014 – [Deep Dive] Thinkific & Online Courses

Today we’re digging into the platform many of my clients use to deliver content to their customers ~ Thinkific!

This is the first deep dive episode where I’m sharing a specific software solution rather than a concept or methodology alone. But it would be a mistake if we didn’t first discuss the tech challenge that Thinkific was created to solve ~ delivering online courses.

Online learning has been around for about two decades and in the past few years has become a vehicle for business owners outside of academics to teach what they are most passionate about and have learned themselves.

And as we go deep on all things Thinkific, we’re going to break through the 3 biggest barriers I see potential course creators face so that you can see how building an online course can grow your business.

Let’s start out with the biggest non-tech barrier: figuring out what problem your course is going to solve for your customers.

Take a look at your business right now – what is it that you’re helping your clients accomplish?

  • Are you helping them to establish habits?
  • Are you helping them with an aspect of their business?
  • Are you helping them learn a new skill or concept?
  • Are you training or coaching them on something you’ve already learned yourself?
  • Are you providing a professional service?
  • Are you an author or product creator or distributor or agent?

Looking at your own business successes is the most logical place to start an online course. Something that you already do well will lend itself nicely to a course.

When I first started on Thinkific, almost exactly 2 years ago, I created a course that taught virtual assistants and DIYers how to create a quiz on their website using Gravity Forms that acted as a lead magnet. I was doing this task regularly for my clients and was considering opening a virtual assistant agency. Obviously I didn’t take that path, but the point of this aside is that I took something that I knew really well and built a course around that.

And I know you can too… take a few minutes after you’re finished listening to this episode and brainstorm 3-5 problems that you help your clients overcome. These will be processes that you’ve nailed in your business that you can walk through from top to bottom without much hesitation. And just like that, we’ve got potential courses!

Now that we’ve got that on the sideburner, let’s turn our focus to the tech barriers I see most often and how Thinkific is poised to help you smash through them!

The first tech barrier is in committing to a new software tool and increasing your tech footprint.

There are many options for course delivery, it’s fairly obvious that my recommendation is currently Thinkific. And it has been for a couple of years already. I also had a conversation with one of the developers there earlier this month and what they’ve got on the horizon is further solidifying my alliance with Thinkific.

So, let’s talk about Thinkific for a few minutes then we’ll come to the final tech barrier…

Thinkific, in their words, is a software platform that enables both individuals and businesses to create, market, sell, and deliver online courses on their own website.

And in my words, Thinkific is a course delivery platform where just about anyone can create a course on just about anything and wholly own their intellectual property.

On Thinkific you own your intellectual property ~ Thinkific has made the decision to silo their course creators which means that your leads and students will only ever see your content when they visit your school.

Thinkific recently launched their new site builder, which is a tool that makes it super easy to create attractive landing pages for your courses. There are three base “themes” and several “styles” available within each theme which you, as the course creator, can further customize with colors and fonts, imagery and text.

These site builder landing pages are designed to look good on computers, tablets and mobile phones. Many of these recent enhancements came about from feedback from their user base of over 25,000 business owners and course creators.

Many of my clients who use Thinkific do their own work on the platform. They don’t need a developer or techie on hand to get their courses created and launched. This is actually one of the reasons I love Thinkific so much – because I can come in, do what is needed and then get out and let my clients continue on.

In addition to protecting your course content from unauthorized users, you can also protect non-course related pages. Pages that are outside your course might be links to office hours zoom calls, discount codes for additional courses, partner offers or other student benefits and announcements.

Thinkific has also taken care of your students by providing reminder emails, forgot password logic and the ability to issue certificates. These all make it easy to keep your courses self-contained.

Everything within your Thinkific site is self-contained but that’s not to say that it cannot communicate with other online entities. And this brings us to our other tech-barrier: integration and setup.

This question is usually phrased as: “How can I connect or use XYZ with Thinkific?” where XYZ is:

  • Payment processing
  • Email Marketing
  • Facebook or Google tracking
  • Even your WordPress website might fall into this question

Fortunately, the Thinkific development team has created an integration panel within the dashboard that allows you to connect to many of the popular tools and services. These include a simple place to connect your Thinkific account with Stripe and Payment, several popular email marketing platforms and even insert your Facebook pixel.

In addition, Thinkific has an integration with Zapier that allows two way connect-ability between them and the most popular services on the web.

Some of the reasons why running online courses as part of your business strategy makes sense.

Online courses fall into the one-to-many realm. Your course can be taken by many people simultaneously without more effort from you. As a course creator, you design and implement your course at the outset and then can continue to provide it as an option to people now and into the future. This is what many call Passive Income.

This style of learning is perfect for the DIYer in your audience. Your course may consist of video lessons, audio downloads, checklists, worksheets, quizzes and whatever else you determine will help your audience achieve their goal. Your audience will be able to complete the course on their timeline and schedule!

Your expertise, experience and knowledge are just some of the reason your clients choose to work with. Leaning into this knowledge and creating a course that showcases your expertise will provide concrete value to the course taker will further elevate you in their mind.

Courses allow a service provider to be more accessible to their newer audience members. It’s part of the customer journey:

  • free content
  • subscribe to your gated content
  • buy your course
  • book a call
  • join your workshop or join your program
  • become a success story and tout your praise to everyone we know who may benefit from what you offer.

There we have it… let’s wrap this conversation up with the question I get asked most often: “Why do I need Thinkific if I already have a WordPress site that can host a course?”

I used to think that way too – but what I realized is that in order for us to leverage systems for what they do best, we need to embrace them. Would you ever ask a chef to create a meal using with a swiss army knife and a single pan? It’s not that they wouldn’t be able to succeed, it’s that they are not the most logical tools to create that meal. It benefits the chef to have several cooking dishes, knives and other utensils and it benefits you because the chef will create a higher caliber meal that they can feel good about.

I’d rather see you put your time, energy and passion into the course content and not into making WordPress bend and flex and frustrate you along the way.

I hope you’ve found this deep dive episode of the Tech of Business podcast helpful and exciting. Please share it with a friend or colleague.

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