Validating your online course idea through in-person interviews is a key step in online course planning. Here are 9 great ways to find people to help you validate your online course.
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses.”
No one really knows what they want, but everyone has a need.
If you’re a course creator, your audience might say they want to lose weight.
And you can think of 10 great ways to help them do that.
But what’s missing from what they want is their underlying need. And that’s something you can’t guess at. They have to tell you.
This is where market validation comes in for your course idea. Set aside some time to talk to your target audience to validate your course – and not just through a survey.
In this post, we’re sharing where to find people to validate your online course idea and how to ask them for help (without sounding sleazy). We’re also sharing some ways to incentivize people to help you.
Talk to Former Clients for Online Course Validation
A great place to start your course validation is with any former or current clients. If your online course revolves around something you’ve done as a service, clients you’ve worked with is a great first step.
Even if it’s only somewhat related to what you’re teaching, they might provide some great insight. And if they’re not exactly the right people, utilize them by asking them if they know anyone you can talk to.
Ask People Who Have Already Bought a Course or Book on Your Topic
A great method for online course validation is to check what online courses or books are available about your topic.
But if you want to go deeper and actually talk to people (which I highly suggest), try finding people who have read those books or taken those courses. Connect with people on Goodreads who have read the books your target audience is reading, see what they did or didn’t like about them.
Ask people in your Facebook groups if they’ve read certain books or taken certain courses. Or ask them what courses or books even exist on your topic (if your Facebook group is related to your topic).
When they respond, tell them you’re doing research on a course idea and would love to pick their brain about that topic if they’re open. Ask them why they read the book they did, and where it came up short. Use these conversations to build up ideas for what you can include in your training.
Ask Peers Who Might Be in Touch with Your Target Audience
We already mentioned asking clients if they could refer you to people, but what about other people you know?
You probably have a Facebook profile, why not ask your friends and family if they know anyone with the specific traits and values you’re looking for?
Or even ask friends in casual conversation when you see them in person. Email, DM, reach out to anyone you know that might know the type of people you’re looking to speak to. Ask them to set up an email introduction, or just pass along their social profile or email info.
Search Twitter Hashtags to Find People in Your Target Audience
There’s a couple of ways you can use Twitter hashtags to find your target audience to interview.
First, use the hashtags your target audience uses to follow people in your niche and see if they’re a good fit. Maybe favorite a few of their posts, and mention them in posts they might like.
You might not be able to tell right off the bat if they’re a good fit, just by looking at their tweets. You might need to follow them for awhile and see what they’re about.
But eventually, try and message them about setting up a short, 15-minute interview with them regarding your course. You could even mention them in a tweet and ask publicly, so they’re not too put off by a stranger messaging them privately about an interview.
You can also try and find Twitter chats related to your niche and participate in those – that’s a goldmine for uncovering clues about your audience, and making friends to speed up the process of asking them for an interview.
One other tip: make a list of popular events your target audience goes to and search the trending hashtag for that event to make friends and join the conversation. You’ll always find people tweeting at live events, and looking to voice their opinions!
Dial into LinkedIn to Find People to Validate Your Course Idea
People are SO open to connecting on LinkedIn, it’s ridiculous. Since it’s a professional platform, people are more open to helping and offering feedback.
You could message people personally or publish a post saying you’re looking to speak to a specific type of person.
I’ve found that when messaging personally, video works really well. If you send them a video message, they are much more likely to respond because it’s more personal, and no one is doing this.
I recently received a video message from a guy who was creating a video platform. He wanted my feedback on the platform he was creating for market validation.
I probably wouldn’t have responded had he not sent me a video. The video made it seem like he put more effort into our connection, which was more personal and made me want to respond.
Ask People in Facebook Groups Where Your Target Audience Hangs Out
Facebook groups are my favorite places to connect and ask for feedback. And they’re great for finding people to validate your online course idea.
First, I’d join a course creator group and ask if anyone fits your ideal customer. Other course creators will be more willing to help you out because they’re in the same boat. They know what it’s like to do market validation.
Next, join Facebook groups where your target audience hangs out. Do some lurking to see what the pain points are, and read the guidelines to make sure your questions won’t get you banned from the group.
In these groups, don’t say you’re doing market validation. People who aren’t so steeped in the course creator world be turned off. Instead, say something like, “Hey guys, I’m curious, what are your thoughts on…”
You could say you’re just looking to connect with people for a virtual coffee date. If the conversation goes well, you could say you’re toying with the idea of creating a course around the subject. It’s easier to tell people face-to-face after they get to know you a bit. They’ll probably be more willing to voice their opinions.
Ask Your Newsletter Subscribers
If you have an existing list, see if anyone would be willing to have a short call with you. Tell them you’re looking for better ways to serve them or that you’re interested in hearing directly from them about whatever they’re experiencing in your industry.
With newsletter subscribers, you could also offer an incentive to get people to book short calls with you. You could offer them a gift card or enter them into a giveaway for sharing their opinions with you.
Attend In-Person Meetups or Events Where Your Target Audience Hangs Out
In-person meetups or events are great ways to hear directly from people because they are already willing to talk. Why else would they show up to an in-person event?
