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Creating Your Digital Engagement Ecosystem

An ecosystem can be defined as a “biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment”.  This is fascinating to think about… a sophisticated interactive grouping of both elements and their environments.  Truth is, we all live in multiple ecosystems… families, work, education, friendships, local municipalities, governments, and so much more.  But what we’re talking about here is the idea of a digital engagement ecosystem?  

So I would define a digital engagement ecosystem as your collection of digital engagement points with your community.  These engagement points and tools should all be considered part of one larger system.  They do not stand alone. Your social media strategy should not be isolated from your blog strategy and so forth.  The tighter you integrate your digital elements, the stronger each one of them becomes.  So what are some examples of elements that fall into our digital ecosystem?  Here’s a start.  This isn’t comprehensive as you will certainly have others and technology is constantly changing.  

  • Social Media - this is probably the most obvious and known element in a digital engagement strategy.  We see most groups having social media accounts but primarily lacking good strategy in this area and especially lacking integration between social and all the other efforts.

  • Website - websites are still the foundation of how most everyone presents their digital persona and storefront.  These serve as great tools to educate and introduce yourself to the world.  

  • Mobile App - some organizations and initiatives have dedicated mobile apps to drive a specific strategy or business function.  Mobile apps are best designed when a single app serves the purpose of a specific user experience or function.  

  • Email - yes, email. Email seems to get the rap of the dark ages it seems but there are still great strategies for email engagement and the engagement data can still be really solid when done well.

  • Virtual Events - these could be webinars to full-scale virtual conferences.  These serve to bring people together at a specific point in time to learn and be equipped.  

  • eCouress - these deliver on-demand training and are equipped for people as they are searching for being equipped in something specific.  These are more point-in-time engagements but still great for equipping.

  • Community Platform - these are private login and membership access sites where your community can privately connect in your controlled environment to better bond your tribe together.  

These are just a few examples of what could be in your digital engagement ecosystem.  Your task is to explore which fit your engagement strategy best.  Here are some tips.

  • Dream Big + Act Small - dream big about all the things you could do in the world of digital engagement to build your ecosystem… but focus on acting small.  Don’t tackle all of this at the same time.  Have a roadmap for where you would like to be but don’t start by trying to do it all at the same time.

  • Prioritize - run through your list of potential engagement pathways and force yourself to prioritize them in sequential order.  That will help you allocate time and financial resources as you continue to build your engagement strategies.  

  • Natural Fits - look for the engagement pathways that make the most sense for your business strategy.  What are your people asking for and what would resonate best with them?  Meet them where they are vs. trying to force new habits on them.

  • Be Creative - these are only a few examples of engagement tools but there are so many more.  Be creative and add others that fit your strategy and meet your audience well where they are.  

And the last tip… once you do have a good idea of what fits into your digital engagement ecosystem, build a visual that you can share with your team.  These are helpful for you to solidify your ecosystem and also to help communicate to your team.  

Have fun!

 

Cause Machine Solutions

The Cause Machine platform creates a primary environment for your digital engagement ecosystem providing website solutions, e-courses, virtual events, email sending, memberships, and more.  The entire platform of Cause Machine is designed to facilitate your digital engagement ecosystem.  Schedule a demo today!

 


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How to create and sell online courses: 8 questions to answer right now.

When it comes to knowing how to create and sell online courses, it’s tough to know where to start, what to do, when to do it, and in what priority. I get these questions often. They go something like, “I think what I know is useful to people. But, I have no idea how to create and sell a course online. How in the world would I get started doing that?” 

What follows is my attempt to explain what I’d tell you are the steps you need to complete. If I was sitting with you having coffee, I’d map these things out with you. In fact, go ahead, grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive in. 

Question #1 Course objectives: what will your course help people do? 

When you’re considering your course objectives, this is a perfect time to think through the goals of your course. For example: 

  • What’s the defining WIN? How do you define success? How will you know you’ve succeeded when you’re “done”? I know, you’re never done. But, it’s worth thinking about and defining it at this stage!
  • What’s the value proposition? Write it down at this stage. 
  • What does the person get (on the other side) of signing up? List everything out—no bad idea at this stage. You’ll hone this list down at a later stage.

Answering these questions at this stage will set you on the right path going forward.  

Question #2 Course structure: how will you break up the content so people will use it?

