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- Who: Jennifer DeRosa
- Website: totocoaching.com
- Course Topic: Marketing & SEO
Who are you and what course have you created?
My name is Jennifer DeRosa and I’m the founder of Toto Coaching and Toto SEO.
What market does your online course serve?
The Toto Coaching course teaches regular people and entrepreneurs, small businesses, marketing managers and others how to build a website that works, that is optimized, that people and Search Engines alike love and understand.
Imagine you are a marketing manager in your company, and your boss comes over and says that you are now in charge of your website, and they want to know the traffic they are getting to the website and how you are going to improve this and they would like a report at the next meeting in the conference room or board meeting. A marketing manager may be great at marketing, but may not understand SEO or optimizing images or how to create a landing page. This is what we teach you at Toto Coaaching!
In addition, if you are building a website or in charge of a website, where to you go to learn how to do some of these technical things? Most likely you start watching a bunch of YouTube videos, some of which are too basic, others that are too technical. There is no path to success. No process. You will be doing this piecemeal. Our course was designed after years and years of building websites for others to teach others the proper order of tasks you should do so that you build a website that is effective in an easy to understand manner!
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
Taking the Toto Coaching course will save you three things: time, money and frustration. You will save time because we will teach you want to do in the correct order so that you can reuse some of the things you do first later on in the process. You also won’t need to redo some of your steps as you will learn the best most efficient process possible. And you will save money because you will not need to hire a website developer, or spend money on books and other courses that teach you things like how to write HTML.
Most people don’t want to learn or know about CSS or PHP or any of that – they simply want a website that will promote what their true offer is, and they want to build this site as quickly and easily as possible so that they can go out and make a lot more money! If you build a good website, your opportunities for attracting leads and then turning leads into customers increases! Finally, you will save frustration as we have the steps all set up for you – you just need to follow them.
Our coaches are easy to understand. We are techies, but we speak to you in plain English that you can understand. You will learn new things and they will make sense. And you won’t be alone – you will have others going through what you are going through and you can hear the questions they ask that you might not have thought of yet, but you are glad you know the answer to!
How did you get into the market?
I got into the web development markets way back in 1994 when I decided to take a course in HTML at night in Providence RI at one of the colleges located there. I was getting into the technical market and I saw HTML as a really interesting opportunity. Throughout the rest of the 90s and early 2000s, I tried to convince small businesses to build a website but back then no one knew what the Internet was very much or why they needed a website at all. My company that I started in 2001 actually started out as a business IT support company.
I was a Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) at the time and also had certifications in GroupWise which was the first business email solution prior to Microsoft Exchange. I would go to all these small businesses and take care of their desktop computers and servers and backups, and other infrastructure, all while trying to convince them that they needed to build a website. By the mid 2000s websites were catching on and people were understanding the value of having a website for their business and around 2004 I transitioned away from IT support to mainly building websites.
Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?
As I mentioned I have been working in the web development sector for over 23 years period I have worked with many clients during that time face to face and I know the questions that they ask. I know where small business owners entrepreneurs and marketing managers get tripped up. The reason my web development agency was so successful was because people enjoyed working with me. I treated them with the utmost respect and did not speak down to them. In addition, I also explained things to them in terms that they could understand so my clients never felt lost or insecure.
I always empowered them. I really loved this aspect of my business and I wanted to reach more people. As far as I can see, no one out there is helping this giant market of DIY web builders such as small business owners, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and more. I am here to help them. I’m also currently writing the book building DIY websites for dummies. I’m contracted with Wiley publishing and this book will be available next spring. I love what I am doing right now I really enjoy live coaching and I love helping small business because I am small business and I look for help as well. I am giving small business owners what I need as a small business owner.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
I did speak with some mentors about creating this course and I was told to interview potential customers in this area to see if they would take the class prior to me creating even one lesson. I did a few interviews and I felt very strongly that there was a need in this market.
It’s funny because I have interviewed a few people to help me market this course and most of the other professionals in my industry do not have a very high opinion of the market I’m going after. The DIY market needs a lot of help and sometimes they don’t have the financial resources which is why they are DIY in the first place.
Many professionals do not want to work with this market. I I’m happy to work with this market because I’ve been working with this market for over 20 years and I understand them. I understand that empowering people a little bit goes a long way. So even though other marketing professionals have either discouraged me or tried to tell me that this might be a failure, I am still going for it!
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people who need my course. The people who have taken my course have been so thankful that they found it. I want to help many others as well.
What’s your online course like?
The Toto Coaching full web building course is comprised of over 80 online lessons. The lessons are in video format and are either of myself or Coach Josh explaining web building concepts. They are professionally produced with screenshots and supporting text overlaid on the screen so that you can comprehend what we’re saying.
The course is dripped which means when you first sign up you get access to the first two modules and the next module will be released in two weeks. After that, you get a new module released to you each week in your dashboard. I decided to drip the course because I want people to follow the steps in order. Many times, when we want to just get something done, we will read or look at the end of the process to get a sneak peek at that and then we might start doing those steps.
If you want to have the best result, you want to follow the steps that we provide in order from beginning to end.
