Nikki Elledge Brown spent nearly 2,000 hours teaching communication at the college level before launching her own business as “The Communication Stylist” in April 2013. Her mission is helping entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. By combining her natural skillset with some seriously purpose-driven inspiration, Nikki was able to grow a six-figure business in just 10 months after launching her flagship program, A Course About Copy, which launched to the tune of $50,000.
So in less than a year, Nikki went from being a Pearl Harbor park ranger, and part-time college professor – with no website, except a splash page, and no email list – to becoming a full-time entrepreneur with a six-figure income. So of course, I’m intrigued by her secrets to success. In our conversation today, Nikki will share with us.
- The keys to identifying and finding your dream clients
- How to get clients all over the world, working from your sofa, in your PJs.
- The power of online coaching programs, and why every entrepreneur should consider joining one.
- What you can do when you have a great idea for an online course, but don’t know how to get started.
- The difference between offering your services and pitching to people.
- How to get more optins to your email list.
- What an evergreen launch is, and how to go about putting one together
- And much more
Mentioned in this interview
Create Awesome Online Courses Marie Forleo’s B-School
B-School Facebook group
Yes Yes Marsha
Stories from a Screeensaver blog
Where to Find Nikki
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Lorna: So Nikki I’m so glad to have you on the show. I’ve been on David Siteman Garland’s email list for quite some time and I discovered that you were one of the success stories. A $50,000 launch for your first online course is absolutely amazing. So I would love to demystify your process. But before we dive into your launch plan, let’s tell the audience first, who you are and how did you get started with your business?
Nikki: Yup, so, Nikki Elledge Brown. I made up the title, The Communication Stylist, about this time last year when I was just starting my business just because I figured, it’s a good way to describe what I do. So I use that analogy or metaphor in the sense that, like a stylist’s stylist helps you to kind of bring out the best in you to showcase. The best of who you are but stepped up a notch. Whether it’s a clothes or accessory or whatever, that’s what I can help people do with their words. So with my clients, and now my students, it’s just like they throw it all out there and then we take the best golden nuggets so that they can present the best of who they are and what they have to offer. So that’s the deal with the analogy, but the business is young. Just a year into business but communication has been my thing for the better part of the decade now. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, both in communication studies from TCU and Fort Worth Texas and that’s literally just like this social science of communication. So how and why we communicate the way we do.
My business to this point has been very focused on writing. But really my interest in communication stemmed from public speaking, like, I love public speaking. Starting in high school, I was horrified; like in elementary school I threw the fourth grade spelling bee because I couldn’t imagine going on to the next level but eventually, I kind of fell in love with the feeling of being really in command of whatever is flying out of your mouth and really connecting with people.
So, this time last year, at the beginning of 2013, I chose a word of the year which was “faith”. My husband’s in the military and I knew he was going to be spending the better part of the year on the other side of the country – we’re in Hawaii and he was going to be on the East Coast. I figured it would be a good time to store up my spiritual nuts for winter, and I started to kind of tune in.
I’d wake up early before my husband and my son, who was about 18 months old at that time, come downstairs to the kitchen table, have some quiet time, devotional time and that’s when it started to become clear to me. Like doing that first few weeks of the year, I was writing a fun blog called Stories From a Screensaver, just for friends and family, like totally casual, randomly, a few times a month. And I started to realize, I was getting a lot of really encouraging feedback and I started to see that feedback like as divine breadcrumbs leading me to the path where I was meant to be all along, like stuff “Oh, when are you going to write a book? You really have a way with words and I love every post.” When are you going to write another one?
And I started to realize, like, it was like a knock on the head, “Hey, Nik, I gave you these gifts for a reason. It’s time to share them on a bigger, broader scale.” And that’s when I started exploring the idea of “Okay, is it a mom blog?”
First I was thinking is it just a bigger mom blog that doesn’t have blogspot in the domain? What’s it going to be? Is it going to be about communication? I don’t know. So I just started plugging away, exploring different options and I realized that I could actually sell what I was helping college students with for years because I was teaching communication from grad school on for about seven years. I was like, “Maybe people would actually pay but friends aren’t going to pay.”
I could help you write an email to your mother in law that you feel awkward about but that’s not like value service necessarily that people would pay for. So that’s when I got clear that entrepreneurs need help and that it’s really valuable and that if you have the most genius product or service to share with people but you don’t know how to communicate it in a smart, authentic way then you’re stuck before you get started.
And so that’s how I started. At the end of March 2013, I started offering some free sessions and then I got my first couple of clients from those. And then, I’ve put an offer out in this Facebook group that has thousands of entrepreneurs and and by the end of May I have the lineup of over 90 clients who had scheduled to work with me for one hour each throughout the summer. I had over 740 something subscribers. I didn’t even have a website up yet. It was a splash page with an opt-in box. I’m just communicating with people via email. And then, from that point on I just kept going and then eventually I turned it into a course, just recently. Although that was always kind of part of the plan, so that’s it in a coconut shell.
