In today's episode, we have David Young who is going to share with us how he built a $1.6 million dollar course business in the drone industry.
You will also get to hear how his course went from being a major flop to being a major success, why it's important to put the course out sooner and refine it as it grows, and how to leverage other people's audiences to sell your own online courses.
In this episode, you will hear...
… how David went from being an accountant to becoming a sought-after drone pilot trainer and online course creator.
… the steps David took to turn around his course from a major flop to a million-dollar online business.
… why it’s best to launch your online course fast and refine it as you grow using feedback from your audience.
… two major mistakes David made with his first course launch that made the course a massive failure.
… why it’s critical to have some basic digital marketing knowledge before launching an online course.
… the importance of bringing in experts to add credibility and authority to your online course.
… how to build an audience fast by leveraging other successful people’s audience to kickstart your online course business.
… useful tips on how to use Facebook and Google ads to promote your online course.
… how David partnered with like-minded course creators to enhance quality and scale his online business.
… why it is important to understand your target audience and obtain feedback before launching a new course.
… creative ways to keep your audience engaged, attract new leads, and grow your email list.
Hello, everyone. Thanks for checking out the podcast today. We have David Young from the Drone Launch Academy and we're super excited to have you here today, David. How are you doing?
I'm good. Thanks for having me on, Jeremy.
Yeah, definitely. I'm excited to have you. I always like to check out what people are doing before we get on the podcast. I was looking over your website, and it's just really beautifully made.
It looks like the design and the thought process; the website is really well made. You have your courses on here, it looks like you have some type of offer or lead magnet where you're collecting emails. And so I think this is going to be a really useful episode because we can talk about all these things that are on your website that are working for you.
Yeah, that'd be great. I'd love to get into it.
Okay, cool. Before we start, let's go ahead and hear a little bit about your history and your story. How did you get into online business and creating online courses?
Yeah, good question. I'm sure you guys get lots of interesting stories here. I always wanted to be a pilot when I was a little kid. First, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. And then I did Civil Air Patrol. That's like ROTC for high schoolers and middle schoolers.
I did that when I was 12, and went to this boot camp thing that they had. And everybody's yelling at me and telling me what to do. And I was like, "You know what, I don't think I'm cut out for this." So I changed. I said, "I'm going to be a commercial airline pilot."
So then that's what I had my sights set on through high school. I applied to two good flight schools in Florida, where I'm from - Embry Riddle and Florida Tech or Florida Institute of Technology. They had a good flight program there that's not like engineering school.
I got accepted to both, but FIT offered me some extra scholarship money. So I'm like, "Cool, that sounds good. Let's go there." So I did that. And then my first year of flying airplanes -and this is like 1970s Piper four-seater kind of airplanes and they're very small inside- I learned pretty quickly like, "This is kind of claustrophobic being in this plane high up here."
And these planes are pretty old. And although the school did a good job of maintaining them, stuff happens. Like one time I was turning and I looked and there was fuel spilling out of the wing because the seal wasn't there. One time we didn't close the door tight enough, so mid-flight, it just pops open and starts flapping around. Papers are going everywhere and I'm freaking out like, "Oh, we're going to die."
I mean, it was fine. My instructor was like, "Calm down." He just held the door shut with his hand. We were buckled up and stuff. It's not like you'd get sucked out of a small airplane or anything. But just those little things and I was like 17, 18 years old. I guess I was 18 and I don't know if I was mature enough to handle all that.
So I finished up and got my pilot's license. And then I decided, "I think I want to switch to do something on the ground." So I transferred to Florida State University where some of my friends were. It was much cheaper to go there, FIT was like 40 grand a year or something, and did accounting and finance.
I'm trying to try to keep these sections brief. From there, I ended up working at the FBI right out of college. They recruited from Florida State that year. Originally, I thought I was going to do banking stuff, but I ended up going to the FBI doing, at first, some internal budgeting and financial projections, things like that.
So I had my pilot's license, even though I didn't really love to fly much anymore. And I was working for the FBI and eventually, got doing some forensic accounting stuff. I got my CPA license and became a forensic accountant.
I was working on some white-collar crime investigations and some other things. And there was a guy on my squad; he was an FBI agent. He was a former special operations army guy, and he was really into drones. And he was talking to me about them. This was probably 2015.
Yeah, I just started looking at them and got more interested in them. I don't remember how it came up. I was talking to somebody about this the other day, and I can't remember how it came up. But we learned like, oh, people are using these for business. Like, you can fly drones for money.
