Turning a Brick-and-Mortar Business into an Online Course Program with Michele Caruana

May 2, 2022
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In today’s episode, we have Michele Caruana with us and she is going to talk about how she built a brick and mortar business and now teaches others how to do the same with online courses.

You will also get to hear why you can build trust and authority by sharing the mistakes you’ve made, why a shorter course that gets results is better than a long and drawn-out one, and simple YouTube video strategies you can implement immediately.

Website: michelecaruana.com
YouTube: playcafeacademy | Michele Caruana
Facebook: playcafeacademy | michelelynncaruana
Twitter: michelemcd13
LinkedIn: Michele Caruana

Notes

In this episode, you will hear...

… Michele’s story on why and how she launched, operated, and scaled her own indoor playground business.

… how she built a brick-and-mortar business and now teaches others how to do the same with online courses.

… how Michele took here on-on-one consulting to an online course. 

… why you can build trust and authority by sharing the mistakes you’ve made.

… why a shorter course that gets results is better than a long and drawn-out one.

… simple YouTube video strategies you can implement immediately.

… how to deal with and overcome “imposter syndrome” as a course creator. 

… Michele’s tips on how to get feedback from your audience to refine your course. 

… how Michele creates individual lead magnets for her course. 

… how Michele built her course outline with a refined and condensed blueprint for her course.

Resources

Transcript

Jeremy Deighan
What's up everyone, thank you for listening to the podcast today. I'm excited for you to be here. And I'm excited to have our guests today, Michele Caruana from Play Cafe Academy, who has a very cool, unique business structure.

And I'm just really excited to hear her story and how she's taken this business of hers and has expanded it and has been teaching others and helping others. And so I'm excited to have you on the podcast today. How are you doing, Michele?

Michele Caruana
I'm great. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, this is really cool. You have this unique business, where you are, you know, helping people set up these indoor playgrounds. Is that correct?

Michele Caruana
Yep, that's correct. So I actually started out in the corporate marketing world. So my kind of transition into the play-based business industry was a little bit of a surprise.

So a few years into my marketing career, I ended up having my first child and going back to work didn't really go as expected. And I actually after many months, I decided that it would be best to leave my job. So I did. But being a stay at home mom was really never something that I envisioned for myself in terms of a role.

So I started researching business ideas that I could do at home that involved my family, because I knew that was going to be one of the requirements in order for me to do it. And I came across the indoor playground industry.

And I noticed it because my husband was traveling a lot at the time, and we would kind of tag along. And I noticed that a lot of areas and cities had these really cool play cafes, kind of like smaller format, indoor playgrounds. So not so much like the discovery zones of the 90s. These are much smaller footprint, more relaxed, more imaginative play based facilities.

And I noticed that our area really didn't have anything like it. So a couple months later, I signed a lease and dove headfirst into owning an indoor playground.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's wild. So what was it about the indoor playground? You just liked the structure of the business? Was it that you had a child? And it would be something for them? Like what drew you to that?

Michele Caruana
Yeah, so honestly, I didn't even really consider an online business. To me at the time, my vision has certainly shifted since then. But at the time, you know, the gold standard of business ownership was owning a brick and mortar facility, right? I wanted a place that I could have, you know, bring my family to, to call my own actually have, you know, a lock and key and things like that.

And it just felt very real. Now I know that online businesses are a very real thing, but at the time, it just felt very legitimate to me. And like I said, I really wanted to create a space that I felt like I could bring my family to and that I felt like my, my son at the time would enjoy.

Now I have two sons who have had many, many birthdays there who have spent many days there with me, but I just wanted a place that I could call my own. So I was very interested in owning a brick and mortar business. And this just aligned with the season of life that I was in at the time.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, if you can do something that's fun that's for your family, that's really cool, because at least you're moving in a direction that all syncs together, you know? Versus picking something just way out of left field.

So I imagine this starting this company, had your trials and tribulations in the beginning. What was that like? Was this a business that you bought and was already set up? Or did you have to build everything from the ground up?

