If you sell digital products (courses, e-books, online workshops, etc), need to figure out how to connect and consolidate all your offerings, and want to get more paying customers, this case study is for you!
Welcome to our series called Growing Through It where we makeover a member of our community’s business (and you get to follow along and learn tips and strategies for your own business).
We’re going to offer suggestions of how you can take advantage of this collective slow down that we’re all going through and come back even more strategic and even better when this is all over. If you’re a business owner trying to figure out what the heck to work on right now, we want to help you strengthen the foundation of your business with this series.
In this second installment of Growing Through It, you’ll meet Lauren. Lauren runs a creative business called Lauren-Likes where she sells multiple offerings (retreats, in-person workshops, online courses). Due to the global pandemic, Lauren is having to shift her entire focus online.
Here’s, specifically, what we’ll go through in this case study:
- Step 1: Brand Foundation
- Step 2: Product or Service Offering
- Step 3: Marketing Bridges & Customer Acquisition
- Step 4: Content Strategy & Audience Building
- Step 5: Website Evaluation (with Homepage & Services Page Redesigns!)
🎬 Watch us reimagine Lauren’s business using our 5-step checklist
If you’re a video fan, watch the entire case study unfold in the embedded video below. Otherwise, you can keep scrolling and we’ve written everything out for you. 👍👍
Introduction: We’re Going To Help A Creative Biz Owner Streamline Her Offerings To Sell More Online Courses
Lauren is the owner of Lauren-Likes, an art business offering in-person workshops, retreats, and online creative courses.
Lauren is in the middle of a big transition moving back to the US from the UAE while her in-person offerings (retreats and workshops) have a very uncertain future. Lauren’s goal is to re-organize and streamline her offerings to drive more sales of her online courses.
Lauren’s biggest struggle is feeling overwhelmed with how her website can cohesively come together and lead a customer through a journey to purchase her online courses.
Can you relate to Lauren? Do you have multiple offerings (and maybe even websites) but don’t see a clear way to bring them all together?
We hope the recommendations we make for Lauren throughout this case study are steps that can help YOU rethink and re-evaluate your own situation with a bit less overwhelm.
Step 1: Establishing The Brand Foundation (Who Why What How)
When it comes to your brand foundation, your brand isn’t just your logo and your colors. It’s about having clarity on who you help, why you want to help those people, what you do to help them, and how you help them.
Note: We WILL get to some simple branding and design tweaks in Step #5.
One of the first things we did with Lauren’s business was to try to answer these questions and then share the tweaks we’d make to build a more compelling brand foundation.
Answering the 4 Brand Foundation questions: Who? Why? What? How?
Who do you help?
After looking at Lauren’s website home page, her who was actually three different whos: Crafters, Adventurers, and Storytellers. This is wayyyy better than just saying “artists” as that genre is way too vast. But, we thought we could help Lauren dial in her audience description just a bit more.
We decided to find the overlap between all three groups of people. A moniker we identified as: Artful Adventurers.
If you’re like Lauren and you serve multiple types of people, by naming them in this more succinct way you not only give them an identity to adopt, you also attract a more specific kind of person! (YASSS!)
For Lauren, the people who are most likely to be her raving fans aren’t just crafters, they’re crafters who love adventure and storytelling (hence, Artful Adventurers!)
Why do you help those people?
We like to think about the “why” question in two ways:
- Why does your business exist? (This is your mission)
- Why would someone choose your business over another? (This is your differentiator)
In our conversations with Lauren, she told us she feels a pull back to social work and having more of a positive impact with her work (awesome!) This idea of also using your creativity to do good in the world should be incorporated in her “why.”
Lauren had a couple of strong why statements on her website already, but we knew we could help her bring it all together in one statement: I love helping women learn to embrace their creativity, tell their stories and then use that creativity to do good in the world. I believe that wherever you are, you can find adventure and that adventure is worth documenting.
What benefit does your help provide?
Most people get this question wrong by listing out all the features of the service they offer (it’s a common mistake we’ve made in the past too!) The better version of the what question at this point is: What specific outcome does your business provide your customer?
For Lauren, one of the “what” phrases we saw a few places was the question, “need a dose of inspiration?” Now, there’s nothing wrong with this question, but it doesn’t GRAB your attention and speak to an outcome you really want.
We came up with two phrases we believe are more powerful:
- ❤️ Connecting to your true creativity
- 🕵🏻♀️ Discovering adventure no matter where you are
Is it more impactful to get a dose of creativity or to connect to your TRUE creativity? We don’t know about you, but we want that connection! We want to FEEL like the things we’re doing/creating speak to our souls.