Lorna: I really like how you tuned into the universe to really discover what it is that you are meant to do. So I’d love to take you back to the first moments when you decided, “Okay, I’m going to work with entrepreneurs.”
How did you start getting your first clients? Where you going out to meet ups? Where were you based at that time? And did you go to networking events and start to connect with your new clients that way?
You also mentioned a Facebook group so, I’d love for you to recreate what you did or maybe just advice people who are starting off how they can get their first line of 90 clients by a certain period of time.
Nikki: I’m never promising people like, “Hey, do what I did and you’ll get 90 clients in your second month in business. But I have seen my clients and students now, get great results in terms of list building by just going out and finding where their dream clients are and being of service and showing up and starting to build that know I can trust factor.
But I didn’t go out. I still haven’t been to a conference or networking event or whatever and I’m a year into this. Everything I did was from my couch, probably in pajama pants, with or without makeup on.
So the group I was in to start was the Biz School Facebook group. And there were like 6000 people in there. And they all needed help with what I had to offer and so there were lots of people who needed what I was offering in that group. So that would be my advice to people. There are all kinds of groups; like David has created awesome online courses and there’s a group in there. And it’s not for pitching. That’s not like, go and find people and just pitch to them. That’s not what it was. That’s not what I was doing. This was a strategy. I was just going in and connecting with people and it just so happens with what I’m offering, I was modelling smart, authentic communication and telling people I could help them with smart, authentic communication. So it’s kind of like a magic combination because it was like the proof was in the pudding. Like, “Oh this girl knows how to write and she knows how to connect with people and not feel weird or slimy about it.” I don’t know how to do that too for my business. And so, that’s the thing, if you’re people are just out and about and you have conferences, of course, you can’t replace the value of meeting people face to face but there are so many ways you can connect with like-minded people online or find your particular niche.
So basically, it depends on your business and your dream clients or your dream customers. But the key thing is to find where they are and go start connecting with them. So whether that’s online or it is face to face, find where they are, hang out with them. Let them know you’re there. Answer their questions. Be of service and that’s when you start building that momentum.
Lorna: I love how you found all your clients online from your couch because I know there’s a lot of people that feel like they can’t get new clients unless they find them locally first. So a friend of mine was asking whether or not he need to get clients in the Bay Area before he went location independent. So this is a great example as to, no, you don’t.
Nikki: No, no, you totally don’t. And it depends on what you do. I was having sessions that were just one hour long either over Google voice or over Skype but out of now, my one on one clients in the first eight months I worked with over 160 different people. That’s not including the ones who I did the free sessions with and they are from all over the world. Which was amazing because I was learning so much from them.
It was really neat to be able to get insight into 160 different businesses of all different varieties. Doctors, dentists, stylists, designers, you name it, copywriters, whatever. But there were like two of them out of the 160 were in Hawaii and now, add my students into the mix. That’s like 200 and something people I’ve been working with. So just two are actually in Hawaii. They’re everywhere. That’s the miracle of the internet and so many great friends. So many of them have become great friends and it’s crazy to me that I’ve never met them in real life.
Lorna: So the B School program that you were a part of, was that Maria Forleo’s B School?
Lorna: Okay, great. So you invested in her program and then got to be a part of that community and I will say too that a really great way to find clients is within the communities of programs that you invested in because they’re not only going through that particular program to grow their business but they actually urgently need different aspects of help with their business. Either the copywriting or driving traffic or building their business website on WordPress. So I would say, like, even if, to the audience out there, if you’ve invested in a program and there’s an online community, that’s a great way to get to know people and soft sell your services by helping people with your expertise not pitching people as you said.
Nikki: Right. And not even just as potential clients, I guess, but as friends. My friend Marsha of yesyesmarsha.com is like a networking mentor and she talks about how everybody hates the word networking and it’s really just making interesting friends, I can’t even count the number of interesting friends I’ve made and they’re not necessarily – well okay, yes, a lot of them are entrepreneurs, so all of them could potentially be my clients. But in theory, even if they’re not potential clients, they’re just great friends and they know, “Oh hey, Nikki can help people communicate better and there’s instance that I have this friend and people can refer.
So even if you’re in a group and that’s not your niche, you don’t happen to serve entrepreneurs with your business like, those people all have a real life networks too and whenever they get to know you and like you and trust you then you’ll be top of mind when they come across a potential dream customer of yours. “Hey, you should meet my friend, so and so, or check out this thing.” You know, whatever.
