Ian Brodie specializes in email marketing to help consultants and coaches attract and win more clients and become seen as authorities in their field.
He’s been named as one of the “Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in Marketing and Sales” by Top Sales World magazine, and one of the “Top 25 Global Influencers in Sales and Sales Management” by OpenView Labs.
His #1 Amazon bestselling book, Email Persuasion, teaches business owners and professionals how to captivate and engage their audience, build authority and generate more sales with email marketing.
Ian first got started as a consultant by accident — inspired by a magician. Want to learn the story of how got started? Make sure to listen to [34:00] of the podcast.
In this episode, you’re going to learn how to leverage the power of emails to get more clients and customers.
Here’s just what one of Ian’s clients say about him:
Ian has also been featured in these media outlets:
In this episode you’ll discover:
[00:25] The most common misconception about email marketing
[04:55] How to pick the correct email marketing style
[10:07] How to get people to buy even when your email sucks
[16:47] How to build a 5-year monster email sequence without pulling your hair out
[18:30] How to combine sequence and broadcast emails to engage with your subscribers
[23:47] The 2 types of course sales
[35:43] How Ian got started with email marketing and wrote his bestselling book Email Persuasion
[39:30] The #1 roadblock for online course creators
[43:12] How to talk to your target audience even when you don’t have a customer
[45:09] How to know your course idea sucks
[50:13] Ian’s #1 advice to build a successful online course business
“You always have a 2nd chance with emails. You can always send more emails tomorrow, next day, next week, next month, etc. It’s okay to make mistakes with emails, because you can get it better over time.”
~ Ian Brodie
Interviewer (Welly Mulia): Welcome to another episode of the BirdSend Academy Podcast. This is the show for online course creators who want to build a profitable business by sharing your skills and knowledge. This is your host, Welly Mulia. If you are not listening to this on our website. Go to academy.birdsend.co/3 to get the show notes. This show is brought to you by BirdSend Email Marketing tool, the only Email Marketing tool specifically created for online course creators. Get your free forever account at birdsend.co.
Today’s special guest is Ian Brodie. Ian works with consultants and coaches to help them attract and win more clients and become seen as authorities in their field. He has been names as one of the top 50 global top leaders in marketing and sales by top sales magazine. And one of the top 25 global influencers in sales and sales management by OpenView Labs. His number one Amazon’s best-selling book email persuasion, teaches business owners and professionals how to captivate and engage their audience, build authority and generally more sales with email marketing.
Ian, thank you for showing up to the podcast, it’s great to have you.
Interviewee (Ian Brodie): It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.
Welly Mulia: Awesome. I know that you are a fan of email marketing, you even have a book called email persuasion, about this topic of email marketing, so what do you think is the one common misconception about the topic; Email Marketing?
Ian Brodie: There are obviously lots of misconceptions as I am sure you know, but the one that I see time and time again, I’d say it’s the people thinking of email marketing in terms of ‘one size fits all’, and I think that comes down from 2 perspectives, one is they think or hope I guess that there is one best way of doing email marketing, so they will hear from one guy that you need to be broadcasting their list, a short, entertaining email every single day, they will try that and they can’t quite get that to work, and then they hear no, really you need to use auto-responders and popup sequences, so they will try that for a bit and then they will hear from another guy that oh, when people sign up, you need to use gain logic, and they will try that. At the end, there is just a complete mismatch, they never get good at any one way of doing email. But the truth is that there are lots of different ways that people use emails successfully, and really kind of trying to find the one holy grail of the one best way of doing email that works for everyone is best to find one that you can do, where you can write those emails with a particular style, with a particular frequency, that you enjoy doing email like that, that kind of fits with your personality and the nature of your business. So, for example if you are emailing people who work in corporates, because the daily use of emails that they get from colleagues and bosses, etcetera which is different to an entrepreneur, and the email frequencies may need to be different. For example, you need to fit it with your particular clients, and then just get good at that particular style of email. It’s being like I guess if you play tennis. In tennis, some people do kind of serve in volley, some people play from the baseline, some people are very aggressive, some people play more defensive, and all of those different styles could work for successful players at the very top level with different styles and different styles with different types of playing better, but nobody succeeds in tennis by trying to master all the different styles, and then mix and match them and try one for a bit and switch over to another, you’ve got to pick one that you are playing that works for you, and then do that and learn how to do that really well. So, I would say one perspective on this ‘one size fits all’ is stop obsessing about the perfect way of email and taking more and more different courses and switching the way you do email to that one way, just find the way that works for you and then, go deep on that one way and get really good at doing that one way.
But I think the other way of that ‘one size fits all’ is do recognize that when you are thinking of your customers, your clients, your email subscribers, you ideally want to be segmenting those as well. So, one type of email, one particular email is not going to work for all of your subscribers, so sending the same thing to everyone is probably not the best thing to do, some people are more engaged than others, some people are more interested in some topics, if you’ve got any breaks in your business at all, some people would be more interested in some of the things you have to say than the others. So, you want to try and find ways of moving people down paths where they get more of the emails they want and less of the emails they don’t want. Even simple stuff like if you do want to promote any course on a particular topic, sending an email, kind of talking about that topic and giving them a really great tip, or some kind of indoor, free report on that topic, but then noticing who has clicked that topic, tagging them to say that they are interested in that particular topic. And then when you are following up and wanting to send more emails out that topic, you know you can send more frequently to those people, and less frequently to those people who aren’t interested in the topic.
