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5 Best Online Course Platforms to Grow Revenue

Let’s start with a hypothetical. Say you’ve got some skills in an in-demand field—mad chops, like, so good it’s almost scary! Naturally, other people want them, too, and with the e-learning and online course market expected to hit $350 billion by 2025, you come up with a brilliant idea: You could teach one yourself. 

That’s great! Since 2020 made virtual collaboration the norm, it’s easier than ever to share your knowledge with people around the globe… and get paid to do it. Your timing is perfect, but after a quick scan of the options, you’ve got a question.
 

How do I decide on the best online course platform for me?

To be honest, there are dozens of platforms out there, all serving a different need. Some are geared more toward creatives, while others offer amazing marketing tools. Some are endlessly customizable, while others use templates to get you up and running quick. Your plan to spread knowledge (and monetize your mad skills) will have to wait, at least until you figure out where to host this game-changing course. 

We’ve done the digging and picked out five gems from the heap—quite possibly the best online course platforms out there today. Then we broke them down so they’re easier to choose from, and the results are in. 

This list isn’t really a #1 = best and #5 = worst type of thing. It’s more like each one is geared toward a different mission, so let’s take a look. 
 

1. Teachable

best online course platforms

Teachable is widely considered one of the best online course platforms for beginners, since it has loads options to help first timers get started. You can build out simple courses with quick, pre-set template options and tips to get the most out of the program. And you also get access to student information, making marketing that much easier. But while it’s great for startups, you might want something more once you grow.
 

 

2. LearnDash 

best online course platforms

Next up is LearnDash, a learning platform that comes with one big advantage: It works with your existing Wordpress website. That’s right, if you are one of the millions of people already hosting a website on Wordpress, you can plug LearnDash right in. That does streamline things, but it also comes at a cost – you’ll need a bit of technical know how to keep it running smooth, in comparison to some other options.
 

 

3. Mighty Networks

best online course platforms

Maybe the key to your success is a thriving, interactive community, one where you stay in constant contact with your members. Count Mighty Networks as a possible solution. You can use your existing social-media following to build a network of potential students, and with live-streaming video uploads, your content will keep them engaged. When done right, your course could feel more like a social platform than school.
 

 

4. Skillshare 

best online course platforms

But what if the course you’re hoping to teach is in a creative field? Something like comic-book writing or… quilting… advanced finger painting? If that’s the case, you might want to check out Skillshare. With simple courses based on video lessons and projects to apply those lessons, it’s especially adept in creative fields. But, if the skill you’d like to share is more technical, you may need to look elsewhere.
 

 

5. Cause Machine

best online course platforms

Enter Cause Machine, a purpose-built, all-in-one option. While other platforms can make it hard to centralize your digital footprint, Cause Machine is set up to do just that. Your website, podcast, events manager and online courses? They can all be in the same place. Members can interact with each other and take classes as a group, creating a more personal, engaged atmosphere, and whether your class is rooted in creative whimsy or hardcore data, you’re all set. Best of all, there’s no technical expertise required, and analytics are included, so it can grow as your business does. Check out some key features below:

  • Robust Event Management & Registration

  • Sell Online Video eCourses

  • Members-Only Original Content 

  • Connect With Other Subscribers 

  • Take Classes Together

 

In short, picking the best online course platform for you is an important decision, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. 
 

Cause Machine Solutions

Here at Cause Machine, we help organizations solve complex community engagement problems/questions.  We use these disciplines of innovation ourselves in our own development process and have helped lead many organizations through their own process of innovation discovery.  Leveraging the Cause Machine platform for engaging your community helps you be confident that the foundations of this platform are built on time-tested best practices of great processes like innovation and design thinking.  Schedule a FREE demo today!


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How to get more people to attend your events

So, you have an event coming up. Getting the most people you can to your event matters. My guess is, if you’re having an event, you have a lot to share with people. Events are a gateway to other great things you offer as well.

