meaningful work podcast

Episode 17: Co-creating your group program with your audience

Sep 12, 2023 | Podcast

Spending far too much time, energy and money fully developing and building out a comprehensive group program that nobody buys is the biggest mistake that business owners make. Because, I’m the worst case scenario? The owner decides online launches and group programs are not for them, and buries their dream of having a flagship group program to leverage their expertise.
In this episode, Brook speaks with her Leverage Mastermind collaborator Simon Kelly, about how to maximize your chance of success by validating your program idea first.
You’ll learn:
  • How we make launching far more difficult, expensive, and ineffective than it needs to be
  • The many beneficial byproducts of validating your program idea BEFORE you start creating it.
  • Why working back-to-front is far, far smarter than building your program first
  • How to validate your program idea without looking unprofessional or unconfident in public
  • The unexpected opportunities that happen during launches
  • The ultimate – and only real – validation method for your group program
  • Why it’s easier to sell something at a higher price than lower
  • Our favourite paid methods to validate your program idea (plus Brook’s biggest mistake with this – what NOT to do)
  • How proactively giving away value first, is also highly useful to validate your ideas
  • An easy way to create strategic lead magnets that move people along the path to purchase
  • Reuse, reduce, recycle – your business assets as well as your marketing
  • Why your ego is a liability and why being a bit embarrassed shows you’re doing things right
  • Simon’s favourite question to ask potential clients and why it’s so valuable for validating your idea, and selling your group program
  • The fast-track email and the two-question survey
  • What you stand to gain by validating your group program idea beyond program participants


Co-creating your flagship group program with your intended audience is the topic of today’s episode. My collaborator of the Leverage Mastermind, Simon Kelly and I discuss co-creating and validating your program idea before you start making it. This is the biggest mistake that we see business owners making over and over again. Levering away for months or sometimes even years without taking a client-centric approach and no, a beta launch is not enough. In this episode, we’re going to talk about validating your ideas, co-creating your program with your audience. Let’s dive in.

Welcome to Meaningful Work, Remarkable Life. I’m your host Brooke McCarthy and I’m a business coach, trainer and speaker living and working on the unceeded lands of the Cameragal people here in Sydney, Australia. In this podcast, we explore the paradoxes inherent in working for love and money, magnifying your impact and doing work you feel born to do. We explore the intersections of the meanings we bring to work and the meanings we derive from work. Massive action, being in motion, and massive action, which is actually testing things, getting results and putting it out there in the marketplace. 100%.

The validation strategies we’re going to talk about are public. You are out there on the internet, you are talking to people, you are doing stuff and as a fortunate byproduct of validating your program idea, your course or program idea, you are building buzz and you are building audience, right? Can you tell us a little bit more about these unexpected outcomes? Yeah, so building the buzz is kind of you’re seeing the momentum of audience growth and people engaging and communicating with you as you’re validating what you’re doing.

So I think there is kind of this myth out there that you build it and they will come kind of thinking and it’s like building it with your audience saying, we’ll go into a bit more strategies in a moment, but I’ve got this idea, here’s what I’m thinking, what are you thinking, getting that like co-creation happening where you’re building momentum, people are engaging with you, you’re responding to the different people who are in the market and you’re building this together instead of going away, sitting alone in silence and then having this, here’s my amazing completely finished thing. I think there’s a myth that that’s how you successfully sell things. So the more benefits that you get by doing this building in public and validating in public, generating buzz is you get to grow your email list. If nothing else, you get to grow awareness of what you’re doing.

More tangibly, you can grow your email list so you have people to market and sell to. There’s a ton more awareness about you and what you offer, which is definitely a common mistake that we see people make is like no awareness until such time as they say, here it is with the price tag. So there’s opportunities that come up from this like unexpected opportunities. Whenever I’m trying to validate something or sharing things, I typically get leads coming in that I wouldn’t expect and opportunities come in for speaking or podcasts or some conference. What are they doing now?

Online growth summits is like the kind of thing. So while there would be in-person conferences, also these online summits, getting asked to speak at those kinds of things and just opportunities to connect and collaborate with people. So the great benefits that all come through validating in public instead of alone in the dark road. 100%. And I’ve noticed that I’ve had the first day of the launch where you’re expecting this great influx and nothing’s happening, no sales are happening. And I get to the end of the day and I’m like, and then I go, just a second, let me do a little list. Let me just actually look and see what happened today. And I start counting my blessings and I’m like, oh my God, I’ve had this person reach out, that person reached out, that person reached out. All these opportunities that, yes, they’re not buying the offer on day one, on this particular day one, but it’s a good thing, right? Because you’re visible, you reaches up, you’ve created buzz, people are aware of you for the first time oftentimes.

