Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lessons from my first course launch - or what happens when you think small and don't trust yourself

I decided that I should write a blog post about my experiences in the last month as I launch my first course - 90 Days of TED. In short, I knew that I probably wasn't prepared enough to launch this course, and my suspicions were borne out in the events of the last couple of weeks. The worst part was not the failings in process, but the failings in my own beliefs - but you'll see that as we go through. If you are considering launching an online course you might learn something from this post, or you might just be shaking your head and saying "well duh".

Developing my sales page
In early July, I started the process of changing my Wordpress site over to OptimizePress, because I knew I had to develop better sales pages, and it seemed to offer some good tools for this. Let me start this section by saying that playing around with your website can be pointless busy work, it makes you feel like you're achieving something, but often you are not achieving a lot.

I tried to limit the amount of time it would take to transition, but there were still a lot of hours transferring old content into the new format, and improving that content in the process. I don't think that this time was wasted, but given the fact I would be launching a course on 1 September, and that registrations had to close in mid-August, I probably could have survived without migrating all of the pages as a priority.

Anyway, the sales page development itself was very iterative, and since it was my first real sales page I think I needed to learn as I went. There was a lot of tweaking structure, flow and language as I went along, but again that was a learning process so I wasn't too harsh on myself. The bigger issue came when I started to realise that vital pieces of information were lacking, like the content and timetable for the course for example. I realised that I had not answered all of the basic questions people might have about this rather unique course - I assumed far too much.

Addressing that problem was very simple, so simple that I should have thought to do it in the first instance. So my first lesson was to make sure that the content on the sales page would give potential buyers everything they needed to know - I have no idea how many potential participants opted out because they didn't understand the course.

But that, of course, was not the lesson - the lesson was that I needed to trust what the experts say about this sort of thing, and not my own fears. Even though I thought that the sales page was getting too long, and I feared I would be wasting people's time to have to go through that much detail, it was the detail that they wanted.

Having a promotion strategy
This falls into that category of "things you know you should do but don't." I had structured a bit of a promotion strategy, hell I even wrote a press release for the course launch - trust me that is a huge 'outside my comfort zone' thing to do. But I should have had it better defined, I should have had Facebook posts and Tweets scheduled to go; I should have had a structured message of when I was going to address particular topics.

What happened instead was a little higgledy-piggledy. The press release only went out to a couple of media outlets, which was largely due to fear and an ingrained belief that no one would be interested, that I still struggle to overcome. It did culminate in a radio interview though, which was a fantastic experience. The majority of the promotion was done through Facebook and Twitter, I even started using a dinkylune Facebook page for this promotion. I also used email to get the message out to local people I knew, since the course is being run in Hobart.

What I didn't do was launch to my email subscribers first - which in hindsight I wish I had done, but the timing with my newsletter was all wrong and I decided to hold off until the next issue. I didn't put myself out there with promotional material in local cafes and relevant businesses (this is a very word of mouth city). Worst of all, I didn't offer any webinar or other local event for people to get to know me and know what I can offer.

The lesson here was mainly one of timing - I felt I had to start the course in September, so the participants could complete the activities before the crazy period of Christmas and New Year. But June and July were very hectic months for me, and I was not prepared to do a full launch the right way. So, I put myself under pressure and, as a result, the promotion was not as good as it should have been.

But I also think that there is part of me that wanted the launch group to be small, because there is always a level of fear when you do something for the first time. Maybe this was a subconscious way of doing just that - something to consider.

Testing your technical solutions
I love technology, and for the most part the feeling seems to be mutual. That means that I do all my own tech (website, mailing lists, social media, videos), and that usually works pretty well - usually. Some of you might have the seen posts about the tech fail for the sales page, so I'll explain what occurred. I had set up a new mailing list in MailChimp to capture registrations, since the course material is being emailed out I figured that this was the easiest way to capture their details (course payment was done through a manual invoicing process, since they are all locals).