I know, you’re content is great. Everyone will buy it and finish every single minute! Wrong! You will need to consider how you will break up your content in pieces that are digestible for your followers. Consider a few options: 

  • Break up content into a few sessions? This may be the most simple way. 
  • Break into modules bundled together? Consider how your sessions might fit into modules.
  • Take as you please? Maybe you don’t need an order for your content—and the buyer will decide?
  • Time-spaced release? You post only a few things—and drop the rest of the content on a rhythm? 
  • Unlocked sessions after another session? For content that needs to be finished in order, consider this approach.

Question #3 Course style: how will you teach so people will listen?

This is an important question. It doesn’t matter how great your content is or how well you break it up and deliver it, if you don’t get this part right—it can hurt your success. Consider a few options: 

  • Voice-over slide deck? This option is the lowest on the tech need but can work for some content that needs a ton of examples.
  • Full-on camera? This option is a bit techier—but typically worth the time.
  • Team recorded? Will take more time and logistics, and more tech. But, it’s often worth it to get others in on the play—it helps your followers digest the content too.
  • Zoom recorded? This will take a bit more tech knowledge, but it’s doable and can help you in getting started.
  • Combo or hybrid? Maybe you do several of these options. 

While deciding this really depends on your comfort factor and content, deciding the style of your course early on will prove vital and help you answer future questions on this list. 

Question #4 Course delivery: how will people get your information?

Answering this question will take some thought. Depending on your content, what’s the best vehicle for launching your course? Here are a few examples I’ve seen work:

  • Sign up as you please: this is usually done with a strong website and will take planning. This typically involves a hybrid of web, email, or even a membership site to accomplish.
  • Cohort structure: maybe your content fits this style of taking a few people at a time through your course.

Question #5 Course personalization: how will you make people feel welcomed?

Another vital question is to think past the point of purchase. What will happen after a follower signs up? Consider a few things: 

  • Welcome communications: will you send a series of emails? What will be in those emails? 
  • Personal call or messaging: this will take a lot of time. But, the relational dot-connecting when you’re starting out can be invaluable.
  • Welcome kits: will you create a kit that helps folks feel welcome? How will you deliver it? 

Question #6 Course tools: what will you offer to help people learn?

Answering this question depends on the content you’re offering and how your followers may want to digest it. Consider a variety of options. The more the better!

  • Workbooks: provide guides that house reference content and can be used as the follower is walking through your course. 
  • eBooks: be sure to have content you can use in bite-size chunks to deliver and encourage your followers. 
  • Worksheets: is there some of your content that would fit this format? Adding as many varieties as possible to your course will aid the learner at this stage.

Question #7 Course price point: what will you charge people who want it?

This may be one of the toughest questions to get right. Trust me, answering this question will feel like shooting in the dark. Here are some ideas that have helped me and others answer this question: 

  • Think 10x the value of your price point. Having this in mind will shape the entire course and your thinking about it.
  • Under $100 for a key lesson type course. If you’re considering a topic-by-topic approach, this pricing may be in bounds.
  • Over $500 for a full framework type course. If you’re going to cover several topics by the time someone finishes your course, this pricing may help you as you think through the timing of your course from start to finish. 

Question #8 Course marketing: how will you promote what you're doing?

Once you’ve created your course and answered the previous seven questions, guess what, you’re not done! You’re just at the starting point! It’s now time to market your course. Consider a few ideas for how you might promote your course: 

  • Sample content: give a portion of your content away for free so followers will see it.
  • Course outline: provide followers with an outline of all you will cover in your course from start to finish.
  • Course objectives: spell out what you hope followers will learn from the course. 

These are the eight questions I’d ask you if I was having coffee with you in person. Answering these questions will help you get your head around the why, who, what, when, where, and how of creating and selling your online course. My guess is, if you’re reading this, you have a great idea and want to help people. It’s time to ask yourself these eight questions. I look forward to seeing where your answers take you. 

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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9 membership site ideas you might’ve missed

Often, followers will ask me about what ideas I have to improve their membership sites. Whether you're just starting out your membership site or a veteran, there are so many ways to be creative and engage your audience well. I can’t say exacting what might work for one audience will work for your audience. 

But, in many cases, I find that folks forget some of the most tried and true ideas that can really help guide your followers through the experience you want them to have. 

Here are nine (9) membership site ideas you might’ve missed along the way. 

#1 Map out an intentional experience flow.

There are a ton of things to consider related to user-flow. Here are just a few to be sure you haven’t missed: 

  • What path are you guiding someone through?

  • What feels natural?

  • What would you want if you were the follower?