To really grab her customer’s attention, Lauren’s what is: Artful adventurers will feel more energized and alive by connecting to their true creativity and others who share that passion. They will experience the richness of life by exploring their world and discovering adventure no matter where they are.
How do you help people?
Have you had to make a pivot with your core offerings? You are not alone!
Remember those features we just mentioned in the what question? Now is where the features matter and you want to get clarity on exactly how people can get the outcomes we just talked about.
Lauren is a position many people are currently finding themselves in. The features/offerings she had in the past won’t work in today’s environment. Specifically, Lauren can’t host her art retreat, in-person art workshops, and her travel journal. Moving forward, her focus has to be on her online courses.
Lauren’s sole business goal moving forward is to offer her online art courses.
Our shift for Lauren is one she has to make to continue to generate revenue for her Lauren-Likes business. She’s going to offer her online art courses and in a moment we’re going to show you the exact plan of action to make that a streamlined process!
To recap the Brand Foundation…
👥 WHO: Lauren’s audience is going to be Artful Adventurers.
🧭 WHY: Her mission is to empower women to tap into their creativity, come alive, and be a force for good in the world.
⚡️ WHAT: Her benefit is the creative embodiment and experiencing everyday adventure.
📝 HOW: Her offering is online art courses.
These four questions now clearly define Lauren’s business foundation, and they give her some clear messaging points to move forward with. We can use this information to go through the next four steps on our 5-step checklist!
⚡️ ACTION STEP FOR YOU ⚡️ Answer the Who, Why, What, and How questions for your own business. Keep these answers in a Google Doc, Note, or PDF you can reference often. You’ll want to have them handy as we move forward in our 5-step process.
Step 2: Product or Service Offering
The product or service you sell is your castle. And this castle of yours sits on an island in the middle of the ocean. As much as you may want to tell people your castle exists, your product or service offering must be in tip-top shape before you start leading people to it.
Your castle is your “how” from Step 1. It’s the thing you do that people can pay you for. This will most likely be a specific product page for all you digital product biz owners reading this.
Does your castle have too many options?
Lauren is in a position we find many multi-passionate creative business owners in: She has multiple offerings and there isn’t a natural bridge between them. A large portion of Lauren’s revenue comes from her in-person events and since these are on-hold indefinitely, she has to make an important business pivot.
(Thank you, Ross! Also, we’ve all been there.)
One issue for Lauren, which we’ll go much deeper on in Step #5, is that her offerings were strewn about different versions of her site (and on completely separate sites in some cases). Lauren had offerings on:
- Her main website Lauren-Likes.com with (mostly her in-person offerings)
- A subdomain of her site where you could find her online art courses
- Separate individual landing pages, not on her site, for other offerings
- It was difficult to find all the amazing stuff she had to offer in one place!
With the shift Lauren is making to online art courses, she needed to move these off of a separate site (on a subdomain) and make them the PROMINENT offering for folks to know about.
Pivoting your business does NOT have to happen overnight…
We created a two-phased approach for Lauren to re-focus her offerings. There’s an initial 3-6 month plan and then a secondary 6+ month plan that Lauren could follow if in-person offerings were feasible again.
Think about the customer’s journey through your multiple product offerings and create an “on-ramp” product
One of our BIGGEST recommendations to Lauren is to have a no-brainer on-ramp product for her Artful Adventurers.
Lauren currently has three separate courses and our idea is to have her use one of those courses as an extremely low-priced offering that can get someone into her online art courses (someone who is at least willing to pay $1).
Her Art of Inspiration course will go from $29 to just $1.
🤔 Why not just offer the on-ramp course for free?
Great question! If a customer is willing to pay any amount of money, they are WAY more likely to purchase additional products from you in the future. People who only sign up for free offerings are much harder to convert to a paying customer later on.
From multiple disjointed offerings to a more seamless “passive income* sales funnel.”
For Lauren, and maybe for you if you have multiple digital products around a similar topic, our goal was to help her create a seamless journey for her customers.
Her current customer journey is disjointed and customers are likely going off in all different directions.
We’d like to see Lauren create a more seamless customer journey where each of her products leads down a path to another product (while giving loads of value along the way, obviously):
- Get someone to purchase her on-ramp $1 course (Art of Inspiration) →
- Send a series of emails about Art of Inspiration →
- Send a sales sequence of emails about her next course (Capture + Create $29) →
- Send a series of emails about Capture + Create →
- Send a sales sequence of emails about her highest-priced course (Stories From Here $159) →
- This is a much smoother experience and creates the largest passive potential of revenue for Lauren!
