Released September 2019
* Version 3.2.1 was released on the same day addressing a critical bug fix. *
We’ve been busy: from changing diapers on our newborn, welcoming a new team member to our company, and working on time sensitive updates for payment compliance…
It’s nice to reflect on what went into the latest version of AccessAlly, which is available now inside your WordPress plugins dashboard.
Here's a video overview to whet your appetite:
Table of Contents
Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) Compliance
If you're not sure what this means or if it relates to your business, read our full SCA compliance blog post here.
- AccessAlly is now SCA-ready and EU clients can verify their payment method securely when making purchases with AccessAlly Order Forms.
- There is NO additional configuration required for new orders: for payments requiring SCA, clients will be prompted to validate their credit card by clicking on a button.
- If you have existing subscriptions or payment plans, you'll want to use AccessAlly's “Update Credit Card” functionality.
- You can find the full tutorial for setting up this page here, and from there you can send an email to have clients validate their card securely.
- If you've already set up a Failed Payment automation sequence, then your email automation will kick in and direct people to update their card settings.
- For clients using the “Advanced” styling option, please follow the styling guide here.
Custom field based filter for User Directory
Tutorials for setting up this feature can be found here.
- Added an option to filter users based on a custom field value. (This is ideal for segmenting users based on certain text values, such as Industry or Location.)
- The “dropdown” custom field update option can be used allow users to update a custom field with preset values, thus reducing the chance of typos.
- The ability to search based on any number of fields (not just names), so you can have people search for specific keywords in the fields you deem useful (for example location, biography, industry, etc.)
Countdown timer custom operation
Tutorials for setting up this feature can be found here.
- Added the ability to create a global countdown timer to a specified time.
- Introduced the ability to create a countdown timer for a specific coupon. The countdown timer can be used in the order form or as part of content.
- An animated countdown timer is now available as one of the display options
Subscription Custom Operations
Tutorials for setting up this feature can be found here.
- Added the ability to create frontend buttons for subscription actions: cancel, revoke, stop, and add payment credits.
- This allows clients to self-manage existing subscriptions.
- Actions can also be initiated via a webhook in the CRM.
A New Setup Wizard for Simplified Onboarding
The new setup wizard reduces the onboarding steps to a minimal required input. It also offers the ability to create and configure key pages, so the site is ready to use.
View the new Setup Wizard tutorial here.
- Added styling customization for Team Management button colors (in General Settings → Styling → Custom).
- Added a parameter to the “affiliate_details” shortcode that allows customization of how much referral information (name, email) to display.
- Improved Permissions → Update User interface so that it is easier to resolve Invalid Contact ID / Duplicate Contact ID errors.
- Updated default Course Navigation and Resume button styling, so that long button texts will still have padding on the sides.
- Added a “Save” button to inline profile / custom field updates, so that users have a chance to review the input before deciding to update.
- Added a new custom operation that can be used to create a CRM-activated coupon.
- Added “Custom Text” and “Custom Code” elements to User Directory Profile configuration, so static text can be included in the User Profile.
- Improved Purchase Log → Subscription Details interface to clarify how each admin action is performed.
- Introduced a new “modern” look for User Directory and User Profile.
- Added PayPal format CSV export for Affiliate Payout report.
- Added Danish Krone as a currency option.
- Added Swedish Krona as a currency option.
- Added conditional display shortcodes based on whether clients have certain active subscriptions.
- Introduce the ability to Archive an order in Purchase Log → Order Details. Archived orders are not included in Metrics calculations.
- (ProgressAlly) Enabled drag-and-drop re-ordering for Objective list setup.
- (ProgressAlly) Added “Clone” feature to Quiz questions.
- (ProgressAlly) Enabled drag-and-drop re-ordering for Quiz questions.
- (ProgressAlly) Increased maximum Private Notes attachment size to 10MB.
- Fix submit issue if contact information inputs are placed in bordered block for Flex order form designs.
- Fix bug where the placeholder text for the State selection element was not updated correctly in Order Form Flex design.
- Fix hardcoded error text in Order Form required input validation, which now uses the localized version.
- Show readable dates in Affiliate Commission export instead of UNIX timestamps.
Long-form, short form, green buttons, red buttons, testimonials, sales videos…
The jury’s still out on the best strategy for designing sales pages that convert to produce optimum results for your business.
But, if you ask me… there’s not just one right way.
And here’s why:
Your sales page is unique to your business, and what works for your colleagues may not work for you because each and every one of us serves a different audience.
What matters most is that you design sales pages that convert.
The key is focusing on solving your ideal customer’s problems.
Together we'll break down 10 sales page examples across varying industries, all unique in their layout and design. Each one offers a solid example of sales page strategies that convert.
Plus you’ll see what tools we recommend for designing your next WordPress sales page and the must-haves for every sales page design.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- 10 Sales Page Examples for Online Courses, Memberships, and More
- 3 WordPress Sales Page Design Tools
- Design Sales Pages That Convert For Your Website
10 Sales Page Examples for Online Courses, Memberships, and More
1. Your Story School
What it’s selling:
Your Story School is a 12-week course & group coaching program that teaches copywriting and storytelling.
Where it shines:
The Story School sales page example follows a story structure true to the Story School copywriting program itself. The customer gets first-hand experience of how powerful the program will be if they are convinced to buy.
Each section of the page visually leads into the next so that you’re compelled to continue reading and navigating through the page until you’re prompted to purchase, or keep scrolling for more information.
Structurally, design elements have been used to visually separate each part of the story, as if they are chapters that make up a whole.
The sales page gets more granular in terms of details for the program, the further you navigate through it. This approach works well, for potential customers who may have doubts because they have likely already been convinced the program is for them, but just aren’t ready to pull the trigger.
By the time they reach the end, most (if not all) of their pre-sale questions are addressed.
Where it could be improved:
One thing to consider with your sales videos is to make them engaging and draw the viewer in instantly, the moment they click play.
The sales video at the top of this page fell a little flat, but contained great information when I gave it a chance. Don’t risk losing sales, and your potential customers’ attention with a video that doesn’t capture them immediately.
2. Created Life Academy
What it’s selling: Created Life is an integrated in-person, coaching & retreat event for women who are looking for help in achieving their goals.
Where it shines:
This sales page does a great job connecting at a human level and appealing to those who the program is meant for, and a connection with the program leader is immediately made.
This example explicitly states who the program is “NOT” for and also requires the customer to go through an application process – instantly qualifying the potential customer. Not everyone who wishes to enroll will be selected. This approach sends the message to the potential members that it’s about quality, not quantity.
Where it could be improved:
In theory, the use of rotating testimonials is a great way to showcase multiple trust-building statements.
Unfortunately, on this particular sales page, the testimonials transition from one to the next so quickly that it's impossible to read through one before another appears in its place. Ultimately, this doesn't deliver a ton of value for the potential customer.
3. PR Couture PRISM Program
What it’s selling: PR Couture's PRISM Program is a program for aspiring PR professionals.
Where it shines:
There’s a strong brand presence throughout this entire sales page example, from the prism logo that appears between each main section to the font style and color palette used throughout.
Even though the content is well-done and covers the essential “should-you-buy-it-or-should-you-not” elements, there's a prominent invitation for interested students to email the company directly with any questions.
For this particular product, the extra invite isn't going to be a big threat for the overall conversation rates. After all, it's intended for individuals who are looking for a career in PR and communications, so they should be ready to dive in and take the extra step for clarification.
Where it could be improved:
There were a few areas on this page that didn’t fully meet my expectations.
Right above the program overview, there are 3 headshots. It’s immediately unclear who they belong to … are they past participants? Program leaders?