Usually, what people do is they get somewhere in the middle, they go for an average, because they are sending the same thing to everyone. And the downside for that is, for example when they are not sending enough emails to the people really interested in the topic, but they are sending too many emails to people who aren’t interested in the topic, and you are trying to segment, so you send more to the people interested and fewer to the people who aren’t. That’s just one way of segmenting, but not trying to do the same emails for everyone is generally a really good idea.
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Welly Mulia: Awesome. I think it is very interesting that you mentioned about the segmenting thing, and also the earlier one where you said about, there is no perfect way or magic perfect way of writing emails, sending out emails, it just depends on your personality, your business types. How can one, especially for someone who is new to this, or if you are just getting started… How can one know the style for him to write their emails, because he doesn’t have any experience before that, and you mentioned just now that it’s good to find your own style, your own writing type, and then stick to that, and become really good at it? But how does one know which style to pick?
Ian Brodie: That’s a really insightful question. I think inevitably, there is going to be a process of trial and error in there. I don’t think you can expect to get it perfect on day one, but the good news is, nobody is expecting you to get it perfect on day one, you just have to do something that is kind of okay, and gets better and better overtime, I think it’s a bit like the traditional learning of painting, for example, you would copy the old masters… especially, I think in Japan, for years, you would copy the techniques and the models of the masters and then once you learn that, then you would branch out and try your own techniques.
So, I think what I would do is, if I was starting out was, I would subscribe to a lot of emails of people, either people in my own field, or people in other fields as well, and just read them and see which types of emails really clicked for me. Now, you’ve got to realize that you are not your client, so what clicks for you isn’t necessarily going to click with your client, but there is an element to which it is going to work for you as well as your clients, because if you don’t like a particular style of writing an email, you don’t enjoy it, and you are not good at it, you are not just going to do it, and you are not going to build any skills in it. So, subscribe to a whole bunch of emails, see what style of email gets you the most engaged and gets you the most interested, you have the most fun with.
So when I first got into emails, I personally enjoyed reading emails that were a bit longer, that were a bit more involved, that had a story to them, that could be continued multiple emails, where I could follow them overtime, they were a bit lighthearted, a bit fun, but had some really good content in them, they always had something really useful, they were just pure entertainment, there are some very successful email list for example, who would get quite angry in their emails and have a rant about things, or complain about things, and that’s a very successful style. But when I was subscribing to these emails, I just didn’t enjoy reading them, it didn’t click for me, so I quickly unsubscribed, and therefore when I started developing my own style, I was basing it first on the types of emails I enjoyed receiving, and learning from them, and kind of looking at them and saying, what are they actually doing here? When I first signed up, what kind of email did I get? What were they trying to do in that email? Were they trying to build a relationship with me? Were they trying to really impress me? Were they trying to give me something valuable really quickly? And then the following emails, just look a little bit behind and trying to think of what they were trying to do.
So I think the thing to do is before you suddenly launch your own emails, subscribe to other people’s and just see the styles you like. And then obviously without copying the same emails, try and get the principles behind the email and try to adopt a similar style, and then what you will find is, the more and more you write, the better your writing gets, and the more you get into the groove, and the more it becomes your own.
To be perfectly frank, and I am sure you say this would be true for you, my first emails that I sent out were not very good because no one is really good on day one, it is fantasy to think you would be really good on day one, but you have to do it because unless you do that emails or those emails on day one, you are never going to do good emails on day 101.
Welly Mulia: Right, I think that’s a very good thing to say, because in anything, not just emails, you are not going to be good at it on day one. So, it’s like for example, if you think back, when we were kids, we were trying to ride a bicycle, and it just doesn’t happen overnight, you fall down, you get back up, you try to ride again, you get back up again, and overtime you get better. So, with any skills, it’s going to take time to get good at the skill. So, I think that’s a very important point I think that you mentioned.
Ian Brodie: Absolutely. I would just like to add there, I think email is a medium where that kind of learning as you go along, is particularly helpful, and one of the nice things about email is, because it’s a drip, drip, drip overtime, it means you’re not reliant on every single email being perfect. So if you imagine you are trying to sell something with a sales page on a website or a single sale, on a website. If everything is reliant on that single sales letter being perfect or single sales video, then that video has to be great, and that other sales page has to be great, otherwise you are going to get no, or very few sales. But with email, you are not doing it in only one goal, you are doing it drip, drip, drip overtime. So, you can send an email and another email, and one of those emails could be awful, it doesn’t really matter because there is another one coming in the next day that could be good and could really click for them. So, it’s easy to make mistakes with email… Obviously if it is really bad, you are going to offend people and they are going to unsubscribe and you don’t get a second chance. But by and large, people don’t and you are always getting a second chance with the email because there is another email coming the next day or 2 days or 5 days later or whenever.
