Post Updated [March 14, 2023]
If there’s something about the arrival of spring that makes you want to throw open the windows, purge what no longer serves you, and scrub the slate clean, you’re not alone. More than three quarters of Americans say they engage in spring cleaning. This trend isn’t surprising given the season’s strong associations with new beginnings, and a renewed sense of energy and well-being. These same associations make spring a popular time for people to feel more motivated to focus on their health and wellness. This makes it an opportune time to launch an online course, like a group coaching program.
Whether you’re starting to explore how to build an online course as a component of future-proofing your business, or you’re expanding your suite of online offerings, there are some key steps to work through. We’re diving into each of them below, offering practical advice and proven frameworks you can use to set yourself up for long-term success.
1. Identify Your Target Audience
When thinking about your participants’ journey in your program, it’s essential to be clear on who you’re helping. While it’s tempting to offer programming that appeals to a wide variety of clients, it’s in your best interest to niche down to an ideal client profile for your online course. That’s because staying too high-level makes it harder for people to see how the content is relevant to their lives. For example, offering a group coaching program around adopting healthier nutrition habits raises questions around the type of habits and what “healthier” means in practical terms. Conversely, an online program focused on balancing macronutrients to help women experiencing perimenopause take better control of their symptoms makes it clear what to expect.
Ideally, you want to offer highly targeted content to a specific participant type who is motivated to address a distinct problem and achieve a measurable outcome. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you define your ideal audience:
- What do the majority of my followers/clients need my help with?
- What are the questions that I get asked over and over again?
- Why haven’t my followers/clients been successful in the past?
- What do my followers/clients like?
- What are my participants’ goals?
- What results could I confidently deliver that they would feel good about?
Once you have a clear sense of the main problem you’ll be solving and for whom, it’s time to begin exploring the topics your online group coaching program will cover.
2. Map Out Your Group Coaching Program Focus
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the entirety of content you could possibly include in your program, you can use the following strategies to narrow down your focus.
Ask Your Clients What They Need
You’re consulting with clients in 1:1 sessions all the time. This can be an opportune time to ask them what kind of programming they wish was available or if there are gaps in their knowledge they’d love to fill. If it feels inappropriate to bring up in the actual session, you can always follow up with a feedback form or survey after the fact.
Mine the Data at Your Fingertips
Your practice management platform should have reporting and analytics that uncover key themes you can use as inspiration for creating your online courses. For example, the form response summary report in Practice Better lets you pull reports around client responses on any forms you’ve created, like your intake form. It also generates a handy word cloud so you can instantly visualize where clients need the most help. So, if a large number of new clients indicate that they suffer from bloating on their intake forms, you could look at how to build an online course around everyday eating to reduce bloating.
Go Beyond Your Client Base
The beauty of offering online programs is the ability to reach a more geographically diverse group of clients with similar needs. There are free tools out there that you can take advantage of to get a pulse on the questions people are seeking answers to when it comes to improving their health and wellness.
- AnswerThePublic – A lot of people treat search engines like a trusted friend who knows the answers to all of their questions – from where to find the best Thai food in town to tips for overcoming chronic insomnia. AnswerThePublic is a search listening tool that taps into these queries to quickly tell you what questions people are searching for around a specific keyword phrase. This gives you a front-row seat to what people are Googling when it comes to their health and wellness.
- Quora and Reddit – You can also get a handle on the types of questions people are asking around specific facets of their health and wellness by searching on Quora or Reddit. These are two examples of free online communities where users can ask any questions and have them answered by other users. Both platforms also allow users to upvote or downvote content, which helps to surface the most popular and helpful information.
- Facebook groups – Use the search function on Facebook to uncover groups that exist relative to the topics you may be considering building your online course around. Note that you won’t be able to see the posts or discussions happening within any private Facebook group – but you can see the description and information about the group.
It’s important to point out that while these tools can give you a better idea of the general population’s thoughts, concerns, and questions around your area of focus, the user base is not necessarily representative of your entire ideal audience. These tools should be used in conjunction with other validation methods, like the direct client feedback described in the previous section.
Check Out Competitive Offerings
It’s a good idea to check out what your top competitors are offering in the realm of online group coaching programs. Assess whether there are gaps in their content that you can bridge with your own offering or if there’s a content tilt you can lean into that will differentiate your offering from other programs out there. For example, imagine one of your competitors is offering an 8-week, self-directed Intuitive Eating online course that promises to get clients back in touch with their innate body wisdom. Can you up the ante by adding a guided meditation element and the ability to connect with like-minded peers through a Group Chat?
Understanding what else is out there for your ideal clients to take advantage of can help you refine your offering to stand out from the crowd.
3. Define Your Learning Objectives
Before you start designing your group coaching program, you should aim to gain a clear picture of what clients will achieve upon successful completion. This not only helps you articulate value to potential participants in your online course description, it provides a blueprint for structuring the course content and ensuring it’s focused on achieving the right objectives.
- Be as specific as possible about outcomes. What do you want participants to achieve by the time they’ve wrapped up the program? For example, rather than a high-level outcome like “experience less day-to-day bloating” you could try something like “be able to easily identify foods that cause bloating.”
