Creating Compelling Course Design and Structure with Consultant Marla Martinez

May 31, 2021

In today’s episode, we have Marla Martinez and she is going to talk about how to get students to enjoy and complete your online course with curriculum design strategies.

You will also get to hear how to structure and track the modules in your course, why starting with the end in mind is the most important concept for course creators, and the three phases every course needs for a highly engaged program.

Website: refocusedincome.com
Facebook: refocusedincome
Instagram: rismarlamartinez
LinkedIn: marlabainbridge

Notes

In this episode, you will hear...

… Marla Martinez’s story and journey in becoming a successful expert in course curriculum and design.

… why starting with the end goal in mind is the most important concept for any course creator and how this mindset can help launch your courses successfully.

… how Marla’s online course business managed the hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, and how she used forced opportunity to launch her business to the next level. 

… successful tips, strategies, and how using gamification can increase your student’s engagement with your courses.

… why it’s essential to interview people in your prospective audience, and how to offer courses that students will benefit from.

… how to successfully structure and track the modules in your course to help your courses grow effectively.

… three phases every course absolutely needs to attain a highly engaging program.

… why you need reviews on your courses and how reviews can help optimize your online courses.

… the reasons why people drop out and don’t complete online courses, and what drives students to finish a course.

… how to get your students to enjoy and successfully complete your online course with curriculum design strategies.

… why Marla advises that people want transformation over information, and how she uses the Primacy/Recency Effect to obtain student’s attention.

Resources

Transcript

Jeremy Deighan
Hey, everyone, thank you for checking out the show today. We have Marla Martinez from the Course Optimizer Academy with us who is an expert in course curriculum and design. This is gonna be a great episode, because I think she's really going to give us some insight into how we can really make our courses better for people, which just helps in so many ways. It's a better experience for the student. It helps cut down on refunds and things like that. It's just a pleasure to have you on the show today. How you doing?

Marla Martinez
Thank you so much, Jeremy. I'm really excited to be here.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. I was looking through your information, and it just seems like you have a lot of experience and knowledge. I can't wait to just dive in and really start helping out all the course creators who are listening to this podcast today. But before we begin, why don't you just go ahead and take a moment to tell us a little bit about yourself and your history?

Marla Martinez
Sure! So I started in curriculum design about 25 years ago and have done lots of different things with it from teaching to educational technology to Director of Curriculum and Instruction to educational consulting, and working with course creators more recently to kind of deconstruct what their courses are. It's kind of hard if you didn't go to school to know how the brain learns and developing curriculum based on that. Why would you know that, right? So it's been really fun helping people kind of learn to do that.

About 10 years ago, I just hit burnout and decided to quit my job making more money than I'd ever made in my life, and traveling the world. So I sold my house, I sold my car, and I moved to a small Caribbean island near Cancun called Isla Mujeres and have been here almost 11 years. I just kind of wanted a laptop life and kind of created this conglomerate of tourism businesses as we are a tourism related Island.

When the pandemic hit, forced opportunity hit as well. All of our businesses were shut down, so we pivoted in as many ways as we can. One way was to sort of revisit my roots of curriculum design and working with the influx of 90% more online courses, then there were before the pandemic. It was just literally, like I said, a forced opportunity. It's been really fun.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that sounds like kind of crazy and kind of fun at the same time. You never know where life is gonna take you, right? You're absolutely correct in what you said in the beginning, because I got into online courses on a whim, and just started teaching what I knew, and had no idea about how to teach someone. I have never taught before and that's not my background. So, you know, it was a lot of trial and error, trying to figure it out. So I'm excited for this episode, because I feel like you might be able to help me out too!

Marla Martinez
Well, knowing what I know of you, I'm sure you jumped right in and figured it out and made your courses worth completely three times what you're probably charging for them.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. I just want to talk about the tourism thing for a moment. So you said you moved down there, and you started this tourist business? What did that look like when you started that? Did you have an idea of that's what you were going to do? Or was this just like, "I don't know what I'm going to do. Let me just move down there, and I'll figure it out once I get there."

