088: Thinkific…Creating an Online Course Playground for Entrepreneurs with Dana Malstaff, Founder of Boss Moms (Thinkific Series #5 of 6)

Today’s episode, number 88, is with none other than Dana Malstaff of Boss Moms. I knew about Dana years ago.  And I followed her along her journey as she really built an empire which I think has transcended even her greatest expectations. Dana is no longer using Thinkific, but she’s still advocates for Thinkific for her members and her community.

I think that this conversation showcases the power of Thinkific to help your business do more online.  That’s why I really wanted to include Dana in this Thinkific series because she brings so much value to the airwaves.  She brings so much value to her community. In this episode, she brings so much value to the conversation about thinking about online courses and using tools to get the job done.

Let’s get into this conversation with Dana.

This is going to be such an insightful conversation for our listeners, because Dana has a wealth of experience on Thinkific and with course platforms.  I’m just excited to bring Dana’s expertise in today. So if you don’t know who Dana is, she runs the massively successful Boss Moms business. It’s a whole business complete with trademarks.  But the online community is just the place that has so vibrantly in organically grown on its own. Boss Moms everywhere are taking over the world.

Dana has a podcast and a community.  She has a Facebook community. And a membership.  She has run courses and done launches. Specifically, of course, since this is part of the Thinkific series, we’re going to talk about what she has done on Thinkific in the past and how it’s helped her to grow to where she is today.

Dana didn’t start on Thinkific.

As a matter of fact, we aren’t actually sure if Thinkific was around when Dana got started.  She remembers buying her first WordPress plugin. It was like a WP course and she was giving membership levels. And she was going in the back end trying to figure out  how to give people access and doing different things. Then she had to figure out how people could pay her. As you can see there were a lot of steps and things to do on the back end of her business to make it work.

Then one day I Thinkific reached out to her.

They said, “Hey, would you be interested in coming on and having a chat with us?” Dana agreed to this conversation with Thinkific. She was just getting started and she didn’t have a big community yet.  Thinkifc got Dana on a call and they were walking her through what their program was. Of course she wanted to try it.

Just a side note, Dana knows a lot of people at Thinkific.  They often will get on the phone and chat. They talk about like what her audience needs.  And she always recommends Thinkific because it is one of the best places to start. Why? Because you don’t have to worry about all the things.  It’s just one place that they make as easy as humanly possible for you to put something out to the world.

So all of Dana’s opt-ins are on Thinkific.

In Thinkific, you’ll find all the coursework, onboarding processes for her group coaching program, etc.  According to Dana, they work brilliantly! Dana tells people that’s it’s one thing to have a plugin that is free.  But with Thinkific, it would take her a fraction of the time to get something up and running and going in Thinkific than anywhere else.  Time is money!

Dana can remember having a 4 hour course of content that she had recorded that she needed to get up into Thinkific. And it only took her 30 minutes to get it in Thinkific and running.    If she would have done that anywhere else, it would have taken her 8 to 10 hours. And that time that was saved is time she can spend on marketing, which is what actually brings me money. So it’s like Thinkific saves you money.

I think that’s a brilliant way of saying it.

I frequently tell people to use a hosted platform where there is support.  Because if you run into trouble, and you are Thinkific customer, you can email them, contact them,  and even call them and they make it so easy. Whereas, if you’re using some of the other platform, whether they’re hosted or not hosted, you don’t necessarily have that.  Oor you have everything piecemeal everything. Which if you don’t have someone like me on your team, who can take care of those things, then all of a sudden you’re going down 234 rabbit holes.

One of the reasons why I love Thinkific so much is because it gets your content out there. It gets you selling.  And it gets you proving your concept. It gets you to the point where you can double down on re-recording those videos so they look more professional. You can double down on community engagement.  And you can double down on those other things. Because this big huge boulder is not in your way of all the tech and all the needing to do everything else.

Dana often finds in business that most people spend 80% of their time making content and trying to make the thing they think is going to sell.  When you should be spending 80% of your time marketing and 20% of the time doing content creation. Most real successful people spend 80% of their time getting people to know they exist and to buy their stuff.  Thinkific helps you get you into that space.

