I talk with creators daily. I’ve studied hundreds (maybe thousands?) of creators at pretty much every scale imaginable. Every creator is different. But if there’s one big takeaway from getting close with our creators, it’s this:
Creators find selling uncomfortable (and think they’re terrible at it).
Selling hampers “course creation ability and enthusiasm,” one told me. “It’s not something we’re used to or good at,” another says. “I know how important [marketing] is, but do I know how to implement a strategy for it? I don’t.” Comments like these pepper conversations on Thinkific’s Facebook group.
It makes sense. I’ve yet to speak with a creator who joined Thinkific to up their selling and marketing game. Creators are here to make an impact on the world. They’re here to help audiences develop a skill, learn something, or to improve their lives. They’re here to live their dream of making a living as an expert in their field, building a business that supports their families and employees, and sharing their skills with others through teaching.
I’m on a mission to make selling natural for those people. I’m here to make selling natural for those that live to teach.
One huge component of that? Shifting core beliefs about what “selling” entails. Sure, selling can mean creating marketing funnels, paid ads, and email blasts. But that stuff is the last thing that creators want to work on — and it saps their enthusiasm for teaching.
But here’s the surprising thing that I wish all creators knew. It’s a powerful and simple insight that most people miss. Every creator already possesses the single best tool for selling. And it happens to be the thing they’re best at, and the thing they love doing most: teaching. To sell more, creators need to teach more.
Transformation funnels >>> marketing funnels
I’ve come to think about teaching as guiding transformation. Think about it. Any time you’ve ever learned something, some kind of transformation happened. A before and after. Maybe someone went from “I can’t juggle at all” to “I can juggle three balls.” That’s a transformation! Then, after a couple lessons, another transformation happens — “I can juggle FOUR balls!” Soon they begin to see things they can juggle everywhere they go. The world turns into a place full of juggling opportunities. That’s transformation.
Think back in your life to a time when you really learned something. That satisfying, building feeling. It was likely a series of transformations all building on one another in succession, to the point where you couldn’t believe that you once didn’t know how to do that thing. And it probably felt amazing, right?
For creators, marketing funnels should begin with that first transformation. That’s why I like to think of them as something different: Transformation Funnels. When your marketing funnel moves students through a transformation, then you can sell through teaching.
Marketing Funnel vs. Transformation Funnel
Think about it: it takes time to really dig in and learn something. Knowledge and mastery are a gradual build. And almost always, there’s a natural sequence of points and milestones that come with learning. (For example, you probably can’t juggle chainsaws until you first learn to juggle three balls, then four, then two chainsaws, etc.) And creators who give that first transformation away for free on their channels grow the fastest.
The best part? The transformation funnel mimics almost exactly a marketing funnel. With zero strategizing or marketing admin whatsoever, an intuitive and expertise-based funnel (a transformational one!) already exists inside the creator’s head.
How to sell like a best-selling teacher
Let’s take a look at an example of what this transformation funnel looks like. Let’s take a look at Brandon, from Thrive Training Institute. He teaches a powerful and essential thing: how parents can save their child in an emergency. He recently created an Instagram post that highlighted the critical problem that choking is the leading cause of death in children. At the end of that post, he directed folks to check out his free guide on the subject.
This sounds like a pretty typical lead-generating tactic, right? Present a problem and tease a solution. So, what happened? The post bombed. 17 likes, no comments. Why? Brandon was thinking like a marketer. He made a commercial. It offers a problem, but no solution. It doesn’t help the student move along their journey of transformation.
Contrast that post with a more recent one. Brandon does something totally different here: he teaches parents what to do in the event their child is choking. So much value! So, what happened? 153 likes at the time of writing — 10x the first post, and tons of comments. By teaching a solution to a problem, Brandon provides a transformation. A digestible “a ha!” moment that prompts a journey for his audience. Teaching is powerful!
Something to note is that Brandon is giving really good content away for free. Maybe that sounds risky. Why would his audience purchase his course if they can just get it for free on Instagram? But of course, 60 seconds isn’t enough time to learn everything you need to know to save a child in an emergency! Now that they’ve started to learn the skill, they can finish it with his course. And because his audience are excited by this transformation, they’re sharing the post with others, too. (Think of a time you learned something new, and excitedly told someone about it.)
He’s building his audience; providing a powerful (and free!) transformation — and creating a powerful lead funnel for his business. Brandon is selling through teaching. He’s selling in a way that’s natural and authentic. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s intuitive for Brandon and his audience — everyone wins.
The power of selling authentically
The most vibrant (and successful!) businesses are built on authentic purpose and action. The same goes for teaching — the most impactful and effective teachers hold a powerful sense of authenticity and purpose. Think back to the best teachers in your life. Grab a pen and paper or open your notepad, and before reading on, write out a few words to describe them.
My most influential and impactful teachers were in deep, profound alignment with their authenticity. (Thank you Bob and Irfhan!) They were magnetic, inspiring, and engaging. They were that way because they were authentic.
By making selling natural, we’re working to unlock that potential for every creator who lives to teach. My mission is to free creators everywhere to teach and exist in total alignment with their own authenticity. Think, for one moment, of that potential impact. A rapidly growing class of creators able to teach and live authentically, committing their full selves to share transformative experiences on a global scale. When I envision and think about that possibility, that’s when I clearly see one, incredible thing: a changed world.