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There’s nothing harder than putting a digital product out there in the world and feeling like you’re not sure if it’s quite ready.
But what if I told you there was a way to launch your product before it’s 100% perfect, that would help you to improve your product for future launches, make money, and ultimately maximize your results?
That’s exactly what beta launching your course or product can do. And it’s what we’re talking about on this episode of the Rebel Boss Ladies Podcast.
Today, we’re diving into why getting your idea out there imperfectly – whether it’s for a course, product, or whatever it may be – is the best way to make your product super effective.
I’m joined by Steph Woods, a learning designer and course creation expert who specializes in value-focused educational services. She’s worked with a variety of clients all the way from professors at top ranked business schools in the world to A-list celebrities such as Tyra Banks to create profitable digital courses and utilize online marketing strategies to sell with ease.
She works with entrepreneurs to create really action-oriented courses that get results for their students, and today Steph is going to share all about why you need to beta launch your online course.
While her expertise is in online courses, the course beta launch strategies she talks about today can be used for any kind of digital product launch. So whether or not you are thinking of launching a course, know that you can still apply the beta launching course method she talks about to any digital product.
Your beta product is a lot like the pilot episode of a new TV show. It’s kind of accepted that pilots change over time and that future episodes and seasons will be different.
Like a pilot episode, your course beta launch is to get your product and knowledge out there, to see if people need it, how people react to it, and to test your curriculum. You can do this before you finalize everything for your larger launch.
Steph says that a beta launch for your course is absolutely essential for any and every online course launch, and that there are a lot of benefits to having your beta launch and your beta course.
For example, can you remember back to the beginning, when you first started learning about whatever you’re teaching? Me neither.
Sometimes after you’ve gained so much expertise in an area, you forget about what it was like to not know anything about the topic. You may skip over things or think that certain things are givens or common knowledge, when really they’re not.
Betas can help you get feedback about things that you may be skipping over in your content or may need to go into more depth about. It's essential to make sure that you cover all your bases and that your students are able to follow what you're teaching.
Some people don’t like to use the term “beta” launch because they don’t want their customer to think that they’re buying something that’s less valuable as opposed to a non-beta product.
Steph says that it’s really important to think about how you want to position your beta product so that people don’t think it’s less valuable. To do this, it’s important to anticipate this potential objection and create intentional messaging that counteracts the idea that this course may be less valuable.
“If you're positioning it as ‘we're going to build this course together, I'm going to give you more attention than you would be getting if we were done with the beta, because I'm going to kind of be tailoring my content to what you need,’ you can describe it as having more value than than your regular course.”
Steph calls this the MVC – your Minimum Valuable Course. Your beta course is the first time you’re doing the curriculum, and while you may be seeking feedback from your customers, it should also provide them with valuable information and the transformation that they’re seeking.
Remember that just because this is the first iteration of your product doesn’t mean it’s less valuable. As long as you’re not haphazardly throwing something out there, and are still creating some really intentional content that follows strategic teaching methods and planning, your course is still really valuable.
So how do you determine what your beta course is actually worth, and price it accordingly?
Steph says that there are a lot of different types of courses – your intro course, your starter course, all the way up to a more in-depth, signature course. Does your beta course fall into one of these types? If so, that may help you think through your pricing plan.
If you’re still not sure, Steph says to think about what value you’re providing and what the cost would be for your customer if they didn’t have you. Time is a big cost, and you’re providing your customer with a shortcut to the answers or transformation they’re seeking with your course.
Generally, when you start out you should have an idea of what you're going to charge for your course in the future. A good rule of thumb is to charge half of that for your beta course.
You also want to make sure that your customer understands that even though you’re letting them join at this lower amount, you’re expecting feedback from them which you’ll use to make the course better and improve your materials.
Steph has one hard rule that she tells all of her students – you should never be pricing your course below $100, even in beta. This is because even if you’re spending the time and effort to make sure your course is super valuable, then it’s worth at least $100.
You may see big name people in the digital product industry selling courses for much less than $100. They can do that because they have a large audience that means they’re still getting a profit from that lower cost.
Don’t feel guilty about pricing your course for what it’s worth, or think that no one will buy because it’s priced too high. In fact, pricing your course too low may be to your detriment – if it’s priced too low then people may think it’s not valuable and not worth spending any money on at all.
People tend to imply value based on how much something costs. If you’re offering something for free, people may not think of it as very valuable. If you’re offering a product with different models and prices, say for example bikes, people will automatically assume a bike that costs $1000 is a better bike than one that costs $500. They may look similar, or have the exact same features, but people are generally drawn to the one that’s more expensive because we assume it’s better.
The same is true for your digital product. Also, if people have to pay for something, they pay attention. If they have to pay for your product, it means they’re probably going to be more committed to it than if they had just received it for free.
Getting your customer to commit to the beta by buying in is important to make sure that they’re coming in with the right attitude and mindset when starting your course. When your customer is invested in what you’re doing together, you’re always going to get better results and feedback for your beta.
It’s important to be intentional about how many people you want to include in your beta course. If you have too many people, it can be hard to support all of them and engage with all of their feedback.
