In today’s episode, we have Ben English with us and he is going to talk about his journey into course creation both online and in the real world.
You will also get to hear his method for creating courses from textbooks that he gets from publishers, how he sells more courses through word-of-mouth than any other medium, and how every course should be presented to keep the student interested until the very end.
In this episode, you will hear...
… how Ben’s passion for traveling the world turned into teaching English around the world.
… his journey into course creation both online and in the real world.
… how Ben transitioned his in-person classes to the online space during the COVID-19 pandemic.
… Ben’s method for creating courses from textbooks that he gets from publishers.
… how Ben sells more courses through word-of-mouth than any other medium.
… how every course should be presented to keep the student interested until the very end.
… how and why Ben uses the high-ticket strategy when selling his online courses.
… why Ben uses the two-for-one promotion with his students.
… why ben’s number one tip is to find out exactly what your audience wants and needs.
… how Ben engages his students by using challenges rather than a course.
Hey, everyone, thanks for checking out the podcast today. We have been English from Inglés Superior with us who's going to talk about his journey into online course creation. And I'm super excited to have you on the show. How you doing today, Ben?
Doing great. Thank you very much, Jeremy for having me.
Yeah, definitely. I'm glad we got to talk a little bit and get you on the show and hear your story. We were doing a little chatting beforehand.
Yeah, just for me. And for others who don't know you. I would love to hear a little bit about your backstory and how you got into this online business world.
Well, I mean, traditionally, I wasn't online. I mean, I've been a course creator from befor everyone was forced to go online, you know, pre pandemic. So my story really goes back 10 years, when I moved to South America.
Let me just start where I'm from. I'm from the UK. But my mum's French. I went to university and did a business degree, just after the time of the economic crisis, it was really tough to get a job. And so what I wanted to do was just travel the world, I was fortunate enough to have my mum who's an air hostess, and I could take a free ticket around the world and discovered the world of teaching English.
And so hence my name Ben English. It's not my original name. My original name is Benjamin Riley, by it's kind of my online nickname. It's what I do. I teach English and it's borrowed from my great grandmother, thanks to her who was Laura Mae English, and so just adopted that as my identity. I've been teaching English for 10 years.
The story continues after traveling and discovering the world Asia, Australia, I went back to Europe and I got a CELTA, which is a certificate of English language training to adults. It's like the higher superior level of certificates for teaching English recognized by the University of Cambridge.
And with that, I flew off to South America, to Buenos Aires, and I started teaching English. And it was interesting, but it was difficult it was it was tough, big city, Buenos Aires didn't speak the language at the time. And so my eyes moved on to Cusco, and to Machu Picchu, where I realized that, you know, wherever there's a high demand for tourism, there's going to be a high demand for English.
This is my life story, in many ways, my signature story. But you know, I went to Costco, I started teaching English. And I saw that there was an opportunity to do better than the competition that was currently there. As I said, I'm from the UK.
So the other schools that were operating were American schools offering American English. So I think the key thing in my story was that I saw a gap in the market, which was the entrepreneurial side, to say that there's some sort of problem that can be offered at a higher kind of quality, or done better.
And of course, who better to teach British English than a guy from England. So I ended up staying, I met a local girl, we have a family, and I ended up creating courses. Now at the beginning, I didn't know how to create my own courses.
So what I did was I use textbooks. So you'd buy textbooks from the publisher, and use those as like the base of your course. And that's kind of like delegating your course to textbooks. And I carried on with that for a long time.
It was only until about 2019 when I really started to realize that the textbooks were very globalized, and I had a very localized problem with Latin American speakers.
And there's very specific issues and recurrent issues. And I felt that I was repeating myself very, very often. And that's when I started to kind of delve into what is you know, online courses and creating them I created some courses for tourists for specific to tourism in Cusco because it's a tourist hub.
But then I decided to take it online when I saw the benefits of the videos of blended learning essentially have the idea of combining giving the information, putting it into one place so you're not forced to repeat yourself as a teacher and lose your time and then.
