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Creating Online Courses with Chris Badgett

Podcast published: July 10, 2020

As businesses look to diversify their revenue streams, many are considering selling online courses and training materials. We spoke with Chris Badgett, the Co-Founder and CEO of LifterLMS, a learning management system for WordPress websites. We spoke with Chris about how businesses in Chester County can begin to sell their knowledge and expertise online.



What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

  • Three primary buckets of LMS users:
    • Expert industry;
    • Traditional schools; and
    • Companies and their training portals
  • Imposter syndrome is real, but it is a addressable challenge
  • Businesses can use a LMS to educate prospects about the industry or current customers about products or services
  • An LMS can be very flexible

Pivot to Digital Case Study: Balloon Artist Training

  • Ziv Raviv, owner of Kivi Media, took a love of balloon art and earned over $200,000 in a year serving a tiny niche, teaching customers balloon art

What goes into creating an online course?

  • A COVID-19 idea: restaurant owners could teach customers to cook their signature dishes at home
  • The training could cover putting together a shopping list and actually preparing the entire meal
  • Simple is better for getting started
  • Microsoft PowerPoint allows for recording screencasts and Zoom can be used to record talking-head videos; even entire courses can be recorded on a phone, but get a tripod or self-stick
  • Get the fundamentals of online training right:
    • Focus on a clear customer
    • Address a very specific problem
    • Aim for a clear result or resolution
    • Follow a clear mechanism or method (“the secret sauce”)

Teachers and Schools

  • Teachers are learning to flip the classroom using tools like Zoom and LMS
  • Training videos are recorded in advance, where online video calls become more like coaching or Q&A sessions

Get in the Beginner’s Mindset

  • Training is easier to produce when it’s super focused – don’t try to boil the ocean
  • Be sure to keep the customer in mind – get back to a beginner’s mindset

What does an online course or training look like?

  • Different course frameworks:
    • Learn a process – e.g., learn a recipe
    • Behavior change – getting in shape, adjusting diet, etc.
    • Case Study – learn by deconstructing what others have done
    • Resource Course – create a library of very useful tools and materials
    • Hybrid – mixing the other four frameworks

Focus on the Customer

  • Make everything about the customer, and not about money
  • Put the customer first: focus on the customer’s success and profits will flow in due course
  • Offer support for customers: provide weekly Zoom calls, create an online communities (i.e., a Facebook group)
  • Coaching at a group or individual level can deliver more value for those customers, and provide additional revenue for the business
  • Consider the 1,000 True Fans approach
  • Read: Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

What is technically involved with adding an LMS to a website?

Intro: Welcome to another episode of Start Local, the podcast focused on helping businesses in and around Chester County, PA, as they try to navigate the COVID 19 economy. 

Liam Dempsey: I’m Liam Dempsey, and I’m flying solo today as the host of the show. My co-pilot, Joe Casabona, is expecting the birth of a second child and is busy getting all the things done before his new baby arrives. I certainly wish him all the best. He’ll be back as soon as he gets some sleep, no doubt. 

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Chris Badgett to the show. Chris is the co-founder and CEO of LifterLMS, a learning management system for WordPress. He helps education entrepreneurs create, launch, and scale high value online training platforms.

Chris believes in democratizing education in the digital classroom. He lives in Maine, well outside Chester County, and runs his business from a small cabin in his backyard on his farm. Chris, welcome to the show. 

Chris Badgett: Thanks for having me, William. I’m happy to get into it with you and help the people of Chester County.

Liam Dempsey: Now, we really appreciate you taking the time. We know you keep yourself busy up there running your business. And as I follow you on Twitter, you do a lot of work in and around the farm. So you don’t have a lot of downtime, I can tell. Chris, tell us a little bit more about yourself and a little bit more about LifterLMS, if you would, please.

Chris Badgett: Well, I’m a homeschooling dad. I was not, I became an entrepreneur later in life. I used to run sled dogs in Alaska for a decade. I was, I got into technology much later in life, like more around my late twenties. I’m 41 years old now, and if I could get into this kind of online business, remote working thing late in life, not as far away as possible from Silicon Valley, it really, I hope my story and some of the things I’m going to share today inspire people with more options and more ideas of what’s possible out there.