It wasn't super popular at the time, but it was starting to ramp up. And some of the drones were getting better. DJI was making these drones that had these integrated cameras in them, and they're a lot easier to fly. Before, you would have to assemble all this stuff.
I thought, "Oh, this is cool." So I bought a little $400 drone, which at the time, I had to beg my wife to let me spend $400 to buy a drone. I got it and I was like, "This is really cool."
The unique thing was, at the time, the FAA - the Federal Aviation Administration, which controls all the airspace - they were saying that you had to have a legit full-on pilot's license to be able to fly drones for money or any type of commercial purpose. So I thought, "Well, that's a cool barrier to entry." Like, I've got my pilot's license, even though it was like eight years ago, and I don't really use it that much. I still have it.
So I started looking into it. And you had to do all this horrible paperwork process. Even if you had the pilot's license, you had to do this horrible paperwork process to get approved.
Up until this point, I had always done side businesses. I had some accounting consulting, if you will, for startups and different businesses because it was kind of fun to make side cash. The FBI was a cool place to work, but you're not going to get rich working there.
So it was fun doing some side gigs. And I'd kind of got the bug of like, "Oh, wow, if you do your own business, you can make as much money as you want, as long as you're willing to work more." So I was like, "Well, this is cool."
At the time, I was listening to Pat Flynn a lot -
smartpassiveincome.com guy. I'm sure you're familiar with him. He's got a good podcast and I used to listen to that all the time; the talk of passive income.
People were selling ebooks, or digital products, and all this stuff. I used to think about that and think, "Oh, man, that would be so cool to be able to do something like that." And up until that point, I had been always doing services, like trading time for money with accounting, consulting, or whatever, or just my regular job.
But when I was looking at this paperwork process, and I was figuring out how to do it, I thought, "You know what, people, I bet, would pay somebody else to do this." And I looked, and there was a couple of other companies that were advertising this type of work. It was called a 333 exemption.
So I thought, "I really only need certain key information from people. And if they give me what types of drones they have, their business information and some other things, I can do this paperwork for them."
So I whipped up a really simple Squarespace website. It was a couple of pages. There was a form on it that had the pieces that I needed of information. And I had people fill that out. And then I literally manually put it into the document that I had created, and submitted their paperwork to the FAA, and managed that process for them.
Once I came up with this form, really the only work was taking the order, and then plugging their info in and sending it off. That was it. So I started doing this and I created a Google AdWords ad. I didn't know anything about AdWords. But I threw up a Google AdWords ad.
I remember when I made my first sale, and I was like, "Oh, this is so great." I was at work and I saw my phone light up. And it was for like 250 bucks that people were paying for this. I couldn't believe it. I'm like, "I made more just sitting here that I did probably this whole day sitting at work."
So fast forward a little bit, I started to do that for a couple of months. And then I was quickly making more money from that than I was from my forensic accounting job. And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, there are so many people that want to be drone pilots"
Shortly after I started doing that, the FAA announced, "You don't need this process anymore. You actually now have to get a drone license that we're creating. And to do that, you have to pass a test." So I thought, "Oh, shoot. Well, people are going to need to pass this test. So I'm going to work on making a test prep course."
So that's how my first online course came in. This business venture that I was really excited about lasted all of three months. But I made some decent money doing it and it allowed me to save some money to buy some camera equipment and do some production stuff.
Now, I'd say looking back, I probably went a little bit overboard on paying for animations and editing and all this stuff. I could have made it a little bit simpler. But yeah, I started that.
I launched it. I can get into the story of launching it a little bit if you want later. But essentially, I worked for probably six months creating it and launched it, and it totally flopped. I was really bummed.
I thought about giving it away for free, but some friends encouraged me to keep going on it and seeing what I could do with it. We launched it back in the fall of 2016. So it's almost been four years now. And now to date, that course has done $1.6 million in total sales in the last four years, with over 12,000 students in it.
And it's the same course, just with some updates. So the difference between a course that I couldn't sell at all and totally flopped and a course that basically pays for my living now, the only difference was marketing. Yeah, that's it.
So I realized that and then set out to try to learn as much as I could about marketing online, and just work from there. We've added other courses and stuff since then but that's how it started.
Awesome. We'll dive deep into these marketing strategies that you learned and have implemented. How cool of a story that you went out, you created a course, and it wasn't a success at first. And you stuck with it and turned it into a million-dollar business.
And I'm sure people listening out there are going through that struggle right now. And to hear that story is very motivational. And just what a cool way to get into the business? You were finding the needs, and you were solving those issues.
