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Issue #7 • July 2017

Researching Your Course: Find a Problem Worth Solving for Your Audience

Business Models

Now that you’ve decided to create an online course, it’s time to dive head-first into creating it, right?

Hold up! I love your enthusiasm, but let’s take a few steps back. There are a few things to consider before you dive in.

The best place to start with your online course is understanding your audience’s pain points.

That may sound like mumbo jumbo marketing speak, but stay with me. Their pain points are not only important to highlight in your sales page copy, but they’ll also guide you as you create your entire online course.

What is a pain point?

Now, in order to understand your audience’s pain points, you must clarify what they struggle with in regards to your course topic.

An online course is only as good as the problem it solves.

If you want your audience to purchase your online course, it’s best to find out what they need before you create it. Once you know what they need, you can go into the online course creation process with confidence knowing that you’re solving a problem that matters.

One key way to discover what your audience wants to learn from an online course is to directly ask them through an online course survey.

The importance of surveying your audience

Preliminary online course surveys will always be worth your time and energy before you enter the online course creation process. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that they’re necessary if you want your online course to be a success.

Why are online course surveys crucial to your success?

Online course surveys help you validate your course topic by testing to see if it’s something your audience truly desires. Why spend weeks (or months) creating something you’re not sure will sell?

While you may have expertise in your field, you may not know what exactly your audience wants to learn about within your subject of choice. Maybe you were planning on creating an online course on flat lay photo styling but after surveying your audience, you found they want more education on how to edit their photos.

Think about when you first started your business. Chances are you did some research by reading blog posts, perusing social media, and listening to relevant podcast episodes before starting your side hustle. The same is true for online courses, only this time it involves researching with potential students.

How to create an online course survey

Creating an online survey is very simple. With the right tools and insightful questions, you’ll be well on your way to understanding what your audience truly desires.

What tools should I use for my online course survey?

There are many free online tools you can use to survey your audience, but one of my personal favorites is Typeform. It’s easy to setup, user-friendly, and looks great with their minimally designed templates.

If you’re looking for more survey tools to test, SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are great alternatives. After choosing an online course survey tool, you can start to brainstorm what kind of questions you should include.

How do I create the right online course survey questions?

The key to a high-performing online course survey is in the quality of questions. Just think, through this survey you have a chance to get real feedback from real potential buyers.

Online course surveys offer the rare opportunity to get inside the heads of people in your ideal audience so let’s make the best use of it.

First, start by understanding what your priorities are. What questions are crucial in helping you understand if a course topic is the right fit for your audience? What lessons within the topic are they most interested in?

Once you have a growing list of questions, you can narrow it down by striking out questions that don’t give you need-to-know information. You can also combine relevant questions together.

Here is a brief list of question types you can include in your online course survey:

  • Multiple-choice: for collecting more broad responses from your audience.
  • Free response: for gaining qualitative feedback and prioritizing specifics.
  • Rating: if you want to gauge how interested an audience member is in something.
  • Yes/No: for simple questions that only require a yes or no response.

Also, be thoughtful about the amount of questions you include in your survey. If you have too few, you won’t have enough information to get started. If you have too many, you’ll turn people off as they start your survey but never finish it.

Attention spans with online course surveys are small so a good number to shoot for is between five to seven questions. That helps you prioritize the most important information and your audience can easily whip through them.

Once you input your questions and design your online course survey, it’s time to send it to your audience. Here are a few ways to bring attention to your survey:

  • Feature the survey in a newsletter
  • Make the survey your main call-to-action in a new blog post
  • Make a graphic and share it on social media
  • Include the graphic in an opt-in form in other places like your blog sidebar, website pages, etc.
  • Put the survey link in your social media bios
  • Personally email blogging or business friends and audience members you’ve connected with

One step further: Interviewing your audience

While surveys are insightful on their own, the highest quality feedback you can receive comes from personal interviews. People are often more open and transparent in interviews, giving you more insight behind their answers than what they put in a quick survey.

You’re also able to ask unique follow-up questions. Interviewees may steer the conversation in a different direction than you originally anticipated, but it gives you the opportunity to learn new things you may not have considered.

If you’re contemplating including interviews into your online course preparation process, here are a few questions to keep in mind:

  • What will you gain from an interview that you can’t from a survey?
  • What do you hope to learn from the completed interviews?
  • What are the most important questions to ask your audience members?
  • How long will the personal interviews be?
  • How will you record their responses? (written notes, audio recordings, etc.)
  • Will you record the interviews one-on-one or in select groups?
  • Do you have flexibility to interview your audience around their schedule?

Questions to ask yourself before interviewing your audience

Based on your answers to the questions above, you’ll discover if personal interviews will work within your timeline. (Psst, we talked about Setting an Online Course Timeline in our previous article!) If you decide to do personal interviews, give yourself a week or two to complete them.

Prepare a set of questions you’ll ask each interviewee and let them know up-front how much of their time you need. Usually 10-15 minutes is all you need to collect their personal feedback.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure the people you’re interviewing are not only a part of your audience but also fit the description of your ideal student. If you’re creating an online course on finding post-grad job opportunities through social media, you may not want to interview a middle-aged professional since they aren’t your target market.

It’s also a great idea to offer an incentive to the people you’re interviewing. They’re taking time out of their day to give you really great information so giving a gift is a thoughtful choice. You could offer your interviewees a chance to beta test your online course, or give them access to an eBook you’ve written or another quality freebie. Get creative!

Make your own survey today!

Have you ever made a survey before? It’s really simple and the best way to quickly get to your audience’s main pain points.

Take a few minutes and write out a list of questions for your audience that would help you understand where they’re at on their journey. Then pick a survey platform, plug in those questions, and send it out to your readers. They’ll love that you care enough to ask how they are and you’ll get the data you need to create an amazing online course.

Once it’s done let us know what you learned from the survey. Let’s chat about it in the comments section.

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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