- Make it measurable. Think of it this way: if you were going to test clients on the content of your program after they have completed it, would you be able to do it? For example, it would make sense for an online program around incorporating mindfulness into daily life to include learning the key principles of mindfulness. If a participant can easily repeat those principles back after completing your program then the objective is measurable.
- Limit the number of objectives. Having too many objectives may lead to content overload which makes it harder for clients to easily retain the learnings and put them into action.
If you’re looking for more inspiration on setting and storyboarding learning objectives, you can borrow tricks from the professionals who build meaningful instruction every day. Bloom’s Taxonomy and the ADDIE Model are two popular frameworks to check out.
4. Develop a Detailed Course Outline
Once you have your learning objectives locked in, you can move on to creating a more detailed framework for your online program. Here are a few areas to consider:
- Use what you’ve learned in the first few steps to build a detailed list of the topics you need to cover in your course. Related content can be bundled together into a single module, much like a chapter in a textbook.
- Decide how many modules you’ll need to include to adequately deliver your online course and meet your established learning goals. You should also determine how long each module will be, taking care not to oversaturate your participants with too much information in a single sitting.
- Consider the flow and pacing of your program. How will modules build on one another in a logical way for those progressing through the program?
- Determine what support materials you might want to bundle into your group coaching program. These could include Interactive elements like quizzes, a recommended reading list to complement your expert content, interactive videos, group discussions, and more.
Take a peek at how Lexy Penney of Lexy Penney Nutrition and Wellness develops her online program content along with strategies she uses to keep clients motivated.
5. Lock Up the Logistics
With your content mapped out, it’s time to move on to how you will deliver it to program participants. There are a lot of moving parts inherent in how to build an online course. So we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re working through the finer details.
What Formats Will You Choose for Content?
You can approach creating your content in a bunch of different ways. Which formats you ultimately choose will depend on your comfort level, technical skills, time, and more. Here are a few common formats to explore:
- Talking head videos. This is exactly what it sounds like – a recording of you (or others, if you’re using guest experts in your content), talking to a video camera. In order to avoid viewer fatigue, consider mixing up the locations of your recording. You can also record over a white background and get someone with graphics expertise to overlay visuals when appropriate to break up the talking head footage.
- Other videos. If your content lends itself to demonstrating certain skills, you can videotape those scenarios as well. For example, if you’re demonstrating exercises to reduce tailbone pain, then showing a video of yoga poses like cat-cow and child’s pose will help to ingrain the learning in your online course participants. It may be an option to purchase stock video to embed in your learning module as well, rather than filming it yourself.
- Slide-based. In this scenario, participants are walked through slides, much like watching a Powerpoint presentation. The slide typically takes up the whole screen with narration voiced over the slides.
- Printed in a PDF. You can look at packaging up your program content in .pdf format as well. For example, in Practice Better, it’s possible to deliver a program through email only and send them to the platform to consume the content. In this scenario a course might look like delivering one chapter of an eBook each week and notifying clients by email when it’s ready. This could easily be supplemented with quizzes and other content clients fill out on the platform to reinforce the content and test their knowledge.
No matter which formats you ultimately decide to pursue, consider adding closed captions to improve accessibility.
How Will You Deliver Your Program Content?
Will your content be delivered via a Facebook group, emails, e-course platform, or directly from your EHR? The delivery system you choose will dictate the type of program materials you can include in your program. For example, a Facebook group is great for engagement and building community but doesn’t allow you to easily deliver and organize documents or resources. Using an e-course platform may make sense for delivering video content and handouts, however, you’ll need to direct your participants to a separate platform and it won’t be part of their health record if they turn into a client.
Investing in a secure and reliable technology infrastructure allows you to deliver your online programs through the same platform you run all other aspects of your practice. It also protects the privacy of your clients and offers the scalability to easily handle traffic so your program is always accessible to program participants in the moments that matter.
How Frequently Will You Release Content to Your Program Participants?
You can choose from a few different formats:
- A fixed-date program has predetermined start and end dates. Modules are unlocked and accessible to clients based on calendar dates that you choose ahead of time. Clients enter the program with a cohort of participants and everyone receives the same content at the same time. This format gives you the opportunity to mix up the content by injecting live group therapy programs one week, for example, to help build community and engagement.
- An evergreen program is available to any client at any time. Once a client purchases the program, they run through it on their own. You set when modules unlock ahead of time. For example, perhaps the first module is unlocked the day of sign-up, then the next one a week later.
Note that when you’re determining the intervals for dripping program content out to participants, you will need to take into account overall program length and module depth. A daily cadence may work for short programs/challenges, but can be overwhelming for programs that are longer than 7 days. The goal here is to find the balance between providing enough support and overwhelming participants with content they struggle to keep up with and remember. Don’t be afraid to experiment–this process may take some trial and error to figure out.