Marla Martinez
I really thought that I would continue educational consulting, traveling internationally, working with schools, planning and curriculum, mapping curriculum and putting in place systems of review and analysis of curriculum. I really love it. I really thought I would continue to do that. But then I found when I got here, I really didn't want to leave the island anymore. So I think I was just sort of done traveling for a while. I wanted to enjoy it. So, I've been an entrepreneur all my life. So, as we do, we kind of think, "Okay, where's the need, and how can I fill it?"

There was a property manager who had left the island suddenly, so that left a gap and so I started managing rental properties. Then there were restaurants who didn't have social media, so I started helping them with social media. I was helping bands get gigs, and I was developing websites. I would just do whatever I needed to do. That has sort of evolved into IslaMujeresVacationRentals.com, Javi's Cantina Restaurant, Dinnertainment is a catering business. My Isla T-shirt is a Shopify store where we sell souvenirs. So we just sort of kind of picked up on the collaborative marketing and helped everybody just do better!

Jeremy Deighan
You know what's awesome? You just never know where life's going to take you. Because now you have all that experience in marketing, you can go back and apply that to what you're doing now. Correct?

Marla Martinez
It's absolutely correct. As it turns out, my master's degree is Educational Leadership. As it turns out, running a school and running someone's vacation is really no different. You just remove obstacles for people, make sure people have what they need and are happy, and are moving forward. Being responsible, trustworthy, and ethical. You know, just show up.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. So we won't name the big C word that came in last year and kind of wrecked everyone's businesses, but it came in and really hurt us. Obviously, it had an effect on your business, and then you went back to your roots. So what happened at that point? Where did you go from then? You said, "Okay, I don't have this tourism business as effective as it was before." What did you do at that point?

Marla Martinez
At that point, I was just pivoting and we tried lots of different things. I was just trying to figure out more about the online space, and I was already doing that. How do I translate what I do into other areas? Where's the need? So as I was beginning to take courses, and realizing that a lot of them were only just sort of recorded presentations, you know? They really didn't have the learning component in those. Of all of them, rarely did I finish them. I've bought courses that I never even started.

Then I started trying to figure out why. I thought, that's easy. They're really not following this learning continuum, they're giving too much too fast. Water is great unless you're drinking from a fire hydrant. Being able to kind of just structure a curriculum in a way so that a learner can complete the course and get success, and then write a review and bring you more clients. So it just sort of evolved that way. The way that I do that is through curriculum design and curriculum mapping, and tracking everything that we're doing and being really intentional with our courses.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, perfect. So let's go ahead and dive into that. So let's just say that someone like me from eight years ago, who's come into this world, they heard online courses is the new thing they should be doing. Maybe their expertise is in something like, you know, playing guitar or programming where they don't know anything about course creation, marketing design, etc. Can you just break down in layman's terms? What is curriculum design? What is curriculum mapping? How can that help other course creators out there?

Marla Martinez
Absolutely. We've all heard the phrase "people pay for transformation, not information" right? So, it's about taking your content and structuring it. Curriculum mapping is a way that forces you to lay out each module and then tracking, what is the result of each module? What is the knowledge that is needed to reach that transformation for that module? Then, not only just knowledge, you need to know the skills. What do you need to be able to do with that to find that success?

It's sort of like backwards planning, it's planning for with the end in mind. If you could use the analogy of a soccer camp. If each day you did a soccer drill, and then at the end of the week, on Saturday, you have a game. You will really know if the soccer players learned from those drills if they can apply those in the appropriate situation in the soccer game on Saturday, right? So it's a matter of knowing what the end is, starting with that. What do people need to know and be able to do to get there? How are you going to plan these learning opportunities to make sure that they have what they need to find that success? Because that's when they write the reviews.

In my course, Course Optimizer Academy, I really try and focus on what a review looks like. What do you want people to say about your course two years from now? Do you want them to say, "Oh, I got this course and I didn't finish it because I just kind of got behind and then I didn't know where to start." Or do you want them to say X, Y, and Z, whatever your course review looks like, and that transformation.

So being able to organize curriculum in a way that takes people from where they are to where they want to be intentional and mapping that out. For me, that's what curriculum design is and really considering how the brain learns and working memory versus long term memory and how the brain organizes information.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, perfect. So let's use that analogy of someone who is really good at soccer. They've been teaching it for a while and they think that maybe they could create an online course around soccer. Or as our friends across the ocean like to call football. So someone like that comes to you. What would be like the first step that you would take someone like that through to help them begin designing a great curriculum?