I hadn't heard of anyone really doing what you were doing as far as filling out those applications and sending them off. So that in itself seems like a really cool business venture. I like that.
So, you launched this course out. You said you took six months to make it and probably spent too much time on editing and animations, which I think is probably a big thing that we do as course creators. So just talk about that for a minute because if you could go back to that time, what would you have done differently in the beginning? Would you have focused less on the animations and the editing and more on something else?
That's a good question. Yes and no. For a normal course, I would say, if this was any other course, I would have said, yeah, I went way overboard on the animations. And I probably spent $10,000 to $15,000, creating this course, between buying equipment, and paying people to do video editing, and getting people to do animating different explanations and things.
The way we're creating courses now is much different. Essentially, we're kind of doing more of a pre-launch method where we're telling people, "Hey, here's the course we're going to create." And then they sign up for a beta group.
We do some live calls, and then hone in on exactly what the course content should be by doing live calls with them. And then we go back and create the nice course.
But it actually worked out okay for me on this one, to have gone overboard with some of that only because other people, since this is a test, and anybody can create a prep course on it, there quickly were other courses out there going after the same customer.
It's not like we had anything necessarily that was unique. Everybody's promising the same thing, "Hey, we're going to help you pass the test."
So the animations, since our course happened to be a really high-quality experience, that happened to work well for us because then people were saying, "Oh, I really like your course better. I bought this other course and I ended up getting a refund because it was really crappy. But I like all the explanations and animations."
So a couple of people have said that, but I think that only benefited us because it became a commoditized product, if you will. People started competing on price and everybody had the same course promise. And typically, with courses, they're a little bit more unique to you and your skill set.
So I would say I would have put it out a little earlier if I was going to do it over again. I was waiting for all of these videos to get created. I was literally writing the scripts word for word, and then I was recording it. And then I was sending it to a video editor.
I was making notes of what animations I wanted. And then I was writing all the text for the course, for the descriptions and underneath the videos. And I had plans to do videos for every single lesson. But as I got towards the end of the course, I was like, "You know what, these last few things. It was like maintenance on a drone."
And it was a couple of things where it was just like what you had to know for the test was pretty small. And I'm like, "I don't think I need to create videos for these." Or, "I'm going to go ahead and launch it out now. See if people like it, and then I'll go in and I'll add these videos later."
And then to this day, I haven't added those videos because nobody complained about it; nobody cared. There's videos for all the complicated stuff and people like that. But I've maybe gotten two or three comments out of 12,000 people that said, "Hey, why aren't there videos for these last four or five lessons out of the 50 that are in there?"
I was getting so hung up on, "There's got to be a video for every lesson. It's got to be perfect and I've got to have all this stuff edited and all those animations." What I should have done is I should have put it out a lot sooner, started making some money with it. And then as that money came in, then I could have refined it and made it look better and in some of those things.
So, yeah, I think the sooner you can get it to people and start getting feedback on it, the better. Because sometimes you just assume people want something, or you assume they want to learn something a certain way. And that might not be the case.
So you might waste your time building something out that nobody wants, or you launch it out and the stuff that people really do want, you don't have in there. So, yeah, I think it's much more beneficial to get the least acceptable product out there, at least to like a test group if you can, and then run them through it. Get feedback and then make your final version.
Yeah, definitely. I totally agree with that. If I could take back all the time I spent changing the camera angles or the lighting, or moving things around, or deleting a pixel here or a pixel there.
So, you put the course out there. And this was, like you said back, in 2016, where some of the course platforms were starting to pop up - Thinkific and Teachable. Where did you host this course when you first launched it?
Yeah, I was hunting around. I had no idea what to do. I'm like, "How do you even do this? I can't even make a course." I got some people to quote me on them creating like animated PowerPoint slides hosted in some type of Adobe something. And then I'm like, "I don't think that's what I want."
But then I stumbled upon Teachable. I went to Teachable. I liked their user interface from the student side the best. I know Teachable and Kajabi are two big ones now. I still like Teachable's user interface, from the student side a little bit better, which is why I've stuck with them. Even though they have some flaws.
They all do.
But yeah, I've enjoyed Teachable and I've met all of them and stuff. But yeah, I'm still with Teachable now.
Okay, cool. So you put it out there. At this time back in 2016 when you first put the course up on the platform, did you already have an audience or a community?
No. See, that's the kicker. That's the thing people take for granted. I thought, "Oh, if I have a course, everybody's just going to buy this from me, obviously. People need this, and they're going to find me somehow magically, and they're going to buy my course."
