How An Online Course Creator Finally Broke Through Her Sales Plateau
Helena Liu is the founder of Exams PM an online training site for passing the Project Management Professional certification test.
Soon after joining Deadline Funnel she took us up on our offer of a free onboarding call. We helped her integrate Deadline Funnel into her marketing and she was so blown away by our support she sent a box of chocolates and a thank you card!
I immediately followed up with her and asked if we could talk about her success story.
Here’s our interview:
HL: Thank you for having me.
JB: Helena has been nice enough to reach out to me after implementing Deadline Funnel. You’re going to hear her story in a little bit, but she said, “Hey, Jack, the results have been great.” I will wait for her to share those with you in a little bit, but she said, “Hey, if you want to do a case study, let’s do it.” Of course, I said yes, I absolutely want to do a case study to talk about how you use it, what your experience was, how you found Deadline Funnel, etc. By the way, if you have heard my voice before, you might hear that I have got a little bit of a cold that I am trying to get over, but I wanted to get this information to you, so I am going to try to let Helena do most of the talking. With that, Helena, it’s so great to have you here. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your company?
HL: Yeah, sure. My company is called Exams PM, and we offer PMP training to students. For those people who don’t know, PMP stands for Project Management Professionals, so it’s the world’s leading certification for project managers right now. Our company helps certify people on that.
JB: Very cool. Take us back to before you found Deadline Funnel, maybe before you were even thinking about it. What was your main method of getting clients in? Let’s start there.
HL: It was 100% of my sales came from webinars, so what I would do is I would do one live webinar, once a month, and throughout the month I would be collecting emails either through the event or through the lead magnets that we had. With those two things, we would collect a couple of hundred emails, and then, with that, I would run one live webinar and then give people two days to basically purchase a course. The course was really only open every month for two days.
JB: I got you.
HL: Everything was done live, yeah.
JB: Right, okay. I was going to say everything was manual. Go ahead.
HL: Exactly. Yeah, everything was manual.
JB: Perfect. At what point, what was going on, in your business, when you thought I wonder if there is a better way? What sort of thoughts went through your head?
HL: My business plateaued for maybe six months because I was running the same process, over and over again, collecting emails, then actually, physically being there for the actual webinar, answering all the questions live, and then opening my cart for people to buy, sending those follow-up emails and so forth. People register and so forth. It got to a point where I maxed-out that process, and the business plateaued after some point. I was getting unhappy because it takes a lot of energy to do a live webinar. It felt like it was very redundant, as you said, very manual, and I wanted to scale the business, grow the business, and have more free time at the same time.
I know it’s possible because you see a lot of the big Internet marketers doing that, but I didn’t know how to take my business to the next level. What I did was, I looked at case studies actually. I went on websites that were course platform websites, like Teachable, Thinkific. There was a couple other ones. I can’t remember the names off the top of my head. Oh, Teachery, I think, is another one. Yeah, I went on these websites, and I also went on some of the big Internet marketers who sell courses that teach you how to make courses and looked at a case study. Then what I did was, I reached out to the people that they did case studies for, so I looked at the websites that they had, and I found their Contact Us page. I sent them an email, and if they didn’t reply, I would send them a follow-up email. I was that person.
JB: Oh, you were persistent.
HL: Yeah, I was pretty persistent. Then I think I probably messaged about a dozen people until I found someone who had a similar business that I did. His business was also in the IT niche, and it was courses as well. Then he also sold his courses through webinars except he did automated webinars. I tried to do automated webinars maybe a year ago, and it wasn’t successful. The reason it wasn’t, my sales went to zero as soon as I started automated webinars. I think one of the reasons I wasn’t successful was because there was no scarcity, so people didn’t feel like there was a deadline to it. That’s why I actually asked Webinar Jam for a refund, and I started doing them live again.
Yeah, then I met John, who I basically found him online and bothered him until he helped me with my business. Then one of the things he recommended was having automated webinars so people can watch on their terms, like when they want to go through their training. One of the things with my training is, it was once a month and it was Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, but if someone lived across the world, in the U.K., it was 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., so it would be very hard for them to join. Let’s say you had a party to go to on Thursday night, then you couldn’t join as well. It wasn’t flexible, having that one time every month that people could join and watch the lectures live. She made the process better by giving people ability to watch it three times a day, at the time and day that works for them.
JB: Correct me if I’m wrong, but at some point, when you and I were working together, you were using Webinar Jam, or actually EverWebinar, again. Correct? Did you go back down that road?
