The secret special ingredient to creating your next best course.

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When you create an online course, your goal is to transform your student’s experience. They’re not like university courses, where students acquire knowledge and experience learning as an end in itself.

If you’re successful, your students experience significant change. A student’s change might be as intangible as a mindset shift: transforming your most dreary task from a chore to a challenge. Or your students might acquire specific skills, such as creating a podcast or delivering a webinar. They might do what they’ve done before — only better; a copywriting course typically guides students to write more persuasive, more compelling copy.

And courses can be as dramatic as moving students into a new career. My course on becoming a copywriter helps students discover a whole new path to earning revenue online.

But implementing a course that leads to transformation isn’t always easy. You translate your vision to videos and ebooks. In the course of designing a curriculum and writing content, it’s easy to become frustrated and give up.

Bring on the stories …

Both storytelling and course modules take their audiences through a transformation. If you think of the student as a hero of the course story, both story and course culminate in a change to the hero’s life. She may be in a different place, geographically or psychologically. He may have changed from a frog to a prince, literally (in a fairy tale) or metaphorically (in a dress-for-success course).

Conceptualizing our course as a hero’s journey story framework naturally promotes transformation and helps you figure out how to keep your students committed. Let’s look at an example for an imaginary course on a topic that’s totally outside my own expertise: How to Cook and Serve A Thank giving Dinner To Wow Your Family.

Think of your course outline as a story trajectory.

Everyday: Our hero just moved to a new house with a gorgeous kitchen that’s begging to deliver a memorable Thanksgiving meal.

Crisis: High on new-home excitement and energy, our hero sends Thanksgiving dinner invitations to 17 family members, friends, and even a few whiny acquaintances who declare themselves “alone for the holidays.” These people will be important in her life for a long time to come.

They have long memories. Burn the turkey? Forget to mash the potatoes? She’ll never live it down. In her world, the stakes are high.

Intensify the crisis: Our hero realizes she has never baked anything larger than a 3-lb. chicken, let alone roasted a turkey. She’s working full-time so she has to order grocery delivery, which means planning ahead for something she’s never done before.

At this point, I would give up, cancel the event on some flimsy excuse and sneak away to celebrate the holiday alone in Mexico. But our hero’s tougher than I am and her family’s having none of it.

Enter the guide. Your course appears on the hero’s screen while she’s googling “Thanksgiving Dinner for Beginners.” Just like a fairy godmother, ready to wave a wand, right? With a huge sigh of relief, she clicks on “buy now.” She’s so desperate she doesn’t even look at the price.

Anyway, who’s gonna put a price on fairy godmothers?

The Journey: Your course provides a step-by-step guide to preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. You anticipate everything:

What should the grocery order look like? How many pies do you order for 7, 17 or 27 people? What small tweaks to the turkey will bring a “wow” from your guests? What do you say when guests ask, “Can I bring anything?” (especially when you know you wouldn’t serve their offering to the family dog … and when they’re chefs themselves who cook better than you ever will)?

Plot Twist: The hero cooks the dinner. Inevitably something goes wrong. The stove doesn’t do everything the brochure promised. Three guests surprise you with announcements that they’re vegan, gluten-free or just plain fussy. The delivery service forgot the onions.

Your course anticipates what can happen with a Troubleshooting Guide, helpfully included in the membership site you prepared.

The Journey’s End: The hero now serves a perfect 5-course dinner to guests, who polish off their food and go back for seconds and thirds. The ultimate tribute: they remain at the table, politely ignoring their cell phones, except for an occasional sneak peek at the football scores (you really can’t object, can’t you?),

Transformation: The hero’s status in the community has been transformed. Now the neighbors know: she’s got the capability to be one hell of a good cook. She gets new respect from the neighbors. Her significant other discovers the power of a floral offering to bring about even more delicious dinners.

Most important, her self-esteem has gone through the roof. She feels as strong as if she’d gone through a military boot camp (which in a way, she has).

Notice how this transformation becomes the source of your sales letter copy … and the last module of your course where you remind students how much they learned.

Up-sell: But there’s just one cloud on the horizon. Now that your hero’s skill at the stove has been recognized, she’s getting asked to bake cookies for every occasion and bring the hard-core dishes to every potluck.

So you’ve got a natural opportunity to pitch your next course: “How To Say No When People Want To Take Advantage Of Your Talents.”

Would you like to beef up your own course with my 7-Step Course Creation Cheat Sheet (what the gurus aren’t telling you about creating your online course)? Click here for immediate access!

Where to Learn More

Storytelling can be powerful but only if you get it right. I wrote a FREE guide: Storytelling for Marketing: 3 Common Mistakes. Send me my cheat sheet!

Get your free 7 Step Cheat Sheet To Developing and Profiting From Your Online Course: Click here for immediate access!

Check out my newest course — Blueprint For Course Development. Module 3 walks you through the process of course development by storytelling. Click here to begin.

If you’d like to join me for an in-depth consultation of your business, and the ways storytelling can transform your business, let’s make it happen! Click here for more information. You’ll get the course development course free, as a bonus.

Originally published at on May 14, 2019.

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time.

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