Director of Inbound Training and Video Strategy, Inbound and Video Workshop Trainer, Creator of the Facebook Group ‘Film School for Marketers’
March 3rd, 2020
I believe in the utility of online learning wholeheartedly.
In fact, I attribute much of my education and growth over the years to online learning resources both free and paid.
I landed my dream job in 2016 working for Marcus Sheridan by getting all of the HubSpot Academy certifications (13 at the time) over the course of 30 days.
At the time, I was unemployed, didn’t have a college education, had failed in a previous business, and didn’t have many options.
Under the direction of a close mentor, I used what I had, available time and online courses.
Fast forward a few years, and I still use online courses to continue to grow professionally and personally.
But, the truth is, they aren’t perfect for every application in every business.
As a video sales/marketing specialist, a lot of folks come to me with questions about equipment, strategy, and resources to continue growing a healthy culture of video within their business.
Whether it’s a CEO, marketing manager, or videographer, one of the most popular questions is “Zach, what do you think about online courses? And, do you think “course x” is a good fit for us?”
It’s a complicated question, but also an important one to ask.
Before we get to how I would answer the question, let’s identify some clear issues with existing online courses.
1. Most courses aren’t for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs)
This is the biggest and most prominent issue with video courses, in my opinion.
To be clear, I’m not negating the value of the courses available, but they simply don’t speak to the many important needs of a small-medium sized organization.
For example, a course about creating viral videos? Great for large brands and publishers. Not great for an SMB.
Given the current options of video marketing/sales courses available right now, the majority of them are made for:
Solopreneurs (companies with 1-2 full-time employees)
Companies that sell a digital product (i.e. other online courses, subscription-based services)
Also, generally, they focus on:
Video production 101 (things like lighting, basic camera operation, interviewing)
Best practices of marketing with YouTube
Social media (how to make your video go viral, but probably won’t work for a small to medium-sized business)
If you’re looking for those things, there are many great options out there, but, in our experience, these aren’t huge problem areas for small-medium sized businesses.
Generally, SMBs should either have a videographer on staff (which I recommend by the way) or outsource their production.
They don’t have great content to even put on YouTube (yet, at least) and social media virality won’t impact what really matters at their size — bottomline revenue.
(In fact, if you’re putting a ton of time trying to make a viral video or talking all about yourself and how great your company is, I would recommend checking my article about the major problem with that way of thinking.)
When it comes to video, small and medium-sized businesses should be more focused on increasing sales, generating the “best-fit” leads, and ultimately building trust and authority.
Most courses don’t focus on this.
2. It’s (probably) not personalized to you
The needs and goals of organizations can be very different.
Your teams are different sizes. Your buyers are different. Your video output capabilities are different.
Those many differences make things a little tricky for online course creators.
Online courses are generally static; offering the same experience and information to every participant.
Creators either have to make their course specifically for one industry/application or make it non-specific and widely applicable.
Typically, it’s the latter because they’ll have a bigger audience, but that’s not exactly ideal for a company that needs a clear, specific direction with strategy and implementation.
Think of it like this...
A product company might have a particular focus on creating demos and unboxing videos. That’s a vastly different video strategy from a service company.
Further, a product company that sells through a dealer channel might need to focus on how to educate end-users, very different video strategy from a product company that sells direct-to-consumer.
Again, principles stay the same, but application is vastly different. You’d have to find additional course material or seek additional help to get a full grasp on your strategy.
3. You’ll have no assistance with application
Knowledge means nothing if you don’t know how to use it and when it comes to something creative, like video, it’s especially tough to teach fundamental principles and real application at the same time.
Most fundamental principles are taught with anecdotes that aren’t specific to the “how” but instead focus on the “why” and most online video courses are no exception.
For instance, our popular “80% Video” is based on the principle that video could and should be used to answer common questions before a sales appointment.
If you understand this powerful principle, you wouldn’t say “well, we’ll just wait until the appointment to address this question.”
But that doesn’t explain how to make a great “80% video.”
On the flip side, teaching application will assume the principles have already been mastered.
When you’re applying new principles that affect your strategic decisions with video, your production process, or your video goals, how will you know you’ve done it right?
With most video courses, you don’t have that expert opinion to say “well you applied what you learned pretty well, but here are a few things to fix.”
Here’s a perfect example.
In my course for ThePACT, our online learning platform here at IMPACT, I teach a simple, step-by-step framework for video creation known as The Video 6.
In it, I give you all six elements of the formula, best practices for application, and send you on your way.
You have everything you need to make a great video.
But here’s the issue, not everyone who learns this formula will know what a “great” application looks like.
I’d have to create an entirely different course on “How to gauge if you’ve implemented The Video 6 right.”
And herein lies the problem when you don’t have assistance with application. Although you know the principles, and know where to start, you may apply it wrong and never know it.
That’s no fault of the course material, but more a natural byproduct of on-demand content like video lessons. You don’t have someone to check your work.
So, should I bother with video sales/marketing courses at all?
Let’s get back to our initial question, “Zach, what do you think about online courses? And, do you think “course x” is a good fit for us?”
My general thought on courses is that they could be a great fit, if you have a specific outcome in mind.
For instance, if you’re a videographer and you want to learn how to light your videos better, look for a course about lighting.
If you’re a marketer looking to create better calls-to-action, find a course that talks specifically about conversion rate optimization with video.
When looking into video courses, the first question to ask yourself is, “what, specifically, will I be able to do with the information I learn from this course?”
Second question to ask yourself, “will this actually help me reach my goals with sales and marketing?”
Don’t be fooled by the, sometimes dramatic, claims of many online courses.
“Become a Video Guru in 3 hours or less” sounds pretty good, but what percentage of the teachings are going to make a difference in your business?
In short, consider your outcomes before you determine your inputs. Consider your goals as a business and what additional skills, knowledge, or processes will be worth the investment of time and money.
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