Marla Martinez
I start with the end, always. What is the transformation? What is it that you want? Where do you want them to be? Where's that success? Then we work backwards. You start with the transformation, what does it look like when they have it? And what are the steps or the framework that they need to get there? It's pretty simple. Then taking them through mapping that out so that they're being intentional with what they're asking of students, what they're giving them and what they're asking of them.

I also have a refocus filter system that I use as well that you go through and you sort of deconstruct your whole course. Looking for, "Okay, where am I using these graphics? And are they intentional there? Do I need everything that I have in there?" Because a lot of times a lot of courses just have too much information. It's easy to do that, it's easy to get too much information in a course. So starting with the end in mind, what does that transformation look like? Then what do they need to get there? I keep it pretty simple.

Jeremy Deighan
I totally agree. I've seen those courses before, where it's PowerPoint slides, and they put their whole life story on one slide. Right?

Marla Martinez
Right. Right.

Jeremy Deighan
So so we look at that kind of information and we say, "How can we trim this down a little bit? And how can we just make it easier for the user or the student?"

Marla Martinez
Yes. There's a feedback loop, whether this is an evergreen course or not, but building in feedback loops, so that it's almost gamified. That whole psychology of gamification, where each step leads to the next step, and then to the next step, and then they feel that success, and they want to get to the next step. So building that in intentionally so that people are not dropping out, and that you're not giving too much information. So they're not dropping out. When they don't drop out, they complete the course, get success and write a review.

Jeremy Deighan
So it's kind of like a stepped process where you're leading someone through a journey through each step. The goal is to try to get them to that next step. Is that correct?

Marla Martinez
Exactly, exactly.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, I failed at this miserably in the beginning, because I was just making lectures like, "I'm going to teach you the shortcut key, and I'm going to teach you how to do this random thing!" And I never thought about that. I never thought about taking someone through that journey and trying to get them through that transformation. I teach courses on Photoshop, and never thought to myself why would someone want to take a Photoshop course?

Marla Martinez
Right. There are basically three phases of that. You introduce the new information, then you give them opportunities to practice it. Then you give them opportunities to create and transfer that learning into their own life. That is the transformation.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, so let's kind of break those down a little bit more. So you said the first phase is to introduce the information. So this is just teaching them something new?

Marla Martinez
Yes, it's memory and recall, constructing meaning, the brain is like a filing cabinet. You're sort of creating that hierarchy and structure of where you're going to put all of this new information. Then the action items that you're asking of them are, you're asking them to define things, describe, identify, or demonstrate. They're sort of lower level things.

Then once they understand conceptually, what you're asking them to know, then you're going to ask them to apply it and analyze it, which is the second phase. Adapting the behaviors and practicing it and you're asking them to illustrate something or interview someone or practice something or summarize it or relate it to something else, you're analyzing it.

Then after that, you're going to transfer that learning and you're going to make judgments and create something in your life that is based on whatever the information you just learned and what you're hoping to get from it. You're going to organize and make a plan, you're going to design something or construct a business, or you're building/ creating something, you're creating something new from the parts of the whole that you've learned throughout those last two phases.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, so you're going through the phases, you're learning something new, you're practicing those. So the soccer program, we're going to teach them a new drill, and then we're going to have them practice that drill. Then we're going to teach them a different drill, have them practice that drill. Then at the end, that's when we play the big game and they get to test those drills to see what's working and what's not working.

Marla Martinez
And they have to be able to discern which drill to use in which situation.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, so how do we figure that out with our curriculum? Let's say someone has a course on programming, graphic design, or art/ music or something like that? How do you figure that out?

Marla Martinez
So starting again, with the end in mind. What is the end goal of the course? It's usually not just learning the software. It might be and if it is, then that's okay. What I would do if it were me is integrate what the student wants to be able to do with it. Whether it's start their own business, whether it's to just be able to create their own designs for a drop shipping store, or whatever it is. They're able to take all of the pieces of that course and then apply it to their own goal in their own life and transfer that learning to their own transformation goal.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, okay. So mistake number two on my part, I never thought about why people wanted to learn Photoshop, I just thought it was an amazing piece of software.