So it’s always good to meet people and we live on the most isolated inhabited island chain in the world so local face to face networking isn’t necessarily my biggest opportunity while we’re out here. Especially as a mom, with a little one at home. So the internet has totally made up for that.
Lorna: So in addition to Marie Forleo’s B School, did you invest in anyone else’s program to help grow your business? And if so, whose and how many programs did you actually invest in before you started to see real results with the business growth?
Nikki: I saw instant results. I made my first $21,000 by the end of my second month. That was really crazy and unexpected and never planned or strategized or whatever. And that was just from the one investment because I had access to a community of people who needed my help. And later in the year – so I knew from the beginning, because like I said, I taught college courses for seven years, part time. Some in person and some online and I knew that I could find a way to create my own classroom. So from the beginning, creating my own course was like, top of mind. And I knew, even from my free sessions, but I worked on my first 100 clients over the course of this summer but I knew from the first, like, five sessions, these are the patterns, these are things that people need help with. Absolutely that’s where we need to go into my first course.
I had an idea but I just couldn’t get going on it, like the resistance was crazy. At first I thought it was going to start working on it in July or at least I told myself, because that was the first time I had a light at the end of the tunnel and opening after all of those crazy one on one sessions. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make myself sit down and do it. And then somehow, I think a saw a sponsored post from somebody for David Siteman Garland’s, Create Awesome Online Courses and I thought, “Okay, I know how to create a college course from scratch. So it’s not whatever, but I wanted the course because I love his teaching style and how real he was. He is, who he is, whatever. And I wanted to have that in my back pocket as like a road map to say, “Okay, if all your styles, like, this is the way to go about it.” I don’t have an excuse to not know how to create a course for this audience anymore if I have this course.
I got the course in August and then I watched the whole thing and I kind of started outlining my course and I put my fillers out there. And I got my interest started and it was like 46 people and then I didn’t do anything with it for like months till the end of the year, December. And then that’s when in my brain, I realized like, I think six figures in my first year could be part of my story. Like I feel it’s supposed to be part of my story. And I knew that by creating my course and launching the first pan cake version of it by the end of my first year is what could get me to that milestone.
Lorna: Okay, so this is really interesting. I’m trying to put myself in the place where you just got started. So, I definitely support and endorse investing in programs that will provide a blueprint.
I invested in David’s program about podcasting so I can have a blueprint on how to get started with podcasting. So no more excuses on, “I don’t know how to do it”. Like, okay here’s a roadmap and by investing in these programs then you give yourself accountability, like, “Oh, I just spent $200, $500, whatever, like, how much money you spent on it and of course, if it’s like in the hundreds, it’s like, okay, I’m going to do it. Like it’s a different level of motivation than $47.
So, you know you want to do this. You get the blueprint. How big at this point is your email list and did you have different lists, like, do you have your client list? Do you have your cold leads list? How was your email marketing working at this time?
Nikki: When I launched my course?
Lorna: Yes, so you have to launch your course to an audience, right?
Nikki: Yes, I was just making sure.
I had used free Mailchimp all the way up to December. So I started my business in April. I had my first subscriber in March. I got Infusionsoft at the end of the year. And that’s when kind of, things shifted to like – you know Mailchimp is more about having separate list whereas Infusionsoft it’s more about just tags and everybody’s a contact and so.
Anyway, I’m just now shifting my mind from one to the other. But at the time when I launched my course, I had an interest list that I call the inner circle. So folks who opt-in at acourseaboutcopy.com and that was around 1200. Like during the launch week when I actually had, “Hey, here’s the sales pitch, here’s the offer, the cart is open to 1200 people.”
And then my VIP list, they get my Friday emails. It was about 1600 and there was an overlap probably of about 800. So I had like just over 2000 something total people but I specifically launched it and I only showed the sales page to that inner circle list that has like 1200 people on it.
Lorna: Okay, so your VIP list, is that your leads list from your website? Like, anyone that arrives on your website and just opts-in and gets the free opt-in gift, is that the VIP list?
Nikki: Yes, that’s my main list for nikkielledgebrown.com
Lorna: And then when you started to promote your course, you created a brand new list and that was your inner circle list that you put to 1200?
Nikki: Yes, that was the one where when I first bought Create Awesome Online Courses, I was testing my idea to make sure even though I knew people wanted help with this because that’s everything. I was basically creating a course based on what my one on one clients needed help with. So I knew there was a market for it already. But I put a blog post like, “Hey, what do you want to know when it comes to writing your own copy?”
And so that was were 46 people in December and two months later it was over 2000 people. It was just really crazy. So by the time I launched it was 1200 and now it’s continuing to grow because I had a free training series available at acourseaboutcopy.com and that free training series is what attracted a whole bunch of people. They get that free value.
Lorna: So the free training series, what does that look like? Is it a series of video trainings? A series of emails?
