Welcome to my July 2017 Monthly Income Report. Thanks for checking it out!
Each month, I write a detailed report about my online businesses, including what I’ve been up to, the lessons I’ve learned, and, of course, the money I’ve earned online. I’ve been publishing these reports since October 2008, so make sure you check out the income reports page if you’d like to go back in time and check out the complete history.
If this is your first time at Smart Passive Income (SPI), thanks for being here. SPI was built to serve others by experimenting with my own trials and errors. Sometimes the business experiments I try work well, and other times they don’t. But each time there’s a lesson involved that I can pass on to you so you can have better insight and knowledge moving forward with your own business or project.
Smart Passive Income isn’t my first business. My first business came from a blog I published back in 2007 to help people pass the LEED exam, an exam specifically for those in the world of architecture and design, which is what I went to school for. Later, I focused full time on growing this online business, and it turned into something I never would’ve dreamed of.
If you’d like to read more about my history, I wrote a detailed post about it here. SPI was born soon after to make sure I share every step I took along the way, because getting started wasn’t easy, and although it may seem like it, it was definitely not an overnight success.
Succeeding online takes a lot of hard work, and most of all, perseverance, and I’m here to show you what’s possible, how to get started, and how to keep scaling.
July 2017 was a historic month in the history of my online business, so let’s get right to it.
Important Goings-On in July
I remember speaking to him when he was thinking of putting this thing together, and to have him sell out on his first go-around, I couldn’t be prouder. I’m excited to be a part of it too, closing down the show with the final keynote speech.
As the last speaker, I know I have a lot of responsibility. I could ruin the entire thing for him.
Just kidding. I always take my time on stage seriously, especially when I’m a keynote speaker, but for Chris, you can be sure I’ll bring down the house in a memorable way. I can’t wait!
Congrats, Chris, and I look forward to seeing all of the other attendees there later this year. And a special bonus: I get to cross something off of my bucket list at the same time: visiting London!
I’m also headed to some fun and exciting events this year, such as The Digital Nomad Conference (DNX) in Portugal next month, and Business Boutique in Nashville, TN (use code BBFLYNN for a discount), plus a number of others.
With the Kids in the House
July always presents itself as a challenging month for productivity.
It’s the first full month the kids are home from school, so they will always take priority over anything else, as they should. In July, we had lots of pool days, my son had Minecraft camp (where they teach coding and photoshop using Minecraft as the platform), and my daughter had a ton of dance rehearsals, and there was a lot of arts and crafts involved at home too, which my wife specializes in to keep the kids (that includes me) busy.
Among all of the fun and games, however, I was definitely busy during the first half of the month putting together the final touches on what I was hoping to be an amazing launch of my new course, Power-Up Podcasting, which was coming out of beta for the first time.
Beta is one thing, but a public launch is an entirely new ballgame. Here is a list of all the things we did to get everything ready for launch on Monday, July 17:
1. The Course Material Was Updated
The founding students in the beta version of the course provided a lot of constructive feedback that we could use to enhance the course and make it better for the public launch. Some videos were re-shot, the written content got a makeover, and bits and pieces were reorganized.
Knowing the course was built not just for the students, but also by the students, makes it a lot easier to get behind—for me, as course creator, and potential students!
2. The Course Was Re-Branded
For the beta launch, we scraped together a temporary logo that would do the job, but for the public launch, we wanted to something bolder with more energy that could be repurposed in several different ways.
Here’s the logo from the beta version:
And here’s the new logo, in several variations:
You can also see it in our Student Center:
3. The Sales Page Was Updated
Now that I have a number of students who have successfully taken the course, the sales page needed an update. Testimonials were added (both video and text), and we took a lot of the positive feedback from the students about what was most helpful and incorporated that into the sales page too.
4. A New Sales Video Was Recorded
My videographer, Caleb Wojcik, came into the SPI studio to film a new sales video for the course. This was an interesting process because I had never really filmed a legit sales video for a course before. The others I’ve done have been more casual.
For this one, we first brainstormed a ton of ideas and watched a lot of other sales videos for inspiration. After using at least a few dozen Post-it notes, we had finally outlined exactly what we wanted to film. Or at least that’s what we thought. After giving it a good look-over, we realized it was the wrong direction.