HL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess I should go back and tell that part. Then I found my … It took me a while, but that person, and I eventually found someone who had a similar business as I do, who was also using a similar funnel that I did except his was more advanced. When I was talking with John, he was saying that he was using Automated Webinar, and he was getting great success with it. I was like, “I tried to do it a year ago, and mine totally bombed.” I asked him how he was doing, and I went through his funnel to see what the experience was like. The experience was really good, and I saw all the points that I wasn’t doing correctly. Basically, I tried to funnel-hack him, tried to copy his funnel, for lack of a better word.
Then what he said was, one of the two softwares, three softwares, that he was using was a webinar combined with Deadline Funnel, combined with some sort of email auto responder. I use Active Campaign, but you could use Convert Kit, you could use AWeber, any major auto responder would work, say.
JB: Very cool. One of the things about integrating Deadline Funnel with EverWebinar is, like you said, there is three systems. There is the email service provider, there is EverWebinar and Deadline Funnel.
JB: There is some pieces to connect.
JB: Lead-in question here, but what was your experience when you needed help, getting that set up?
HL: My experience with Deadline Funnel was really good. Whenever I needed help, it was almost instant, being able to get my problems resolved, and I was able to … It is a pretty big set-up, connecting these three systems together, your auto-respond, Deadline Funnel and your webinar platform, probably EverWebinar or whatever you’re using. These three things have to sync together to have a smooth experience for your user so that they feel like they are going through a live event. Setting up these three things probably took me two weeks. I would say probably two weeks. Right?
JB: Yeah. You would work on it, and I would get on Skype with you. Some of my team members would chat with you, and then you would go work on it. You would take it to the next step, and then we would get back on chat, back on Skype, and figure it out. You would say, “I’ve got it this far, but I’m confused about this, whether to go left or go right.”
JB: It wasn’t two weeks of solid, solid, solid work, day after day after day, but, yeah, I would say it was back and forth, a little help here, a little help there, when you needed it. Then you said, “I’m ready to launch this, so let’s talk about that.” I’m so excited about the results you got, so drum roll, please. What were your sales? You said it okay to share this, so you go ahead. What were your sales before, and then what were your sales after?
HL: In my first month, after launching Deadline Funnel, my sales went up 3X or 300%, so I basically tripled my income after using Deadline Funnel, which is really good. I think part of the reason that that happened was because people can view the webinar at their own time. What I was doing before was, let’s say it’s January 1, for lack of a better time, but let’s say it’s January 1 when I have my webinar. Then the course would be open from January 1 to January 3, that window. That would be the window to purchase a course. Let’s say someone signed up for the next webinar on January 4. Then they have to wait until February 1 before they can see the next webinar.
Now, with competition and so many different options on the marketplace, when you have to make a customer wait a month to buy your product, a lot of them leave or they even forget my brand name. I was actually losing a lot of customers that way, because they couldn’t buy when they wanted to buy. When they’re ready to give me their credit card number, sometimes I didn’t have my talk ready in that time because I couldn’t rep myself 30 times. With this system, I was able not only to rep … Like I was saying before, I had every webinar before, a year ago, and it didn’t work. I think part of that was because I didn’t know a way to make it authentic and then have an authentic deadline for people, like this is the time you can buy, because I didn’t know a way to actually shut down the Web page and for that specific person as well, at that specific time.
If people join the webinar at different times and then I shut down the page, then the next person who is seeing it would be like, “Hey, I just got on this page yesterday. Why is this course closed?” If I kept the course, kept it open, and someone tried to go back to it, then it wouldn’t seem like an authentic deadline. It would seem like, oh, you’re saying it was 24 hours, but then I clicked the link again and it worked, so you’re probably lying or something. It didn’t seem authentic.
It was only when I found Deadline Funnel that I realized, oh, this is a way to make it an authentic deadline for people to purchase this training. The support I got was really second to none because I was on the lowest package, a $37 package. With softwares on the market, usually, for something of that price, there would be email support when you need it, but I was really impressed with Deadline Funnel, that I was able to talk to someone on the phone, with you, Jack, on Skype or on the phone, about problems I was having, pick your brain as to what’s the best way to implement this or that, get your advice.
It was almost like a consultative session beyond how does this work, and I was really impressed by that.
JB: Wow, wow. Thank you. It’s great to hear that because that’s something that we really try to do. We’re not perfect, but we really want to not just tell someone what buttons to click, which dials to turn, which toggles to flip. In the software, we want you to have a great outcome, and one of the things that we’ve been told, this might have been your experience too. I don’t want to name names, but sometimes it’s a couple of different software platforms I’ve heard this about. People will say, “Wow, you helped me figure something out in this other person’s, other company’s, software, that I asked their team about, and they didn’t even fix it for me.”