And the other thing you can do of course, is you can recycle a lot of the stuff that you’re using to validate your ideas such as sales videos. I’ll have a sales video made by a professional and I’ll use that for the next five years. You got it? Yeah, exactly. So there’s benefits with opportunities, there’s benefits with just where you’re saying like asset creation that you can reuse. So if the only thing you’re looking at here when it comes to validating is sales, you’re missing out on a lot of other secondary benefits that come from this.

Even not creating a sale is feedback that something needs to be tweaked and changed and you’ve still created these amazing growth and buzz and opportunities. 100%, but some of these validation ideas you can actually get paid for and this is what I want to talk about right now. So I’m a huge fan of paid validation methods and what the cool kids are calling paid live trainings. I was just calling them online classes, but what do I know? And this is a short, sharp training. Basically it’s held live and then you’re testing your angle, you’re testing your headline, you’re testing your main message or one of your main messages of a larger program that you’re considering purchasing and in the process you’re getting paid. And like Simon, as far as I’m concerned, the ultimate validation of any idea is the customer or client pays for it. That is the ultimate pass or fail test, right? Because we can spend a lot of time and massive multinationals do spend a lot of money, a lot of resources, testing, market testing, market research, blah, blah, blah and they still get it wrong. And ultimately, is your customer, is your potential ideal client going to put their hand in their pocket and pay?

So these paid live trainings are really low cost, low risk way of validating your idea. So I’ve been selling them for $97, but I know you’ve been working with a few different people, Simon, who are selling them at different price points. Can you tell me what you’re seeing? Yeah. So there’s price ranges, yeah, between kind of like $97 to like $597 is typically what I’ve worked in and I’m sure there’d be other price ranges outside of that, but that seems to be with some of the audiences I’ve seen in Australia as like a bit of a sweet spot somewhere in there.

Little bit of a speed bump I see people make is try to price lower as if that’s going to be easier to sell. And there’s quite a few things around that and through the videos that we’re creating, we will touch on pricing in various different kinds of ways, but just talking on it a little bit here is that like the one pricing psychological thing is like if it’s cheap, if it’s a cheap price, then it’s a cheap product. So it can even be easier to sell something and it be seen as more valuable by pricing it a little bit higher, but we will get into pricing strategies probably some other time, but just wanted to offer that. Totally well. And I also want to kind of add to that just quickly. I have seen this in my own business. I’ve seen it in clients businesses where you’re giving something away for free, you’re struggling to get signups, you’ve turned it into a low priced product and all of a sudden it’s selling while you’re struggling to sell it for $59 or for $89, you increase the price to $200 or $300, whatever it is, and all of a sudden it’s selling because what we’re trying for with pricing is we’re trying to match the perceived value with the price. And if the price is too low and the perceived value is too high, people don’t buy. That’s just like long and the short of it.

Anyways, we’re kind of digressing a little bit back to the paid live trainings, back to this validation technique. Some of the benefits of doing this, number one, people are paying for it. You’re making a little bit of money. It’s a yes because people are paying for it. And this is the angle. This is testing your marketing message, testing your particular way that you’re presenting the idea or presenting the topic. You’re creating materials in the process. You’re also getting feedback on the pitch. So back to that point I just made, is the offer landing? Is the message right? Is the wording, the phrasing, the precise thing that you’re saying making sense to people and more than make sense? Are they compelled by it? You can get some great feedback from people.

After they’ve paid, they say, I’m here because I really liked when you said XYZ. And you’re like, great, invaluable feedback, right? Invaluable feedback to take and feed back through your marketing channels.

The testimonials, of course, and the case studies are also really useful, but it’s a way to validate the idea while teaching a tiny little chunk of it and getting paid in the process. Yeah. Awesome. And just with paid live trainings, like how could someone go about getting started with that? Yeah. I mean, I’ve made all mistakes. One of the mistakes I’ve made many months ago was I didn’t change the name and I didn’t really change the message of the paid live training and the premium group program.