Use Meet Up to find local events in your area. Or you can try local places where you think your target audience hangs out. For example, if students are your target audience, can you hang out in a university library for a couple of days and ask questions? A great incentive there would be a Starbucks gift card!
Wherever you decide to go, remember not to go trying to sell. Go to get interactions and learn from discussions other people are having.
The Non-Direct Way of Validating Your Course Idea
Another way of finding people to validate your course is through using non-direct methods, like surveys. I wouldn’t use surveys as your main form of market research, because talking to people is pure gold.
But non-direct methods are helpful too. And who knows? Maybe you could make some friends from these methods that will turn into phone interviews.
Use the Questions Feature on Instagram
Are any of your ideal customers following you on Instagram? Try and validate a few areas of your course by asking them questions you have. There’s even a question feature you can add to your Stories that makes it easier for people to answer.
People love responding to Stories on Instagram, and they love engaging when asked.
Try Fiverr for Market Validation
I found a great gig on Fiverr when I was just starting Proof Mango, for market research. A guy on there had access to a software that allowed him to send surveys to tons of people. And you could pay different prices to narrow down to a specific niche.
This was an affordable option to get 100 people to take your survey without finding them yourself.
Use Survey Monkey to Survey Your Target Audience
Survey Monkey does this, too. They allow you to create a survey and then pay to send it to people they find for you. This is a great secondary option to diversify where you’re sending your survey to.
However, pricing is a bit higher. It’s $1.00 per survey response, so 100 responses can be a little pricey.
Try Google Surveys to Reach Your Target Audience
Google Surveys is a great option, too! I’ve tried this in the past too, but found it was a little on the pricier side.
They don’t give you a dollar amount per response, but once you submit your survey and your targeting information, they give you a price. And since it’s Google, you can bet their reach is pretty good.
Best Ways to Validate Your Online Course Idea Without Sounding Sleazy
The best ways to get people to help you validate without feeling like you’re being sleazy, is to:
- Be confident in what you’re asking about. You’re not stealing or doing anything bad. People are willing to help people who sound like they know what they want. Adjust your mindset to reflect this.
- Be curious in your ask. Start out with “I’m curious…what has been your challenge with…”? People love to talk about what’s challenging them.
- Be gracious when you ask. People always want to help people who are kind and courteous.
- Be honest. If you’re in a place to share you’re creating a course, be honest. Say you’re playing “marketing detective” and what love to get some insight or hear from people who are X.
Because it’s easier to talk about being confident than it is to actually do it, I’ve shared a few examples for validation asks I’ve seen in Facebook groups below.
For groups where it’s okay to talk about market validation:
Hey guys! I’m creating an online course on how to be gluten-free on a budget. I joined an online program to help me create this course, and one of the assignments is to reach out to people who would be interested in a course like this for some feedback. If eating gluten-free on a budget has been a struggle for you, would you be open to answering a few questions from me? Thank you so much!
Hey guys, I’m validating my course idea and would love your insight if you think you are my ideal client avatar! Here’s my ICA info below.
- You struggle with X
- You struggle with Y
- And you can’t afford Z
If this feels familiar, would you be willing to answer a few questions to help me peek inside your world and make sure what I’m creating hits the mark for you?
For groups where it’s not okay to talk about market validation:
Has anyone in this group ever had any trouble eating gluten-free on a budget? I know this has been a struggle for me in the past. I’d love to connect with anyone who has also had this issue. Thank you!
Hey guys, I’m curious, what challenges have you had with eating gluten-free on a budget? I’m a health coach and I’ve been hearing some of the challenges are x, y, and z, but I wanted to see if these were an issue for anyone else. If so, would you mind if I picked your brain about them? I want to make sure I’m serving my audience in the best way possible. Thank you guys!
Incentives for People Who Help You Validate Your Online Course
Even though most people are willing to offer feedback for free when you ask for it, or share their personal experience, it’s always nice to offer an incentive if you’re not getting any takers.
Try incentivizing people with a few of the methods below.
- By them a coffee ($5 Starbucks gift card)
- Starbucks/Amazon gift card giveaways (you enter them in the giveaway if they help)
- A free beta version of your course once it’s launched
- Time swap – they can borrow you for something if they ever need help
- 15-20 mins at the end of each call for free coaching from you
Don't Take the Easy Road – Talking to Real People is Worth It
It’s easy to send a survey too 100 people and get feedback without talking to people. But you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to find areas people really need help with.
The gold is in how people say what’s bothering them, and in the new problems they uncover for you to solve when they’re talking out loud to you.
You could think something is a problem for someone, and by talking to them, realize what their actual problems are (and what words they use to describe them).
Listen to where your target audience gets stuck and fails at what they’re trying to accomplish. That is the solution you need to build for them.
And remember, people can tell you what they want, but you need to build what they need. And you’ll figure out what they really need by listening to the problems they share with you.
Now, I Want to Hear From You
Where do you get stuck in validating your course idea? Have you talked to anyone yet? What’s your biggest struggle?