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Welcome to Chapter 2!

In this chapter, we'll be talking course strategy and curriculum design. Ahh "strategy"... has ever a term been used more liberally? Your high school best friend's mom has "strategy" in her LinkedIn profile (if this is truly warranted, forgive me).

Most people aren't very strategic. Even when I worked in Sales Strategy at Salesforce (which I did for about 5 years), I didn't really "get" strategy. I was also 24 and way more interested in happy hours.

Broadly speaking

Strategy is the matter of choosing where you focus the resources at your disposal to achieve a goal with maximum efficiency.

So we have to start by defining your course goal. And then working backwards into an outline that presents content in a way to achieve said goal. Then we craft email copy that brings the outline alive for the person you've convinced to read the dang thing. Then we make sure it’s souped up with the components of learning experience design that make the message even more compelling. Finally, we bring it together with some experiential components (like fast-forward) that make it binge-worthy. Then it’s actually pretty easy to ask for what we want.

I’m assuming your goal is an upsell.

It could be a standalone product, and that’s fine! But if you are gonna build an EBC and not have an upsell, you are probably leaving money on the table.

Another assumption is that you already have a higher value offering (or are planning on one) that is more hands-on and personalized than any scale-focused digital product experience. That could be a service (like coaching) or a community, or a cohort-based course, or an event, or whatever—you get the picture.

If using your EBC as a demand generation tool for a higher ticket offering, do this:

  • The EBC should be free or very low-cost ($5-$20), which means your landing page can be relatively light.

  • Use the EBC to show people what goes into achieving the outcome of the service (so much so that they could self-serve if they wanted).

This works because once people realize how much value they get from the service AND how much work goes into doing it the right way they'll 1) want to pay you for it and 2) feel good paying you for it because they understand the value and feel like an informed buyer.

If you’re building a standalone product, do this:

  • charge more (I’ve sold EBCs for anywhere between $5 and $230)

  • To justify charging more you need a much more compelling landing page (I’m a big fan of Eddie Schleyner’s work in this area)

  • To build a compelling landing page you need testimonials, so you probably want to start with a lower price to get more early customers, then ramp up as you add pedigree to your landing page

The EBC should give the reader all the tools to self-serve towards whatever desired outcome you’re exploring with the course

My point is that the content is mostly the same

Either way you’re equipping the reader to help themselves. For example, one of my students (Nate Kadlac) created an EBC on the 80/20 of design. It covered the most important stuff and got people super familiar with Figma. His upsell, then, was to his much more expensive workshop where students use Figma to build their own personal branding system. He’s got the best of both world’s because he charges $149 for the course.

These are two ways to monetize, but not the only two

Some other examples:

  • A free course with affiliate links inside

  • License white-labeled content to other publishers

  • Sell IP

Again, the content is mostly the same for all of these use cases. It’s the surrounding scaffolding (landing page, ads, content marketing, etc.) that changes.

I’m not advocating for you to give away the ingredients to your secret sauce

But you have to provide them something that is independenly valuable. This is why I’m generally skeptical of <5 day email courses. If they’re also fitting a CTA in there, it’s gonna feel somewhat unbalanced.

Getting the outline right is critical 

It is the flow of the course. If it feels natural, the learner is incentivized to come back every day (or even better, fast forward through it!). If the flow feels incongruous, you've got a one-way ticket to the Promotions tab. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, this part of the course build requires the most brainpower.

It's harder than it sounds, so here is a general guideline I use for outlining a course:

  • What am I talking about

  • Why does it matter and how does it benefit people

  • What do you need to know before we dive in

  • What are the primary "pillars" of the overall topic

  • What are the subtopics of those pillars

  • In each subtopic, what are the primary considerations, challenges, objectives, best practices, etc.

  • How do I take the aforementioned knowledge and put it into action

Answer those questions, and something like an outline will emerge (eventually). It might take a few passes and some deep thinking in the bathtub, but it's a start. And I suspect you already have some concepts brewing.

Where should I do this exercise?

Anywhere you're comfortable. I like whiteboarding. But I've also added a page in the EBC builder which has these questions jotted down. Here's my suggestion: take the first pass today (or tomorrow), and then, when the real Action Item rolls around at the end of the chapter, complete a second draft incorporating what you learned between now and then. (Tbh this will likely require multiple iterations -- but it's better to iterate on the outline than have to go back and make a bunch of changes to fully drafted emails).

Holy crap that sounds like a lot of work! Are there quicker paths to getting this thing out the door?

Yes! And they’re viable too. Let's say you're an expert in one area that can be broken into 5 major parts.

  • A horizontal approach would involve taking the important lessons from each of the 5 areas, without going into tremendous detail. In this instance, you’re still educating the buyer on the key considerations and tradeoffs.

  • A vertical approach means going deep on one area and then teasing insight into the others. This gives them everyting they need to accomplish an important task (among the several others you can help them with).

  • A 101 approach would covering the most basic things someone needs to know before they dive deeper (good if you have other knowledge products to upsell).

I'm sure there are other ways to organize your content that I'm not thinking of. There are lots of different course formats out there, and your EBC style should jive with your material and align with your expert opinion on what makes the most sense for your customers.

In the next email we're talking about email types

You've probably caught on to a couple already -- welcome emails, chapter overviews, deep dives... but that's not the half of it! There are 4 additional email formats that I use. Your goal over the next two days is to get your course outlined and to start thinking about the content that will live (i.e. thrive) inside your EBC. Get this done so that when Chapter 3 rolls around, you're ready to put some content creation strategies into action.