That said, an event can create energy around your brand and your mission. It can also provide an opportunity for your followers to connect and network.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years of hosting events, that have helped me be sure I’m checking off all of the boxes I need so I get the most people I can to attend an event. 

How to get more people to attend your events

#1 Make a Promise. 

Events can often seem like dating someone. Quickly, you start making a promise about what someone gets from your event. However, it’s important to point out the benefits attendees will get when they sign up, when they attend the event, and even after the event.  

It’s vital to show how you’re going to deliver on whatever you promise. When you do this, it helps people feel like you’ve made a solid commitment to them—just as they have—or will—to you when they register. 

#2 Clarify what attendees will get from the event. 

This step is vital. Whether you're an author or leader of a community, a clever event title and great speakers may not get you the registrants as you might think. This step is all about what problem you’re solving with the attendees. If you clearly spell out what people get from your event, your followers or visitors will register because they trust you. 

Here are just a few examples of what attendees might expect to learn or how they may be helped from attending your event: 

  • Guided connections with experts

  • Refreshment in their career

  • Best practices and expert learnings

  • Connections with others like them. Your attendee doesn’t need to feel alone

  • Matched connections to exhibitors

  • Preparation and followup resources

  • Access to content after the event

You don’t have to feel like you need to offer every single one of these, but it's definitely worth thinking through what attendees will get from your event. Reiterate your promises throughout your marketing leading up to the event. Refer to these promises during your actual event. Then, ask or survey attendees about these promises after the event—to be sure they received what they thought they would receive. 

#3 Ask others to promote the event.

Hosting and marketing an event is a great opportunity to engage your partners, exhibitors, speakers, and alumni to help promote the event. You just have to ask! Think about how you can make a promotion part of being a partner. Will you provide a set or kit of marketing messages for use on web, blog, email, and social media for your partners? 

Consider making it easy to promote the event by creating resources to help people promote your event. Think of how your partners will be best at sharing. Will it be through PDFs, images, and so on? What platforms or channels are your people most familiar with? The last thing, you might consider partnering with some of the best groups who stand to bring new registrants and offer them a percentage for each attendee they bring. You can do this easily and track it by using a discount code at checkout. This could be the incentive some of your best partners need to move the need for promotion and registration.

#4 Leverage alumni and followers. 

This group is a bit different than the folks in #4. This group of people may be helpful, but they aren’t necessarily the folks who you’ll want to invest time in creating affiliate codes and such. However, don’t forget this group in your promotion of the next event. How well you activate this group may create a buzz and registrations that bring your event from dull to a success. 

For this group of followers, be sure you ask them to share several posts on social media. Be direct. Give them the exact post and link if at all possible. People are busy, and to be honest, your event three months from now isn’t the priority for this group! : ) Ask them to share with their friends—via email and text where fitting. Ask these things several times if you have lots of room in the calendar before your next event. You might consider offering a free ticket if they can recruit five (5) attendees. Now, this assumes you’ve done well at staying in touch with these folks between events. Remember that word of mouth is most likely your greatest marketing tool—especially for events. And, you might net out more followers to your website after the event ends.

#5 Be the guide and connect relational dots.

People are looking for a guide. It’s up to you to help attendees do some relational dot-connecting. Also, events can be intimidating. Show how you're going to make the event feel more personal. Will you have time for folks to connect and get to know each other before the event? During the event? After the event? 

You can create relational dots in several ways. One big way is offering times of connection where you share stories of how your event has set others up for success. Also, for your speakers, event staff, keynote speakers, and breakout session speakers—be sure attendees get their stories in front of them. Try and think beyond the bio. Why did you ask this particular person to speak? Mention that in marketing emails leading up to the event. This will serve you well in that—you’ll gain more registrants for folks who wish to connect—and—you’ll help the speakers be able to know their why. 

These are just a few of the best ways I’ve found to help me feel confident, knowing I’ve done all I can to make an event and get the most attendees possible. If you do these things, you can rest easy knowing your event will be a success. 

