We all have our own special superpowers.
I haven’t started designing bumper sticker material here, nor am I selling any book on how to improve your life, gain inner peace, or feel better about yourself and the world. I am simply stating the fact that each individual is exceptionally skilled at something — you included.
If you had just started your online learning business before the global health crisis hit, it’s quite possible that you are not feeling great about your entrepreneurial skills right about now. Or you may be questioning your instructional design abilities. I assure you that, though it’s always good to learn more and grow, they may not be the issue. The market is what we all know it is. The most often heard advice (by me as well) is doing a good market research and then building online courses that fill a need.
In this article, I will talk a bit about the opposite approach – think of what you really love and are good at, put it into learning material, and then take it to your niche.
Niches are smaller in numbers but bigger in engagement
While figuring out what it is that you do exceedingly well and you can teach others with the utmost skill and enthusiasm, you might feel that there is a limited number of people interested in that. You are right; that is why it is called a niche.
However, the individuals in it are far more likely to jump at the opportunity to learn more about their preferred subject. Therefore, it is crucial that you really are an expert because you’ll be dealing with highly passionate and informed students. This might even generate a slight ‘imposter complex’ in you, and to some extent, it’s healthy — you will have to go the extra mile, do your homework diligently, and come up with content and presentation worthy of attention (and investment).
The first step is to dig deep to find what you are really ‘superpowerful’ at and recognize it as a worthy subject. Too often, these niches are neglected, mostly because their interest is not deemed important or worthwhile by popular opinion.
Organic marketing is a dream with very narrow targets
Generally, you would develop a marketing campaign that (even if aimed at a particular demographic) appealed to as many people as possible. The science behind every successful sales funnel starts with big numbers at the top.
When you are talking about niche-subjects, it’s much easier to get on the radar of those who will be interested. First of all, they are your people. There’s bound to be an online community that you are part of where people post, discuss, dissect, and share important updates and information. They are likely to know you already and value you as a participating member, so your marketing endeavors will not seem out of place.
You can easily even involve the future participants in the outlining and design process. Having a say in the content will only lead them to be more invested and feel like the final product was tailored for them.
Honesty and authenticity will matter more than logistics and props
As it is often the case with online communities, they want to see the real person speaking to them. This is because the better part of social media is made up of people and organizations presenting themselves as they would like to be seen and not how they actually are.
With small businesses and entrepreneurs, however, it’s a different story. People are fed up with the corporate glam built by highly paid and very efficient advertisers and crave authenticity. If you do a good job of conveying your passion (by tweets, blog posts, sharing of relevant content) and give a bit of yourself in the process, people will enroll even if you don’t come with the newest technology or groundbreaking graphics.
Designing courses that appeal to large numbers is great, but there is something still to be said about going into your favorite niche. Especially during outstanding times when the sense of community becomes more important, sticking with your tribe can help your business both in the short and long run.
Raluca Cristescu has over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.