How Adrian Tobey, Founder of Groundhogg.io, Uses Courses to Increase His Revenues by Providing Better Onboarding

Adrian Tobey video

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  • Who: Adrian Tobey
  • Website: groundhogg.io
  • Course Topic: His own software product training
  • Interesting Stats: Refunds virtually disappeared

Who are you and what course have you created?

I’m the CEO & Founder of Groundhogg, a marketing and sales automation software company that builds tools for businesses using WordPress.

We’ve created several courses, 2 free and 1 paid (2 more free ones on the way). Our most popular is our Quickstart course which new users take to learn how to use our products.

groundhogg.io academy

What market does your online course serve?

Our Quickstart course is designed for our own customers (and potential customers). We typically work with marketing agencies and small business owners.

We have a simple, but a sophisticated product with lots of features. It can be overwhelming to new users so we developed the course to train them on workflows and some of the more important features of our product suite.

What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?

By the end of the quickstart course, not only do our customers know how to use our product, they’ve actually created a usable marketing campaign to start filling their sales funnel.

We get our customers and almost instant win, ensuring that they stay a customer long term and reduce churn.

How did you get into the market?

I’ve been in the training industry for almost my whole life. My dad used to train thousands a year on digital marketing and SEO strategies live in hotel conference rooms, I would often go with him to help with workbooks, MIC running, and setup/teardown.

Soon, the market for live SEO and advanced marketing training started to dry up, YouTube and digital courses started becoming the go-to method for learning these things.

That’s when Infusionsoft came around and we were introduced to CRM and Marketing Automation, something most businesses still did not know how to deploy, and we restarted the training, now incorporating Infusionsoft into it.

Fast forward 4 or 5 years later, the seminar industry is mostly inactive, and we now have a digital marketing agency. We specialized in implementing marketing automation and SEO for customers, mostly 5 figure contracts, doing 2-3 at a time.

We were still working with Infusionsoft, but it was a difficult go. Our customers were not equipped to use it themselves, so all we could really do was implement “set it and forget it” strategies.

As most of us realize after running a business for a few years, there is no such thing as set it and forget, really.

I worked in the agency for 3-4 years, doing Infusionsoft work, and WordPress implementation. I created my first business doing that, FormLift which is still active but kind of on life support.

During my last year at the agency, I went to Funnel Hackr, Russel Brunson's ClickFunnels conference in Florida. I caught a bug there, a bug to create a real product business. Everyone got their 2 comma club awards and I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t going to get there doing agency work…

That’s when I started to formulate the thought for Groundhogg, and here we are.

groundhogg.io homepage

Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?

Churn was an issue in our first year. We had set out to create a simple product compared to Infusionsoft or ActiveCampaign, but really we ended up creating a comparable product in terms of function and complexity.

This resulted in more refunds and cancellations than I was comfortable with.

I’m friends with Chris, the CEO at LifterLMS, one of the most popular LMS systems for WordPress and he showed me the quickstart course he gives to customers.

The course walks his customer through all of the important areas and by the end of his course, his customer has designed and launched their own course.

He suggested that I do something similar for Groundhogg, a short course to lead the customer to an immediate win!

Almost immediately after launching the course refunds virtually disappeared. Customers got hooked and businesses were experiencing success faster. I think the week I spent building that course is one of the best time investments I’ve made in my business so far.

Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?

Not really, my background in training made it a short step from delivering a seminar to developing an online course. I was already doing office hours which is a live weekly support and training call I do with my members, so it was just a matter of recording it and formatting it into structured training.

What's your online course like?

I use Google Slides with images and a small amount of text to lay out some foundational concepts. I speak over the slides with my little talking head in the bottom right corner.

But this is a software course, so we move into a follow-along approach after the foundation has been set, I demo the feature and have the student replicate my actions on their own system.

I do a weekly office hours call, so I make sure all students join our Facebook group where I do the live call, any leftover questions are generally resolved on the call.

groundhogg.io video sample

How long did it take you to create your course?

It took about a week, I locked myself in a room and just recorded. The course is made up of short videos, between 1 and 7 minutes. People have shorter attention spans, so you have to constantly reward them to keep their attention.

Hitting that “lesson complete” button gives the feeling of a small win when presented in the right context, so short videos are great for keeping people engaged.

Free courses generally have lower completion rates than paid, given that your course is something that’s highly sought after, that being said, our courses have a 50% completion rate event at the free tier.

I follow the lean product launch methodology. Basically, I recorded, published, promoted, and then fixed all the bugs and issues as they were pointed out to me. - Adrian Tobey Click To Tweet

I was fortunate that there wasn’t a ton, I’ve been following that methodology for years so it’s almost become second nature and I can iterate and publish fast.

groundhogg.io courses

Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).

I don’t actually sell this course, I use it as a customer success tool and as a lead generation tool. This course has helped close sales and prevent refunds. At the time of launching, I already had a list to send it to, but since then it’s been shared by others in the industry and acts as a solid lead generation tool.

I did get a lot of help from my WordPress circle of friends, Michael Short, Chris Badgett, Jonathan Denwood who promoted it as well for me.

Chris actually hosts my course on his own academy site as well, so he’s been a great distribution channel!

Finding industry partners, collaborating, and sharing content only strengthens your capacity to serve more people, not the opposite. - Adrian Tobey Click To Tweet

I find many people are worried that other industry leaders are the competition, but really they’re valuable partners that can be your stepping stone to joining them.

They want to access your audience as much as you want to access theirs.

Do you have a lead magnet?

My course IS a lead magnet!

groundhogg.io lead magnet

What's the traffic strategy that works best for you?

