I recently released a small side project I’ve been working on to my subscribers. The product ships as a packaged file that when imported onto an new installation of WordPress, loads a fully configured membership site that delivers protected course content. I called it Doceo. What I love most about Doceo is that it provides a solution to a real problem that had been bugging me; how to deliver short courses without a complicated or expensive Learning Management System.
The other thing I love about Doceo, is that anybody could have created it.
Doceo is built using free resources. It works because of S2member, Layerswp and a little bit of creativity. I didn’t require any technical skills to build it. There were no development costs and it didn’t eat into too much of my time.
So often people ask me how I come up with ideas. How do I build my products? Do I outsource? How long does it take and how do I market?
I’ll answer those questions (and more!) by sharing the process of creating Doceo and my plans for generating $10K from the product over several small launch phases.
The beginnings of an idea
I didn’t know it but the real beginning for Doceo happened over a year ago. I came across a WordPress page building framework called Layerswp and thought this is so cool, I’ve got to make use of it and help others do the same. So I started to play around with it building all kinds of pages. I was ready to tell the world (my subscribers anyway!) how amazing Layers is and how they could save a tonne of money building their own landing pages, squeeze pages and ditch their LeadPages subscription. Then I hit a snag. Having built about 20 different kinds of pages on my test domain, everything became slow, really slow and I realized that Layers had some issues to resolve. So I moved on and forgot about it.
Fast forward eight months and I promoted a cloud based course delivery software. Lots of people bought it because they saw the potential in the online training market and wanted to get their own courses online.
They hated that it was cloud based. What if the developers wound up the project? What would happen to my content? These were the kind of questions people asked me. By talking to others, I realized that many people were struggling to find the right solution for delivering courses. They hated complicated LMS solutions, membership software was a pain and there didn’t seem to be an easy solution.
So I took on the challenge. I would make an easy solution!
And so like many of the products I create, the idea that became Doceo was born out of a desire to solve a real problem.
Creating the solution
Before getting to work on possible solutions, I worked out what was most important to me. I knew I wanted it to be simple to setup. It had to be simple. I wanted it to be built using free tools, meaning there would be no running costs for users. I wanted it to look clean and professional and it had to be easy to customize.
It was a no-brainer that it would run on WordPress so I immediately started to evaluate free learning management plugins. LearnPress was looking good but it has some limitations in layout and design, although it did have built in quizzes which is something that is not available in Doceo. Doceo simply provides course delivery pages that look good and can be protected.
Because I really wanted users to have the ability to get creative with the layout, and because I knew that Layers would enable this, I went back and took another look at Layerswp. Updates to WordPress and updates to Layers meant the framework was now faster and more efficient.
I got to work and spent the best part of a day teaching myself how to use Layers. I’ve always been practical about my learning. In other words, I try to get something I can use from my learning so at the end of the day I had created (while learning) all the pages I needed for a simple course delivery website. I created the course pages first, followed by a dashboard page, a tutor profile and other pages I figured people would need. And they looked good!
All I needed to do now was handle payments, signups and delivery. As I had used s2Member a lot when I first started selling products online, and before I moved to DAP (Digital Access Pass), I was familiar with its setup. It didn’t take me long to have a working site ready to take payments and signup members. Once again, I was conscious of making this work with free tools, so although I own s2Member Pro, I used the free version.
I completed several other tweaks (such as user specific menus for learners/visitors) and added some dummy content for demonstration purposes.
I had created a solution that worked for me. The question now was how to package it for others. I had used a duplicator plugin for WordPress in the past to deliver full websites but it involved cpanel access, database setup and several other steps that might be difficult for novices.
When I tried it to install a duplicate of my demo site it failed on my basic Hostgator package but worked on my Liquid Web hosting. Too many people used shared hosting for this not to be a problem. After some trial and error (by my ‘far more patient than me’ husband) I settle on another plugin that simplified the import process. It simply involved pulling in the packaged site from within the dashboard of a WordPress install.
The final step was easy. I became the first Doceo user by adding the site to a new domain I purchased (Doceo.online) in order to deliver the product and training. I put a demo site on a sub-domain. I then spent a full day creating and editing the training videos (I really do hate editing). The following day I added them to the new site, modified the dashboard, added my packaged site to Amazon s3, created my buttons, built my sales page and tested payments (it was a long day!)
I now had a solution ready to sell.
Like most of my projects, I kept track of everything that I needed to complete in Trello. The current state of my Trello board for this project looks something like this ….
So how many days did it take to create this product? I didn’t keep a time log for Doceo but I estimate I spent 4 full working days creating everything that was needed to launch. This doesn’t include time that I have spent adding helpful blog posts to Doceo.online or the time I will put into creating tutorials that have been requested.
I’ve recently changed direction a little. In the past, I created many, many small products from premium tutorials to graphic packages, to training products. I knew I didn’t leverage them enough. Because I like to learn and make, learn and make, I was always more excited by the next idea than the one I had just worked on. I also knew that I wanted to focus less on affiliate promotions and more on my own products so something had to change.
I made the decision to treat each small product I created as a side project that deserved respect for the time and effort that went into creating it. With this in mind (respecting my own work!) I decided that each side project I created would make at least $10K.
To make this happen, I knew I would need a strategy.
I would first launch to my existing customer list, to the people who know me and my work. I would then open the product up to affiliate marketers on a platform like JVZoo. I considered a third phase, flipping the entire project on Flippa but as many of the buyers will be my existing customers, I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. As an alternative third phase I could try paid advertising. I’m still undecided about that.
To date, I have implemented phase one of that strategy.
I opened Doceo for one week only to my existing customers at a discounted price of $27 for unlimited personal use and $47 for unlimited client/personal use. I mailed 4 times, one at the opening to announce the product, one on the following day encouraging people to try the demo, one two days later announcing a tutorial on how to use Doceo to deliver products sold on JVZoo and a final mail another two days later to announce the closing of the offer.
The first phase generated $4331 in the 7 days it was open. A total of 96 people bought unlimited personal sites at $27 and 37 picked up the $47 package for unlimited use on personal and client sites.
This means phase two (affiliate promotions) and phase three (paid advertising) need to generate $5669 for me to reach my $10K target.
As I’ve been working on a larger project, I didn’t have the time to move straight into phase two. The plan is now to have Doceo ready to be promoted by affiliates on JVzoo within a week.
While I’d like to think that phase two will be enough for me to reach my $10K target, the reality is, I’ve had many successes on JVZoo and some failures too. I guess that’s what makes it exciting!
I’ll post a follow-up to this case study as soon as phase two is complete.
Doceo was closed for approximately two weeks. I closed it to mark the end of my special launch price for my community. During this time, I had so many requests for access by people who really wanted Doceo but who had missed the early price opportunity for one reason or another.
Many of the people who contacted me were customers I’ve known personally for a long time and of course, I wasn’t going to force them to buy when I re-open Doceo later at a higher price.
So, I made the decision to open the cart again for just 24 hours. I added a count-down timer just above the buy buttons and mailed my list again announcing that Doceo would re-open for a limited time at the early bird price. I posted the message on my Facebook page and made the announcement on Twitter too in a effort to reach the maximum number of people in my community.
At the end the 24 hours, 20 more people purchased the unlimited personal use licence at $27 and 17 bought the commercial use licence at $47.
This added another $1339 to the initial phase one launch which generated $4331.
The total for phase one now stands at $5670 leaving a shortfall of $4330 to be generated from from the upcoming launch on JVZoo and possible social media ad campaigns. I’m still undecided about running ads and probably won’t make a decision on this until I see what kind of figures affiliates for Doceo generate.