So it looked from an outsider’s perspective like it was exactly the same thing, but the price tag was considerably higher. So it’s really, really important that you’re not kind of giving the name of the program that you ultimately land on and the whole kit and caboodle is not the paid live training. It is one piece of the puzzle, perhaps the first step, perhaps the quick win.

What I would suggest is a 90 minute online zoo workshop, where by you are obviously got a sales page to sell it. People are purchasing, you’re creating the materials a few days beforehand when you’re sure it’s an idea that people are actually buying and people are actually keen on, and then you’re delivering it live. You can also take a few little shortcuts, for example, and this talks back to the validation idea is rather than anticipating, oh, people are going to want this and people are going to want that and people are going to want these handouts and those resources, present first, ask lots of questions, get facilitation happening. So it’s not you on your soapbox talking incessantly for 90 minutes. Get the interaction, get the questions, get the conversation happening and after you may decide, okay, well, be useful if I could give them a one page on this or it would be useful if I could point them to a resource and it doesn’t have to be created by you.

You don’t have to promise the world for $97. You don’t have to burn yourself out. That’s not the point of this. The point is you’re delivering an excellent value. You’re validating the idea. You’re building trust and authority with your audience and you’re getting pain in the process. Yeah, that’s awesome. I think we could totally go deeper on that and I think we should in another training, but we do want to talk about another validation strategy that I see as one of the most useful, even sometimes before paid training and I think that it is an asset, a resource that not enough people do when it comes to building an audience and that is creating a lead magnet. That could be something that is very familiar if you’re aware of digital marketing, lead magnets have been around for a really, really long time and with good reason.

I think the name itself kind of is telling as to what it is. The idea is it magnetises leads to you when you’re in the service business or in any kind of business really. Sometimes we are quite reactive with the content we create or the way that we’re attracting leads is we’re kind of waiting for them to come to us or alternatively doing quite heavy pushy kind of selling and if that doesn’t really resonate with you, then you probably won’t do it very much, which could be why you’re not selling as much as you’d like to. A lead magnet can be a really helpful tool to attract people to you where you’re proactively creating value, a valuable piece of information for them that they download and access in exchange for some level of contact details, typically their email address.

So it really is a shift, a really useful valuable shift where you’re taking some time to produce something in advance. One of the things that I like about lead magnets is that it forces you to learn the digital skills that you will be learning to put together a course or a program and ultimately you may like to outsource certain pieces. Ultimately you may like Simon, for example, to do the heavy lifting of the tech or me to do the heavy lifting of the sales copywriting, but it’s still really, really useful to understand how the different elements fit together and what goes with what, even if it’s only going to be useful to break somebody because I’m sure both of us have had the experience a thousand times where the work that you get from somebody you’re outsourcing to or somebody you’re working with is only as good as the brief that you give that person.

So even if you have absolutely no intention of doing any of this yourself, it’s still super useful to understand the fundamentals of these skills. Yeah, understand at a high level how it works, how does it fit in so you know the bits, but you don’t have to get too bogged down into the detail. 100%. And you really want to give people the what rather than the how because the how is going to take time, right? The how is going to be long and detailed and maybe dry and maybe it has to happen over a period of time if you’re a coach or a consultant, but you can give them a quick win. You can demonstrate you know what you’re talking about.

If you’re selling services, you’re selling promises, you have to give away your knowledge to show that you have it, right? You have to give away your expertise to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about. And the other thing to keep in mind, and this is the value of those lead magnets, is for the lead magnet to be strategic, to strategically lead people from the free thing to the paid premium price group program. It’s all about the headline. It’s all about the angle. It’s all about the specifics of what that lead magnet is called. And that’s the you know the massive, massive difference between something that’s highly valuable but nobody’s interested in it and nobody’s signing up for it and something that everybody’s signing up for. Yeah, exactly.

And an example of that, I think a great example with that Brooke is with your hustle and heart program is a lead magnet that you’ve got is the blueprint to consistent 10k months. Like that is, I would hope for people watching this, that’s high perceived value in that headline. It almost doesn’t matter too much what’s in there. Like you want to fulfil the promise of what’s in there, have it be about a 10 minute read or something that it’s like oh wow, it’s a light bulb moment. Like it’s shifted thinking in some way but it’s not a 100 page document with everything you need to know about doing that.