  • How would you talk with your follower over coffee? 

  • What are your goals at each stage?

  • What tools are working for you at each stage (ex: email automation, lead generators, and so on.)?

#2 Clarify what you are offering to your followers.

Clearly state what is in each membership tier you’re offering to your followers. Here are a few things to try and avoid doing:

  • Stay away from cute phrases and words people don’t understand.

  • It’s great to over-communicate. But, keep your words concise.

  • Try your best not to leave room for doubt or wonder related to your offer.

#3 Create multiple tiers.

I see this often. People forget that followers like options. But, there are some things to be careful about at this step: 

  • Don’t create too many options. Try two or three at most. Too many and you’ll confuse your followers.

  • Title each membership tier with a name that makes sense. Err on the side of descriptive rather than cute.

  • Create hidden memberships for VIP groups. Don’t underestimate this option.

  • Consider a free tier and a paid tier. This could be a great on-ramp for more followers.

  • Chart out what each tier gets on your site. Be clear and concise.

#4 Create an onboarding series.

Creating an onboarding series is one of the biggest things folks forget. But, it can help so much. Think through the following things:

  • How would you welcome someone if this was an in-person vs. an online community?

  • Think of the conversations you would have and instructions you would give

  • What do people need to know right out of the gate?

  • What questions are your followers asking you by text, email, social, and so on?

  • What are the big rocks and goals you want to clarify?

#5 Design a new member course.

When you have a lot to explain or teach new members, consider creating a new member course. We've discussed how to build an online course on this blog before. This is good for several reasons:

  • It’s a great way to track engagement

  • Awesome way to lay out just what you want them to learn

You might also consider making an onboarding course a requirement to be part of your community. Imagine how qualified the community would be if everyone knew the same things to start.

#6 Clarify rules and expectations.

It’s healthy for any community to have rules of engagement. It’s important that you state your rules and expectations early and often. Focus on a privacy policy, a posting policy, and a comment policy. Then, the tough part will be to enforce the rules. Make sure you don’t add a rule you aren’t planning to enforce.

#7 Empower new member hosts.

If you’re going to grow, you’ll need help. Consider shoulder tapping a few individuals who can reach out to new members to welcome them. Give them the tools they need to connect with other people. Create branded note cards for them to send a handwritten note. 

Here are some ideas of where to find hosts:

  • Who’s been liking your posts the most?

  • Who comments in your community the most?

  • Who in your community shows a heart for teaching?

#8 Ask for feedback and needs.

It’s vital you set up a way to continually and automatically learn from your community. Here are a few ways to get feedback and learn the needs of your followers:

  • Create a survey at key points along the journey

  • Ask members for what they need and what they are looking for

  • Ask members about their experience so far (30-60-90 days out?) and what could be improved

  • Ask leading questions that reveal insights to help you better understand their needs

#9 Give the opportunity to explore.

Consider creating a free tier or offer a 30-day trial to get a follower’s toe in the water, digitally. Don’t make people jump too far to get what you have to offer. You’ll find it’s easier to guide people along by creating small steps to get them in the door and along the path. Guide your followers well through these experiences into a deeper membership. Pretend you’re walking with your follower from start to finish. What will they need to be successful? 

Working through these nine (9) ideas will help improve your followers’ experience with your community. Now, the only question is: which idea will you start on today?!

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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12 steps for how to build an online course

We all see online courses everywhere these days but how difficult is it to build my own? Great question! Here’s my take from years of building courses. It’s not easy. But, it’s easier if you have your steps ordered properly. 

Let’s unpack a process to help you know how to build an online course. Here are twelve (12) steps to building your very own online course.

Step #1: Brainstorm your course idea.

On this first step, try not to overthink it. Simply list out everything you can think of that could go into your course. Now, if you're thinking about a course, my guess is that you know how to get followers to your website and know some strategies for monetizing your site on some level. Think through all of the steps people would need to go through from start to finish and leave happy. Consider the worksheets and other modules people need to understand your course better, understand you care about your resources, and that you want them to reach out to you with any questions. 

Step #2: Determine key categories.

Look back at your brainstorming session to see where there are themes. Give each theme an official title and description. Start writing out what the goal is for each theme area. Ultimately, these ideas will become either your modules or sessions and maybe even future courses.

Step #3: Strive for balance.