The first part of the initial idea for the sales video was all about convincing the viewer about the importance of podcasting—why it’s a medium to pay attention to, how many people are listening to podcasts, and what it can do for your brand. The thing is, most people who would visit this sales page, at least in this first public launch (and likely future launches) would already know the potential benefits of starting a podcast, and wouldn’t need much convincing.
Those who would be watching would already be primed to start a podcast, and information about why they should start a podcast wouldn’t be worth their time.
Caleb and I started over, and then listed out all of the fears that one can experience before starting a podcast, and we decided to tackle all of those concerns upfront. The message became very clear:
“I know you’re scared and have no idea what you’re doing, but here’s how I’m going to help you overcome those fears and get started.”
In terms of the filming style, it was more intimate, like a conversation between myself and the viewer. I wanted it to be like we were just sitting down together in my office, and I was there helping the viewer through the thinking process, sort of like a coach.
I had a lot of positive feedback about the sales video. I know it can still be improved, but I’m quite happy with how it turned out.
5. An Optimized Shopping Cart Was Connected
During this launch, we decided to use SamCart [Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for SamCart] to optimize the sales page and checkout process. Using some of their proven checkout templates allowed me to add a number of conversion-related elements on the checkout page, such as testimonials and guarantee notices.
6. New Email Copy Was Written
Like during previous launches, I knew email was going to be the primary element for getting the word out about this course. Depending on which segment of my list I was emailing, I could customize the language in a way that would best serve that particular segment.
Luckily, I’d been segmenting my audience in various ways for several years, both via email, and with a Facebook pixel for retargeting purposes. Through that process, I’ve learned who in my audience is interested in starting a podcast, and who in my audience already has a podcast.
7. A New Free Lead Magnet was Promoted
To help me further segment my audience more aggressively leading up to the launch, I created a new free lead magnet called The Podcast Cheat Sheet, a free mini-guide to getting started with a podcast. It was setup on a super simple landing page, hosted on LeadPages [Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for LeadPages; I just personally love to help out the companies I already use, hehe!].
The “cheat sheet” includes a number of starting off points for brand new podcasters that are extremely helpful, such as how to define your new show, how to make it stand out from the competition, and how to plan out your first ten or so episodes ahead of time.
It was downloaded a few thousand times before the launch started, and it gave me good insight into who, during that timeframe, was thinking about starting their own show.
I promoted it on my blog, podcast, and through email to my existing list using one-click tagging to segment my audience.
8. Other Content Related to the Course was Strategically Published
Leading up to the launch on July 17, I had been talking about the course for a while, both on the blog and on the podcasts.
Several episodes of AskPat mentioned the course, and on the SPI podcast, the content was definitely in alignment. For example, here is the publishing schedule leading up to the course enrollment period:
In this session, although it wasn’t directly about podcasting, I mentioned that the upcoming episodes were going to be about podcasting. July was podcasting month on SPI, and this was my way of introducing the topic in a minor way to my existing listeners.
In this session, the connection to podcasting is much more obvious, and I go deep into a lot of the positive and amazing things that have happened in my life as a result of starting a podcast.
It’s a solo show that covers everything from how I’ve been able to gain more exposure and traffic to the brand, to how I’ve become a better communicator and stage presenter, to new opportunities with book publishers and Hollywood I would have never thought possible.
I close with a very emotional story that a listener had once told me about how my show changed their life, emphasizing the idea that, even through a podcast you can make a positive impact on the lives of other people.
To show you the power of an episode like this, here are some of the listener comments about that episode:
In this session, I interview Chalene Johnson, and we discuss how to sell without being slimy. We also cover how she was able to help me get out of my comfort zone and actually sell the beta version of this course to her students at one of her events. We also do a recap of what worked so well then, and how others can do the same: both sell and serve at the same time.
On the blog, it was the same deal. I created podcast-related content leading up to the launch of the course:
- June 26: 10 Reasons Why Podcasting is the #1 Content Platform
- July 3: Top 10 Tips for Brand New Podcasters
- July 10: My June 2017 Monthly Income Report
9. A Podcast Episode Was Recorded Featuring 3 Students from the Founding Group
One of my favorite things to do is to make my readers and listeners the heroes of the story. When you can do that, it elevates your brand like nothing else.