Michele Caruana
So we built everything from scratch from the ground up. So everything from the business name to the concept to the actual building. So the building was in existence, but it was a completely unfinished business. They had very recently constructed it and it was just a dirt floor on the inside. So no plumbing, nothing.

Everything was designed and built, like I said, from the ground up by us. And it was definitely like you said very difficult at the beginning. Something that I learned really quickly is that this industry and this business model is highly nuanced and it's a struggle to make it work.

And those first couple years, brought a lot of surprises and I went to school for finance and economics and I felt like I had a really strong business background. But again, even I was very surprised at how difficult it was to not only break even, but also make the income that I desired because I did leave my corporate job to open this business.

So I wanted to have a business, not just an expensive hobby or not spend all of these hours and all of this time and mental energy into a business that wasn't actually going to benefit my family at all financially. So it was very difficult.

And something that I noticed is that nobody was really talking about it, right? None of the other indoor playground owners in the space, whether it be my local area or around the world, we're really talking about how difficult it was and how the indoor playground industry failure rate is actually even higher than the standard brick and mortar business failure rate.

And I noticed nobody was sharing tips, nobody was sharing information, I started reaching out to other indoor playground owners who were seemingly, you know, more successful, and nobody wanted to talk or collaborate. And I thought that was really strange.

So it took me a long time to finally crack the code I did after a couple years, I figured out how to make it work and make the income that I wanted to as a business owner, but it felt very lonely. And it felt like I had nobody to turn to.

And that's kind of where my business idea came from to help others kind of not only avoid the mistakes I made when creating this business, because I definitely made a ton of mistakes. That's one of the first things that you'll hear about when you sign up for one of my programs, but also so that people didn't feel like they were alone in doing it, right?

Because entrepreneurship and business ownership can be very lonely, especially in an industry that doesn't like to share secrets. So that's kind of where my current business idea came from.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, very cool. Yeah, I mean, entrepreneurship, like you said, can be a very lonely business, because you have this drive, and you want to get out there and you want to start your own business. And I don't know about you, but me personally, none of my friends were doing this.

And so I didn't have anyone to turn to I didn't have anyone to ask questions. All my business friends, I've found online, right? Like even to this day, like I start talking to business to friends and family, and they just kind of zone out like, "Are you talking about that again?" You know?

So that's pretty awesome that you set that up, because I feel like it is important to have a community or have people who are like minded coming together into a space where they can geek out on the things that interests them, you know? It's great that you talk about the mistakes, because that's important, you know?

If anyone out there is listening right now, and they're creating an online course, or any kind of training program like that, I think, like you said, it's important to talk about those things in the beginning, like, these are the hurdles, these are the mistakes that a lot of people make, these are the things that you need to look out for going forward.

Because we tend to think that we're going to start a business, it's going to make a million dollars, and it's going to be hunky dory. But that's not the case, like, there's going to be things that you have to learn along the way. So this is pretty awesome.

So we'll talk about you transitioning into your current business now, which is helping others, you know, launch, operate and scale their own indoor playgrounds. But I had a quick question is the original business, the brick and mortar, or do you still have that business?

Michele Caruana
So I actually ended up moving out of the area. So at the conclusion of our five year lease, we ended up selling the business. So that's also something that I include in my programs is how to prepare your business for sale and get the most profit that you can from ultimately selling it. Because honestly, this business model is physically and mentally exhausting.

And most people don't realize how all consuming it can be. So I kind of went into this business deciding right from the get go that I was only going to operate it as long as my kids were in the right age for the facility. So now that my kids are in school full time and they had a shot of the play area, I ended up selling the business to another local family.

Now, unfortunately, this was in March of 2020. So we all know what happened shortly after that. So they ended up relocating the business to another area and they have actually yet to reopen. So they still have all of the equipment, they still have everything ready to go but they haven't reopened.

Unfortunately, their family faced a lot of health issues in terms of the pandemic, but I was able to successfully sell the business and transition fully to online.

Jeremy Deighan
Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, I guess it makes sense that there comes a point when your 18 year old teenager probably doesn't want to have their birthday party at the playground anymore.

Michele Caruana
We wanted to move back to our hometown and it would it just would have been a little bit too difficult to manage your physical facility from a remote location. It's just not one of those business models.