Liam Dempsey: Chris, I love that you used to run sled dogs on Alaska because that’s just amazing and wonderful in its own way. And I feel like we could pause the show and talk about that for the entirety. But, that really pivots nicely into as a follow up to our previous conversation that we had with Don Reid, where we talked about multiple revenue streams. And I imagine a lot of folks running their businesses that aren’t strictly speaking technology focused or technology driven are because of COVID-19 are finding themselves in a situation where they really do need to adapt some kind of technology, and to embrace it really as much as they can. 

And so your background, I think is going to be really, really useful here. And I wonder if you can talk to us a little bit about, you know, LifterLMS is a…As we said earlier, it’s a learning management system for WordPress. So in a nutshell, that means you can run online courses via your WordPress website with LifterLMS. Can you talk to us about some of the businesses that have pivoted to online courses? Maybe some of your customers, some of your case studies, that can help folks in and around Chester County realize that they don’t have to reinvent the pivot to digital. They can follow the lead and inspiration of some folks who are already taking advantage of technology.

Chris Badgett: Totally. And well, let me first start by de abstractifying what LMS means or a learning management system. It’s that tool can be used in a very flexible way to do multiple things.

 There’s three primary buckets of use cases or types of people that use a learning management system. 

1. The first is the Expert industry: and this is where you create an online course based on your skills, your passions, something valuable that you have in your story, and you help them teach something online that somebody else gets results through. That’s the expert industry. And if you’re listening to this right now, I guarantee you’re sitting on something in your skill set your life experience that some other people in this vast world would find interesting and likely pay money for. 

There’s a big problem in the expert industry about imposter syndrome. So if when I said that you said yeah, but not me who am I to teach? I’m not the best in the world or whatever. That’s common. Everybody thinks that when they get into the…when they first start thinking about creating digital products and programs, well, I won’t get into how to solve that but that’s just know that that’s there.

2. The next thing is Traditional schools: K-12, higher ed, adult learning. You can do that with the learning management system. So this is where a private, public, large, small, school, academy, university, community college, whatever you want to call it, uses a learning management system to facilitate online learning. So that’s another use case. 

3. The third is the company use case. This is where you create a training portal for your employees to, you know, let’s say onboard a new hire into their role in a more automated way. What most business owners do is they’re like, “Hey, welcome to the job. Shadow bob”. Bob teach this new person everything, you know about whatever it is. So that’s kind of the old way. 

The big opportunity especially if your business Is you know has less resources is constricting is to think about how you can be more efficient in your internal training. Businesses can also use a learning management system to educate their markets. You can actually use it as a marketing tool about your products, your services, your experiences, so that people can basically learn about whatever it is. That same training can also be used to educate your customers after they buy to kind of automate some of the education that happens around using your product or getting the most out of your service. 

Those are the three kind of primary buckets. And because the LMS is flexible, you don’t have to do it all. But just know that there’s different areas you can go into.

Liam Dempsey: So it sounds like you can really make it as rigid and formal or as kind of relaxed and flexible as your business needs and wants. 

Chris Badgett: Yeah, absolutely. So let me give you an example.

Liam Dempsey: Please do.

Chris Badgett: One of our case studies, like expert industry, if you’re thinking like, I don’t know what I’m going to teach. There’s multimillion dollar barbers out there who teaches certain kinds of haircut styles and stuff. We have a case study on our website. There’s an Israeli man,  his name is Ziv Raviv. He teaches balloon artists how to tie animal balloons. Last year, he made 277,000 with his LifterLMS powered site for these kid entertainers. And he helped them transition in the covet economy to do these kind of shows in an online digital format. That particular niche of people, there are only like 5,000 in the world. And of that,  Only 1.000 of them are like have a serious business that are a good fit for his program. So, even if all you’re into is like super niche, the world is a very big place. And I love to tell that story because it’s a kind of if he can do it like in any he just has this passion, whatever you’re into, whether it’s drones some kind of farming, some kind of musical thing, some kind of like,  leadership thing or relationship thing or health and fitness thing or cooking classes like I know you got something. if you’re listening to this, and you know, what it can be? A lot of fun to make too. So that’s like an expert example.

Liam Dempsey: Yeah. That’s really interesting. The whole idea that something so niche can make a hugely comfortable amount of living. You know, a couple hundred thousand a year is not a bad take home salary, right? Okay. So that’s a good bit. And to think about it, how many people would you say there’s about a thousand people that actually do that professionally and think about so much else is has such a wider appeal that there’s real opportunity here to transition on that.

