How to Create a Course that Delivers Results

Are you interested in creating an online course that delivers results?

Welcome, everyone. I’m Sherold Barr and I’m thrilled to have a special guest today, Breanne Dyck. Breanne is a strategist, coach, consultant to help micro-businesses grow their revenues and their impact by applying the principles of adult learning.


Sherold:      I wanted to interview Breanne because she has a great way of helping entrepreneurs create courses that deliver results.  I’ve worked with Breanne to develop my program Profit from Your Passion.  Let me give you a little bit more about her.

While others focus on online marketing, instructional design, business strategy or product development, Breanne’s expertise brings them seamlessly together, resulting in a uniquely personalized results-based approach.

Her clients are speakers, authors, coaches, consultants and other mico-business owners who want to be known for world-class results. When you’re creating a program, you’re creating it with Breanne for those world-class results.

Breanne’s consulted on flagship products for lots of people: Creative Lives — that’s Tara Gentile’s program — live events and workshops for thought leaders.

I’m going to ask you some questions that I think inspire and influence some of the folks listening. Building your curriculum, a specific way to get those results, which is your course promise, is critical. If you do it the right way and the way Breanne taught me to do it, you can’t lose. Your people will have results.

I wanted to ask you this: For those of us that want to create a results-based program where our people take action — that’s the real litmus test; we’re not just teaching people to know and understand and this is what I love about you, we’re teaching them to go all the way through the learning model to apply that gets them results.

What trends are you seeing out there now? It’s changed rapidly just in the last five years since I’ve been on it. What are you seeing in terms of courses and teaching online in terms of length and whatever else you want to share?

Breanne:     Sure. It’s so interesting when we look at how this idea of teaching has evolved online over the past five to 10 years. You go back maybe seven years and it was all about eBooks. Everything was eBooks. Then, those became popular and you couldn’t call them eBooks anymore. You had to call them Guides or Tutorials or that kind of thing. They were still eBooks, but we had to call them something else.

This was about the time when Amazon really started coming into the market and you started to see the price of eBooks go from $79 to $59 to $29 to, now, $.99 or 1.99. As that started to happen, as eBook prices started to come down and as the technology started to change, we started to see people having faster internet connections, so video started to explode on the scene.

That switch started to happen, as you saying, about five years or so ago. We started to see eBooks, then they started being packaged and there’d be bonus videos thrown in. You’d have a guest speaker interview or a tutorial video to go with your eBook — helping to keep the prices higher, of course.

What people started to notice is there’s something to this. The technology is at a different place than it used to be. As time went on, we started to move away from the eBook as an authoritative way of teaching and into a model where we actually started to create something that resembles more of what we would consider teaching – courses, programs — whether that’s a four-week crash course or a year-long mastermind program.

We started to see people taking their ideas and packaging them up differently because, really, what they found — and what I found — is information is great, but results come when you do the work.

All of these brilliant entrepreneurs, seeing the change in the ecosystem, started to pay attention to this and they started say, “What can I do to get better results for my people?” That’s where we started to see online courses.

It also helped to solve the problem with scale. A lot of coaches and bloggers were dealing with clients one-on-one. There’s only so many hours in the day. You can’t work with people one-on-one forever.

Courses became seen as a way to provide a higher value to people while still working on a more scalable, leveraged business model.

Now, where the trend is going — we’re probably at the tidal wave of online courses because everyone and their dog seems to be coming out.

I was looking at my Facebook feed and there was an ad for this course and an ad for that course and ads for another course. I was like, “Okay, I think we’re getting close to, if we haven’t already hit it, critical mass for courses.” The next thing that’s actually coming — and I’m watching it — is the certification wave.

We’ve gone from eBooks, now we’ve gone to courses and the next thing that’s going to be happening is certifying people. Danielle LaPorte is doing that with the Desire Map Facilitator Certification, Tara Gentile has been doing that for the last few years with the Quiet Power strategy certification process, Digital Marketer has just rolled out an online digital marketing certification program and the list goes on and on and on.

It’s always this question of: What will the technology support?

What’s the new technology? Now we’re able to do so much more in terms of live video conferencing and real-time feedback and that sort of thing as well as continuing to grow the reach and impact and scale.

