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Help! Sales of my course dropped to 0 (after free trials opened)

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
42
69
107
Hey there,

I'll probably start off by saying my course is not some kind of marketing $cam.

It's by a large margin the best what you can find my niche and it provides real tangible value to people. I was in my niche for over 7 years and done what I teach myself (still do), got over 500 students in my older course and they got results. There's a need and this is the solution.

Niche: Minecraft server owners
Problem: They cannot customize their servers to what they want, not self-sufficient
Solution: Code plugins in Java that will customize your server how you want
Delivery: 8 weeks coding course, lifetime access, 2x live QA call, private community

----

Since launch I was getting 2 sales per day for $197 each which is very good. I was hoping to build a team and pay for subtitles, a developer and improve the customer experience. For me this business is not about the money but the impact it has.

The problem came when I opened free trials. Basically everyone gets access to Week 1 of the course for free. It's been 4 days and no-one has bought the course since. I'm seriously concerned.

My "guru" is Sam Ovens (invested $7500+ into him) and he's running trials and advising me on what to do, but I wanted to get an outsider's view on things since I have a very good experience with this forum and Millionaire Fastlane had a profound change on my life in 2016-7.

----

Here's some numbers (trials after the line):
Before the free trials, users faced the paywall right after signup page, so 100% of leads viewed checkout. Now there's a boarding process and users visit checkout when they click Upgrade

27004


And here's how it actually looks like:

I know you guys are busy, so I just put up images from the site step-by-step what users face through-out the signup process:

Album here: View: https://imgur.com/a/RzEcbvT

----

At this point I am really puzzled by why the trial did not work. Any advice would be appreciated. The only reasons on my mind are: 1) Users see the content and get overwhelmed (got a few refunds due to this before) or 2) They lose interest or something else.

I have 7 years experience in my niche and full stack software experience. The whole site is custom built. I offer you free advice (ask anything, Skype or text) if you genuinely help out. At this point any advice is appreciated.

Thanks guys!
-Top
 

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Last edited:

WinYourself

Bronze Contributor
Aug 11, 2013
47
119
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Stop giving free trials, go back to what worked.

Then improve the user experience of free trial / product (talk to the free trial users what you can improve / why they didn't bought).

As well check out how you could improve the transition / upsell from free trial to paid product.

Then test free trials again but with a split test (make sure to give it enough data, four days is not much).

Never switch a running business model without testing a small sample first in the future.

How is the customer feedback for the product in general?
 
Last edited:

RazorCut

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I think you may be panicking over nothing. Your spreadsheet doesn't make it clear how many people are signing up for the free trial (is it now "checkout visits"?).

So your first customers using this model are on day 4 of week 1(free trial). So how long is it realistically going to take for them to go through week one? I have had a look and together with the first two sections of Week 2 they can access you are providing around 6 hours of content before they then need to make a purchase to continue.

They will go through that content in their own time. It might take them a lot longer than 7 days before they get to the end of it.

Years ago I helped people get rid of a computer virus with both an in-depth walk through of hacking the system registry and an option to download a 30 day trial of one of the best selling antivirus software packages of the time that would get rid of the virus automatically. I had a few customers who bought the software without a trial but the vast majority who download it left it to day 30 or later before making their purchase (or removed the software). That's just human nature.

This means I didn't see a return for months (commissions ran a month in arrears).

So, as you have put all your eggs in this one basket, (I personally would have split tested offering a free trial) you are going to have to be patient. At least until day 10 to see what the conversion rates are like.

Personally having accessed your course the very first module The Road That Lays Ahead was enough to put me off the rest of the course. Now I am not your target market but a very dry 1 hour talk about what the course entails is just too long. Also I think your first 5 minutes should be about you. Where you build authority and make a connection with the pupil. Get them to know you and hopefully like you. After that get them fired up and excited about the benefits of the course. At the moment, because I don't have skin in the game (I haven't parted with any money) I would most likely not continue.

Your wording also needs work. Some of the English is a little disjointed and will put people off. Sentences like:
  • Code Own Minecraft Plugins
  1. This is a FREE TRIAL of the Project Orion program (the one customers get)
Could be better written and so will help with signups.

It will be interesting to see what your mentor has to say. What platform are you using to host your course?
 

Dan_Cardone

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The vast majority of people who start online courses never finish them.