Take a look and make sure your content is all balanced across modules. At this stage, you should consider adding an expectation for time and consistency across the modules. This will help you not over-do one topic and under-do another topic. You’re looking for the right blend of helpful material and balance across topics. Remember, you can always come back and address additional details in subsequent courses. 

Step #4: Outline your lesson plans.

Determine your modules or sessions. By modules, I simply mean groupings of session topics. For example, perhaps you would have twelve total sessions. Your course could be the straight twelve or it may benefit your followers to have four modules of three sessions each. 

It’s all how you want to present it. Consider the viewer at this step. Here’s the general rule, if you need to go over ten sessions, you should consider breaking it into modules.

Here are a few tips as you outline your plans: 

Outline your core talking points. Think through examples, models, diagrams, quotes, research, stats, testimonials, case studies, infographics, and any other content items you have available. 

Next, outline your lesson plan. Consider what could fit onto a single page of a keynote presentation. Make it easy on yourself to transfer the work you’ve done in your outline to your actual course presentation by working in whatever software you prefer.  

Step #5: Build your slide deck.

Consider hiring someone to build a branded slide deck template for you or take a look at websites that sell Powerpoint templates. Or, strive to make your presentation super simple (text only) if you’re only using your slide deck as a reference for speaking. 

Be prepared to spend more time on this task if you plan to show your slide deck or if you need to do a voice-over slide deck in your presentation.  

Step #6: Record your teachings.

Choose what type of recording you want to do. You have a few options:

  • Direct to Camera: this is you talking directly to the camera. This option is genuine but requires more video equipment, editing, and general talent.

  • Voice Over Slide Deck: this is your voice recorded over only the slides being shown.  It’s a simple approach but the user doesn’t get to see you.

  • Hybrid Approach: this is you either recording directly to the camera and supplementing the video with slide images OR recording a live bumper at the beginning and end of each session.

Want an extra tip? Begin by recording your sessions however your most comfortable and your tech allows. Don’t overthink things. Just jump in and start recording. As you grow in this area and learn more about what your followers need help with, you can always try new approaches.

Step #7: Edit your videos.

Edit your videos to what you need and what makes you happy. But, remember to keep it simple. The more simple you keep it, the more likely it is to get completed! 

Here are a few things to remember: 

  • Check for background noise and audio levels

  • Remember audio levels are more important than video quality. Consider tools like iMovie as you’re getting started.

Step #8: Load your videos.

Upload your finished videos on YouTube or Vimeo. In my experience, here’s how you can decide which one to use: 

  • YouTube is fine for the world to see. It will have advertisements that don’t necessarily fit your brand or mission.

  • Vimeo is great if you want to restrict access - especially if you’re charging for your course.

Step #9: Create worksheets for your viewers.

Consider creating complimentary worksheets for your sessions. This will serve a few purposes. It will give your audience something to work through as they learn. It will also help them see the value they are getting from your course. They will have a resource they can look back to for reference after the course. 

Step #10: Create a welcome campaign.

Want a secret? At this step, always assume buyers' remorse. Don’t hold back on the help here! You’ll want to immediately welcome people to your online course. Consider building an email campaign based on the amount of time your course should take from start to finish. Adjust the number of emails in your campaign based on how much time it might take to complete the course. For example, if your course only takes a couple of hours, you might consider a welcome and, a reminder email a few days later, and a feedback email a month after that. 

Next, consider sending a summary email of what each week’s lesson should be. You’ll want to welcome people as well as keep your resources in their minds. 

Step #11: Launch your course.

You’ve completed a lot of work to get to this stage. Congrats! But, it’s not time to celebrate. Sorry, it’s time to work even more! It’s time to make your official launch. Consider at least a few options from the ideas below: 

  • Post to social media channels

  • Let friends know about your course by email or text

  • Put a banner ad on your website

  • Ask others to promote your course

  • Consider a few blog posts you could to that are helpful now and point readers to your course.

Step #12: Keep engaging with your audience.

Don’t set up your course and forget it. Live with your audience. Remember to stay engaged with people taking your course. You’ll want to be responsive—quickly respond to questions as they come up. And, post new materials when you have them to keep the conversation going. 

One more thing: Start building your next course!

Okay, maybe you can take one day off. Rest a bit. But, very soon, it’s time to start thinking about your next course. People will start to complete your current course. Guess what? They’ll start looking for another course. It’s never too late to start building your next course. So, complete all of the twelve steps we just covered—then repeat!

