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Stevie Dillon

Which Comes First: The Audience, Or the Course? (AKA the Chicken Egg Conundrum of the Online Course World)

May 12, 2021

Listen On: Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Which comes first – the chicken, or the egg?

It’s an age old conundrum, and I know it sure as hell baffled me for a good 20 years or so.

All chickens hatch from eggs > All eggs are laid by chickens > and around and around it goes.

The new age, 2021 equivalent of chicken and egg in the online course world, is this:

Which comes first – the audience, or the course? Let’s dive on in.

You need an AUDIENCE to sell a course.

But you need the COURSE to sell to the audience.

Soooo… where does that leave you, the confused AF would-be course creator contemplating the digital product life, but with no course, no audience and no idea which to work on first.

Here’s my opinion – and be warned, it goes agains the grain of 99% of the ‘standard’ advice out there (which is mostly bullshit anyway, because it’s just everyone and their dog regurgitating advice they heard on an Amy Porterfield podcast way back in 2016. But don’t let me get started on the echo chamber that is the online coaching world).

Why Creating Your Course First ISN’T the Answer.

Here’s what MOST people do when it comes to online courses:

Spend months and months creating their course;
Give up half way through, OR finally finish and take it to market – only their audience is teeny tiny, they didn’t do ANY research to make sure it was a profitable course, for a profitable market, serving a specific transformation;
‘Launch’ it the way the gurus tell you do – or just as bad, they don’t launch it at all and just slap it up on their website and “hope” that people will buy;
It bombs – because they don’t have an audience, they used strategies used by gurus with HUGE audiences to try and sell it, and they didn’t have the right concept in the first place because they didn’t do their due diligence or craft messaging that speaks to the hearts and minds of their perfect fit students.

Creating your course before you’ve built an audience isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

In fact, in my Launchpad program, it’s a strategy I recommend.

But creating your course in a silo, without a solid understanding of your niche, without an existing audience and with no input is a BAD. IDEA. You’re creating the course you THINK your people want. And that, my friends, is a very dangerous thing.

Creating a course is no joke. It takes time, effort and a significant amount of energy, brainpower and more.

Building it yourself, in a silo, without an intimate understand of your perfect students and their pain points and desires, their struggles and what they need, is essentially like a builder building a home they ‘think’ a client of theirs will like. It’s risky, and when you’re betting with a whole lot of your very valuable.. and if you are a service provider.. very scarce, time, it’s not one I’d like to bet on. The odds, my friend, are against you.

Why Building Your Audience First ISN’T the Answer.

“So Stevie, what are you saying?!” – I hear you say.

“Do you recommend building the AUDIENCE first? Because if so, I’m stuffed – I’m a service provider, and my focus has been getting CLIENTS.. not building a big, warm email list”.

Well Susie, you’re in luck, because I’m ALSO not suggesting that.

If you wait until you’ve built a big, warm audience to create and sell a course, it’s true – it’s more likely to be “successful”.

Why? Because creating a course and selling it is a volume game.

For every 100 people you pitch it to, you can bet on around two people buying.

So, if you’re launching a brand new course to an email list of 5,000 people – and you’ve got your messaging and strategy right – you can bet on 100 of them buying. At, say, $500 a pop, that’s $50,000. A successful launch in most people’s eyes. In fact, it’s EXACTLY what I did myself when I was first starting out on my online course journey. I’d spent a year building a big, frothy audience and I launched with a BANG.

Is it the right way to go, though?


If your first launch is a multi five or six figure launch, you’ve left SERIOUS money on the table because, my friend, you have waited WAY too long.

When I see big first launches these days, I kind of cringe. I’m like, “good for you, butttttttt GOSH imagine how much MORE money you could have in your pocket right now if only you’d done this WAY, WAY earlier”.

So Not the Chicken.. OR the Egg?

So team, here’s the thing.

I don’t think the course comes first.

I ALSO don’t think the audience comes first.

A blind focus on just one at the expense of the other when you are starting out on your online course journey is, frankly, risky.

So, what the flip do I recommend, then?

The seven phase strategy I give my clients inside of my flagship group coaching program, Launchpad, of courrrrrrrrse. Well, kind of. I have four different strategies for my clients depending on where they’re coming in – whether they already have a course, whether they already have an audience and the combinations in between.

But for MOST of my Launchpad peeps?

This is the process.

The first step is to craft an irresistible, no brainer offer that speaks to the hearts and minds of ONE perfect fit student. Newsflash, though. YOUR OFFER IS NOT YOUR COURSE. They are two very separate, very distinct things. Your offer design is the structure, the positioning and the skeleton of your course.

Once you have that, you take it to market. We have a very cool little strategy inside of the program called the Foundation Student Fill Up Formula, where you get paid to create your course.. but more importantly?

The ACT of getting paid means you validate it to. As in, you do NOT create your course, you do NOT pass go, until you have real, living, breathing, paying students on board. And, here’s the thing.

This process does NOT require a big, warm audience. In fact, MOST of the clients in our program have validated with an email list of less than 500.

Like Kaely, who validated her Ayuveda course with $4k in sales with an email list of 100. And Lou, who did the same with an email list of 100. And Christie, who was paid $10,000 to create their courses with email lists of X and X respectively.

So, that’s first.

Then, you create, taking on the feedback of your students as you go so you AREN’T creating your course in a vacuum and it’s solving their unique problems. Even better? You’re collecting testimonials as you go.

Phase Three is a Light Launch, which is your first ‘launch and gives you a webinar funnel which you will then use to grow your audience AND make sales at the same time. So you’re not growing your list for the sake of it – instead, you’re filling your funnel with potential students, giving them an opportunity to buy and as a result building your audience with ACTUAL perfect fit students to fuel the success of your future launches.

It’s a gradual process. No HUGE splashy launches before your business is prepared for them. And on the flip side, no crickets-ville after spending months creating a course. Instead, a sustainable process for a profitable online course business you will have for the long term.

It’s a whole process, and that’s just the outline. But, that’s the dealio, peeps!

So, let’s recap!

The audience doesn’t come first – if you go down that rabbit hole, you’ll launch too late and leave money on the table.

But, neither does the course – because THAT rabbit hole is a recipe for months lost on a course you’re not even sure will sell and guys? #Ain’tNobodyGotTimeForThat.

The most sustainable path for a profitable course business is a graduated process that starts with offer design, then validating, then creating and finally creating a launch asset to use to FUEL the grow of your audience whilst making sales at the same time.

Curious to know more?

This is the exact process we take you through in my 12 month, high touch group coaching program, Launchpad. If you’re keen to get the FULL, step-by-step breakdown and find out more about the program itself at the same time, head over to and fill out the two question application form.

If we think we can help you, we’ll shoot you over an advanced, live private training for you to check out. We don’t share this with everyone, because it’s hugely valuable and we need to make sure you’re the right fit. Do you need to join Launchpad? No, and there’s no sales calls or high pressure tactics or anything #NotOurJam. But you DO need to be curious.

Okay guys, that’s it for this week!

Keep Listening!

Listen On: Apple Podcasts | Spotify

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