Late February, I launched my very first group program.
An 8-week program intended to help coaches, consultants, and creatives streamline their sales process.
Though I’ve launched courses, communities, group programs, and memberships for others, I had never done it myself.
Why launch a group program
A lot of work needs to go into a program before launching it.
It’s more than just understanding your subject matter and getting a group of people to join.
You need to consider the content, the delivery method, different time zones, and so much more.
And so the benefits of it need to outweigh all that work.
As someone who works closely with clients, I know that my time is limited. Especially if I want to give my clients the love and attention they deserve.
Often, I find people just want me to hold their hand as they try to solve their tech issues. Other times, they want me to do it for them, but they want to watch so they can learn for the future.
This gave me the idea that instead of teaching people one on one, I could group them together.
Sure, not everyone uses the same tools, but that’s ok. The principals are the same.
A group program will also give me a way to leverage my time better, and thus hit my goals faster.
It really came down to understanding what my network needed help with most, and how I could deliver it to them in the best possible way.
As I mentioned, not everyone was using the same tools. So the program would have to be generic enough so that everyone could implement what was taught in their own environment.
The idea was NOT to have them then need to hire me to complete the setup for them, or to take them to the next level.
I wanted to ensure that everyone came out of the program with what was promised and then some.
I wanted them to have the ability and confidence to tackle similar issues on their own in the future.
On the other hand, there was no way I was going to be able to cover every possible software combination out there. And I didn’t want to find myself answering a million questions every day and having the program suck my time.
Another concern was where to host the community.
Any reader of these articles knows my love for ThriveCart as a sales platform and a course platform. But it doesn’t have a community option.
I was actually happy about that.
The secret to an engaged community is to set it up where people are located anyway. If I need my participants to create a new account somewhere and download new software to their desktop or phone, it would make their customer journey harder. There would be less chance that they would actually log into the new platform and the engagement wouldn’t be as good. This would then hurt the overall experience of the program. Especially since I wanted the community aspect of the program to play a role. It was important to me that group members share their struggles and learn from each other.
My last concern was that the participants wouldn’t be the right person in the company to participate. Either they wouldn’t have the general process knowledge, or they wouldn’t be tech-savvy enough to implement. There were many parts to the program. Each module would require understanding not just the process for that step, but also how it integrates and interacts with other steps in the process. Plus, there was a need to set up various tools that require a bit of tech know-how.
For these reasons, the program was by application only.
Setting up the program
I used to think that you had to have everything recorded and set up before you launched. In some cases I still think this is true.
But this program was going to be complex and it would take me weeks to record and edit everything. If I wanted to launch in Q1, I needed to get moving.
I set up the outline for the program, what it would include, how many session, how many skill sessions, how many group meetings.
I created a basic presentation for each week with the outline for the contents.
I hit record and started walking through the process myself. I had a friend on the other end of the call watching what I did and asking questions along the way. I then dealt with those questions in the recording.
I was going to outsource the editing, but due to the complexity of the recordings, and all the feedback I got throughout, I decided to do the editing in-house.
When I was about 85% done with the recordings and 35% done with the editing, I had my VA upload the materials to the completed modules.
I was about 3 modules in when the program went live, and ensured that the next module was ready to go 1-2 weeks before it was needed.
I started promoting the program, but of course didn’t leave myself enough time.
I should have started promoting sooner. It would have given more people the opportunity to join the program.
Also, because it was my first time, I lacked the confidence to say how good this program was. (I don’t have that anymore. Now I know this program will help any business - but more on that later).
As with any new process, there were technical issues.
The first was that I wanted to use ThriveCart for selling the program, but it’s a sales platform and requires some sort of sale to happen. It’s not really built for application processes.
I found a way around it as best as I could. And used some humor to make sure my clients didn’t enter their names in the wrong place.
But little did I know that the technical issues would be the smallest part of my problem.
When I initially planned for this program, I knew that I may have timezone issues. There would be participants from all around the world and finding a time that would work for everyone would be hard.
I decided to give 2 Q&A sessions a week to accommodate the different time zones. But only one skill session, since these were a bonus. And since the recordings would be available, this seemed to work.
Because I left so little time to promote the program, I didn’t have as many participants as I had hoped for. I wanted 10, but ended up with 5. One in the US, a few in Europe, and one in Australia. The eastern side of Australia.
There was no justification to have 2 Q&A sessions and there was no way I was going to be able to accommodate everyone’s time-zone.
I reached out to applicants (before they paid), and tried to find a compromise everyone could live with.
We did find a solution and I was so grateful to those who were willing to wake up early or go to bed late. But in the end, the US participant didn’t join and so we rescheduled to a time that was great for everyone.
It was a tense moment. But I learned a lot about how to interact with people and how when someone decides they want your program, they will be willing to do whatever it takes to participate.
I also knew that in the future, I could have a team member facilitate one of the Q&A calls. This meant that I could potentially accommodate more people and in different time zones.
What I learned
In terms of tools, I was really happy with Slack to host the community. It gave us group channels for different discussions, plus the DMs for private chats.
A true camaraderie ensued, and people connected on personal and business levels.
This platform is where many people are hanging out anyway, so most won’t need to install something new, and they know how to use it. For those that don’t, it’s so easy and intuitive to learn.
Due to the nature of the tool, asynchronous communication is acceptable and no one expected answers right away.
When I initially started the program, I thought a group of 10 would be ideal. But now that I’ve run it, I can confidently say, that for the level of involvement I want to have, 5 people is perfect. If I had 10 from the start, this initial run would have been much harder.
The group was made up of women who wanted to succeed but also wanted to see me succeed. I asked for it, and they gave feedback along the way. We switched the order between the skill session and the Q&A, we added time to take notes.
We ended up focusing on the same tools, for the most part, but when there were other tools used, we used the sessions to review how it could be done.
I kept recording, editing, and uploading as I went. And that ended up being a good thing because I already knew where potential pitfalls were going to be and I could address those in my recordings.
But I think my biggest takeaway was that this program wasn’t a technical program at all.
Sure, it had a lot of technical aspects to it. But it required a lot of strategic thinking and planning.
It required understanding the business offer and price, as well as the client journey.
And when the participants didn’t have that, it opened up interesting discussions and an opportunity for growth all around.
People didn’t want the recipe for one automation or another. They wanted to understand the workings behind how things flow and connect. And when we get that, it’s easier to understand the tech.
Tweaking as we went, based on feedback from the group, made the program better. We changed the weekly structure so that skill sessions came first (and in the future will come earlier) and the Q&As came after the group had some time to tackle what they learned.
Weekly homework was submitted to the group and everyone learned from what everyone else was doing. It was so much fun to see.
What can you take away from this?
- Don’t be afraid to try setting up a group program.
- Start small. You don’t have to have everything up and running before you start.
- Create a community where people are already showing up.
- No two programs are identical. You will probably come across challenges I didn’t.
- Use your first group as a beta. Ask them for feedback. You can charge them a bit less and let them know they’re helping you. You’ll benefit a lot from that.
- Have a structure in mind, but be flexible to change.
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