So this kind of leads on nicely to my next question, Chris. if I can, what does it take to make a course, you know? Let’s set aside the I’m a community college and I have to make a course about geology, you know. Let’s say I want to do something about hair cutting or I want to be do maybe I’m a bakery owner and I want to do a baking course about, I don’t know, sourdough or how to make scones or how to make kind of anything that our bakery is known for. And so we want to sell the course. What does that look like? Because, you know. What’s the lift on that? Tell me a little bit about that.

Chris Badgett: Well, you mentioned the restaurant. That was my first thought as soon as the COVID kind of restaurant industry got locked. My immediate thing is like restaurants need to be teaching their signature dishes that people come back for over and over again on how people can cook at home and put the shopping list together or whatever. Like there’s a pivot there that business owners can do. It’s different. But that’s a covid pivot. 

So, in addition to imposter syndrome, what happens, the next thing, the next problem that people get into is they over complicate it. And that has to do with like the tech, the software, the video camera and the like Teleprompter they get, they get a little carried away. 

First of all, it’s only natural. Don’t beat yourself up about it. That’s, it’s just part of transforming and becoming an expert and to having the courage to like put it out there and be maybe you don’t come from a background of entrepreneurship and creating things from zero, but it’s scary. But it can be fun and I would encourage you not to over complicate it.

So there’s really a couple ways to do it. If what you’re teaching is really kind of content, screen share, slideshow based, you probably already have a computer and software that you can just by yourself present a teach something. So if you’re already teaching, you’re probably already standing in a computer with a projector or maybe hand, you can do all that stuff on the computer without PowerPoint. 

Liam Dempsey: I believe in PowerPoint you can record screencasts, can’t you? With PowerPoint itself, you could talk over your slides and record that.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. And one of the great tips for like a first timer is if you’re not doing screen share. If you’re doing more talking head, like I’m going to, maybe I’m good at, you know, relationships, and there’s a lot you can just go into a zoom, get a zoom account, press record and zoom, and go into a meeting by yourself and start creating your lessons, and give up trying to make it perfect, and take out all the ums and ahs and all that stuff. 

So that’s my tip is to just minimal tech. Even it you can do an entire course on your phone smartphone, I do recommend you get a tripod or a selfie stick or something just try to stay. Balance it. Sure. But don’t let that hold you up from getting started.

The other thing that I would really advise people to focus on if you want to develop another income stream as an expert is to get your fundamentals, right? And what I mean by that is you have to have a clear customer who has a very specific problem., and that solving that there’s a very specific result or outcome. And then there’s like a mechanism. This is your secret sauce of how you teach people to make this amazing dish or to heal this relationship or to get in better shape or detox their body or whatever it is. So a clear customer, a clear result, a clear mechanism. 

The problem people fall into is, especially if they’re super passionate about something, as they’re like, I got to fit my life’s work and passion for this topic into this giant course. What I would say is do the opposite. Figure out who you’re going to help and get somebody do the result they want as fast as possible with as minimum steps as possible. You know, map out those steps and then make a video for each step. You know, a cooking recipe is a great one to start with if you’re into cooking because you got the ingredients, you got the steps, and then you got the outcome which is the dish made and it tastes just like it did at the restaurant.

There’s also on, you know, as we talk about this in Chester County, I’m talking about the expert, but we’re also talking about schools here. So this is another use case where teachers are also in their own right experts, but they’re more in a traditional education system. 

And so what’s happening right now is a lot of teachers are at kind of level one of online education where they’re like, we’re doing the classroom, but we’re doing it in zoom as much as we can exactly the same.

The next evolution of that as you transition and you become better and better at remote working and remote education is teachers are going to find that record button and zoom. They can record classes. They can make training that the students can take at their own convenience because maybe things are a little crazy at home. And then you there’s this concept called the Flip Classroom where the actual, live Zoom session is more there just to provide support. And but not deliver the training live, like, because they can already… teachers can actually take a lot of pressure off themselves, parents and kids by pre-recording some of their stuff and having more of a kind of a coaching call. 

So there’s all kinds of things that can happen in the education system to, as this whole remote learning is really exploding. 

Liam Dempsey: Yeah. That’s really interesting. And I want to go back to what you shared about with identifying audience. 

Chris Badgett: Yeah.