When I set the first registration point on the page I tested the new list to make sure it would work - and it did. I deleted myself from the list and then set about finishing the page and publishing it to the world. Then I received no registrations through that page; people could also email me to register and there was activity through that method.

On the Friday morning of the final day of registration, I checked my emails and found a simple note along the lines of "Hi Kylie, I registered online for the course and just wanted to check you received it." I had not, and panic set in. I spent 20 minutes checking the functionality on the sales page, trying to resolve the problem, and then removing the registration and asking people to email me their details instead.

Kicking into damage control, I let people know that if they have registered I do not have it - "how many participants have I lost with this f$*k up?!" was the morning mantra, along with "how could I be so stupid?" and other expletive ridden phrases I won't include here. You've been there before with something in your life, you know the drill.

So there is a huge lesson here, check the tech after you go live. Better still, have a friend or relative check the tech from a different location - but whatever you do, check the tech!

Maintaining a belief in your material
The worst part of tech failure was the realisation that not a single part of me had considered that the technology was the cause of my lack of registrations through the website! Think about this for a second - I had received no online registrations at all, but rather than even contemplating "maybe there is a technical problem", I assumed it was all in the material and presentation.

That is the mindset shift I need to make in my life - and I mentioned it a little earlier as well. I need to maintain the belief in my own material, after all I had spoken with a few people about the course before I launched and there was general enthusiasm. Oh I know that does not translate to sales, I am not naive, but assuming that it did not appeal to anyone is not a positive mindset!

The final lesson is that I should have had more belief in my material; given myself the benefit of the doubt and checked all the other variables in the process. It might well have been that no one had registered, but that should not have been my default belief.

But I'm not beating myself up
On a side note, after my initial meltdown and resolving the problem, my inner critic was generally kept in check throughout the day. I was quite calm about everything that had happened, and the focus was more about letting people know (just in case) rather than beating myself up. I don't think I could begin to explain to you all just how huge a shift that is in my life - the old Kylie would still be torturing herself over this failure next week. I am still a little annoyed with myself, but it's nothing compared to pre-MYoT Kylie. Even writing all of this down I am not getting angry with myself; and understanding that I have made that mindset shift nearly makes the failure worthwhile.
[I love this image by the way, he is the image for my Vulnerability activity in the course, so I thought I'd share him with you :-) ]

What now?
On the 1st of September, a small group of eager participants will start 90 Days of TED. They will be guided through a challenging and fun set of activities to help them realise and shift some of their own negative mindsets. I'm extremely excited about the process, and I can't wait to share their outcomes (very generally) with all of you. Then, in early 2015, I will launch the course online, for people outside my small island State to change their lives as well.

But rest assured, when I launch the course for the rest of the world - I will have a sales page that answers all of your questions (well almost all); a promotion strategy that will focus on making this anything but small; tested and validated technical solutions for registrations and management of participants; and, a complete and unwavering belief in the material that I am sharing with you all.

Are you planning on launching an online course anytime soon? Do you think that you are prepared, externally and internally, for the challenge?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Radio gaga? - no, the interview went quite well thank you

Forgive me if this is a little rambling, I have been awake for far too many hours today, after only four hours of sleep (and lunch is still an hour and a half away). Why the lack of sleep? I hear you ask. Well this morning I was interviewed by Ryk Goddard on ABC Local Radio here in Hobart about My Year of TED and the launch of the 90 Days of TED course.

That's right, after far too long for my liking, I have finally finished all of the course material for 90 Days of TED. Very excitingly, I have decided to run it for the first time here in Hobart (that's in Tasmania, the small island state in Australia where I live). It was actually the suggestion of a friend down here that I run it locally for the launch, since it will allow me to run it as a masterclass and I can get direct feedback from participants.

Are you interested in understanding yourself better?
Would you like to become a person who takes action from inspiration?
Are you courageous enough to try on challenging ideas for 90 days?
Are you at a crossroads and uncertain about where you want to go next?

If you tick any of those boxes and are located in (or around) Hobart, then check out the course page on the dinkylune website for more details and registration links.