This is where the trends in the industry are going. It’s not so much about how long the courses are or who they’re trying to attract — although we’re seeing shifts in those areas — but the big trend that’s happening right now is people are continually looking for ways to get their ideas into the hands of more people and get them even more amazing results because all those courses are out there.

We’re getting bombarded. It’s not just enough to have a course anymore.

You need to have a course that’s going to stand out for being the kind of thing that people want to invest in because it gets results.

That’s the trend that we’re really seeing come into its own right now.

Sherold:      I totally agree. We affectionately call this Shiny Object Syndrome. There is this phenomenon that I’ve read about — a psychology — that people buy a course and think that the knowledge has just transferred. They feel better because they just bought that course.

How many courses have you and I — I know I’ve bought some — that are just tucked into the email inbox? I didn’t use them. The key that you said — and this is why I loved working with you — is that you start at the results first. Let’s talk about it.

I worked with you before I created Profit from Your Passion. The results have been — this is my third iteration – terrific. It just gets better and better because I’ve learned how to start peer groups — peer group learning is just incredible. Let them self-regulate, support each other in the way that works — because we’re all overwhelmed anyway. I have a lot of people that work full time, and they’re starting a business on the side.

What would you tell someone who is starting to build even a simple little course? Where do they start? What’s the process?

Breanne:     One of the things that’s really interesting is we’ve talked about how there’s this revolution in online teaching happening. But what I know to be true is that it’s not the people who view themselves as teachers that are ultimately going to be most successful.

I’m a big research geek. I love figuring out what the academic research says and how we can apply that to the real world. What the research tells us is if you approach the creating of a course or a lesson or a workshop or whatever it is, if you approach it from the perspective of, “What do I want to teach them?” It will be okay.

If, instead, you changed the question around and you asked them what they want to learn, that simple change in the question and how you think about what you’re setting out to do is enough to subconsciously change your approach so that you build a better product and your customers get better results.

Where you have to start is with what I call the ‘core promise,” or the “course promise.”

It’s this intersection of what do they think they want and what do you, as the expert, know they need? You have to address both of those things. Too often, I see entrepreneurs have a great idea about what they want to teach and then they spend all of this time, all of this blood, sweat and tears and don’t realize it. It’s horrible. It breaks my heart a little bit.

Sherold:      It really hurts. I’ve seen it, too, with my clients who come to me and they’ve already done that. It’s so sad. It is. It’s heartbreaking.

Breanne:     What you have to do instead is change your mindset. You have to stop having this teaching mindset. You have to stop asking the question, “What do I want to teach?” You have to start asking the question, “What do they want to learn?” Or, even more specifically, “What do they want to learn to do?”

My personal favorite definition of learning is you know that learning has happened when you have the opportunity to make a different choice than you would have made previously.

Sherold:      Oh, I love that. Say it again.

Breanne:     We know that learning has occurred when have the opportunity to make a different choice than we would have previously. It’s not to say we will make a different choice, but that we have the opportunity to make a different choice, to choose a different behavior, to choose a different way of thinking, to choose a different emotional response.

That is when we know learning has occurred and that, from a business perspective, is also what gets people to buy.

They don’t want information downloaded into their brains.

They want what that information can help them to do. They want that opportunity to change.

That’s where you have to start. You have to say, “What is the transformation that my customers want to be able to accomplish?”

Sherold:      I love that. I have an analogy. I took it from Jeffery Moore, a technology adopter. I was in technology before this. It’s crossing the chasm. I’m standing on this side with my client and there’s a giant chasm. Over there, on the other side, is what they want.

Sometimes they don’t quite know exactly what they want — I want to ask you about that in a second — but everything you’re going to design is a step across that ladder across the chasm. They want to be over there and they’re going to pay money for you to get them over there. They’re not going to pay money for these little steps, it’s that outcome.

We’ve talked about where they are before and where they want to be afterwards. What if they don’t quite know where they want to be afterwards? Are you educating them to where they really want to go when you’re talking about this promise?

