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October 5, 2022

Billy Broas, Online Course Marketing Expert on the Disco Creator Series

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Creator sessions are a weekly, sometimes bi-weekly series where we gather the best of the best in the course creation world, share their learnings, insights and have a really great community-driven conversation. 

Billy Broas is a messaging strategy, strategist, and absolute expert when it comes to marketing and online live learning experiences. Billy has been in this space for a long time for virtual space going back to 2010 with his own course. Since then, he's helped over 100 entrepreneurs grow sales for their online courses, working with some of the biggest names in the live learning space. You can check out his website and the 5 Lightbulbs Framework here.

What’s your backstory in launching your course and how has that brought you into working with other course creators?

Back in 2010, I sold my first seat in an online course for $29. It was a beer brewing course, how to brew your own beer at home. At the time, I had a career, I had a real job, and I was working in the clean energy industry. I loved that job, the people in it, but I had this itch to get out and do my own thing. On nights and weekends, I started blogging and writing about craft beer and home brewing, because that was really taking off then. It took about four years to get it to that point where I could sell my first course. 

My website was like my little playground for starting a business and learning all about it. Messaging is the key thing that I specialize in marketing. I'm not a big tech guy. I'm not big on Facebook ads or split testing or funnels or any of that I'm like Have a word nerd. And so I started to meet other people who were doing what I was doing. 

I was consulting with established online course creators, and really helping them grow using what I know, largely messaging. And then, more recently, running my own programs as well, teaching what I know about marketing.

What led you to focus on messaging and how has that played into selling and marketing remarkable life learning experiences?

I've always had a knack for understanding complex things and translating them into simple words that people can understand, which is really what marketing is: education. We feel like we need to become this other person put on this slick marketers hat and say all these fancy words in order to sell our products. My whole thing is: that's not true. 

I'm trying to change how we look at marketing, to show that you can be yourself, authentic, to actually create good marketing. I mean good in the way that good music is good, has its own standalone value. And not only does that work, but it works better.

I think more people will realize that once they start really taking the risk to be themselves, be authentic, and let their personality shine through in their marketing. Because when you do that you develop that relationship with your reader. There's really nothing stronger than that. You can get away with not having the best practices, not having the best funnel, not being big into testing, if you have that relationship. It's a game changer. It's a cheat code. So that's really what I focus on.

What does it mean to market for, rather than to, your audience? 

We all know the examples on the internet marketing side of things, the hype, the urgency, like the countdown timers that expire then just reset again. 

If you're doing a lot of volume, running ads, split testing, and all those things like that those can eke out benefits for you adding a countdown timer can get you a few extra conversion points. 

I think there's a larger game to be played in the larger when you could have like, I think those things are just kind of at the margins. 

If you take this approach, and you use storytelling, you use metaphors and you treat yourself as the guide for people, then you can get much bigger wins than any of those those little tactics at the margins. 

For example, I'm a huge Seinfeld fan. I didn't know for the longest time that J. Peterman, that company and that guy in the show, is actually a real company. They do things very differently. 

Here's how they sell a t-shirt, with some baseball sleeves, as they're called. 

What do you notice from this? The first word that jumps out is storytelling. And look, they don't even look like they're a successful company. They don't have a picture of it. It's a drawing. It's this idea of how you express your message. 

The words that come to mind for me are warmth. Even love romance, that nostalgia. I talk about this in my newsletter a lot -- what to say and how to say it. There's what you're saying about the shirt, which is really just for most people, it's just this for most companies, it's just this, right? 100%, cotton, to button, whatever. But how you say it is so important. 

And in this case, it's wrapped up in this whole story. If you want to see the stark contrast, go look at the target website for the Hanes shirt. 

It doesn't really matter if it's a shirt or an online course. The way you communicate, how you say it is really important, and taking that storytelling approach has really been at the heart of a lot of the successes with online courses.

What would you say are some of the things that successful course creators do differently when it comes to creating really magnetic marketing?

You have to look at the offer. It's this combination of the offer and the person it's sold to. That's really important. You have to start with that. What is the thing that you're selling? And how big a problem does it solve? You'll see that with the top course creators in markets where there's a lot of pain, and people are willing to pay good money to solve that problem.

That was one of the challenges about the home beer brewing niche is that it was very tough to sell expensive products in that niche. I sold a program a senior program just recently, for close to $10,000. And that was an easier sale than selling $100 beer brewing course. Reason being it's a different offer and a different customer. So you really want to think about that. 

What is the problem you're solving and more importantly, whose problem are you solving? And are they willing to pay money for it? That's the first thing. 

The next thing I'd say is, really focus on the customer. It's all customer-focused, it's about having conversations with customers. It's not the pretty thing that you see, it's behind the scenes, but they really talk to their audience, get to know them, ask questions. That makes such a big difference. Because then you're taking the language from the customer's mouth, you're not starting with your product and starting with your customers. What can I do that will serve you and help you get the best results possible? 

What strategies do you suggest? 

It's more important to just get started and to be consistent. 

Figure out what you can stick with, what you're good at. It's usually one or the other for people. It's either doing stuff live doing well, live video, pre-recorded video, or writing, Google SEO, because this is a conversation around traffic. 

How can course creators find their storytelling voice? 

What's that word that you say too often? Everyone has one of these. Yeah, literally, really? Super, Amazing. I use awesome a lot. That's part of your personality, so lean into that, and use that. Be known as that person that uses that word too often, and poke fun of yourself. That's how you don't really find your voice. You reveal it because it's already part of you. Think about what hobbies you're into, ask yourself, am I talking about my hobbies? Are you telling your story? It is cemented in the idea of practice. It's going about revealing what's already there? Not so much finding it.