It’s the high level steps, it’s the what not the how and it leads beautifully into if you like this, you’ll love this. If you love the blueprint, you’ll love the program where we work together one on one and in a group to actually apply this in your business and get results. Yeah and conversely if you disagree with those six things, well then you’re probably not going to go ahead which is good for you and good for me because neither of us are wasting our time. But it’s really important to appreciate that because I think there’s still a massive lag in the online business space.

I do hear a lot from people who are still really struggling, owners that really struggle with this concept of why on earth would I give away all my best ideas? Why on earth would I give away my IP in exchange for an email address? Well like if you don’t want to go to endless meetings after meetings and networking after networking and sales, cycle sales processes that last for nine months or two years before they fall over and the whole thing is a complete waste of time. If you do actually want to embrace the internet to sell, then you have to give it all away. What are your opinions? Yeah, 100%. I mean you’re going to anyway, like it’s just kind of behind the paywall. I typically say this like one of the easiest ways to create a lead magnet or create your own content is look at what you do after a client signs up. What are some of those early things that you get started with? Like when I’m teaching marketing funnels, I unpack my own business and what I used as a lead magnet and first things to sell clients was like as I’m doing web design and SEO, one of the first things we do is a bit of a workshop with the client to unpack where they’re going and where they’re kind of stuck. So I take that and now it’s its own product and its own lead magnet and there’s content surrounding that and it’s just outside of that initial paywall.

So then they can consume that, they can get value from that and it leads beautifully into the service anyway. And it’s not something new or different that needs to be created. It just needs to be repositioned and repackaged a little bit. All of that recycling, right son? 100% going to have that leverage. Absolutely.

So one of the things that we’re going to be teaching inside the Leverage Mastermind is the preliminary sales page and sales pages in general. Of course, sales page is super important but before we get to the sales page proper, the preliminary sales page is a brilliant idea. It helps to validate the offer. It is a bit of a stopgap before the proper sales page is released. It helps to validate your pitch. It helps for you to have the clarity and the confidence in what you’re saying and helps you to hone your message until it’s as tight and powerful as possible. And of course, you can measure that by how many people are signing up, how many eyeballs have seen the page and how many of those eyeballs have converted into email addresses or phone numbers. This is a really great, easy, low-risk, low-cost, no-cost validation strategy.

And the page doesn’t have to be this amazingly complicated thing. Like I would think and let me know what you think here, Brooke, but you’ve got a headline kind of, you know, this is probably what I think the headline will be. Here’s a short little couple of sentences, maybe even just a one-liner about what this is and what’s coming up. And then a form you can embed straight from something like Active Campaign or Insert, whatever thing you’re using here. And then that’s it. That’s your preliminary sales page to get something up. And I think this is from like the Lean Startup book or something like that. Like if you’re not embarrassed about your first version of this, then you waited too long to put it together. I love that. I love that. I love that. I love that. Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely. Like, you know, you can’t let your ego dictate what you’re doing in your business because your ego will keep you very, very cool. I can feel that. Fast me. It definitely feels that. So we’ve talked a bit about the preliminary sales pages, so we’ve got that set up. We might have a lead magnet. These things are great, but we still want to be building that buzz and building that awareness with the audience.

So I want to talk a little bit about how we can go about building that offer together with the people who are potentially going to buy, which might sound a little bit weird. Like don’t you just like come up with the idea and then you have the product and then you have them buy it? Like what better way to build a product than to have the people who are going to become customers contribute their feedback as to what would make it a no brainer to buy it. It makes so much sense to do that, but it’s kind of, it is almost counterintuitive in some way. I think it takes quite a bit of courage to do that, to say, I don’t have all the answers.

I was listening to a book by Dan Sullivan last night actually, and he was talking about his ideas and he was talking a bit about validation. His ideas and concepts are a 50% contribution to what it will end up in the end because he has to have his customers, his audience, whoever else it is, it has to engage with them. They’re the catalyst that turns it into something useful. So the products and things we’re creating, we need, we’ve got whatever we’ve come up with in our brain and our experience, we need the customer, we need the prospects to be the catalyst that turn it into what it will become, which will be that valuable thing they’ll ideally buy. Love it. I love it.

