In May, I was at a bit of a crossroads. I wasn’t sure what I should do with the many things I was working on, and I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions. I couldn’t focus on one thing to help take my business to the next level. So I decided to focus on Podcasting. The path from them to now lead me to cutting away a lot of projects (including projects I like doing), all in the service of growing my business. And the centerpiece: my brand new Podcast Liftoff Playbook.
So today, we’re getting back to the roots of the show, and I’m going to tell you how I built this hybrid membership/course site.
- Think about what your MVP is. Don’t spend too much time thinking of every possibility for a new project. You’ll never launch. Instead, launch quickly, and get feedback.
- Don’t answer questions people aren’t asking. I could have added in a bunch of features I thought were cool, but they would have delayed launch, and frankly, as far as I knew, no one would use them.
- Spend more time marketing than building something new. Get in front of new audiences and explain the problem your new project solves for them.
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Joe Casabona: Stop me if you’ve said this before or you felt this way. There are so many things I need to work on. I’m not sure where I should focus. This was me at the beginning of 2022. I had the membership for this podcast. I had this podcast. I had two other podcasts. I had my online courses, my LinkedIn Learning Courses, and oh yeah, a podcast business that I was trying to make the centerpiece of everything.
It all came to a head in two different points this year. The first was in May when I went on my personal retreat shortly after joining Jay Clouse’s Creative Companion Club, which is now called the Creative Lab. The second came in October when I went to CaboPress and heard a fantastic talk from Michael Killen. But the truth is I’ve been pushed in this direction for a few years. I am going to fully focus on podcasting. I made that decision in May and I made the final moves that I needed to make earlier this month. Part of that was rebuilding the Podcast Liftoff Playbook.
And today I want to tell you, getting back to the show’s roots, how I built it, why I built it, and what’s next. So sit back and relax for this shorter solo episode. You can find all of the show notes over at howibuilt.it/292. I want to thank this week’s sponsors, Ahrefs, Nexcess, and LearnDash. You’ll hear about them later on in the show. But for now, let’s get to the intro, and then the episode.
Intro: Hey, everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast where you get free coaching calls from successful creators. Each week, you get actionable advice on how you can build a better content business to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now, let’s get to it.
Joe Casabona: Hey everybody, just me today. I want to tell you a little bit about the Podcast Liftoff Playbook. So this is my latest offering. And for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be my only offering. And so I want to give you a little bit of background before I tell you how I built it.
My main offering for a long time, for several years now, basically, since I’ve been self-employed is or was Creator Courses. And that business evolved a lot. It started off as WP in one month where it was just WordPress courses, then I moved it to Creator Courses where I wanted to focus more on the creator economy, adding a number of courses that didn’t have only to do with WordPress.
I sold them a la carte. I sold them as a membership. I went back and forth on this. In last Black Friday, I offered a deal where you can get any courses ala carte or the membership for a discount in the membership. I don’t think anybody bought any of the a la carte courses.
But then I realized that this wasn’t the income generator I wanted and I want to be more in the podcasting space. I want to move out of the WordPress space. So I started to change Creator Courses. It’s now billed as Creator Crew. The URL is still the same.
The Creator crew if you don’t know is what I call the membership basically for this podcast now. Because in July… or May I decided to kill the membership on creator courses, anybody who had purchased the membership, I gave lifetime access to the courses as long as the website’s up. And people can still sign up for Creator Crew today to get ad-free, extended episodes of this podcast. And that’s the only thing that they could buy there now, because I took the rest of the courses off for sale or I’m no longer offering them for sale.
The only course that was available for sale up until October was Podcast Liftoff. But I decided to take Podcast Liftoff in a different direction. And this was also a bit of a journey.
So I basically started thinking, “Okay, well, I’ll offer a cohort based course. Those are all the rage these days. And I can sell it for like $1,000 and it’ll be how to make money with your podcast.” But experimenting, mostly with the help of Jay Clouse’s Creative Lab, I learned that my current list was not interested in buying a $49 workshop that I was going to use to kind of upsell the cohort-based course. And so I scrapped plans for the cohort-based course for now.
Instead, I decided to move all of my Podcast Liftoff videos to a new site and start fresh. And that’s what I called the Podcast Liftoff playbook. I got to that decision because I realized that people were interested in different parts of Podcast Liftoff. Some didn’t want to know how to launch a podcast. Some just wanted to learn how to stay consistent. Most want to learn how to get sponsors. And almost nobody wanted to learn how to make a website with WordPress.