Nikki: Yes. So they opt-in and they get instant access, at least the way it’s set up and I’ll be changing it as I kind of experiment throughout the year. But right now, if you opt-in at acourseaboutcopy.com then you can get instant access to video 1 and then over the course of a week I’ll send you video 2, and then video 3.
So I was creating all of these as I went. Like at the end of January, I was literally like finishing editing the videos just like the night before or even the morning that I was sending them out, a few days apart. And then as people were joining the list during the actual launch week I’m like, “Okay, you’re fine here’s this video, here’s video 2, catch up, whatever. And so it was basically like a sampler of, “Hey, here’s my teaching style, here’s my method, here’s my philosophy. If you subscribe to this philosophy of making sure that you are showing up as you really are online and you want to present yourself in a smart, authentic way then we’re going to get on great here. Some of my tips here. Some of my recipe for you to write your about page.
That’s what the free training was. And then I said, “Okay, there’s a whole lot more where that came from. It’s a course about copy. This is the founding class. Let’s go.
Lorna: Wow, cool. So this is a four part video launch series.
Nikki: Three. I had three videos because I didn’t have time. Honestly, it’s just because I didn’t have time to do sales video so I didn’t do a sales video the first time. But it was like, “Hey, it’s a course about copy, it makes sense to just sell it with my words written down.”
Lorna: So how long is each video? Is it a PowerPoint that you recorded with audio?
Nikki: And again, I’ll change them eventually but this first round of videos, the first video is 12 minutes and it’s all on camera and then the second two are like, one is 24. I think they’re both under 30 minutes but like twenty something minutes and they start with me on camera and then it’s PowerPoint like actual lesson style.
Lorna: Great, fantastic. Is this set up to be an evergreen launch or evergreen training series?
Nikki: The first time it wasn’t. The first time I knew I just wanted to do one live round and get where I called my founding class and so that was my 51 founding class members. And then like just kind of try that. Like again, the content wasn’t beta because the content was exactly what I had done in literally hundreds of one on ones since 2013. But I never presented it this way. It was kind of merging my two worlds of my entrepreneurial with the one on ones and then my college professor days. And so I wanted to make sure I could figure out the best way to present this information to the folks who needed it. So we had a fun, wild, crazy, ridiculous four week round where we did two lessons a week.
And now we’ve just been kind of hanging out and catching up and catching our breath and then I’ll re-launch it and do a grand opening this summer and that will be the evergreen. So when I open it this summer, then it’ll be open for good or however long I should be keeping it open.
Lorna: In trying to determine how exactly to do an evergreen launch, did you learn how to do this through David’s program and how would you describe to the audience what an evergreen launch actually is?
Nikki: So evergreen launch would mean that you’re not like opening it and closing, opening it and closing it, opening it and closing. And yes, he addresses what he calls the VIP launch in his course. So I basically went a little rogue because he doesn’t recommend doing it live, doing a live run because it is chaos. And now I totally understand why he doesn’t recommend it and he already said, this is why I don’t recommend doing a live, create as you go kind of thing because it really is crazy. And he is right. It totally was crazy and I hopefully will never do it like that again. But evergreen is like, literally you can make money while you sleep because it’s just there, you got your funnels setup. People can buy the course. There’s not like a live component that you have to be involved in. And that’s ultimately why I would love to build it too.
Lorna: Yes, I’m in that process too where I’m based in Chang Mai and the time zone difference between me and my audience and clients is at least like 12, 14 hours difference. So the thought of doing live events, especially from places where the internet might be a little spotty, it’s difficult.
I spent a good six months in Brazil last year, where I didn’t move forward with setting up a course and doing webinars in JV marketing simply because the internet would drop randomly and you never knew if it’s to drop for three minutes or three hours. When you spend all that time to prepare an online event and work with a JV partner and all of a sudden you drop out and you don’t come back on, it’s just business killing, right? So trying to crack the code to evergreen launch has been on my list of things to accomplish out here in Thailand.
Nikki: You know there’s huge value in the live part. We had a lot of fun because for the first live round, we did weekly calls twice a week where we will get on and hop into Google Talk and help them out and work on their copy. And ultimately, that’s not the goal. The course is not a good group coaching program or any but it is really, it’s fun and that’s something of value and I’m trying to figure out if there’s a smart way to incorporate that in some capacity moving forward with the evergreen version.
So I’m working on that in my mad scientist lab.
Lorna: I love that. Did you find that a lot of the people that signed up for your course, that bought your course were your old clients that you were working with one on one or did you get completely new people that were not from your email list and how did you attract these customers.
Nikki: Most of them were new. I think out of the 51, maybe 8, less than 10 of them were from my original dream team as I call them, my 2013 dream team. And then everybody was on my list. Like I said, because I did not share the sales page just all over the place, I only shared it with the people who I’d gone through to see what I was like, what I was all about.