Breanne:     When we look at a market, there’s a whole different spectrum of market awareness. On the one extreme, you have people who are completely unaware. They have no idea that they have a problem, they have no idea that there’s a solution. They’re clueless.

You cannot sell to those people. There is just no way to sell to those people. They need to do a little bit of inner work before they’re ready.

The next step along the spectrum is the problem-aware customer. This is where someone says, “I know that I want something. I know that there’s a problem that I have. I know that there’s something that I desire. I know that there’s a challenge that’s holding me back. I have a hope or a fear.”

They may not know exactly what the actual root problem is, but they know that there’s a problem. They will articulate it in a certain way. They’ll use their own words. You may listen to those words and say, “That’s not actually your problem,” but at least they’re aware of the problem.

The next level after that is the solution-aware people. These people are not only aware that they have a problem, they’re aware that a solution exists. A really great example of this: I live in Canada. We’re just coming out of winter. People are debating right now, “Do we take the winter tires off of our cars or are we going to have another snow-dump?”

People who live in Florida are completely unaware of the winter tire dilemma.

Sherold:      That’s a great analogy.

Breanne:     They’re never going to buy winter tires because they don’t need to know about winter tires. Someone who moves from Florida to Alberta, where I live, is going to very quickly become problem-aware and they’re going to say, “Hey, when I’m driving, there’s a lot of snow out there and I have no traction.” They’re going to be aware that there’s a problem, but they might not know the solution.

Then they become solution-aware. This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to go and say, “Who are the people that are problem aware — who are those drivers — that are slipping and sliding all over the road? Who has just moved from a really warm climate to a really cold climate and how can I make them aware that there’s a solution? How can I tell them that such a thing as winter tires exists?” That’s the third phase of this awareness spectrum.

Then, the final stage is where they become fully aware. They become brand-aware. They become aware that they can go to my local tire shop and get this particular brand of winter tires and I will install them and they will stop sliding around.

We all have customers on the entire breadth of this spectrum, from completely unaware to completely aware? What’s so important is for us to recognize where on that spectrum our best customers are falling. Then, to target them where they’re at rather than trying to drag them and talking to them. I could go and say to someone who just moved, “Hey, you need winter tires. Hey, you need winter tires. Hey, you need winter tires.” But, until October or November hits and they realize they have no traction, that message is going to fall on deaf ears.

What we need to do is listen and understand where our audience is at so that our core promise becomes a reflection of what they want, even if they don’t actually know what they solution is. We can still tap into that problem and help them realize there is a solution.

Sherold:      Let’s talk about course promise. That freaks out people. They think, “I can’t promise that they’re going to X, Y, Z.” Getting to that and being able to say that on your sales page is critical. You have to go through this process that you teach to get there. What would you like to share about that?

Breanne:     The important thing to realize is that whether you want to make a promise or not, you’re making a promise. You might as well be intentional about the promise that you’re making and make it something that you put some thought into so that you can be confident about it.

I was working with a client in my group program — it’s called The Master Class — and this client’s name is Brody. She is an acupuncturist and an expert in Chinese medicine. She said to me, “Breanne, I’m really struggling with figuring out what to promise. People are coming to me just because they’re curious about Chinese medicine. I know that Chinese medicine can change their life because there’s ancient wisdom that if we tap into it, it can make a real different.” She said, “I can’t promise that I’m going to cure their disease or that I’m going to make their family life better.”

I said, “Brody, that’s okay. You don’t have to promise the moon.” This is why I talk about the intersection. It’s what they think they want — the think word is really important there, by the way — because what people think they want isn’t always what they need.

Sherold:      I’m so glad you said that. We’ll come back to that or maybe elaborate on it. That’s so true.

Breanne:     A classic example: weight loss. People want to lose the last 10 pounds. What the health experts know is that they need a lifestyle change. You don’t want to make a promise that you’re going to lose 10 pounds or, for Brody, you’re not going to promise that they’re never going to have disease. That doesn’t make any sense.

What we have to do is we have to look at what’s behind their desire. What’s behind what they think they want? The technique we use here is called The Five Whys. Someone is going to tell you, “I just really want to learn about Chinese medicine.

“Why is that? Can you tell me a little bit more about that?”