 

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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Creating a Culture of Innovation

Creating a culture of innovation is no easy task.  Truthfully, creating a culture of anything isn’t an easy task!  But some things are more critical than others for what they mean to your culture.  As we’ve unpacked before… innovation is far more a process than a skillset.  This is important, especially if your goal is to create a culture of innovation because you can scale a process (but it’s difficult to scale skillset with limited human resources).  

 

Before we talk specifically about innovation culture, it’s probably best to start with understanding and having some agreed upon idea about organizational culture in general.  Let’s give this some definition or at least some talking points.

  • Co-Owned - people in your organization feel ownership and it’s not centralized with a person or a team

  • Repetative - the action or manifestation of that cultural idea is being repeating and lived out in various forms in your organization

  • Catalyst - there are core catalytic events and moments for bringing/driving this culture to life

  • Stewardship - there are dedicated people to “own” this cultural mandate and help see if become part of the overall organization

 

So then we dive into innovation culture and what makes that unique.  Innovation culture is when an organization embraces a standard process approach to help solve organzational problems.  It’s what happens when there’s a discipline to allow an objective process to help flush out better ways to solve a problem (than one person carrying that weight on themself).  Let’s give this some more talking points as well.

  • Branding - give your process, space, and team a name - something that makes this unique to your organization

  • Dedicated Space - creation of a dedicated space to lead and facilitate innovation sessions

  • Defined Process - refining the innovation (or design thinking) processes to clarify your organization’s version and vernacular

  • Campaigns - starting with strong campaigns to get others on board, initiating early innovation sessions, and educating people

  • Facilitators - building a team of trained facilitators from across the organization

 

Lastly, it’s important to give people the opportunity to engage and leading them to how to make that step of engagement.  While there are many ways to engage, here are three recommendations.  

  • Participate - give people the opportunity to sign up and be a team member of an upcoming innovation 

  • Submit - give team leaders the ability to submit innovation concepts for their team to have an innovation facilitated

  • Facilitate - request to be trained as a facilitator to learn the skillset and be on your roster of facilitators

 

In short, creating a culture of innovation is a discipline of activity and steadiness over time to see your process well leveraged for the betterment of organization.  Add to our list here and get started creating your own culture of innovation!

 

Cause Machine Solutions

Here at Cause Machine, we help organizations solve complex community engagement problems/questions.  We use these disciplines of innovation ourselves in our own development process and have helped lead many organizations throught their own process of innovation discovery.  Leveraging the Cause Machine platform for engaging your community helps you be confident that the foundations of this platform are built on time-tested best practices of great processes like innovation and design thinking.  Schedule a demo today!


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9 Best WordPress Alternatives for Building a Website

When it launched in 2003, Wordpress sparked something close to a digital revolution. Suddenly, almost anyone could make a professional-grade website packed full of high-quality content, and it now dominates the market.

Believe it or not, about 43 percent of all websites currently run on Wordpress1, making it the most popular website builder in the world. But it’s not the only option. And if you’re about to take the plunge, you should ask yourself:
 

What kind of WordPress alternatives are out there?

It’s true that Wordpress is a powerful tool, with things like drag-and-drop block editing, thousands of themes and countless plug-ins to choose from, but it can also get complex pretty quickly. Perhaps the plug-ins you’ve chosen are not compatible with each other… that happens. Or maybe you’re not up for the hassle of managing your own web hosting, with security and updates and all the rest.

Luckily, many WordPress alternatives exist. Some offer a simple approach, while others are extra flexible. Some emphasis e-commerce, while others are great for blogging. You just need to know what's right for you. 

We’ve scoured the internet to compile a list of the 9 best WordPress alternatives for building a website, with hopes of giving you a fuller picture of the options.
 

1. Wix

wordpress alternatives

Wix is probably the best-known Wordpress alternative, and there’s good reason for that. If you’re looking to keep things simple, Wix is great for building basic websites with a similar drag-and-drop model to Wordpress, but a more streamlined list of plug-in options to choose from. 