Welly Mulia: Alright. And the best thing is that email is almost free, I say almost because you still have to pay for the software to send out the emails, but it’s very minimal compared to the returns that you get, and also compared to other mediums, for example you said the TV, radio, it just costs so much, it’s so much affordable for emails. And just like you mentioned about drip, for listeners on this show, they might not be familiar with the term drip, drip, drip. So, what does drip mean?
Ian Brodie: All I mean there, and it can mean it in two senses, one is if you have an automation or an auto-responder that is pre-programed to send out a sequence emails overtime, I guess that’s the kind of ultimate drip that you pre-program things, and there is the logical sequence to emails, you proofread through. I am going to send this and send this… And again, that’s one of the nice things about email, is that in a sales letter, you have to cover absolutely everything that the person would need to believe or see or think, to be convinced to buy, but with an email you don’t have to get that all into one email, you can embed those little messages across emails overtime, so you are taking the one thing you need to do, and spreading it out overtime, so you are dripping it out as it were. But I think when I am talking about dripping there, I just mean that it’s not only one group, that there is always another email, always another day, and so any message you want to get out, you’ve got multiple attempts, you can get the same message out in different ways, overtime. You can split up a message and get it out, through multiple emails, and that means you get multiple bits of the apple or the cherry, and also means you get to read those messages multiple times because you got multiple emails, you can get a big message, you can split it up to be more digestible for people as well, because again, the emails are coming out overtime.
Welly Mulia: Okay. When you say overtime, does that mean that you use the software to make it go out automatically? Or do we have to tell everyone to send emails overtime for the next 14 days? Do you actually go into the computer and login to our accounts and the emails every day for the next 14 days?
Ian Brodie: You could do that, but by and large I would recommend pre-programming it, and then in an auto-responder or an automation, whatever the software calls it. I think there are some people who recommend broadcasting to your email list every day and doing everything fresh, and that means you are able to react to events in the world and things like that, and that’s one way of doing it, and that’s perfectly fine. Infact, it could be a very good way of doing it. My experience is, with the type of people that I worked with, they are not spending every single day on marketing, they are not dedicated to doing marketing, they are working with clients, most of the people I work with, consultants for example or coaches, so 80% of that time, they are working with clients, so they only have let’s say 1 day a week to do their marketing which would include emails. So they are not going to be able to sit down and write, it’s not going to be easy for them to sit down and write an email every day and keep that going, it’s easier for them to take out a day and write a predefined sequence of emails and set that up, so once people sign up, they get the predefined sequence of emails and then in a year, in 2 years, in 5 years’ time, the same sequence of emails is going out to people than having to write another one all the time. It also means everyone gets your best emails as well. I certainly found this, that I have… And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, but when people sign up for my emails, the sequence they go on to do is probably about 5 years long, because I have little, short sequences obviously, which is the most recommended thing, but what I have done for over 5 years is just written an email a week, kind of longer email, a more personal email, and what I realized fairly soon was, all of those, nobody is super human, we all have a limited range of good ideas, so over 5 years, I am not saying that I have gone out of ideas, but what I am saying is, some of my very best emails, I wrote 5 years ago, or I wrote 3 years ago, or I wrote two years ago. And if I was only ever to broadcast my emails and not put them in an automation where everyone got it from the start, it would mean that if someone joined today, they would not get my very best email that I sent out 3 years ago, that I got a fantastic reaction from people who said this was super helpful for them.
So, by using automation, by using auto-responders, it also means not only does it take the workload away, but it also means everyone gets to see your best emails, it also means if you want to get into it, you can tweak those emails overtime, you can split test different emails to see which ones work best, and replace one with another, and you can act based on the feedback and go and update the emails. So I personally like to pre-program the emails and have them going out in a sequence.
Welly Mulia: 5 years is a really long sequence, so do you mean…
Ian Brodie: Yeah, honestly I wish I had said that, it’s not something I would recommend, it’s just that I would send out once a week, kind of like a broadcast to my list, rather than making it a broadcast, I just add it on the end of a long auto-responder. So, each of the emails is evergreen, so during the week, or if someone shows an interest in something, they might be going on to much other sequence that might last a week or 2 weeks. But if you join my list today, after going on an initial sequence which I change every now and then, you stop getting my regular best tips on how to win clients or approach, and there are a lot of those emails, because they have been doing this for a long time, and those emails are good. Now, a lot of the time, if I don’t like anything, then I would take it out of the sequence, but that’s basically my very best emails that people going into the list of, and there’s about 5 years’ worth of them.
Welly Mulia: Okay, cool…
Ian Brodie: And I just want to stress, I am not saying write 5 years’ worth of emails, my 5 years’ worth of emails happened over 5 years, I have been writing emails for longer than 5 years, but I started out this sequence 5 years ago or so, so I happen to have it. All I am saying is, always think about re-using, so when you write sequences, people can go through it time and time again, even if you are sending a weekly broadcast newsletter, if it’s evergreen, think about how you can reuse those emails so that new people who join your list can get the benefit of that great email you send out.
Welly Mulia: Yeah, that’s a great strategy. So, when you send these auto-responder emails, or as you call ‘Drip Emails’, and when you do the broadcast emails which is fresh, do you also broadcast to new subscribers who are also going through your automated sequence or how does that work?
