#179: How to Sell Digital Courses Without Paid Ads


I opened the email, and it said that words are the only difference between a 6 and 7-figure business. My immediate reaction was, “Nope!”. But in reality, words impact our business greatly from social media to email language, website to course content, sales pages to webinar slides.

Words are critical when we want to sell digital courses without thousands of dollars on paid ads. Words will still matter even if we want to spend thousands on ads.

Words impact everything that we do. So is that the only thing that is different between a 7 and 8-figure business? Not necessarily. Still, it is an incredibly important piece that must be mastered, regardless of income level. It is for more than just 6, 7, and 8 figure business owners. It matters even before turning a profit.

And every time I see someone commenting that the best way to make more sales is to use paid ads, I want to cry. It doesn’t feel very ethical because they shouldn’t be the first line of defense for selling a digital course. Ads are a great tool for getting more visibility, but the truth is that they only work when the words are right. The words have to be clear, concise, and compelling.

In other words, the words should already create a magnetic effect for our courses before heading to paid advertising. Even if that is with a small audience.

But how do we get the words working? Based on my 15+ years in psychology and my experience as a StoryBrand Certified GuideToday I’m going to share 5 adjustments that we can make to any piece of copy so that by the end of today’s episode you’ll be set up to make your messaging more magnetic and not reliant on wasted advertising dollars.

And the 3rd adjustment feels the strangest to implement, so I’ll share my favorite way to implement the third adjustment to take away the potential embarrassment that can happen.

Message Simplified

As digital course creators we are always thinking not just about our course and the content inside, but how to get the content seen and seen as a vital part of our potential student’s life.

So often the problem is that we over complicate things. We want our messaging to be clever, witty, and ingenious. Today is all about creating a simple message by making five adjustments to what you’ve already created. These same adjustments can be applied as you create new content as well.

Let’s jump in with the first adjustment.

1: Keep it Short

When looking at our messaging or course content, keep it as short as possible to still be meaningful and get the critical information to the reader or listener.

If video purpose can be accomplished in 5 minutes, do it in 5 minutes. If an email can get the point across in 3 sentences, send a 3 sentence email.

Why keep it short? Humans make snap decisions as to whether we should keep going or move on. We need to get to the point quickly with our messaging. For emails, some research shows we have just 8-12 seconds to grab attention and get our point across.

That isn’t much. We are used to epically long emails, sales pages, and website home pages, but that doesn’t make them the best. Use exactly as much space as is needed to be persuasive.

When we stick to something as brief as possible, we show our reader or listener that we value their time and attention. We know that they are trusting us and we are going to honor that trust by keeping the content brief.

One of the favorite pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten about this is, “it should be as long as it needs to be.”

2: Use Everyday Language

I think you get the point and in keeping our message meaningful, but short, let’s talk about adjustment two. We need to use everyday language in our messaging.

Using everyday language in our messaging creates a connection instead of a wall of confusion.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they are the expert on what they do and are using acronyms, industry terms, and insider language? How did you feel?

Were you lost?

Did you tune out, assuming the message wasn’t for you?

Probably so! I know that I have.

It is so easy to fall into this trap. We are the experts on what we do, it feels effortless. And it is easy to forget that not everyone is as comfortable with the concepts we are discussing. They might not have ever heard key terms before.

Using everyday language is challenging at first because we are so used to the terms we consider second-nature that we don’t always recognize them when they pop up. Asking for a second set of eyes and ears to review what we’ve created can be helpful. Someone else can point out what is confusing or unfamiliar. Just be sure that you choose someone who is, or is similar to, your ideal client because we want the everyday language to mirror what they are familiar with.

3: Keep it Conversational

Another adjustment we can make to messaging and the words we use in our business that supports keeping the message short and using everyday language is keeping our messaging conversational. The conversational message can be a tricky adjustment, so I’ll share my favorite technique to accomplish this at the end of today’s episode.

Now, what do I mean by conversational? Imagine someone on your email list has their cup of coffee and a few quiet minutes to themselves. They see your name in their inbox and click. We want them to feel like they are sitting across the table at a coffee shop, having a conversation with us, not reading an email.

When a message is conversational, it is easier for us to sink into the message being shared. It is almost like getting into flow. That coffee shop conversation can go on for hours when we are with a friend catching up. We lose track of time and become absorbed. It allows us to get in the flow state.

When our potential course students are in flow when reading emails, social media posts, and sales pages, they can find it easier to make a decision that allows them to move forward. We are providing the balance of skill and challenge to the opportunity. We are highlighting what they already bring to the table and the fact that the challenge is doable with our course.

