When you are first starting out, building an audience from scratch is daunting.
Trust me, it was scary as hell having no email list or social following when I first started Teachable in the fall of 2014.
It took so much work to get each new customer to try our platform. Six months into building Teachable, we had less than 20 active customers making money every month.
But then something happened in 2015 that completely turned our fortunes around. We found a shortcut that kickstarted the entire process of getting more customers.
Enter the joint venture aka the jay-vee (JV).
A joint venture is a partnership between yourself and another person (or company) to strike a relationship with value exchanged between both parties.
There are many different variants of joint venture (JV) partnerships — but the most frequent kind of JV partnership entails one party having incredibly valuable content and the other party having an audience hungry for that content.
In the last twelve months, we have leveraged every single type of joint venture there is (and innovating and creating our own) to grow to over a million students and we’re sharing what we learned.
Welcome to the most potent chapter in the Teachable growth playbook.
The Teachable Joint Venture Playbook
Instead of waxing poetic with advice you have heard a thousand times before, I’m going to open up our playbook and break down eight very specific types of joint ventures that we have employed in the last year.
Each of these joint venture “templates” is perfectly reproducible whether you are selling an online course, software or other digital products. With each template, I’m including resources including sales pages, recordings and email swipe copy wherever possible so you can replicate this effectively.
Sure, we’ve listed specific people we’ve worked with, but that’s because we love them, not because you have to work with someone exactly like them for your JV to be successful. I mostly just wanted to take this opportunity to holler at them.
Drumroll……without further ado, here’s joint ventures straight from the Teachable growth playbook:
1. The Simple Affiliate JV
A partnership with Melyssa Griffin where she sold our Black Friday special deal as an affiliate
This is the simplest form of an affiliate deal – and fortunately, something you can do inside Teachable incredibly easily.
Recruit someone with a relevant audience as an affiliate, give them a unique tracking link and, for simplicity, offer them 50% of the sale (though you can set custom commission structures if you so care).
For the Black Friday deal, we recruited the fabulous Melyssa Griffin of melyssagriffin.com, gave her a unique affiliate link to our Black Friday special deal and a 50% commission on every single sale she drove.
People with a relevant audience could be instructors teaching similar skills, a trade publication, magazine or blog or even a daily deal site. If you are looking for affiliates, our Instructor Facebook group (The Teachable Tribe) could be a good place to start.
- What’s in it for us: More sales to an audience we otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
- What’s in it for them: 50% (or whatever amount decided) commission for producing the sale
- Results: We’re very happy with how Melyssa and the rest of our Black Friday affiliates did collectively bringing in close to a hundred sales that we otherwise would not have seen.
For added pizazz, ask your affiliates to include something small from their end for people purchasing through their link.
Not only does this convert a lot better, but it helps you select better affiliates that care about what they are promoting versus people that will promote anything.
2) The Software Company JV
A partnership with Noah Kagan and SumoMe where we delivered high-quality training (via a webinar) to their audience & offered them content convincing their audience to buy their own product
When you are just starting out with webinars and joint-venture webinars, this might be the easiest deal structure to convince a partner of — to introduce you into their audience to help them convert their own subscribers into buyers.
SumoMe heavily featured us to their 100k+ mailing list at SumoMe as they promoted our joint training. In return, we created a kick-ass presentation teaching their entire audience everything we know about online courses. We dropped references to their product all through the workshop. At the end, we offered a free training course to anyone that was on a free SumoMe plan that upgraded to a paid SumoMe plan.
Unlike other JV webinars, no money or e-mail addresses traded hands. We received no commission from people that upgraded their SumoMe plan and no email addresses of registrants or attendees. Despite this, since we were featured to so many people, this promotion was a huge net win resulting in both our single highest day and single highest week of signups. A lot of these free signups eventually converted via our normal onboarding funnels.
- What’s in it for us: Exposure to a massive email list.
- What’s in it for them: Bringing high-quality content to their audience, along with converting a number of free subscribers to paying subscribers
- Results: SumoMe got an undisclosed number of upgrades that they were very happy about. We got our highest 1-day and 7-day signups to-date and a recording of a high-quality webinar we could use to convince future partners to work with us.
- Resources: Click here to get a recording of the workshop
If you haven’t done a joint venture webinar yet, start here. Think of someone with a large audience you know that might be reluctant to give up money and pitch them on doing a free, purely value-add workshop that they could use to convert their free subscribers into paying users.
And when you succeed, you migrate onwards and upwards to #3.
3) The Default TeachableTM JV
A partnership with Bryan Harris where we delivered high-quality training to his audience—except, now we bundled together a year of our software, premium training from Bryan and our own premium training as a single bundle offer to his audience.
This is a combination of the first and second type of joint venture. Your partner introduces you to their audience, you deliver a bomb-ass presentation and end with an amazing bundle offer that combines the best of what you each have to offer to create a really, really good deal.