And what you do is when you get your students together, you're really able to promote the practice of the language, which is the doing. So that's that's kind of my story. Sure, it's quite a long story, but it kind of takes you from where I was, to where I am today.
Not quite because from the pandemic that closed my local business, and forced me even more online. And that's just been a learning curve ever since I think that the competition online is quite a lot of competition. But it's been a roller coaster ride, I'd say that.
Yeah, definitely. And that's a really interesting story. And it's cool to hear where you know, people's steps in life can take them and bring them to a point where you are today.
The textbook thing is kind of an interesting idea. So when you were using those textbooks before 2019, and you were creating courses, where these in person courses that you were teaching?
Yes, so I started out by, basically, I left the company, and I had a little bit of money that I could invest. And so I just went for it. I just didn't know how I was going to do it. But I thought, I'm gonna make a school, I'm going to market a school."
So I built a website, because I realized there was a space and went online for the marketing side. And when it came to the courses, I went to publishers, and I spent an entire day in the publisher saying, "What textbooks do you have? What resources do you have available?"
And I went through them. And I eventually picked out the ones that I thought were the best. And I started out teaching with them. Eventually, I hired my first teacher and moved into an office because I started out in my with just one or three students in my house, we got to about seven students.
And then I found an office in the city center, my numbers grew to 20, 25, 30 and is was all in-person classes. Yeah, I was using these textbooks. And then I could just get the textbook to the teacher, and the teacher would teach those curriculums.
Okay, very cool. And then I like the idea of having that in person training. Because I feel like once you do that, you really get an understanding of how to teach and what students are looking for some people who come into the online course world, don't go through that process.
So it's interesting to see those that do have those in person, teachings like that. So then you started realizing, you know that there were more problems that you needed to solve, that weren't maybe being covered as well in these books or problems that were like you said, more localized to your area.
And that you decided, "Okay, it's probably a good time where I can take the information that I know and turn that into an online course." So what did those early days look like? Did you just pick a platform and throw some videos up? Or how did you go about actually creating that very first course?
Just to go back to your question of the textbooks, the issue with them is that you didn't want to be too book focused either in classes. So it was always about making time for fun activities, games, practicals, role plays that kind of kind of all, I called it the in and out you would be the in and out approach.
So you want you want to be in the book, and then out of the book, and then in the book, and then out of the book, but always in the book is very boring traditional learning.
What the book is, is like, it's like your course, it's like your online course in a way, it's what you have to do is teach your students how to use the book as a resource, and then show them that they had all the information within the book. And they could go back and forth from the course just as we do online courses.
It's always been a part of my methodology to adapt the material. Anyway, that was part of my training. It was only until I had a b2b contracts, I started getting interested in online courses in Kajabi, I think I listened to a podcast with the owner of Kajabi. And I think it was entrepreneur podcast, or something like that.
And I was listening to the owner. And I thought that was really interesting. So I decided to sign up to their platform. And I thought I was going to make loads of money, like immediately. Kajabi is the you know, the premium online course tool. And it's $150 a month, I think the minimum and I got all hyped up about it.
But I did not make I mean, I built the website, the landing page, and I but I didn't get the sales, you know, and it was just, it was like, I can't sustain this $150 is was just too much money. So I learned a lot.
But at the time, I wasn't quite ready to go into it. And they just kept me within the online course game. I went back to Peru. This was when I was back in England. So I kind of touched on him. I was back in England. And just by signing up to Kajabi. You know, you learn a lot, you start to see what the software looks like from the inside. And you also get into the community on Facebook, for example.
So Kajabi and they sent me a sticker which I still got on my on my laptop, which is kind of cool. I went back and I got an opportunity to work with a train company which serves like the tourists back and forth. They needed about training for about 30 people.
And that's when I said to them, "Well, look. How about we do I can make you an online course. So like I do an internal training for you guys. That way you don't have to pay your staff to be in classes."