This was the best advice that I received from my undergraduate thesis advisor. Keep the message conversational even when presenting something. It creates a connection and rapport with the audience.

4: Use Examples

So far we’ve talked about keeping the messaging brief, using everyday language and skipping the industry terms, keeping it conversational and that brings us to adjustment four.

Use examples as much as possible. It allows our audience to connect more deeply with our content. Examples give the brain more opportunities to make sense of the information being shared and connect it to what is already known. When this happens, the information feels more familiar and simple.

For example, when I just shared about keeping emails conversational, like sitting in a coffee shop with a friend, you probably thought about the last conversation you had with a friend that just felt easy. You could remember what that felt like and imagine your own content taking on those qualities.

This is precisely what we want. The examples should be relatable. I bet if you think back to some of your favorite sales pages, websites, social media accounts it is because there were story elements present.

Time and again, my digital course students ask me for examples because they can remember tricky concepts better and even start to make connections of those tricky concepts to other things in their life. This means that they implement what they are learning with greater ease and frequency.

5: Keep it Focused

That doesn’t mean that we can provide any kind of example, though. Adjustment 5 is to keep the content we share focused. I was listening to a course on email marketing recently and the course creators made a point of All paths need to lead to Rome. They were talking about our email content needs to lead to the same offer over and over so that we don’t create confusion.

Here, we can use the concept of all paths lead to Rome in our messaging so that each example, each snippet or idea that we share all helps students move toward a decision, a key learning concept to implement, or an understanding of something.

This is one of the reasons why, in the Map My Course process I take clients through, we work first on the overarching goal of the course, and then begin to break that down into modules, which get broken down into lesson, and finally key learning concepts.

With that kind of focus, the examples, content, and words we use all lead back to the main course goal. It stays focused, and that simplifies everything for our students.

Each time we consider what to say, keeping in mind that it needs to stay focused creates a more robust, less confusing, and more compelling message for our audience.

Action Item: Revise Your Words

With these 5 adjustments, our messaging can become much more straightforward, but the only way for our words to become magnetic is to work on them. This is not the most glamorous part of being a digital course creator, but it can be one of the most impactful things we do.

So break out the thesaurus, open up wordhippo.com, and start revising. Look for the words that are “normal” to you, but someone else might have to stop and think. Find an alternative.

Look for places that you can use an example that makes it easier for people to understand what you are sharing.

Finally, look for places that could use fewer details, fewer wandering paths, and fewer words. Not only does this make it faster for someone to get to the point, they stay focused on what you want them to hear.

You don’t have to do all of this in one week or with every resource that you have, but do get started this week. Choose one resource and one idea to implement.

The key is to take action this week.

Messaging Made Magnetic

Today, we’ve been talking about the importance of spending time on our words. The words we use in our business is one of the critical factors that determines the success of our digital courses and business. As a StoryBrand Guide committed to helping course creators build a successful business, today I’ve shared my top 5 tips for creating magnetic messaging.

As you’ve heard, on the Digital Course Creator Podcast I’m openly sharing the lessons I’ve learned, the tools and tactics that I’ve used so that you can become a Six-Figure Digital Course Creator.

But here’s what I’ve realized. All too often the solutions designed to help you get to six-figures focus solely on marketing.

Although marketing is a piece of this, success in business and in any area of life requires strategy in a number of categories and you can get that from a lot of different resources: books, podcasts, webinars, and even courses.

So why do we still struggle consistently to reach our enrollment and financial goals?

Because whatever change we want in our lives will be 10% what we learn, read, or study, and 90% or more mindset.

As a Psychology Professor and Coach, I share as much as I can about mindset here on the show, but to truly thrive we all need individualized attention, accountability, and support.

So if you are ready to say yes to a thriving, financially solid business, I’d love to have a conversation with you.

I have at least two slots open on my calendar each week to help course creators take action, dig into their purpose, and create a strategic plan for growth so that they can get unstuck! These are free, no obligation calls.

If you are ready to make the next 12 months THE year that you go from being uncertain about your course creation business to a Six-Figure Course Creator, grab a strategy call slot at coursecalls.com.

Sixty-Second Solution

Have you ever wondered how to make what you are writing more conversational?

It can be one of the best adjustments for messaging, but it feels weird because the easiest way to make this adjustment is to talk out loud.

And someone will catch you doing it.

As entrepreneurs, remember that the purpose is to help others, and if talking out loud makes that a reality, isn’t it worth the looks you get?

Someone will catch you at some point; smile. And of course, you can try your best to do this work in a quiet place with a door.

The key to conversational messaging is to be sure you can quickly speak it out loud without stumbling or changing what is written on the fly to make it more natural.

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