Stephen Lawless from Softintro talks to digital marketing and online sales expert Johnny Beirne about how he built a business on the back of email marketing.
Johnny Beirne mentors experts on building a freedom business through launching their online training business.
Beirne helps experts have more freedom by turning their expertise into an online course. He typically works with speakers, trainers, authors and coaches. But he can work with anyone that has expertise that somebody else is willing to pay for. He helps people create, launch and sell online courses.
“The problem is if those word of mouths stop talking, then you don’t have a sales process you can control”
He has a degree in Quality Management from Sligo IT.
Beirne says he always wanted to work for himself even before he graduated. His first attempt at being an entrepreneur was at 28. He started in management consultancy and quality systems and then moved more into IT and web design.
The first customers
Beirne worked in the Leitrim Enterprise Office for three years. During that time he learned a lot about social media. He had a number of connections in some of the Enterprise Offices around Ireland. He offered all of them and their staff members a free master class on how to use social media.
The Enterprise Offices were aware that they should be running courses on the topic but they weren’t really sure themselves how to do it as the topic was still relatively new at the time. This worked really well for Beirne because it gave the Enterprise Offices an opportunity to try before they bought.
“Offering a sample service for free or at a discount gives you the opportunity to iron out any wrinkles in your course as well as getting testimonials. It also allows you to test the level of demand before creating your course.”
In 2013 Beirne launched his first online course called Facebook for Pharmacists.
Beirne signed up 22 pharmacists before he created a signal video for the course priced at €197 each which was a €100 discount. He had over €4,300 in sales before he had created his course.
He had done research on how his course would contribute to their CPD (Continuous Professional Development) by speaking to the Irish Pharmacy Union and made sure his course was in line with their recommendations.
“It was a course that was available 24 hours a day. It was something they could do in their own time from their own office as well as allowing other staff members to avail of the course. We ticked a lot of boxes to make the course appealing and it worked.”
Most difficult challenges in growing a business
Looking back Beirne says he didn’t focus enough on having his own sales process. “I was lucky enough that social media was relatively new and there weren’t that many people doing it.”
He had a good foothold with the Local Enterprise Offices by offering free workshops. As a result. word of mouth helped him to grow his business.
While these things helped his business, he still didn’t have a sales process in place. “The problem is if those word of mouths stop talking, then you don’t have a sales process you can control.” That was a key lesson for Beirne.
When Beirne worked in web development a lot of construction companies came to him during the recession. They now needed a website, online marketing and social media because they were so busy getting work through word of mouth when that stopped so did their sales.
Beirne urges people to have a clearly defined sales process that you’re in more control of than relying on word of mouth. It’s important to have a marketing strategy that keeps your name out there so you’re working hard on becoming the go to person or business. When someone thinks of social media they think of company x. When people think of online course creation, Beirne is working hard so people say Johnny Beirne is the man to contact.
Tools to manage your sales process
Email marketing: “People buy when they’re ready to buy not when you’re ready to sell. It’s important to have people’s emails and keep in regular contact.” Beirne says he had people on his email list for a number of years who hadn’t bought anything. They hadn’t unsubscribed either. But then at some point they would have bought an online course. Beirne recommends ActiveCampaign which is both a CRM and an email marketing system.
“The key is not the tool itself, although a good one helps, it’s the actual strategy. You need to do education based marketing which is putting good content out there.” For example, Beirne has a free guide “Say it once, sell it often ” on his website which you can access in return for giving your name and email address.
“When you have the email you follow up and you nurture the relationship, you build trust and authority. At some point you tell them about a free webinar and you let the webinar do the up selling. Or you can tell them about a course and there’s an offer available at the moment. For example, there might be a discount available for those on your mailing list.
“The key is serving them well with great information and content,” says Beirne.
Paid ads: Beirne uses paid ads linked to a webinar which does the upsell to a product or service. “The product is an online course and the service would be a one-to-one consultation.”
Appointments: Beirne recommends using Acuity to manage free and paid appointments.
Accounts: Beirne recommends Bullet for accounting. This helps him to manage basic bookkeeping. This keeps him updated on what invoices are outstanding.
Web publishing: If you are considering starting a business Beirne recommends WordPress for your website because of the amount of great plugins available. He also highlights the importance of having a way of tracking invoices.
“Email marketing is the foundation of my business. If I have something new to say, sell or advise, I can send an email to this list very quickly and it works exceptionally well.
“I can highly recommend Beirne’s training and coaching. Worth every penny,” said Joanne Sweeney from DigitalTrainingInstitute.ie
“If you would like to create an e-learning course to capitalise on in-house expertise or you are looking for new ways to connect with your customers I would highly recommend Beirne’s ‘Create your first online course’. He showed us how to structure a course, record and publish it and how to price it and I am looking forward to putting my new skills into action,” added” Anne Walsh from AllergyLifestyle.com.
Main image: Johnny Beirne from johnnybeirne.com
Interview by Stephen Lawless of Softintro.com. who interviews business owners to get recommendations on the best software and tools for small businesses
Published: 1 April 2021