Ian Brodie: It’s a mix. So, what I would do is, I have an initial sequence, so when people first join my email list, there’s a specific sequence of emails they get that’s usually focused on obviously giving people great value or the reason that they signed up. So, if I offer a led magnet on a particular topic, they will get a series of follow-up email that are related to that topic, that gives them more information and more value related to that topic. But they are also designed to promote the product, related to that topic as well. So, when people are in the initial sequence, they are tagged or not tagged, so they don’t get the broadcast, so I won’t interrupt that initial sequence because it’s a set pre-program sequence where I have filtered through, if someone has signed up had for emails on a lead magnet, about how to become a seen authority in your field, I have a follow up email sequence that goes with the lead magnet, that gives more information about how to become an authority and leads up to a promotion for my program on becoming seen as an authority, and I don’t want random broadcasts interrupting that, that would seem out of sequence, I have thought through, both how do I add value to people, but also what the people actually need to have going on in their heads to be ready to buy this thing, and I have programmed my emails to do that, to feed them the right information they need to be comfortable buying, to show them the value of being an authority, to show there are different ways of doing it, that I have successfully helped people become authorities and I have woven that into valuable emails and I don’t want to say, hey I am doing a webinar on some completely different topic next week, and confuse them and make them think what’s going on. So, I use within my email system, kind of tagging, that basically blocks them off from getting the broadcast, until they finish the end of that sequence, now when they finish the end of that sequence, they go into this 5-year thing, and I will give you a caveat to that later. But basically, in theory, they go to this 5-year thing, and those emails are interruptible, those emails are just once a week, it’s kind of like my best client winning tips that they are going to get once a week, and broadcasting to the people who are on to that big sequence, that’s absolutely fine because the emails that they are getting once a week, they kind of build on each other, but they are not reliant on being close together and not been interrupted, they are gently promoting my ongoing membership program usually, rather than walking up to a bigger program or something specific, so I assuming I don’t promote anything at all, I am more about just helping people, so it’s okay to interrupt those with broadcast.
Now, the caveat I would give is sometimes if you are doing a product launch for example, I would pause the weekly big sequence and just do a series of emails related to a product launch, and because that then becomes the priority, and then when the product launching is finished, let’s say it was taking 2 weeks, I would restart people where they were on the longer sequence.
Welly Mulia: Cool.
Ian Brodie: That’s probably a little bit of complicated method, but then again I did write a book on email marketing, so I think I should be able to things more communicated. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend everyone gets that complicated, what I like that’s simple is the start of where you are focusing on promoting a particular product, trying not to interrupt that with broadcast, because it would put people off, you want people following that one path, you could if you want to do more promotional sequences after that, so I happen to have one, I used to have two… you could run 3 or 4, promoting specific products in a chain, you try not to interrupt those with broadcast. But then, if you have moved to a point where people haven’t bought any of those, or they have bought them and moved on, then you can interrupt it with broadcast.
Welly Mulia: You mentioned that when a new subscriber joins on board for specifically lead magnet, you are going to have this sequence of email sent to them, leading up, with each email you are providing value, and then you are trying to sell in your case the authority?
Ian Brodie: Yeah, that’s one of the lead magnets and one of the programs here.
Welly Mulia: Okay, so let’s take that as an example. So, when you promote them to your product or service; the authority, is there like an evergreen promotion? Because I see a lot of course creators online taking programs, a lot of them use the open and close cart, so it is only available 2 or 3 times a year. Is it like that or is your lead magnet leading to put out offer, which is an evergreen, which is open all year round?
Ian Brodie: I do both. So, as it happens, the authority program is an open-closed thing, so it’s only open actually once a year. So, what will happen is, the first time I promote it, and at certain times leading up to when I want to promote that, I will make the lead magnet available to people, so that would either be promoting the lead magnet more generally on social etcetera, or re-offering the lead magnet to people on my existing list who maybe haven’t heard it before, or even if they have heard it, they want it again, because a year has passed. So, that’s a closed one it only lasts for a certain period of time. But, when that one is not running, then I have my more general lead magnet that promotes my membership program, and I have occasionally used the same thing to promote a smaller course that is like, here in the digital market terminology is a trip wire course leading to the membership program as a kind of upsell, and that’s what I have as the lead magnet and the initial sequence for most of the year, and that’s another green program. So that’s kind of like 10 months, 11 months to a year, that’s running evergreen, and then one month of the year, switching the authorities which is the once a year thing.
Welly Mulia: Cool. When you said just now you, for the authority offer which is a close thing, you mentioned if you are not closing orders, then you are not going to run the lead magnet, when you say not running the lead magnet, do you mean like you pull it down from your website? Or it is still there, but you just don’t actively promote it?
Ian Brodie: Yeah, it’s more of that. Sometimes I would have it on the homepage of my website, and I might actively promote it through social, through advertising or email optimized system. But when it is not running, I would have a different lead magnet on the homepage, obviously won’t need run ads for it. We will still be there, people can still find it, people can still sign up for it, but what happens is, they get the same kind of value emails, it gets them ready, but at the end, it tells them the program is not running, but if they submit an application for the program, it will put them in the wait list for when the program is running again.