Steph says that her personal cap is 50 students, if you’re looking for more general advice. If you really want to get to know and figure out how to help your students in the best way possible, 10 to 15 students is best.
Your beta doesn’t have to be really big. The most important thing is to make sure that the people involved in your beta are comfortable with giving you the feedback you need and engaging with your course.
Remember, the goal of your course beta launch is not necessarily to make money. That can come later! The goal is to help you refine your product that will eventually make you money.
A beta launch should help you to get your product as efficient as possible. It can also help you get those testimonials and success stories that will help you launch your product in the future.
It can also give you so much insight into your audience, while at the same time being much less pressure in terms of time and money than a full launch. You can take advantage of this time to really dig deep into what your students need – the beta is a great place to talk to your students about themselves and their pain points.
Beta launches can also help you gain confidence in yourself, your product and your launch. Once you finish a course beta launch and realize that your students have achieved great results because of your product, you can gain a lot more confidence and positivity in your methodology and teaching that you can take into your future launch.
Feedback is critical to the process of a beta program. You want to make sure that you’re fostering an environment where your customers and students are willing to give feedback, and continuously giving the feedback that you’ve asked for.
So what are some ways to make sure that you get the feedback you need?
1. Be transparent about your request for feedback right up front.
Make sure that your beta students and customers know that you expect feedback from them when they buy into the course.
2. Be available.
Communicate to your students (and follow through!) that you’re also going to be readily available, communicating with them, and answering their questions throughout the process. This is also a form of feedback that they may necessarily not be thinking of.
The questions and the conversations you have with your students are feedback that you can include when you improve your course later on. If they're asking a question, that means that something wasn't clear and when you get the same question over and over, that's feedback that something is missing or needs to be ironed out.
3. Make sure it’s easy to give feedback.
When it comes to giving feedback, you also want to make sure that it’s as easy and accessible as possible every step of the way. Steph recommends including surveys along the way to make it easy for your beta students to find where they can give feedback while they're going through your content.
For example, at the bottom of every lesson include a have a link to a form or survey where they can add ideas, thoughts or feedback. Make it very clear and available throughout your course, because if you wait until your students get to the end to collect their feedback they might have lost or forgotten about something along the way that could have been really helpful.
Because this is a beta course, it doesn’t need to be perfect. In fact, Steph is a big proponent about scrappy, efficient beta launches.
For example, she doesn’t recommend even creating a sales page for your course beta launch. She suggests sending an email out to your audience and posting lightly about it on socials, but not spending time doing a lot of promo or creating a big sales page.
A better strategy is to connect directly and get to know your potential students a bit, because this will help you to find the right people who will fit your beta course. You want to also have the opportunity to be really clear about what the beta course will involve and your expectation for feedback so that it works for both of you.
Beta courses certainly don’t have to be perfect, and if you’re working towards perfectionism, Steph says that’s actually a form of procrastination. If you’re getting something out there that’s scrappy but still effective, it’s better than something that you’ll never finish creating because you’re trying to make it perfect.
Stick to the mantra of “launch but then iterate” – get it out there, see where you can improve it and then make iterations. This is true for all products, not just beta products! You can always iterate and improve, and there are no ideas that are failures, just learning points.
While you’re planning and creating your beta course, it’s important to remember that you’re creating this with future improvements in mind. The goal here isn't to have a completely polished product, it's to gain insight on what would make the product better. If you spend too much time creating the perfect product, you may be hesitant to make those little improvements later on.
Steph recommends that when you’re creating your course, you should start with the end goal in mind. Figure out exactly what your promise is, define your result, because then it kind of makes it clearer when you’re creating your content what’s essential to get that result and what isn’t.
We tend to think of volume as value, however when you’re creating a course that isn’t true. Instead, you want to give your students the most direct path from where they are to their result.
Once you define your end result, start by brain dumping everything that you could include to get your student to that end point. Then you need to really think about each step, and ask if each of these really essential to get them to the end point. At this stage, you want to cut your course down to what’s really essential to get your student to that result fastest.
The beta is where you can test and see what is essential and what isn’t. In your beta, you can get feedback on the “journey” you’ve created for your students. Is there anything that you took out because you thought it wouldn’t be essential, but it’s needed? If so, add it back in. This is your opportunity to judge whether or not your content was clear and successful for your students and provided that end goal result that you promised.
Once you’ve finished your beta and made your tweaks and improvements, then you can start thinking about how it looks and polish it a bit more. But Steph also has a rule about when you should start changing things around – and that’s your course should go for 6 months or through 50 students before you even touch the content.
Just because one person or a few people have had a hard time with a certain point, it doesn’t mean that everybody will. All of your students will be coming in from different places.
50 people or 6 months, whichever comes first, will give you a good amount of feedback so that you can really know where your course needs tweaking.
Grab Steph’s free masterclass, From Concept to Course in 30 Days or Less. 30 Days is plenty of time to go from starting to think about a course to launching that scrappy beta. In this masterclass, Steph shares her complete roadmap to turn your unique expertise into an awesome course that really sells with ease, shares 3 mistakes that a lot of entrepreneurs make that limit their income and the secret to working less but earning more.
Reach out to Steph on Instagram @StephWoods.co