Unfortunately, even if you set up all of your systems and everything like that correctly, it's still really helpful to have a physical presence there. So once we decided to move back to our hometown, we kind of said, "You know what? It's time for us to pass the torch on to another local family." And like I said, we still hope to see them reopen, they do plan to. So my best wishes are with them in the future.

Jeremy Deighan
Awesome. Very cool. All right. So this takes us into your online business. So you got to a point where you had learned a lot of things. You got really good at this business. And you're like, "Hey, let me help some others do the same."

So could you tell us a little bit about that? What was that transition like, coming into the online space?

Michele Caruana
Sure. So it was honestly a very slow progression for a lot of different reasons. But essentially, what happened once I started finding success, and once like I said, I cracked the code to actually making a good income, which, honestly, not a lot of people do.

Once I started finding that success, my email inbox became flooded with people wondering how I was doing it. And it just became really overwhelming to deal with all of these inquiries. So I started charging for my expertise, I started doing one on one consulting, and I noticed that I was always answering the same questions. And people were always overcoming the same objections.

And I felt like it was just a very repetitive process. And also, I was holding still the brick and mortar facility at the time. So I had a very limited schedule. And I wasn't able to do as much consulting as I wanted to.

So that's where my idea for an online course came to be. So I felt like I could package all of the things that I was telling people and all of this advice that I was giving, in my one on one calls into an online program that people could take at their own pace to kind of remove that one on one time requirement from that equation, because it just wasn't sustainable.

By that time., I had had another child and he has special needs. So it was just not going to be sustainable for me to keep up with. But I still wanted to help people enter this industry successfully.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's cool. That's kind of where my business comes into is, you know, helping coaches and consultants, people who have that one on one time constraint, and they want to scale their business to a much wider audience.

And like you say, you know, generally, you find out that there's only so many questions that people really have, this is something I learned over the past couple years teaching online courses is like, there's only a dozen or so questions that people are really interested in, like, you know, the technology, what platform to choose, and that kind of stuff.

So when you start paying attention to that, and this is, you know, speaking to the audiences, you will find out that, you know, you will overcome those same objections in the same questions, and then you can package that up into an online course.

And then that can answer a lot of those things for people now, they might still need accountability, or community or so forth. So that's pretty cool that you found that out. Before you started the course, you were doing one on one.

Were you doing anything outside of that? Were you know, blogging, or podcasting at that point? Or was it strictly that you just did your one on one consulting and then went straight into an online course?

Michele Caruana
So not at that point. I was doing one on one consulting. And then once I decided to start packaging my content into an online course, I started listening to podcasts, I started reading books about starting an online business, because it was something that was completely foreign to me.

And I figured out that I could really make an impact and grow my audience for the online business. Because at this time, my audience was primarily local, which I didn't necessarily want to teach people within a few miles of me how to open a business exactly like my own.

So I knew I needed to cast a wider net, and really reach people from around the world. And I felt like YouTube was going to be the best place for me to do that. What I teach is, a lot of times, it's very visual, not so much now. But when I was actually in the thick of it, operating my facility, it was very visual.

So I started my YouTube channel kind of at the same time I launched my course now, at the time, I was a little bit naive, and I thought that I could create, you know, one, or two or three, really well done YouTube videos. And that would be kind of my lead generation force or my online business.

But I ended up keeping going with YouTube. So it's been three years now I still do a video almost every week. And that's still my number one source for leads. But I was a little bit naive and thinking I could just create one or two videos and call it a day.

But I also didn't realize how big my online course was going to get. And I didn't know at the time that it was going to become my complete business. So I didn't start on YouTube or anything like that until I actually launched my programs. And then a couple years later, more recently, I got into podcasting as well.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, cool. Awesome. Let's talk about the course first because it sounds like that was kind of the starting point. I'll ask you a couple questions on that. And then we can maybe talk about some YouTube strategies that are working for you, and then maybe get into the podcasting, which is, you know, one of my favorite ways to communicate with the audience.

So the online course, you said, "Okay, I'm going to take this information, and I'm going to pack it up into an online course." What did it look like in the beginning? I mean, I assume that this was also a new process for you.