Marla Martinez
Everybody needs to know Photoshop, right?

Jeremy Deighan
But you're saying take it a step further. Think about why is that person on the other side of the screen wanting to learn Photoshop? Are they trying to get a career? Or are they trying to get a job? Are they trying to make a happy birthday card for their mom or something like that?

Marla Martinez
Exactly. It goes back to what we said, people pay for transformation, not information.

This hard part, I think, as course creators is we don't know what we don't know. We think we can lay out this course. There are just so many other elements that could enhance and really optimize the course to just really elevate it to the next level, you know? I think you can't improve something that you don't start.

So starting your courses and really having the wherewithal to go back and deconstruct it, and listen to your students and find out where you want to optimize that better. Taking what you have, and just breaking it down and really analyzing it, I think is a next step for a lot of us as course creators.

Jeremy Deighan
So how are you getting this feedback from your students? I mean, I know that you can do it through a community or Facebook group, or even through the course itself. But are you saying just going and talking to the students and getting information back from them to see what's working and not working?

Marla Martinez
It definitely depends on how you've structured your course. I get how it's more difficult when it's like an evergreen course. My course is a cohort model. So we take a small group, and then I create milestone documents for people so that they can see where they've started, and where they're trying to go with it, and that all of the decisions that they're making, as they progress through the course, are related to that. It also allows me opportunities for finding any misunderstandings or misconceptions that I might go back and add into my course. Which is definitely a lot of what I've done in my own courses, figuring it out, editing it, and optimizing it.

Facebook groups, small cohorts, small mastermind communities, all of those are great ways to get feedback. You know, it can also be just in a Google Doc, where you're editing with students, if it's a program set up like a one to one or one to few. Obviously, if it's one to 1000 that's not really possible. But I know other programs that have sort of created pods of students and then assigned one person to a pod, which kind of helps with feedback.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, perfect. Before we get to that stage where we've created the course, and we're getting your feedback, what do you feel about finding out that information before you begin creating the course? I know kind of the big terminology in the course space now is having a beta program, where before you even create the course you're just getting students in and working with them to help build that curriculum out. Do you find that that is helpful? Or do you think it's counter intuitive to creating a good curriculum design?

Marla Martinez
I definitely work best that way. That is actually what I did with my course. I kept kind of planning and the longer you give yourself to plan, the longer you're going to take to plan. Finally, one of colleague in my mastermind group said, "When are you going to do this course? Just set a date." So I said, "Okay, I'm gonna do it on this date." And I just randomly picked a date out of the air, and I did it. It was what it was.

My first group where people who were not paying people, they were really just helping me create the course. So I did have expectations of them, and it was a fantastic experience. We did have a closed Facebook group, and we met every Tuesday. It helped them and it helped me and I really do like that that one-on-one. I really don't consider myself a coach, even though I am an educator. I kind of consider myself a curriculum consultant. So I really like to look at someone's product and help deconstruct it to optimize it to make it better.

Jeremy Deighan
That is some great information because I know the talking other people, a lot of people go out there and and myself included. The mistakes that I've made in the past saying, "I want to create a Photoshop course!" I go out there, I've got no idea what the student wants, I don't know why they want a transformation. I don't know why they're taking Photoshop, and I go out there and spend six months creating a course. Then put it out there and it's crickets or the people who take it aren't interested in it, because I never went through those steps to really find out what people wanted to begin with.

Marla Martinez
I agree. I probably would have done the same thing had I not gone through other high ticket programs that were very, very adamant about interviewing 50 people in your prospective audience to know what it would be that people would want. It's not always what you think. I really learned that my audience are more people who don't have courses, but that want to start them. I really thought it would be course creators who already had a course and wanted to deconstruct it and optimize it. But that was not what I found out. So I really did edit what I was doing based on the feedback I was getting. I still am interviewing people and talking with people and trying to find out, you know, what speaks to people? What is it that they need? Because as entrepreneurs, I believe that's the core; find the need, fill the need, and help others.