Now, this is the journey we (and Lauren) HOPE to create for her customers! You can see how each of her online courses becomes a lead-in to her next online course. If her customer loves what Lauren has to offer, she has a system in place to deliver more value to them!
One thing we know for sure: This new journey between Lauren’s products gives her a lot more opportunity to get customers to purchase (and purchase multiple products) instead of a handful of disparate websites not cohesively working together.
*There is a lot of trial and error that goes into creating a passive “sales funnel” like this for digital products. It’s incredibly easy to summarize the journey in bullet points but it will take experimentation and tweaking to see how her customer’s respond.
Pro-tip: Ask someone to go through the process of buying your offering and watch for where they get stuck.
It is absolutely critical that you don’t make it difficult for your customers to buy from you. The worst thing you can do is have a highly-engaged customer get frustrated and abandon the buying process because it’s convoluted.
And hey, don’t beat yourself if you find your product buying experience needs work. That’s all part of the process, friend!
To recap Your Product or Service Offering…
Streamline your offering(s) as much as you possibly can. Consider creating a no-brainer priced product that becomes an on-ramp product to your other offerings. Think about creating a seamless journey from one offering to the next but make sure getting started on that journey is easy for your customers.
Don’t forget to focus on the specific needs of your ideal customer and the outcomes your offerings deliver to them. It’s not compelling to simply say, “buy my course,” you have to remember to speak to problems your offering solves at every step along the way.
⚡️ ACTION STEP FOR YOU ⚡️ Take a look at your current product offering page/pages. Do you currently have too many options or a disjointed offering experience that’s confusing? Simplify your offerings into ONE page and ONE seamless customer journey. Make sure you’re speaking to your ideal customer’s problems the entire time.
Step 3: Marketing Strategy and Customer Journey
Creative business owners (hello, this is us!) usually all succumb to the same problem: We spend 95% of our time creating our offering and then 5% of the time promoting our offering.
This is why so many creative biz owners struggle to make money from their art and their skills. We’ve been there. Marketing and promotion don’t come naturally to us left-brain folks.
To get more paying customers, you need to build “marketing bridges”
Marketing bridges are what allow people from the Mainland (aka where everyone is hanging out online: social media, searching Google, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, etc) to discover your business and usher them over to your castle (to pay you!)
We can best sum this up in this fun little GIF:
A marketing bridge’s job is to lead people on a journey from stranger to customer.
We have a fist-bump for Lauren 🤜🤛 because she DOES have a marketing bridge in place, and it’s the one we 👩🏻🦰👨🏻🦲 use most often for our businesses. That bridge is the “Email Newsletter Bridge.”
- Someone lands on her website or Instagram profile →
- They see a call-to-action to get inspiring art-related emails →
- They get added to her email list →
- They receive her weekly email newsletter →
- She does periodic course launches via email →
- She gets paying customers 🎉 (example shown for her Capture + Create course)
WHAT’S GREAT: We love that Lauren’s getting people on her email list (especially from Instagram where her reach is only 3-5% instead of email where it’s 20-30%). We also give Lauren a lot of credit for sending consistent email content to her subscribers and eventually doing product launches.
IMPROVEMENT: A more seamless journey through her 3 art courses but with only ONE point of promotion. Building a “passive” sales funnel starting with a $1 on-ramp course to weed out people who only want free content.
When you have multiple products to sell, try to find ONE entry point into buying all of them.
While we applaud Lauren for her current email newsletter marketing bridge, she isn’t doing herself any favors at the moment. With multiple different products, there’s no natural journey between them. The only way people on her email list hear about her three separate art courses is when she does a launch.
Instead, as we outlined in Step #2, we want Lauren to create a seamless journey starting with her one of her smaller evergreen courses that we’re advocating she turns into a $1 on-ramp course.
Having this one low-price-point product is going to help Lauren FOCUS on promoting and marketing one compelling offer that can lead to her three individual courses.
Instead of her email subscribers only hearing about her Capture + Create course when she does a launch, she now has a system in place that sells her course automatically.
Awesome! That’s the first step to improving Lauren’s marketing bridge and creating a more seamless experience for her customers to buy from her.
The fun doesn’t have to stop there, though. As we talked about in Step #2, there’s a natural fit to have another marketing bridge between Capture + Create and Lauren’s larger course Stories From Here.
In an ideal world, Lauren would put together a nice long, helpful, email sequence that leads people from the on-ramp courses all the way through to her higher-priced course.