Each party gets 50% of the proceeds from the offer at the end… and hopefully everyone goes home happy. That’s exactly what happened with Bryan. He invited his email list to join a valuable workshop on creating and selling online courses, 1400+ people registered and almost 500 people showed up live with 15% eventually purchasing the bundle offer. At lower price points, this can sometimes be as high as 30%. Just ask Mariah how she creates high-converting webinars.
- What’s in it for us: Exposure to a brand new audience, email addresses for our list, new paying customers
- What’s in it for them: Goodwill for providing high-quality content to their audience and a substantial amount of money by effectively sending a couple of emails
- Results: Teachable acquired 50+ paying customers and Bryan received a good pay day for an afternoon’s worth of work
When done well, this is one of the highest leverage joint venture structures there is.
Be careful though—the devil is sometimes in the details. When you agree to getting a date in the calendar, make sure you talk through all the specifics:
- Does the person delivering the workshop get email addresses of all registrants? All attendees? All buyers? No email addresses? Based on the circumstances, we have seen all of the above. Just make sure it’s explicitly clear from the outset.
- What is the host’s (i.e. the person whose audience it is) responsibility? We recommend having the host present during the entire workshop, introducing you, making insightful comments through the presentation and emphasizing the value of the deal during the offer.
- Who is hosting the registration page for the webinar? Ensure they send at least three reminder emails — normally 24 hours before, 4 hours before and 5 minutes before.
- Who is responsible for sending the follow-up emails? We recommend sending at least three follow-up emails. Failing to send them in a timely manner can be the difference between an incredibly well-converting workshop and a disappointing workshop.
This is ultimately the “default” relationship when people suggest doing a joint venture webinar and the deal structure you will probably employ the most.
My recommendation is establish all the specifics early, create a standardized Google Doc (here’s an example Google Doc from Bryan) that you send to all partners and avoid awkward conversations down the line.
4) The Podcast JV
A partnership with Nick Loper to appear on his podcast Side Hustle Nation etc.
This one is absurdly simple and something you have probably already participated in or thought about. You probably just never thought of it as a “joint venture” before.
If you have a compelling story, it’s a no-brainer to say yes to appearing on any and every podcast you are invited on. While this will not necessarily move the dial quickly, momentum starts to build up. Once you prove to be a compelling guest on a single podcast, it begets more invitations from other shows.
Don’t always wait to be invited. Podcast hosts are always on the lookout for interesting guests and you have nothing to lose by contacting hosts and asking them if they’d be interested in having you on. Be explicit in talking about your openness to sharing the episode in as many channels as you feel comfortable doing (or alternatively giving the show host an affiliate link) so they know it will be reciprocated.
- What’s in it for us: Exposure to an audience we wouldn’t otherwise have.
- What’s in it for them: Interesting content, social media promotion.
- Results: Sadly no quantifiable metrics but lots of anecdotal “heard about Teachable from X podcast” outreach
Once you get the hang of it and if you enjoy the medium, consider flipping the table and creating your own podcast and inviting people you want to connect with to be guests.
5) The Reverse Software JV
A partnership with Mariah Coz where we brought her to our Teachable audience and she offered incredibly valuable content to help us upgrade our own customers
This is the complete inverse of #2—and something we did when we realized we had over 20,000 free users at Teachable that had not paid us a dime. (We love y’all the same)
We decided to reward them with an incredibly high-quality workshop from one of our favorites, Mariah Coz, where she taught how to sell online courses with webinars. We assumed a large reason why people had not upgraded was because they lacked the knowledge on how to get results selling online courses—so bringing in Mariah would help bridge the gap.
At the end of the workshop, anyone who upgraded their Teachable plan got Mariah’s premium course on webinars, Webinar Rockstar completely free.
If you have a large number of free subscribers that have never purchased anything from you, this strategy works incredibly well -both in terms of featuring your partner to a large audience they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, as well as immediately moving people further into your paid funnel.
- What’s in it for us: High-quality content that educates our audience to achieve their goals, access to a premium course to help convert our free subscribers
- What’s in it for them: Access to a large audience in a relevant vertical live on a workshop.
- Results: We got 50+ people upgrade from a free plan to a premium plan in return for the premium course. Mariah was introduced to the Teachable audience who still email us every day asking us to bring her back
Again, things to talk through ahead of time are: ownership of email addresses, making it explicitly clear whether the workshop was for your entire list or only a specific segment and potential reciprocity down the line.
6) The Guest Post JV
A partnership with Taylor Davidson where writes a guest blog post for our audience
We have a popular blog (where you are right now, hurrah!) that we have painstakingly grown to 35K+ subscribers by creating high-quality content (ahem).
Sometimes, creating all this high-quality content gets exhausting. There are only so many hours in the day and we’re always triaging priorities to ensure we regularly deliver amazing posts.
Enter badass guest posts.
We are thankful to have people in our network that happen to be 1) excellent writers, but more importantly 2) have experiences worth writing about.
So we decided to open up a guest blogging program and invite great writers like Taylor to write for our community.
