4 Ways to Validate Your Online Course Idea
In this post I’m going to show you four different strategies that you can use to validate your online course idea.
The reason why validating your online course idea is important is to make sure that there is interest or demand for the topic that you want to create your course around before you spend a ton of time working on it.
The confusing part of this is the “how.”
How do you actually go about validating your online course idea, especially if you don’t have an email list or a large following on social media?
When I first heard about the concept of validation I envisioned myself wandering around a shopping center asking random people if they’d be willing to take a survey.
Luckily there are way easier ways to get feedback on your ideas.
Here are four methods that you can use to gauge the level of interest in your online course before you build it.
This is by far the easiest and fastest way to get a better understanding of how much interest there is in your online course topic.
You can use a free tool like Uber Suggest to type in keywords that are related to your course topic and see how many people are searching for those keyword phrases online.
If people are searching for your course topic, that means people are interested.
Depending on the monthly search volume, you may be able to decide if the topic is worth creating an online course around or not.
Keyword research is a great starting point, but it also has limitations because it’s not an accurate refection of how real people will interact with your content.
2. Read Magnet/Lead Magnet
This is a strategy that I use to validate all of my ideas quickly without investing a ton a time upfront.
The way this works is I create a short post or video that is designed to capture the attention of my ideal student. In other words, it’s content that is relevant to my course topic that someone who has the problem that my course solves would be looking for.
I this call a “read magnet” or “attention getter.” Its only job is to attract the attention of people who are interested in my topic idea.
The second of part of this strategy is to create a simple “lead magnet.” This is something that people download by entering their email address. It could be a simple PDF that you make in Google Docs or Canva or even a short audio file that is related to the topic of the read magnet.
I set up my automated lead magnets using Convertkit. This tool lets me create forms that I can embed into my blog posts to capture email addresses and deliver my lead magnet automatically.
You can also create standalone landing pages with Convertkit if you want to add a lead magnet link to a social media post or in the description of a YouTube video. They currently have over 20 templates to choose from for creating standalone opt-in pages.
Here’s an example of a landing page that you can set quickly and easily with Convertkit:
Once my my lead magnet is set up, I run ads to this piece of content.
I prefer to use Google Ads so that I can target specific keywords. Then I’ll track how many people clicked over to the read magnet and how many people opt-in for the lead magnet.
Based on the data that I get from this test, I can usually get pretty good idea on whether my course topic is worth pursuing or not.
It’s not necessary to use paid ads to do this. You could create a post on your website or on social media and rely on organic traffic. However, paying for ads dramatically speeds up the process and gives you more control over the experiment. It also gives you valuable data that you can use if you decide to run paid ads to promote your course in the future.
Tip: If you want to try this but you don’t want to spend a lot on ads, you can usually find a coupon code for Google Ad credit pretty easily. Just search for “Google Ad Credit” and you can usually find coupons for $50 to $100 in free ad spend.
This is the validation strategy that I hear course creators talking about most often. The idea is to essentially sell your course before you create it. This is the only way to know for sure that people will buy your course before you make it.
Personally, I don’t presell my courses. And the reason for that is that I know how long it takes me to create my content. I know that there are people who talk about creating an online course in a week or a weekend, but that’s just not realistic for me.
I find idea of promising something that doesn’t exist yet and that hasn’t been tested to be super stressful. There are so many things that can go wrong. Computers crash. Things often take longer to complete that you anticipate.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in that position, but, even in the worst case scenario, if you aren’t able to deliver what you promised to your students, you can cancel the class and give people their money back.
I have seen preselling work well in scenarios where the class is delivered over the course of several weeks, either in a live or pre-recorded format.
For example, you might presell the class today, then deliver Module 1 a week from now, Module 2 two weeks from now, and so on. The lessons could be delivered live or they could be pre-recorded.
Some course instructors claim that this strategy helps them get feedback from their students on a weekly basis as they are creating the class and that this collaborative process ultimately results in a better course.
All in all, I think this is a valid idea and there clearly are some benefits to preselling your online course as a validation strategy. Just make sure that you are super organized and don’t make promises that aren’t realistic. You want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to create a high quality experience for your students.
4. Mini/Beta Course
This is the method that I prefer to use for online course validation. The idea is to put together a very basic version of the course that you ultimately want to create. It’s more like overview or introduction to the topic.
I usually offer the mini course for free or at a reduced price.
I encourage participants to ask lots of questions and tell me what would make the course more valuable or helpful. I use this feedback to create a more in depth or advanced version of the class. And that’s what I end of selling later on.
This process helps me connect with my students and get a better understanding of where they are starting, what challenges they might have, and what content they are really interested in learning from me. If I get a lot of engagement during this process, I know that the idea is worth pursuing and turning into a full blown online course.
An alternative to creating a mini course as a validation strategy might be be to host a live webinar or a hangout where you show up to talk about your course topic and gather questions and feedback from your audience.
Essentially, there are a million different ways that you can validate your online course, but the most important thing is to gauge people’s interest and make sure that there is demand for your chosen topic before you invest a time and money to create an online course.