Our whole thing is we want you to have the end results. We’re going to obviously use Deadline Funnel to help you get that, but our goal is helping you get the end results. It’s really heart-warming to hear you say that that was your experience. That’s great. Thank you for saying that.
JB: I want to recap real quick some of the things you mentioned.
JB: You were describing a situation before Deadline Funnel where people would wait until the next month, and the example you gave was February 1. Then you were saying, and I’ve heard other people say this, too, that type of situation where you were turning the thing on and turning the thing off. It’s manual, but really the big issue beyond it being manual is people are interested right then, sort of the Goldilocks Principle of you don’t want to give people forever to make a decision. Otherwise, I don’t have to make a decision today, so why should I, and you talked about that.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you don’t want someone to come in, they got your lead magnet, and, yeah, we’ll send you to a webinar 29 days from now. That’s too long, right?
HL: Yeah, that’s what I was doing before because I was doing everything live, and I couldn’t run a webinar every single day for two people, live. It wasn’t feasible. It wasn’t really worth my time to do that. I couldn’t replicate myself 30 times because it takes a lot of energy to speak for an hour. You know?
JB: Oh, yeah. Another lead-in question, but let’s go ahead and throw it out there. You told me, before we started the recording, that you have a certain outlook on the investment that you made versus what you got. You’d be happy to, so take it away.
HL: Yeah. When I started, one of my mentors told me about Deadline Funnel. I thought I will give it a shot. It was recommended to me by someone who was unbiased. He didn’t have anything to gain from it. It wasn’t like he was an affiliate or anything. He said, “This is what I use,” and he got great results. I said, “If it’s working for him … ” I have forgot the exact quote, but it’s something … I can’t remember the exact quote, but it goes something like this. Imitate the people that you want to be, and he was at a level that I want to be at, so he must be doing something right that I am not. I wanted to learn his methods, which is why I hunted down all those people in the first place.
Anyway, what I was saying was, it was a no-brainer to use Deadline Funnel for me because, when I started, I was on the lowest package. It was $37 a month, and when I tripled my sales, that was a couple of thousand dollars. Even if we say $1,000, that’s still a no-brainer. If you can get a software that is $37 and it’s going to make you $1,000 more a month, that’s, I think, a no-brainer value proposition for anyone to take, really.
JB: Thank you very much for sharing that. One of the things I want to finish with is … Actually, there is two things, so I will try to make them quick. The first question is, why did you decide to set it up? It’s not right or wrong. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Why did you decide to set it up where, instead of during the special webinar promotional period, you could get it at a discount, but it’s always available at a higher price, versus this is the only time that you can get it? Is there any reason why you chose that?
HL: That’s a great question. This hasn’t been tested or anything, but I guess the only answer I have for that is that that’s the way I’ve always done it. I have actually closed down the course, but I do open it up again, probably in a month. If someone didn’t buy, then I would open it up in a month or two, to two months, be like, “Okay, the course registration is open again,” kind of thing. That’s a good question. I haven’t [inaudible 19:13] tested closing the course versus increasing the price, but when I was running live webinars, I actually shut down the course. That’s the way that I’ve always done it, so that was the way that I stuck with. That might not actually be the best way. I don’t know if that’s a good answer, but …
JB: Again, I am not trying to sow any seeds of doubt. I was curious. I wanted to ask in case someone else was wondering, who was listening. I wanted to ask. The last question is, unrelated to Deadline Funnel, is there one tip or one idea or anything that you would love to share? It could be a simple concept like an overall strategy or philosophy, or it could be a specific tactic, but unrelated to Deadline Funnel, is there something that has been really useful for you, over this past six or 12 months?
HL: I would say two things. One is hustle. For me, when I was starting this business, it was about finding, I think, the number one thing that … There was a point in my business that really changed my outlook on business. When I look back at those times, there was always one person that helped me get to that stage. When I was starting out, it was Noah Kagen, one of the big Internet marketers, who I felt really inspired by his story, and that is what motivated me to even get into the Internet marketing space. Then, to start webinars, it was one of my good friends and mentors, Mike, who helped me get started with how to run webinars, how to get those email sequences out. Then, going into the EverWebinar phase was finding John online and getting his advice on how to run an automated webinar.
I would say the number-one advice I have for people would be to hustle and find mentors. I guess people expect mentors to fall from the sky or something. From my story, you can tell. I probably messaged maybe 12 people. I think a lot of people were eager to help me, but their business models were different, and the advice that they gave wasn’t directly applicable to what I was trying to do. It takes work to find your mentor. I think that’s one thing that people need to take away from it. It’s not just going to fall from the sky, but it is doable in that. It is, I think, at every point where I got over a plateau, I can name one person who helped me get over that plateau.