So you know, what was it like? And how did you get through that process of taking that information and getting it uploaded to a place where you could, you know, present it to others?

Michele Caruana
That's a great question. And for me, I was very lucky in that I really documented my own process of opening my business. So I wrote everything down when it came to, you know, finding a location signing a lease. So I had everything outlined in terms of what steps I had to take to open my business.

So essentially, what I did is I combined all of that documentation, along with all of the information that I felt myself repeating on those one on one calls. And I came up with a 12 step blueprint. And that's really how it started. And again, each module is really designed to be taken one after the other.

So a lot of times with online courses, I think a mistake a lot of people make is just saying, "Oh, yeah, you can consume the content at your own pace, you can jump around if you want." But I'm very clear in the beginning modules of my course, that, "Hey, this is meant to be sequential. So do not take Module Four until you've taken module one."

Because a lot of times people want to jump ahead of themselves and start designing their play space and their marketing plan. And all of that stuff really comes secondary to a lot of the bigger decisions. And a huge mistake that I see a lot of people make is skipping over those little things at the beginning.

So I came up with a 12 step blueprint, and those became my modules. So it really started with the course outline. And that was honestly the hardest part because I felt like, if I didn't pour every single thing I knew about this industry into the course, I felt like it wasn't going to be good enough.

And I also definitely struggled a lot with imposter syndrome, because I knew that, like I said, before that I made mistakes, and especially my biggest mistake came to choosing a location and signing a lease, I was definitely one of those people who wanted to skip to the fun stuff. And I felt like a location was not a very consequential choice, which ended up being.

So again, I started with the course outline, but I had to really get over myself a little bit in that I knew I needed to just get it out there. And so I've actually re recorded my course, several different times over the last three years. And I kind of go back sometimes and look at that first version and think, you know, it was over 40 hours of content, which is absolutely crazy.

So something that I've done over the last couple of years is really taken that same 12 Step blueprint, but really refined it and condensed it. And I kind of had to realize like, I don't need to import every single thing I know about every little thing into the course, I just need to get people results.

And people are willing to pay more for a faster transformation for an easier to consume piece of content. So I kind of had to learn that along the way. But I ended up recording those 12 modules. I chose Thinkific at the time for my course platform, I've since switched.

But I kind of just took it step by step, I didn't really think too hard about what platform I was going to choose or anything like that I just was really quick to get that first version out into the world, I had people that I kind of pre sold the course to so I gave myself a little bit of time limit there.

And I just said, "You know, this is my first version, I'm open to feedback." And I listened really closely to where people were still getting stuck, where people were having issues where the information that I put together maybe could have been a little bit more concise or clear. And then like I said, I re recorded it several times. And now I'm extremely happy with the final version right now.

Jeremy Deighan
Oh, preach on Michele. Preach on. This is great. You mentioned a lot of wonderful things here. I think you made a lot of good points. And for anyone listening right now, I just want you to take a moment to really pay attention.

Maybe go back and listen to this episode again, because I think there were some great nuggets of information. So you mentioned you know, the outline was a hard part. That you wanted to try to stuff everything that you could add to that.

The first thing that you mentioned after that was the imposter syndrome that you had made mistakes and you felt like maybe, you know, who am I to teach this, that I'm making them as these mistakes?

So thinking about the person right now, who is you know, creating their first online course or thinking about creating their own course and they're also feeling that impostor syndrome like, "Who am I to teach this?"

How did you overcome that? And what could you tell the listener right now, who is struggling without how they can overcome it also?

Michele Caruana
So like I said, I did struggle with that for a long time. And honestly, I still work on overcoming it. I actually just released a YouTube video with that exact title, the "Who am I to be teaching this?" the other day because it is still something that I have to fight against.

But how I was really able to overcome it is I looked at my YouTube comments, and I looked at the success that my students were getting, even though I only had a couple at the beginning, I got so many messages of thanks, and praise and people saying, "Listen, you saved me 1000 hours of market research by just condensing this content and putting it together and sharing your insight."

