Welcome to my March 2017 Monthly Income Report. Fun fact: This is the 102nd monthly report published here on the blog. As always, I’m happy to share with you what happened during the past month, from the actions taken to the lessons learned, and, of course, the earnings report and where it all comes from.
March was an extremely busy month, but also very exciting. A lot of hard work from the past six months paid off in March, and I’m stoked to talk about the results of two course launches that happened.
Yes—two courses. 🙂
Am I crazy? Probably, but also very excited to be moving forward with the goals I set for myself and the business. With no more delay, let’s get right into it.
Important Goings-On in March
Let’s start with the one that’s more well known, Smart From Scratch, which opened up for its first public launch ever.
This course was first introduced to a small segment of my email list in October 2016 to both validate the concept and hopefully gain enough interest to run a small founders group through the content. It launched successfully with about 120 students, and I had been working with that group for months to improve the content, collect feedback, and address any issues that I could fix before the planned re-opening this year in late February/early March.
At the start of 2017, a lot of work was put into the course by the entire team to have it ready for launch. Videos were re-uploaded with better design and compelling graphics, course content was re-written to be stronger and more effective, and some technical things under the hood were also fine-tuned.
On February 27, I opened up the course to the public and was excited to see all of our hard work pay off, but then it happened:
The internet died.
Well, a large percentage of it did at least. On that day, Amazon Web Services, a service that many internet tools and websites use to serve data and files, started to experience outages that affected a major percentage of websites across the globe. Many of the components that I used for the launch were affected by this downtime, such as Teachable, Convertkit, and a few others, such as our project management software, Trello.
It was a complete mess. Fortunately, I didn’t yet hit send on some of the emails I had planned to send out to larger segments of my email list. But, consequently, my numbers were not looking so good, and I had a lot of catching up to do come mid-week.
Thankfully, I was able to send highly targeted emails to the Smart From Scratch waitlist, the Will It Fly? Companion Course students, and also my “Bucket 1” level subscribers, who were segmented because they self-selected into the “I don’t have a business yet” sequence of my email list.
The power of segmentation. It works!
When the emails finally went out, the numbers started to rise, and when the cart closed on Sunday, March 5, a total of 499 new students entered the course. At a price point of $197, the total earnings from the launch was $98,303.
My goal was $100,000, and although I was short a couple grand, I’m happy to take that as a win, especially considering the Amazon fiasco at the beginning of the launch.
So far, the feedback from the new students has been amazing. One of my favorite aspects of the course are the office hours I kept, which allowed me to chat with the students live. It was great. The energy to get started in business is there, for sure, and I’m happy that my course and I can be there as a guide to help make sure the new students start on the right foot.
What’s really cool is that many of the students are stepping up and actually helping each other. Questions are being answered, study groups are being formed, and it’s inspiring me to help them even more. It’s awesome!
The next enrollment period will be in June, so if this is a course that interests you, please make sure you reserve your spot on the waitlist at SmartFromScratch.com!
Course #2? In the Same Month?
Actually, the day Smart From Scratch closed is the same day my second course opened up, and it was only available for a few hours.
Huh? What’s the course? Why only a few hours? Who did I sell it to?
Here’s how it all went down.
In the middle of February, I was asked by my friend Chalene Johnson to speak at one of her events on Sunday, March 5. I’ve spoken at her events twice before, and they are amazing for a number of reasons:
- Chalene and her team always put on a great show. The care put into the event experience is unmatched, from the content to the stage setup.
- Her Lifers (what she called her raving fans, because she’s there for them for life) are some of the best people I’ve ever spoken in front of. Their high energy and responsiveness make it so fun to perform.
- It’s always close by my hometown in San Diego, California.
So, naturally, because the timing worked out this year, I said yes once again.
However, there were two major differences with this particular event:
- This was going to be my first time speaking at her Marketing Impact Academy (MIA) event. In the past, I spoke at another event called the Smart Success Seminar. The crowd was just as big (about 800 people), but they were geared more toward marketing material rather than the more mindset/approach stuff related to business. Both are very important, obviously, but I knew I was going to have to bring something actionable for her MIA crowd.
- Chalene asked me to sell something on stage.
Sell on stage? Wait a minute? Me? Sell what, exactly? Why?
At the time, I only had two things I could possibly sell: Smart From Scratch, and the Smart Podcast Player. Both of these products didn’t seem to make sense for her audience of Lifers. They already had a business in mind they were working on, and the majority of them don’t have a podcast.
Chalene and I got on a call and the first thing I asked her was: “Why do you want me to sell something on stage?”
Her response, simply put: “Because I want to challenge you.”