To help clarify this point, it's a good idea to include short testimonials next to the headshots (if past participants) or a short intro/bio if the images are of program leaders.
Finally, while the “email us” invite isn't a negative element, it’s still a good idea to include a sign-up link or button at the end of every sales page. This way, if a potential customer makes it to the end and aren’t ready to submit an order at that time, you don't miss out on the sale entirely.
What it’s selling: ConvertKit is an email marketing automation platform, sold as a SaaS product.
Where it shines:
ConverKit’s use of connecting points to draw the potential customer’s eye down the page to keep the viewer moving through each section of content is brilliant.
At the top and bottom of the page they qualify their leads by redirecting them to sales materials and resources based on their stage in business before presenting pricing that aligns with each demographic’s needs.
The use of testimonials in this design is relevant and specific to the feature its presented with – adding a personal connection to illustrate the potential each feature offers for the business owner.
Where it could be improved:
The “Watch the Demo” callout is minute in comparison to every other section of the sales page layout. When clicked, it opens up into a larger player as expected, but gets lost due to its size in the current layout.
5. What Works Network
What it’s selling: What Works Network is a professional online community and training for small business owners.
Where it shines:
This WordPress sales page example is just stunning from a design perspective … but the layout and imagery isn’t the only thing they nailed here.
The placement of the sales video just below the fold is outside the norm, but works really well here for a few reasons: When I land on a sales page and the video is the first thing I see, I feel obligated to watch it (or else I won’t get all of the information I need).
Second, not everyone who lands on your sales page is in an environment where they can watch the video, or have enough info about your program or offering that they want to commit the time to do so. In this case, the potential customer gets a brief overview of the program first. If the initial hook resonates, they’re more likely to watch the video and continue engaging with the page.
The use of social proof and “you belong” copy instantly makes you feel like you’re part of this community before you fork over your hard-earned cash. The animated calculation of members and the community/content numbers catch your eye and draw a lot of attention to them, driving home how active the community is for members.
I think it’s fair to say that testimonials are a must-have on every sales page design. In this case, the testimonials are laid out in a modular design, which makes them really stand out visually, making it easier for you to read each one in its entirety before moving on to the next.
Where it could be improved:
This sales page is so beautifully designed and organized that it was hard to find an area for improvement.
The only point worth mentioning here is the lack of an SSL certificate on the site. Although payments aren't being processed on the site, some visitors may be turned off by the “Not secure” message in the address bar. It’s a small investment to protect the page with an SSL certificate.
6. Isabel Foxen Duke – Stop Fighting Food
What it’s selling: Stop Fighting Food is a program that helps develop healthy eating mentality and habits.
Where it shines:
While not designed to appeal to the masses, the language and photo selection used are bold and speak directly to the intended audience.
The design features a mix of written and video testimonials that are eye-catching by framing them with a grey background that contrasts with the white used throughout the rest of the page, with large arrows pointing to the written testimonials. The viewer has the option to engage with them in a way that resonates most for that individual – video for those who prefer hearing directly from past participants and written for individuals who either aren’t able to play the video at the time of viewing or prefer to quickly browse through them.
I’d also like to draw attention to the use of the dramatic text at the end of the page. In this case the content serves a dual purpose – the message is conveyed through the written copy, but it also doubles as a visual design element.
Where it could be improved:
Although the page uses professional photos for the most part, there's a section that feels totally out of place with an assortment of stock photos (the black and white filter isn't enough to bring the photos back on-brand with the rest of the page).
In this case, it probably would be a much better idea to consider using icons rather than basic stock photos to avoid that feeling of disconnect with your website visitors.
Where it shines:
The team at Ontraport has done a great job making it easy to purchase in the sales page design for their annual event, Ontrapalooza. Since it’s a part of the fixed navigation, the “Register Now” button is always visible as you scroll down the page. It’s always present and conveniently located for the buyer to proceed with their purchase at any given moment.
A black “Register Now” button is also embedded throughout the page after every section.
While largely black and white in design, the pops of color framing the images and as headings create movement for the page from one section to the next. This helps break up the content so the viewer isn’t overwhelmed with all of the information being shared.
Where it could be improved:
Knowing this company has the resources for professional grade photos, it would have been nice to see more of them used throughout the design for a more professional, polished look.
One way to build credibility for your offering is to use a “featured in” or “as seen in” section for social proof. In this design, I would have liked to see the “as seen in” section in a more prominent, full-width area, instead of nestled under a short content area. In this case it looks as if it was added in as an after-thought.
8. StoryBrand Marketing Workshop
What it’s selling: StoryBrand Marketing Workshop is an online course that teaches higher level marketing strategy.
Where it shines:
StoryBrand does a great job creating exclusivity for their offer by requiring you to request an invitation, rather than make a purchase directly. (It’s also a smart way to gather a list of warm leads.)
They do a great job qualifying potential customers by immediately addressing pain points at the top of the page, as well as how to solve them through video testimonials from past clients. The potential customer immediately feels confident that StoryBrand understands what they’re going through and knows how to help them.
The clean modern feel and nicely spaced copy make this a refreshing, uncluttered sales page design. The sliders, tabbed content, and video players throughout are well-organized and force the customer to immediately engage with the brand.
The testimonials throughout the page make the course relatable, and the use of testimonials and endorsements from “celebrity” entrepreneurs builds confidence in the buyer and a trusting relationship with the brand.
Where it could be improved:
In the “What You Save” section below the pricing box it’s unclear how this course compares in terms of content and intellectual value to the offers listed in the price comparison.
While it’s clear this offer is more affordable in comparison, there’s not any context regarding the additional offers to help the customer feel they’re making a good investment for the value they will receive from this offer.
9. Fearless Art
What it’s selling: Fearless Art is an online course that teaches artists how to grow in confidence and gain clients.
Where it shines:
This WordPress sales page example showcases the brand and personality of the site owner very well, but also keeps the focus on the potential customer and the transformation they’ll go through when they sign up.
The site isn’t design heavy, but the watercolor brush-stroke backgrounds create nice visuals to break up the content.
This example also does a good job of building credibility without the use of testimonials. Shawna tells her story and uses her art on her page to showcase her expertise and build confidence in her potential members.
Where it could be improved:
At the bottom of the page, there's an additional opt-in that's unrelated to the sales page offer. This really distracts from the program as a whole.
Even though this specific offer is currently unavailable, there’s a waiting list for leads to join. The site owner can use the waiting list to segment these leads into their mailing list to keep warm until enrollment opens without the need for the second opt-in.
10. Design Sprint MasterClass
What it’s selling: The Design Sprint MasterClass teaches professionals how to run a successful design sprint.
Where it shines:
This sales page immediately communicates what’s included in the offer and the results you can expect as a customer.
The site owners create a strong desire for their services with the use of the names/logos of their high-profile clients as soon as you scroll for more information – building instant trust with you in their work and ability to deliver on their promises.
You can also chat with the business directly on the page so you can get an immediate response to any questions you have while you’re on the page, ready to make the investment.
I also appreciate how they allow the potential customer to experience program first-hand with a sneak peek at the program.
Where it could be improved:
The biggest flaw in this example is, even though this sales page is promoting a program for designers, the creators haven’t invested the time to put together a well-designed and polished sales page for their offer.
This page has a lot of potential in terms of content, but there are some major areas for design improvements and conversion optimization which are likely due to the use of a non-WordPress sales page template.
Every sales page should include testimonials, however, the excessive use of them can become distracting to the customer. In this case, the testimonials look cluttered in varying sizes, and make up a large majority of the content on the page. A little extra time investment in organizing this content can go a long way for conversions with your potential customers.