By the time 7 days are up they either became overwhelmed and quit or lost interest and quit.

I HATE offering free trails when it comes to courses. I prefer to have a strongly worded money back guarantee thats allays their fears.

That said, if you want to let them have a free taste, use drip content instead of a free trial.

Let them see the first lesson or two but make sure those first lessons keep preselling the rest of the course so that they keep thinking "oh man, this course is going to get awesome!"

If you have them genuinely excited by preselling the rest of the course in the free lessons they will be more likely to buy it.

Other things that help:
  • Have a virtual "stick letter" that is essentially a video of you telling them how awesome, amazing, and special they are for being a "doer" that actually takes action as opposed to other people who don't. You want them to feel special and give them good feelings.
  • In your free lessons keep talking about some amazing bonus they get once they start the paid lessons. This bonus should really excite them.
  • In the first free lessons make sure you give lots of testimonials from people who have completed the course.
  • Give them a way to buy the course before they run out of free content. When they get in the buying mood you want to be able to capitalize on that before their interest wanes. Give them an incentive to sign up and buy before they run out of free content.
 
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Garret S.

New Contributor
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Free trials can be exploited. For example, if you only require emails for sign up, they can just use a new email and sign up again once their trial expires. Or, if you give them full access for 7 days, they can just download all the content from your course and next thing you know it's already on a bunch of torrent sites.

I like ahrefs approach on giving trials. Paid cheap trials for 7 days and weeds out abusers.
 
OP
OP
TopDirective

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
42
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107
Thanks everyone, did not think this thread would grow so quickly <3

Alright. I will wait till the day 8, and send an email to the free trial customers about their experience.

  • Code Own Minecraft Plugins

  1. This is a FREE TRIAL of the Project Orion program (the one customers get)
Thanks for the exhaustive answer! Do you have an advice on how to improve the wording? My English is not my first language, kinda don't have a "feeling" for these things just yet.

Also, the "Leads" in the spreadsheets are the people who signed up for the trials. The number in "Checkout visits" is the free trial people who visited the checkout page (this fires only once per logged in user).

I'll add a Welcome To The Program video where I personally welcome them and do as I was told here, excellent advice thank you!

Guys just send me a private message if you need anything and I'll be happy to help!

Anyways, will get back to it tomorrow, don't have much time now however I couldn't wait but to check on this so thanks again!
 
OP
OP
TopDirective

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
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How is the customer feedback for the product in general?
I would say positive, I've been teaching since last year, lot of people got a "wow" effect and an actual long term results and now we're good friends.

The main criticism I see on a forum I run a thread for is about a) pricing, b) why pay if there are free tutorials out and c) general skepsis (i.e. some people prefer this software over another, some think it's scam altogether).

I can see the feedback has greatly improved since last year. Of course I got a few "F*ck you" emails but I am getting a lot of very warming and cheering ones.


I was also advised to go from "no questions asked" refund policy to action based one, but I still think this is very lousy and basically everyone can get a refund.

Oh and to clarify, a free trial customer gets access to Week 1 and the first video of Week 2. Other videos are "locked" and there's a Buy To Unlock button everywhere. Also they get to see the Q&A call recordings however to participate there's a popup that they must upgrade their account first.
 
Last edited:

RazorCut

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Thanks for the exhaustive answer! Do you have an advice on how to improve the wording? My English is not my first language, kinda don't have a "feeling" for these things just yet.
I would get a native English speaker to go through the site and just clean it up.

For example
  • Code Own Minecraft Plugins
reads better as:
  • Code Your Own Minecraft Plugins
Look for a copy editor on Upwork or People per Hour to go through it for you. English is a very difficult language to fully master as it has so many inconsistencies due to it's historic origins.
 

softwareRules

Contributor
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Here's the thing: you're solving a real problem but at the same time you're persuading potential customers to make the purchase. Your angle is encouraging the customer's dreams and you're confirming their suspicions that Minecraft coding is hard to do. You've got two great parts to persuasion and sales right there.

However....a free trial does nothing to persuade. It suggests that the content isn't worthwhile, and free trial watchers will justify and rationalize to themselves why they do not need to buy the full course after they watch the trial first week.

Ask yourself what your goal is.