So once I realized that there is just as much value for people and sharing those mistakes and sharing what you did wrong, so that they can avoid it, there's just as much value in that as sharing what you did, right.

And sometimes even more so in the mistakes because like I said, in the online business world, it's a little bit different. Because if you choose the wrong course platform or an email service provider, and you don't love it. It's very easy to make a switch.

However, in the brick and mortar business world, if you sign a bad lease, or you choose the wrong location, that's something that is going to affect your profitability for years, for five to 10 years to come. And it is not an easy switch to make. So once I just got over myself, and I said, "Listen, I know I'm not the most profitable owner out there, I know that I could have done a lot differently. I know I made a lot of mistakes, but I'm still going to be open and honest and share all of my insight."

And once I just kind of overcame that, again, the feedback was overwhelming. And anytime I get one of those comments that just kind of digs at me and says, you know, "Oh, I see that your previous indoor playground location isn't open anymore, you know, why should I listen to you?"

I kind of have to go back and say, "Okay, you know, what are my students saying? Are they getting results? What are their businesses doing?" And I kind of go through my list. And I believe the list of indoor playgrounds that have opened with my program is approaching 200 now, and they're all celebrating their second, third years in businesses, they're all profitable.

And I just look at their stories and their successes and all of their emails and kind words. And that's what kind of brings me back to reality and said, Listen, I'm doing the right thing. As long as I'm open and honest, and I am very transparent about those mistakes, then I'm impacting people's lives for the better.

So if anybody's listening and thinking, you know, "Somebody is out there doing this already, or somebody out there knows more about this topic than I do." Not everyone teaches the topic in the same way.

Like, for example, I really generally find myself attracting people who come from the corporate world, or who have a business background, and I get people telling me all the time, you know, what really drew me to you was your style of teaching, because now multiple people are teaching this topic, it's not just me enjoying my 100% market share anymore, but people find us and choose their mentor for different reasons.

And we all have different styles. And we all have different visions for our business. And we all have different systems. So even if somebody out there is doing what you want to do already, or teaching what you want to teach, or maybe you feel like they're bigger, or they have a larger audience than you.

Your value is really in your uniqueness and how you teach and how you deliver information. So once I realized that it kind of opened up a ton of new doors for me.

Jeremy Deighan
I totally agree with you. And you know, going back to what you said about sharing your mistakes, I feel like you build a stronger connection with people, when they can see that you're open, that you're honest, they can see the transformation.

Someone who is you know, may say running ads, and you see they had the Lamborghini, and you're just seeing their success, but you haven't seen their story to get to that success.

I feel like is a little more disconnected than the person who is, you know, upfront and honest and is like, "Hey, look, I made these mistakes in the beginning. I don't want you to make these mistakes, and I'm going to help you overcome them. So you don't, you know, make the same mistakes as me."

I feel like that's going to build a much stronger bond with that customer or with that student. Would you agree with that?

Michele Caruana
Yeah, absolutely. And that's one of the cornerstones of that YouTube channel. And my podcast is, I create tons of videos not just in my course content, but also my public facing content about the mistakes I made. And like you said, I think people really find value in it and connect with it.

And just seeing me be honest and vulnerable and transparent. That is a huge part of my marketing strategy. And it really helps to attract people into that program because I don't pretend like I'm perfect and I'm very, like I said open about that.

Jeremy Deighan
The next thing that you had mentioned is that you said you had you know 40 hours of content and that you've gone back, you've refined the course, you've re-recorded it. And you've just something that you said that I think is very important is that you focus on getting people results.

I see this pop up all the time. And with online courses and new instructors is they believe that say the price is dependent on how much content you put in the course that a longer course, that's 40 hours must go for more money than a 20 hour course. Because it's longer and it has more to it.

But I've always been under you know the thinking that it's not about the length of the course, it's about the results that you're providing, if you can refine your course down and make it more valuable and get their results even faster, that that is going to be more valuable to the student.

So could you just talk on that, too? Because I feel like that's a very important aspect is a lot of people get hung up and trying to create these very long drawn out courses, like you said, and trying to put everything inside of it. But like you said, you know, refining it toning it down, can actually be more beneficial. So what what are your thoughts on that?