Jeremy Deighan
Right, definitely. Now, once we get that course out there, and we get the students in, you mentioned earlier about tracking those modules. So what are some methods/ techniques? Or are you using any kind of software to track these modules? I know some programs like Thinkific or Teachable might show you completion rates or progress. What are you using to track these modules to see where people are falling off and where they're having problems?

Marla Martinez
That is exactly where I would do it. Those programs already have that technology built in, and to be able to use that along with student feedback, reviews, testimonials, that also gives a lot of feedback. Putting in place a system for the reviews and testimonials. I use just a spreadsheet to sort of lay out the curriculum, but in terms of the data from the completion rates, I get that from the learning software.

Jeremy Deighan
You're just kind of keeping an eye on that. Then if you see a fall off where at 40% of the course, students are no longer interested in this content, that's where you know that you can go back and work on that section?

Marla Martinez
Exactly. Where was the breakdown? Is it a timing issue? Is it a too much information issue? Is it a pacing issue? Is it not giving enough premium information? It could be several things for sure.

Jeremy Deighan
We touched on getting someone to complete a course. That is such a big thing, people just don't complete courses. I know that I've seen courses out there that are 20, 30, or 40 hours long, and I think of myself, "How is anyone ever complete a course like that?" So can you just give us some tips and tricks or some ideas about making sure that you're creating a good curriculum that really gets someone to that final goal? What really drives people to want to finish a course other than just knowing that the transformation is there? Some people just start and they're motivated, but then they get demotivated and they drop out. Why is that?

Marla Martinez
I think there are lots of reasons. I use essential questions as one of my ways to engage. And these are questions that are really broad and open ended. People can really apply it to their own life and their own transformation. It's almost like a hook, because in order to be able to give a response to the question, you kind of need to collect more information. So you're gamifying it a little bit.

So you're asking these broad questions that requires them to ask more questions, get more information to be able to construct their answer and then building in a hook. I call it spiraling. It's the "S" in my refocus filter system. But then you go back through your curriculum map and make sure that you're spiraling all of that information through your modules. So it's like a thread. It's almost like in a Netflix series what makes you want to watch the next episode? It's the hook. It's the thread. It's the what's it going to do for you? Being able to consider those aspects of your curriculum.

It's also not giving too much too fast. Like we talked about the water, water is not bad. Unless you're drinking from a fire hydrant, you want to make sure we're giving them a water fountain, and that we're connecting new knowledge to prior knowledge and we're making that connection and a hook and not too much. The working memory can hold about five or six pieces of new information at a time. So if we're giving too much too fast, or if I've had too many days and I feel like I'm behind, then i'm going to be overwhelmed and not want to jump back in and not sure where to start. So having that group is important and the feedback part. There are a lot of factors to keeping people engaged.

Jeremy Deighan
That also brings up a great point, which is time of lectures. Have you seen any correlation of how long a lecture is, and completion rates? I know some people say, lectures should only be 5-10 minutes. I've taken other courses where each lecture is an hour long. What are your thoughts on on timing for lectures?

Marla Martinez
Personally, I'm about a 6-10 minute video, give me 6-10 minutes of information, I'm good. From a brain research standpoint, there is research called Primacy/Recency Effect, Dr. David Sue says, the doctor who did all this research. If you compared a 40 minute learning episode, with two 20 minute learning episodes, you get more primetime, they call it where the brain is engaged, and students are learning. So there are mountains and valleys of attention span, basically.

If in a 20 minute learning episode, the first 12 minutes you have people's attention, and then it's going to drop down a little bit, and then you're going to strategically place an activity there that you're kind of creating a pattern interrupt, and then bringing them back in, and resaying what you have taught them. So the brain remembers what it hears first and last. So you're going to implement that strategy. So I prefer 10-20 minute learning episodes, but strategically planned, so that you're not giving the brain too much information at once, and you're strategically planning how you're presenting it.

Jeremy Deighan
It kind of reminds me of the Pomodoro Technique where you're doing 20-25 minutes, and then you go take a break, and then you come back to another 20-25 minutes. I noticed this in writing. A lot of writers use that technique where they can't write more than about 20 or 25 minutes, but they go take a break, refresh for five minutes and come back. Then they can start all over again.