The designer had good intentions with the inclusion of the curriculum breakdown in the layout but it’s off brand and doesn’t utilize the same design elements applied throughout most of this design.
You want to avoid linking out to external sites and free offers from your sales pages as much as possible because it can take the attention off the program you’re selling and distract your potential customer.
Lastly, they don’t link to their order forms enough. You want to make it easy for your potential customer to enroll when they’re ready to buy. After the first opportunity to enroll at the top of the page, I had to scroll a lot to find the enrollment button.
3 WordPress Sales Page Design Tools
Now for the real question: how do you take the ideas from the sales page examples and apply them to your own WordPress website?
Although you can still have a developer build a fully custom design for you, there are a variety of tools that let you create beautiful layouts and add the functionality you need, without having to reinvent the wheel code-wise every time.
1. WordPress “Page Builder” Plugins
Page builder plugins have made it possible for beginner and advanced WordPress users alike to create a professional design without the need for a custom theme or development.
The debate is wide open when it comes to the best page builder, and strong arguments can be made for and against almost every tool on the market. So, in lieu of a comparison post, we’re going to keep it simple and share 3 of the more common page builder plugins that our clients use.
Beaver Builder is the page builder we use here at AccessAlly.
The interface is easy to use, it loads quickly, and met all of the requirements we had as a company at the time of our site redesign. Like many others here you can save page templates, rows and other global elements for use site-wide.
One of the features that sets Beaver Builder apart from some of the other page builders on the market is the detail on design elements in regards to movements and animations. It’s a popular choice when design is a heavy focus for the site creator and has little to no learning curve.
Divi by Elegant Themes
Divi is a feature rich theme builder, and gives you a ton of options with its page builder. Due to its flexibility, you have full design control over your site.
In addition to the pre-made built-in templates, you can also share and download layouts and content from the Elegant Theme community.
Although Divi can be overwhelming for beginners, over the years it’s become an incredibly popular choice for WordPress users.
ThriveArchitect has over 275 landing page templates and its focus on marketing makes it a prime choice for online business owners and marketers alike.
When your top priority is optimizing for conversions and sales, you can’t go wrong with this builder. It’s a true drag-and-drop, click-to-edit builder with pre-designed conversion elements that allow you to put together a landing page, or sales page in no time at all.
2. Opt-In Plugins
Some sales pages simply include a button that links directly to a pricing page or order form. But if you have a limited launch time (or are simply in pre-launch mode), you might want to collect email addresses instead.
1. The Built-in “Page Builder” Plugin Opt In
All of the page builder plugins mentioned above include an “opt in” element, so you don't have to add any more plugins when it comes to the part where you want to collect emails. Typically, they include a setting that will allow you to link the opt-in up with your email marketing tool, so each submission gets added to your email list.
The downside is that not all email marketing tools are supported.
2. Your Marketing Automation Tool
Another option is to use the opt-in tools provided with whatever email marketing automation tool you're using.
This can be a great option especially if your marketing automation tool (whether that's ActiveCampaign, Drip, ConvertKit, etc.) allows you to “embed” an opt-in with code … which means that you can place the opt in strategically throughout your sales page.
3. A WordPress Opt In Plugin
Finally, if you're not able to find the right solution with either of the first two options (or if you want more flexibility for popups and time-activated opt-in offers), you might want to do some searching for a WordPress opt in plugin.
The natural first choice we recommend is PopupAlly Pro, but that's not just because we created it!
PopupAlly Pro allows you to create popups, embedded opt-ins, scroll-activated opt-ins, exit-intent popups, and more.
3. An E-Commerce Plugin To Seal the Deal
Finally, it's important to have a plugin installed on your main site (or a subdomain) to allow your users to place the order itself.
Common options include:
- AccessAlly (Essentials or Pro), which lets you design your own order forms and collect payments for anything from one-time payments to payment plans to open-ended membership subscription plans
- WooCommerce, a WordPress plugin that includes shopping cart functionality
- Shopify, a third-party system (cannot be installed on WordPress) that can give additional functionality, from shopping carts to shipping assistance with physical products
What's the best way to pick the right E-Commerce tool?
Great question. There are some elements where you might be able to make a quick decision based on features. Someone with hundreds of physical products, for example, might find it much easier to use a tool like Shopify, which is designed with that business model/style in mind.
If you're selling primarily online courses and memberships, you might gravitate towards AccessAlly for a robust, all-in-one-solution, since it includes your course-building and membership site elements.
Take time to reflect on your business model and what tool makes the bulk of your online selling easier.
Design Sales Pages That Convert For Your Website
… and now, it’s your turn to create sales pages that convert. Whether you’re selling physical products or online courses and memberships, it’s important to make the entire experience seamless from start to finish.
Take time to think through the layout, content, and strategy behind each sales page on your site, and invest in a tech stack that does all the heavy lifting for you.
Each of these WordPress sales page builders are also highly recommended for building online courses and membership sites.
You might have heard about the upcoming Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) that goes into effect on September 14, 2019… but you might not know exactly what it is or what you need to do to get compliant.
And if you're selling a membership program or online courses (whether with AccessAlly or another tool), you might want to learn exactly what's required to stay compliant.
This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Please consult your own legal counsel for more detailed information on compliance requirements for your business.
Table of Contents
What PSD2 Means (in English)
The Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is a set of rules designed to protect consumers when they pay online, as passed by the European Parliament.
Online businesses are being asked to implement Strong Customer Authentication (SCA), where a credit card owner will be asked to confirm some details through a 3D Secure prompt.
This additional step will not be required for all purchases, only those where both the initiating and acquiring banks are in the European Economic Area (EEA).
What is Strong Customer Authentication (SCA)?
As usual, when it comes to new technology there are a lot of 3-letter acronyms and new jargon to learn.
Strong Customer Authentication means that the payment processor needs to confirm additional information (beyond the usual credit card details) before approving a transaction.
Each bank may choose to implement SCA differently, depending on their own resources and tech systems.
Some examples of this additional checkpoint include receiving a code to a cellphone number that must be entered, logging into an online account with an existing password, and a combination of other steps that confirm identity.
How to setup SCA on WordPress and Other Platforms
Whether you use WordPress plugins to take payments or you use a 3rd party shopping cart, you need to check that the payment processors are going to be PSD2 compliant.
One place you can check if you use Stripe to take payments is the Stripe CSA-Ready page.
If you use PayPal to take payments, PayPal will be implementing their own Strong Customer Authentication and you won't need to do anything different to your ordering process.
Your options for SCA and 3D secure checkout on WordPress include:
The most important things you can do at this time is:
- Look for PSD2 or SCA articles for your ecommerce tools and payment processor to make sure they've implemented this added security measure.
- If you can't find anything, reach out to the companies behind your ecommerce and payment processor tools to learn more about how they will address the new rules.
- Consult legal counsel, if necessary, to learn more about nuances for your business setup.
Attention, AccessAlly Users:
If you use AccessAlly’s order forms, then you’ll be happy to know that we’re releasing an update with compliant functionality on September 12th.
Orders through Stripe will work as before, but with an added security step during the checkout process.
PayPal is implementing their own Strong Customer Authentication, and there will be no changes to how AccessAlly handles payments with PayPal.
If you use a 3rd party shopping cart or take payments directly through Infusionsoft or Ontraport, then check that your merchant services can handle PSD2 if you’re located in the EEA.
What about existing subscriptions or payment plans?
If you have existing subscriptions or payment plans, you'll want to use AccessAlly's “Update Credit Card” functionality.
You can find the full tutorial for setting up this page here, and from there you can send an email to have clients validate their card securely.
If you've already set up a Failed Payment automation sequence, then your email automation will kick in and direct people to update their card settings.