 


2. Domain.com

Wordpress alternatives

Next up we have Domain.com, which excels in a few areas where Wordpress does not – right out of the box. While WordPress needs some customization before you can start selling goods and services, Domain.com comes ready-to-go with e-commerce capability. Good news if you need to set up shop.

 


3. Shopify

Wordpress alternatives

Then we have Shopify, and just by the name you can tell – it’s built for e-commerce. Shopify is one of the best Wordpress alternatives if you need a digital storefront, and with great-looking templates, payment option tools and 24/7 tech support, you get a professional feel without much heavy lifting.

 


4. Drupal

wordpress alternatives

As far as rivals to Wordpress, Drupal is most popular with bigger organizations. If you’re looking to create a website with complex, one of a kind content at enterprise scale, Drupal is almost endlessly customizable, and highly adaptive. The drawback is you’ll need some technical know-how to set it up.

 


5. Squarespace

wordpress alternatives

Squarespace is a great Wordpress alternative with a little something for everyone. Whether you’re building your first site for a new small business, or you’re a creative looking to showcase your work, it has a familiar drag-and-drop feel, and templates that often look better than the competition.

 


6. Hubspot

best wordpress alternatives

Searching for a high-tech solution? Hubspot’s CMS Hub is a powerful content management system – and its main draw is a fully-hosted platform, meaning it can handle all that pesky back-end maintenance on its own. Plus, with automated marketing tools and killer analytics, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

 


7. Ghost

wordpress alternatives

Not all websites are intended to sell stuff – some are just there to deliver fantastic content – and if you are a writer of any kind, Ghost might be the way to go. With powerful SEO and publishing tools built right in, plus things like an RSS feed builder and full-picture editor, this is a great choice for creatives.
 

 

8. Web.com

wordpress alternatives

Web.com is a good choice for Wordpress alternatives that don’t break the bank – or take over your life. Relatively inexpensive and easy, users can start by choosing from a list of templates. Or, with the added ability to make your own design, this option can also help you create a truly unique brand experience.
 

 

9. Medium

wordpress alternatives

Another example in the world of Wordpress alternatives is Medium. Perfect for publishing text, you’ve probably read a column written by a celebrity on Medium in the past – even if you didn’t know it. It’s not as endlessly customizable as some of the others. But it’s clean looking if the written word is your thing.

 

In the end, this is still just a fraction of the website-building options out there, and it might sound like a lot to think about. Whether you just need a website or if you're looking to give your community a home, it’s a decision you can’t afford to sleepwalk into. Take the time to decide what works for you.
 

Cause Machine Solutions

Here at Cause Machine, we help organizations solve complex community engagement problems/questions.  We use these disciplines of innovation ourselves in our own development process and have helped lead many organizations through their own process of innovation discovery.  Leveraging the Cause Machine platform for engaging your community helps you be confident that the foundations of this platform are built on time-tested best practices of great processes like innovation and design thinking.  Schedule a FREE demo today!


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Wordpress membership plugin alternatives you haven’t thought of

Are you looking to transform your site into a membership site? Guess what? In order to make this happen, you’ll need membership plugins. With membership site plugins, you’ll be able to create a premium content library and make it accessible only to members you want to see it.

Choosing the right membership plugin is a major decision. Why? Well, in many cases, it’s tough to change course once you start down one path. 

If you’re looking to monetize your blog readers, sell more digital courses, or generate a list of engaged contacts, there are a ton of ways to approach membership within your website. 

I want to help you navigate the membership plugin world properly. What follows is a few key thoughts that will help you think through the proper steps for picking a membership plugin that fits your needs.

 

First, ask yourself a few questions.

Start by asking yourself if you’re ready to build a membership site, how do you know when you and your audience is ready?

• Is your audience asking for it?

• Do you have a solid quantity of google-ranked content and offerings?

• Would membership offer your followers something they don’t already have?

