Denise Thomas Has a Mission to End Student Debt in the U.S. by Helping College Students Earn Scholarships

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  • Who: Denise Thomas
  • Website: getaheadoftheclass.com
  • Course Topic: Scholarships
  • Interesting Stats: 13k views on TEDx YouTube video

Who are you and what course have you created?

I’m Denise Thomas and I inspire, educate, and equip parents to take an active role in supporting their children to live a life of financial freedom.  My mission is to ‘flip’ the student debt statistic in the U.S.

What market does your online course serve?

My courses are for U.S. parents of college-bound middle through high school kids and college students.

What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?

Financial freedom from college debt for both parent and teen.

How did you get into the market?

Due to 2 layoffs and a stock market crash, we ended up in bankruptcy that liquidated everything we owned. Afterward, I realized my kids were starting high school but how would we pay for college? We had no savings, no 401k, no house to borrow equity from, and no credit to co-sign for student loans. My kids were also homeschooled so I had to figure out college acceptance as well.

My research led to a strategy that resulted in colleges calling the house offering full-ride scholarships and essentially begging our kids to go to their schools. What began as an act of desperation became a repeatable strategy. -… Click To Tweet

Denise Thomas siteWhy did you decide to create an online course in the first place?

After dropping off our last child at college (debt-free) we bought a 42-ft motorhome and went full-time RVing across the U.S. for 5 years. The entire time on the road, I would get emails or text messages from friends and friends of friends asking what I had done that my kids got paid to go to college. I found that I was essentially repeating the same things. When I was thinking of creating an online business that I could do on the road, it didn’t take much thought. I was already doing it. It was time to take it online so that other families could benefit.

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

I didn’t have any doubt regarding my expertise. I had thousands of hours of research on the topic and since it was working remotely 1:1, I knew it would work one-to-many. But I had no idea of how to take it online. How to get noticed? How do you find potential clients? I’m not tech-averse. My degree is in computer programming. But with the multitude of options and how to put everything together, the overwhelm is real.

If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?

I know the importance of getting this message and this program to as many families as possible. Everyone thinks they have to have college debt. It’s a political football every 2 years. And with 70% of college students graduating with debt every year the odds are that their significant other will also bring college debt into the household. (So even if you think your debt is manageable, double it!) This is why families need to know this. This is why I had to bring it to the masses. My mission is to flip the student debt statistic in the U.S.

What’s your online course like?

My course is 6 modules of video of me teaching on camera. I also include the transcript and audio for different learning styles and convenience. There are templates and spreadsheets, PDFs, and samples. Each module has homework that is submitted for review and feedback. I hold office hours (by reservation) and am available between office hours via Facebook messenger. The last module takes what was accomplished throughout the course and puts together the application for one of the largest national scholarships in the country. Both of my teens won that scholarship.

I teach the course live only once per year and they can take it live anytime at no additional cost.

The course is lifetime availability. So if they have 7 children they come back and take it as often as needed for each of their kids.

Denise Thomas site

How long did it take you to create your course?

Since there is a progression to what makes this strategy work, I began with an outline.

I’ve always scripted my speeches, I’m not a fly by the seat of my pants speaker, so scripting means I have the transcript from the start.

Creating the course components is easy. I created the videos using an online web conferencing software that automatically downloads the video and separate audio. Every computer comes with the software for creating PDFs and spreadsheets.

The entire creative process only took a few weeks.

Where to host the videos and course materials, how to collect email addresses, and adding payment processors became the next logical step that required a little research. Although I love tech I didn’t want separate software for each component of online sales, email, and courses. So I opted for an all-in-one platform to host my courses and upload my videos.

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

I hired a mentor to learn the details of course creation. This included market research and offering the course as a beta program at a discount to those who replied. My first sales came from those wonderful parents. Having a beta group helps to know what needs to be tweaked, such as “don’t wear stripes”. (I move when I talk and patterns can be distracting to some.) Also holding a beta class offers to get testimonials early in your course launch.

Do you have a lead magnet?

