Justin Brooke is the founder of the Digital Media Buying Institute (now called Adskills), a digital training company that offers an array of up-to-date online advertising courses. Justin is on a mission to improve the resources and education of digital media buying professionals by creating the highest level digital marketing courses on the market.
We love to talk to educators and course creators who have experienced success with teaching online. And since Justin’s course business has grown from humble beginnings to a multiple 6-figure online course business, we figured he must have a few insights that would be helpful for other course creators.
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Riding the online education wave
Justin launched his first online course 11 years ago, when the online education industry was still in its infancy. The first course he ever created was a course on how to build Joomla websites, which he sold for $35, in an effort to educate others about how to use the Joomla software. He then started making other courses, including one on how to buy and sell websites for profit, that taught people how to make money from website domain ownership (kind of like Flippa, but this was before Flippa was around!).
By 2010, Justin started to notice a lot of competition in the online education space. According to Justin, it seemed like everyone was trying to educate others by sharing their knowledge online, and creating courses wasn’t the only way they were doing it. “2010 was kind of like an earthquake to the courses-selling industry,” Justin recalls. “Prior to 2010, online courses was a huge way to make money online. But then it changed a lot because all of a sudden there was a podcast, a YouTube channel, and a blog article about everything.”
Instead of trying to compete with all the free information that was now being publish in abundance online, Justin decided to shift his focus and begin offering done-for-you services in addition to his courses. He start his agency IM Scalable that helped his clients achieve the same results as his courses taught, but instead of learning how to do it themselves, they could simply hire Justin to do the work for them.
Although Justin’s agency was successful (working with clients like Snuggie and Dan Kennedy), over the next few years he could not ignore the growing demand for online courses. Evidently, even though there was an abundance of free information online, an increasing number of people were willing to pay for online courses. When the income from Justin’s courses eventually surpassed the income from his service-based agency, he decided to focus on selling online courses full-time.
According to Justin, online courses about marketing and advertising aren’t the only types of courses that are experiencing large demand. “Last year $172,000,000 was made off of just coding boot camps,” Justin told us. “Just one segment of the online education market made a $172,000,000 last year. So it’s a boom time for teachers right now.”
Building quality training for online advertising
An issue Justin found while hiring at his agency, as well as when dealing with clients, was that it was very difficult to find people with high-quality training when it came to the specifics of online advertising. “A lot of the marketing courses that are online are usually, ‘how to make money online’ or, ‘how to market a network marketing business,’ or ‘how to do affiliate marketing’,” says Justin. “If you’re trying to build a career as a Google Adwords professional or as a Facebook Ads professional, there just wasn’t a lot of stuff [for it].”
Justin decided to fix his own problem and educate his team as well as his clients through online courses. “It’s hard to find training – career building level training – for online advertising,” he reiterated. “So we just decided to make courses around that.” Today, Justin’s company has over a dozen courses on specific topics including Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Solo Ads, YouTube Ads, and more.
How to create targeted online course content
Since Justin is a digital marketing expert, he knows a thing or two about creating ads and content for specific target audiences. We asked him about his process for creating tailored online course content for his audience that he knew would be successful and attract customers. Here are the steps he shared with us:
Step 1: Build a customer persona and find out where your audience “hangs out” online
Creating a customer persona is vital to begin with, before you even start creating courses or writing ads to promote your business online. “Nobody wants to start there. Everybody loves to skip this part,” Justin laughed. “But the customer persona allows you to know who it is that you’re targeting. Figure out what their pain points are, what their interests are, where they’re hanging out online, and what their desires and their dreams are. You have to start there.”
Once you know who your target audience is, Justin told us, it is easy to figure out where they are ‘hanging out’ online. Some people spend their time on Facebook. Some spend it on Twitter. Knowing where your audience is spending their time online is important because that is where you will want to advertise. Without creating an in-depth customer persona, you run the risk of targeting the wrong audience or, even worse, putting a lot of work into content that might not have an audience at all.
“You really have to know where your customer hangs out first,” says Justin. “If you’re teaching people how to become better at ‘Call of Duty’, then YouTube is going to be really good because there are a ton of gamers on YouTube. If you’re trying to reach CEO’s, though, CEOs are probably not spending a whole lot of time watching YouTube.”
Step 2: Create ‘no-brainer’ content that your market definitely wants to read
“The next thing you’re going to do is create some form of content,” Justin suggests. “Whatever’s easiest and whatever content realm is best for you, do that. But use your customer persona to understand what type of content you should be creating.” After determining the content your target audience would be most interested in, create ‘no-brainer’ content that anyone with questions about your topic will want to click.
Justin gave us an example from his own blog. “I have a blog post called 10 Online Ads That Made Millions for Their Founders. To my market, that’s a no-brainer. Anybody who is interested in anything about online advertising, they’re going to click on that blog post,” he says.Create a customer persona, then create content that helps them solve a problem. @justinbrooke Click To Tweet
Step 3: Do research to validate content ideas
The next question we posed to Justin was how to decide what type of content to create. Justin brought up ‘the toothbrush problem’ as a great way to decide the type of content would best attract your target audience. The toothbrush problem is a Google concept describing a problem that is so bad that you think of it twice a day. “So that’s where you start,” said Justin. “What is the problem your audience has that they’re thinking about often?”