Welly Mulia: Got it. We have talked quite a lot about emails, and this was probably a weird start for you Ian, because usually with podcast interviews, the order is usually tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, I like to do things a little bit differently, so stick to the main topic which is, this is email marketing for online course creators, and especially you are an email marketing expert, so I focused on that email thing first.
So now, tell us about, what projects are you working on these days?
Ian Brodie: So, a couple of things. I suppose three in reality, one is I relaunched the authority program for its annual theme fairly recently, so I am enrolling new clients, new customers into that, that’s doing what it is doing, people are going through the email sequences, people are making applications, I am reviewing applications, and if needed, we are getting on the phone, and having a quick chat about their application and whether it would be a good fit for the program? So, that’s one thing… Second thing is I have an ongoing membership program which is more generally about marketing and sales, getting more clients for consultant, for service, businesses like that. I am not being ongoing means two things, one is I have things I do every month, so I do a webinar every month for those guys, we’ve got a Q and A webinar coming up tomorrow that I am doing. I am constantly updating the content in there, some content of course is evergreen, but some contents need updating. For example, probably in the last 6 months, content marketing in LinkedIn has gotten quite big, they have changed the algorithm, it is increasingly easy to get in front of your target audience on LinkedIn much more so than it was in the past, so I have just updated the LinkedIn module to have that kind of stuff in it. So, I am constantly enrolling new members into there and producing new content for that. And in the background, I am working on little mini course to use as a kind of trip wire course… But then, if people buy that, then the upsell, the continuity would be to the membership program. So, we use the word trip wire to mean something that has incredible value, that people find immensely useful, so useful that they want to buy something else from you. So, that’s just the industry terminology for you. So, I am working on that in the background.
And then the third thing is I also do the kind of marketing stuff for my wife’s business, she does online summits and a kind of web TV show every week for people who work in the early years, people that work in nurseries and things like that.
Welly Mulia: Cool, so your wife must be very lucky to have you as a digital and marketing expert to help her out.
Ian Brodie: Well, you know how it is with husband and wife, she is never going to admit that…
Welly Mulia: Yeah. Sometimes if you get too close, the partner might take you for granted and not really take it seriously, is that sometimes how it works?
Ian Brodie: The interesting thing is Kafy has gotten really quite good at this stuff, my background has been in marketing for 20 or more years, I used to do it in a bigger corp then, but gradually came down to doing it for small business and with coaches, like my background. But Kafy’s background was in early years’ education and nothing to do with marketing, but she has really picked it up very rapidly, the use of online summit has been a huge… and that was her initiative and that has been a kind of huge wing, for her in terms of building an email list, really fast from scratch in just a couple years. And I hear on the phone every now and then, talking to people, because her sector is not very marketing oriented, so there are a lot of experts in that field who just don’t have email lists, very small social media presences, and so she is kind of advising them, she is interviewing them for a TV or for a summit, and then afterwards they are talking, she say, we are sending people to your website, you are going to have an email signup form, and give them something for free, and follow-up with emails, because that’s the only way you are going to build a relationship with them actually, makes some money. So, it’s interesting to hear her kind of preaching the gospel of email marketing too.
Welly Mulia: Awesome. So Ian, tell us how… that’s a part of where we would like to ask you to tell a little bit about yourself, specifically how everything started, especially with working with clients, with using this channel to build a relationship, and then engaging them and then of course, ultimately making your sales. So, how did all of these happen?
Ian Brodie: In many ways, it is quite a long story, but I will try and be brief, I had a 6 or 7-year career in the industry, in high tech doing R and D, and then my company sponsored me to do an NBA degree, with the goal to make me a better manager… They sent me on that, and I basically fell in love with marketing strategy when I went on the program. The first marketing lecture I went in, and I just thought wow! this is just a complete… and I was attending as an R and D randy guy, and I said this is just so interesting and so fun, this is what I want to do. So, after the NBA I kind of quit the corporate life and went off to work for a consulting firm, that was back in 1994, that’s was the first big career change for me, and that was very different, because instead of being in a kind of fixed career where you did the same thing again and again, and got better at it. With consulting, you are just in a new problem almost on a weekly basis, new clients, new problems, lots of learning going all the time, even if you are using your expertise, you are always learning, so I did that for a number of years. I eventually was working as the director of kind of a medium sized consulting firm, and I just wasn’t able to do the things that I wanted to do, and when it came to online, I had a really funny experience where a friend of mine who is a professional magician based in London, he actually phoned me up while I was at work and said, Ian go to Google and type magician, and I typed magician into Google, and he was number one in the world. So, this was back in the day before many people knew anything about SEO. And my friend is a good magician but he is not only exactly David Copperfield or anyone well known, so to see him top of Google, I was astounded and it was basically because he was the first magician who actually got a grip on SEO, and he made it to the top. And I asked him, what’s that doing for you? He said, well normally as a magician works in parties, restaurants, etcetera, all my business has always come from word of mouth, the only way people would hire a magician traditionally is word of mouth, there is no way you can advertise, but word of mouth is what work, but I now get close to 80% of my bookings from Google, people finding me through my website. And I said, you know what? If that can work for a magician, it can work for a consultant and the reason I quit to setup my own business was that the firm I was working for, even though I was the director and had some influence, did not push hard enough down the online route, so I decided to set up my own business. Initially I was going to work and deliver work locally, but market online, and that worked. But then I found that I could deliver work online, through online courses through using, go to webinars or eventually Zoom and Skype to do coaching and I started to work with people online. And suddenly that geographic restrictions were lifted, I could have online courses that people would buy and I didn’t have to travel, and I didn’t have to have clients who would be so much physically closely, that just kind of changed the world for me and then suddenly I could get more niche, I could focus on just the consultants and coaches I love working with, and do that globally.
