This is something I’ve been working hard to answer, over the past several years. In fact, even before I started working with clients on their curriculum, I was wrestling with questions like these.
Fortunately for you and for me, my thinking has evolved a lot since those early days. I’ve worked on some great products, and helped to pull some less-than-great ones out of the fire. I’ve worked on big courses, and small workshops. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what really matters. Here’s what I’ve realized:
There are 3Rs which serve as the foundation of every single successful online teaching business.
3Rs that reveal the difference between businesses that thrive, and those that struggle to get by. 3Rs that both measure the health of your business, and predict its growth.
And, unlike the 3Rs found in traditional education, these ones actually all start with “R”.
What are these 3Rs? Read on.
The First “R”: Retention
This first “R” is the most foundational. Without it, you will struggle to make any headway. After all, if a customer buys and then refunds you haven’t made money; you’ve lost it.
But retention is about more than just refund rates, and just because you don’t have a wash of refund requests doesn’t mean you have this “R” licked.
No, if you want to be remarkable, then you need to operate on a different definition of retention. You need to answer to the question: do your buyers stick with you?
Do they download their materials and then never open them, or do they come back time and time again? Are they struggling to figure out how A relates to B, or are they getting the promised results?
Simply put, the higher you can move the needle on retention, the stronger your business growth will be.
Retaining your customers is a great start, but – just reading without writing or ‘rithmatic – it’s not enough on its own.
The Second “R”: Referrals
To fully realize the power of retention, you need to be able to translate those retained customers into advocates for your business.
You need them to become fuel for your marketing engine; you need referrals.
Now, here again our traditional definition is limiting. We usually think of referrals as equivalent to “positive word of mouth,” and that’s certainly important. You want customers to tell others about you; you want your work to be the sort of thing that they just can’t stop talking about.
But someone saying, “Hey, you should check out Breanne’s work, she’s amazing” doesn’t actually affect the bottom line on its own. To make referrals a contributing factor to your business’ growth, you need to be able to capture that word of mouth and turn it into new customers. Plus, it’s really hard to track how many times someone said something nice about you!
That’s why truly remarkable businesses take a broader view of referrals. More than just word of mouth, it’s the quality of the testimonials, case studies and success stories are the core metrics of success in this second “R”.
It’s the ability to take customer success, and transform it into compelling, high-conversion sales and marketing messaging that makes a difference.
The Third “R”: Repeat Buyers
Retention gets you a stream of satisfied customers. Referrals turn those satisfied customers into a steady stream of new customers. Alone, those two Rs will get you some short-term success.
But without the third “R”, you won’t be satisfied long-term. Think about it: you helped a client successfully navigate a particular challenge and get a desired result. So who are they going to refer to you? Someone who also needs help navigating that particular challenge, and getting that desired result.
For a creative entrepreneur, this is the kiss of death … and a straight shot to burnout. After all, solving the same problems day in and day out is probably not why you started this enterprise in the first place.
That’s why the hallmark of a business that’s not just working now, but which will keep its owner going in the long run, is one that gets people buying again, and again, and again. When you can help someone get from A to B … and then later, help them get from B to C … and then from C to D … you end up being able to explore new ways of serving your customers.
You get to write those books, create those courses, and do the creative work that you really want to be doing.
Plus, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to get a past customer to buy again than to continually suffer the turnover of one-and-done clients.
Excellence Creates Possibilities
Last week, I asked if you are willing to do what it takes, to create the kind of remarkable business, products and services that you (and your customers) are craving.
There’s a reason why that post preceded this one.
It’s because excellence creates possibilities.
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That is, after all, the point of creating a vision and establishing a strategy to go after it. It’s why the 3Rs of business matter. Because without excellence, you can’t get where you want (or need) to go.
You can’t have the impact you want. You can’t live the life you want. You can’t build the business you want.
Strategy and vision, followed by excellence in execution, culminating in the retention, referrals and repeat buyers. That’s the equation for a remarkable teaching business.
Wondering where to begin measuring the 3Rs in your business? Find out in Beyond Satisfaction, my new guide for course creators who want to retain clients, maximize satisfaction and measure success in their online courses. Plus, you’ll get a set of bonus reference sheets with sample metrics to get you started. Click here to learn more.