Let’s talk a little bit about what Dana has used Thinkific for and about the trajectory of when she moved over to Thinkific after that phone call.

I was curious about Dana’s move to Thinkific.  I wanted to know if there was one course that was a flagship course.  Or if she had lots of mini courses. So I was curious what that structure looked like and the student trajectory for her members within her programs.

So one of the first things rhey needed to do was move in their opt in.

They had a really popular opt in for Trello, which showed people basically how they use Trello as a project management/workflow tool for their business.  This opt in was created because they found that time management seemed to be one of the biggest issues for moms and moms who wanted to be Boss Moms.

So they wanted to show their subscribers,  “Well, here’s how we understand our time, here’s how we manage our time and how we make time.  And how this can actually help you get a virtual assistant or somebody even quicker because it’s all in one place.”  They had a lot of success with that.

Originally it was a video that they on a landing page.

And then they had timestamps for it that would allow the subscriber to jump to certain points in the video to see what they wanted to see. That worked for a long time.  But they wanted to up that experience. So we put it into Thinkific and made it an actual course. It was an actual opt in course.

Here is where it made it possible for Dana to see metrics such as places that everybody  was stopping and make adjustments to the course as it was needed. This allowed her to be able to add in what they would need to do next, which would be a call with Dana.   And that call to me would lead to one on one clients or people joining her academy program.

Before Dana really had a ton of coursework, she had a group coaching program.

And so what they would do is every time they would do training for different topics for their group coaching program, they would take those and put them in as coursework into Thinkific.  They just started to make Thinkific this sort repository of content. So that as they were getting people into the Academy, they would just use Thinkific, create a bundle, and say, “Oh, here’s your Academy bundle.  You get access to all of the content that we’ve made.”

That content was just recordings of trainings they’d done with past members.  But it added the sense of value because it was good training. It wasn’t necessarily outlined out but it was good training. And Thinkific allowed them to give them this login to this page that all of a sudden had all these things on it.  It made their subscribers feel like they were getting so much content which was a good thing.

I mean, we all want to feel really special and awesome.

And so from there, they started to evaluate what their academy members were actually using.  They started to get into flash sales. So when they saw that everybody’s really loving this piece on how to price yourself, they would take that and turn that into an actual mini course. And then they would flash sale the course in Thinkific and just give people access to that one course.

Then that started to build up.  And all of a sudden, they had enough content of real courses that they had made and turned it into what they call the “Boss Mom Vault”.  That then turned into a membership site. It just it all kind of built up along the way.

So, let’s unpack that a little bit.

Because if someone is just getting started in their niche putting online training on or they’ve got it on there, it’s important that they realize some of the things that Dana did. Dana went in and realized that she had content and was really being used.  So she knew they needed to tighten it up and make it into an actual course instead of just a recording of something else.

I was curious to know what the decision points were on that.  And how she determined that she should go with a video that had certain “watched through” rates or completion rates.  I wanted to know what some of the deciding factors were when it came to deciding what would become an actual online course.

It was all about the feedback.

Dana shared they were definitely looking at who was actually completing something. And then to be honest, a lot of it was just feedback. So they would create a feedback loop for every piece of content they made.  Then they consistently asked for more feedback. They asked things like what people thought of the program. And they asked what people wanted more of within their program. This allowed people to tell them exactly what they loved and what they didn’t like so much.

So because they were able to hear what these people had to say and see what actions they were actually taking, they could identify what things were kind of a big deal for people. Dana would tell people…

“Whenever you're trying to figure out decisions to make, don't give yourself 18 metrics. Figure out the simplest two or three things that you're going to base your decision on because you don't want to stymie your ability to make… Click To Tweet

Dana loves Thinkific because they keep getting better.

They will actually help talk you through how you’re outlining your course.  They’ll give you a template of how to think through what content should go where.  Before they had that, they would go in take a look at what the training is that they gave.  And then they would figure out the logical, high level milestones of this training. They would break out a project and then look at those. And then within those, they would figure out what the main teaching points were.