And there's another guy who's a competitor of mine; he's a good guy. We've become kind of friends now, but he had a website, uavcoach.com. And he had been building a community for like two years. And he had a blog and an email list, and he launched his course - same kind of course.
And in the first three months, he had 1,000 students. And he was selling his course for $300 a pop. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, $300,000." And he's only been out for three months. I'm like, "If I just finish this course and get it live, I am going to be rich. I just need to do this, right?"
And so I discounted his 50,000-person email list, or however big it was a time, and his two years of community building, which was the actual work put in that resulted in what he got. So then, I thought, "I just need to go quick."
So I bought a $1,500 drone, which was the Phantom 4 at the time, and I did a giveaway. I said, "Hey, guys, we're going to do a drone giveaway." And I got an email list of about 4,000 or 5,000 people just from giving away that drone.
So it was one of those things where you say, "Hey, sign up for this giveaway," and then they get a share link. And then if someone else signs up from your link, you get extra bonus points. It was one of those things, which does have their pros and cons.
Not everybody signing up for a free drone is going to be a hot lead for you. People just like free stuff. So I got 5,000 emails. I think 1,000 of them bounced because I'm sure there was fraud in there; people put in junk email addresses or whatever.
1,000 bounced and then I had 4,000 emails. And I sent out an email and I was like, "I'm just going to go for the sale on the first email." And the guy who had built my website at the time, he knew something about digital marketing.
He's like, "I don't know if I would do that if I were you." He's like, "You might want to send out some emails first like explaining who you are, and getting to know people a little bit." I'm like, "Well, no. If I do that, everybody's just going to unsubscribe. I gotta go for the sale right away. I gotta hit them where it counts," which is horrible advice.
So, I did it. I sent the email out and I thought, "Okay, here comes this tsunami of money that I was expecting." And I was like, "I got 5000 emails," I had no idea about open rates either. I was like, "If about 50% of people open my email, and then another 50% of people buy it, that'll be X amount of people."
And like 10% of people opened the email on that one. And I ended up getting to sales, and I had discounted it all the way from, I think my price at the time was like $300, I had discounted it down to 99 bucks. Two people bought it. So I made $200 launching this course that I thought was going to make me rich.
I launched it. I made 200 bucks after like six months and 10 or 15 grand of investment. And I was like, "Oh man, this sucks." So that's where I was for a little while, and then I had to pick myself up off the floor and figure out how to move forward from there.
Yeah, it's funny. I've done that math with my wife so many times. Like, "If I can just get 7,800 people on my list, and I get a 25% conversion, I'm going to make millions off of this." And then you make two sales and you're like, "Oh, wow, that's a little demotivating."
So it's good because you said you had some people in your corner to pick you up and say, "Hey, don't give up, keep at it, keep going." So what were your next steps after that? It was like, "Okay, I understand now that I need to have a list and an audience and that's what you've been working on? Or how did that go?
Yeah, I started digging in to some... I'm like, "Alright, I think I have a good course here. And this will help people and it does the job of helping you pass the test. It's good quality."
And I actually recruited some other instructors. I met these guys at a conference. One was a former Air Force Colonel who's in charge of all weather programs for the Air Force. He was like big dog. And I emailed him praying, like, "Please let him say yes."
And I basically pitched him like, "Hey, will you help me? Will you appear in my course? I'll write all the content and your scripts. You just look at them, you edit the script. And then you record the content." So I'm basically trying to leverage his authority.
I did the same thing with another drone attorney. These guys were two older guys, like full-grown kids and I'm this 20-something-year-old kid trying to figure out how to do this. And they were nice enough to both say yes, like, "Hey, we're trying to get into the drone space, too." This was like 2016. "We're trying to get in the drone space, too. Yeah, we'd be happy to."
And I tried to make it as easy as possible for them. So they were nice enough to say yes and they did it. They did it for free. I think I bought them lunch and gave them as much kudos and thanks as I could and link to their stuff, or whatever else I could do. I was basically out of money at this point.
So, that helped on the credibility side, but I was like, "I'm not making any sales. I gotta figure what to do." So I started really digging into marketing, like, "Alright, how should I do marketing for this?" Because I thought I'd just build it and throw it up and it works. But that's not the case.
So I remember sending an email to the smartest business people I know - a couple of guys from my church, my cousin, a few others. And I sent them this long email. I remember, I was sitting at a conference for some accounting stuff. I was refreshing my CPA license or something.
And I sent them this email like, "Hey, guys, here's what I've tried. It didn't work very well. Should I just basically use this course as like the world's greatest lead magnet and figure out how to make other courses? Or should I still try to sell this course? Or should I just fold the towel altogether? What do you think?"
