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Mapping Out Your Course From the Big Idea

At this point, you’ve done enough research to determine your big idea… and now you need to develop this idea and turn it into a course. How do you do that? By following these three steps:

· Step 1: Do Your Research. This is where you research similar products so that you can make your course different and BETTER than anything that’s out there on the market today.

· Step 2: Draft Your Outline. Creating a good outline is one of the keys to ending up with a great product. That’s why we’ll go over the steps of how to organize your content to create something your audience will really love.

· Step 3: Develop Your Course. Here you’ll get the tips and best practices for developing your course.

So, without further introduction, let’s jump in these three steps…

Step 1: Do Your Research

The first thing you’re going to do with this step is to review similar products (on the same topic) in order to help you determine what to include in your product.

One quick note here…

You’re not going to copy these other products in any way, shape or form. Rather, you’re looking at a collection of products in your niche to help you generate ideas for which topics are most important to your audience.

Here’s how to do it…

Step 1: Research the Competitors

For this step, you’re going to want to research the top sellers in your market. This not only includes courses, but ANY information products – webinars, ebooks, reports, videos and audios. You might also look at offline events such as weekend workshops.

When you’re researching a product that you can’t directly review (such as a weekend workshop), then take these steps:

· Read the marketing materials. Most good sales letters include the key points of the product, often as bullet points or bolded headlines.

· Review the table of contents. Where applicable, review the table of contents or course schedule.

In cases where you are able to review the product in its entirety, do so. This means purchasing at least the top three to five competing products in your niche to review. Then take note of the following for each product you review:

· What are the product’s strengths? These are the items you’re going to want to include in your product too. (Again, you’re not copying… rather, you’re going to teach the same topic, but in your own way.)

For example, if you’re reviewing a copywriting product which includes dozens of swipe-able examples for headlines, calls to action, guarantees, and other parts of the sales letter, then you too may want to include a swipe file with your course.

· What are the product’s weaknesses? Whatever you think are the weaknesses are the items you’ll want to improve on. As the old saying goes, you’re building a better mousetrap.

Let’s suppose the copywriting product you reviewed never mentions the psychological triggers that make good copywriting work. You deem this as a weakness of the product, and then make a note to include this information in your own course.


Step 2: Read Product Reviews

Now that you’ve determined the strengths and weaknesses, your next step is to find out what your audience perceives to be the strengths and weaknesses of the product. In some cases, this many line up exactly with your own perceptions. In other cases, you may be surprised at how differently your audience is viewing the product. And that’s a good thing, because ultimately the most important thing is your audience’s perception.

NOTE: Look for patterns across multiple reviews. That is, you don’t want to necessarily shape your product on the opinion of one customer (unless that one customer has hit on a feature or even a unique selling proposition that you think will be very beneficial). So, read as many reviews as you can to get as much insight as possible into the product.


Step 3: Review Other Information

While reviewing the tops products and their reviews will give you solid information about what people in your niche want, you may opt to get a little more insight by going directly to your audience. In other words, survey your market to find out what they really want and need.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you survey your audience:

· Understand that what people say and what they do may be two different things. In other words, they may tell you they want all sorts of things in a product. But when you create that exact product they asked for, they don’t buy it. (Even if the price is right.) As such, use your survey to help confirm what you already know and to get insight into how your audience thinks.

· Avoid leading questions. One of the big reasons people say one thing and do another is because the survey included leading questions.

Let me give you an example…

Let’s suppose you want to know if your audience is interested in a particular course you’re creating.

A leading question would look something like this: “I’m in the process of creating an AWESOME new course that’s going to change the way you do business online. This course will include [insert topics/features/benefits]. Would this course interest you?

Guess what? You just “sold” the survey respondent on the course, so the number of people who say “yes, I’m interested” is going to be very high. Artificially so.

Now that’s a bit of an exaggerated example, but nonetheless you get the point. Don’t ask questions that lead the respondents to certain answers. If people think a particular answer is going to please you, they’re much more likely to give that answer (even if that’s not how they truly feel).

