Tabitha Carro is no ordinary school teacher. In addition to educating elementary school children in a classroom, she is also a successful self-taught online entrepreneur who has created two online schools and over 20 online courses that are enjoyed by students from all over the world.
Creating marketing campaigns to promote her online schools that serve two completely different target audiences is no easy feat. Fortunately, Tabitha has an entire marketing team dedicated to spreading the word about her courses. Or does she?
To our surprise, it turns out that Tabitha has been doing all of the marketing for her business using nothing but her iPhone. In fact, her ability to create compelling promo videos and graphics to promote her courses using only her phone is what led to her create Smartphone Marketing School. Her other online school, Flap Jack Factory, is home to several courses that show other teachers how to create additional learning resources for their students.
We had the chance to talk with Tabitha and found out about her journey as an online instructor, the marketing strategies she uses to promote her courses and the tools that help her create and organize her content. She shared some great advice that we think will be helpful to anyone who is creating and selling online courses.
Read the case study below or
From school teacher to online entrepreneur
Every weekday for the past 12 years Tabitha has been in a classroom with children. She started off as a kindergarten teacher and then later started teaching older elementary school students. Apart from the obvious challenges that a school teacher may have, Tabitha came across a new one when she started teaching fourth graders Spanish Immersion, Math and Science.
A shortage of content and additional resources to help students grasps the concepts made it difficult for Tabitha to teach her students successfully. That’s when her entrepreneurial nature emerged and Tabitha began creating her own resources to use for her classes.
Tabitha’s first jump into the online business world happened when she came across a website called Teachers Pay Teachers. She uploaded the resources she had created to the platform and started selling them to other teachers. She was one of the early adopters of the platform, but luckily for her, the platform grew quickly and has since become the go-to platform for teachers to find additional resources and content to share with their students.
Content creation vs. content marketing
Unfortunately Tabitha fell into the common trap many new entrepreneurs and content creators fall into. For four years straight, she made a lot of content, but neglected to learn how to market her content so that it could be enjoyed by more people.
“Just coming from teacher mentality” Tabitha explains, “you’re not thinking about strategies for making money or any of that, and really for about four years I was just plugging away making content and totally missing the marketing aspect of it”.
Every day, she came home from school and regardless of the fact that she was already tired, Tabitha sat at the computer and spent endless hours creating more content. With no formal training in photography, videography or graphic design, creating content and designing the resources for other teachers was quite overwhelming for Tabitha. On top of that, she was trying to do it all with professional gear and software that was not particularly user friendly, which made things even harder.
“I began to discover that I was working myself to death. Teaching all day, and then going home to the computer,” Tabitha recalls. “I started realizing about two years ago I need to do things smarter and a big part of that was I don’t need to create anymore. I need to start marketing what I’ve created.”
How an iPhone changed everything
A couple of years into this journey, Tabitha got her first iPhone and that changed everything for her. She discovered that she could do everything that she did with a professional camera, desktop software, and other tools using just her phone and still create high quality content. So she started using her phone to create her content and resources, as well as her marketing materials.
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually Tabitha learned how to take high quality photos of her products, create her own promo videos and design captivating graphics straight from her phone. Impressed by the quality of her resources and marketing materials, other teachers started approaching her and asking how she was doing it. When she told them that she made everything using her phone, they couldn’t believe it.
“I realized that people wanted to know how to do this because it’s simple, it’s easy, and you have your phone with you all the time. You’re actually working on your business in your spare moment instead of having to specify specific time in your office on your computer to do your marketing”, Tabitha explains. “So in November I started getting this idea that I’d really like to provide some kind of content platform to the teachers that want to know how to market visually with just their iPhones, because that’s my experience and it was a struggle for me at first.”
And so, with an obvious demand from other teachers seeking to learn how to create and promote their own resources, Tabitha decided to create an online course to teach her skills. That course was the first of many courses she created for her online school Smartphone Marketing School.
Defining her target audience & building her brand
As we have learned from other online instructors, the key to marketing success is to have a well-defined target audience. The better we know and understand the target audience we are creating our course for, the more we can tailor our course content to their needs, and the more valuable it will be for them.
Having a clearly defined target audience for her smartphone marketing courses helped Tabitha to create training that would be very helpful for them. “I’m reaching a market that doesn’t need the whole studio and the lighting and all that stuff” she told us. “They have a bunch of products that they need to make it look awesome, and they don’t have the time or money to spend hours and thousands of dollars to showcase them. And now with your iPhone you make things look awesome.”