And a couple of them asked some intelligent questions. And I remember this one guy, he stuck out, one of my friends. He said, "You know what, don't give up. Don't give up just yet. Just keep going. You've tried, it'll work. I still think there's a lot of potential here. Just keep giving it more shots before you totally change strategies or fold."
So then I knew I needed to build an email list. And I tried some paid advertising, some Google AdWords because it had worked for me before when I did the 333 exemption application stuff. So I thought, "Well, I'll just do some Google ads."
So I started throwing those up. Man, those weren't converting like I wanted. I was taking $200 in ad spend to get one sale. And I think I was selling it discounted for a little over 200 bucks or something like that. It wasn't much and so I got scared about that.
I felt like I'm not profitable with that, so I turned that off. And then I said, "You know what, I just need to find people who have access to the audience that I want." So I started reaching out to these associations, like National Roofing Association and different industries that might be interested in using drones, and trying to make deals with them.
To say like, "Hey, if you offer this to your people with a discount, I'll give you a cut." But I had had limited success there because people were skeptical and drones were new. And they're like, "I don't know what this is."
So I found I had some success with blogs. So there are a couple of popular drone blogs that ranked really well SEO-wise when you typed in "FAA drone test". There was this one girl's website that pops up, still to this day she does really good at SEO. Sally French; she had a website called thedronegirl.com.
So I sent her an email, "Hey, Sally." She promoted this other guy's course - the other guy I mentioned before." I say, "Hey, Sally. I see that you already promote Alan's course and that's great. I'm just curious if you had any interest in promoting mine. It's a little different with different structures."
I tried to differentiate it a little bit, not trying to dog on his or anything - his is a good course. But just, "It's a little different. If you'd like to promote mine, too, I would love that. I'll give you..." I think I was offering her 20 or 30% commission at the time, which if I was going to do it again, I'd make it way higher to give them more incentive to sell it.
And she said, "Yes." And I was like, "What? She said yes." So I gave her some affiliate links that I whipped up from Teachable because you can generate those automatically. She put that on a course. And then, lo and behold, in the fall, some sales were coming in here, some sales were coming in there. $1,000, one month, $2,000, the other month, $3,000.
So I was making in the low $1,000s. And I was paying her 20 to 30%. So I was making a couple of $1,000 a month in profit from it. And that gave me some extra money and leverage to start trying out some other strategies.
And that was building my email list too. So people would join that course, and then I could get them on my email list. I didn't have anything else to offer at the time. And then I moved from that and used that money and started testing out some paid ads, again, on Google AdWords.
And for some reason, I was just able to get it to work better with Google ads towards the spring of 2017. And it started to take off. I mean, there's more stories in there. And then I screwed up with Google ads, and I turned them to where they weren't profitable, and then had to get somebody else to come help me. And that guy still runs my paid ads today.
Let me ask you a question real quick. I first want to take a pause for a minute and just focus on the strategy that you talked about because not many people talk about this too often. And I heard this strategy that you mentioned that worked for you at a conference.
And the guy was talking about leveraging other people's audiences. And he even talked about finding sites where people are advertising similar products to your own, and then reaching out to those websites and seeing if you can also advertise. Because the people who are blogging and advertising, they just want to make some money themselves.
They don't care whose product really, as long as it's not going to tarnish their name. They aren't concerned with what they're advertising. So I think that's a really cool strategy that is underutilized and not often looked at that I've thought about myself sometimes is going and finding out the leaders in your industry, and seeing if they have a blog or a podcast.
And then just working with them and seeing if they'll promote your product. So I think that was a very smart move on your part. Now, when you did that, did you have a website at this time or were you just sending people to the Teachable school?
No, I did have a website. I had used that money that I'd saved before and I'd paid somebody to build me a WordPress website. It was pretty decent. It was all focused around that main prep course.
So I did have a website and I had connected it to my Teachable school. So the courses were on Teachable and the sales pages were on Teachable, but the About Us and the homepage and stuff like that were on a WordPress site.
But then you were collecting emails from that site also?
Yeah, and then I collected the emails. And I think I was using MailChimp at the beginning. I use ActiveCampaign now. But I was using MailChimp at the beginning and integrated with Zapier. Go ahead.
I was just going to ask you, was it just a, "Hey, sign up for my newsletter."? Or did you have some type of offer bribe or lead magnet?
Oh, I see what you're saying. No, I was collecting emails purely, like people that were signing up for my course were going onto my email list. I was not making a good effort to build an email list.