So, that’s kind of how I got into it, it was by accident, by that friend of mine saying hey, and Google magician and that really got the wheels turning and me thinking, look at the possibilities of this.
Welly Mulia: Awesome story. So, obviously you know a lot of things about digital marketing and sales funnels but why is it that you choose to write a book on email marketing?
Ian Brodie: It was another one of those things. I am sure when you interview people, you find that a lot of things kind of happen by accident, or various things coming together. So, it was a couple of things, one is I begun to develop a reputation for email marketing, so I found that when I first set up my own business, I started blogging, because I just had things that I wanted to say that wasn’t necessarily a particular great goal or I wasn’t thinking blogging would make me rich, I just thought there are things in my field about Marketing and Sales for Consultants that I would like to say that I don’t think anyone is saying, So, I was writing quite a lot, and then that blogging naturally turned into… obviously if you do any reading around… and a particular friend of mine at the time said, hey, you should try that email marketing thing, I resisted for about a year that no, email is really old fashioned, I don’t want to do that, and eventually I was persuaded, and then all of a sudden, the sale started increasing through the emails.
But because I was writing a lot, I guess I got reasonably good at it, and people were beginning to email back to me and started saying, do you teach this, and yeah, I could join your program and learn about marketing generally, but what I really want to know about is the email stuff. So, at the time I created a little online course for email marketing that people could take, and a kind of free email sequence and stuff like that. And then about that time, I was approached by a lady who taught people how to write books, and her concept was like a book camp, where you go for a weekend, but you do it via a webinar, and you write a book, at least you break the back of it, and you get most of it done in a weekend, and I thought that was also really good, because my people, consultants are the sort of people where book is good marketing for them, but it is really difficult to write a book, especially a good one.
So, if you got a course that helps to do that, great! But I can’t promote something that I know doesn’t work, I can’t jointly promote it and tell them it’s great, if I don’t know it doesn’t work. So, I tell you what, I go to your website and I buy a course, don’t give me a discount or anything, I just want to buy it like a normal customer, I will buy a course, I will come on your next program, and then I will try and write a book myself and she said that’s great, what do you want to write a book about and I said I don’t really know, tell you what, she had said to me, that she wanted to promote my email expertise, said why don’t I write about email marketing, because then when we talk about things, you can mention I have written a book on email marketing, and that gives me some credibility with your audience who I am going to do the webinar for about the email marketing.
So, it kind of came about through that. That makes two factors, one is, I was getting very good at it, people asking me how I did it, and secondly, the opportunity came up to write a book, and I needed a topic and that just seemed like the right one to do. And indeed as it turned out, the methodology worked, I did the book camp through weekend, it was US time and I was in the UK, so my weekends were studying late and working really late into the night, I didn’t see my family for 3 days essentially. But by the end of that 3 days, I had the draft of the book on audio, a day or two later, I had the transcription, and then after some editing and stuff like that, I had my book.
Welly Mulia: Awesome. So having been in this industry for so long, and you have created your own training programs, online courses, so you have a lot of experience in this area, what do you think is the number one problem people face when trying to create their online courses or online training programs?
Ian Brodie: I think it’s fairly simple, and I don’t think it’s a message that’s heard often enough. I think that the number one problem is just not finding the right products for the right market. People like us who teach marketing, we are forever telling people that marketing is the answer, you have to review it, you got to market, you have to do this, you have to do that, and then people would tell a particular type of marketing. But if you have got a great product that a market is really hungry for, you can do okay with pretty mediocre marketing, you can start out with no marketing, someone has got to know about it, but Okay Marketing is enough. On the other hand, if you’ve got a course that nobody wants, the audience doesn’t value, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing is, you are not going to get anywhere. So, getting a product that people actually wants is absolutely crucial, so the more time you can invest in that, in getting it right initially through talking, not just service, service is great, but actually talking to potential customers and finding out what their really big problems are. So, knowing that your course would help them with that is really vital. But it is also about opening up, because there are some problems that people won’t buy courses for, for example if it is a problem for them, but maybe it is not one of their top 2 or 3 problems, I call that being close to the jugular… It has to be one of those problems or they won’t buy a course on it. Or it could be that it’s a problem that they have, you see as an expert that they’ve got a really big problem, but they don’t know that they’ve got the problem. And if they don’t know that they’ve got the problem, online, it is really difficult to sell that, if you are talking to them face-to-face, talk to them about it and let them see it, but online they are not even going to read any of your content if they don’t know they’ve got a problem in that area.