• Do you have a tribe following?

• What all are you planning to offer your members?

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself to get you started. Did you answer "yes" to some of these questions? It may be time to move on to our second step. 

 

Second, evaluate your tools.

You’ll need several tools within your membership site. Again, this list isn't meant to be exhaustive but will get you to think about what you should consider. Evaluate the tools you have and the tools you think you will need based on your goals. You may need tools such as:

• Individual memberships and business memberships

• Content management with access per membership tier or level

• Content management type features for member data 

• Integrations with other tools through things like Zapier or MailChimp

• Does it incorporate other community management tools like courses, an online store, stories, events, and so on?

 

Third, dive into the various plugins.

There are so many plugins available, here are a few to get you started down the right path:

MemberPress : MemberPress comes with many of the features you’ll need to create a powerful membership site. Just install the plugin on your site, enter your payment information, setup what you’re selling, and start promoting your membership site. The plugin integrates well with several services, like MailChimp, PayPal, Stripe, and so on.

aMember Pro: aMember is another plugin that’s been around for years. Now, aMember Pro is not a native WordPress plugin. But, you can integrate it with WordPress. It has the features you might expect from a plugin. It comes with unlimited levels and integrates with many payment systems like PayPal, Stripe, and so on. 

LearnDash: LearnDash was built for creating and selling online courses on your WordPress sites. Check LearnDash out if you’re interested in allowing your followers to access new courses based on the points they have upon completion of certain courses. As you can imagine, this option helps keep followers engaged as well. 

Teachable: Teachable is an all-in-one platform for creating and publishing online courses. You can pick between integrating your online courses into your existing website or host them on Teachable. This is pretty handy. Teachable has lots of learning tools (think quizzes and forums), integrations (think Google Drive and others), and marketing tools (think coupon codes, affiliate programs, and so on) you will find helpful. 

s2Member: S2Member gives you access to one of the most comprehensive membership plugins out there. It includes helpful things like content dripping and one-step registration and checkout. It works well with Stripe, PayPal, and others.

WooCommerce Memberships: WooCommerce Memberships is an add on if you already use WooCommerce. If you’re selling digital products on your website and want to sell memberships as well, you may want to give WooCommerce Memberships a try.

Restrict Content Pro: Restrict Content Pro is a plugin that lets you create a fully-featured membership site. It bundles features you need for your membership site as add-ons. It has integrations like Stripe and PayPal. Like many of the plugins, there’s a free version that gets you started. 

Paid Membership Pro: Paid Membership Pro is one of the best plugins for offering special product prices to certain members. It’s basically like your customers having Amazon-Prime-like experience. It’s worth looking into. You can manage member subscriptions, give posts and pages access, and much more. Set up is super easy.

This is just a few options for membership plugin site options. Check them out and play around checking for differences in each one. You may find your best solution only after you've learned something about several plugins. 

 

Fourth, launch well.

Once you’ve done your research and made a selection, then it’s time to launch. Scary, huh?! Nah, don't be afraid. Here’s what you can do to make things more simple. Start with a beta team of honest, close friends. Well, they don't have to be close friends. But, they need to be super honest. You'll need 10-20 people to help test things out and give you feedback. You want super honest people who won’t just be nice and say, “Oh, that’s great. I love that.” You need folks who will tell you, “Hey, I’ve seen this on another site I’m apart of, I think you should add this feature or integration.” You get the idea. 

When you make your official launch, think of it as a multi-month campaign with a number of steps and touchpoints. Your launch should include web and landing page with a compelling offer, blog posts, emails, and many social media posts to get the word out there. The more touchpoints for your new launch the better it will stick with people.

 

Fifth, have fun!

Don’t forget to have fun along the way. Enjoy learning more from your audience and meeting more of their needs. Remember, you are on a journey, this doesn't happen overnight. But, you can improve a little every day! 

5 ways to monetize your community

 

Need more help taking your community digital?

You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community which 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 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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