“Well, there’s just this philosophy and this world view that just fascinates me.”

“That’s really interesting. Can you tell me more about that? What is it about the philosophy?”

“Well, I love this idea of being in harmony with my surroundings.”

“Really? What does that mean for you? Why is that so important?”

“I love my kids, but I always feel like we’re just not connecting like we used to anymore.”

“That’s really interesting. What would change if you could get into a more harmonious relationship with your kids? Why does that matter?” This is the fifth why.

“Well, I think I’d feel like I’m a better parent.” Bingo. You’re not helping them to change their entire life, you’re helping equip them — remember learning is having the opportunity to make a different choice — with the tools, the techniques, the world view that will help them have a stronger relationship with their kids.

Is that something that you can promise if they do the work? Is that something that you can feel good about promising? Is that results that you’ve gotten for your other clients in the past?

If the answer is yes, then make that promise. Put in the caveat that you have to do the work — that’s why we talk about doing action — but your sales page, the story of your sales page then, you can go from being this disconnected person that feels like they’re just struggling to figure out how to fit their life together because they’re so discombobulated, but with a different world view, with a different set of tools, they’ve learned to find five minutes of peace in the day.

That is a promise that you can give people really specific actions if that’s your area of expertise.

You can give them the tools, the techniques to be able to make that transformation for themselves. You don’t have to promise that all of their problems will go away. You don’t even have to promise that thing that they think they want that isn’t actually what they really need.

What you want to do is tap into the underlying, deeper desire and then show them that there’s a solution. Show them that it’s possible.

A lot of times, what happens when we create these courses is we think we have to promise the moon. We think we have to make a huge promise that’s going to change everything. There’s a couple problems with that.

The first problem is from a sales perspective. No one is going to believe you, so no one is going to buy. No one is going to believe you if you make a promise — Ramit Sethi is famous for saying that his freelancing course, he could call it Earn $10,000 on the Side, but it wouldn’t sell. They’ve tested it.

He deliberately calls the course, Earn $1000 on the Side because people believe that promise. Even though it’s underselling the promise, they believe that promise.

Sherold:      Then they’re over satisfied.

Breanne:     Exactly! The second thing is, could you imagine if you were trying to build a course that was Earn $10,000 on the Side, how much you would feel like you had to cram into it to get people to that promise? From a learning perspective, when you try and promise the moon, you end up not being focused enough and you end up not being able to deliver the goods because you try and do too much. You overwhelm people. You lack focus. You lack trajectory.

Instead, when you get focused and you really say, “This is the particular problem for this particular person that we’re trying to solve,” then you can make a promise that you can be confident of delivering on.

Sherold:      This is exactly what I see, what I understand and what I’ve learned from you. I think that’s wonderful.

Breanne:     I want to talk about one other really important thing when you’re coming up with this course. That’s the idea of the perfect participant. You remember the perfect participant?

Sherold:       This is actually one of the keys that you start with.

Breanne:     Yes. We talked about figuring out what they think they want and what they know they need, but how do you actually do that? I also mentioned a phrase earlier: who are your best customers? Who are the ones that you wish you could clone and that you had a million of them?

Your perfect participant is that person that you wish you could clone.

It’s one person at a particular moment in time because we know in our businesses people change. That’s why they come work with us, so that they undergo a change.

If our business is a whole customer journey, our perfect participant is the person we wish we could clone at the moment in time when they’re ready to take the biggest advantage out of the transformation that we have in mind for them.

You should have a name of this person. You should be able to — when you outline your course and you figure out what’s going to be in it and what’s not — send that person an email and say, “I created this for you. Would you like to buy it?”

One of the offer that I run in my business is called The Master Class, which I mentioned a little bit earlier. It’s a group program where we take people through the process of designing an online course.

In that program, we do exactly this. We get people to identify who their perfect participant is, what you think they want, what you know they need, all the way through what the curriculum is going to be, what activities you’re going to do, how you’re going to structure it, organize it and put it all together. But, in the middle of the process, we tell people to take a pause from designing their course and send the email. Send the invitation email to that perfect participant and to five, 10, 15 other people who they think could also be the perfect participant.