The bottom line?
If you’re located in Europe and have European customers, you’ll need to click the “Update plugin” button in WordPress once we release and make sure that you've got a way for members to update their card details.
If you’re outside of Europe, it’s still useful to keep an eye on what’s happening to online payments because it’s just a matter of time before these security measures become the norm globally.
Here's to making the world of online business and transactions a safer place for all of us!
Have you ever seen two sales page designs so similar in content and layout that you confused the products?
Sales page design is 100% subjective and unique to each individual business and offer.
And while there’s not an exact formula to follow for sales page designs, there are a few key elements you want to be sure you include in yours to help increase conversions.
Table of Contents
- 1. Infuse your branding throughout the sales page from beginning to end.
- 2. Make it easy for potential customers to get in contact with you.
- 3. Testimonials create a lot of trust in your offering and build credibility, so use them wisely.
- 4. Don’t make it complicated for your potential customers to give you their money.
- 5. Organization matters.
1. Infuse your branding throughout the sales page from beginning to end.
Your branding includes colors, shapes, fonts, and images that are both relevant and professional to the product you're selling.
While stock images are readily available for almost any type of sales page, if you’re able to hire a photographer for your own personal photoshoot, do it.
A professional photo shoot is worth every penny and the photos can be used across all of your promotional outlets.
2. Make it easy for potential customers to get in contact with you.
If a potential customer has questions they need answered or have trouble with their enrollment, you want to ensure they know how to get in touch with you.
One way to do this is by adding your contact information to your sales page. Another option would be to add a live chat option so you can answer questions on the spot to increase your conversions.
The more prompt you are with pre-sale questions, the more confident potential customers will in your post-sale custom support.
3. Testimonials create a lot of trust in your offering and build credibility, so use them wisely.
Using testimonials just for the sake of having testimonials is never a good idea, especially when you’re selling high-ticket items.
Be strategic about what trust-building elements you add. If the testimonials are vague, are not easy to read, or are otherwise overwhelming, they’re not going to provide the level of credibility they should, so make sure they are specific and presented in an organized, easy to read format.
You may also want to consider seeking endorsements from well-respected colleagues in your industry. Sometimes seeing a “celebrity entrepreneur” recommend you is all someone else needs to persuade them to buy.
Testimonials from past participants should help your soon-to-be customers understand the results they can expect to receive from your offer.
4. Don’t make it complicated for your potential customers to give you their money.
If it's too difficult for your sales page visitors to easily enroll or sign up for your courses, you’re leaving money on the table.
Use a sticky or fixed navigation with a “Buy Now” button so your potential customers can enroll at any given time and ensure you’re using a reliable tech stack to make the sign up and checkout process as smooth as possible for your customers.
On average, sales pages convert at just 2.35%. To put that into perspective, only 2 people out of every 100 visitors to your sales page are going to follow through with a purchase. Don’t risk reducing that number by making it overly complicated for your potential customers to sign up.
5. Organization matters.
Use design elements that make your page flow and naturally lead your potential customers from one area to the next.
For example: if you decide to present your testimonials in a rotating slider, make sure the slider moves at a pace slow enough so the visitor can read the content in full before the next one appears.
If you don't have a UX designer and talented copywriter on your team, do your best to put yourself in your customers' shoes: the most important content should be shared early on in the page design so your offer is clearly communicated. Additional hesitations and clarifications can be addressed further down in the marketing copy.
Think about it: an FAQ section is valuable, but only after the website visitor understands exactly what you're offering and how it could benefit them.
When you sell multiple online courses or membership options … how do you encourage clients to invest in more than one?
More importantly: how do you do this without coming across as overwhelming or pushy?
Table of Contents
- Membership Site Dashboard: A Close Relative to the E-Commerce Shop
- The Cross-selling Dashboard: A Design Shift For Increasing Sales
- What You'll Need To Create Your Upselling Membership Website WordPress Dashboard
- Tutorial: How To Build An Interactive Membership Site Dashboard (Using AccessAlly)
Membership Site Dashboard: A Close Relative to the E-Commerce Shop
The first cue for your “shop” or dashboard design comes from what has become the standard ecommerce shop layout: columns of products with “click to read more” functionality.
This layout makes it easy for website visitors to scroll through and view your products, adding them to the shopping cart (or simply selecting a “buy now” option).
However, there's a subtle difference between selling digital or physical products versus online courses/memberships:
Generally speaking, a client will not place multiple orders for an online course, they way that they might buy multiple notebooks.
This gives you a unique advantage in terms of what you can do design-wise to make your membership site dashboard more effective in generating revenue from upsells and cross-sells.
The Benefit of a Single Dashboard vs. Multiple Individual Sales Pages
There's a reluctance with many online course builders when it comes to housing your membership, courses, and online challenges together in a single membership site (versus using multiple sales pages for current clients).
But the all-in-one website build can be an extremely powerful strategy towards online business growth: with a single membership site, you can identify how users interact with your material from login to logout.
It also lets you create a personalized experience for your users, guiding them through the material and identifying areas where they're struggling and may need the resources contained within a separate course.
The Cross-selling Dashboard: A Design Shift For Increasing Sales
A member dashboard uses three key components to increase sales with current membership site users:
- Visually engaging course icons – essentially the “product thumbnail” you see in ecommerce sites
- Intuitive software that displays the icons differently based on whether the user has already purchased it or not
- The natural curiosity of your clients combined with and a psychological impulse to “collect it all”
Added bonus: when the user can log in and see at a glance everything you have to offer, it immediately puts them into the “shopping” mode… a definite good thing for you!
1. Visually Engaging Course Icons
Online course (or membership site) product thumbnails look a little different than “regular” product thumbnails, since there's no quick photo to use.
This is where your graphic design skills – or a team member's – is going to make the world of difference.
A bullet point list of 10 course titles is not going to garner nearly the amount of excitement as the icons in this example of Lindsay Preston's course library:
2. Intuitive software that provides a dynamic view based on the user's purchase history
So many client retention and marketing headaches can be eliminated when you're able to personalize your client's experience based on actions they've already taken.
This allows your membership site to dynamically show some course icons as “enabled”, and some as “disabled”… setting the stage for the next component:
3. Natural curiosity to “have it all”
Personal admission: when I get excited about something, I go into full-on “binge collector” mode.
Last week, I realized that I really liked painting with acrylics… so I spent the next few hours watching tutorials and spending over a hundred dollars buying the necessary supplies to get started (including a giant easel…).
But if you can capitalize on that feeling of excitement when your membership subscribers purchase their first course – the sales pitch becomes virtually unnecessary. All you have to do is showcase your offers, and the natural excitement (and curiosity) takes over.
What You'll Need To Create Your Upselling Membership Website WordPress Dashboard
The tool list you need is pretty short:
- A WordPress website
- The AccessAlly Pro membership site plugin
- A tag-based CRM (see current list of integrations here)
Tutorial: How To Build An Interactive Membership Site Dashboard (Using AccessAlly)
Step 1: Install the AccessAlly WordPress Plugin for Your Membership Website Software
Real talk: learning how to build a membership website the right way takes many hours of learning your software, WordPress theme layouts, and testing each component carefully before you make it “live” to your clients.
But, in a nutshell, you'll want to install AccessAlly on your WordPress site like any other plugin, then link it up so that it follows the automation rules you set upinside your CRM/marketing automation platform.
Step 2: Assign Icons To Your Online Courses
When you build your courses inside AccessAlly's Course Wizard, you can easily assign both the “enabled” and “disabled” version of your icon:
Step 3: Add Your Course Icons to Your Membership Site Dashboard Page
Use AccessAlly's shortcode adder in the toolbar of your page edit view to add each course icon individually to your page.