So I thought, this doesn’t really make sense as a self-paced course anymore. What it should be is a resource where people can go to learn as they need to. So maybe they can go there to launch their course, but they’re not ready to monetize yet. And that’s fine. They don’t need to look at those videos.
The other reason I wanted to do it this way is because I am coaching people for podcasting for growing their show and making money. And I found myself referencing videos from the course a lot. And while it’s a nice add-on to say, “Hey, you get access to my self-paced course,” what a lot of people probably hear is “I making work for you.”
So, instead, with the Playbook, what I can do is create a page for each of my coaching clients, and then bring in the videos that are most relevant based on what we talk about. So that’s the reason for the Playbook. I’m going to talk about how I built it and then I’m going to kind of walk you through audibly, I guess, a little bit about how it works.
There is an onboarding video now that I think is public—I’ll link in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/292—where there’s, you can see how it all works. But I’ll do my best to kind of talk you through the different sections. Then we’ll get into what’s next. And if you are a member of the Creator Crew, in Build Something More, I’m going to talk about the tools that I decided to abandon and the future of the Creator Crew.
Don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere in 2023 but it is going to be a fully separate offering that’s going to make more sense within the context of this podcast. So there’s your teaser, I guess. If you want to join the Creator Crew, go ahead. There’s a link in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/292. It should be in your podcast player of choice as well.
But before we get into all of that, let’s hear from our first sponsor.
Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by LearnDash. Look, I’ve been making courses for a long time, I’ve taught at the college level and I’ve created curriculums for several different organizations, including Udemy, Sessions College, and LinkedIn learning. When I create my own courses, there’s no better option than LearnDash.
LearnDash combines cutting-edge eLearning tools with WordPress. They’re trusted to power learning programs for major universities, small to mid-sized companies, startups and creators worldwide. What makes LearnDash so great is it was created by and is run by people who deeply understand online learning, and adds features that are truly helpful for independent course creators. I love the user experience.
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Joe Casabona: Okay, so let’s talk about how I built it. First of all, I started with a new site. I wanted to know what technical debt on the new site because the old site had like five or six years’ worth of courses, they covered a wide range of topics, and there were a bunch of users who have probably long forgotten that they even had a membership or had registered for the site. So it didn’t make a lot of sense for me to start there.
Also, the domain is Creator Courses, right? And if I really wanted to lean into the podcasting section or the podcasting brand, then it should be under my podcast brand Podcast Liftoff. So I created a subdomain playbook.podcastliftoff.com. And I am trying to keep the number of… It’s a WordPress site. I don’t think I said that up front. But it is a WordPress site.
And I want to try to keep the number of plugins like pretty spot on. Not that I’m doing a super great job of that. I mean, it doesn’t matter that much, right? It’s not the number of plugins, it’s like the quality of the plugins you’re using.
I’ll just say the theme is Kadence. I use Kadence for all of my websites. I’m very familiar with it. And for this, I mean, the design mattered. The design matters. But it doesn’t have to be like this amazing, like blow me away design.
The sales page is still over on podcastliftoff.com. So this is just a place for me to lay out the videos. And so I didn’t need like a super fancy design just as long as everything made sense. So I’m using Kadence. I really like it. It’s simple. It’s easy to use, it’s very flexible. I don’t have to write a lot of code, if any, to get the things I want to get done done. So that’s the theme.
The mechanism for selling the Playbook. I went back and forth on this a lot. I thought, “Should I use WooCommerce? Should I use an LMS like LearnDash? Should I use a membership plugin? Am I going to charge a monthly or annual fee for it?”
And I settled on Paid Memberships Pro. I was originally going to use Restrict Content Pro. Full disclosure: Restrict Content Pro is a former sponsor. Paid Memberships Pro is a future sponsor. But I made this decision well before Paid Memberships Pro signed on as a sponsor. Now there’s a lot of reasons I made that decision. If you want to hear why, that’s something I’m going to cover in Build Something More, the members-only part. But suffice to say I am using Paid Memberships Pro for the Podcast Liftoff Playbook.
Something I really like about Paid Memberships Pro is the way that they lay out the pricing on the pages. So this is at its core a membership site. You would think a lot of people associate memberships with subscriptions, but that’s not always the case.