I smiled. I was super thankful that Chalene believed in me and trusted me to sell on her stage, and I appreciated the fact that she was looking out for me. In the past, several people who I looked up to challenged me in a similar way, to do something completely out of my comfort zone, and each time it helped me grow in ways I never thought possible.
I knew this was an an incredible opportunity, but a couple of big concerns immediately came to mind:
- I don’t do hard selling on any platforms that I’m on, let alone an actual, physical stage in front of people—especially ones I’ve just met. My success has come from years of providing free value and earning trust, which takes time. The thought of being up on a stage and selling something scared me half to death. It also made me feel icky. Very icky.
- I still had nothing that made sense to sell.
I spoke at an event back in 2013 where every speaker sold something on stage. All except for me. I didn’t even know it was that kind of event until it happened.
The presentations had great content, but each ended with a fifteen minute pitch to sell a product. At the end, when the price was revealed (typically with a massive discount “just for today only!”), a number of interested attendees would head to the back of the room to fill out forms and hand in their payment information.
When it was my turn on stage near the close of the event, I ended the presentation by revealing I had nothing to sell, and I had received a standing ovation for it. That ingrained, in my mind, that people didn’t like to be sold to on stage.
I sure didn’t. Because of this, my initial gut-reaction to Chalene’s request was a resounding “thanks, but no thanks.”
But, I look up to Chalene. I’ve attended her events before, and each and every attendee I’ve ever spoken to has raved about the experience. And yes, a couple of speakers sell on stage there too. Most of the time, however, it’s all content, no sales.
Chalene gave me the rundown on how she hand selects speakers at her events, and it always starts with those who can provide the most value to her audience. Most of the time, during her two to three day events, there is no selling happening at all, but when it does, the expectation is already there, and it’s always for something that Chalene knows will help.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned important lessons when it comes to selling. Primarily, that selling is not bad.
In fact, if you have something of value to offer, and you truly believe in it, it’s your duty to sell so that people can understand that value and benefit from what you’ve created.
Selling via my online platform is something I’m completely comfortable with at this point. I’ve learned that I can sell without selling my soul, without feeling icky about it. And I can help a lot more people too. I experienced this first hand with my recent Smart From Scratch course launch.
But on stage at Chalene’s event, I still couldn’t imagine it. I had the 2013 experience in the back of my mind. It took me some time to process it, but I soon realized that this new opportunity was a completely different situation. This wasn’t a random pool of speakers Chalene was putting together. This was a carefully crafted billing of high-quality entrepreneurs with high-quality information to share, and a couple of speakers would offer an opportunity to go much deeper into specific topics outside of the event, and her audience knew that. It was not going to be a surprise.
I realized that this could be done in an honest, legitimate way where everyone comes out a winner.
If there was ever a time to give this a shot, it was now. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for me, so, as I’ve done in the past, when I’ve felt completely uncomfortable with something that I knew could potentially help my business and help more people, I committed to it.
The big question remained: What was I going to sell?
During my conversation with Chalene, she asked me to consider not what I was going to sell, but rather what kind of information and value I might be able to offer, first to her audience in whole, and then further with a portion of her audience who wanted to continue learning more from me.
I liked that approach. After a quick back and forth on a number of various topics I knew I could help with, from productivity to web traffic, we landed on a solution that we both knew would be extremely valuable to her audience of content creators: a podcasting course.
There are a number of podcasting courses already available on the market. Cliff Ravenscraft’s Podcasting A to Z course, as well as John Lee Dumas’s Podcaster’s Paradise, are two that I’ve recommended in the past, and I still continue to recommend them both because they’re great.
For the past four years, even though I’ve pointed people toward these courses, and even though I have a free podcasting tutorial at PodcastingTutorial.com, I have had hundreds of requests for a more structured, more detailed podcasting course in my own style with a community element involved, but I had no real push to create it.
It was a course idea my team and I came up with awhile back which we’ve kept putting aside for other things, but if there was ever a reason to actually start moving on this, it was right in front of me. And it made complete sense.
Chalene’s audience already listens to her podcasts, so they know how powerful a platform it can be. Many also have businesses that shoot for more client work, and a podcast is the perfect platform to showcase your personality, how you teach, and the expert knowledge you have so that you can earn trust and generate clients from there.
If I could pull it together, it was going to work. But here’s the thing: I only had three weeks to put it together, and we were already gearing up for the Smart From Scratch launch.
I held an emergency meeting with the leadership in my team and presented the idea and the opportunity, and we all were in agreement: The opportunity was too great to pass up, so they were 100 percent on board.
Looking ahead, having two courses under the SPI brand so early in the year would be huge for helping us achieve our goals for 2017, one of which was to help even out the earnings between affiliate marketing versus my own products.