Gotcha. It was just a side thing for having the course, people were signing up and you're getting their email, but you're still not nurturing or warming them up at that point?
Correct. We do that we do that now. But real quick, I wanted to touch on the affiliate strategy. I think you're very right in that not a lot of people talk about this. It doesn't maybe sound as sexy as like, "Run a webinar and do some paid ads." But especially at the beginning, if you don't have a lot of money.
I mean, my problem was I ran out of money playing around with paid ads. I can't afford to burn $1,000 on ads that aren't working. I couldn't at that point. Yes, I was kind of forced to do it.
And I even tried to hire some people on Upwork that were salespeople to like, "Listen, you're going to reach out to these companies. You're going to get them to work with us and promote our stuff to their members. And then you'll get a cut and then that company will get a cut."
But not many people on Upwork wanted to work for commission only for an unproven business. I didn't have much luck with that. But yeah, if I were doing it over again, I mean, this has worked well for me and worked well for other people that I've talked to about this.
If you're trying to figure out how to promote your stuff, like you said, go to Google, type in whatever your ideal customer would type in. So for me, it was like "drone test prep". And just start typing in all these things, and then look what websites pop up.
If the website is a competitor, obviously, they're probably not going to be super thrilled about promoting you. So it's not really worth it. But if they are a blog, blogs only make money in a very narrow amount of ways. They either sell advertising space, so like banners and things like that are at Google AdSense, or their affiliates for products unless they have their own products. And that's it.
So they need you to survive. So that's what I found out, just like you're saying. And we found more affiliates this way, too. But yeah, just do that and you can easily find people that will promote your stuff.
And it's easiest if you can find the blogs that are run by individuals. We've tried to reach out to bigger companies, but as soon as you get multiple employees in there, and it's hard to reach out to the right person, and it gets a little more complicated. But if it's like, "Oh, Sally runs this blog." You just reach out to Sally and say, "Hey, can I make an affiliate?"
Usually, I give them access to the material and they can check it out to make sure it's good because, like you said, they want to protect their reputation. But for sure, that's a great strategy. And real quick, that affiliate Sally, she still promotes for us. And she's sold over $100,000 for the courses in the last four years for us.
That's awesome. See, I actually don't know if people know this about me. But I've run niche websites, which are just very small blogs, cater to a very certain niche. And like you said, the only way that I make money is either through Amazon associate sales or advertising.
And if someone came up to me in my niche and said, "Hey, would you change out your adsense ad for this and you'll make 50% of a $300 sale?" I would jump all over that in a second because I'm going to make so much more money as the blog owner with that commission than I will through AdSense or through Amazon Associates.
So I think that's just a really brilliant strategy. I really like it and I think more people should consider that. So thank you for that. So once you get kind of the ball rolling, you got some sales coming in, you have your website, what was the next step to take you up to the next level? Where did you go from there?
So I was doing a couple of $1,000 a month in sales. And like I said, I had some money. So I started messing around with Google Ads again. And I don't know what happened. I just set up some ads, and just tried them out again, and then they were working. They weren't insanely profitable, but I was at least getting about a 2:1 return, maybe a little less than that. So I'd spend bucks, and I'd make 200 bucks. I thought, "Shoot, I'll just do this all day."
Now, was this an ad just going straight from the ad to your course?
Yeah, this was straight to the landing page. And I had also reduced the price a little bit, too. I'd gotten some feedback from people saying, "The price is really too high." So I thought, "Well, maybe I'll try a lower price." The other guy was still $300. I think I dropped mine to like $179 or something like that, and then discounted it to like $129.
So I tried that out and then started running ads. And that seemed to convert better. And I was just doing Google Search Ads. So when someone's searching for a drone test or anything related to some of my keywords, my ad would pop up and they'd click it. And they'd go straight to the landing page.
And it was just a Teachable landing page. It wasn't anything super special. And it started working. And so I did that for several months. And I think I went from a couple of $1,000 a month in sales to $7,000, $8,000, $10,000. And I was like, "Oh, man, this is awesome."
But then, in July of 2017, I did $12,000 in sales from Google ads. And I was like, "Sweet. How much did I spend on my advertising for Google?" And I went and looked into the Google dashboard. And it was $15,000. So I was like, "Huh, this is not how I want this to go."
So I turned it off and I was in this group, this little online business coaching group to help new business owners have resources and people to bounce things off of. And it was very helpful. They connected me to this guy. She's like, "Hey, here's two people I know that do Facebook and Google ads, you can talk to them."