The shortcode simply adds the icon itself – any additional styling or formatting is totally up to you and your web designer!
Note that when you use the shortcode to add the course icons to a page, AccessAlly will automatically change the visible icon from enabled to disabled (or vice versa) depending on what permission tags your logged in users have.
…and that's it!
Your interactive dashboard is all set up, and ready to help you upsell and cross sell your courses.
The massive feat of launching a membership site is behind you (so congrats!).
Now the real work begins: keeping your members around for as long as possible.
The challenge–improving your membership retention–is an ongoing struggle for new AND experienced membership site owners. After all, how many of your new members log in on a regular basis? How many lose interest after the initial sign up (resulting in cancellations, lost revenue, and reduced word of mouth referrals)?
The good news is that the implementation strategies are extremely straightforward, and truly give your clients a reason to return.
Table of Contents
- The Reason to Return Approach:
- 1. “I belong!”
- 2. “I can do it!”
- 3. “Perfect for me!”
- 4. “There's always something new!”
- 5. “This is fun!”
- 6. I’m making progress!
- 7. “What an experience!”
- Reason to Return: Infographic
The Reason to Return Approach:
1. “I belong!”
GOAL: Create an environment where users are seen, heard, and can engage with one another.
People come for the content, but stay for the community. Creating a community means giving people a safe place to express their struggles, their wins, and their progress with the goals of your membership or courses.
To have people feel welcome and like they belong, have a strong onboarding process and facilitate community through:
- A forum or FB group, encouraging introductions, and pairing people up
- A member directory to have people finding each other and connecting directly
- Go first and share vulnerably and invite others to do the same
- Ask people to invite their friends, so that the community can be enriched by others like them
― Robbie Kellman Baxter, The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue
2. “I can do it!”
GOAL: Celebrate achievements + motivate with points.
Gamification is quickly becoming a necessary ingredient for keeping members engaged in an online experience.
The methods used are varied, and might include any (or all) of the following elements:
- Give members points each month as a thank you for keeping their subscription
- Give bonus points when people complete quizzes, courses, and share on social media
- Have people compare and cheer each other on based on their point balances
- Reward and give prizes based on points earned (physical gifts, unlocked bonus content, etc.)
3. “Perfect for me!”
GOAL: Prevent overwhelm with quizzes and personalized assessments.
One big complaint with membership sites is the sheer volume of content that members could consume is overwhelming.
It's like walking into a giant library … and walking out empty handed, because you just weren't sure what you should get “this time.”
How can they decide what to dive into?
By offering a simple assessment that guides members to the right next steps, you not only give new users a compass that makes them feel confident, but you also ensure that there IS a good fit for them inside your membership, if they commit to looking hard enough.
An assessment (which can be as simple as a personality quiz) reduces overwhelm, and in turn can reduce cancellations that tend to flood in because of the excuse that “I’m just not taking advantage of all the content”.
4. “There's always something new!”
GOAL: Add new elements to keep members coming back for more.
Static, unchanging content works for a while … but if you want members to stick around for the long term, it's important to add new elements that keep them excited about coming back for more.
It could be something as simple as celebrating the amount of time that your members have been with you, like Twitter does with this popup:
Or, it might mean adding new course content, increasing engagement and encouraging interaction with new members, or even just sprinkling in some unannounced bonuses and perks.
Give people an idea of what courses and content are coming soon, so they can plan ahead… and keep them looking forward to logging in next.
5. “This is fun!”
GOAL: Pick a theme for your members area.
Unless you’re truly running a “course” that has a certification element in an academic setting, you can brand your membership site with a theme that can set you apart and make it way more fun for students.
Your membership area can be anything from a “Studio” where artists come to get inspired, to a “Dojo” where sales executives can come to get trained on sales.
The theme you pick influences everything from how you name your lessons, what kind of points people can earn (from paint brushes to karate chops).
6. I’m making progress!
GOAL: Use progress tracking, individual follow up, and bonus unlocking to motivate participants.
Gamification theory shows us that people need to accumulate “wins” early and often to keep them motivated on their learning journeys. That’s where progress tracking, and showing how far a student has come can keep them going longer.
Plus with individual follow-up, you can kick-start an automation to send emails to members who aren’t progressing or seem to be stuck.
You can also reward members as they move through your membership area with bonus content and other perks based on their specific actions.
7. “What an experience!”
GOAL: Facilitate a personalized experience with live group events and individual feedback.
Even though membership sites are built to scale, there is a way to do it while caring. With pre-scheduled group events you can answer questions, have members get to know each other and keep the motivation and excitement high.
Similarly, you can offer individual feedback through “homework submission” and this gives members another reason to login to your membership site to submit and receive your advice directly.
Reason to Return: Infographic
This infographic gives a summary of the Reason to Return approach, helping you improve membership retention for your program.
7 out of 10 potential customers abandon your checkout page and never look back.
How much income do you lose with this number?
Imagine what your revenue could be if you were able to reduce that 70% checkout form statistic to just 50%.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true strategies that you can put in place to maximize your checkout form conversion rates in your business.
Let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
- 7 Strategies to Maximize Conversions On Your Website
- Your Potential Business Growth
7 Strategies to Maximize Conversions On Your Website
1. Recapture Lost Sales With Abandoned Cart Follow-Up
One of the most powerful methods to capture potentially lost sales on your checkout page is using an abandoned cart follow-up campaign.
You can make this follow-up process as complex or simple as you’d like, but at the very minimum you need their email address.
Here’s what it might look like:
The AccessAlly plugin, for example, uses a 3-step checkout form, designed to collect a customer’s first name, last name, and email address in the first step. Once they click on to the next part of the order form–the billing part–their contact info is logged into our marketing automation system/CRM. This way, if they never submit the order, we can send follow up emails to this email address, completed with an incentive to come back and purchase.
We’ve recouped 43% of potentially lost sales with this method alone.
This same process can be used for physical products as well.
2. Don’t Overwhelm The Buyer
When asking customers to fork over their hard-earned dollars, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to move from sales page to order form.
This is where a lengthy checkout flow can wreak havoc on your conversion numbers.
As a general rule, only require customers to fill in the fewest fields possible for you to successfully deliver their purchased goods.
If you’d like to collect additional information from your customers, you can do so on the confirmation page or in a follow up email to them after the purchase is complete.
After all, the more time they spend giving you information that’s not necessary to fulfill their order is more time spent deciding whether they really want to continue with their purchase.
The more time they spend on your order form, the higher your lost sales numbers will be … which is another reason why adding things like 1-click upsells can continue to increase your revenue.
You'll also want to take into account any additional security measures like the recent European Secure Customer Authentication steps that are part of your payment processor.
3. Mobile Responsive Checkout Forms
According to this study, 79% of customers submit their orders on mobile devices.
If your order forms are not mobile responsive, you’re leaving money on the table. Money you may not be able to recoup.
Ensure all of your checkout forms are mobile friendly. Your buttons, images, and all text should properly function and re-size across all mobile devices.
One-column checkout page templates have the highest conversion rates on mobile devices. When using two-column checkout page templates on desktop, ensure the order form reduces to one-column on mobile devices and the checkout process flows logically.
You want to make sure the customer is clear on what they are purchasing before you start requiring them to enter their personal details.
Reduce the need to scroll on mobile devices for customers as much as possible, but also ensure each step of your ordering process is easy to access and populate for your buyers.
4. Order Bumps
Order bumps are a great add-on to your checkout flow to increase revenue.
Sure, you might see it as a possible point of friction for your customers, because it is one more thing for them to consider as they submit their order.