Michele Caruana
Yeah, so a couple different things is, first of all, when my course was super long, and when I just poured every single detail into it, I noticed that my course completion rate was really low. And even though I was generating sales, and people were signing up for the course, and maybe working through the first couple modules.

I knew that I was never going to create the impact or like you said, give people the results that I wanted to to create these stories of transformation to get these businesses actually to opening day. And no, like I said now celebrating their second third year anniversary.

So I knew that if people didn't complete my course, if they didn't have time to do it, then we would never get to that point. And my course was never going to get any further than it was at that time. So once I noticed that people weren't completing it. And I also noticed that a lot of people were finding my course, right as they were about to sign a lease.

So they were very limited on time, they were kind of, again, finding me at the later stages of their business development. So I knew that I needed to, like you said, get there, get them their results as quickly as possible. Or they were just going to, you know, Mark, buying the course as a checklist item, and they weren't actually going to consume the content, and it wasn't ever going to be able to help them.

So I really had to dig into my course analytics in order to see those numbers and really figure out okay, how can I make this easier to digest? What lessons are people skipping over? Or is there anything that I could take out? Because I really think it's so much has to do with what you don't include just as much as what you do include counts.

So I kind of had to pare it down. And I said, "You know, this topic is important, but maybe it's not right for the course, maybe it's a good podcast episode. Or maybe it's an advanced training for my membership," because I do have a back end membership for my course.

So I kind of had to figure out okay, how can I separate this content into what people absolutely need before they open versus what is more of an operating problem? What can I separate into my membership, that so that I can make sure people are able to consume my course and get results in a timely manner.

Jeremy Deighan
I think that's super important. And even more so with your business, as you mentioned, you know, trim it down and get them actionable results faster, because they can take action, they can get that lease sign they can get their business up and running and not feel like they have to finish this long drawn out course before they can do that.

So that's really cool. I like that. Now the other thing I wanted to talk about too, the last point that I wrote down here was, you also mentioned getting the first version out quickly. This kind of goes hand in hand with creating a long course, because people get stuck in this production phase of creating their online course.

And they're so worried about, you know, making sure that it's perfect before they get the version out. And you mentioned that you wanted to get it out quickly. You wanted to listen to feedback, refine it, and make it better. I think that's an important point also.

Can you talk a little bit about that, you know, making sure that you are, are getting it to the market quicker than spending, say, six months recording everything?

Michele Caruana
Yeah, well, I'm glad that I got it out quickly. And I think that was one of the factors that led to my ultimate success, because I had people who I had promised consulting to that I was like, "You know what? Instead of paying me $200 an hour, I'm going to give you first access to this course that I'm creating."

And, you know, "I'm gonna give you a, let's say, founding member discount, or original member discount. And in exchange, I would just love some feedback. So I'd love to hop on the phone with you for 15-20 minutes after you take the course, so that I can get your feedback."

And I think that was one of the most important things for me. So by reaching out to those people and kind of promising them this, I gave myself a deadline, right? So I had told them, "Okay, I'm gonna release this by, I think it was January of 2019."

And then they were in my Instagram DMS and my messages every single week, like, "When is it coming out? When is it coming out? I can't wait. I'm about to sign my lease. When is it going to come out?"

So having those, you know, people kind of edging me along, that really helped the process. But I'm glad that I reached out to them. And I did give myself a deadline, or else, I probably would have been one of those people who let it drag on for six or eight months, and just telling myself, "Oh, it needs to be perfect. I need to edit these videos a little bit better."

Or, you know, "I forgot to include this one thing." So what I did was, like I said, I gave myself a deadline. And then I stuck to it. And I just said, You know what? It's not perfect. And like I said, I was very honest with those first couple customers.

And I said, "Online course creation is something that's completely new to me. So I am open to any honest feedback." And I'm glad that I got it out there quickly, because they did have a lot of feedback. And I had to, you know, eat a little humble pie at the beginning.

And I had to say, "Okay, I completely understand. Thank you so much for your feedback." And I kind of went back to the drawing board a little bit. And I'm glad that I did, because it ultimately gave me the course that I have today.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice. Yeah, that's awesome. It's super important to reach out to get that feedback to talk to people refine the program, and do what it takes to make sure that you're creating the best product possible.