So I talked to them. And then I got with the guy that I just kind of got along with better. And he looked at my stuff and said, "We can definitely fix some stuff in here." So he went in and he fixed it up, and he's been running my ads for the last three years now. He operates on a percentage of profit type of relationship.
So if I don't make money, he doesn't make money. If I make a lot of money, he makes a lot of money. So it's been great. He's scaled it up. And we've done Facebook ads, Instagram, YouTube, and are trying different courses now.
I know a lot of people listening may have tried ads before. And sending ads to a landing page can be kind of difficult to get to convert. So if you could just take a quick moment and just, what is one good tip that you could give someone about either the ad, the copy, or the landing page? How are you getting someone to watch an ad, click on it, go to a landing page, and purchase? I mean, that's a big leap from cold traffic.
Yeah. Well, it's unique to that offer. So we've tried that same strategy with other courses and it doesn't work. So the reason that it works for this is because it's a need that people already know they have before they ever come into contact with our company.
They do a little bit of research, and they find, oh, if I want to have a drone business or if I want to make money with drones, I have to have this license. And so then they go out searching for, hey, how do I get this license? And when they search it, they see our ad that says, "Hey, pass the test, get your license, or we'll give you your money back."
It's just a compelling offer for a thing that they already have to have. It's not like an optional thing, right? They have to have it if they want to do their thing. Our other courses that we have - we have courses on drone cinematography, and video stuff, drone photography, roof inspections, things like that. People don't have to have those, right?
They think, "I can go watch on YouTube," or I can do this, I can do that. So they're not like concrete requirements. I think the promise is good. Now we even changed it to say, "Hey, if you don't pass the course, we'll refund you what you paid us, and we'll pay you 150 bucks to go take the test again," because that's the testing fee. So we lose money if they fail. But we did that after we were sure people were going to pass.
That's a good deal. If someone sees that, why would they not purchase?
Right. I think I read a book, it's called Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got, or maybe I mixed that up. But it's a great book where they talk about your beyond risk-free guarantee. So we tried to do that and that's worked for us.
I think that's a little bit more of a unique situation; going straight from the ad to the landing page. For other stuff, we do lead magnets. And most of our other sales come through either now webinars, or we'll get people on our email list through a freebie. And then six months later, we'll run a promo for one of our other courses.
And after reading a series of emails and kind of educating them more, then they decide to buy. And that's more typical of our other courses that aren't like test prep, where you have to check that box if you want to have a business in drones.
That makes a lot of sense. The person who's taking that course is further down the road, and they're looking to be able to get this license. So they are much more further down the road than someone who just wants to learn how to fly a drone for the fun of it. So that's definitely cool.
So now you say you've got lead magnets and webinars. So, just real quick, how does that system look? Do you try just different things or do you have a certain way that you do it? You send someone to a lead magnet, then to a webinar, then to your course? Are you launching? Is it evergreen? Just explain a little bit of that back-end strategy that you have set up now for the other courses.
So there's a guy I partnered with, Alex Harris. He's actually the one, when I was trying to create the original course, he had this little $20 course on, "Hey, here's how to just record yourself talking into a camera." And I was like, "I need this because I have no idea what I'm doing."
So I bought his $20 course and then I went to do the editing section. And I was like, "Well, this sucks and takes forever." So I contacted him and said, "Hey, do you want to edit my course for me. I'll pay you." And he said, "Sure." So we struck up a friendship after that.
And he got into drones. He had a background in Hollywood editing and all this stuff. So he was really good. So fast forward like two years later, a year later, he created a drone videography and cinematography course, and then a drone photography course. So he created that with us.
Those did okay, at first, then they kind of flopped a little bit. I was focused more on the Part 107 stuff and like anything, they were good courses. They just needed more like marketing juice. And I was still focused on Part 107.
And Alex said, "Hey, David." We worked out a deal where he said, "Listen, will you let me try out some of my own marketing and we'll see how this does and I'll get a higher percentage if it comes in through my marketing." I said, "Sure, knock yourself out."
And so he went and he really dug in and learned how to do webinars really well and learned all that stuff. So he started running his own webinars to those courses. And so there was almost like two marketing things going on at once.
So he's got his webinars running to his main aerial video course. He does really well with that and he gets most of that revenue if a sale comes in that way. And then we kind of cross-promote all of those courses within our test prep course. So, if you buy one course, you get a discount on the other courses. And then twice a year, we run discounts to each of those other courses through our email list.
So we come up with a schedule for the year and say, "Okay, cool. This month, we're going to promote this." Typically, we'll do a drone giveaway, some type of contest, or something to kind of engage people and get them paying attention to the emails a little bit more.