Or maybe they don’t want to get it at all, maybe they just want someone to come and fix it for them, so you have to think in that angle, what do they actually want for a solution? And also the type of person… I have a lot of my clients work with large corporates and sometimes what they do is, they say I don’t want to do this consulting, training anymore, it is too much hard work, I want to make an online course, and they are trying to just take what they are training people on, and turn that into an online course. But one of the problems with that is if you are training employees in an organization, typically employees expect their own employer to pay for their training, and typically online courses are bought by people themselves, so in a way online courses are mainly bought by kind of entrepreneurs, people who are in businesses, people who want to make a change in career, people doing something for themselves, because they got to get their credit card out and pay.
If you are an employed person and you are skilled, you are thinking about learning, if you are a middle manager in a corporate and you know you have to improve your leadership skills, chances are you are going to go to your employer to say, I need a course on leadership, or your employer would talk to you about it, and you’d expect them to buy it, which means that probably we are going to try and use the same course for everyone in the company, and it has to go through the procurement process and all. It is unlikely that they will just give you $500 to good and buy what you want online. So, you’ve got to understand the audience, who buys online courses, and you’ve got to pick a topic that really is important to them, that they are willing to pay money to get the outcome they are looking for.
Welly Mulia: So, talking to customers is one of the ways that you mentioned that we can get to know our market well enough. What happens if someone does not have any customer yet, who do they talk to?
Ian Brodie: Well, talk to anyone you can in that market place, I find that you have to knock on a few doors, not everyone will say yes, but many people are quite generous with their time, if you are genuinely asking for advice. And you can couch it as a kind of interview, you can couch this as a research project, you generally have to do the research though, you try and say, I am doing a research into this and really you are just using it to sell to them, that’s not going to work, but if you are genuinely researching a market, a number of people will say yes and will give you information. And you can do it on a [inaudible 45:11] you can have chats with people, I just moved into this new field, I’ve got some ideas, can I just bounce some ideas off you, find out more about what’s really important to people in your situation or people in your position etcetera. Grab a coffee with the, do it over the telephone, that all works to give you a kind of qualitative information. You can then follow that up with a survey where you reach out, and then you might go to groups on Facebook or even LinkedIn or LinkedIn groups are awful, you can find groups of people you can go to survey with, and get data through that, you can even pay for it, paid advertising, you can do a survey if you are really serious. And then it comes to moving to pilot board, get people to pay for something before you build it, it is another good approach to finding whether that market exists.
But start by talking to people, one of the things LinkedIn is really good for is to see who know that knows other people. So, if you do a search for people in your market, if you can identify them with LinkedIn search criteria, and then just see who your common contacts are, and look for an introduction, and ask them to introduce you too, because you would like to do some research about that market.
And one of the things that is worth noting is if you try that, if you try and find people to talk to and you cannot find anyone in the market who would speak to you and give you feedback on what would work as a product, the chances are, you just don’t know enough about that market and you are not well-enough connected to make it a success, I will try and find another market. Because if you don’t know anyone in the market to speak to, how are you ever going to come up with the product, a course that they are going to value? How are you going to kick start your marketing and get feedback on that course and stuff like that?
So, if you can’t, if you really struggle to do it, it’s a tough message, but if you can’t find anyone to talk to about it, it’s a good sign that this is not going to work for you and you need to find another way you can. But there are ways of doing things, when I first set up my own business, you remember I was working locally, and I was using online marketing, but I was working locally. Because I was working locally, where I live in the UK; Manchester, and it’s not a big enough place, there are loads of consulting firms or coaching firms that I can go and do training for, or work for, that would have enough more to pay me… But there were loads of law firms, because law first tend to be bigger, so both, law firms tend not to work with anyone who is not a lawyer… Or oh, you haven’t spent 10 years as a lawyer, you can’t possibly advise us on marketing, but you have openings marketing, all law firms have openings in marketing, I am good at it… Yeah, but you are not a lawyer, you don’t understand this.
But what I did was I did interviews, so I created this thing I call “Business Development North West”, because it’s the North West of England, interviewed in 2008, Business Development North West, 2008, I went out and I started with just friends of friend and just through local networking, I met 2 or 3 lawyers and I asked people if they knew a lawyer I could interview. Eventually I interviewed 20 partners in law firms, and did quite a structured interview for about an hour about business development best practices, and I got loads of feedback from them.
By the end of that interview, when I had the results, all of a sudden, I had gone from them not wanting to talk to me about marketing to really wanting to talk to me, because no one they knew, had that much a cross-sectional knowledge of what best practice was for business development for lawyers. And you can do the same when you are thinking of coming up with a course, because you can do a research thing like that and use your research to report as a lead magnet for example. So, not only it tells you what needs to be in the course, but it also gives you a lead magnet, that publish research, that people are interested in that topic and that candidates for the course would really value.