Marla Martinez
Exactly. Also, in addition to that, you tell them what you're going to tell them, then you tell them, and then you tell them what you told them. So you're implementing exactly everything that you just said with that, in considering the first 12 minutes, then it's going to drop a couple of minutes, and then it's kind of spiked back up, and then you're done.

So in my workshop, I do a three day workshop, where I have three hour long sessions, on how to get reviews, referrals and testimonials. I break those hours into two, 20-minute learning episodes. Then I have the other time for conversation and questions and answers and introductions and things. I find that that works well. I also have a template that I use so that I'm not giving more than four to five pieces of new information in a learning episode.

Jeremy Deighan
Awesome. Let's say that you get to a point where a student, they drop out. They haven't taken the course in a week or two weeks, or they've just kind of neglected the study. Do you know any ways of getting those people back into the course and getting them re-engaged and re-interested in the material?

Marla Martinez
Again, I think it depends on how the have your course structured. For a cohort, you are a small group so you know when people are missing, so you can just directly reach out to them. With other courses, I think there are email sequences that can, can get you reengaged. Or having coaches that can reach out to different pods of people to make sure everything is okay.

One high ticket course that I took I completely just dropped out, I just got overwhelmed and I wasn't sure if I was on the right track and I kind of just quit and I paid a lot of money. No one reached out to me to say, "Hey, just checking in." And there is a Facebook group, and I do have a lot of contacts that I've made in that Facebook group that have kind of kept me going. But I just think it's how you want to create your program.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. You also mentioned aspects of gamification. So what are your thoughts on using other things inside the course? It might not have to be gamification, but things like cheat sheets and worksheets and quizzes and stuff like that. Is that stuff that you typically recommend for people to implement?

Marla Martinez
Absolutely, but more on the differentiated learning. So considering the information that you're giving, if I'm a visual learner, and you give it all to me audio then I'm not going to get as much out of it. But if you give me varied resources, so that I have charts and audio, or I have as many visual opportunities as I do auditory opportunities, and if I have an opportunity to write something, if that's how I learned. So just consider the different learning styles of students and making sure that you're giving, the worksheets are requiring them not just to fill in a blank but to actually construct some meaning based on the new knowledge that you've given them.

In terms of the gamification and all of that psychology, there is so much new research out there right now and I'm reading it as fericly as I can. The biggest I have found that works for me is to be able to create that hook. Like we were talking about the Netflix series, what makes you want to watch the next episode? What's going to make you want to reach your goal and then move on to the next piece? How does it connect? And making sure that you're making that connection for students.

Jeremy Deighan
I know it's going to be probably dependent on the course or on the instructor. But how are you structuring those hooks? Are you saying that if we have a 10 minute course in the last minute or 30 seconds, you're creating some kind of method that gets people interested in watching the next video? Is that what you're talking about?

Marla Martinez
Yes. So let's use our soccer example. Let's say drill A and B. Drill A is on day one, and drill B is on day two. Drill B requires you to be able to successfully complete whatever it was in drill A. So it's almost like you're combining it. So it's a scaffolding technique where you're taking what you learned in one module, and then you're just elevating that to the next level. You're going to hook them with an essential question could work where you would say, "So what do you think you could do with this soccer ball technique if I were to give you this obstacle?" They're not going to do anything, but think about it until you give them the next module or in our examples case, they show up for the next day of drills.

Jeremy Deighan
It's kind of like an open ended question or an open loop where you're kind of leaving that loop open for them, that curiosity for them to say, "Oh, I want to see what's going to happen the next day."

Marla Martinez
Exactly, exactly.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, very cool. This is some great information. Like I said, when I started out in this business, I didn't know any of this stuff. I was just creating lectures just to create lectures and had no idea that this world existed, curriculum design, instructional design was out there. I didn't know people study this particularly.

Marla Martinez
It's true. It's true. You're not the only one. I mean, and why would you? I mean, no judgement for sure.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, I mean, how important is it? Because if you're the greatest marketer in the world, and you can get someone to buy your course, but then they don't take the course or they're not excited about it, and they don't talk about it, then that's not really going to last you at all, you know?