To make a long story short, in two and a half weeks, three days before Chalene’s event, a complete beta program for my new online podcasting course, Power-Up Podcasting, was ready for its first set of students. It consists of fifty-one videos, including a huge focus on pre-launch planning and marketing strategies, launch week and launch day, and post-launch automation and continued growth strategies. This is where it differs from the free podcasting tutorial that I offer, which includes mostly the technical setup portion of podcasting, although that’s obviously included in Power-Up Podcasting as well.
I’m so proud of my team for putting our heads together to make this happen in such a short time. It was almost impossible, but we had a hard deadline to get it all done, which pushed us forward. I’ll be recording a podcast episode soon going deep into the details of what it was like to sell on stage for the first time. I’ll be talking about my approach, what I said, how I presented my offer, and all of the other lessons learned during this experience.
I will that say that it was quite a surprise that when I revealed I had a course for sale, I received a huge applause from the audience, and even before I mentioned the final price, loads of people were already headed to the back of the room to purchase access to the course.
I felt like I was in a dream.
When the dust settled and the event was over, a total of 165 new students purchased access to the course. After I spoke, I wanted to thank each of them, but here’s the crazy part: All of them thanked me back. They were so excited for the opportunity ahead of them, and to see it, in person, in their eyes and in their smiles, it made me feel great about what I had just done.
I even met a couple of people who cried when we met and they said this was exactly what they needed and it made the event all the worthwhile for them. It was so incredible to hear and see such things.
Approaching the event, while doing a lot of internal gut-checking and thinking, the part I was worried about the most was that after the event was over, after selling on stage, I’d feel that ickiness of selling, first hand, like I witnessed back in 2013. I was so scared I’d feel that in my stomach and have feelings of remorse, but there was none of that. Zero. Zilch.
And the entire time on my way home, I drove with a smile. Not because I had just made a record amount of money that day from both selling on stage and closing Smart From Scratch, but because it was another example, and proof, that I can sell and be proud knowing I was helping a lot of people. That selling is not bad. That selling can be good, and that’s something I can do.
After I got home, I pulled out a sheet of notebook paper in my pocket that Chalene handed to me on my way out. In hot pink pen, at the top of the note, she had written:
From: Chalene, 3/5/17
She watched my entire presentation backstage and had written notes about the things that worked really well for me and the things I could have done to improve my talk.
Chalene wasn’t there just to help her audience grow. She was there to help me—and the other speakers—grow too. I’m so thankful she gave me the opportunity and spent time to prepare me for this uncomfortable, but incredible opportunity. Thank you, Chalene, for the push.
And a big thanks to the founding students of Power-Up Podcasting who have already provided me so much value in return. The community in that group is amazing, and many are already up and running with their podcasts on iTunes. I can’t wait to re-open the course later in the year after a few more rounds of feedback and fine-tuning.
March 2017. A month to go down in the history of SPI, for sure.
Let’s check out the numbers:
Full Disclosure: Some of the items in the list below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through that link, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
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To Finish Off the Month of March
Both were amazing.
At T&C, I connected with a lot of new people who I had never met before, which is always a great thing. I also spoke about something I call my BLP formula, which is short for my Book to List to Product formula. I shared the results of my year-long journey since launching Will It Fly? almost exactly one year earlier, and how that turned into a highly engaged email list (using my free companion course), and then finally how that turned into a paid course in Smart From Scratch.
For Social Media Marketing World, I held an event at my coworking space, WeWork, a day before it started, and about 400 people came by to hang out! It was awesome! I love bringing people together and making connections like this:
Social Media Marketing World started the next day, and by far, it was one of the best run events I’ve ever attended. Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner and the event, created something amazing here. I’ve attended all five years of the event, and it just keeps getting better and better.
Hat tip to the volunteers and the team who help put it all together.
I spoke twice on the final day of the event, and I had a book signing as well. It was a smaller talk since it was niched about podcasting, but a big thanks to those who attended and left me some amazing feedback about the content.
To finish things off, I ended the night, and the event, with one of my mastermind groups at a local restaurant.
Myself, Michael Stelzner, Cliff Ravenscraft, Mark Mason, Leslie Samuel, and Ray Edwards took the time to break bread and share our thoughts about the event, and I can’t even describe how great it was for us to be together. We’re usually on a call together every Wednesday, but this just reinforced the importance of meeting in person. We all congratulated Michael on a job well done, and told stories about things that happened at the event, or what sessions we enjoyed.
It was the perfect end to SMMW, and the entire month of March, because without this mastermind group, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, that’s for sure.
Cheers, and thanks again for all of your support!