Justin also suggested validating content topic ideas by reading reviews on Amazon for similar products or services (especially the 3-star reviews!). Join groups and forums where your audience hangs out, read blogs people are asking questions on, and become a part of the community to see what people are wondering and what people are buying. Then, start writing and use marketing tools to validate if your educated guesses were correct or not, Justin suggests.
Justin recently added a LiveChat element to his website, which he says has helped substantially with content ideas, as he could interact directly with his audience and ask what they were having trouble with. He then turned common user questions that came out of the chats into blog post articles.
Marketing strategies to boost online course sales
Next, we asked Justin to share some of the ways that he’s been promoting his online courses and generating sales. Here are a few of his preferred course marketing strategies:
1. Share your content on social media
First and foremost, Justin explained, it’s always good to start close to home, where you know you’ll gain a little support. Whenever you create new content, whether a blog post, a video, or perhaps a podcast episode, make sure you share that content on all of your social media profiles and pages immediately. Creating content that is helpful to his target audience, and sharing that content on social media has been pivotal in increasing exposure and sales for his online courses.
2. Ask relevant influencers to share your content (in a non-spammy way)
In addition to sharing his content on social media, Justin also looks for other people with large audiences that may be willing to share his content as well (aka influencers). “I’ll look for any type of influencers that I think would work with my topic, and be open to sharing,” says Justin. “But don’t just go about approaching everybody. You really need to think about who would want to share this blog post and then approach them with an actual reason”.
Once you have a quality list of people who may want to read and share your content, reach out to them with a soft sell. “Say something like: ‘Hey, I saw you shared this post the other day, I loved it. I happened to write like it something recently. If you want to share, great. I just wanted to let you know it exists’,” Justin says.
3. Start with small ad campaigns
You can also start putting small amounts of money behind your content in order to choose exactly who you want to see it. “I’m talking about $5-10 a day – whatever you can afford,” says Justin.
“I go to Facebook and say, ‘I want these specific people to read this blog post.’ And it’s almost like you can force the market to subscribe to your blog, because every time you write to another blog post, this market is seeing your blog post in their Facebook newsfeed. So with just $5 a day, you can kind of make a whole market subscribe—as you do more, you’re able to increase your budget.”
4. Push enrolments by offering content upgrades
Next, you can begin turning those readers into students for your online courses. Justin told us the best strategy for doing this is determined by how much you are charging for your online course. If you’re charging a lot for a course, for example, it makes more sense to turn readers into leads first, then nurture them.
“If you’re selling something over a hundred dollars,” he said, “The first thing you do is use a content upgrade. If you’re reading a blog post about ‘10 ads that made millions’, and I tell you, ‘If you opt in, I can give you a post of 50 ads that made millions’. Then they opt-in with their email for more of the same, and now you have a lead. And then you can use a follow-up email sequence to grow the relationship with them.” However, if your online course price is less than $100, then Justin recommends using the course itself as the content upgrade.
Why Justin chose Thinkific for his online courses
As Justin said at the beginning of our conversation, he’s been in the online education space for over 11 years, a lot longer than many people. In that time, he has used and researched different course creation platforms before ultimately choosing Thinkific. We asked Justin the simple question, ‘Why Thinkific?’ Justin said it was obvious to him from Thinkific’s platform that it was created by people who were online course creators themselves, and knew the best features for the market.
“There are two types of companies when it comes to software. There’s a company who focuses on having a lot of features on their sales page. And there’s the company who focuses on having the right features and making sure those features really work. And that’s the difference with Thinkific,” Justin told us. “You guys have features that work great. They’re not buggy. They’re not clunky. The interface is really tightly designed. You can tell that was added by people who understand how to market courses.”
He also remarked that he loved the mobile responsiveness of Thinkific’s platform. “Your order forms, your pages, everything works great on mobile. And that’s really important. People underestimate how important it is to have a mobile optimized checkout process. That was huge.” Thanks for the great feedback Justin!
Final advice for first-time course creators
Sharing his knowledge with others by creating online courses has had a huge impact on Justin’s life. By building an online course business, he’s been able to provide for his family and live a great lifestyle in the process. “It’s changed my life dramatically. I had a much darker past 15 years ago, and creating courses online really helped me,” Justin told us. “Creating courses can actually change your life. It can give you the life of your dreams.”
To wrap up our interview with Justin, we asked him to share some final words of advice with those who are thinking of creating an online course, or in the process of creating their first course.
“Everybody’s great at something. Some people know how to make a grilled cheese like nobody else’s business. Some people know how to fold t-shirts like nobody else’s business. Some people know how to clean a house. Everybody knows something. I have seen a guy make 6 figures in 90 days from a course about how to make fried pork rinds,” says Justin. “So don’t discount your knowledge. There’s something that you know how to teach. It’s not really going to cost you much. And today, you have tools like Thinkific. It’s a no-brainer.”
Thanks for your insights Justin!
To learn more about Justin and his online advertising and media buying courses, visit AdSkills.comHow @justinbrooke built a multiple 6-figure Online Course business #teachonline Click To Tweet