If you want to increase the completion rate of the course, you could try offering a rebate or a gift offering (if you complete the full course you will receive a free t-shirt/book/10% moneyback or something).

If you want to INCREASE SALES: stop the free trial. Record a 2 min and a 5 min video showing one or two pieces of content from the course and encouraging their dreams: "create an amazing minecraft whatever in just 5 weeks. Create coolest things after just 1 week!". These are your new advertisements and marketing. The 5 min video is good for a landing page, the 2 min video should be good enough to use on Instagram and Facebook and cut it down to 30 seconds to use in their "Stories" feature. That should give you more channels to advertise on. 10 second video edits can be used to advertise in a pre-roll or post-roll ad on YouTube.

My biggest question is: where are you marketing/advertising and how much is your marketing budget? Are you relying just on SEO?

Another thing you can do is *add more content* and then create a 2nd package called "Ultimate" or something and offer it for $397. The course at $197 will look like a GREAT deal (and please please please remove the Free trial, $0 is always going to look like an amazing deal compared to any price).

A/B testing would have been a good idea, but this is a good and relatively cheap way to learn that message ;)
 

Bekit

Gold Contributor
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Aug 13, 2018
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Hey there,

I'll probably start off by saying my course is not some kind of marketing $cam.

It's by a large margin the best what you can find my niche and it provides real tangible value to people. I was in my niche for over 7 years and done what I teach myself (still do), got over 500 students in my older course and they got results. There's a need and this is the solution.

Niche: Minecraft server owners
Problem: They cannot customize their servers to what they want, not self-sufficient
Solution: Code plugins in Java that will customize your server how you want
Delivery: 8 weeks coding course, lifetime access, 2x live QA call, private community

----

Since launch I was getting 2 sales per day for $197 each which is very good. I was hoping to build a team and pay for subtitles, a developer and improve the customer experience. For me this business is not about the money but the impact it has.

The problem came when I opened free trials. Basically everyone gets access to Week 1 of the course for free. It's been 4 days and no-one has bought the course since. I'm seriously concerned.

My "guru" is Sam Ovens (invested $7500+ into him) and he's running trials and advising me on what to do, but I wanted to get an outsider's view on things since I have a very good experience with this forum and Millionaire Fastlane had a profound change on my life in 2016-7.

----

Here's some numbers (trials after the line):
Before the free trials, users faced the paywall right after signup page, so 100% of leads viewed checkout. Now there's a boarding process and users visit checkout when they click Upgrade




And here's how it actually looks like:

I know you guys are busy, so I just put up images from the site step-by-step what users face through-out the signup process:

Album here: View: https://imgur.com/a/RzEcbvT


The site is mineacademy.org, feel free to check it out.

----

At this point I am really puzzled by why the trial did not work. Any advice would be appreciated. The only reasons on my mind are: 1) Users see the content and get overwhelmed (got a few refunds due to this before) or 2) They lose interest or something else.

I have 7 years experience in my niche and full stack software experience. The whole site is custom built. I offer you free advice (ask anything, Skype or text) if you genuinely help out. At this point any advice is appreciated.

Thanks guys!
-Top
I am a copywriter and worked for a year for one of the top guys in the online courses niche.

Here are a few of my thoughts...

Cut out the free trial. People have short attention spans. You have one chance to hook them, intrigue them, and get them to purchase. That happens in your sales messaging. If people can't get inside the course without paying, you will have people who choose to pay.

If you do offer a "free trial," make the lesson primarily sales content with a little bit of teaser info on all the cool stuff they will learn. For instance, maybe you insert clips from week 4 on how to make your own API.

Your students cannot be allowed to feel daunted or overwhelmed by the length or content in your videos. That can come AFTER they've spent money, because then they will be invested enough in the outcome to actually pay attention to what you are saying, follow along, take notes, and get the cool outcomes you promise. If they feel daunted before they purchase, they will talk themselves out of it.

It sounds like access to lesson one is killing your sales. If you do decide to continue offering a free trial (which I don't recommend), I would work with a video sales letter script writer to create a new "lesson one" that gets people started in a way that heightens curiosity and momentum for the rest of the course.
 
OP
OP
TopDirective

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
42
69
107
I would get a native English speaker to go through the site and just clean it up.

