrictions to the WELCOME module. I’ve then shared the ‘secret link’ from my funnel so that anyone can create an account, but only paid members can see the full course material.
With a lot more testimonials that have come in, a few tweaks to the training and a Perfect Webinar on route, I’ll be pushing cold traffic into both the Hidden Funnel and Perfect Webinar, plus testing a free PDF funnel in order to test which of the 3 gives me the lowest CPL (cost per lead) and highest return.
I look forward to sharing those results with you in a few months time.