· Ask open-ended questions. If you want to find out what people really think and what they really want, then let them tell you in their own words. In short, don’t restrict them to multiple-choice answers, otherwise you’re going to miss out on a lot of good insight.


Step 4: Remember to Add Value

Since we’re talking about researching, outlining and developing a course, your focus is likely naturally to be on the text. That is, what topics will you cover? What will you write about each topic?

However, don’t forget that there are plenty of other items you can add into a course to really add value. Some of these are text-based, yes… while others focus on graphics.

Let me share with you these ideas:

· General graphics. These are visuals to make your course more visually appealing. For example, a course talking about dog training may have a few photos of cute dogs sprinkled throughout.

· Graphics or illustrations to help people perform a task. For example, if you have a course about bodybuilding, then you might include illustrations that show people exactly how to perform the lifts safely.

· Infographics. If you have a data-heavy section of your course, you might create an infographic to make it easier for people to grasp the information.

· Tables, charts and similar items. These are also good ways to express data-heavy information, as they’re much easier to read than a paragraph of text.

· Mind maps. Some people prefer the non-linear information presented in a mind map as an alternative to the traditional step-by-step information. If you’re sharing a complex process, you might consider adding in a mind map.

· Other tools. These are text-based tools other than how-to information. Examples include worksheets, templates, planners, checklists and similar tools.

Generally, you can think of these tools as items that help people take action on what you’re teaching in the course. For example, if you have a course about how to create persuasive sales letter headlines, then you might offer a set of headline swipes and fill-in-the-blank templates to help them create their own headlines quickly.

Doing your research encompasses all these things, as you seek out what features and benefits you can add to your course to make it better than everything else that’s currently on the market.

Now the next step…

Step 2: Draft Your Outline

Now that you know what all topics you want to include in your course, it’s time to organize all this information into an outline.

At this point you have several options, including:

· Step-by-step format. This is the format of choice if you’re presenting how-to information. You provide clear instructions with each step, along with tips and examples to make each step easier to understand.

Example: How to set up a Facebook ad campaign.

· Beginner to advanced information. If you’re not offering step-by-step information, then you may want to offer beginner to advanced. That way, people who don’t have the prerequisite knowledge will learn it along the way.

Example: How to write a sales letter (where you start with the basics such as writing a compelling headline, and then move onto to advanced topics such as neurolinguistics programming).

· Easy to more difficult. This means the information could be easy at the beginning, or it simply means that the information is ordered in terms of easy to more difficult (or time consuming) results.

Example: If you had a course about getting web traffic, “easy” might include something like guest blogging. That’s because most people can do it very quickly and get results very quickly too. At the end of the course you might offer strategies that take longer and require more knowledge, such as search engine optimization.

· Best information upfront (and again at the end). If there is no logical order, such as step-by-step or easy to advanced, then you may opt to simply put some of the very best information at the beginning in order to “hook” your students. Be sure to put sprinkle in your best tips throughout the course so that people keep reading.

TIP: Front-loading your course with some of your BEST information is a good strategy no matter what format you’ve chosen for your outline.

So, at this point, you’ve decided how to logically organize the information you want to include in the course. Now the next step is to decide how long your course is going to be (approximately), and how much space in your course you’ll devote to each topic (approximately).

The reason for determining rough word counts is to keep you focused and on track. Sometimes people have a tendency to drift when they’re writing, which results in a lot of “fluff and filler.” If you pick a word count and stick to it, you’re forced to stay focused on the topic without adding any unnecessary content.

What’s more, determining rough word counts for each section of your course also helps ensure that you devote the most time to those topics which are most important.

Now let’s pull this all together…

Step 3: Develop Your Course

Now you’re ready to create your course. Below you’ll find tips and best practices to help you with this phase of product creation. Take a look…

Use Credible Sources

Chances are, you’re going to be doing some research to create your course. Maybe you want to add some facts, statistics or other data. Or perhaps you need a refresher on how to complete some part of a task.