My whole message is about dream clients and customers and working with the people who you really want to work with. I don’t want to work with everybody and not everybody wants to work with me.
The people who come into my space, especially for my course, because it’s forever, like I said until I feel like taking the course down for whatever reason. I want to make sure these are the right people. And I want to make sure they have all the information that they need so everybody who signed up, came through and saw the free training videos and all that trust.
So they were all on my list but a lot of them hadn’t heard of me until the launch. Somehow they’ve been around but then some hadn’t until the launch.
Lorna: So Nikki, to clarify, most of the people that bought your course are not your one on one clients to begin with?
Nikki: Correct. Only out of the 50, only about 10 of them were my one on one clients. My first few were definitely one on one clients before they even knew what the course was really going to entail and put like a random PayPal and then get one of my emails and they signed up and I was like, “Oh, I love you people.” Because they knew me and they trusted me, whatever.
The first few who signed up were my clients but out of the 51, less than 10 were actually one on one clients and everybody else was new.
Lorna: That’s really inspiring because you just demystified the myth that in order to sell an online course and have the success that you did, you need to already have a thriving clientele who will buy that course. So, going back then to defining your ideal clients, can you describe who your ideal client is and how you would recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs go to a process where they’re attracting the exact people that they want to work out with.
Nikki: Yes, totally. So the process I lock my own dream clients and dream students too is really just identifying what is it that you want to offer and then you know what you want to offer. And then you start to think about who struggles with that. Who has that problem? So if I want to help people with communication and I know I want to be able to have a profitable business then I need to know who’s going to pay for help with communication.
And again, right now it’s writing specific that I can help people with interviewing, and public speaking, like anything related to communication, I can help with. But I have to start somewhere so you’ve got to pick that one problem that you want to help people solve. And you can be picky. You can then think of who you’d really want to work with.
So 99.9% of my clients have all been women. I have one dude in as I call him, the founding class one. And he’s great and he’s totally cool with the fact that most of all my examples use she and her and whatever because most of my clients also work with a lot of women.
And that’s just kind of the nature of the beast that, it’s not that I wouldn’t want invite guys into the crowd but that’s normally who’s drawn to me. So my dream students that I find are people who get the most value and really appreciate me the most, and kind of remind of what I’m offering are people who a lot like me in the sense that they’re business is going and they have a huge value that they want to bring. They’re also growing a family while growing a business and they don’t have time to over analyze because they’re like me and they’re working on nap times and before they’re kids wake up. There’s no time to over analyze things because you only have so much time you could do and having that freedom to be with your family is really important to you, being authentic and I know sometimes people want to vomit at the word authentic. But I don’t care. I think it’s a beautiful thing to want to show up in a genuine and sincere way and be who you are.
People who are drawn to that are a great fit for me. And so for them again, just to go back to advice for everybody else, it’s like find that problem and really think about who do you want to work with. This is your time. Again for me, my dream clients were moms; we have kids, if we’re taking time away from our kids or our husbands or our friends or our moms or our sisters, whatever, it better be worth it. I don’t have to work, I don’t have to have this business which is a blessing to be able to work; you don’t need the money literally. That’s a huge blessing.
But especially because I’m doing this and I don’t have to be. It better be fun. I better have fun with the people that I’m working with. And I saw that throughout all of my one on ones, like it was just a blast, with laughing. It doesn’t feel like work. And so you’ve got to just kind of – it’s almost like dating. Like you may think you want to work with this type of person and then you work with that type of person. You realize, “Yeah, that was a little awkward, or that wasn’t really a good fit or no, I didn’t like how they made me feel.” And so then you just take notes. Then you go back and switch up your dating profile a bit which is your website.
And you change the language to really speak the language of those people how they will describe that problem. I call it a copy bank. You start a copy bank and you start paying attention to how they describe the problem they have because that’s what gets their attention. At the beginning of any page is to start like at attention. Get her by using their words to describe this problem. Because that’s how – it’s literally like a little flag, like, “Hey, I get you. I understand what’s going on and I can help you with it.”
Lorna: So do you come up with one or several ideal dream client profiles?
Nikki: I’m not really huge on a profile. I just kind of go with, “Hey this is the problem that I can help them solve and this is how they described it and then we kind of see who comes along.” You see who you catch with that net. So I’m not really one of the super specific profile down to like, what magazine she’s reading, and that kind of stuff because my dream students read all kinds of magazines or none at all. That doesn’t really have an effect on whether or not they want to work with me and I want to work with them.
Lorna: So how do you find the words that they would actually use to describe the problem? Let’s say you have an idea of who your dream client is and maybe it doesn’t really go down to the specifics of how much money they earn or what age range they are but you have a sense that this person’s out there and there’s a population of those people out there. How do you then verify that the language that you’re using is indeed the language that they use? Where do you then find them and connect with them and do that research?