Planning ahead, I decided to ask my existing Power-Up Podcasting students if anyone was interested in coming on my show to share the start of their podcasting journey—why they wanted to start one, some of the struggles they’ve had during the process, and the results they’ve gotten so far—and I knew as soon as I was done editing the episode that it would be one of the most powerful forms of marketing for the upcoming course launch.
I’m super thankful for all of the students who had volunteered to be on the podcast, and it motivated me even more to get this course out there, because I was listening to the results directly from the voice of my own students.
It was incredibly powerful, and provided a huge boost of confidence for me leading up to the launch, which was important.
Of course, what does this kind of episode do for a course promotion? It’s basically a testimonial episode, without being super “testimonial-ly.” That’s not a real word, but you know what I mean.
When your students become the ones to help share your solution with your audience, it’s a lot more meaningful and relatable, as opposed to you sharing it yourself.
This episode went live during launch week, and I was told from a number of new students that it’s what inspired them to sign up for the course.
10. The Launch Period Was Extended
Thanks to the advice from many course creators who have done launches before, I was advised to extend the launch over the weekend. For previous launches, the timeframe was Monday through Friday.
So we extended the launch to go from Monday through the end of day (midnight) of the next Monday. That made sense because sometimes people need the weekend to think things through, and discuss potential investment opportunities with their significant others before making a final decision.
11. A Payment Plan Was Offered
At a significantly higher price point than my previous course, I decided to include a payment plan for those who wanted to stretch out the payment to get access to the course.
After some research, I found that it’s common for companies to add ten to fifteen percent to the total cost of the course when people select the installment plan. I was sure I wanted to add one, but what I kept going back and forth on was the number of installments.
There is debate here, of course. Do you only break the overall cost down into three monthly installments, or do you have twelve payments over an entire year? The only issue is, once you get into larger installment plans, you open up the possibility for failed payments (due to credit card expiration, among other things), so I hear.
For Power-Up Podcasting, which was sold for $697 as a one-time payment, I decided to offer a payment plan for four monthly installments of $197. After the enrollment period closed, interestingly enough, about twenty percent of the purchases were made using the installment plan, versus the one-time payment.
So, How Did the Launch Perform Overall?
You’ll see the specific numbers below, but it did extremely well! And the best part, as I write this income report, new students are already making great progress toward getting their shows up and running.
The student center is thriving with conversation, the office hours have been jam-packed with questions and positive feedback, and I’m already getting constructive feedback from the new set of students about what I could do to improve the experience even more.
The big lesson here is this: your online course doesn’t need to be perfect in order to make a big difference and impact your earnings. As new students take your course, and more feedback is received, your course will get better over time—but only after you launch
Look out for my thoughts on the Power-Up Podcasting earnings after the income update!
Now, let’s get into the numbers for July.
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.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report.
It Blows My Mind
In a single week, to gross nearly a quarter of a million dollars absolutely blows my mind! I’m incredibly thankful to all of the new students who trusted me and enrolled in Power-Up Podcasting during this recent enrollment period. Thank you!
One thing I really wanted to do during this launch was make sure that the first impression new students had was one of amazement. As soon as they made their purchase, I wanted to ensure that they knew they were in good hands.
A Couple of Things Went Into This:
First, the normal onboarding experience was fine-tuned and looked over by most of the members of my team to make sure all of the emails, messages, and timing of everything made sense. We wanted to make sure students had a great experience starting the moment they clicked that purchase button. This is standard, and should be standard everywhere.
Second (and what was really exciting to me!), is that I was test driving a brand new piece of software I was recently introduced to from the guys over at ConvertKit, the email service provider I recommend and am also a paid affiliate for.
Since I have some access to the behind-the-scenes at ConvertKit, it was brought to my attention that they were using an app called Bonjoro to welcome new customers to their eco-system. When I learned exactly what Bonjoro did, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and use it for my new customers.