Liam Dempsey: And certainly as a marketing consultant, you know, I hear clients when I say to them, “Hey, who is your target audience? “They say, well, you know, anybody could buy my services. I get that.” Right?  Anybody with five bucks could. But you know, you’re not selling to anybody who’s never heard of you. So really try to your point, not trying to make a course that answers everything for everybody in the world. Try to think of a very specific audience. And just make the course to them. Other people will latch on to it, will connect with it, even if they’re not in that immediate focus, won’t they? But then it makes the creative process of coming up with a course much easier because we don’t have to say,” Oh, well. What about those people in this group? We’re not talking to them. If they want to listen, if they get something out of this, that’s wonderful and it’s great. “but we’re really, and then we can make that recipe course or that hair cutting course or that,  you know, basic bookkeeping,  guidance course,  much, much more relevant for the people that might pay money for it then. 

Chris Badgett: Yeah. Clear customers. The biggest, biggest mistake that people make is they just don’t decide or and it’s called boiling the ocean. It’s for everybody. Aand also it’s a lot less stressful and easier when you’re super focused. 

And the other mistake people make there is, they make it for people exactly like them, like sometimes your best helping somebody who’s not exactly like you and not as far along as you. So you have to open up this concept of beginner’s mind. Like they’re not where you’re at. They don’t see it. They haven’t internalized all the you know, the jargon and the stuff you have kind of do naturally now because you’ve spent so long doing it. You really have to go back to that clear customer, get inside their shoes, their beginner’s mind. And be patient with them, and help them go through the learning journey, and support them along the way. 

Liam Dempsey: Yeah. I think that’s so important, right? Because we’ve been at our respective games so long, we know which steps we can skip. And we don’t even think twice of skipping them. And then somebody noticed us, well, what about steps one through five? Yeah. Oh yeah. I don’t do those anymore because I know this. But yeah. If you’re just at the game, yeah. You better do one through five, because this is not going to work out well for us. If you skip it right away. Yeah. Thats. get in the beginner’s mindset I think is really important and can really help the courses, the materials be relevant for that target audience. 

So let me just ask you a little bit of a question of,, you know, what, thinking about a business and what does a course look like? I suppose it could be everything from this is an eight step course, but it could also be packaged up like here’s a 20 minute video with a few bullet points and some slides and you can package it and sell that. Not everything needs to be a full course. It could be a single lesson or a single focus.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. I mean, and I’ll give you a couple of course frameworks to help people think through this. One is, there’s like 4 main types of courses:

1. One is a learn a process course. So this is like the recipe step one, step two, step three. 

2. Then there’s the Behavior change course. This is where you’re doing something like changing your diet or getting into a fitness program or Working on negative behavior. so there’s like this whole process that like early wins are important. And then it starts building, and then you reinforce ,and that you know, that’s kind of a thing.

3. Then there’s one called the Case Study course where we learn by deconstructing what others have done like leadership is a great example. Like let’s leadership lessons from you know, this person that person. So we learn by looking at others. 

4. The fourth kind is called a Resource Course. This is what, these are the most dangerous. And these are the ones that most people make first, which I’m trying to, I would encourage you not to make a resource course first, but this is where we create a library of a bunch of useful stuff for people who are interested in X. That’s cool. But it can be a little overwhelming to people. And sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re done. 

5. And then the fifth kind is like a Hybrid where you pull bits and pieces of that. 

So, there’s just some frameworks. 

And the other thing I just want to say is, as you get into education, entrepreneurship, creating information, products, courses, coaching programs, online communities, things of this nature, you want to put your customer at the center. Not you and your product. And when you put your customer at the center, like that’s where the other place people get off track is they get really focused on I need to make money online, and to be able to build a passive income business or an active income business. But if we put the customer at the center, our clear customer, and we surround them with what they need, they may have, we may have our course which could be small, mini courses or  micro learning I believe the trend is called, is growing in popularity. 

Don’t make a giant course. That’s a big mistake that I see a lot of people making and figure out later. It’s better to make a lot of little courses, and then package those up inside of a membership or some kind of academy or program. But once you make these things, support it. Not just content. 

So if you add in…the easiest thing to add if you’re just getting started is do a weekly or bi-weekly or monthly office hour call. This is something you don’t have to prepare for. You just open up a Zoom or something like it. People can jump in there at a scheduled time, and you can provide support of like where they’re stuck or they have questions and whatnot.

So now, you have a course plus coaching. And the coaching part adds more value. It helps more people complete your program, which is going to cause more people to share about it. They’re going to get to know you personally, and you’re going to get feedback about some assumptions you made in your course that, Oh, that’s not as clear. I need to actually go add this other thing or add a new lesson to help so that where that person doesn’t got stuck, doesn’t happen again.

