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- Who: David Zimmerman
- Website: curiousants.com
- Course Topic: Search Engine Optimization
- Interesting Stats: Best speaking event lead to 25 new signups after a 30 minute talk
Who are you and what course have you created?
I’ve been helping companies get found by their clients using search engine optimization (SEO) for over 15 years and created a course to not only teach people how to do SEO, but guide them along as they do it for themselves (or their own clients).
What market does your online course serve?
The audience is primarily web designers or developers who want to offer SEO services. Sometimes they want a more stable source of income (recurring rather than project-based) or other times they want to provide better services to existing clients (rather than lose them to an agency that offers web design along with marketing).
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
It’s not just a course, but a guided system. In other words, while I provide step-by-step documentation (both written and in video) the real value comes when people join “The Colony” and can ask their specific questions as they come up- which aren’t always related to SEO.
How did you get into the market?
One of the things I miss most about working for a larger agency is coaching and cheering people on. This allows me to help others provide quality SEO services (which we can be proud of) while encouraging them to keep at it.
Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?
While I have a successful marketing consultancy agency- that serves clients with SEO campaigns- I’ll not be able to sell this, when I’m ready to retire because it totally depends on me and my expertise. However, if I can create a product and audience (namely a series of documentation and people who follow that documentation) I now have an asset that I could (eventually) sell to cash-out of my business.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
Yes! Perfection was the enemy of progress. I had a hard time finalizing the processes because I could always think of other things to add to the process. Many of the documented steps simply sat in Google Docs for years.
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
I realized that 90% of the value of these processes was already in the written documentation and it would be better to release it at 90% (to review and improve later) than never publish the documentation.
What’s your online course like?
The course includes written steps (step 1, step 2, etc) as well as a video showing me completing the process.
How long did it take you to create your course?
I had the process (incomplete) for years but once I sat down and started publishing it, it took me 4 months to put it all down.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).
I had developed an audience before I had a course- thanks to speaking at regional WordCamps throughout the United States. I kept in touch with that audience via an email list. Once I launched, I told that list and had a couple sales right away.
Do you have a lead magnet?
The “Free Trial” of this course is access to the complete process- including all the steps and videos. The paid version is access to the weekly Office Hours, where you can ask your specific questions or how the process applies to your specific circumstances.
I’ve played around with this and ended at this place. Previously, free members only had access to the Keyword Research process (one part of the entire SEO process) for free.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
Most people are introduced to this via hearing me speak at events- whether online or in person. I find that I need them to participate in 2 or 3 events before they’re willing to signup for a paid tier.
What online course platform are you using?
I created a WordPress website and use the Paid Management Pro plugin to manage the course content.
Do you like it?
Yes – it works really well and had great support
Are there any features you wish it had?
As I use Active Campaign to manage my email campaigns, I wish it natively supported that- rather than have to work through Zapier to get the emails synced.
What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?
The price was good and it included the features I needed. Most importantly, however, I wanted to own my own content on my self-hosted website. I was hesitant to “rent” a solution and they go out of business- losing everything.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
Active Campaign for email lists, Trello for project management, Grain (for recording and transcribing videos)
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
The E-Myth is the first book I read when I started my own business (about 8 years ago). It argued for documenting every process so it wouldn’t rely upon yourself and you could hire/scale your business. I tried to do this as I built my consulting business even though I didn’t need to (or want to) hire any employees. That documentation just sat there offering nobody any value (but myself). Then I realized that the documentation was very valuable to others who wanted to learn to offer the same things I’m offering my clients- so I converted that documentation into Curious Ants.
The Checklist Manifesto was also very helpful as I tried to break-down my own processes into repeatable steps.
I recently finished Give and Take, which talks about the business value of altruism.
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?When I originally launched, I completely misunderstood my target audience. - David Zimmerman Click To Tweet
I thought this would be something for small business owners who want to do their own SEO. The problem is, they don’t have time for it- they’re running a business- so the course stagnated for a while. Now that I better understand my audience: web designers and developers who want to offer SEO services themselves more people are interested in what I have to offer.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.
Right now, I’m still in the place of re-investing my income from the course back into the course. The hope, eventually, is to build up the number of participants in the course in order to have an asset I could sell for retirement. In otherwards, this is my 401k- with the hope of retiring a little early.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
I’m a frequent speaker at conferences. Unfortunately, not everyone who heard me speak is a good client for my business. I enjoyed speaking but wasn’t getting anything from it- at least, financially. Once I rolled-out this course, I had a place for people who heard me speak to signup. It’s a sort of holding pattern of people who aren’t quite ready for my main business. My best speaking event lead to 25 new signups after a 30 minute talk- that’s about an email per minute.
What has creating your course done for you personally?
My wife jokes: “I can tell you had Office Hours today – you’re in a good mood.” It really is the highlight of my week.
Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?
A member of Curious Ants started at one of the first projects: keyword research, to learn how customers might be looking for what you have to offer. As they followed this process they learned that their customers weren’t searching for what they thought- but something completely different. This other service was actually much more profitable than what they thought their customers wanted. So the retooled their business to focus on this other service and saw a complete transformation of their business- and that’s before they even began to do the marketing!
What advice do you have for people just starting out?
Start somewhere!What you have is valuable to someone, even if it isn’t perfect or complete. Find who needs what you have and let that be your beginning. - David Zimmerman Click To Tweet