I've seen courses out there, even some of my courses that I put on some platforms years ago, it's getting to the point where I just need to shut them down because they haven't been updated. And I don't feel like you're providing the best results if you're not going back and refining those programs, and just making them the best that they can be to help people.

I mean, that's why we're here right is to help people out and get them results. This has been really great information. If we could just take a couple minutes and maybe talk about your YouTube strategies. I just wanted to get to that before we have to finish up the interview here.

Because I I feel like you've been given some great information on the course I have a million questions I could actually. So maybe one day, we'll have you back on as a follow up podcast episode.

So you started with a YouTube around the same time that you launched your first course, you mentioned one of the mistakes in the beginning was, you know, not putting enough content up there. And just hoping that you know, three videos was going to, you know, be the main lead generation for YouTube.

I'm assuming later on, you figured out that you needed to add more content. So what are some things on YouTube that you could talk about that are working for you and some mistakes that you found along the way that if anyone wanted to start a YouTube channel to help drive traffic to their online course that they could focus on?

Michele Caruana
Yeah, so something that I think has really translated into success on YouTube is, every piece of content that I make there is very intentional. So I do a lot of keyword research, I see what a trending topics are, I see what people are actively searching for.

So I utilize things like to buddy, which is honestly only $9 a month, and it's a great investment for me. I type in certain keywords or video topics. And it tells me "Hey, this is going to be great for your channel, it's going to get a lot of views or no it's not" and it gives me you know, a score out of 100.

So I love to utilize tools like that to make sure that I'm not just throwing spaghetti at the wall, right. I'm not just putting videos out there and hoping they get traction. It's very, very intentional because YouTube videos require a lot of effort and a lot of production and editing and getting ready and setting the stage and scripting and things like that.

So I make sure all of my content is really intentional so that people will actually find it and something that I've grown to love about YouTube is that it's a great lead generation engine. So when people find my YouTube videos, they always have a call to action in them.

And it's not always sign up for my course or purchase this product from me or anything like that it's, Hey, grab my free resource, it's linked in the show notes or the video description rather. And that's where I get, I would say, more than 50% of my organic leads from is just from the links that I share inside of my YouTube video descriptions.

And at the time, I started my YouTube channel, I only had one lead magnet. So it was just a very short PDF guide on how to get started in the indoor playground industry. And it was some, you know, questions to ask yourself and deciding if the business was even viable in your area and things like that.

So I make sure that every single video is intentional and has a call to action, that is something that is much more approachable and easy for people to do, then purchase something. So I always have a ton of free resources. Again, at the beginning, I just had one.

Now I have tons of free resources and mini courses and toolkits that people can download or purchase for a small amount. And all of those eventually lead into my email, nurture sequences, and then ultimately lead to purchases. But what I love about YouTube is that, as someone that has a video course is it really gives people an introduction to my video teaching style.

So it gets them used to not only my personality and my style, but also to learning from me on camera. So it's a really easy transition for them to say, I've been learning from this woman on YouTube for years now, it's a natural progression to say, "Okay, I'm ready to consume her paid video content."

But having that content out there in the same medium that my courses in, in this case video, I think has really helped because my audience is not, you know, a serial course creator audience, right?

A lot of audiences out there are. They are very used to purchasing online courses, and they're very used to online education, my audience isn't. So that's a big objection that I have to overcome with them is getting them used to the idea of learning online and learning from me on video.

So I have a little course survey that I send to people after they purchase and after they complete my course. And almost 100% of them say that they've watched my YouTube channel for more than six months before purchasing my program.

So putting out that regular content, and making sure I keep showing up on those free platforms was extremely important for me getting my business off the ground. But it's also important for my long term strategy. And right before we have done, I actually dug into my YouTube Analytics a little bit.

And out of my top 10 videos of the last month, three or four of them are from 2018. So it just goes to show you that YouTube is a search engine, right? It's not like social media, where you put a post out there and the shelf life is very short. I'm still getting a ton of views, a ton of leads, and a ton of sales from those very intentional videos that I put out way back in 2018.