Some lessons are a working lesson where we have you pause the video and do a task and then resume the video again. In addition to the videos that you can watch on demand whenever you feel like, there are quizzes or assignments after each lesson.
Sometimes we will ask you a few questions to make sure that you understand what you just learned. Other times we will give you an assignment to do. Each week we have live coaching for one hour which is a round-robin style of meeting. Each person gets to ask a question and the coaches answer the questions. The full web building course gives you access for three months for the initial price and if you are enjoying the course and you have not finished your website or you really like having the camaraderie of the live coaching, you can stay on on a subscription basis for as long as you’d like.
In addition, I found when speaking with some people that the full web building course which is 3 months long was too much of a time commitment, so I created the Toto Fast Track program which is a four week course with 15 lessons that are the basics of what you need to do. You will learn what you need to learn, and you won’t learn all the extra fluff. The Fast Track program comes with live coaching as well for live coaching sessions. After your 28 days are up you can choose to stay on as well through a subscription.
How long did it take you to create your course?
This course took me too long to create. It took me over a year. The reason it took me over a year was because first of all I have never written before and I had to do a brain dump. Not only did I need to do a brain dump, I needed to explain things in an easy to understand manner and I realized once I started explaining one thing that I needed to provide information behind a concept so I would backtrack and then I realized behind that concept I had to explain information behind that concept, etc., so it took me a really long time to write all of the lesson scripts.
Next, I had never been in front of a camera before and I needed to learn about creating video. Coach Josh and I did the first set of filming. I flew across the country and we set up a studio and he taught me about audio and lighting and green screens and all of that. At one point I rented some space at a video production studio to get some of the videos produced because I was trying to do them on my own and every time I tried to film myself my hair would be messed up or the camera would lose battery or my husband would come home or the dogs would bark. I finally got the hang of it and I set up a video studio in my home and I was able to produce videos a little more quickly.
The next part of the process was getting the videos professionally produced.I worked with a team that added all of the lesson intros and outros, added content overlaid on the screen and added screenshots and all of that. - Jennifer DeRosa Click To Tweet
I would have to get the video ready for the video production team by doing pre-production: grabbing screenshots or screen recordings or making my own visuals to support the content. The video team would give me a produced video and I would need to watch it and make edits. Each video went back and forth between me and the video production team between 2 and 10 times depending on the complexity of the video until it was perfect.
After I produced the videos I needed to find a learning management software. I took a few LMS platforms for a test drive and I settled on Thinkific. Then I needed to learn how to set up Thinkific. I had to upload all my videos, create the courses and the lessons and the modules and the quizzes and downloads and checklists and assignments!
Then I needed to hook up an e-mail marketing software with my courseware so I could e-mail my students and leads.
That took a while because I needed to test drive a few different e-mail marketing platforms and decide on the one that I wanted. Then I needed to set up all the integrations with my LMS and set up automations.
In addition to that I was working on my social media channels trying to get some traction going creating by some interesting content etc. It was a lot of work.
Oh, and let’s not forget building the website. I think I’m on my third version of the website. Building a website does not happen overnight as I mentioned before and it takes a lot of effort and thinking and planning and time.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).
The first two sales I received I did not even ask for. They were from people who knew of me and had dealt with me a little bit and they trusted me already. Because I had that trust, they found out that I was offering this course and signed up all on their own. The more recent students who have signed up have been from have been participants in the webinars that I give free frequently for SCORE.
I present once or twice a week for the SCORE chapters in Florida and Connecticut or for SCORE national. People who watch one of my webinars and get on my list tend to come to other webinars that I present. I am finding that people will watch me three or four times and then they will make the commitment to sign up for the class. This makes sense because you need to build that trust and people want to see if you are the real deal.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
As I mentioned I am a frequent presenter of webinars for SCORE. This strategy seems to be working out although it seems to be taking a little longer than I thought it would. I know that I need to run some advertisements which I am planning on running some in mid November. I have not run any ads yet and I think that will be a very good source of revenue for me although I do not have any experience with that yet.
What online course platform are you using?
Do you like it?
For the most part, yes. There are some features that are lacking.
Are there any features you wish it had?
Here are three:
- NONE of the LMS options I looked into had this which blows my mind: None of them have the ability to email a person before their membership expires or the day it expires or after it expires to ask them to renew. NONE! What the heck!!! This is a HORRIBLE thing. You have to figure out another way to do this. I mean, this seems like basic 101 but apparently not.
- I wish that I could sell some courses individually that make up my bundle, but you cannot just do that. If you would like some of the modules that make up your bundle to be purchased by themselves, you need to duplicate the course and then you can sell that copy. This is not a good idea because now you have to manage two of the same thing – if you change a quiz question on one you need to go change the quiz question on the other.
- There are others I would have to see if I could find my chats with them! Sometimes it is frustrating!
What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?
This is a great question. You would think that because I’m a web developer and I dealt with WordPress for so many years that I would have built my course in WordPress using a plugin. I decided to use WordPress for my website because I’m very comfortable using that and I can build very fast and I’m not thinking about using the software but instead thinking about my messaging and how each piece of content I put on my website looks which is what you should be doing when you build a website you don’t want to think about the software you want to think about the result.