And then once they're paying attention, we'll send out some other emails and try to tell some stories of people that have either used the course or have learned what the course is going to teach and kind of illustrate how that's going to help them get to where they want.
So we use the example of, "Hey, having a drone doesn't make you a good drone pilot." Like, having a drone is just like saying you can go to the grocery store and buy some chicken, and now you're a world-class chef." It's not going to happen. It's just a tool. You have to learn how to use it. And you have to do that if you really want to get high-end paying clients.
So we kind of try to teach people that and f illustrate that point, show them to the email, and then we offer, "Hey, well, you're in luck because for the next three days, we're offering half off on this course. And we only do this twice a year. So if you want it, jump in now."
So we make a good number of sales that way, just from the email list. That's on the other courses' side. And we've actually started doing lead magnets for the test prep course as well. We did a free study guide.
I actually got this idea from Pat Flynn's. I ended up, two years ago, applying and getting into Pat's one-year accelerator program. So me and 10 other businesses got to spend about a year with him and learn new things that were super valuable.
Pat Flynn started off with test prep stuff, too, with architects. So he's like, "Dave, of course, you have to have a free practice test." I'm like, "Oh, I didn't know." So I developed like a free practice test and we started running that as an ad, "Hey, just download this free practice test."
So people will do that and then we help them work that practice test and teach them some of the answers. And it illustrates that this test is hard, you need help. And it kind of also shows we know what we're talking about. And so we send them some emails and try to get them to sign up that way.
So that's been a really big email list booster. And some people just get the practice tests, and they don't buy our course. But then maybe they'll buy a different course from us down the road. So that's one of the main things we have right now is that practice test. And that's actually what you see on our homepage on our website, too. And we run that as an ad as well.
I liked that image, too. That image is just captivating. I don't even need to go learn how to do a drone, but I just wanted to go download that book because it looks...
David, you've just been a wealth of information. And I feel like we could just go down so many rabbit holes. So I'm going to have to get you back on the podcast and deep dive into some of these other processes you're talking about.
But someone out there listening right now just launched a course and it flopped. And they didn't make any sales. It didn't do what they thought they were going to do. What would you say to that person?
First off, definitely don't get too discouraged and give up because, like I said, the difference between a million-dollar course and a totally failed course is, a lot of times, just marketing or positioning. But if they do have any type of audience, I think the biggest thing in having a successful course is just really understanding and knowing what people want, what they want to learn, and what their real problems are.
So I don't know exactly what industry or niche they might be in, but one of the things we do now is we do tons of surveys. I get on calls with people on our email list, and I look through our Facebook groups. The more you can understand what people are griping about and what people's hard parts are, the better idea you're going to have for what to target your course round.
If you make your course around something nobody cares about, then it is going to be possible to sell. But you just have to stick with it. Make sure you're teaching people what they want to know on a course. And then even when you do have that, you gotta make sure that you're communicating that in an effective way.
You can't just send one email and expect everybody to come out of the woodwork and buy. You have to teach people. You have to tell them, why should you care about this? How is this going to help you? Tell them about the process you used to come up with this and how you discovered it and all that. I think that's really important. Just don't get too discouraged and stick with it.
Awesome. That's very well said, Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years? Where would you like to take this business?
Oh, man, good question. I don't know. Right now, we're really focusing on teaching people how to start drone businesses. So we have all these people have gotten their license and they know some drone skills. So we're really focusing on, hey, how do you actually run a drone service business.
We actually just launched a course called Drone to 1K with a beta group going right now. That's been pretty successful with the people that are in there so far, and they're enjoying it. So I think if we can get this dialed in, I'm hoping this will be the next phase for the company is focusing on helping people start profitable drone businesses.
Yeah, that's brilliant because you're guiding them along the next logical step, right?
You've got them their license, and now they're ready to go. And they say, "Okay, I got my license. What do I do now?" And you come along and say, "Well, why don't you start your own business? I can show you how to do that."
Awesome, cool, David. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. We appreciate your time and just being here and sharing all this great advice. Where can people find out more about you online if they want to come check out what you're doing?
If you just want to follow my ramblings and thoughts, I use my Instagram. It's just David Young.xyz or you can go to our website. It's dronelaunchacademy.com if you want to see more of the company stuff. On my Instagram, I try to post some kind of behind the scenes stuff as I'm doing things or launching things. So I would say either Instagram or just our website.
Perfect. Thanks, David, for coming on the show today. We appreciate you and appreciate your time coming on and helping out.
Yeah. Thanks, Jeremy. Appreciate you having me.
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