Nikki: Yes, you ask them. And so wherever they are, like I said for me, it’s easier probably than for someone who is working with pregnant moms in particular. But even like – okay so I have for example a client who is a maternity kind of nutritionist, she really likes to help moms have super healthy pregnancies. And so of course, in a group of entrepreneurs the chance of somebody actually being pregnant is like very slim. So it’s like you’re just going to find a Facebook group but you can go to places so if you’re working with pregnant moms then you go to iVillage or all of these other places where they hang out.
You start to see how they’re describing their problems with what they’re eating, trying to eat healthy but they’re too tired to cook or whatever. But you just have to get creative and find them but once you find them, ask them. Either you’re listening, you’re putting your listening ears and you’re paying attention and you’re just like stalking them from the background or once you’re in there you can actually ask people like, “So what’s your biggest struggle with XYZ?”
You can do a survey; whenever I did my free sessions, I basically positioned it as, “Hey, I’m offering these free sessions, I only have this many spots.” I was only going to do ten but then thirty something people applied and I ended up doing 24 free sessions. But I was like, if you fill this out, I will so greatly appreciate even if I don’t get to offer this free session to you, I’d love to offer like a, answer to one of your questions or something on my Facebook page.
But then, people filled out the survey and I had different questions on the survey and one of them was, “What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to communicating your value with your potential customer?” And then, I see it like over and over, the same thing were, I just feel too stiff, or too boring or whatever and you start to see patterns arise.
So you can do it as an actual survey. In exchange, you can send them a thank you, like a helpful PDF or something of value in exchange for their time as a thank you if you do a real deal like Survey Monkey survey or you can ask them Facebook and post it as a status update. How would you describe your biggest problem with XYZ? What’s your biggest frustration? What’s your biggest concern when it comes to – insert problem that you solve. And so you just ask them. And like I said, then you store that away, call it the copy bank. So you start making deposits so that whenever you sit down to write your copy for your site, you can make some withdrawals and speak their language literally.
Lorna: So I think that is one important piece and that’s like the foundation before doing anything with regards to launching and growing a business, is to really get clear on the kind of people you want to work with. I think that is one of the key success factors in really making a huge splash and impact when you’re coming out with client offering versus kind of like, coming out with something and there’s kind of a resounding silence. So, let’s not forget the important piece of defining your customers, your ideal dream customers and finding the language they use to describe your problems.
So with that as a base, if we were going to piece together your online course and all the different phases that you went through to get it out the door, how would you chunk out the different steps in your roadmap?
Nikki: Well, the first thing was realizing what I wanted and needed to offer. Like I said, all of that came through eight months of boost on the ground experience with having those one on one sessions and so I knew. Like I said, that was just my living market research.
I had all these amazing women and one dude that I was working with and I knew this is what they needed help with after so many times of saying, “Okay, here’s how we can structure your about page. Here’s how you can layout your work with me page”, like it’s all coming together so I had the concept and I knew this is the content. But then I needed to light a fire under my booty to actually create the course itself. And that’s when, like I said, I had that goal. I set some public accountability and I got a timeline. And I wrote it all out, like, “Okay, here’s everything I need to do, I’ll switch to Infusionsoft, if I’m going to make these videos, I need to get the new website setup, I need to get all these stuff created.”
So I went through and created with Amber McCue a 90 day plan which then, I totally procrastinated during the first half of it. So most of it all happened in a span of crazy (never doing it like that again) 45 days where I was just like a total nutcase in creating these videos, writing these videos, recording these videos. It’s like again, the content wasn’t new. It’s not like I just came up with it. I had been doing it but I hadn’t put it in this particular format and so it was the ideas, it was the plan and then just get it done.
Lorna: Okay, so 45 days to create your course. And did you build your course completely before you launch it or did you presell the course and then create it after people bought?
Nikki: Yeah, It’s a little bit of both because like I said, I had all the content and I literally had it all outlined like in a Word document. Like here’s what I want to cover in lesson 1, lesson 2, lesson 3 and so on. But I hadn’t created the videos. So I kind of had it but I didn’t have it physically created into the format I was sharing it with. So as I was going through the four weeks of the course, I’m recording and I’m talking about, “Yesterday in the call, when Christy said this…” It was like just for my founding class. I knew these videos weren’t going to go with the evergreen version. These were just for my founding class. So I did it live. Again, that’s not what David recommends. [Laughs] But I’m such a rebel when it comes to my business. I’m a total goody-goody in real life and when it comes to my business I’m kind of like breaking rules and just kind of seeing blazing my own trail which I encourage other people to do. There’s always a good best practice to learn from but you’ve got to do whatever works for you.