I have several lead magnets depending on the audience, middle school (Are You Wasting the Middle School Years?), high school (12 Scholarship Secrets: Tips from Prestigious Scholarship Judges), and business owners (The Business of Paying for College: How Business Owners and 6-Figure Earners get Free College for their Kids).

Having a lead magnet that speaks to your ideal client is important. It’s what draws them into your ecosystem. So when I speak on podcasts and stages about my work potential clients opt-in to receive the PDF in exchange for their email. I can then nurture that relationship and get to know them and they get to know me. That leads to the sale.

My most sought-after lead magnet is 12 Scholarship Secrets: Tips from Prestigious Scholarship Judges. Using keywords that your ideal client uses in their Google search to solve their problem is what makes it work.

Denise Thomas site

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

The best source of traffic for me has been both paid traffic using Facebook ads and hosting my own online virtual summit. My advice for paid traffic is to hire someone who gets awesome results. There are strategies that work and everything else doesn’t. I got gold right out of the gate.

Using her strategies the first time I used Facebook ads I was able to get opt-ins at less than $1 per lead. I even tested mine against letting the Facebook algorithm use all 400+ data points and my results were better. That’s considered awesome! The second time I got it down to $0.23 per lead.

What online course platform are you using?

I’m using Kajabi as my online course platform.

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Do you like it?

I love Kajabi! I purchased it because it was the only all-in-one platform at the time. There are many more that have popped up since. I love Kajabi mostly because their support is second to none. Their Facebook group is also filled with knowledgeable users always willing to help.

Are there any features you wish it had?

I do wish their affiliate system were a little more like Thrivecart, which is more of a dedicated system for that purpose. I’d prefer if my affiliates were not added to my general mailers but would still be able to send out an automated email without them having to opt in to emails. It would also be nice to have swipe copies and images directly available in the affiliate login area for each affiliate campaign.

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

I chose Kajabi because I didn’t want to have to integrate all the little pieces of online business and hope they played nice together forever. I know that would never happen. What if one part was suddenly not updated for the latest operating system? Even as a former programmer I didn’t want to have to deal with that headache.

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

I use Canva and DepositPhotos almost daily to create images for posts, blogs, and campaigns.

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

Ultimate Course Formula by Iman Aghay is a very step by step process to knowing you’re course idea will fly before you spend countless hours creating it, and then creating it and setting up the online tools.

For Facebook ads training I recommend The Profit Sweetspot Facebook Faucet by Tammy Lane.

Denise Thomas site

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

My big mistake is thinking and acting on the belief that I need everything. No, I didn’t and, no, you don’t. - Denise Thomas Click To Tweet

I bought a lot of programs and software that have never been touched. Some of them I was too early in my business and wasn’t ready yet. Others are collecting virtual dust.

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

My husband and I love Disney. We take a trip about once every 2 or 3 months and spend several days. We also travel across the country to visit with family several times each year.

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

I got over 13k views on my TEDx YouTube video by using the extension Tubebuddy. Simply following the suggestions in the SEO studio helped to get search rankings way up.

What has creating your course done for you personally?

I know I’m making a difference in a lot of lives. It may sound corny but when kids just out of college contribute to their communities, pay for repairs and life’s little mishaps, and buy a house, it’s more than just debt-free college. It’s freedom.

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

I recently had a client contact me 2 years after taking my course. She’s a single mom and said seven months after her son started college (on multiple scholarships) she decided to go back to school as well. She also has multiple scholarships. Her son won’t even accept groceries from her saying, “Mom, I don’t need it.” And her extra scholarship money is building her emergency fund.

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

Probably the most important is, “Don’t chase squirrels!” It’s very easy to get caught up in, “I need this,” when you don’t. I can’t tell you how many pieces of tech I purchased as lifetime access that I’ve never opened.

Learn more about Denise Thomas of getaheadoftheclass.com:

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Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of CourseMethod.com. After gaining a Master's degree in Biology, she worked in research for about 7 years.

Lisa decided to start her own training company in 2001, helping people pass a professional exam. In that time, she created online courses as well as books, DVD's, CD's, and testing software. That course has earned multiple 7-figures throughout the years.

She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 21+ years of experience in the trenches doing both creating and selling online courses. Download her 7-figure Online Course Success Blueprint here.

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