For example
  • Code Own Minecraft Plugins
reads better as:
  • Code Your Own Minecraft Plugins
Look for a copy editor on Upwork or People per Hour to go through it for you. English is a very difficult language to fully master as it has so many inconsistencies due to it's historic origins.
Thank you, fixed! I actually payed a service like that, however I did not added "Your" because I thought that would add unnecessary clutter and space. There were lots of improvements on the side and hiring someone like you said is definitely a good idea!

Here's the thing: you're solving a real problem but at the same time you're persuading potential customers to make the purchase. Your angle is encouraging the customer's dreams and you're confirming their suspicions that Minecraft coding is hard to do. You've got two great parts to persuasion and sales right there.

However....a free trial does nothing to persuade. It suggests that the content isn't worthwhile, and free trial watchers will justify and rationalize to themselves why they do not need to buy the full course after they watch the trial first week.

Ask yourself what your goal is.

If you want to increase the completion rate of the course, you could try offering a rebate or a gift offering (if you complete the full course you will receive a free t-shirt/book/10% moneyback or something).

If you want to INCREASE SALES: stop the free trial. Record a 2 min and a 5 min video showing one or two pieces of content from the course and encouraging their dreams: "create an amazing minecraft whatever in just 5 weeks. Create coolest things after just 1 week!". These are your new advertisements and marketing. The 5 min video is good for a landing page, the 2 min video should be good enough to use on Instagram and Facebook and cut it down to 30 seconds to use in their "Stories" feature. That should give you more channels to advertise on. 10 second video edits can be used to advertise in a pre-roll or post-roll ad on YouTube.

My biggest question is: where are you marketing/advertising and how much is your marketing budget? Are you relying just on SEO?

Another thing you can do is *add more content* and then create a 2nd package called "Ultimate" or something and offer it for $397. The course at $197 will look like a GREAT deal (and please please please remove the Free trial, $0 is always going to look like an amazing deal compared to any price).

A/B testing would have been a good idea, but this is a good and relatively cheap way to learn that message ;)
I am a copywriter and worked for a year for one of the top guys in the online courses niche.

Here are a few of my thoughts...

Cut out the free trial. People have short attention spans. You have one chance to hook them, intrigue them, and get them to purchase. That happens in your sales messaging. If people can't get inside the course without paying, you will have people who choose to pay.

If you do offer a "free trial," make the lesson primarily sales content with a little bit of teaser info on all the cool stuff they will learn. For instance, maybe you insert clips from week 4 on how to make your own API.

Your students cannot be allowed to feel daunted or overwhelmed by the length or content in your videos. That can come AFTER they've spent money, because then they will be invested enough in the outcome to actually pay attention to what you are saying, follow along, take notes, and get the cool outcomes you promise. If they feel daunted before they purchase, they will talk themselves out of it.

It sounds like access to lesson one is killing your sales. If you do decide to continue offering a free trial (which I don't recommend), I would work with a video sales letter script writer to create a new "lesson one" that gets people started in a way that heightens curiosity and momentum for the rest of the course.

Thank you both of you for your long post! My goal is to increase sales so I can build a paid team. Yep, I can now totally see the psychological effect. People sign up excited, watch a few videos, feel like "it's too much" or simply lose their attention span and go somewhere else.

Right now it's 100% organic, not even SEO, just through my reputation on another forum site and couple of other links. I'll do Fb ads and Google ads once I have a strong proof of concept, but honestly for that price I don't think my CPA will be within a good range.

Honestly the price is too low to be sustainable for a business, however the only reason I am charging that is for the people. Lot of players are 13-21yr and simply can't afford it. For the long term I am considering starting something else but that would be after I have a solid team I can trust.

Yep, videos are def something I'll do when it's sunny ;)

Houps, haven't split tested! I guess that was a reality punch I needed. Will do next time.

----

Anyways, today I implemented course completion icons as well as automatic notes saving, another customer experience improvement.

I will record a short 5-7 minutes intro video to highlight the benefits and get them excited for the journey. Also show them why this course goes beyond Minecraft and how they can benefit from it for the rest of their lives (true if they like technology).
 

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softwareRules

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I will record a short 5-7 minutes intro video to highlight the benefits and get them excited for the journey. Also show them why this course goes beyond Minecraft and how they can benefit from it for the rest of their lives (true if they like technology).
Awesome :)
 
OP
OP
TopDirective

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
42
69
107
Alright guys got 3 sales recently. Had pulled many of your suggestions but it seems the trial option is not viable for online courses as we've previously discussed.