Lorna: So your course itself has how many modules and how many videos?
Nikki: I have eight lessons. The first round it was like, one video per lesson but for the next round, I’m going to split them into shorter videos like split each lesson into shorter segments so that a) it’s easier for them to digest and b) it’s easier for me to go back and update if I need to change or I want to add something to this one section then I can just update that one video instead of having to rerecord the whole thing.
Lorna: Okay, so there’s a course creation part of it.
You invested in Infusionsoft. I’m curious to know, Infusionsoft is a pretty hefty investment. Especially I think there’s like a $2000 setup fee and something like $200 a month. So I’m trying to get a sense of like, when would you recommend that an entrepreneur up-level to Infusionsoft? Is there a specific income level that you would reach before you felt comfortable doing that or did you just know, “Hey, I’m going to do this. It’s going to be worthwhile for me to get the system setup before I even like get to that income levels, I’m just going to invest in it right now.”
Nikki: Yes, pretty much. And there usually I was running deals so I didn’t actually pay the full price for the coaching, although the coaching was really helpful because I had exact launch funnels to setup immediately. It wasn’t like, “Oh, this is just theoretical. Here’s how you will do this.” It’s like, no dude, I got to get this launch funnel setup, how do I do this? And so that was really helpful.
It’s such a personal decision or professional decision, however you want to say it. I knew I wanted to make the jump because I wanted to have all that information from the get-go the first time before I did a big launch. But other people do fine launches without any big system at all. You just make Aweber, or Mailchimp or whatever work for you and you setup the auto responders. Some people don’t have an actual membership for their course. It’s just email or password protected pages on their WordPress site or whatever. So it just kind of depends on how you want to roll. But I knew 2014 is the year of the big leagues for me and I’m growing and learning at a really rapid pace. Like I have only been in business a year but I feel like I’ve learned. I’ve crammed a lot of learning into that one year so I knew I wanted to start with Infusionsoft from the beginning just so could stalk my potential clients and customers and keep of track of knowing what it was that they clicked, and having a sequence that I wasn’t having to just manually go in and do broadcast emails for everything all the time.
But to be honest, I didn’t really get to take advantage of that so much because I was just creating, like I said, just as I was going, like I was writing the launch emails, right before they went out. So it wasn’t like, I’ve got all my launch setup and now, click start. It wasn’t like that at all and it will be hopefully like that this next time. But the first time, it was just like, barely just cranking them out before it’s time to send out that next video or like my launch approach is a bit unconventional because that’s my approach to business. Like I’m sharing the story as I’m going. So like, my launch emails were talking about the launch itself and how things are going. “Oh that’s cool, Vimeo got attacked and nobody could see that video, whatever.”
So it really just kind of depends. But for me I knew I wanted to make that decision because I wanted to have all that information from the start. And I knew I was about to grow my list big time with my free training series and so I’d rather do it now than have to import everybody later.
Lorna: Okay, so what does your technology platform look like? You have Infusionsoft and you mentioned you’re using Vimeo for your video delivery?
Nikki: Yes, I have a Vimeo pro account so my videos for the course are hosted on there and then downloads are through Amazon S3. So if people are downloading like a transcript, if any of my students are downloading anything, it’s hosted on S3. Even the videos for download are hosted on S3 because it’s really inexpensive option.
Lorna: How many auto-responder emails did you create for your series?
Nikki: Oh gosh, again, I don’t know because I was just doing it as I went. But I know I had a welcome email. That’s like, “Hey, here you go, here’s video 1 and then video 2, video 3 and then from that point, it was just like every day while the cart was open. I would send at least one email because they were not unsubscribing. It has a very, very, very low unsubscribe rate and I had never sent them any emails. Normally, I just send one a week. So I was like, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh I’m scared.”
But there were days sometimes like maybe three people would unsubscribe and I’m like, “Okay, you’re still here. I’m going to keep emailing you every day then.” And they’re still here, like a lot of them stuck around even if they didn’t buy. They still didn’t opt out so I’m like, “Okay, here we go again”.
Lorna: How long was your launch period then when you were sending these emails every day?
Nikki: I think my first video went out like January 29th or 30th so it was just about under a week and then I opened my cart on February 4th and I closed it on February 14th on Valentine’s day. And that’s when the mystical six figure mark was crossed on Valentine’s night.
So it was a 10 day, like, my cart was open for 10 days. But I felt like that was kind of long. And I think this time, when I do my launch and I do a VIP launch, I think I’ll only do like 5 days because it’s like, all that buildup and in creating these videos and boom, boom, boom and then you’ll say, okay, now the cart’s open and we’re just kind of like [whistles] twiddling our thumbs like, “Okay, because everybody buys at the end and that was totally true.” I mean, like 20 something of the 51 students bought in on the last day.