So course plus coaching. You can do online communities. You can include other products, digital downloads, other micro services, templates, there’s all kinds of things when we put our customer at the center, you know, courses are really fundamental, like the training. But often if you just add one or two other things like the group coaching or even private coaching, this is where you can get into more expensive offerings and can really get better results for your customer. 

Liam Dempsey:  So it sounds like by putting the customer center, we’re really trying to build trust and build a relationship so that when we offer something new or they have a need to come to us, they think of us and mend us. So it really builds a longer term relationship. 

Chris Badgett: Yeah. I mean there’s a famous article on the internet called “A Thousand True Fans”. I would modify that slightly and say actually you only need a hundred true fans. So a thousand true fans is the idea that when music first went online that if you’re an artist and you sell, you have a hundred dollars worth of stuff that somebody can buy in a year. That  if you have a thousand people buying that, you have a full-time income.

With courses and coaching and these kinds of programs, it’s a lot easier to get up to more higher end price points. Not every niche market. There’s a lot of factors that go into pricing. So not every market target, market can afford high end stuff or sees the value there. But, what just hypothetically like the balloon artist guy we talked about, there’s not that many actual customers in there. Like he has a total addressable market of a thousand people. Of those, I think a couple hundred are customers. So, but they’re over, you know, they’re paying a certain amount of money to get there. 

So, yeah. Put the customer at the center and then help them get results. And everything, all the money and all this stuff flows from that service. It’s like a, you know, there’s a great book if you’re into this kind of thing called “The Story Brand” by Donald Miller, where he talks about being the guide, not the guru. So if you put your customer in the center and you help guide them to the result and support them and that’s a really powerful way and it takes some pressure off you to be like the guru. Like you may to be a good guide. You may bring in an outside expert to fill in a gap about something that you may not be the best at or whatever just because that customer needs some help with what that person knows. That’s what guides do. Gurus try to maintain all the the power. 

Liam Dempsey: Yeah. I like that. We’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes over at [startlocal.co]. 

Chris, we’ve got just a couple of minutes left together in our time here. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how complicated it may be to implement something like a LifterLMS or another LMS plugin for WordPress. And is that the kind of thing that somebody can do on their own? Would you recommend that? They, you know, pay somebody like me or like Joe to help with them? Not that we’re trying to turn this into a sales show, but where’s the learning curve? How technical are we talking about here?

Chris Badgett: Well, the cool thing is a lot of businesses already have a WordPress site. So if you’re going to use a WordPress learning management system, you can literally just add an LMS plugin like LifterLMS, and there’s some others out there. Go check them out. See what’s out there. 

And LifterLMS has a FREE core plugin. You can add it in. You can take our free 20-minute course about how to build your first course. And then you can press, play, pause, do it on your site and then do it. And what we find is some people evolve and become yep. I got this. I’m a DIY person. Other people are like It might be time pressure. It may just be like I’m just not techie. I don’t want to have to log into the website and they are going to work. They’re going to want to work with a professional like yourself to set it up for them and just guide the process and collaborate in that way.

And then there’s other options out there. Like, for example, WP Engine, a popular WordPress hosts has like an LMS site template powered by LifterLMS that you just sign up for your WP Engine account. You click a button and you choose like some designs you like and a full LMS site just appears. So it’s, there’s a lot of options out there. 

But there is a learning curve. I don’t want to sugar coat it because WordPress has a learning curve. Lifter has a learning curve. The first course you make, there’s going to be a lot of learning. The second one you make will go five times faster. 

Liam Dempsey: Yeah. And that’s the same of, you know, whether or not you’re using Microsoft Word or Google Docs or anything new, there’s going to be a learning curve. That is awesome. 

Chris, you have shared a wealth of information in our time together. Thank you so very much for your time. Before I say goodbye to you, I wonder if you can share where people can find you online, please.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. Well, if you’re liking this podcast and you want to go down the rabbit hole of course creation, I have a podcast for course creators called LMScast. We’re at almost 300 episodes and I get into all these kinds of topics that course creators are interested in not just the tech, other stuff too, like business building and teaching, instructional design, all these other things. So that’s called LMScast. 

And if you want to check out LifterLMS, just go to [lifterlms.com]. And like I said, we do have a free WordPress plugin that you can just search for free LifterLMS WordPress. You’ll find it. You can plug that in and try it out. 

Liam Dempsey: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And since Joe’s not here to say it, I’ll say it for everybody. Thanks for listening to the show. Until the next time. Stay safe out there.

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