You invite people before you even finish your curriculum. You invite them because you know who they are and you invite them and say, “I built this thing just for you. Would you like to buy it?”

The conversion rates on that can be through the roof. We’ve seen conversion rates as high as 80% of people saying, “Yes! Oh, my gosh. I’ve been waiting for this. How did you know?”

On the flip side, we’ve seen conversion rates that are pretty low — maybe only one or two people — and then you know you need to refine and you haven’t quite nailed that core promise because it hasn’t really clicked. We go through this process, but it all starts by knowing who your perfect participant is.

What I would love to do for all of you who are watching is I would love for you to head over to my website, which is

I want you to go to If you go there and enter your email address, I will email you a copy of the perfect participant guide, which is the exercise that you go through when you work with me, whether it’s one-on-one or in the group program, to figure out what you think they want, what that transformation looks like so that you can start creating that core promise. It’s a four step workbook.

You can do it in less than half an hour. It’s the exercise that I make everyone go through when they work with me.

Then, maybe you’ve got a course and you realize that it’s not working the way you want and you want to make some adjustments to it. You can also go to my website.

If you just go to the work with me page, you’ll find various different ways to work with me. We’ve got a link to an Elevate session, which is a one-off consulting session. We can look at what’s been working, what’s not been working, help you improve it.

Sherold:      Okay. Perfect. I really recommend you and your work because it’s just so pivotal for me and the women in my program.

By the way, I have a — I call it Crossing the Chasm in that we’re selling transformation. I have them go through my own little process that’s very similar to that, but that is critical.

Where are they before? I even ask the women, just recently — it’s another thing to do. I ask the women in Profit from Your Passion, my six-month business building program, “What were you thinking when you were about to buy?” What’s their emotional state? I said, “Were you worried that I wouldn’t deliver for you?” That is really important if you can do that.

I also want to ask you — one more thing came up. I suggest that they do a beta test. Like a beta program. There’s two things here.

I sold the first iteration of this program before I built it.

I had a lot of the material. A lot of us are saying pre-sell because then you know you’ve got — it’s more stressful, let me tell you. But, if you’ve got the basis for a body of work that you’re going to put together, that’s a great way to do it.

Breanne:     We talk about offering a pilot of your program. The idea of a pilot being — the research actually shows that as an expert, you cannot know where and how people will struggle. You can’t.

It doesn’t matter how you try, it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, how much work with me, how much you go through instructional design principles and blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t matter what you do. You cannot break out of the curse of expertise. You can’t do it.

In fact, the study went further and it said beginners also can’t predict where or when they’re going to struggle. The only time that you can predict how long it’s going to take someone to learn something, where they’re going to struggle, what’s going to work, what’s not going to work… the only time and place that you can actually figure that out with accuracy is in the middle of the learning journey.

That’s why you have to run a pilot. You have to pre-sell it to make sure that your messaging is resonating.

You have to be okay with not having the perfect curriculum before you start delivering. You have to be willing to iterate and change and make adjustments because that is what it takes to create something that works. There is no shortcut.

The nice thing is that when you take this approach, you make money faster and for the long run you end up getting better results. More of the three Rs as I call them. More referrals, more repeat buyers and better retention with your existing clients in the program. You have to, have to, have to acknowledge that since you know stuff about this, you can’t predict what it’s like for a beginner. Therefore, you must test it with real people.

Sherold:       I ran a group program for the first time after we worked together. I wasn’t sure how I was going to hold the container of a group. I found this is my element. Not only did I hold the container, but I didn’t know. How was I going to know until I did it?

To your point, I’m still revising and course correcting and I’m about to survey my women midway through — we’re not even at the midway through point — to check and test. It’s like a scientific experiment.

Breanne:     That’s exactly right.

Sherold:      I tell all my business women, “You are running and experiment in your business. You are always testing, you’re always curious. That’s how you refine.”

It is such a pleasure to have you here. I adore you and your work. I am just thrilled with what you’ve helped me do and I wanted to share you with my audience.

Breanne:     Thank you so much for letting me geek out and to talk to you.

Sherold:      This is fun. I’ve had a blast talking to you.  Thank you so much, Breanne.

Breanne:     Thank you.

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