Lorna: Did you promote anywhere else? So where were you promoting? In addition to your house list.
Nikki: I did some Facebook ads in the last few days but it was literally just the last, like four days that I did Facebook ads. So it’s mostly just my list.
Lorna: Did you find that the Facebook ads converted for you?
Nikki: I honestly haven’t gone back to see if any of my students actually came from the Facebook Ads but I know I had about 200 leads. But then it’s hard to say because I also shared on my Facebook page. I’m like, “Hey look I did my first Facebook ad” and the way that you control it is like it’s hard to know if somebody saw it from the ad being the ad or from me sharing the fact that I did the ad. You know what I mean? Like if somebody clicked that link from the actual ad in its natural habitat or me sharing it.
But yeah, I think it worked well. I’ll do it again whenever it’s time to launch again just to experiment with it and see how it goes.
Lorna: What kind of ad was it? Was it a promoted post ad?
Nikki: Yeah, it was a video ad so it was like a really short video that was leading people over to the free training series.
Lorna: Cool. So, I just want to be mindful of time. We’re coming to the end of our interview so I’d like to leave you with some wrap up questions. So, taking a step back from this juicy detailed discussion were we kind of went into the different phases, if you can just bullet point out a launch roadmap on what an aspiring entrepreneur needs to do to launch a program like yours and have it be a stunning success. What would the steps be?
Nikki: Well, I mean, it’s hard to do all that in just a few steps but I guess the biggest, broadest steps are like, knowing your value, obviously. Know who needs it. You’ve got to build a list. Don’t launch a course when you don’t have an audience for it. And I feel like that’s really important point because I feel like, I could launch this course to just the people I have. Forget ads or anything else and it will still be great. And again, I’m not really concerned about having squillions of dollars in sales. I just want the right people and if it’s just five people, that’s fine. Five or 50 or 500, so you kind of have to be like motivated but also, detached from the outcome in that sense that you really want to focus on quality in getting the right people.
So you’ve got to have people to talk to. Which means you have to build credibility with people so that regular free content that you’re providing, not just in like a free training series or whatever you’re going to use for your actual course launch, but like, before it’s time to launch the course you’ve got to prove that your stuff is good.
So even though most of students were new, I had built a lot of credibility in the 10 months prior to launching this course. Even if they were new, I had a story to share and I had social proof to say, “Here are the people that I had worked with.” And so, you’ve got to just be really generous with your genius and establish credibility that way.
Obviously, you’ve got to make sure it’s really great product and that you’re really confident in your course if that’s what you’re launching. And then, just present it. Everything I say, always comes back to smart, authentic communication because no matter how you do it. Like yes, you can listen to the way I did it. You can listen to the ways Susie did it and the way Dave did it, whoever, but you’ve got to just know your people. Know who you’re talking to and be so confident that what you’re offering is the best possible solution for them.
And when that’s genuine and real and you can communicate that clearly, then the right people are going to buy it and take you up on that offer. I don’t know that that’s like a very linear step. That’s the philosophy behind everything, I think, for sales like you’ve got to be sincerely, genuinely confident that what you’re offering is a really valuable solution for them, because then you won’t ever feel like a cheesy salesman and you’ll be confident and you’re not going to feel like, “Oh, man I’m emailing them too much.” Because they’re getting great value so they’re not opting out like, they want to hear from you. How’s that?
Lorna: That’s fantastic!
Is this business your life purpose, if not what is?
Nikki: I think it is. It’s definitely part of it because like I said, this time last year I wasn’t thinking, how can I make more money. Like I was working as a park ranger at Pearl Harbor, making paychecks of the heart quite happily. It wasn’t about how can I make money? I need to start a business. It was truly because I chose to focus on my faith and I realized, communication is what I was created to share. It’s one thing. I feel like also a part of my purpose is being a great wife and mom and friend, and sister, and daughter, and whatever. But this is definitely a purpose-driven work for me, for sure. Like I said, I don’t have to be doing it. It’s not like we need the income but it’s life changing. And I feel like, the biggest reason I say that there’s literally no earthly explanation for my story and how it’s unfolded and I think that it’s really because of the God thing.
I attribute it to my faith because that’s literally what brought this idea into my consciousness last year. It was choosing to kind of tune in and pay attention.
Lorna: Thank you so much Nikki. Please tell us how we can best stay in touch with you.
Nikki: You can find me at nikkielledgebrown.com. I’m actually about to – I’m not sure when this will be airing but I’m about to have a total makeover to my site and really, really excited about it. So by the time you hear this, maybe it’ll be up. It should be up in May.
Lorna: Fantastic. I really enjoyed this action-packed conversation and I’m sure that this interview is going to really inspire and provide a lot of value to our listeners. Thank you so much.
END OF RECORDING
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