Newsletter #15

Ignore This and Your Online Course Will Flop (No Matter How Smart You Are)

written by

Jon Morrow


The first course I ever created was a flop.

It was about how to partner with other people to build thriving businesses. I built it in partnership with Brian Clark, the founder of the Copyblogger.

I created the course; he promoted it.

The worst performing course Brian had ever created earned $45,000 on launch week. The best went on to make over $3 million.

I figured I was about to get rich.

But I was wrong.

The course made about $16,000 total, if I remember correctly.

I smashed Brian’s record for the worst performer.


Thankfully, the setback was temporary. About six months later, I launched a new course on guest blogging that went on to make $2.5 million.

What changed?

You might think it’s the way I promoted it. Or that I no longer partnered with Brian. Or that I created a much better course the second time.

Those were indeed three changes, but they didn’t affect the course sales. Not immediately, anyway.

And therein lies an important lesson.

A lot of people think course sales are all about the size of your email list or following on social media. If millions of people love and trust you, then they will buy anything you create, right?


When I partnered with Brian, the course launched to an audience of millions. When I launched my second course on guest blogging, I only had an audience of about 1600 and sold about $40,000 on launch week. From there, sales increased like a rocket and my audience was never as big as Copyblogger.

The truth is, the size of your audience has no long-term effect on course sales. You can launch with an audience of zero and make millions of dollars over the next several years.

Promotional strategies are also mostly irrelevant.

It doesn’t matter if you have tons of search engine traffic, a huge following on Instagram, or you spend millions on Facebook ads.

If the course is meant to be successful, all of them will work. If it’s not, none of them will work.

The quality of the course doesn’t even matter… in the beginning.

That’s because people don’t know if the course is good or not until AFTER they buy. 

You could be selling a course on getting rich on Instagram and then deliver a photo of a baboon’s buttocks and the only people who would know they got scammed would be the buyers who logged in.

And a small percentage would decide they like the baboon photo and never ask for a refund.

This is why there are so many shockingly bad courses. Course creators are not incentivized at all (in the short term) to deliver a quality course. They’re just incentivized to make big promises.

And now we arrive at a clue as to what changed.

When it comes to selling courses, two things matter more than anything:

1. A desirable outcome. 

The first course I ever bought was on how to catch monster freshwater bass. I was 10 years old and spent my allowance on it.


Because I was going through a phase, okay? I loved fishing and wanted nothing more in life than to catch monster freshwater bass.

This is the first and most important requirement for your course topic.

People have to WANT the outcome.

Doesn’t matter if it’s bass fishing or losing weight or building a popular onlyf*ns account. 

(Yes, there are successful courses on that last one, don’t ask me how I know.)

There are two parts to this: wanting and there being an actual outcome.

There are no successful courses about punching yourself in the face. This is because no one, outside of masochists, wants to punch themselves in the face.

There are also no multimillion-dollar courses about making and sticking to a household budget. Yes, people need to do it, but they don’t WANT to do it, so therefore they won’t buy a course on that topic.

They will, however, buy a course on beating debt and getting wealthy that contains a section on household budgeting. I’m looking at you, Mr. Dave Ramsey.

This is why my partnership course failed.

Nobody wants to partner with anyone. They just want a successful business.

If I’d made the course about starting a successful business from scratch and then included one section on partnerships, I’m sure it would have done just fine.

In other words, it’s not about the content of the course. It’s about the outcome the course promises to deliver.

Which brings us to the next part…

2. A convincing promise.

In the marketing for your course, you must convince people that buying the course will result in them achieving the outcome.

How do you do that?

Entire books have been written on the subject. The best one is $100 Million Offers by Alex Hormozi.

But here’s the short version:

You need proof that you can deliver the outcome.

And it needs to appear easy and fast to achieve the outcome.

In the beginning, your proof is usually that you achieved the outcome yourself and now you’re showing them exactly what you did. Later, after you have customers, it becomes testimonials and case studies.

But the second piece is where many online course creators get stuck.

The truth is, any truly life-changing outcome takes a long time and a lot of work. Your course needs to be a shortcut to achieving that outcome in significantly less time with significantly less work.

I cannot overstate the importance of this. Your course must promise a shortcut to achieving the outcome or it will not sell well.

Your job as a course creator isn’t to teach. It’s to accelerate the achievement of the outcome. 

In my guest blogging course that made $2.5 million, I promised the outcome of the massive credibility and exposure you get from writing for a website like Forbes. I then provided a list of all the websites you could write for, the email addresses for all the editors, templates for writing your pitch, and a step-by-step process for writing your post.

The entire process could be completed in about two weeks. At first, I gave examples of me doing it, and then later I had hundreds of screenshots of students getting published on those sites.

Highly desirable outcome. Short timeline. Massive proof.

That’s why it exploded and made tons and tons of money.

After reading all of this, you might feel overwhelmed. What could you possibly teach that would satisfy these requirements?

First of all, don’t get discouraged. Yes, it’s a high bar, but it’s completely doable for most people.

Here are some questions to ponder:

  1. What outcomes have you achieved in your life that other people admire?
  2. In your work, what outcomes have you helped others achieve? 

And by the way, the best outcomes are external. You can take a photo of them.

If your outcome is internal, such as happiness or fulfillment, think about what the external manifestation of that change looks like.

And let me know if you need help with this.

That’s why I’m here.

Jon Morrow
Founder & CEO