And so each of those would become their modules. Then within those there are “chapters” as they would say. And then their lessons would go in each of those.  Then we break it up into something that actually felt like, like a course. And then obviously, it’s much easier because in what we were doing before, there’s like one video training.  Once they broke it up into a course that they could really see where people were starting to interact and react to things.

But even then, keep your metrics simple.

I think even the simplest metric that I know of is not even looking at what people are doing, but it’s looking at the percentage of people who get to your feedback page and respond to it.  If you get 50 people get into your feedback page and 10% of them respond, that’s telling you something different than versus if 50 people got there and 43 of them respond.   You know that even that the silence is something worth noting just as much as the responses.

I think that that was that’s such a brilliant way of taking what you’re already doing, putting it online, and testing it out by running it through your audience so that they can tell you what they want.  I know we were talking before we hit record about some of the courses that I could be creating. And I think it’s really funny because Dana just said just hit record when you’re doing stuff and you’ll see what you come up with.

And I think that that was a really brilliant piece of advice that I didn’t even expect to get from Dana while  we were doing our pre- recording chat. But I’ve been thinking about it since she said that I’m like, “Yeah, if I just record my screen as I’m doing work in a One on One 1:1 capacity for a client and I do that for two weeks, three weeks, or a month. All of a sudden, I’m going to have a significant amount of information of things that I can build a course on I know people need, because I did it.”

Dana share that that’s so true.

She’s been having this discussion a lot lately because she has a good friend who’s writing a marketing book. And there’s this idea of people who want to be experts in something.  They want to be the coach, the consultant, the influencer. And they have an agency or whatever and we’re all trying to build ourselves to get a little slice of the pie in this in this online space. But one of the things that we feel  is that we have to know the exact everything. We have to know that it has to all fit together in this beautiful box and has to look all perfect in order for us to sell it and be an expert. As if us continually getting better is some implication that we weren’t good enough before.

And the thing that people have to realize about courses, Dana has a disclaimer on everything she sells.

And that disclaimer says that she reserves the right to make it better. She reserves the right that this is probably going to get better in the next round.  Because she continues to get better and the next round. It doesn’t mean that what you just got wasn’t great. It just means it’s going to probably get better. And she wants people to be shameless about that.  She wants you to get your hands dirty. And she wants you to get in there and just do it.

She got a course that was actually kind of a bonus to something she had bought that was on Instagram stories.

When she went in to that bonus,she literally got access to a Dropbox folder with a zoom audio recording and a download.  And she was like, “Wow, this is this is ghetto. Okay, all right.” But is was great content though. It was a two hour webinar. And if the person who created it would have waited to make that when he had all the time, all of the resources, all of the knowledge to take that and break it up perfectly and make it all perfect then Dana wouldn’t have reaped the benefit of now thinking about stories in a different way.

As a result, Dana had this one aha moment I had about insist stories that forever changed the way she looked at them.

And that would make it worth the course.  Everybody thinks that you have to add value to every moment and every second that’s in there. You just need to give somebody one thing that changes the trajectory of how they believe, how they think, how they look at something, how they do something. That’s where that value lies. You don’t need a million aha moments.  You just need the one aha moment and you’re not sure where that’s going to be for different people.

So she wants people to just go out and start making something.

And then reserve the right to make it better because the longer you wait to have time to make it perfect, the longer you are depriving your audience of having good knowledge that they might want to actually learn from you, instead of learning it from somebody else.  Recognize that some people just want to hear it from you. They want to hear your perspective. That’s what they want. They don’t need it to be from somebody else. Stop waiting!

And I think that’s a great way of thinking about online courses is just get it going.

You don’t have to do an alpha and then beta and then launch.  You can just get it out there. Let your community know that is there. And if you don’t have as big a community, then you are going to get yourself more time, like Dan was saying, to do the marketing and to get eyeballs on it.

