You may have decided to build a community for the students of your online course or coaching practice. But when you add a major new element to your online business, you want to make sure it reaches its full potential to create value for your students. You also want to see the returns. The best way to reach that full potential is to make sure your marketing efforts—from your Teachable sales page to your newsletter and social channels—fully reflect the value you’re now providing to students and clients through community.
Here, we’ll show you how to demonstrate the concrete value of community to your students before they buy and understand why marketing your community as added value is key.
Provide value between course launches & coaching sessions
Many professional community builders believe one of community’s greatest strengths is its potential to create alignment between goals. These are the goals you’re hoping to achieve for your business and the goals your customers are hoping to achieve by purchasing your product. When these two elements are in harmony, your customers are happier, and your business is healthier.
It’s no surprise the core value you want to communicate to students about community is actually almost the same as the core value you get out of community as a business. Community keeps value flowing through your business even between major content drops. For you as a business owner, achieving a steadier flow of content means more predictable and sustainable income. For students, it means if they’re paying a subscription fee or for one time content drops, they get continuous bang for their buck.
And the best part: In a functioning community, much of that value stream will actually be created by the community. This frees up your time to focus on creating high-ticket products.
Even if you run a one-time-purchase-based course business and only have a new offering once or twice a year, continuously providing valuable content and giving students a reason to engage in your community can actually make the case for adding a subscription-based income stream.
Students might pay one subscription fee for access to your community and all your courses when available. Or your community might be a subscription-based add-on. Content wise, the sky’s the limit on how you can add value through your community. Popular options to try are things like:
- Providing a monthly live video Q&A on your course content through the community
- Providing advice or feedback on practice work students submit through the community
- Giving your students in your community early access to future course content that’s still in development in exchange for feedback
Whatever you decide, make sure the core value proposition you emphasize in your marketing materials is that students get access to continuous valuable content through the community all the time, not just at major launches.
Come for the content, stay for the community
When we think of the true value of community, many of us think of human connection, friendship, and accountability. And, those things are often the true value. They’re the things that become priceless and unskippable and keep people coming back to your community again and again. But, usually just communicating this up front is not enough to convince someone to join or engage in a community. In community, the ultimate value takes time to build. Naturally, “decision-making” value has to be more concrete. For that, compelling content is your best bet for marketing your community.
Think of it this way: When adults try to make in-real-life friends, they often do so by doing activities that interest them. They may go to a yoga class, ceramics studio, or even just a local bar to meet people. But, it’s important that there’s an activity or “reason” for being there outside of forming friendships, even if the friendships are ultimately the reason they become a “regular” at those establishments. Why? First, because it often feels too vulnerable to say you’re going somewhere just to make friends. And secondly, because in order to make friends, we need shared experiences that give us common ground.
Therefore, it’s important when communicating the value of your community to talk more about the concrete things you’ll offer than the intangible, long-term outcomes. A good way to think about framing this is to describe your community’s “features” just as you would describe the feature set of a software or physical product. In this case, the “features” are the content you provide within the community.
If you were selling a purse, you’d explain that it had things like “a glossy, fashionable exterior, an adjustable strap, a built-in wallet, stain-resistant lining, and lots of exterior pockets.” Similarly, you want to describe your community content as the feature set of your community. Instead of just saying “come to the community to make friends,” say “come to the community to access monthly workshops with the instructor, priority feedback from the instructor and peers, private access to moderated discussions with like-minded individuals, and early access to beta courses not available to the public.”
We have a “sales page checklist” to get you started on the right foot—for free.
Check your instincts with member research
We make a lot of assumptions about what our members want in communities. This can be based on what we want, either as individuals or as community leaders. For example, we may assume it’s better for all community members to actively participate in most conversations. But in reality, many of them may feel content and get a lot of value just from reading the conversations of others. Or, we may assume that community members want accountability to finish a course. In reality, they may feel like they’ve got the motivation covered and are more interested in actionable feedback to get to the next steps.
Our assumptions about what community members want, or even how to phrase those wants, are often wrong. So, it’s important to actually talk to community members to validate your instincts about what’s valuable to them. Before you describe your community “feature set” on your sales page or in your newsletter, set up phone calls with a few prospective community members to get their thoughts.
Aim to understand what they want and how they typically describe it. Then use the language that resonates when you talk to your audience.
Community is continuous
Because community is continuous, talking about it should be, too. We’ve talked a lot here about how to frame a community as valuable in static, pre-purchase marketing materials like your sales page or launch emails. But, once you have a community up and running, it’s important to continue to get full value out of the space by incorporating it consistently into your marketing on more ongoing channels. This could be via social media and your newsletter.
Community is happening all the time. This should also make marketing your course easier, as you gather student stories, testimonials, and common challenges within your community environment.
Consider continuous marketing plays like:
- Carving out a recurring segment in your newsletter to talk about what’s happening in your community
- Using your social media channels to elevate community members’ success stories
- Turning the best conversations in your community into case studies or best practice listicles for your blog
Last but not least, don’t forget to reference back to your community within your actual course materials. This way, students are continuously reminded of the value they can access there as they consume your course.
Want more on community? If you’re just getting started and looking to create a customized community launch framework (everything from choosing software to activating your members), Noele has got you covered there, too. Her lean community launch framework is a great way to strategize for a new community, even if you have a small team—or even a team of one.