So I love that about YouTube, as well as that the shelf life of that content is very long term.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, it's a very powerful platform in those regards. And talking about what you said too, I like for course creators, if I were to recommend a platform to get started on, if people can do it and enjoy it, I say go for YouTube, because of what you said, it seems like it's an easy transition to get people from video content on YouTube over to a video course.

Whereas I really enjoy podcasting and blogging by users for different reasons. Because to get someone to go from listening to a podcast to taking an online course might be a bigger leap than like you said, if someone's seeing you on a YouTube video, and getting to know you and see your teaching style, and then they get kind of an understanding of what it's going to be like inside of your course.

I think what you said makes a lot of sense. And I totally agree with that. Going back to the lead magnets, when you say you have multiple lead magnets now, do you create individual lead magnets Amy Porterfield style for your YouTube videos? Or is it just they sign up and they get like a bundle of lead magnets?

Michele Caruana
Great question. And it really depends. So for a couple of my YouTube videos that are very specific, I do have individual lead magnets for them. But typically I have three what I'll call "cornerstone lead magnets." And they're designed to really meet people depending on where they are in their business journey.

So my customers all have a success path and they all have different phases that they work through. So I have a couple of different lead magnets based on those phases. So I have a lead magnet for what I like to call the daydreamer phase. So people who are thinking about opening this type of business but have really made no concrete plans whatsoever.

They're just exactly what he said. They're just daydreaming. So that's one lead magnet and that's a bundle of PDFs and that's one sign up link, for people that have done a little bit more research who are creating their business plan, and they're working through that process, they're probably choosing a location, I have a different lead magnet for people in that phase.

And that's really more about doing market research and validating your business idea in your area. So that's what I like to call the validating phase. And then something that I also recently started doing is catering more towards current owners.

So over the course of the pandemic, I really felt called to help current owners shift their business model to the changing consumer trends and all of these new rules that we have to deal with and things like that. So I also have a lead magnet for current owners, and it's called a wet working guide.

And what I did was I took all of these different member stories from inside of my membership from all of these business owners who have opened their facility under my program under my guidance. And I said, "Hey, what's one thing that's really working for you right now in 2021," or, you know, I just updated it for 2022.

So I got 20, current indoor playground owners to say, "Hey, it's dropped off playdates, or it's educational classes, or it's doing Balloon Art." So again, I just compiled these 20 different stories from current owners. And that's a lead magnet that I have geared towards current owners that are maybe a better fit for my membership.

So I have those three cornerstone lead magnets to really talk to people and meet them where they are at in their journey. And I just include all of those links and resources along with links to other popular YouTube videos or things like that.

So if you go to my YouTube channel, it's just called Play Cafe Academy. All of my YouTube videos have the same format in terms of a description. So there's a free resource area, there's a premium resources and all of my programs, all of my free resources, all of my paid resources are listed. But if you actually watch the videos, like I said, the main call to action is always subscribe, and it's always download one of my free resources.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, cool. Well, I think that's a good transition to wrap this up. You've been a wealth of information.

And like I said, hopefully, we can get you back on the show one day, because I would love to learn more about some of the things like your launch strategies and how you get people into purchasing and buying and staying in your course.

But just for today, if people want to learn more about you, about your business and everything you have going on, where can they do that?

Michele Caruana
Sure. So, YouTube is where I show up most often. So again, that's called Play Cafe Academy. I do have a second channel, which is just my name. So Michele Caruana. So I share a lot of insight into my course business and things like that there. So they serve two different purposes.

I also have a daily podcast called The Profitable Play podcast, where I share exactly what you said tips in a different format from my YouTube channel. And then my website is just my name. So Michelecaruana.com. I have all of the lead magnets that I mentioned there, and all of my programs and courses.

Jeremy Deighan
Perfect. Well, I will make sure that I link up all of those in the show notes. So head on over there to the show notes and click all the links and visit her and give her much love because she's been awesome today coming on this podcast.

We thank you so much. I appreciate your time for being here. And I just hope that your business continues to explode going into the future.

Michele Caruana
All right, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

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