More than two decades ago, entrepreneur Mike Bundrant became a certified neurolinguistic programming (NLP) instructor. NLP, if you don't know, is a model for interpersonal communication designed to influence and change unwanted behaviors. It's something Bundrant knows something about.
In 2011, with the launch of his iNLP Center, Bundrant took a further leap, to selling online courses about his specialty. Just five short years later, Bundrant is on track to hit $1 million in annual sales, with a number of major joint partnerships on the horizon.
In three years' time, for instance, he went from a mailing list of zero to more than 150,000 opt-in subscribers. He has also just launched a new online sales training course to help sales professionals become top leaders by mastering the art of non-verbal communication, personal influence and persuasion. With the launch of his course, Mike is charting all-new territory for NLP education.
Of course, this didn't happen overnight. Flashback to 2001: Bundrant didn’t let a lack of design or coding experience -- or even his then-limited knowledge about digital marketing -- hold him back. He knew he had a great product that would actually perform better online than it did offline; he just needed to find his audience. Here’s how Bundrant channeled his passion into building a successful sales-course empire from scratch, and how you can the same with your specialty.
Channeling initial inspiration into a successful business
As a certified NLP instructor, Bundrant is passionate about helping his students learn practical communication and personal development skills. He says that as the Internet exploded in the early 2000s, he realized that online learning might be a more effective approach than classroom learning. However, Bundrant did struggle with the next steps.
“We quickly found that online learning is actually more effective than classroom learning,” Bundrant said. “With online learning, students learn little by little at their own pace. They integrate the skills in the context of their current environment. That’s why our motto has become, 'Your life is the classroom.' But we did not know how to make the practical leap into the digital world.”
Luckily, Bundrant had an incredible business partner in his wife, Holly. She's a graphic designer who had dabbled in web design prior to the launch of iNLP. With the site’s launch, she hit the ground running, investing hundreds of hours in online platform development so the iNLP team could build a strong, in-house knowledge base.
“Every entrepreneur needs a strong support team, and I’m lucky to have Holly by my side,” says Bundrant. “She’s an incredible partner.”
The businessman also realized that beyond a strong platform for presenting professional training videos, he also needed to clearly differentiate his company from the competition. “With so much information available online, identifying an effective online training course can be overwhelming for the average consumer,” Bundrant says.
“Not only do providers like iNLP Center need to be found in Google search results, we also need to build trust and credibility with potential customers by clearly presenting our accreditations and credentials from the moment they land on our site.”
Bundrant recognized that iNLP faced two major obstacles to growth: establishing its course as a superior offering -- via product differentiation -- and building customer trust. Here's how he solved those problems:
Problem 1: Positioning your training as the superior option
Solution: Emphasize key differentiating factors.
From the moment visitors land on the iNLP site, they’re greeted with content that clearly details iNLP’s unique selling points. The entire “Why Choose Us” page explains why iNLP is a world leader in accredited online training and how iNLP breaks down concepts into simple, clear and easy-to-follow lessons. “Based on initial user feedback about our strongest differentiating factors, we’ve chosen to emphasize our convenience, skills integration and training simplicity,” says Bundrant.
Your lesson: Beta-test your training course and gather user feedback to determine your course’s strongest selling points. These are the points you should emphasize on your landing sales page.
Problem 2: Establishing customer trust
Solution: Offer a money-back guarantee. I’ve written before about how beneficial money-back guarantees can be for lesser-known businesses. DesignHill, a logo and design marketplace, offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee option on every design project. Even better: It comes no-strings-attached. iNLP does the same, honoring a seven-day money back guarantee.
“We want customers to feel comfortable and confident that our online courses are the right fit for their needs,” says Bundrant “If someone wants to un-enroll, we absolutely respect that decision and don’t make them jump through hoops. Send us an email and consider it done.”
Your lesson: Customers can be wary about money-back guarantees, especially if they’ve had a bad experience in the past with a company that made them chase down a refund. Keep it simple by being clear from day one that you’ll refund their money, no questions asked.
Bottom line: The Internet is saturated with online training courses. For yours to be a success, it needs to clearly stand out. Sure, a PPC campaign can generate a lot of website traffic, but great ads and landing pages aren’t enough to seal the deal.
Why should consumers buy your course over another? How can your business build trust? Don't skimp on market research and buyer persona development: Instead, take the time to understand your customer base, and apply these lessons to your marketing, to position your training as the superior choice and build customer trust.