Here’s how Bonjoro works: After signing up, you can integrate it with anything, from your email service provider to your payment processor, and have the app notify you when a new customer (or even new email subscriber) comes on board. I was using it specifically to get notified about new students for Power-Up Podcasting.
When a new student signs up, I’m notified on my iPhone. When I open up the Bonjoro app, I’m presented with a video recording interface where I can record a short personalized video to welcome that new student into the course, and let them know my team and I are here for support. After adding in a quick text message to go along with it (e.g., Thanks John!), I hit a button to send them an email with the video inside. Boom. That’s it.
I’ve created a unique, personalized video for each new student of the course, and although it did take a bit of time (thirty seconds per video, plus a few extra seconds to hit send for each of the 400-plus students), it was absolutely worth it. The responses have been off the charts!
ConvertKit told me this helped reduce their churn (the number of people who close their subscription) by sixteen percent, and so I knew this would make a great first impression with new students of my course. I just didn’t realize how much of an impact it would make.
Over half of the videos I sent out earned a response back from the person. Here are a few of the amazing responses:
- “Thanks, it was awesome to hear from you!”
- “OMG, you sent me a video I can’t believe it!”
- “Thanks, now I know I’m in the right place.”
Little touch points like this are so important. The least you can do for a new customer, especially one who invests money in you and your program, is offer them something personalized to let them know you’re there for them, and hopefully different than the rest.
I’m always looking for ways to add this kind of personal touch to the experience my students have in my courses, and I’m thankful to have found Bonjoro just a couple of weeks before the launch of Power-Up Podcasting.
If you’re interested in checking out Bonjoro for yourself, please do so. It’s a game-changer. I’m not an advisor for this company, but I am now an affiliate, and if you’d like to check it out now, click here to get started. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
There Will Always Be People Who Want “Higher Touch”
People have been asking me for a course like Power-Up Podcasting for years, but I was always reluctant to offer it because I didn’t think it was necessary. I had a lot of amazing free content related to podcasting that helped people through the process, and I always referred them to other courses instead for more higher-level learning (those courses are fantastic and I still highly recommend them if my style of teaching isn’t for you).
After getting a nudge from Chalene Johnson back in March, and then the same from several other colleagues after sharing the idea, I’ve since been incredibly grateful that I finally took the time to put something like this together and launch it. Hundreds of students have already found success with the course, and I’m already receiving really thoughtful handwritten thank you notes from students about how the course has changed their lives.
Handwritten notes have been an indicator that I’ve been doing something right ever since I started my first online business.
Even though this course has been successful already, and will be opened up again very soon (click here to join the waitlist!), I’ve still been receiving a number of emails and messages from both existing students in the course and those who did not enroll, asking for something more.
Will I provide more higher-level training?
A number of people have asked me if I would ever hold a workshop to teach this material in a much shorter time period. I’ve noticed this is something that people like Michael Hyatt have offered, and I’m definitely willing to experiment with this and give it a shot. Some people just don’t have the time or patience to go through a self-driven course, and would much rather have it all packed into a weekend.
So here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to “Will It Fly?” this just to see if people are even interested in the idea.
I’m planning to host a two-day intensive called the Power-Up Podcasting Fast-Track Workshop for those who want more intense training to help you get everything setup for your new podcast. The idea would be to fast-track through the course material in two days, so that by the end of it all you need to do is go home and record, and everything else would be setup up for you.
Plus, doing this live presents some cool opportunities to do things like live voice training, breathing exercises, live interview training, and more.
If it doesn’t sell, then I know it’s not something people actually want. If it does sell, you can be sure I’ll be there to make it the best experience possible, and I’ll hopefully be able to do more of these later on—not just for this podcasting material, but other material that may come out in the future.
I’ve already begun promoting this to the existing course students, as well as those who had expressed interest in starting a show but haven’t started the course yet. We’ll see how it goes!
And in case you’re interested, here’s the sales page for the workshop. If the workshop sells out, I’ll be collecting names for a waitlist for the workshop specifically on that page, and potentially open up new dates in the future.
What an amazing month! Thank you all for your amazing support, and I look forward to sharing more inner workings of SPI and my online businesses with you soon. Cheers!