And I’ll tease a little bit. One of the core reasons that I moved away from Restrict Content Pro is because they kind of made that assumption. So if I had a signup fee and then no recurring fee, the way they laid that out by default was confusing for users. But with Paid Memberships Pro, they make it very clear the price for the membership is $299 now and then nothing in the future. So the way that Paid Memberships Pro displays that to the user as they’re about to purchase makes a lot more sense.
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Joe Casabona: So I really like that. And that’s another core piece of information for the Playbook is it’s a one-time fee for now. Anybody who signs up now is never going to get hit with a subscription. But I thought that because all of the core courses are created and ready to go.
And so there are two levels. There’s the core Podcast Liftoff Playbook, which includes a number of things like access to all of the videos in the Playbook that will teach people how to launch a podcast, create engaging content, land their first sponsor, other ways to monetize and then the resource library. So that’s what you get with the Playbook.
Then there’s also the extended edition of the Playbook. And you get everything in the Playbook. So like all the pre-recorded videos, all the resources, but then you get one-year access to one on one time with me. So you get a 60-minute one on one coaching call, where I’m toying with the idea of group calls or hot seats. And then you have this email access to me where I respond within 72 hours. So if you have a question, I will respond within three days. And that’s basically to account for weekends. If I’m away, I’ll let you know.
But for an extra $300, you get high touch with me. And then as a coaching client, you’ll also get that page in the Playbook. So you’ll have that dedicated page where I make recommendations for videos and things like that. So that’s at its core how it works.
What I’m going to do from here to try to continually monetize the Playbook, right, well, first, I want to get more people in here. I want to get more people in here. I want to build a community around podcasters that way. Then I’m gonna have these workshops and boot camps that people in the extended Playbook will get automatic access to, people in the core Playbook will get discounts for, and then people can just buy that one off and then they’ll be invited to join the Playbook essentially. So that’s my plan for the Playbook.
So, Kadence is the theme. I used Paid Memberships Pro for the memberships part. There’s no recurring subscription yet. If that makes sense to add in the future, right, if I’m just like adding new content like every week, then it might make sense. Or if there’s a more active version of it, maybe then it’ll make sense. But for right now, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And so that’s why there’s no recurring subscription right now.
The other important plugins here are SearchWP because again this is a library of like hours and hours’ worth of content, I wanted good search. And WordPress’ Core Search is just not very good. So SearchWP makes it really easy to add that stuff.
Sitewide Sales is another plugin I have enabled which allows me to do… it allows me to do my launch sale, which it automatically applies $100 discount. Because the self-paced course was $199 and moving to the playbook it the base course there, the base plan is $299. So I wanted to offer people a week or so to be able to get the course and the videos at the original price before moving it up. Sitewide Sales allow me to do that. If I do a Black Friday deal, Sitewide Sales will allow me to do that. So Sitewide Sales, SearchWP, Memberships.
I have an affiliate program I’m not really promoting it that much. I might make students automatically but like people who are outside the Playbook or not tangentially related to it in some way are not going to be able to apply. I’m not a huge fan of… I’m bad at running affiliate programs, so I don’t really incentivize my affiliates to do much. So that’s part of it. But anyway, I do have it there just in case. And AffiliateWP integrates directly with Paid Memberships Pro too.
The two plugins that are probably lesser known, but were really important to me were Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order and Chronological Posts. Organizationally, inside WordPress, every video is a post with an embedded video in it of Vimeo video. And they are part of categories. I wanted to keep it simple.
So there’s like the Podcast Liftoff category and then there are subcategories for each section of the course. Planning, gear, recording. So anybody can go in to a category and then view a lesson and watch it. And then there’s the standard post navigation at the bottom. This was really important to me because even though it’s a library of videos now, it still maintains that self-paced feel to it. So somebody could click on Podcast Liftoff, for example, start at the beginning and go to the end.
The only thing that’s really missing is the progress. And if I get a lot of requests for “Hey, like I want to see my progress, I’ll find a reporting plugin. The problem is that… So my VA, shout out to Ana, she moved all of the lessons from Creator Courses over to the Podcast Playbook, did it in the order, they were listed in the course, which was using LearnDash. So all I had to do was install this Chronological Posts Plugin and the posts are now listed in chronological order instead of reverse chronological order.