I have mostly organic reach, I’ve spent years developing relationships with other industry experts and being part of their communities. Slowly, those relationships developed into co-marketing opportunities, interviews, free promotion, and other beneficial traffic channels.

I actually wrote a whole blog post on this strategy here.

What online course platform are you using?

LifterLMS, it’s a really great learning platform and for me was super easy to set up. My course site is hosted on a subdomain, all the pages are built with Vanilla WordPress and LifterLMS, videos hosted on a Vimeo Pro account, email and reminders are set up with our own software.

Do you like it?

LifterLMS is awesome because it’s not just software, it’s training and community as well. Chris runs a weekly mastermind call for those who pay for his Infinity Bundle, $1000/yr, the help you receive is far more valuable than that.

Are there any features you wish it had?

Chris has helped me a ton with improving my customer on-boarding experience, but I think they suffer from shoemaker's son syndrome. They need to improve their on-boarding experience a little.

Also, the reporting interface can be improved some, but It’s not a huge deal if you’re only doing free courses like me and it gets you the details you need.

What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?

Well, I run a WordPress business so WordPress was my default option. If you’re looking for control it’s the only option IMO.

I met Chris (CEO LifterLMS) while doing another interview show. I just really clicked with him and his company’s vision and mission. They share many of the same values.

We developed an integration from our Marketing software to his platform, so it was really a no brainer for me.

What other tools do you use to run your online course business?

Groundhogg, our CRM and Marketing Automation tool. We use it to send course completion reminders as well as the automated followup to purchase a premium plan.

Google Slides with the Dark Theme. Simple, easy to design with, great for watching at any time of day.

OBS Studio for streaming and VideoPad for recording and editing, it’s like a cheap Camtasia, rough around the edges but it gets the job done for like $50.

I use an XLR mic with a mixer & USB interface for the best sound quality.

What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?

Take other people's courses in your industry… Russel Brunson calls it, “Funnel Hacking.” If you see someone in your industry killing it, chances are they might be doing something you can iterate on.

That’s what I did with LifterLMS’s quickstart course, and I think I actually improved on it some and it’s now “killing it” for me.

On the topic of Russel Brunson, I’m not totally on board with everything he suggests or says, it is all very culty. But his book Expert Secrets and Dot Com Secrets have tons of useful information applicable to any business, not just courses.

Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?

So many! Too many to list off.

My biggest, “learning experience,” was in regard to pricing.

In the early days, I positioned myself as a cheaper alternative with comparable features. This will get you customers, but probably not the customers you want.

You want the kind of customer that will pay anything! So we had to change all of our copy and positioning away from price and instead focus on values.

I upped my prices across the board and focused on values like:

  • Being open-source, WordPress first focus
  • Small team, excellent support
  • No contact/email limits

After the change in positioning and pricing, we had several record-breaking months in a row. Customers were more pleasant, and we made more money. Pretty much everything got easier almost overnight.

Most businesses start pricing small and go up over time, If I was starting over I would start higher upmarket and move down overtime till you find the sweet spot.

If you have something of value, people will pay for it.

groundhogg.io course sample

Please share some idea of revenue.

We are a 6 figure revenue company, with a small team and minimal overhead. We’ve helped 1200+ businesses in more than 30 countries launch and scale their businesses.

Our courses have not generated any direct income since we use them as customer success tools.

If I had to guess how much money they’ve saved us, probably thousands if not 10's of thousands.

Please tell us a little about what the money you've earned from your course has done for you.

Well, it meant fewer refunds! I collect a salary from my company, so I live within my means. But using a course as a customer success tool has meant I can spend less time doing customer support and walk-throughs and more time focusing on more critical aspects of my business.

The more time you can focus on growing your business, the more you are able to focus on putting more dollars in the bank!

In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?

Well, we’ve had a little over 350 people go through our courses since launching them, with an average 50% completion rate. For a free course I think that is pretty good.

Refund requests are way down, I would say there's been a decrease of more than 60%. The first thing I tell people to do after they sign up is to take the course. It’s a great selling tool.

What has creating your course done for you personally?

It has certainly validated my instructional method! Which is nice. I can’t say that creating the course itself was life-changing for me in any way. I saw it as a means to an end. The course is not my business, it’s just one of the pillars that prop it up.

What I can say is that I have a much better understanding of what a customer needs to experience a successful result, for a software/SaaS company.

They need:

  • Stellar software
  • Unrivaled support (tickets, calls, masterminds)
  • Support resources (courses, FAQs, documentation)

It’s not enough to have a great product or great information, you need to have tools and supporting resources in place to help the customer apply that information. Without showing them how to apply it, they fail.

groundhogg.io team

Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?

I’m bad at case studies and would not be able to point to any specific example.

One time a customer emailed me this…

“Groundhogg changed my business. I’ll buy anything Adrian is selling. if he had a restaurant that served Groundhog I’d eat it.”

That made me feel pretty good 🙂

We go to unprecedented levels to ensure customer success.

If reviews are indicative of customer success, then I would assume our courses and software are fulfilling our promises.

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

Most people avoid launching because they don’t see their course as perfect. Or the site design isn’t quite right.

But after running a software business for over 2 years, I know this to be true, nothing you build will ever be perfect. Even the greatest artists remorse about what they could have done differently.

It is better to launch quickly with something incomplete that can help someone than it is to wait for perfection and watch your opportunity disappear. - Adrian Tobey Click To Tweet

After 2 years there is still so much about our software (and courses) that can be improved, but it gets the job done. We just take one step at a time.

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