The key is to make this offer a no-brainer for them. It must be relevant and an easy “yes” for them to add, with just a click of a button.
(If it can’t be explained with a picture and short description, save it for an upsell post-purchase.)
I highly recommend testing your conversion rates with and without the order bump to determine which offer yields the highest revenue.
5. Use Customer Testimonials To Increase Conversions
Use testimonials from past customers to help your potential buyers follow through with their order, especially on high-ticket items.
When a potential customer can relate to others who have also made the same purchase, they will be more willing to commit to the purchase.
This technique creates a sense of belonging for the potential buyer, increases credibility for your products, and reassures the customer that they are making a good purchase decision.
Neil Patel, one of the most successful modern digital marketers, goes into more detail about the power of social proof in this article. He was able to increase conversions by 6.8% simply by including a testimonial on the checkout form.
6. Size Matters
The images of your products and the name of the item being purchased should be the most prominent part of your checkout form. The description and price should be smaller in comparison.
Psychologically, smaller font sizes used to display the price translates to a small or “low” price in the mind of a buyer. If the text is large (in relative comparison with the rest of the page design), they’ll automatically translate it to a “high” price.
In other words: you can help reduce the “whoah this is expensive” reaction simply by being strategic with how you set up your product and checkout pages.
7. Use Payment Plans To Get Buyers Off The Fence
Sometimes, there’s an honest roadblock of “I can’t afford to pay this much right now” that prevents the buyer from completing the purchase. In these cases, you can use a toggle to display different payment plans available for your products and services on the checkout form itself.
I recommend defaulting to the full payment option when a user lands on your checkout page, but have the option to toggle to a payment plan to help make the decision easier for users who may be ready to buy, but the cost feels like a stretch to them.
(A note here: avoid offering too many payment options, or your potential customer will end up overwhelmed by the choices, and likely never complete their order.)
When kept simple, you’ll convert more leads into paying customers when you can offer a payment plan. In fact, according to SamCart, conversions increase over 17% when this is done well.
Your Potential Business Growth
With the added revenue from increased conversions you’ll be hitting your business milestones faster than you may have originally projected.
You can use the added revenue to invest in new technology to improve customer experience, hire new team members and invest more in your current ones, or take that vacation you’ve been putting off – you deserve it.
These small tweaks to maximize conversions in your checkout flow and checkout page templates could also be the increase you need to turn a failing business into a thriving one.
Which tips are you going to implement in your checkout flow right away? Leave a comment below to help hold yourself accountable.
Oh, and by the way – all of these checkout flow tips can be implemented with AccessAlly's all-new checkout forms!
It wasn't long ago that a “mobile friendly” website meant creating an entirely separate mobile version. I often find myself searching to see what are the latest specifications for mobile responsive screen sizes… so I figured I'd make this simple infographic and you can refer to.
That way, you'll always knows what size to test when it comes time to create a mobile friendly popup or opt-in on your website.
It's finally time: you're writing that book that's been calling your name.
You know it's going to change the trajectory of your career, but you might be wondering how you're going to juggle the book writing process and earning money at the same time.
That's where having an online course that you can sell comes in.
But creating and launching an online course takes time, too, which could be spent on your book.
This is the typical chicken or the egg situation: which comes first, and how can you make it all work together?
Keep reading to find out how 10 successful authors and business owners made it happen, and the best advice to get and stay profitable throughout your book publishing project!
Table of Contents
- Why Online Courses are an Important Part of an Author’s Business
- How Different Should Your Book and Course Be?
- The Case For Launching Your Online Course Before Your Book
- 1. An online course can help you fund the book writing process.
- 2. Online courses can fund your marketing efforts for the book, helping you create better results like getting on bestsellers’ lists.
- 3. An online course allows you to build community and test the ideas in your book first.
- 4. Course buyers become book buyers.
- The Case for Publishing a Book First
- 1. If you’ve already got the book content, and you want to be first to market with your book title or your topic is very hot right now.
- 2. Books have a wider reach, and they’re authoritative.
- 3. No matter what, your book naturally leads into your course, and can help recoup your book writing and promotion costs.
- Enough Talk, Let's See How These 10 Authors Built Book + Online Course Empires
- The Bottom-Line for You As An Author
Why Online Courses are an Important Part of an Author’s Business
I remember catching up with author Chris Guillebeau at a conference and asking him how business was going.
His response: “Oh, I don’t have a business, but things are good!”
Clearly, Chris Guillebeau sees himself first and foremost as an author. But I’d argue that Chris has a business, even if he doesn’t see things that way.
He has offered several online courses and paid membership offerings over the years, which complement his book sales income.
So that brings me to reason #1 that authors need to consider adding an online business component to their writing and publishing endeavors.
1. Books don’t make money, in and of themselves.
Okay, so this is a gross generalization. There are plenty of best-selling books that have made their authors plenty of money.
But for most first-time authors, the book itself only brings in a small advance and a few dividends.
The real money in book publishing can come over time, as you continue to release new books and sell more of them to a loyal audience. Or your book might spin off another opportunity or get picked up by an influencer like Oprah.
Most authors don’t have unlimited funds to keep them in coffee and chocolate while they’re writing their next book.
So that’s where having an online course or paid digital membership program can really change the game.
2. Online courses and membership programs provide back-end profits.
The beauty of publishing a book is that it positions you as the expert, and it’s also a low barrier to entry… someone can typically buy your book for $20 or less.
If they like what you shared in your book, then they’re more likely to trust you and want to go deeper with your work.
By having a “next step” for people to take after they finish your book, you’re helping people engage deeper with you.
You’re also opening up another revenue stream, and when it comes to online courses or membership sites, you can often price these much higher than a book.
People expect to pay more for an online course, and because you’re not working with a publisher you’re able to set the price for your courses.
You also don’t need to sell as many seats in a digital course to make more profits, because you’re keeping all of the income instead of splitting it with publishers and distributors.
Essentially, having your own online course to sell off the back of your book means that all of your book promotion efforts can lead to direct revenues in your business.
3. There are always going to be people who want to go deeper.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons to launch a course or digital offering is that people who read your book are likely to become super fans… Why leave them hanging?
Sure, they might be willing to wait for you to publish your next book in a few years… but why not have something available for them to dive into when they’re the most excited about the topic?
If you consider the 80/20 rule, there will always be 20% of readers who are willing to invest more and go deeper.
For example, if you look at 1000 book buyers, about 200 of them might sign up for an online course you offer.
Within that 200, another 40 people might be willing to hire you for high-end consulting or coaching.
Having different tiers or levels that readers can engage with you helps you protect your writing time, and also opens up more sources of revenue other than book sales.
That leads to a common question that I hear from authors and content creators… should your book be the exact same topic as your course, or should they be different?
How Different Should Your Book and Course Be?
Believe it or not, your book and your online course can cover the exact same topic.
The biggest difference between your book and your course will be the type of experience people have as they go through the material.
For example, a reader might buy the book and get inspired. But it’s not until they invest in the online course that they see how each lesson is broken down into action steps that they implement the ideas.
The reader might have already learned the same ideas in the book first, but they’ll use the structure of the course to guide them in new ways of acting on these ideas.
A course might also have a different level of access to you as the author.
Maybe you offer group coaching sessions where people can ask you questions, or you allow members to connect to each other and form a community.
Each of these elements is worth more than the price of a book, and can help you justify the higher price on what feels to you like the same information.
Remember: people don’t buy online courses because they want more information.
Rather, they’re looking for an organized and simple system that can help them achieve their goals. By breaking down a whole book into bite-sized lessons or automated follow-up, it helps students apply the ideas in more practical ways.