Marla Martinez
Exactly. Being able to create that learning experience and knowing what that means to you, before you can create it and creating with the end in mind. Absolutely.

Jeremy Deighan
Now, I noticed that you mentioned getting student testimonials a couple times. I know this is kind of outside the curriculum realm, but can you talk for a moment on the importance of testimonials? What's a testimonial? And why would course creators be interested in getting testimonials from their students?

Marla Martinez
Well, I believe testimonials, reviews, and referrals are really just the gold of our business. We really should treat it that way. Because, for my course, for example, I struggle with how to explain to people how they need something they don't know they need. But if someone else has articulated that and incorporated their transformation, then that is going to connect with other people in my audience better. So I believe that we have an opportunity in our courses in the activities and action items that we're setting.

I encourage course creators to write a review of their course before they launch it. Because if you know what you want people to say, then you can be really sure that you've included that in your course. If you're already in the mindset of, "What do I want my students to say about this course two years from now and how it impacted their life?" I'm going to plan around that.

If I'm giving them opportunities to write about that through each module through a milestone document or reflection document, or KWL, which is what do we know, what do I want to know, and what did I learn? If they have all of that written somewhere, when it is time to write that testimonial, they have all the information and their transformation is already written out. They can just summarize that into a referral for you right away.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's awesome. I've never heard of anyone mentioning writing a review for your own course but that's a great technique and makes a lot of sense. So when someone has that testimonial, what's the importance of that? Is that just to help get more sales or get more eyes on your course? Why do you imagine that testimonials are the gold of the course?

Marla Martinez
The sales part of it is definitely part of it. It's contageous and it's social proof that we know what we're talking about. But as a course creator, I can also use that information. I track all of my reviews in a spreadsheet. I have three to five pieces of pillar content that I know I want all reviews and testimonials to include. So when I document them in the spreadsheet, I document which of those pillar contents that it addresses, and I document where I used it in print, or on the website, or on a Facebook ad or anywhere that I use my testimonials sales page, a squeeze page. So it helps me as a course creator, as well analyze my course and determine what the needs are.

Jeremy Deighan
Oh, that's brilliant. Awesome. That's really good. So thinking about anyone listening to this podcast, maybe there's someone out there who just started down this journey, or just created their course, maybe they're a football player, and they want to create an online course. What would be your number one piece of advice that you could give them today?

Marla Martinez
Start with the end in mind. Figure it out, write it out, write a statement, a result statement as a result of the course. What do you want your students to be able to know or do at the end of this course? What is the outcome? Writing that review, what will they say two years from now when your course is over? And then plan from there.

Jeremy Deighan
Awesome. That's amazing. Just thinking about your own business, I know you've had some ups and downs, but it sounds like things are going really great. So just thinking out in the next couple of years, where would you like to see your business go?

Marla Martinez
So my plan is to do four of my course for this year in 2021. In 2022, to move to a cohort model where I'm doing it two six-week courses a year. That could change to a 10-week course. But it'll be a cohort model with two a year, and that'd be it. And then live my little laptop Island life.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that sounds amazing. We travel all around the country, and we're looking at going to South America and Europe. So it's a lot of fun, I know from experience. I'm just so happy for you and glad that you are back on track and you're making things happen. It's just been an amazing pleasure having you on the show today. If people want to learn more about you and how you could help them out. Where can they do that?

Marla Martinez
Thank you so much, Jeremy, I really appreciate you inviting me on the show. I love everything that you've done. I'm just really honored to be part of it. I just can't thank you enough, and I appreciate being part of your ecosystem.

If people want to find me, go to refocusedincome.com. That's where I'll be, you can find the Course Optimizer Academy there. I also have a Facebook group that I welcome everyone there. The whole goal of that group is to sort of find other entrepreneurs that might share your audience that you can collaborate with, whether it be a summit or a workshop. But it's facebook.com/groups/refocusedincome. So we'd love to have all of your listeners there!

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, perfect. We'll make sure that we link all that up in the show notes. Marla, thanks for giving us your time today. We appreciate you and I just hope for the most success for you in the future.

Marla Martinez
Thank you so much, Jeremy. I hope the same for you

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