It’s very tempting to create a course that teaches what you want to teach, and then try and market that course to your audience. You have a topic that you’re excited about and you want to tell others all about it.
But the point of your online course is to enroll as many students as possible and make the biggest impact possible: you want to create a course that will sell. To do that you must choose a topic that is primarily focused on solving a very specific problem or need, and which also incorporates the expertise and skills you already have.
You must research your market and identify your audience’s needs and the struggles they’re facing first, and then take into account how your knowledge and expertise fits in with your findings. Once you have all that information, you can use it to choose the topic of your course.
It’s not a quick process and it will involve some work. Nevertheless, don’t miss out on this essential task in your process. It’s a key step on the road to creating a course that’s going to be valuable for your clients, and therefore as profitable as possible for you.
Online courses can be in any field, such as business, personal development, marketing, lifestyle, design, health, and fitness. They can cover almost any topic you can imagine: from pet care to language learning, social media marketing to natural makeup tips, and mindfulness to neuroscience But the key to remember is that courses can be on any subject that’s teachable. In other words, they can be broken down into a step-by-step process that the client can follow, make progress on, and achieve the results they need.
Step 1: Take into Account You, Your Audience, Your Content, Your Competitors
In this first step, you’re going to take stock of possible topic ideas by considering yourself, your expertise, your audience, your content, and your competition.
Your Areas of Expertise. What do you already know about and enjoy talking about? You don’t have to be a top expert in your field, but there are always things you know about that your customers or clients don’t. If you’re not a complete expert on a topic, remember that you can fill in any gaps with research. What are your areas of expertise? You can probably list a few subjects you know well.
Commonly Asked Questions. What questions do your clients commonly ask you? What problems do you solve for them? Even if they’re questions
you haven’t got answers to, it’s a good place to start because you can research the topic later. Can you start to see any obvious candidates for your course topic?
Your Own Questions. What about questions you’ve asked and found an answer to, or problems you’ve had that you’ve found a solution to? Try to think of problems you faced and needed the most help with when you were starting out. If your audience is in the same field or market as you, the chances are you’ve experienced the same challenges, and found solutions.
Online Analytics. Look at your website’s analytics. If you see a great deal of engagement on certain pages, articles, or blog posts that address problems in your niche, this shows that you’ve covered a topic that’s interesting and useful for your audience. Which pages on your site are the most visited, and which pages do people spend the most time on?
Conduct a Survey. You can conduct a survey on your email list or on your Facebook Group or Page using survey tools like Google Forms or Survey Monkey. Survey your LinkedIn contacts and in LinkedIn groups related to your market (check whether you need to ask for permission first). Create a Twitter list of followers in your niche or market and survey them. Ask people what problems they face relevant to your market.
Make your survey short and focused on gathering information on topics they’d most like to see you cover. You can offer an incentive for participation, such as a free checklist or report, a discount voucher, or a random draw for an Amazon voucher. Tools for picking a random name or number from a list include Random Result, Random Name Picker.
Use Facebook Ads. You can use Facebook Ads to ask your target audience about the biggest problems they face. You could create an ad that says something open-ended like “What’s your #1 challenge in …?” Or you could give them a list of options to choose from if you already have some potential course topics in mind.
Your Competitors. What courses are your competitors offering? If a competitor is promoting a successful course, it means it’s something worth
teaching. What questions are they answering? You might find inspiration from the questions their Q&As solve.
What are your competitors not covering that you could cover? If you want to cover the same topic, can you give it a unique twist to make it different? It’s OK to create a course around a topic even if someone else is already selling one – yours will have your unique perspective, knowledge, and experience.
Step 2: Use Other Sources of Market Research
Forums and Online Communities. Look in forums and online communities in your niche and identify common problems for which people are seeking solutions. Make a list of topics you see here that you could cover.
Question and Answer Sites. Q&A sites like Quora are specifically designed for asking and answering questions. Look for questions and problems related to your market.
Here is a comprehensive list of Q&A sites.
Google and Bing Search. Conduct a simple internet search for the biggest problems in your field. For example, the ‘biggest problems in language learning’. From the resulting list of websites, blog posts and articles addressing those problems, identify which ones are the most popular. How many comments or shares do they have? A high number of social shares could be an indication of how much the topic has resonated with readers. This information is also very useful for narrowing down and choosing key areas of content for your course.
eBooks. Look for information products in your niche and identify which specific problems they target.
Reddit. Reddit is a very active online community and message board. You can search by topic, so search for questions or problems in your niche. You can also ask your own questions there.
Feedly. Subscribe to popular blogs in your niche and see what they’re writing about. This will help you know what’s trending and what’s new in your industry.
Step 3: Choose Your Topic
The research you’ve done so far should have yielded some promising ideas. Now, go over your list of ideas and create a shortlist of possible courses by asking yourself these questions:
- Which ideas are the most urgent or crucial? What is causing your audience the most pain? Is there anything your audience is going to be motivated to solve and pay you for solving it?
- Which of these topics can be taught in 5-7 step-by-step modules so as not to overload your participants with content? If you can’t separate a topic into 5–7 modules you might need to create separate courses.
- What content do you already have that you could use to quickly create a course related to these topics?
- What do you already know about these topics? How well could you teach each one without further research? Which do you know best?
Put it all together. Now look for overlap between the solutions your audience is desperate for the things you do best, the content you already have, and the course you’ll most enjoy teaching.
Considering all of this, which is the most obvious course for you to create
1. Choose your research methods, conduct your research, and note your results.
2. Based on your research, create a shortlist of courses your audience most needs, list the content you already have on these topics, and note what you already know about each topic.
3. Choose your topic for your course. Keep a note of your other shortlisted courses to come back to later.
Ready to create a mind-blowing course so amazing it practically sells itself? Watch my free-training where I walk you through step-by-step how to design, structure, outline, and create your course content.