Why repeat information, because I'm gonna have to teach them stuff. But if I can delegate the teaching to the online space, they can connect onto it. And then we can obviously use the time people don't have a lot of time at work.
So we want to optimize that time for the practice the role plays the fun stuff. Yeah, they they like that. And they forded me money for that space, essentially, pre sold that and I went to Teachable at the time, it was around around November. So it was a black friday year deal. And I got the Teachable for a year.
And so I learned on Kajabi. But then I got to learn a little bit on Teachable. So I uploaded everything onto Teachable, and everything was going great until March 2020, when they said, "Sorry, Ben, there's no tourists, and we're going to have to cut the contract."
And same thing after the school, everything kind of got closed down. So we just went online like everybody else, but then we've been pretty saturated and obviously here in Peru as well, the local economy doesn't really, people didn't really have the internet and stuff like that.
Cool, okay. So they they end the contract and the, you know, the local business type stuff is kind of getting shut down. And then you realize, "Okay, I need to go, you know, full online into this adventure."
So you already had your course up at this point. How did you start driving students to that online course? How are you now getting people to come into that online course that you've built?
Well, honestly, it's word of mouth, it's still word of mouth. It's probably the most powerful thing, because I'm not really pushing the courses right now, I maintain what is group emails, for example, a newsletter.
So constantly sending out, you know, once a week, maintaining Facebook groups, and just having a landing page where any, any new students might want to come in, they can qualify them.
But I have to be honest, that he has not been the same as when I was, you know, at my peak, with the physical students, and a lot of them are calling me because they want to go back to the face to face stuff.
So the online stuff is definitely much more of a challenge, I think, because when I was doing it physically in person, it was almost like there was a team and you know, you really saw the students and you interacted with them. So you feel more inspired to keep going and keep growing online.
It's just like the, I've moved out a very beautiful part in the world. And I've just let people come to me, I haven't pushed myself, I've kind of taken this as a kind of a sabbatical, considering that I did six years with the business.
So the seventh year is kind of the year of the rest, in many ways. But I do feel that 22 is a different year, it's a different, you know, shift in energy. So just like the first school, it's like, I didn't know how I was going to do it. I just knew where I wanted to go. And I figured it out as time went on.
Yeah, that's awesome. You know, it's really interesting to hear how different people go about, you know, getting traffic and getting people into their courses.
Can you tell me a little bit more about how you were able to grow that course and get those initial students into your program?
If you're delivering and if you're giving a great service, that's worthy of telling other people, they will, they will. But sometimes, you're going to have to need to push them a little bit more.
So I found that one of the best promotions that I had was a two for one promotion, because what it would do was he would make other people do the work for you, they'd start telling their friends about you and say, "Hey, let's go and sign up."
And I get my friend and we both pay half price. Now what would happen was that maybe they wouldn't continue, anyone would continue. But still at that point, you know, now two people know you it's twice as many people who know you who have experienced what you're offering, and willing to tell other people about it.
So it's working on with your community, and a two for one offer once in a while. It really boosted my numbers.
So, how does a two for one offer work? That you're getting two courses for the price of one?
I guess you could call it like an affiliate sort of marketing. If you sign up your friend to Airbnb, you send them the email, they get 15% off, but they get $15 of credit. It's the same sort of thing.
I mean, you're essentially letting other people do the marketing for you. You know, in traditional marketing, you know, they say it's all about trust. So if I come to you and try to sell my English course, you have no idea who I am.
So you probably don't trust me. But if your friend comes to you and say, "Hey, you should try this English course." You're, you know, you're cutting out the middleman there you're saying, "Oh, you trust your friend, right and you trust what they say."
So then you to hopefully sign up based on you know, their referral. If you pay people to do that, and you get them incentive, then definitely some of the more savvy people will certainly use that.
Okay, yeah, definitely. So referral type program where you are getting more word of mouth spread outward, because other people are referring you to others in the community.