Still, you might also have a portion of your audience that learns best through books – and that’s fine too. The goal isn’t to get every reader to buy your courses, but it’s to give those that want the option a place to go.
Now that brings us to another common conundrum for authors… what’s the best order to launch things in?
The Case For Launching Your Online Course Before Your Book
Let’s dive into the reasons you might want to launch an online course even before you publish your book, possibly even years in advance of your book.
1. An online course can help you fund the book writing process.
Whether you’re working with a publisher that is willing to extend a solid advance or not, when you’ve got an online course that you can sell… you’ve got more flexibility.
You’re not depending on advance money, and that gives you some leeway around timelines.
We all know that books take many years of work, and it helps to have an income during that time.
2. Online courses can fund your marketing efforts for the book, helping you create better results like getting on bestsellers’ lists.
If your goal is to make a big splash with your book and land on bestsellers’ lists, then you’ll want to have a marketing budget to pull from.
Most publishers do the bare minimum to help you promote your book, so if you’ve got your own resources you’ll come out ahead.
After putting years of work into your book, you’ll appreciate knowing that your online course can help expand the reach of your book financially.
3. An online course allows you to build community and test the ideas in your book first.
All of the work that you do on your online course can benefit your book and the publishing process.
For example, if you realize that everyone who goes through your online course gets confused or hung up on a certain concept… you can workshop it with live course participants until it’s clear enough to add to your book.
You might also be able to include examples of real people who implemented your ideas and strategies successfully into your book.
That elevates your book from theoretical to real-world tried and tested.
Plus all of the audience building that you’ll do for your online course will lead into more sales for your book because…
4. Course buyers become book buyers.
Once someone falls in love with your work, they’re more likely to purchase all of your products and books.
Your fans will want to support your book, share it with friends, and help you spread the word because of the value they got from your online course.
By building relationships with your ideal readers first, you’ve got a built-in book buying audience.
You can do something special for people who have already taken the course and who buy the book, like offering additional bonuses or goodies.
The Case for Publishing a Book First
Let’s take a look at the flip side: yes, sometimes it makes sense to publish the book first and then release an online course.
1. If you’ve already got the book content, and you want to be first to market with your book title or your topic is very hot right now.
It’s no secret that there are trends in the publishing space, and sometimes you want to release a book quickly to capture the building interest.
In this case you might not have an online course to offer yet, but there are ways to lead from your book to an email list so that you can let people know when your course is ready.
Another option would be to set a date for running a live version of your online course, and pre-sell the course.
So you could hit the shelves with your book quickly, but have a way to start taking payments for a live version of your course a few months down the line.
If you need to establish your expertise and you feel like having a published book is going to help you in many aspects of your career… then publishing first is a great idea.
This can be especially useful for younger authors who might feel the need to prove themselves and their expertise.
But anyone can benefit from a “published author” feather in their cap.
Another reason you might want to publish a book first is that you’ve got a great distribution channel.
You’re more likely to be booked for press to talk about your book than your online course.
Books show up in search on Amazon, are given as gifts, and can be picked up as favorites by influencers.
3. No matter what, your book naturally leads into your course, and can help recoup your book writing and promotion costs.
It’s never too late to offer an online course after your book comes out.
In an ideal world you’d have a proven online course ready to sell when your book comes out, but if you can build an email list of book buyers by offering bonuses… your course can help recoup your marketing efforts.
You might also find that other opportunities come out of publishing your book: from speaking gigs, consulting contracts, and cross-promotion invitations.
These in turn might help you sell out an online course even faster and more easily than just depending on a few links and invitations inside your book.
Enough Talk, Let's See How These 10 Authors Built Book + Online Course Empires
Every author’s journey is different,
but it helps to see what worked for other authors and course creators.
Marie Forleo: Marie self-published her first book “Make Every Man Want You” and sold thousands of copies while bartending and building her coaching business. Her book got picked up by a publisher and came out in 2008, and around the same time she started working on an unrelated online course that became the foundation of a multi-million dollar business called B-School. Now in 2019 Marie’s second book “Everything is Figureoutable” is hitting the shelves.
Todd Herman: Todd started off with launching his highly successful 90 Day Year program before he put all of his energies behind the “The Alter Ego Effect” book. His efforts in growing his audience and network with online courses helped him have a successful launch and get on the Wall Street bestseller's list. Now the two feed into each other, as more people discover Todd's work through his book and public appearances and want to take his online course. (P.S. Todd uses AccessAlly to run his courses!)
Dr. Brene Brown
Dr. Brene Brown: Brene is a #1 New York Times best-selling author who started her career as a researcher in academia on the topics of courage, shame, vulnerability, and empathy. She entered the world of publishing first, but also taught live and gave many presentations before offering online programs. Over the years she has created Dare to Lead training programs, as well as other digital content for paying members. She also has in-person certifications.
Les McKeown: Throughout the years Les started over 40 companies, and published 3 books on business growth leadership before tying it all together with an online course. His Predictable Success model is available in his best-selling book, his online course, and a public or in-house workshop.
Jennifer Louden: Jen has been publishing books since before there was much of an online education space to speak of. Her work has impacted so many women and couples, and she's now turned her successful publishing career into an online business where she helps other writers through a membership site and higher end offerings, too. She's currently working on her next book, too!
Neil Strauss: Neil was definitely on the author track before he ever ventured into the online course space. In fact, I would argue that Neil is really a writer-first, and business person second. He's published multiple best-sellers and partners with different people to help him run the online program aspects of his business. (Neil also uses AccessAlly to run his courses!)
Denise Duffield-Thomas: Denise started off by self-publishing her first two books, but she also launched her first digital products around the same time. That gave her the ability to earn an income online and help her promote her books… so much that she was able to negotiate a 3-book deal with Hay House publishers. Now Denise masterfully combines her books and her online courses to run a multi-million dollar business. (Denise also uses AccessAlly to run her online courses!)
James Clear: James launched The Habits Academy online course before his book came out, and he was able to help fund his book writing process. He also targets his course to both individuals and organizations, so the message of his book “Atomic Habits” was a great fit for many types of audiences and helped it become an instant New York Times best-seller.
Martha Beck: Martha is a New York Times best-selling author with several books under her belt, and she's also a powerhouse master coach who has trained a generation of coaches. Martha offers coaching certifications as well as online courses on writing and she blends her talents for writing and leading masterfully. (Martha also uses AccessAlly to run her courses!)
Donald Miller: Donald Miller started off as an author first with his memoir style books, and as with many of the writers on this list he branched off into other topics and books along the way. From there he launched both a live workshop and online course that goes hand in hand with his book “Building a Storybrand”. This book and course are an example of keeping the same topic between your book and online course.
The Bottom-Line for You As An Author
The biggest take-away I want you to leave with is this: book publishing and online courses go hand in hand.
The more successful your book is, the more online course sales you’ll make.
The more transformation you can deliver in an online course, the better your book will be and the more book sales you’ll make.
It’s a circular system, where your book helps your courses and vise versa.
When you're ready to build an online course, you'll have to decide what kind of a site you'd like to build it on. You could create and sell online courses from your own website using a self-hosted solution like WordPress, or use a “hosted” solution like Thinkific.
With either option, you can advertise courses on your own site.
A hosted solution is often attractive if you have a low budget, don't want to invest a lot of time in the setup, or don't intend for your course to play a major role in your business. Why? Because you can pick a solution that's quick to set up and you don't need to plan for advanced functionality beyond what the hosted solution can provide.
A self-hosted solution (i.e. a course plugin for WordPress) is often the route chosen by those who view their courses as an integral part of their business. You might be looking to build in a permanent source of recurring revenue, expand the value of a current service-based business, etc. In this case, you're looking for a system that will grow and expand with you, and consider the startup cost as an investment.