Imitate the person. Find someone who you want to be in the future and imitate what they’re doing. I think all of the business problems in the world has already been solved. You have to find that person who has solved that, to take you to that next level.
JB: That is really solid advice. If I could add one little thing, it sounds like what you were saying was also it doesn’t have to be a mentor for the entire life of your business, from now until forever.
JB: It might be a mentor for this obstacle, and then, when you get to the next obstacle, it might be a different mentor.
HL: Exactly, exactly, yeah. I want to add, a lot of people say, “Hey, I don’t know where to find mentors. I don’t have a mentor,” or, “You got so lucky.” I don’t think I got lucky. I literally went out and looked at case studies, businesses that I liked, and then I found their Contact Us page and emailed that person. Some of them didn’t have Contact Us pages, so what I did was I went on their Who Is page to see if there was an email address there. If they had privacy settings or whatever, then I would register for their email list. Until they sent me an email, then I had their email, and I could send that person an email. It was a little bit stalkerish, but I think I definitely hustled to find mentors who can take me to the next level. I think other people should as well. I think that would probably be my number-one advice.
JB: Great advice. If you ever decide to sell your business and want to go into something else, you could become a bounty hunter. You could track people down. Helena, I really appreciate you contacting me and being so willing to share this advice, share your experience and to give this case study. Thank you. Thank you, but before you go, I want to make sure that you have an opportunity to give out your URL, if you want to.
HL: Yeah. If you wanted to check out my site, it would be www.ExamsPM.com, so E-x-a-m-a, P-M.com.
JB: Perfect. Thank you so much.
HL: Thank you.
JB: That’s a wrap.
HL: That’s a wrap, yeah. I think we did good.
JB: On that, that was great. Except for my voice, that was awesome.
HL: No, I think, you’re fine. Yeah, I think, off the record, I guess, because I was plateaued around $1 to $2K for six months before, I didn’t know how to take my business to the next level. I was mentally stuck. I was like it’s not even possible. I was telling myself this is a side business. I have made bad decisions early on that basically got this business stuck at this place. I almost set up mental barriers for myself, telling myself, “You can’t grow it further,” kind of thing. Oh, I should have mentioned this on the call, but then I thought of Einstein’s quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I thought I am going to reach out to some people and see how I can take it to the next level, see how they’re running their business. Maybe I can take something away from it.
Yeah, it really did feel really stuck with what I was doing because I wanted to be a full-time entrepreneur. I do live in Toronto, which is not the cheapest city in the world, but I can’t live off of $1.5K a month in downtown Toronto, which is where I live. Yeah, I reached out to literally a whole bunch of people. I basically stalked people online until I found John, who is actually one of your clients as well. When you publish this, I will probably send him the link. Yeah, he gave me some great tips. I never met the guy before, but I think I owe a lot to him. Literally, I would, random person, basically barging in, basically asking him how he ran his business, and he was nice enough to share a couple of tips. I am really appreciative of that too.
JB: Definitely, you should let him know once we post this. Also, maybe you will have an opportunity one day to pay it forward.
HL: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so. That’s what I hope to do one day. If someone comes to me asking for help, I would definitely say yes. What I found from this experience is, most people are very willing to give advice because so little people actually ask for advice. People are actually happy because they feel like, oh, they are seen as an expert or something, but it was, I would say, I got probably 100% response rate on the emails I sent to people, asking for help. A lot of the people that wrote back, their business models were different, or they were in a different niche. Their advice was not applicable to what I was trying to do, until I met John, who was in a similar niche and he was also selling through webinars, taking it to the next level, a perfect fit for what I was trying to do. It definitely took a little bit of hustling to actually find him and get some of his advice.
JB: Hustle is a key component, and you’ve got lots of it, so congrats to you.
HL: Thank you.
JB: I am so happy that Deadline Funnel is part of the company that you’re building and the direction that you’re moving. That’s fantastic. I am really, really happy. Nothing could make me happier, businesswise. That’s great.
HL: Thank you, thank you.
JB: I actually have to run. I’ve got another call, which the person is pinging me about. I really appreciate this, once again. What I will do is, I will get this transcribed and edited-up, and we’ll probably get on the blog real soon.
HL: If you can send me the link when you’re done, that would be great.
JB: Absolutely, of course.
HL: Awesome. Nice talking with you, Jack.
JB: Thank you for your time.
HL: No problem. Bye.