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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7 super simple steps for how to start a membership site

Many communities are working to build membership sites. It’s a common business model today, especially looking at brands like Netflix, Disney+, Dollar Shave Club, and countless others. Creating a membership site takes time and strategy to do it well. I’ve seen some good practices and some not-so-good practices. 

Let’s unpack the key ingredients to starting a membership site well.

Step #1: Research examples for ideas.

Take time to look at what others are doing and what they are offering. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you review other membership sites for ideas to use on your site:

  • What do they offer?

  • What are they charging?

  • How many things do they offer?

  • How simple is their process?

  • What questions do you have about their offerings?

  • What do you find compelling?

  • What do you find confusing?

  • How do they use graphics to help you want to take action? 

Step #2: Inventory your assets.

You’ll want to take time to assess all the things you have that you could offer your community. 

Start with making two lists—one list of what you currently have that can be used to create products and one list of what you could build in the future. 

For now, only use what you have to get started. Otherwise, you’ll take forever to start because you’ll have to wait and create new stuff. 

Consider what you might be able to feature from other places even. With your current content, you can probably start there. Here are a few ideas of things you’ve probably spent time creating that you can offer on a membership site: 

  • Blog articles: which posts are your most visited? Your top handful of posts could tell you something about the content you should bundle up and sell. 

  • Courses: Think about the content you could use to create a video or series of videos from a few minutes to a few hours of viewable content. This would make a helpful course for your community.

  • PDF resources: It’s worth reviewing the most visited pages on your website. This will be telling about what is helpful to your audience. Take, for example, your most popular post online, could you make a PDF out of it? If not, could you take the content and add some to it to create a helpful PDF? 

  • Scheduled coaching: Offer to coach to your followers. You’ll not only be helpful to the folks who sign up, but you’ll learn a ton from answering their questions. 

  • Events or event discounts: offer discount codes to your community. This is helpful for lots of reasons, but especially for retention.

Step #3: Bundle your offerings.

Now you need to take the items that you’ve selected and build your bundles. Many organizations like to have a free tier and a paid tier. If that’s something you want, think about giving your paid tier 100 percent of your content and your free tier about 40 percent of your content.

Give each bundle a creative title but something that’s understandable and descriptive. You’ll also want to clearly outline what you get from each membership tier. Spell everything out. Folks want to know what they can expect from the start. Show your strongest offerings at the top of your list. But, don’t forget each and every item that’s part of your package.

Step #4: Configure the technology.

Now it’s time to configure your technology and load your membership offerings. Depending on what membership platform you’re using, be sure to study their tutorials and knowledge base to learn what you can do and what you can’t.

Here are some common things you should be able to configure on your site:

  • Membership name

  • General description 

  • What this tier provides (and doesn't)

  • Pricing (free, monthly, annual)

  • Custom confirmation message

  • Automated email confirmation

Step #5: Create a welcome campaign.

A welcome campaign can serve several purposes. It can welcome folks but it can also establish trust and help folks know what to expect from you. 

Consider the following things related to your welcome campaign: 

  • Go ahead and assume buyers remorse - attack it head one

  • Immediately get new members in a 2-4 week email campaign

  • DO NOT UPSELL THEM - this is a time to ease their concerns

  • Be their guide

  • How would you welcome them to your community if you were to meet them for coffee and walk through joining

  • Add videos to your welcome email messages

  • Automate your email campaign with a tool like MailChimp or Active Campaign

Step #6: Launch your membership.

Now it’s time to go live. Don't forget these things when you're launching your membership site. But, it's time to go big with your new announcement. Here are just a few ideas of ways to promote your launch:

  • Push out announcements through all your channels. For example, be sure you don’t forget sending emails, creating blog posts, social posts, texting friends and fellow partners, and so on.

  • Create a banner on your website homepage

  • Feature on your podcast

  • Add to the footer of your personal email

  • Make it simple to find on your website

Step #7: Track engagement.

Make sure you have Google Analytics or other tools set up properly so you can learn how many visitors you’re getting, where they are coming from, and what they’re doing once they visit. 

Many membership websites have their own analytics built-in. I've talked before about things to consider related to online member management software. But, as a reminder, here are some things to keep in mind so you’re tracking what you need to: 

  • How many people are seeing your membership offering?

  • What is your conversation rate?

  • Where are people dropping?

So, you can tell, starting a membership site isn’t easy. But, with these seven steps, you can feel confident knowing you’re well on your way to not only starting your membership site but cultivating connections and community from the start. 

 

5 ways to monetize your communityNeed more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.

 

About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.


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