Table of Contents
- Create an Online Course That People Want To Buy
- Build A Course That's Attractive and Engages With Clients
- Presenting & Selling the Course
- Maximize Profits Through Automation
- Create an online course on your website that people want to buy
Create an Online Course That People Want To Buy
It's tempting to dive in with both feet the minute you have an online course idea. But a lot of entrepreneurs invest time, money, and energy into setting everything up …only to discover that their audience is looking for something much different.
Validate your idea
If you have a community (or access to one similar to the people you're creating your course for), you can ask them directly. Ask follow up questions. Identify the pain points that they're struggling with. Find out where they're getting stuck, so you have a clear idea of how your course will benefit them. Ask for examples of courses and trainings that they love. All of this information can help you identify whether you're on the right track or not.
Take your focused idea and list of benefits and use it as a guide while you compile your content.
Any off-shoot ideas that come up during the course creation process should be tucked away for future use (don't try to pack it all into a single course).
Once your course content is ready, think ahead and consider “what's next” for your students. If this course is a hit, the door is open for future courses and products.
Do A Limited (Beta) Release
Zero to sixty is only cool if you're driving a muscle car.
In the online course world, building in a series of checkpoints can help improve the overall quality–and future success–of your project.
That's why many online course builders and membership site owners recommend a limited release (often called a “beta” release) before you do an all-out launch to your tribe.
Many course creators offer a free or discounted sign up period to a select number of students. They then meet with the students and ask for candid feedback on the content quality and overall experience of the course. This gives you a chance to make the necessary tweaks and bring your course from “good” to “excellent”.
On the plus side, a hosted platform will let you have the course up and running quickly so you can minimize the investment spent in setting it all up.
On the negative side, running a beta release on a hosted platform means that you'll eventually have to start from scratch again, and try to replicate the exact setup in a different tool. This can lead to serious frustration and abandonment of the project's bigger picture.
The decision is up to you, but we do recommend thinking ahead and asking yourself whether you want to set up the same course multiple times (and learn two or more platforms in the process), or if it's a better use of your time to have it all professionally built on a WordPress site that will scale with you.
Build A Course That's Attractive and Engages With Clients
Building the course itself means a shift from the more creative thinking and planning of content creation to technical know-how and patient work integrating systems and troubleshooting issues. The next few items will help unravel each of the components that go into the build itself.
Use secure hosting to support steady and growing traffic numbers
A reliable, secure WordPress hosting solution will support fluctuating traffic numbers as your online course grows in popularity. A good hosting provider also helps keep your site safe (or safer) from hackers.
Protect data with an SSL certificate
When people sign up for your online course, they expect that you're dedicated to keeping their information secure. Nowadays, an SSL certificate is a standard addition to any site. (And AccessAlly won't even let you take payments without one.)
Reliable hosting providers have a tech team that will help you get one properly installed on your WordPress site, if you're unfamiliar with the process.
Choose a theme that allows you to design your course the way YOU want
The challenge with using a self-hosted WordPress site to sell your online courses is that you're basically presented with a blank slate, with the instructions: do whatever you want.
On the one hand, this means that you have flexibility and an unparalleled opportunity to be original. On the other hand, it means that there's a lot of setup work involved.
Finding the right theme for your online course website means that you need to be clear on what kind of a layout you want, how many menus you'll be using, whether you're hosting videos or just written content, etc. While there are a lot of course design examples out there, it's important to choose a layout that will enhance user experience and learning.
(This is where the hosted solutions like Thinkific make life easier: they've done all the work designing the pages. Al you have to do is add in your content…which can be either a relief or frustrating, depending on what you want your pages to look like!)
Fortunately, many of the more flexible WordPress themes (like Beaver Builder, for example) come with templates that save you the hassle of DIY-ing it all.
Use a course plugin with structure and flexibility
Unfortunately, cheap tools often result in a cheap final product, full of glitches and tech issues that can quickly sink your enthusiasm for the whole project.
To find the right plugin, start with a list of your non-negotiable features (Multi-level memberships? Payment plans? Drip-release courses?), then research the list of course plugins that can deliver on those points and go from there.
Not necessarily. If you're having trouble finding the right balance in your tech stack, take time to review our guide: Online Business Tools Checklist: Do You Really Need To Pay For That New Tool?
If your budget truly can't support an investment in quality hosting or a good course plugin, you might be better off choosing a hosted solution like Thinkific or Teachable. These platforms are specially designed for online courses and will present a much better experience to your clients than a cheap or free WordPress course plugin.
Start with the basics before getting fancy with bells and whistles
If you've invested in a robust plugin (the kind that lets you build online courses, checklists, progress tracking, and more…), it's tempting to try to “do it all”.
The danger with this approach (unless you're a techy aficionado with no time limit who loves a challenge) is that you spend time and energy on advanced setup before
It's better to have a straightforward, proven online course before trying more advanced things like adding in a credit system.
Presenting & Selling the Course
You successfully managed to create an online course on your own website. Now, it's time to create a system that helps this course to succeed and grow as a source of recurring revenue for your business.
Create a powerful sales page that converts
Think of the sales page as the “storefront” of your online course. It should be attractive, inviting, and compelling enough so that people want “in”.
Whether you have a copywriter on your team (or are one yourself), it can be helpful to follow some general tried-and-true guidelines for writing a sales page that converts.
Use checkout forms that help you sell more
If you're lucky, the membership or online course plugin you chose will also include ecommerce, or the ability to sell subscriptions, payment plans, and present discounts, in addition to simply selling access to your courses.
Another thing you might want to include in your checkout process is an abandoned cart sequence, where you follow up automatically when someone starts an order but leaves before the transaction is completed. It's a simple process that helped us recapture 43% of our lost sales.
You'll also want to take into account any additional security measures like the recent EuropeanSecure Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements.
Support students through interaction and engagement
You might be surprised that an LMS plugin isn't a magic cure-all for student engagement in your courses.
Take time to engage with your students 1-1 or in groups, offer ongoing support, be present to answer their questions, and maintain an attitude of active listening so you can take action the moment serious issues are identified.
From Day 1, tracking metrics will help you identify and take advantage of massive growth opportunities, increasing the profit you receive from your online courses.
From forecasting your revenue to evaluating your current offerings, making data-informed decisions contribute to the overall health of your company.
Learn more about some of the metrics you may want to monitor here: Tracking Metrics: 11 Business Metrics Examples for Membership Sites
Maximize Profits Through Automation
Finally, it should almost go without saying that the more you can automate and integrate between your systems, the more time you'll have to spend on activities other than customer support and tech troubleshooting.
While many course plugins include standard “automations” like sending out an email when someone signs up for a course, the reality is that there's potential to go much deeper when you work with a WordPress course plugin that integrates with a marketing automation system. In the latter case, you can get as fancy as you want, from reminders to login when the user has been MIA for a time, to those abandoned cart sequences we talked about earlier.
This is where choosing more of an all-in-one solution can really make your life easier, since the entire system can be automated with a single integration. (As compared to a multi-plugin setup, where you have to find a way to link all the tools up to each other, when they aren't designed to work that way.)
Create an online course on your website that people want to buy
Selling an online course on your own website takes a little more love and attention than if you were to just throw your content into a hosted solution. But the power and flexibility it gives you in return more than pay for itself in terms of time saved (long-term) and revenue.
As you embark on this journey, balance your short-term income goals with long-term business plans. And if it makes sense to invest in an online course, don't be afraid to take it on and create an online course you can be proud of selling for years to come.
Start your online course plugin search by test driving AccessAlly, the premier online course plugin for WordPress.