And if you reserve the right for it to be better in six months, then anybody who’s coming in and gets it at this great lower price at this earlier time when you’re still working through the pieces, they’re just going to reap additional benefits.  And you’re going to get street cred, as silly as that sounds. If someone gets some one nugget and learns one thing new that they can now implement in their own business or their own life, they’re going to remember that. They’re going to remember you!

Dana shared that there’s just such a wealth of knowledge.  We all want to be learning and improving. People can’t do that if you’re keeping it to yourself.  And I firmly agree with that.

Let’s get back to Thinkific and talk about bundles.

Thinkific is really good for bundles.  Dana shared her experience with bundles in Thinkific.  She shared that you can create individual little courses or pieces of content.  You can create something as easy as one PDF that subscribers can download. And then you have a choice that you can make a its page for people to be able to get a bundle of content.

So you might have a “Get More” sales bundle or a “Market Yourself” bundle.  You can even create a “Ultimate Marketing” bundle which could be five pieces of content that you put together.  And they get this bundle of content.

Dana used this Thinkific series to illustrate her point.

She said that I could take this series and put the podcast episodes as a bundle. She said each one could be its own little course on whatever topic.  And I could ask each of my guests to give me a piece of free content that I could have in there. I could include the transcript, a workbook, and feedback from me of the lessons they learned and how to implement the tech the guests talked about.  And then I could sell a “How to Use Thinkific to Launch Your First Course” bundle that I would sell through Thinkific.

And what I think is the power of bundles is that, with Thinkific, it doesn’t mean that you’re done.

If I did what Dana was saying about doing a Thinkific course with this series and in three months, I bring on another podcast guest and they, without my knowledge, drop a ton of value about Thinkific, I can make that into another course and throw it inside that bundle.  It’s not being sold separately. It would just be a part of that bundle.

And everybody who signed up for that bundle automatically gets access to any new courses that you add versus if I had done this podcast series as a course by itself and had the six interviews as individual modules inside that one single course someone might get to 100% and never come back because they’re finished.  But if we continue to add content to the bundle, then they have new courses that are at zero percent.

It gives a perception of value.

And Dana also thinks it gives you more flexibility to do other things. The reason she likes bundles is because you can pull apart and play.  And when we talk about one of the huge benefits of the reasons why I love Thinkific so much is because it cuts the time it took her to actually get a course up and going.

Dana shared this amazing piece of knowledge.

She said that what you have to realize about business is that it is all about testing. It’s about market research.  The 80/20 rule applies for business. Which means 80% of what you do isn’t going to work. Nobody’s going to care about that post. Or nobody’s going to buy that thing.   But 20% is going to flourish. And the successful entrepreneurs are the ones that see what the 20% is. And they run with it.

So Thinkific cuts all of this time out so that it allows you to play and test and see what’s working without having all of this tech and all of this stuff.  So that every time you put something out, it feels like you’re building a coliseum. It doesn’t have to be like that. It can be simple and easy so that you can test and market to figure things out, and then you scale up.

And then you put more time and resources into making that thing to the next level.

And then you decide which one you’re going to put all your energy into and what you want to be known for.  But the thing is it gives you a sense of play. It gives you the ability to play, test, and figure things out without all the pressure. Dana thinks that’s where a lot of the success is able to happen.

I love that the word “playground: that kept coming to my mind as she saying this.

Thinkific is really a playground.  It’s a playground that you get to showcase your expertise. You get to be that cool kid on the monkey bars, doing all those fun things every single day as you’re developing what you want to do there.

Dana shared so, so much in a short amount of time.  She truly was a wealth of knowledge.  How many nuggets did you take away from this episode? I would love to hear about it. So hit me up on Instagram. I am @techofbusiness.   I look forward to wrapping up this Thinkific series with you in just a couple days with Thinkific co founder Miranda Lievers.

And until then, I hope you started to think about how you can take your intellectual property and your passion and converted into an online course. If you have any questions about Thinkific whatsoever let me know!  And to get a free month of the pro plan of Thinkific go to techofbusiness.com/thinkific.

Thanks for listening to the tech of business podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe, share, rate, and review on Apple podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Overcast or wherever you download your favorite shows.

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