And then how were you setting that up to do those referrals or affiliate sales?
Well, like I said, I did it very simply, it was just two for one. So like, and again, this is a physical way. So this would just literally would be to two people turn up.
If it's an online space, I assume it would be with a coupon, or with an affiliate program through your course provider, usually Teachable, Kajabi, they have those kinds of options where this internal affiliate programs, it's a little bit more technical as such as with online courses.
When in real life, you could just, you know, turn up with your friends say, "Hey, we're signing up for the same program."
Okay. And then when people are coming to this course, how long are these courses that you're hosting? Or is this so one one day event? Or multiple days?
No, I mean, learning a language takes years. So my course is a two year course, in total. I mean, people probably on average, stayed for about six months. So for one level, so you have, you know, basic, elementary, pre-intermediate, and intermediate, and then maybe an advanced conversation course or a specialized course.
But yeah, essentially, you'd have them for around about 24. Like, the idea would be to have them take them from zero to hero would be about 24 months of Monday to Friday language classes.
Are they purchasing on a monthly or yearly type subscription model?
I started out with monthly, but it was the bigger trick, it is like selling high ticket at that point. So what this is, the high ticket strategy is, you know, you sell one month for you know, 200 or 10 months for 2000, right? And then they're getting off 400.
So getting large chunks of money was definitely so much more worthwhile, just the benefits of having the cash flow. That was great, you know, not having to worry about monthly payments, there was a big cost of time on the admin staff.
You know, if you can get payments done upfront, and you have to worry about it, as long as you manage it well enough, and you keep sales up. I mean, the truth is, with courses that there's you know, there's a relatively high dropout rate.
But I had a four month course, that was much harder to sign up somebody halfway through the course than at the beginning of the course. And as always, I'm in Peru, there's no credit cards, and there's a cash economy.
So getting people to keep going is was quite difficult. And ultimately, I went for the incentivize students to pay up front, and is definitely a much better business model, I would say, to charge a really higher price like $300 for one month, or it was like three months, you know, $500.
You know, people could be like, you know, they would see like, "I'll definitely go for the 500 for 3 months option."
Yeah. We see that, you know, a lot in like software, where you can get the same thing. You can have, you know, six months subscription or 12 months subscription if you pay a little less price, but you know, you're locked in for 12 months.
So that seems like a pretty good business model to have to make sure that you have higher retention rate for the students, correct?
Yeah. And they're more committed as well. They knew that they could come back, even if they missed a few classes. And you know, learning a language is a long process as well, again. It's going to take time.
But yeah, I was happy with the results that I got from doing that that kind of same strategy really, really helped out, especially with time with the administration and calling people to come and pay, you know, it wasn't really worth the extra cost, you know, it really didn't cost that much more to do it that way.
Now, earlier in the interview, you mentioned when you were doing your in person trainings that you didn't want to be just in the textbooks all the time, but you wanted to add in some other activities and things like that to make it a little more fun.
What were some of those things that you were doing, because a lot of things that I teach is for online courses. And I feel like when people make online courses, you create videos, and it can become very boring, just like reading out of a textbook can if that's all you're doing.
So, what are some things that you would apply in your classrooms, that would make it a little more fun and entertaining that we might be able to use with online programs,
Based on my traditional English learning training, what we would do would be to break things down to three sections of PPP, present, practice and then produce.
So, you would be wanting to have this as an hour class, only 10 minutes on the presentation. And then you have 20 minutes on the theory on the practice. And then you would leave half an hour for the production.
So, you're going from very teacher focused, in the presentation stage to much more student focused towards the end of the class. So you know, you're presenting the past tense, and then you're getting them to fill out some worksheets with GAP fields.
And then you're getting them to do role plays, and actually practice those conversations they've learned. I think that is transferable, right? Like you provide the information, and then you're giving them the controlled environment to do in and then allowing them to be creative with the idea.
