skillshare - a lesson in marketing futility
Boy, do I suck at marketing. I must.
It’s the only explanation I can come up with.
Five months ago, I moved to NYC. In an effort to meet people in the startup world, I began going to Meetups, Skillshares and General Assembly classes. Sure, there was knowledge to be had, but I was primarily focused on networking.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the Skillshare. I began learning.
Now, I know I sound like a MBA.
Gasp! He’s an MBA? On hacker news?! Get him!!!
I should be teaching myself all these skills. I should be talking about learning by doing. But, when you’re new to the city, people assume you’re toxic. Forget about getting consulting gigs right off the bat.
Not. Even. If. You. Offer. Your. Services. For. Free.
You are just too much of an unknown.
Back to the story. The logical progression for me was to teach. Luckily, I have a skill worth learning. I was a professional poker player for three years before my MBA.
See, if you kept reading after my last mention of the words ‘MBA,’ you’d learn I’m not so typical.
I traveled all over the world. Lived in Las Vegas for the summers to play in the World Series of Poker. Even kept a poker blog. Not to mention, I’ve taught poker before.
So, I set up my class on Skillshare and voilà…
No one signed up.
Next, I did what any semi-tech person would do. I started spamming my Twitter feed. And my Facebook feed. And my LinkedIn feed. If it had a feed, I was spamming it.
Still, no one signed up.
How could this be? Didn’t I just graduate with a concentration in marketing? Haven’t I put together marketing plans before? Aren’t I applying for marketing roles at startups, telling people all the great things I can do for them?
Well well well, turns out what they say is true…
Marketing is hard work. No matter how many classes I attend, marketing IS often times about doing. It’s about testing.
But this isn’t one of those types of posts. Marketing is obviously difficult.
So, I’ve begun growth hacking my own class.
Oh, it’s one of those types of posts!
Without analytics, it’s hard to track a number of the important metrics (e.g. bounce rate, etc.). And, I can’t change the UI/UX of the site. Let’s just assume the good people at Skillshare are as good at product as I think they are.
Here’s what I’ve done since launching the class months ago:
1. Change the class listing.
A fellow teacher, Joe Fairless, suggested I spice up the content and change the layout. ”Make it sexy,” he said.
So, I changed from the original title “Poker - How to make an extra couple hundo at the poker table” to “Poker - How to Make Tons of Money Like They Do on TV (notice the capitalization).” After having studied other class names on Skillshare, I recently changed the name again.
Now, I’m teaching “Poker - How I Made Over $200,000 a Year Playing as a Pro.” It’s super cheesy.
Does my class stand out in organic search? Maybe, maybe not.
I’m thinking of swapping the word “Made” with “Win,” but there is little way for me to test the two. I’m also thinking about taking it a step further and ‘Caps Lock’ing the title.
Oh no, not Caps Lock!
Additionally, on the class page, I bolded endorsements and added them above the description of the course. Nothing like a little social proof in the morning…
Also, I added a money-back guarantee and an early bird special.
I am attempting to imitate some of the more sought after classes on Skillshare. But, it bothers me that there is very little way for me to measure or correlate new students with better copy.
2. Get smart on social.
This is obvious, but it’s typically one of the cheapest forms of customer acquisition. I tweet @people that might find my class interesting. Famous people. NYC people. Poker people.
And what are the results? I’ve had 2 sign-ups using this channel.
While it costs nothing to continue tweeting, I worry that all I’m doing is degrading my feed. 2 sign-ups in 34 tweets. Given the fact that I’ve only tweeted 266 times, I’m worried most of my followers will revolt (read: unfollow). I don’t want to drown out my real thoughts with my poker class. Just feels dirty.
Sidenote: My hypothesis for why my hit-rate is so low: twitter isn’t geo-local. Even if you include a #NYC hashtag, those that click can be from Timbuktu. Plus, tweets are only relevant for a few seconds in a feed.
3. Offer coupons to everyone and his mother.
Seriously. If we’ve met and I liked you, I’ve probably offered you a coupon to my class.
Thus far, I’ve had 13 students. 4 got seats for free (100% off) because they were friends. 3 purchased a seat with a 20% off coupon. 1 purchased a seat with a 23% off coupon. 5 purchased a ticket at 100% full price.
4. Played with the pricing.
I started at $35 because it was consistent with most ‘money-making’ classes on Skillshare. Also, if I get 10 students, that equals $350, the number I used to charge for one hour poker lessons. Then, I moved to $40 when I increased the class time from 1:30 to 2 hours. Finally, I settled in at $39, subscribing to the ’end in a 9‘ theory.
I’d prefer not to change the price anymore. I think it disrespects people who have already taken the class and at some point, my time.
5. Post my class on CraigsList.
This hasn’t worked. But, I did receive this awesome email from someone as a response:
So, I got a new student…JKJKJK
6. Offer perks to Meetup groups.
Poker Meetup groups. Startup Meetup groups. Investment Meetup groups. It don’t matter. If they are meeting up, I’m offering a perk.
This hasn’t worked either - but it’s still early.
7. Get crazy - teach cross-platform.
This one fell into my lap, but I will be teaching poker to corporate clients and/or private parties as one of Zaarly’s first 100 featured storefronts in NYC. My storefront has yet to launch, so I don’t know the impact just yet.
8. Go old school - post a flyer in the building the class with be held.
Haven’t completed this task yet, but I plan on testing this week.
Looking back, out of the 13 students I’ve had, 5 are the result of an organic search on Skillshare, 2 are the result of my tweets and 5 are friends who came to support me (one student’s origin is unknown). I’ve made $273 in top-line revenue But, I’ve paid $70 to teach at Grind (a co-working space). And, I purchased card stock and sharpies for name tags, which cost around $10. So, bottom line, I’ve made $193 for 5 1/2 hours of teaching. That’s a rate of $35.09/hr. It’s a far cry from the $350/hr I used to charge for lessons. But, I enjoy doing it. I feel like things will improve if I find the right marketing channel.
It’s frustrating that I’ve yet to find my sweet spot. I’ve learned how difficult it can be to reach an audience on a platform that may not be built with with my specific needs in mind. Skillshare, like many other platforms, offers people an amazing opportunity to share with the world. It’s my job to use the platform to the best of my ability.
Now I gotta get back to tutoring that student from Craigslist…
Once again, check out the Skillshare class I’ve been referencing.
Dig this? Follow me on the twitters @Josh_Goldstein.
*I’d love to get on a NYC tech digest weekly email (Startup Digest NYC, Charlie O’Donnell’s This Week in the NYC Innovation Community, Gary’s Guide, etc.), but I worry that the class is not specifically startup-related.
**Startup folk might not be my target market. Traders, finance jocks and investment professionals might be better.