Numbers are limited to 12 and registrations close on Friday 15 August.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Breaching privacy and a lack of awareness

Dumb Little Man have been kind enough to published another post from me. This one is outside my usual fare, but it is a subject I am becoming increasingly more passionate about. It's called Three reasons I Hate My Facebook Friends, and is the precursor to a more detailed etiquette guide on social media that I am finishing up right now.

The social media etiquette guide will be made available to people who subscribe to the Brian Brain content within dinkylune, you can sign up here and you will get the guide within the next week.

Edit: What the hell is Brian content? This just did my head in, it is of course Brain.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Birthdays - celebration or reflection? Which are you?

Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm turning 42 - which is a little bit exciting since I am a big Douglas Adams fan. For any of you out there who aren't familiar with his incredible five part trilogy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question on the meaning of life. Now I know that it probably has nothing to do with age, but given everything that has happened in my life over the last three years, that's how I'm looking at it.

I always get reflective around my birthday, I know that there are other people who look upon it as a chance to refresh and celebrate what is about to happen in the next year, but that's not my mode. I tend to think back on what has happened, and lament the passing on another year that I didn't quite reach my goals - yes I did this when I didn't even know what my goals were.

This year I thought I would share three thoughts that have been going through my head in the lead up to my birthday. If you are a reflector like me they might be familiar, if you are a celebrator then this will help you realise the crap the other half put themselves through.

Revealing the broken parts
When my 40th birthday came around in 2012, I was well into My Year of TED. Unfortunately though, my birthday was punctuated by 30 days of Choice and 30 days of Being Wrong. This was extremely poor planning on my behalf, as I was already in a reflective mood about my life because I was turning 40, adding in activities that explored my regrets and how I make decisions was like pouring petrol on a fire.

This was extremely unfortunate for Derek, who took me away for the weekend and wasn't entirely prepared for the revelations that I had begun to experience. He even heard the confession of the worst thing I have ever done in my life - which I am not sharing with you here, that one isn't even going into the book. Some secrets are better kept.

Although it seemed like bad timing, I contend that my sub-conscious planned it to force my conscious brain into crisis - so that I would finally understand my tendency to be too passive in the big decisions in life. It was difficult to learn these things about myself, and I spent the rest of July and August in a fairly bad place emotionally, but I wouldn't change that for the world. My 40th birthday was the day I pulled the curtain back for good, no more peeking behind it and then promptly forgetting - it was time to know and deal with it.

Friendships I let pass me by
As far as birthdays go, my 21st was a high point in their history (long story). My boyfriend at the time, and his friends (who I had known for about two years) threw me a 'surprise' party to celebrate. This was still at a time in my life where I had no idea who I was; where self-esteem and self-confidence were things I struggled with; and where I was under the misconception that I had to rely on other people for my happiness.

Sadly, those thoughts and feelings hung around throughout my 20s and early 30s - and I think they only started being addressed and resolved a decade ago, when I started to take more active control of my life. My Year of TED has allowed me to put a nail in the coffin of these doubts and false theories on life; better late than never I guess.

I mention this celebration because it reminds me that I have had a lot of great people in my life, that brought me joy at various times. Some of them also brought me pain, but I think I probably did that for just as many people as well. And for some reason, this year it feels important for me to acknowledge all of the wonderful friends in my life - particularly the ones from my past who I probably never appreciated enough, and certainly not in words.

If any of you are reading this, there is a huge chance that I cherished you and wanted to keep you in my life more than I ever admitted. I've spent a lot of my life not allowing myself to be vulnerable, so telling you how I felt was never going to happen - but there are a lot of you that I miss, and I wish I'd had the courage to tell you that then.

Half my life is over
Okay, I don't know this for sure - it could be more than half or it might be a little less, but I'm definitely not at the beginning. For some reason the thought that I need to get off my arse and do something with my life hit me hard a few weeks ago. More than ever before, this year I've realised that I'm middle-aged - and that's been a little rough to deal with.

