You can pour your heart and soul into creating an e-Course (not to mention a hefty portion of your savings account!).
You can hire the best designer, the best copywriter, and the best developer.
And you can have the most sophisticated launch strategy your industry has ever seen.
… But if the idea behind your e-Course isn’t good, then none of the rest of that stuff will matter.
Whenever I talk to my students about the importance of having a quality idea, there are always a few voices who are sceptical…
‘Really? Is the idea actually that important? Isn’t the size of your list the most important factor?’
To which I say NO, it’s not your list that matters most; it’s actually the idea.
Think about it for a moment: you can have an email list of a hundred thousand people, but if they don’t actually want or need what you’re selling, do you think that they’re going to buy it?
Let me share an analogy to illustrate just how important it is:
I read an article recently about losing weight, which had this line in it: You lose weight in the kitchen, not the gym.
What the author was trying to say was that the vast majority of your weight loss success, stems from what you do in the kitchen, and that no amount of training can negate the effects of a crappy diet.
In this analogy, your e-Course idea is the kitchen component. It’s the thing that sets the tone for everything that is to come. And yes, you can do some heavy lifting to try to offset a less-than-stellar idea (like flashy branding, or having a giant list). But if that fundamental idea is not as good as it could be – if your idea is the metaphorical equivalent of junk food instead of a green smoothie – then you’re always going to struggle to make progress.
To continue with this analogy, let’s look at the flipside: if you’re eating a completely clean diet, you can get away with minimal exercise and still see good results.
Likewise, if you’re working with a really great idea, you can get away with skimping in other areas – like having a small list or a small budget – and again, still see freaking good results.
Why? Because people are drawn to your idea. They want it. They need it.
And when that happens, they’re more than happy to part with their hard-earned cash for it.
And that, my friends, is the power of a good e-Course idea.
So what is it that makes an e-Course idea ‘good’?
Well, the better question to ask ourselves is actually ‘What makes an e-Course idea profitable?’
To be profitable, your idea needs to consider three things. The first is your passions, skills and ‘zone of genius’; the second is your business brand, and the third is the needs of your customers.
Check out this diagram:
See the point where all three of those factors overlap?
That, right there, is the sweet spot. And it’s what we’re aiming for when it comes to selecting which of your ideas is the most profitable.
Which, of course, leads us to the next obvious question: How in the name of Zeus are you meant to come up with ideas in the first place?
Before we dig into the actual techniques of idea generation, let’s first take a moment to look at three big, glaring mindset myths that have pervaded our cultural perception of ideas…
“Ideas come to you out of the blue, in a big bolt of divine lightning.”
This mindset myth is easy to understand. After all, we’ve all had that experience of doing something innocuous – Showering! Walking the dog! Driving to work! – and being struck out of the blue with a blazing, brilliant idea.
So it’s true that ideas can come to us in that ‘bolt from the blue’ kind of way.
The problem is that many people think that that’s the only way that ideas are generated. Which is sooo not true.
There are plenty of deliberate strategies and techniques you can use to generate ideas, it’s just that most people have never been taught them, so they don’t realise they exist.
And even though ‘bolt from the blue’ ideas can feel amazing (‘Sweetheart! I just had the BEST idea! Let’s leave the kids with my mum and fly to the Greek Islands for the holidays – it will be amazing!) they’re not always the most… shall we say, sensible of ideas.
Which means that ‘bolt from the blue’ ideas are often not the best ones for e-Courses.
Why? Because e-Course ideas need to do more than just feel good, or excite you; they need to be profitable, scalable, marketable and sustainable.
Which means that often it’s the left-brained idea generation – the deliberate strategies and techniques you can use – that are actually better for our purposes.
“You need to be creative to come up with good ideas. And I’m just not a creative person.”
Firstly, let’s chat about the second part of that sentence: “I’m just not a creative person.”
We have such a limited idea of what ‘creative’ means in Western culture. We seem to think that unless you can paint a photographically-accurate portrait or write a sonnet, then you don’t qualify as ‘creative’, which is so far from the truth I can’t even!
Let’s get something straight: all creativity is, is the ability to connect dots in new and interesting ways.
So that friend you know who’s renovating his house by breathing new life into recycled parts he finds at the tip (but who’s never painted a portrait in his life) is ABSOLUTELY creative.
And that woman you know who spends her day writing corporate reports (which are as far from poetry as you can get!), yet who takes such pride in finding new, simple ways of expressing complicated concepts is also ABSOLUTELY creative.
And you, as an entrepreneur, who have literally created something out of nothing – i.e. your business – are ABSOLUTELY creative, even if you don’t always feel it.
…So have I convinced you that you’re more creative than you think?
Now to address the first part of this particular mindset myth: “You need to be creative to come up with good ideas.”
Well yes, on one level, you do.