Heads up: use credible sources.

I know this seems obvious, but so often people do a Google search and take what ever information they find first – whether it’s credible or not. So here then are tips for ensuring you’re using credible sources:

· Check if it’s an authority site. Is it a well-known site that’s been around for a long time, and has a good reputation?

For example, if you were looking up medical information, you might use an authority site such as (which has content written by medical professionals).

Another example: if you wanted dog training information, you’d be safe getting this information from any one of several well-known dog experts, including Cesar Millan (AKA the Dog Whisperer) or The Monks of New Skete.

· Get information from news sites, scholarly sources and government sites. For example, you might get information from a site like the BBC, a scholarly source such as a peer-reviewed journal (e.g., The Journal of Medicine), or a government site such as the FDA.

· Confirm all facts. Even if you’ve gathered information from a credible source, be sure to confirm the info with another credible source. That’s because sites are run my humans, and sometimes humans make typos and other mistakes.


Create Your Unique Angle

You don’t need to come up with something completely new. However, you should make your course unique. Here are ways to do that:

· Create a formula. The idea here is to teach evergreen information in a new way, by using a “formula.”

One example is the copywriting formula AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action). Even though people were teaching copywriting in much the same way, the person who came up with AIDA hit on a formula that made the information more memorable and easier to understand.

TIP: Whenever possible, create your formula around a related acronym. For example, if you’re creating a formula for setting up a successful sales blog, you might create five steps based around the word S.A.L.E.S. (E.G., Step 1, Set Up a Blog…)

· Coin a new word or phrase. The idea here is to create new words for your entire market to use. Once people realize YOU’RE the one who created the word, they’ll flock to you as the expert.

An example is the phrase “PLR content,” which I coined many years ago. The concept of PLR wasn’t new, at least not offline – though it was frequently referred to as white label. I took that concept and brought it online with a focus on content – and not only did a new phrase come into being, but so did an entire industry.

· Put a twist on an old method. In other words, don’t rehash what everyone else is saying. Instead, show people new ways to do things.

For example, coffee filters are for making coffee, right? And yet you’ll see people get very excited online when they see a list of other ways to use coffee filters, such as for washing windows.

Now see if you can apply this to your niche. Is there a new way to use an existing product or strategy? It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking… it just has to be unique.

· Bring your unique perspective. What can you offer that other people in your niche can’t?

Possibilities include:

- Case studies based on your own testing. While others can obviously create their own case studies, nonetheless your case studies are unique to you.

- Relevant stories. Again, this sets you apart. It also makes your content more memorable, more meaningful, and more engaging.

- Unique experiences. If you’ve worked in the niche for a long time, perhaps as a professional, then you can bring unique insight to your course.


Tell People the “Why”

Most people who are creating a course share the “what” and the “how.” But if you really want to position yourself as an authority in your niche – and get people to take action on what you’re teaching – then share the “why.” This means telling people why your particular method works so well.

Because here’s the thing…

People get analysis paralysis if they read or view too much content on a particular topic. They get overwhelmed. And they often get contradicting information, which is what causes the paralysis.

Now if you tell people why they should perform some task in a certain way, that helps them overcome the analysis paralysis. They’ll take action on what you’re saying. In turn, that creates satisfied customers. And satisfied customers tend to become repeat customers.


So, there you have it – the simple three-step method for mapping out your course from your big idea. Here’s a quick recap of those three steps:

· Step 1: Do Your Research. This is where you research similar products so that you can make your course different and BETTER than anything that’s out there on the market today.

· Step 2: Draft Your Outline. Here you learned how to organize your content in a logical, useful way.

· Step 3: Develop Your Course. Here you received best practices for creating a useful course that your students and customers are sure to love.

At this point, you now have everything you need to know to move forward. So, go ahead and turn your big idea into a profitable course. And get started right away, because the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll realize those profits!

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