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3 Reasons Why You Must Sell Your Online Course BEFORE You Build It

When you take on building an online course, you are typically really excited. You feel this rush of inspiration and it's SO tempting to start building your online course right away. You do this based on what you know and your personal inspiration.


Of course, you are the expert. You know your subject matter better than anyone. You understand how to solve the customer's problem. But what we have seen over and over and over is that we subject matter experts fail miserably. They know the subject matter, but they do not understand what their customer is thinking and feeling as they consider buying what they sell.

This isn't your your fault. This isn't your shortcoming. This is common to all of us experts.

As subject matter experts we know our content really well, but we don't typically understand intimately what our customers want and need. We have difficulty understanding what they are feeling, what problem they want or need solved and what is their emotional state as they approach you.

What I share with a lot of first time course builders is that, "We are contaminated. The knowledge we have keeps us from seeing what we do like our customers do." It's been a long time since we have been a novice and that creates a blind spot we need to address.

Please do NOT ignore this advice. I've seen so many people build a course that seemed like a great idea at the start. Then they launched it and no one buys it. These people typically learn this AFTER they spend a lot of time, effort and money on something customers don't want.

So let me me go over three reasons why this selling first approach is the way to go.

Reason #1 - You MUST Learn What Your Customer's "Feeling"

An exercise I recommend for all my online course builders is to get on a call with some potential customer. It's much easier to do than you think. People are happy to talk with you.

What you do is you ask them about their challenges, concerns and frustrations as it relates to what you sell. We have an eight question survey we provide our customers and it gets us everything we need for our messaging and sales pages.

I've done it for my own services and for services sold by my customers. It gets really interesting when you review the responses you get. You have to be open minded. I have had customers of mine just about deny what their customers are telling them. They just didn't see it coming and had a hard time accepting it.

What they tell you is gold. If they said it, it's likely something you can include in your sales messages.

If you are talking to people about these challenges, concerns and frustrations, we also ask them how much they would pay for what you sell and what course learning formats work best for them. More than once we have found that customers would pay more for the product or service than they business owners was planning to charge.

So ask, ask, ask.

Reason #2 - You Want to Identify Hidden Motivators

I've seen this happen many times. I was thinking of selling a course on "this" and when I asked people about their challenges, concerns and frustrations, I discovered they kind of wanted "this," but they really wanted "this other thing." Many times, "this other thing" is something you can easily deliver as a course builder, but I hadn't considered it.

The reasons I recommend this sell first, build later approach is because a subject matter expert should very easily be able to create "good enough" course content quickly. They will be more challenged when it comes to selling it. They should be focused on the selling and put double as much effort on the selling and just about ignore the course content. Once you get your online course selling, the you'll have concrete evident to confirm you have a winner. Then you have all the confidence you need to invest the time, effort and money knowing the sales will come based on real data and not just a hunch.

Reason #3 - You Want to Build It As You Go

Along with these other two reason, I want to mention that as you teach, you will learn more and more. Don't think of your online course as something that is finished. Think of it as a solution in motion. It will start off good enough and then get better and better.

Build your online course in waves. I recommend your first version be a group teaching on Zoom with several customers participating and asking you questions. Record those meetings. The recordings can be version two of your course. The third version can take it a step forward. You can re-record the same lessons as a presentation with a screen share video covering what you had in version one. Include answers you gave your version one students into your presentation.


If your course is selling, then your focus on improving the course in waves works well. You will know what was missing based on what people told you. You can modify presentation materials so areas the were unclear or confusing to people, based on what they actually tell you, can be improved.

This is the better way to build your online course.