This struck me in the weirdest way, because you have to understand that I have never thought of myself as an attractive person, I am certainly not one of the 'beautiful people'. For some reason though, this year it hit me that I am middle-aged and there is no turning back from here. This is a very random thought because a few weeks ago Derek and I celebrated 10 years together, and I am incredibly happy with our relationship and our lives together - so why should the loss of youth and attraction hit me this year? I think my brain just decided to pick a new way to torture me, because it can.

More importantly, when you realise that half your life is over, you realise that maybe you should have done more with that time. Oh, I know that the first 18 years are school, so what can you really achieve? Then four years at University, which you can only do so much with - so really I've only had 20 years to play with, but what did I do in those 20 years? Okay for ten of them I was busy screwing my life up with two failed marriages, and that takes a bit of focus and energy you know. All I mean is that I could have achieved more with better direction and some confidence.

What's this all about?
This could just be a weird, rambling post to capture my mindset for my 42nd birthday, but I think it is a little more than that. It is a reminder to my current self to stop wasting time with pointless things; to remind the important people in my life that is what they are, important; and to keep pushing forward with all of the tough choices I am making.

There are some lessons from My Year of TED that I forget, from time to time - ticking over another year is a great opportunity to remind myself of everything I learned.

Oh, and don't think I'm in a funk about this - it is what it is, and it is the way my brain works. It doesn't mean I'm sad and I will have a crap birthday, it just means I'm reminding myself to enjoy it even more. So much so that this year I am going out to dinner with a large group (okay 10) of friends to celebrate - which almost never happens in my world.

What's your birthday mode? Are you the sort that celebrates being alive and looks forward to the next year? Or are you more like me, reflecting on what has occurred and what you still want to achieve?

And if you are feeling in a generous mood for my birthday, I'd love you to share the blog with at least one other person. The buttons are just below this, thank you :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Confidence, choices and being an active decision maker

I recently asked my subscribers for suggestions on topics they would like me to cover and the resounding answer was confidence and choices - which is great because that's right up my alley.

The response to this is Positive Decisions - a two part resource to help you rediscover your confidence around decision making, and to help you understand what success looks like for you. The idea is that one resource helps you define where you want your decisions to take you, while the other one let's you have more confidence to evaluate the options.

Why Positive Decisions?
During My Year of TED, one of the major realisations I experienced was how passively I had been making decisions in my life - well okay how I hadn't made many of the big decisions in my life. The more I have thought about all of this, the more I have developed a strong belief that this passive decision making plagues a lot of people.

Barry Schwartz recently confirmed this for me when I interviewed about his TED Talks (The Paradox of Choice and Our Loss of Wisdom) and how I used them in My Year of TED:
...there is a temptation to let big things happen to you, because people are so worried about how they'll feel if they take ownership of big decisions and they don't work out. It takes courage to own up to the fact that you're in charge of this and you have to decide, and it's not hard for me to understand why people are sometimes reluctant to do that.
Fear of a bad outcome just completely dominates the anticipation of a good outcome when it comes to big decisions. People stick with their jobs. They stick with jobs they don't hate but they don't love, rather than risking a new job or a new career. It doesn't feel nearly as much of a decision that you are keeping your job as it would feel if you changed your job. And I think maybe the same thing with relationships.
Positive Decisions is about trying to help other people be more active in the choices they are given in life. It contains a lot of the techniques that I have used to become a more active decision maker, and keep the confidence I've needed to take on the challenges of the last few years.

Part One is ready for you now
Part 1 - The Confidence to Actively Make Choices is now available to dinkylune subscribers, if you haven't signed up yet you can do it here. This contains activities to help you shift any negativity you might have about your capability and capacity to make good choices.

Part two will be released in the next couple of weeks, focusing on success statements.

And because life can be full of serendipity, TED put up a talk recently on choices, Ruth Chang on How to Make Hard Choices, which I only watched on the weekend. The last couple of minutes reinforce my belief on gaining control of decisions, it's a fascinating talk.

Do you struggle with the hard choices in life? Do you think that you are active or passive in your decision making?