To recap Marketing Strategy and Customer Journey…
Marketing bridges are a must-have for any online business owner but especially us creative-types who get stuck focusing only on our art. Do yourself a favor and read our 13 marketing bridge examples to find one that feels right to you.
⚡️ ACTION STEP FOR YOU ⚡️ If you don’t have a marketing bridge in place at all right now, you need one. If you currently have a marketing bridge but it isn’t helping get you more customers, consider trying a new marketing bridge.
Step 4: Content Strategy and Audience Building
We have over a decade of experience building audiences and cranking out content (just like this article) and we’re here to tell you that email lists and helpful articles STILL WORK.
When it comes to building an audience and getting paying customers, you can’t just write one article, send one email, and start an Instagram account. Ugh, we wish it was that easy.
We believe in a 3-pronged approach to building an audience, and it comes in the form of a salad metaphor. (Yep, salads. Everyone’s favorite!)
Build the right audience through foundation articles, a consistent email newsletter, and social media content
We gave Lauren a fist-bump earlier and now she gets three claps 👏👏👏. Lauren is already using our 3-pronged approach to content and audience strategy. There are just a few tweaks we can help her make to ensure her efforts are paying off.
🥬 Salad Lettuce: Foundation articles need to solve problems for your ideal customer AND help promote your offerings.
Lauren has been writing articles for years and her personality shines through in her words and photography. Like many people who’ve been writing articles for a long time, Lauren’s blog is due for some updates.
There are three important tweaks Lauren needs to make to her blog/articles:
- She needs to connect the blog to her main site and make sure on every article it’s easy to opt-in to the on-ramp course
- She needs to do a major content audit + retitle blog articles to be more searchable
- She needs to make her blog easier to navigate
Now, the good news for Lauren is that she already told us she’s moving her blog site from WordPress to Squarespace. We’ve moved website platforms like this ourselves. It’s no small feat but it is ABSOLUTELY worth doing every couple of years because technology improves so much.
We also see a clear opportunity during the article improvement task to make sure a marketing bridge exists in every article. We recommend an inline callout to Lauren’s on-ramp product offering AND an exit-intent popup to join her email newsletter.
🍅 Salad Fixins Part 1: Digital product business owners NEED to have an email newsletter and should be sending out consistent newsletters to their subscribers.
Another bit of praise for Lauren, she’s been sending an email newsletter out for years! Great work, Lauren!
WHAT’S GREAT: Lauren sends emails out consistently (huzzah!). Her email newsletter is colorful, joyful and inspiring. This is great for her target audience!
IMPROVEMENT: We want Lauren to narrow down the calls-to-action (CTAs) in the newsletter to make her ONE action more clear and obvious.
🥒 Salad Fixins Part 2: A podcast is a great way for creative business owners to build a connection and give value to their audience (while also promoting their offerings).
Producing and publishing a podcast is no simple task. While it may seem easy to flip on a microphone and hit record, it’s a lot of work to make a podcast worth listening to on an ongoing basis.
WHAT’S GREAT: Lauren’s podcast, How She Creates, is designed to attract ideal audience which we are stoked about. Her podcast is released on a consistent schedule and Lauren creates an article on her blog for every episode. Great minds think alike!
IMPROVEMENT: We want to see Lauren using the podcast as a vehicle to promote her art courses more! Especially her new on-ramp course which should be a no-brainer for her highly-engaged listeners.
🥗 Salad Dressing: When it comes to social media, give value where people are and create a cohesive branded experience.
We are excited to say this… Lauren’s approach to social media only has a WHAT’S GREAT section! Nicely done, Lauren.
WHAT’S GREAT: Lauren’s Instagram account is vibrant, has visually cohesive photos, but nothing feels overly posed or curated. Her posts and stories offer value and tips instead of just pointing her audience to her blog. She also does a great job creating a sense of community and engages with her audience. Three gold stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
To recap Audience Building…
Think of building an audience like building a (scrumptious, crouton-filled) salad. The key to constructing a salad you actually want to eat and an audience that actually grows is assembling things in the right order.
- You start with the lettuce (Foundation Articles)
- You add your fixins (Email Newsletter)
- Then you pour on your dressing (Social Media)
⚡️ ACTION STEP FOR YOU ⚡️ Your audience is not going to build itself. Focus less on perfection and more on consistency. Make sure you have 8-10 foundational articles (or do a content audit if you have a large archive). Send out a helpful weekly email newsletter. THEN, create a consistent promotion schedule on the social media platform that makes the most sense for you and your ideal customer.