Also because the category and tag organization is a little bit more capricious, I found a plug-in that allows me to essentially drag and drop the order in which I want the categories to be listed. So workshops is at the top, resources is at the bottom. and then each of the Flagship courses are listed here. I’ve ordered the subcategories the right way as well. So that’s it. That’s version one for the Playbook. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
Again, I have a Twitter thread and a tour. I’ll link both of those in the show notes if you want to see it in action. But I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. So as far as what’s next, it’s time for me to really put actual time into marketing this as well as adding videos here and there for it.
So as I record this, I had recently a very successful webinar about launching a mini-podcast. And I want to do a mini podcast bootcamp four weeks where anybody who registers gets access to this live bootcamp, where in an hour, an hour and a half each week for four weeks we put all the parts together to launch the podcast or the mini-podcast.
So that’s my next bit is kind of getting this webinar engine in place, going on other people’s podcasts and promoting the Playbook, and then leveraging make money podcasting, which is my other podcast, to drive people to my mailing list.
The webinar bit worked out really well. I grew my list considerably from webinar signups. And I’m doing a short sales pitch over a couple of days, so hopefully that will result in a few sales for me, I’m hoping. But either way, I have a warm list of people who are very interested in podcasting now.
So again, as I record this, Black Friday is coming up. So maybe people are waiting for a Black Friday deal. I need to get all of those bits in place, if I do it, or I just need to straight up say like, “Hey, I’m not doing it this year.”
So that’s it on the marketing front. As far as the site goes, I’m really happy with it. You know, maybe I want to make some tweaks to the account area. Maybe I want to add a few more videos and plays is what I’m calling them. I just added a “terms of service” because somebody pirated the course. They took it down. I sent them a very clearly worded email asking them to take it down.
But as far as new features go, I’m not quite sure that there’s anything I want to add yet. I want to improve the coaching pages a little bit because I don’t currently have an active coaching client right now. I just ended session with one person. But I do want to improve that over time.
And then I want to wait for feedback from people who are going through the course or going through the Playbook. I have some email sequences in place to check in at two weeks and one month. If they’re in the extended Playbook, they get check ends at three months, six months, and eleven months, if they haven’t used their one-on-one call yet. So that’s all good. But this is a relatively new venture for me. And so my main focus is getting people into the Playbook.
So I think that’s everything. That’s how I built the Podcast Liftoff Playbook. It’s currently hosted on Nexcess if anybody’s interested. Nexcess is a current sponsor of the show. But I really want to go from concept to MVP for this site quickly because I didn’t want to belabor the point of building out a new infrastructure, spending too much time there instead of really focusing on the content.
So while I built out, I launched the WordPress site, and then I told my VA, “Hey, move all of the videos. Here’s where all the thumbnails are.” I created them all on Canva, so it was really easy. “Make the thumbnails the featured image.” And that’s what you see when you look at the Playbook. You see the featured images and then the heading and the hyperlink to the video.
There are three sections on the main site right now. One is called featured play. This is manual right now. I manually update this section. Soon it’s going to be the mini podcast webinar. And that’s the other thing, right? The Playbook also gives me an opportunity to time limit the replays for the webinars. So all of my webinars are available on replay for free for 48 hours. And then I’m going to move them into the Playbook. So if you want to watch them, after the 48 hours, you can become a member of the Playbook.
So there’s featured videos, there’s most popular videos. Again, I don’t have the metrics for that yet, but kind of based on what students have told me, I’ve surfaced some popular videos. Right now that is manually curated because the recently added ones were actually added at any time. But this will be a dynamic section. When I add new videos, they’ll get added here.
I have six collections right now: Launching your podcast, getting sponsored, and making money, staying consistent, workshops, and the resource library which is non-video content. So there’s my automations library, my podcast planners, checklists and episode ideas and other PDFs that are either available as content upgrades or just not available at all. The automations library is only available to members of the Creator Crew, as well as members of the Podcast Liftoff Playbook.
So there you have it. That’s how I built it. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. And I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people both inside and outside the Playbook so far.
If you have any questions, the way to get in touch with me is on the show notes over at howibuilt.it/292. And hey, if you’re thinking, “This Playbook sounds really great for me,” you can head over to howibuilt.it/playbook to get a special deal.
But that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks to our sponsors, Ahrefs, LearnDash, and Nexcess. If you want to hear about why I didn’t go with Restrict Content Pro and some other tools, as well as the future of the Creator Crew, you can sign up again over at the show notes at howibuilt.it/292. Thanks again for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.
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