- What’s in it for us: High-quality content that keeps our blog readers engaged, SEO benefits of great content
- What’s in it for them: Access to a large audience that they wouldn’t have access to.
- Results: Taylor’s post was awesome and we are now accepting submissions for more guest posts
Like other JV partnerships mentioned here, the inverse of this is not just possible, but also something you absolutely should do when you starting out i.e. pitch other blogs that already have an audience high-quality content to publish.
Write a badass draft article and find a list of relevant blogs with large audiences and send them the draft right away. Offer them an exclusive i.e. they get to publish it as original content if they send it out to their list.
Remember though, popular blogs get a LOT of guest post pitches, so make sure you follow the advice of the ineffable Brian Clark from CopyBlogger and Darren Rowse from Problogger as you start pitching:
The one thing to discuss explicitly in all guest posting opportunities is if you can use a content upgrade in the post. A content upgrade offers some kind of “upgraded content” in exchange for an email address.
For instance, we do NOT offer this opportunity on the Teachable blog, but have included our own content upgrades in guest posts to other blogs.
Obviously, posts with content upgrades have a higher-ROI since a great post can sometimes help you acquire 200+ email addresses in one go.
7) The Course Interview JV
A partnership with David Kadavy where we interviewed him as part of our premium course
In Million Dollar Instructor, I sat down and interviewed David Kadavy (from Design for Hackers) and 8+ others for 45 minutes and invited them to share incredibly specific and actionable advice on how they built and sold profitable online courses.
While no money traded hands in this JV-structure, this was a complete no-brainer from our perspective:
- It immediately made our course more valuable by including insights from other brilliant creators like David who have specific anecdotes on what worked from them.
- It made the offer on our sales page more attractive since a student was now getting our best insights AND David’s expertise AND tips from other influencers they may have heard of.
- It strengthened the rest of the content. Since I interviewed many of these people and learned from them *before* putting together some modules, I was able to make the rest of the course substantially stronger based on new learnings.
- I made great relationships from those eight interviews that have paid off 100x more. In the following months, we partnered with Josh Payne from StackCommerce to build StackSkills. We did a JV webinar with Nathan Barry, we invited Caleb Wojick to our winter summit — to say nothing of the fact that I’m now friends with each and every person in that list.
If you are building a premium course worth over $200+, you have absolutely no reason to not be doing this RIGHT NOW.
I repeat, you have no reason to not be doing this for every single premium course you build.
- What’s in it for us: All of the above
- What’s in it for them: Free exposure for a small amount of time invested. Most people want to help, this provides them a way of helping that’s scalable.
- Results: We had a very successful course launch — but moreover, amazing relationships that have paid out many times over.
The other cool thing about this kind of a promotion is it makes the partner (in this case, David) more vested in the course since it’s no longer just our product rather a product that he now has a part in putting together.
Consequently, when the course was ready for launch, I shot David an email asking him if he would like to be an affiliate (same deal as #1). Since he now felt more connected to the course, he immediately said YES and helped sell Million Dollar Instructor.
Had we gone to David right off the bat asking him if he wants to be an affiliate, he likely would have said no. By interviewing him, not only did we make the course stronger and form a great relationship, we also recruited an affiliate.
8) The Online Summit JV
A partnership with Brennan Dunn where we was part of our Teachable Summit
Now, we’re getting real. We held a virtual summit last November and it was awesome.
We had mastered the other kinds of JV’s at that point and figured that we knew the market well enough to innovate and create our own structure.
Once you are comfortable enough with #1-#7 here (and only then), try this. Until we put together a detailed case study, these Cliff Notes will suffice:
We invited Brennan Dunn (and seven other experts) to host a live, workshop to our audience at the Teachable Summit.
We took on complete responsibility for promoting the event and putting 500+ live attendees on all workshops. A single workshop eclipsed 1,000+ live attendees. Brennan’s job was simply to come in and deliver a rehearsed workshop to the hungry attendees.
Here’s where it gets interesting though. At the end of every workshop in the summit, we offered not just a year of our software and a premium course from Brennan (like a standard JV webinar), BUT a bundle of premium courses from EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the summit + one year of Teachable software.
It was totally ridiculous and worked better than we could have imagined.
While this was incredibly challenging to produce, coordinate and manage, it was easily the single best converting offer we have ever run.
It was a win for our partners since they were in front of a huge live audience, positioning themselves against other great names and delivering their best, rehearsed content one more time in front of a hungry audience.
And we had our own largest and best converting workshop ever.
Plus, it was so much fun.
- What’s in it for us: A high-quality live workshops and valuable courses to help convert our audience. Plus, some of our summit partners doubled as affiliates and emailed their list in return for a 50% commission.
- What’s in it for them: Access to a large live audience, positioning amongst great names and they got to spend time with yours truly (kidding, mostly)
- Results: We sold 500+ annual plans and generated a ton of value and goodwill amongst our community since each of the speakers completely killed it.