But as we’ve established, that does NOT mean you need to be a magical lightning rod for divine bolts of insight. It just means you need to go through a specific set of activities and techniques, all of which can be learned.
So: myth #2 busted.
And finally, “I never have any good ideas, they’re always crap.”
Here’s the thing: most of us have never been taught how to take an idea from its initial incarnation and develop it – we don’t know how to refine it, polish it, extend it, snip bits off the side, and reshape it… Again, because we’ve never been taught!
So instead, when we first come up with an idea, because it’s not 100% picture-perfect to begin with, we dismiss it out of hand – perhaps even berating ourselves for being so inept and stupid.
But no great work of art, no bestselling book, and no billion-dollar product ever made its way into the world fully formed. Everything started as a sketchy, rough-around-the-edges idea that was then iterated upon, improved upon, and refined.
So if you think that your ideas ‘aren’t any good’, I’m guessing it’s just that you’ve never taken the time (or known how) to go through the process of improving your idea. Essentially, you’ve been comparing your rough draft with other people’s polished masterpieces… which ain’t doing you or your business any favours.
So: it totally doesn’t matter if your first round of ideas for an e-Course aren’t quite hitting the spot. That’s the starting point from which you begin the process of improvement.
Alright, now that we’ve got the mindset stuff out of the way, I want to share five of my favourite techniques for coming up with e-Course ideas.
1. Get Feedback.
Ask your customers what they want help with, what they’d like to learn from you, what problems they have that you could help solve.
Seems like a ridiculously simple suggestion, right?! Yet you’d be surprised by the number of entrepreneurs who ignore this insanely valuable resource that’s right at their fingertips.
2. Find the treasure in plain sight.
Often times, you won’t even have to ask your audience what they want, because they will have already asked you.
What questions have your readers left in the comments section of your blog posts?
What emails have landed in your inbox filled with your tribe’s problems and queries?
And what type of concerns do your followers mention most on social media?
When you know what you’re looking for, you’ll begin to see a treasure trove of ideas already in plain sight.
Don’t have your own audience yet?
Not enough Facebook followers for questions to have come up?
Or too scared to ask your tribe what they want?
No worries. Try to figure out where similar people to your potential customers are hanging out online and do your research there. This may include other people’s blogs, popular Facebook pages, online forums…
Of course, exercise care and discretion, and always be respectful of the fact that this is someone else’s audience. (A little bit of common sense and courtesy here goes a long way.)
4. Leverage your existing income streams.
Already got a service you provide?
Some of the best e-Course ideas come from packaging up a service that you already offer, and turning that into an online program.
For example, if you were a personal stylist who usually does 1:1 sessions, perhaps you could package up your expertise into a course that teaches people how to figure out what clothes suit them. You could teach them the elements of design, how to assess their body type, which types of outfits work best on each body shape, how to work with colour, how to add accessories… the possibilities are endless!
Of course, it doesn’t need to be just a 1:1 service.
Consider someone who owns a successful café – they could create an e-Course teaching other café owners how to build their business… including how to market, how to create a good menu, how to set your profit margins, how to manage problem staff, and what customer loyalty schemes make the most impact.
The great thing about using a service you already provide as the basis for your e-Course is that you already know it’s profitable because people are already paying you for it. You likely already have good credibility and expertise in the field too, which is always a bonus.
Some good questions to ask yourself:
- Can I teach people how to get the benefit of my service for themselves?
- Can I teach other people to become service providers like me?
- How can I take my service, and make it attractive for a DIY audience?
- And what services do I not like providing very much, where it would be better for me if I could provide it as a course instead?
5. Niche honey!
Do you already provide a product or service that you could repurpose for a very particular subset of your audience? Or that you could use to connect with a new type of customer?
For example, if you’re a health coach, could you solve a problem for one specific group of people, for example, women suffering with adrenal fatigue?
You might even go more granular: mothers of small children suffering with adrenal fatigue? Or business owners suffering with adrenal fatigue? Or what about ‘mumpreneurs’ suffering with adrenal fatigue.
Yes, niching does mean that you appeal to a smaller group of people.
But when you get this specific, it also means that you can speak so much more strongly and directly to them.
Imagine, for example, that you were one of our hypothetical mumpreneurs with adrenal issues.
If you came across an e-Course that not only helped you understand your adrenal issues and helped you use nutrition and self-care to heal it, but that ALSO contained loads of tips and techniques for finding more balance between work and motherhood, and offered a bunch of different time- and stress-saving systems to help you make those lifestyle shifts… well, you’d be super excited at having finally found someone who understood you and could help, and you’d likely be very pumped to purchase.
+ + + + +
So there you have it – an overview of some of my favourite techniques for coming up with great e-Course ideas.
If you’d like some more help then sign-up to my video series which provides a free resource to help you with your e-Course idea.