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- Who: Nathan Liao
- Website: cmaexamacademy.com
- Course Topic: Certified Management Accountant exam review
- Interesting Stats: 50,000 email subscribers
Who are you and what course have you created?
I’m the founder of CMA Exam Academy, a top Certified Management Accountant exam review program. As a CMA and CMA coach, I mentor accounting and finance professionals in over 80 countries to earn their CMA certification in as little as 8 months.
What market does your online course serve?
This program serves the professional certification market within the accounting industry.
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
Busy professionals follow an easy, step-by-step program and pass the exam on their first attempt.
How did you get into the market?
I began working as an accounting clerk in college and slowly moved up the ladder. When it was time to choose my major in college, I chose accounting because I had gained years of experience in the field so it was the path of least resistance. Years later, I earned my CMA certification and propelled my career further.
After passing my Certified Management Accountant exam, I created a blog as a hobby that discussed the CMA test and provided tips and strategies to pass it. As my audience grew, requests to launch an exam review program kept coming in from my audience. People wanted me to teach them the subject matter, so I launched CMA Exam Academy.
As a CMA and CMA coach, I mentor accounting and finance professionals in over 80 countries to earn their CMA certification in as little as eight months. The unique review framework in CMA Exam Academy has proven to be the key to our students’ outstanding success in attaining their dream of earning the Certified Management Accountant certification.
Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?
The CMA exam pass rate was an abysmal 35% on average at the time when I took my exams. I passed both exam parts on my first attempt and thought I could help others do the same. This is when I decided to launch a website and provide guidance and exam coaching as a hobby. As the website visitors grew, requests to teach them the exam content grew with it. So I launched a complete CMA review program for both exam parts. Our unique framework helps our students pass at a 90% rate on average.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
I had doubts for the first few years about whether this program was going to gain traction. I was and still am competing with major corporations. What kept me going was the fact that I knew the program I built addressed major pain points in the CMA study prep market.
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
I wanted to help as many professionals pass their exams on the first try as I could, and my program delivered. Being a CMA opens many doors professionally. It changed my life for the better and I wanted to help others do the same.
What’s your online course like?
It’s a 16-week, step-by-step review program that includes pre-recorded video lectures, audio lectures, lesson quizzes, exam simulations, weekly coaching calls, digital & printed textbooks, formula guides, unlimited coaching support, weekly accountability check-ins with each student, weekly assignments, and an in-person exam rehearsal at a Prometric testing center.
How long did it take you to create your course?
I’ve fully iterated the program at least three times. For each iteration, I’ve invested around 150 hours of my time plus my team’s time. I mapped out every single lesson, shot the videos, wrote textbooks with my team, built custom software for exam simulations, and more.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).
Before launching my CMA Exam Academy program, I had already built an audience in the CMA niche via my blog, CMAcoach.com. My audience kept requesting lectures from me and to coach them step-by-step.
At the time, self-study was the only option to prepare for the exam. So a step-by-step guided program was much needed. When I pitched the program to my audience, many voted with their wallets before I even launched the program. I knew the need was there because I had the same needs during my test prep.Building a program that addressed all of those pain points made it a winner right out of the gate. -Nathan Liao Click To Tweet
I still had internal doubts because I was competing with major corporations that had been in the study prep niche for decades. However, it didn’t detract me from going for it anyways.
Do you have a lead magnet?
I do have a lead magnet. It’s my exam cheat sheet where I share exam strategies to help candidates pass their exams. It’s a very useful PDF that people love.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
SEO has been the cornerstone of my traffic strategy from the very beginning. It has worked out very well. Now I have a dedicated team that handles my SEO.
What online course platform are you using?
The entire program is built on WordPress.
Do you like it?
Yes, I like it. It’s very flexible.
Are there any features you wish it had?
It’s an open-source platform, so it has everything I need.
What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?
WordPress is very SEO-friendly and an easy platform to build sites on.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
I use Infusionsoft, Trello, Google Docs, Dropbox, and SAAS tools.
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
Atomic Habits by James Clear is a fantastic book to learn about how to build habits the right way. My productivity has increased tenfold thanks to this book. Building habits that last is not only rewarding from a personal level but professionally as well
One podcast I highly recommend is Social Media Marketing with Michael Stelzner. This is a fantastic podcast to learn more about what’s working in online marketing — I get many of our marketing strategies from this podcast.
An online course I recommend is the Kwik course, as it provides entrepreneurs with the ability to learn well and fast at the same time. For those who like to learn and don’t have enough time to consume it all, this course helps.
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?
When I launched the business, I relied on a third-party company to supply the study material to my students. After my company grew quickly, they cut us off because we had become a direct competitor.
This was my first HUGE challenge. The R&D costs to develop our study material were the biggest challenge in terms of investment, team effort, and time.
However, because we had new students enrolling each month, there was no choice but to press forward and not look back. Trust is one of my core values and I didn’t want to break the trust my students had vested in me. That fueled my team and me to not give up even if it meant we had to develop our study material from scratch.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.
This business has given me the freedom to quit my 6-figure corporate job and run my company full time while traveling the world non-stop for a few years. It was a dream come true for me.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
It didn’t happen overnight, but my email list grew to 50,000 subscribers.
What has creating your course done for you personally?
I’ve learned so many skills in order to build my program. The most satisfying part of building this program is knowing that I’ll never stop learning and growing for as long as I have this business. I’ve acquired so many skills over the years beyond what I thought I’d need to learn, i.e. video production, scripting, podcasting, lesson mapping, software development, online education, effective writing, textbook publishing, and much more.
Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?
I have so many stories! You can find them here.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?
1) Don’t launch a new website and domain for your test prep if you already have an existing website. If I had to do it all over again, I would have launched it using my existing domain and website. I thought I had to have a different name for my test prep program, but I really didn’t in retrospect. The cost of running two separate domains/operations could’ve been avoided.
2) Don’t rely on a supplier for my study material. I partnered with one of the biggest companies in my space to provide study material to my students. However, when my business took off, I was cut off because I had become a direct competitor of theirs.The lesson learned is that self-reliance is important in business, and the ability to provide your customers with in-house products is a better play in the long run. - Nathan Liao Click To Tweet
3) Hire help faster! As a new start-up, I was slow at making my first hire. I ran everything myself for too long. If I had hired someone to help sooner, I would’ve been able to grow CMA Exam Academy much quicker.
4) Building a profitable enterprise takes years. Based on what people at business conferences were saying, I thought it would take me just one year to build a successful business. It took much longer.
5) Begin to network with successful entrepreneurs even before launching a business. The conversations and support from people who’ve been where you are (about to launch a company) can be such a great support system and motivator. I met two successful entrepreneurs at a business conference a year into my company.
We formed a business mastermind group and helped each other grow our companies. After seven years, we continue to have our weekly mastermind calls. It’s made all the difference! As the saying goes, “your network is net worth”.