I'll wait for a few more days and make a culling decision until then.

Here's the updated table with better descriptions and new figures:
[FOR LATEST METRICS SEE BELOW]
 
Last edited:

biophase

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How is the price unsustainable? You are grossing $400/day or $12000/mo with little overhead now?

I’d also get rid of the free trial.

Have you tried raising or lowering your price? Does this course help the server owners make more money or save money?
 

Blu H

Contributor
Jun 24, 2018
23
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Venice Beach
I came up during the Golden Age of the seduction community... so I wholeheartedly believe in the long killer sales copy page which connects with the desires of your targeted audience! Of course there's a fine line between good sales copy, and cheesiness... but it sure as hell beats a free trial in my book!
 

deepestblue

Bronze Contributor
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Later on, test a no questions asked guarantee again, and compare the impact of the bottom line. Along with it, add a postpurchase followup email stick sequence.
 

Ian A.

PARKED
Aug 27, 2019
1
0
1
Honestly, looking at your data I don't think you've given it enough time. Trials can extend the time to sale for lead > sales conversion. Shutting it off before even one full trial period has past is jumping the gun.

For example - if I'm reading your spreadsheet right your average cold traffic > sale conversion is ~ 1%, and your Average lead > sale rate = 4-5%.

Based on your trial numbers, only 27 leads (200 cold clicks) are on the last day of their trial, right? And you've made 3 sales. 200 clicks > 3 sales = 1.5% cold traffic > sale conversion rate, which is in line with your average, there's just a longer time to sale.

This is just a guess, but it'd be backed up by diving into who your recent purchasers are. Did they start the trial 6 days ago, or yesterday? If 6 days ago, that confirms you've just extended the time to sale. If not, well it may be another issue that others have addressed here.

Anyway hope that helps with some alternative perspective to the "kill it now" crew haha!
 

Dan_Cardone

Losers make excuses. Winners find solutions.
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Somewhat unrelated: Make sure you develope a more expensive product or service that you can offer on the back end.

Buyers love to buy.
 

softwareRules

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Aug 25, 2019
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Alright guys got 3 sales recently. Had pulled many of your suggestions but it seems the trial option is not viable for online courses as we've previously discussed.

I'll wait for a few more days and make a culling decision until then.

Here's the updated table with better descriptions and new figures:
I noticed that you had external links in the checkout? I wonder if that also contributed to the lack of sales.

Also thanks for posting the image of the spreadsheet, it's really nice to see a benchmark to compare my website against and to see how much traffic I would need to get a decent conversion rate!
 
OP
OP
TopDirective

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
42
69
107
How is the price unsustainable? You are grossing $400/day or $12000/mo with little overhead now?

I’d also get rid of the free trial.

Have you tried raising or lowering your price? Does this course help the server owners make more money or save money?
Numbers shine on paper, but don't reflect the reality. I'm getting about 162 eur for each transaction, minus taxes etc. Plus the numbers are more like 1 sale a day than 2 now.

I'll try to up the price. You won't believe what crap is sold out there for Minecraft for ridiculous prices.

Yes, the course has a "How to sell premium plugins" section, however the expected earnings from it are about 500-1500 usd per month, you can't become rich out of selling small Minecraft plugins.

However I tried to market the money side last year and turned out that's not what the marked wanted, that's why I changed it to building plugins.

Later on, test a no questions asked guarantee again, and compare the impact of the bottom line. Along with it, add a postpurchase followup email stick sequence.
I was already selling a course for 14 months with the action-based refund policy, was getting very steady 25 sales per month, but yeah once I close the trials I will wait and then can test this one variable afterwards.



----

I'll be joining a mentoring call and making the decision to cut off the trials. I'm going through everything you guys told me as well as a market research from earlier this year to do the following:

> Record a "Welcome To The Program" video after purchase
> Record 5-7 minutes VSL

----

Should I put the video sales letter on the landing page, or after they opt with their email for "A Free Demo" ?
 
OP
OP
TopDirective

TopDirective

Contributor
Nov 15, 2017
42
69
107
New metrics:

[Removed, contact me if you want more info]
 

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