So, as I said, you can actually do it really formally and have a chat over coffee if that’s quicker, or if you want to go into a kind of big style, and you decide that this is your future, then if that would get you to places that you couldn’t otherwise. Maybe I was a little flipping before where I said if you don’t know anyone, just give up, if you are in that state, considering doing it seriously with a research project, because that opens doors, there is a big difference between phoning someone you don’t know, or emailing someone you don’t know, where you say, I have kind of come to talk to you about you buying something from me, and saying, I am doing a research project about Best Practices, Leadership and Technology Firms and I would like to interview you for that research project, and I would publish it and I would give you special assess to the results. Would you like to take part? And there is a good chance that they will say yes to that, even when you are doing it relatively cold. So pretty much, a third of the people that I interviewed were cold, once I interviewed someone cold, I said, who else would you recommend I speak to? And then they would introduce me to other people who I could do the interviews with, and just by doing that you have certainly built a bit of a contact base, you’ve got loads of useful information that would help you with the course, and you’ve got a great lead magnet. So that research thing is a good strategy as well.
It does take investment, but if you are new to marketing, it is a really good type of investment to make.
Welly Mulia: I think that’s a very smart strategy to go for. So, before we wrap up…
Ian Brodie: I just wanted to say I completely agree, it really worked for me back then, and I have seen it work for others where it enables you to break into the market and become seen as an expert really quickly, even if you’ve got no background in that market. You have to know what you are talking about, you have to have good knowledge to the subject, but it allows you to break into a different market and build up your knowledge really quickly and be seen as an expert, because you’ve got something they haven’t got, even if they have spent 20 years in that business, they have not talked to 20 different people about it in the same that you have for 30 or 10 or whatever, they just don’t have the data you have, which makes it really attractive to them to come to you.
Welly Mulia: Cool. So, last question. If you can only give one advice to people who want to build a successful online course business, what would it be?
Ian Brodie: I am going to say it step-by-step and keep it simple. So start up by choosing a small course, don’t try and make a $2,000 course where you have to invest so much in video and whatever to make a really high level course, and promotion has to be huge, etcetera… Do something small and iterate, so do something that we were talking about, go and talk to people, find out what they really and find out what is vital, what they are willing to pay for, then follow that up with a survey to confirm that there is a bigger need and then do a pilot of it consider a paid pilot. So, before you start creating all the material, do an outline of what is going to come out of your analysis as to what the topics would be on the course and just go back to some people of the people you’ve spoken to and say, look, thanks for doing that, as a result, I have come up with this course, for the first people on here, I am going to do it for half the price as a way of saying thank you for taking part of my study, etcetera…
And it’s a pilot, first time, I will work intensively with you as we develop the course, sign up here and pay here. Do that before you actually… You have to know you can’t develop a material, you can’t sell it and seal and deliver. So, you have to know you can do it, and you have to tell them what it is going to be. But if people sign up, and this was what my wife did for her very first course, was she wasn’t 100% convinced people would signup, so she was looking for… I think she set the limit on 22 course number because it was her lucky number, so for the pilot, limit of 22, and in 3 days 25 had signed up and we not fast enough closing the cart because then they sneaked in, and it was like, alright, I know it’s going to happen, and nothing gives you confidence like sales.
And then she went up to develop the course, delivered it to the pilot members, they gave great testimonials, we added a few things to it and the feedback, and then we went to launching it more widely to a full list and stuff like that. But a little pilot first is a good kind, and part of that iteration strategy, starts small and build.
Welly Mulia: Awesome. How do people get to get in touch with you Ian if they want to know about what you do, your work, and your training programs, where do they find you?
Ian Brodie: As ever, connect with me on social media, I am quite on LinkedIn these days, but the easiest thing is to come to my website and it is www.ianbrodie.com, and I run the homepage there, depending on the time here, or at all times the thing that I think I have that gives the most value to people is about doing marketing that doesn’t take all your time and it doesn’t require you to be a professional sales person, marketing for real people to work with, operation to run, how can you do that in at most a day, so I thought of a 30-minute marketing plan because of the stuff in the plan, you should be able to do it in 30 minutes a day and get an effective marketing system up and running, and I got to think of a 30-minute marketing checklist which basically takes you through all of the things you need to have that system up and running, so if you got to www.ianbrodie.com/checklist, you will be able to sign up for and download that checklist, that is probably if you want the most value from me quickly, that’s the probably the best place to go.
Welly Mulia: Cool. I just want to make sure that for people listening, you might want to take this down, ianbrodie.com. Correct?
Ian Brodie: Yes, and forward slash checklist and you can buy my book on Amazon, I get like a fraction of a penny for each sale.
Welly Mulia: The book is called “Email Persuasion” …
Ian Brodie: Email Persuasion, is a few years old now, but usually you can just search for Email Marketing, it will pop up, it has the most 5-star reviews on Amazon of any book on email marketing, so it’s fairly easy to find.
Welly Mulia: Awesome. Alright Ian, thank you for sharing so much in this podcast, I think the listeners are going to like it, and they are going to find so much value in this, thank you again for your time.
Ian Brodie: My pleasure.
Welly Mulia: Alright, thank you guys for listening. If you are not listening to this on our website, go to academy.birdsend.co/3 to get the show notes. This show is brought to you by Bird Send Email Marketing Tool; the only email marketing tool specifically created for online course creators, get your free forever account at birdsend.co.
Ian Brodie On Selling Online Courses
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