So, as much student engagement as possible, I think that was always what create results in my students is getting them to do things. Yeah, other ideas, you know, role plays, like I said, is a great one.
Like you're going to be you know, the person at the shop, I'm going to be the person buying at the shop, and we roleplay that out. We can play our activities, we can create vision boards, for example, using a bit of art using, you know, creativity, creating a song.
Whatever really is, as long as it's I think it's incorporating some creativity, some communication and really creating something meaningful out of what you're learning.
Yeah, I feel like this is where we could definitely pull in a lot of this knowledge into the online world. You said earlier that the online course has been a maybe a little more difficult than the in person trainings.
And I feel like this could be one of the reasons is because when we take things online, a lot of people just create videos, and it just becomes very, like you said, very instructor focused, where it's just the instructor teaching and teaching and teaching and teaching.
And we've all been in those lecture halls before, you know where you get that that one college professor. And all he does is he just wants to stand in front of the classroom and lecture for an hour straight, and everyone falls asleep.
But he doesn't need to repeat that, right? He just needs to make a YouTube video now. Put it online. And so it say to his students to go and watch it. And he cam save his breath. And the next lecture can be on something different, right?
It doesn't need to, and the students don't even need to be there to watch it, they can watch it from home. What they should be doing, when they're all together in that lecture room is talking to each other, or doing something or creating something having already having already learned the information previously.
So, everyone comes to class at the same level. Because they everyone's had time to like, watch the material, and you know, process it. So when they come to the classroom, it's this, this make the use of our time together, rather than everyone focused on that one person.
Right. And I feel like you know, if we could bring that same concept into the online world.
So how can we create that community with an online course? How can we bring activities into an online course? How can we have role playing and art and music and visuals inside of the online course?
You know, I think that that would tailor such a better course experience for people than what is typically out there in the online course world. So I feel like these are some really awesome tips and some great advice for people to maybe use inside of their course whether it be in a physical classroom setting, or in an online course world.
So, thinking back to kind of when you first got started and some of the things you've learned getting your online course and even your in person classrooms up and running.
The people who are listening today who haven't started down this journey, who haven't created a course or who want to do this and haven't begun, what would be maybe your best piece of advice that you could give someone like that today?
The most important thing is that you ask people what they want. Don't try and just guess. You really need the market research, basically, and find out what people want, what people need.
And ideally, if you can start making money before you even make it, then like I did with my course, like, I kind of pre-sold it and got the money, and then I paid for the Teachable subscription.
At that point, you know, I didn't have to put any money upfront. And I think that's the way to do it. And the more you do it, the better you get at it. So just keep trying, keep learning. And don't be afraid to ask for help, and get the help that you need.
And I think just going back to the previous kind of question, I think, rather than course, I think if you want to drive up engagement do consider a challenge. I do you think that I had really good results when I made a 21 day challenge, which was released day by day, and I felt that had really really good engagement, rather than just having a course.
Because then you can kind of set it up every month and do it together every month. So that that's that's another piece of advice to think of it as maybe a challenge, rather than necessarily a course.
It might just drive or push the people to actually do it, like we said, on the online space. I think in some ways, it's a little bit more challenging than in real life. And if there's an opportunity to do it on in real life, why not do it in real life, you know?
It doesn't have to be everything online need these days, you can still create courses for your community and the people around you. So you can always start with that too. Right?
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Cool, Ben. Well, this has been some great information. And I appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing your knowledge. If people want to find out more about you and your course and everything you've got going on. Where can they do that?
Yeah, thanks for having me. I go by Ben English. I'm on LinkedIn, Ben English coach. I'm on Instagram as Ben English. And yeah, like I said the company is Inglés Superior. I don't think I'll be rebranding anytime soon.
In any case, I just hope you got some good tips. And I'm feeling a little bit more inspired today to go out and help people particularly what you know.
Awesome. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for coming on today. And I just hope you have a great rest of your week.
Thank you very much, Jeremy for having me.
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