Tabitha started building her online presence on Instagram. This was before she even had her own website. The bio link on her Instagram profile directed people to her email newsletter. She made sure that her Instagram followers received helpful free content about visual marketing from the iPhone every day. Her newsletter was sent out weekly and that also included free valuable content and no sales pitch.
Sharing free valuable content on social media and directing all of her followers to her email newsletter helped Tabitha to build an email list of potential students for her online courses. Having an email list gave her direct access to her audience, which would become the primary source of new students for her courses.
Using Thinkific to set up her online school
When Tabitha started creating her first online courses, she struggled to find the platform that was right for her. She tried setting up her online school using other platforms, but the experience was not very pleasant for her. “I wanted to cry because it just wasn’t looking good and I just didn’t even want to look at my own course site,” she recalls. “From the start it just wasn’t meeting my needs. You couldn’t add images, you could only have text lessons and video lessons. I was very limited for what I needed for my content and I started to realize that I don’t want just video, video, video – that’s not going to reach every learner.”
She came across Thinkific and saw that we offered a free account, so she decided to give it a try. In less than a day she was able to transfer all her content from the platform she was previously using. “With you guys I realized I could use various multimedia pieces that would hopefully keep every type of learner engaged in my courses”, she told us. Now Tabitha not only has videos in her courses, but also text lessons with images in them, PDF templates, checklist, GIFs and more. This helps to ensure that all of her students get value from her courses, since there is content and resources for every style of learner.
Marketing strategies to enrol students
One strategy that has worked well for Tabitha has been to choose the specific enrolment periods for each of her courses. This means that the cart is not open all the time. The doors open for a certain period of time for people to enrol, and they close after the deadline. This approach helps to create scarcity and pushes people to make a decision as soon as possible based FOMO (fear of missing out) – classic human nature. Give people a deadline, and they are more likely to take action.
Instead of creating a free video series or hosting webinars, as many online instructors do to sell their course, Tabitha prefers to create a free course. Her free course is a more simplified version of her paid course but still contains helpful tips for its students. This gives people the chance to learn from her for free before making the decision to purchase more in-depth training from her.
Tabitha also creates beta-testing groups using her free courses. “They loved the free course and for me it was great because I knew that if they loved that free course they’re going to be happy with my membership because it’s the same format”, she explains. “They’re not going to be surprised. They’re going to be comfortable with it.” Having students enrol in a free course helps validate the demand for a more in-depth paid course on the same topic.
When it comes to paid courses, Tabitha avoids creating courses that are extensive in length. Instead, she prefers to create short courses (often just 1-3 hours of training). Even the video lessons within those courses are kept to “bite sized” lengths, often no more than 5 minutes each. As a result of this format, Tabitha has been able to create many mini-courses, and she bundles them into membership a program. Each time she creates a new small course she adds it to her membership site.
How teaching online has changed her life
Tabitha’s life has definitely changed since she decided to start sharing her knowledge with others online. She spent years creating helpful resources for other teachers, but it wasn’t until she started to create and sell online courses that she began to feel like a true entrepreneur. Just a few years into her journey as an online course creator, Tabitha is already experiencing an incredible sense of fulfilment on a daily basis.
“It gives you fulfilment. It gives you purpose because people are coming to you and you’re solving their problems with your content”, says Tabitha. “To make money is amazing. But to have people really see you as an expert is so rewarding.”
Another advantage of creating courses and attracting students from all over the world has been the increase in Tabitha’s confidence. Knowing that she has the ability to transfer her hard-won knowledge and experience into online courses that help others, positioning her as an expert in the process, has given her tremendous confidence. “This has brought me out of my shell”, Tabitha explains. “It’s given me confidence. I finally feel like I’m an expert at something and I can help people.”
Advice for other course creators
To wrap up our discussion with Tabitha, we asked her to share some parting words of advice to help encourage other online course creators:
“If you’re doing a course about something that you’re really passionate about, go ahead, hang in there, and just know that the tough part is right now when you’re getting that base of content” says Tabitha.
Great advice, and we couldn’t agree more. The hardest part of creating an online course for the first time is getting started. But if you have a passion for your topic, and you’re confident that the course you create will help others, work through the challenges of organizing and creating your content, and get your course online for the world to see.
Your first course may not be perfect (is there even such a thing?), but you can always make more courses or circle back and improve the content in your existing ones.
Thanks for sharing your insights with us Tabitha!Inspiring story of @Tabitha_Carro teaching smart phone marketing online. #teachonline Click To Tweet