I decided to go with a proper LMS because I wanted software that already had everything set up. When you set up a plugin on WordPress, most of the time you need to do all of the configuration on your own. I was so busy trying to build my website and write my scripts and produce the videos that I did not want to spend a lot of time setting up the software itself I wanted and all in one solution. In addition, the LMS softwares have features built in that I might not have thought about already.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
I use Calendly for setting appointments, I use active campaign for my e-mail automations and my e-mail marketing, I use social pilot to send out all of my social media posts, I use descript and movavi to make short video clips for social media and my blog, I use ChatGPT to help me with fine tuning my writing, I use zoom extensively and we use zoom for our live coaching sessions, I use slack to keep in touch with my team, I use Canva to create a lot of the visuals, I use pandora to keep me sane so I can listen to some music while I’m working.
I use the Microsoft suite excel and word heavily as well as outlook, I use SEM rush for all kinds of information on search engine optimization, of course I use Chrome and safari web browsers, I use zoho desk to assign tickets to my team and I use zoho mail as my e-mail provider, I use answer the public from time to time to get ideas about what to write, I use an app called teleprompter on my phone to create video, I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with other professionals, and I use a bunch of other pieces of software.
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
I was in a coaching group you gurus for a few years that is a coaching group for digital marketers. You gurus helped me grow my web development business so that I was able to sell it. I stayed in this coaching group while I was starting Toto coaching as well so that I could have some coaching assistance from other professionals.
I read a ton and I watch a ton of videos. In fact, I am enrolled in several courses on Coursera and I recently finished a course at MIT university on artificial intelligence. I’ve taken courses at HubSpot and at SEM rush as well. I’m constantly learning.
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?
When I first started – even before I had produced any videos, I hired a marketer for $5000 for four meetings. This was a huge mistake. The marketer I hired usually works with very large companies with deep pockets not small business. I got very little out of those four meetings and I lost all that money.
If I could go back in time I would have used the $5000 to hire someone else that would have been familiar with coaching and possibly the tech industry and definitely small business. Part of that was my fault because I did not get a clear picture of the deliverables I was just really excited about this course and I was thinking, “Oh someone’s going to help me with the vision and it’s going to be great!” Now that I look back I realize that I needed to get some clear deliverables and not be so excited about my class.
Please share some idea of revenue.
I can say that I have struggled with marketing this course. I’ve struggled with the messaging … I want to let people know what they will get in this course and what they will not get in this course. I’m also working on getting the word out but because my market is all over the place and not located in one spot geographically or in a particular niche. I’ve struggled a bit with letting people know that this help even exists.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.
The money that I have earned from this course thus far has allowed me to continue living in paradise. I live on an island and I get to see palm trees every day. I see dolphins swimming in the water and manatees as well. This is my dream life and my course has allowed me to achieve this life.
What has creating your course done for you personally?Writing this course has taught me how to be more focused with my ideas and perfected my ability to explain something to others in order. - Jennifer DeRosa Click To Tweet
I have also learned to slow down because I tend to get really excited about the topic of websites and I speak really fast. I’ve learned to slow down and give some good pauses so that people can digest my information.
I also now realize how much I love creating videos! In fact, I started applying for jobs to help other companies create their video content! And I love speaking to a camera and explaining a concept. I feel I can keep people engaged and interested in a topic. So that was something that I did not know about myself. I actually thought maybe I should try out for an acting position lol!
Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?
One of my students who finished their website was so incredibly thankful for the course because prior to taking my course he had tried to build a website and it was not very good. Now that his website looks amazing, he has been going to pitch competitions and looking for investors which makes me so proud. I don’t think he could have gone out for any kind of funding with the website that he had before. He is currently across the globe working on new opportunities. Seeing a business go from 0 to potentially getting investors is an amazing feeling for me.
My job is to empower others. Empower them about what to put on their website, how to message correctly to their customers, how to reach new people, how to think about their business differently. It’s not just about a website it’s about marketing their passion. And if I can help more people market their passion to the world and that brings them great results, I am pretty satisfied.
I am a huge believer in small business. Small business owners wear all of the hats in their company and they need to know a little bit about everything. The website is an important piece in the puzzle of marketing what they have spent their whole life building or maybe their savings building. They need to get this right. I am here to help them so that they can create something that allows them to have the life they want and possibly something to give to their children or grandchildren or pass along to their family. It really is a great source of pride for me to see others grow this way.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?I think that if I were to do this again, I might try to create not such a perfect course right out of the starting gates. - Jennifer DeRosa Click To Tweet
For some reason I wanted to create a beautifully produced online course instead of putting together some videos that I made easily, getting some traction, and then refilming so that it’s more professional. I wanted it to look like MasterClass right away.
I’ve since taken a lot of courses from other course creators and I realized that a lot of these people just stand in front of a white board or film themselves on their computer and kind of wing it. I probably could have done that. But on the other hand, because I wrote all of these scripts, I am taking all of my written knowledge and putting it into the book that I am writing for a Wiley Publishing, “Building DIY websites for dummies”. So I guess it wasn’t a waste after all.