Step 5: Website Evaluation (with Before and After Designs!)
One of the biggest improvements for Lauren’s website was consolidation. As we mentioned a few times previously, Lauren had multiple different sites using different URLs to try to accomplish the goals of her Lauren-Likes biz.
We took it upon ourselves to reimagine her separate sites (blog site, courses site, podcast site, landing pages) into one glorious virtual home!
Two exercises we use to evaluate a website’s home page and ensure it’s doing its job
Home Page Exercise #1: The 4Q’s Clarity Test
Right off the bat, within 30 seconds or less, your website’s home page needs to answer four simple questions your ideal customer is thinking. Yes, we’re going to help you (and Lauren) read minds. 👉🔮🧠
The four questions your home page needs to answer right away:
- What do you do?
- Are you for me?
- How can you help me?
- What’s my next step?
Now, how you go about answering those questions leads us into the second website evaluation exercise!
Home Page Exercise #2: APSOSA Framework
If you can’t tell, we love metaphors and acronyms around here. APSOSA stands for:
- Audience (who are they?)
- Problem (what is the problem they have?)
- Solution (how does your offering solve the problem?)
- Outcome (what is the outcome they’ll have?)
- Sauce (what is your differentiator?)
- Action (what should they do next?)
Lauren’s website(s) were doing an okay job of answering the 4Q’s, but we’re not about okay jobs around these parts. We want Lauren’s ideal audience (Artful Adventures) to quickly know they are in the right place when visiting Lauren-Likes. Here’s the APSOSA Framework filled out for the new Lauren-Likes home page:
Writing out the “answers” to APSOSA helps with the four mind-reading questions. The next step is to take the APSOSA and 4Q’s answers and fit them into a journey a customer can take on a website’s home page. Things like bold headlines, section headers, callouts, etc, become the perfect places to use APSOSA answers!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at Lauren’s redesigned home page!
We loved that you could see Lauren’s art, creativity, and bright color choices in her existing website, but the standard Squarespace template she was using for this homepage wasn’t giving her site any OOMPH.
Lauren was a smart cookie and purchased our Squarespace Thicket Template and had already told us she’d planned to use it in the future. That was a fun part of the redesign process for us because it created some constraints and limitations in how we’d reimagine her homepage.
Obviously we’re biased, but we really feel the new version of Lauren-Likes speaks to your creative soul. It pulls you in, keeps your visual interest, and lets you know you’re in the right place if you’re looking to boost your creativity through art.
Icons, photos, and design flourishes are great, but don’t forget that your website visitor is going to read your copy to make informed decisions.
We definitely upped the design-ante on Lauren’s site compared to our first Growing Through It case study with Eman. However, we still spent plenty of time working on the copy to ensure we hit the 4Q’s and our APSOSA framework.
Of course, because #overachievers, we also redesigned Lauren’s blog page. Most blog pages (maybe yours?) just list a bunch of posts and forget to have a call-to-action for your biz goal. We added a lead magnet (PDF download) on this page and Lauren could experiment with different ones, maybe even that $1 on-ramp product 😉👌.
To recap Website Evaluation…
We’re STOKED for Lauren to bring all of her independent websites into ONE site. Not only is this going to save Lauren from future headaches but her website visitors are going to have a much more cohesive and friendly experience.
Just having a beautiful website design isn’t enough though (ugh, if only!) Your website needs to be working toward your goals and delivering the value your ideal audience is looking for.
⚡️ ACTION STEP FOR YOU ⚡️ Go through our 4Q’s Clarity Test and APSOSA Framework for your home page right now! Do you pass the 4Q’s test? Does your home page hit on all aspects of APSOSA?
Conclusion: Let’s Wrap This Sucker Up!
WE DID IT! Huzzah! We made it to the end of this case study. Every step along the way we focused on helping a creative biz owner sell more online courses.
If you’re in a similar position to Lauren, especially if you’re having to pivot your business offerings right now, we hope this case study gave you a ton of food for thought.
This part of Lauren’s journey is just the beginning…
👉 Lauren still has to show up consistently for her audience.
👉 She still has to deliver value to her existing customers and future potential customers.
👉 She still has to continue to tweak and test various parts of her marketing and content strategy along the way.
🎉 But she GETS to do all of these things!
Running your own creative business is incredibly fulfilling and can provide the life you want but it’s not going to happen just because you dream about it happening.
Our hope with this “Growing Through It” series is we’ve removed a big chunk of that overwhelm and given you a ton of actionable things you can do in your business RIGHT NOW.
Ready to make a few changes in your business? You can do it, friend!