- A self-paced program is similar to Evergreen except that each new module is unlocked once the client completes the previous module. This format gives clients the flexibility to work through the program at their own pace. The caveat here is that clients need to be highly self-motivated to keep progressing through the program. Keep reading for ideas on how to keep participants accountable.
How Will You Keep Participants Accountable, Engaged, and Motivated?
What can you do to ensure your participants are accountable not only to you, but to themselves? Consider setting clear tasks for your participants with due dates or a weekly progress form. If you’re using a practice management solution to deliver your online courses, make sure it has built-in tools you can easily incorporate into the content to encourage accountability and daily habit sharing – such as journaling and worksheets.
Coaching calls are another great way to boost accountability, which can be done in a one-on-one or group format. Or stay more at arms length by setting up a group chat that lets clients in your group coaching program easily connect and share wins and challenges in an online forum that you moderate.
Get more motivation inspiration over here: Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Clients Motivated.
6. Naming and Pricing
You’re getting closer to launching your online program, but before you can take it to market, it needs a name that resonates and a price that your target clients can swallow.
- Choose clear over clever. The name of your course should accurately reflect the content and outcomes that students can expect. Avoid overly complex or technical language that might make the content feel inaccessible to clients who are new to the concepts you’re covering. Consider using keywords that describe the focus and benefits of the course, such as “10-minute Mindfulness Exercises for Everyday Stress Management” or “Introduction to Plant-Based Nutrition”.
- Consider your brand. If your brand is well-established, give thought to how your course name fits with your overall identity. For example, if your established brand tone of voice leans heavily into gentle empathy, choosing a pun-based name for your course creates a disconnect.
- Channel value and demand. It’s always tricky to determine pricing for your online programs. You don’t want to undervalue your services, but you also don’t want to give potential clients sticker shock.
You can start by conducting market research to see what similar online and group coaching programs are charging. You can also adopt a proven pricing strategy as a starting point, and then adjust based on the perceived value of your course and market demand. In the beginning, stay attuned to price sensitivities and adjust, if needed, based on demand, client feedback, and your program delivery costs.
7. Promote Your Course With a Dedicated Sales Page
Once you’ve worked out all of the details of your online program, it’s time to market your online course!
A well-written and beautifully designed landing page is a powerful tool you can use to attract your ideal clientele and increase conversions. Here are a few reasons why you should have a sales page for your next program:
- Provides Information: A landing page is a great place to provide information about your program, including a sneak peek at what to expect once they sign up.
- Creates Excitement: A compelling landing page can help grab the attention of your ideal client(s).
- Increases Enrollment: When you present your offer in a compelling way, your sales page can be a high-converting tool.
In collaboration with Living Plate Rx, we’re sharing a landing page example that outlines everything you need to consider to create a high-converting sales page!
8. Post-launch Measurement and Tracking
It’s very exciting to be on the cusp of launching your online group coaching program. But before you get out there and start promoting it, make sure you’ve determined how you’re going to measure and track your participants’ progress. It’s key to plan this ahead of time because you’ll not only want to set out some specific markers of progress to help map out the journey, but you’ll want to build in tools to track their success.
When considering what type of data to track, don’t forget to return to your learning objectives from earlier to make sure you’re measuring against those goals. You can look at both qualitative and quantitative aspects. Qualitative measurements track the quality of something vs. the quantity and are more subjective in nature. For example:
- Is a participant feeling more energized, happier, or less stressed overall?
- Do they have increased clarity of thought and less brain fog?
- Are they experiencing a healthier and more positive relationship with food?
- Does a participant have positive feedback on their experience with the program?
Quantitative data tracks quantity, or numbers, and is more objective. For example:
- How much weight did a participant lose?
- How many more hours are they sleeping per day?
- How many fewer headaches or days of bloating are they experiencing on average per week?
- How many more glasses of water are they drinking?
- How many new foods are they able to introduce back in without symptoms?
- How many more times per week are they exercising on average?
- How many participants completed each module, all worksheets, or engaged in the group (e.g,. number of posts or comments)?
Now that you’ve determined what you’re going to track, next decide how and when you’ll track it. What tools and formats can you use to measure the qualitative and quantitative outcomes you chose? Some great options are:
- Lab testing
- Journal entries
- Worksheet responses
- Weekly check-in calls
- Wearable devices
Practice Better lets you keep an eye on each client’s progress in a program and provides enhanced reporting that brings the insights you need together in one place.
The Key to Success is Taking Your Time
It’s completely normal to be excited about a new idea for an online program, and that makes it tempting to launch as quickly as possible. It’s in your best interest to pause and consider how to create online courses that will resonate with your ideal clients and deliver the level of value that drives happy outcomes and more referrals.
Giving yourself the gift of time to create a clear and detailed blueprint for your online program is the first and most essential step for your business growth. The key planning steps outlined in this article will go a long way towards setting you–and your clients–up for long-term success.
Practice Better is the complete practice management platform for nutritionists, dietitians, and wellness professionals. Streamline your practice and begin your 14-day free trial today.
[…] you are currently running a group program, or have a set goal to do so (check out Planning Online Group Programs) an important consideration for the success of your program is how engaged your participants […]
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