And you know, every time I do anything for the first time, I know it’s going to be the worst time. And I’m not approaching it with trepidation thinking, oh, this is going to be terrible. I’m approaching it with this open curiosity of like, okay, well that was great. People seem to like that. And I’m kind of writing a little note on the side, you know, I get to a part where it’s all clunky or it slows down or people look confused. Okay, great. Invalid and say, but you know, you can learn so much. And you’re really, you know, when you’re not open or curious and willing to fail, you’re missing so much. You’re missing the opportunity to learn so much. Yeah, absolutely.

There’s a couple of strategies that I’ve used before myself and with clients. One of them is the fast track email and I’ll talk to that in a sec. Then there’s a two question survey and then teaching live. So three different strategies. One of them, a fast track email is an example of that. This is when you’ve got a bit of an email list. But even if you don’t think creatively and resourcefully and we’ll share more details in future training, but you can take these tactics and apply it to your situation. But the fast track email is, I go something along the lines of, hi audience. Hey Brooke, I’ll be getting a lot of feedback that people are looking for training around getting some more leverage in their business. I’ve been working on a couple of things behind the scenes and I’d love to know if there’s one you’d like to see me fast track. The first one is how to leverage sales pages to generate leads before you sell your product. The next one is how to build a lead magnet in 10 minutes. And the other one is how to leverage AI to write authentic copy. Which one do you think could be most valuable? So you say that and then you get replies and then they’ll help you decide which one to fast track.

Now you don’t have to have built any of these or anything like that. It’s just general ideas about your audience, the message, the questions they’re asking, the challenges you know about from conversations you’re having and just putting your best guess out there. Yep. Love it. And the other one is the two question survey. So after doing that, then you’d say something along the lines of, cool, awesome. So everyone’s interested in AI and how you can leverage it for writing copy. I’m going to put this training together. But before I do, I’d love for you to answer two quick questions. Click here. There’s a survey, two quick questions around that. And one of the questions being, what would need to be in there for this to be an absolute no brainer for you to join? Yeah. I’ll share the other question with you some other time. We’ll keep that loop open.

But that’s one of the questions because then you’re building it with the audience. They’re telling you what needs to be in it for them to buy it. And it becomes more valuable. And there’s things you may not have even known or it validates things you’re like, oh, perfect. Getting a lot of feedback. That idea I had is a great idea and people really want that. 100%. 100%. So if there was like an absolute bare bones, like let’s just kind of go, okay, I don’t have time, don’t have time, overwhelmed, don’t have time. What do you think the bare bones minimum validation would be before you go creating a program or course? Yeah. I think most, if not everyone has access and has some kind of social media profile where friends, family, a couple of work colleagues, hopefully a bit more than that. If you’ve been, if you post a little bit, if nothing else, if that’s the only thing that you have, your only platform to share something in bulk, then I would start there and have a very, very soft opening something along the lines of, hey, I’ve got this idea of beginning having a lot of conversations with people about topic. Now I’m looking for a couple of people that would be open to having a chat or providing some feedback around this. Leave a comment if you’re interested or you’d be open to exploring this further. Something along those lines, just to, you know, you just go on fishing a little bit.

It’s not about nailing this first go and like a hundred people say I’m in and it was a great success. It’s just being like, all right, I’m going to put a bit of bait over there. Are there any fish over here? Does this bait work? I’m not sure. Like what variables are you got to play with? This bait’s delicious. I don’t know. Yeah, yeah. Don’t eat it yourself. Okay. I’m sending it to the fish. There’s so much to be gained with validating. And like we started off in this training, you know, please validating doesn’t happen by yourself. It’s not validating when it’s you and Google, you know, trying to figure it out and your creation cable by yourself. Do not do that.

The ultimate validation is people pay. That is the, you know, the one validation above all other validations. But in the process of being public with all of the different methods, all of the different strategies we’ve shared just now, don’t forget what you stand to gain. You stand to gain skills. You stand to gain confidence in your pitch. You stand to gain confidence in the need and the desire in your audience for your premium group program. You stand to gain visibility and reach. You get that visibility and reach. You get those opportunities you’re not expecting that come through all kinds of unexpected ways because people can see you for the first time. The balance you’ve created and of course, if you’re doing paid lab trainings, the additional income is pretty nice too, right?

Leverage Mastermind is open for application now. If you are keen to impact more people and take your clients deeper with a flagship group program, go to forward slash leveraged with a limited number of spots. Learning helps us see whether or not we’re a good fit and know it will not obligate you to take the next step. For those details again, go to forward slash leveraged.

Brook McCarthy Business Coach

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