David Siteman Garland on the Infinite Scalability of Online Courses

It’s the ultimate Internet dream: create something once that sells over and over again, even while you sleep. And what better product than information itself?

Turns out, it’s not that easy for the idle dreamer. And often, Internet entrepreneurs work 16-hour days in order to “make money while they sleep.”

The good news is that the dream has shifted. Instead of hucksters offering “no work Internet cash machine” models to gullible business opportunity types, the concept of an “online business” has become a viable thing that experienced professionals and committed entrepreneurs explore and attain as part of the legitimate business world.

David Siteman Garland discovered this for himself thanks to his popular podcast, The Rise to the Top. He was constantly asked by his audience for the secret to creating a popular and profitable show, and David’s answer was always the same — it’s the art of the interview. So he created a course on the topic, and the rest (including his podcast!) is history.

In this 35-minute episode David Siteman Garland and I discuss:

  • His non-entrepreneurial path to online business
  • How he decided to build The Rise to The Top
  • The continuing rise of the mediapreneur
  • Why you don’t need to produce new content forever
  • Why he quit his incredibly popular podcast
  • The power of the podcast interview format
  • The infinite scalability of online courses
  • His very best advice on creating an awesome interview
  • How to start developing your own online courses

Listen to Rainmaker.FM Episode No. 20 below …

The Show Notes

*Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and Internet entrepreneurs.

The Transcript

David Siteman Garland on the Infinite Scalability of Online Courses

Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Brian Clark: Hey everyone. Welcome to yet another episode of Rainmaker FM. I am Brian Clark, Founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media. And today we have another special guest making my life easy with all of these interesting people that we’ve decided to interview. I think making your life better is the important part.

Today we have David Siteman Garland, a gentleman I have known for several years now and he has been doing some interesting stuff for quite a while. His path is similar to some of the other people that we featured on the show recently. And yet, it deviates in its own special way, which goes to show you there are way more than one path to succeeding online. David Siteman Garland, how are you?

David Siteman Garland: I am wonderful. Brian, not only am I excited to be here, but how about this one? It is the Rainmaker podcast and it is literally raining outside right now. We could not have made this any better.

Brian Clark: I’ve heard it is always raining at your place metaphorically.

David Siteman Garland: There you go, perfect.

Brian Clark: So you are the proprietor of The Rise To The Top, which is at therisetothetop.com. You started out, if I have this correctly, with that site doing a very cool interview podcast format tied with video. Right?

David Siteman Garland: Yep.

Brian Clark: And then you said, “Forget that, I’m not doing that anymore. I’m into online courses now and I’m the guy who can help you create and sell digital products and programs online.” Not both necessarily, but one then the other. I think that is fascinating and we’re going to get into it, but how about you give us the long view? You were born, you did this, that, the other, and you started Rise To The Top.

Who is David Siteman Garland?

David Siteman Garland: That was it. We just summed it up. Here is the Cliff Note version of an odd path. I’m from Saint Louis, Missouri. I didn’t really grow up with that sort of entrepreneurial spirit if you will. I wasn’t one of those people like a Gary Vaynerchuk who had 117 lemonade stands when he was 5.

Brian Clark: Neither was I.

David Siteman Garland: Yeah, it just wasn’t my thing.

Brian Clark: I figured it out when I figured that I was unemployable in that I couldn’t stand having a job.

David Siteman Garland: Totally. I can relate with that because I always worked. I mean I worked things, you know, everything from working in baseball card business to hockey shops to working for a history professor in college. I was always working, but I was really one of those people that was trying to discover for a long time what I was going to do, with really no clue.

I was big into hockey. That’s one of the huge passions of mine in sports and things like that and fitness. I went to Washington University in Saint Louis and majored in Women’s Studies. So how about that one Brian for you there? Women’s Studies.

Brian Clark: That’s excellent.

David Siteman Garland: So I majored in Women’s Studies, and again, I still didn’t have a clue of what I was going to do after college. I really didn’t have the scope. All I knew is that number one, I didn’t think I was all that employable. And number two, I also kind of had this very traditional view of entrepreneurship, which is that the entrepreneur is like the old white dude in the office with like the suit and tie and the cubicle type thing.

I saw that and to me, that’s what I thought it was. So I was thought, “Well that sounds terrible too so what the heck am I going to do?” I didn’t know anything about these sort of creative industries, or these online industries that we’re all in now.

After college I had a very odd path. I actually worked in a pro inline hockey league for two years here is Saint Louis, Missouri. I sort of ran that league. It was a really, really random thing to be doing for a couple years. That’s where I got my business experience, just by trial and error.

How David Siteman Garland “Rose to the Top”

How we got to The Rise To The Top is interesting, and long story short, I ended up with a radio show when I was doing pro inline hockey. What happened was the radio station called me here and they said, “Hey we’ve got some extra airtime and you could purchase this airtime for a very nominal amount. You could create your own show and you could have your own sponsors.”

To me, that was a very exciting idea because I could promote the league. I had no idea what I was doing, Brian, on the radio. I had no clue.

Brian Clark: That’s how you do it.

David Siteman Garland: My first show I remember I was like, “Hello and everyone and welcome to Pro Inline.” You know what I mean?

Brian Clark: Awkward.

David Siteman Garland: I was turning the page. I wrote out every word I was going to say. That’s how scary it was back in the day.

So I did that and what I decided after a couple of years of doing pro inline hockey and doing this radio thing, is that I wanted to create my own business that was my own thing. That’s when I decided to start The Rise To The Top. And what a lot of people don’t know about The Rise To The Top is it actually started as a local television show in Saint Louis Missouri where I’m at.

Brian Clark: Is this like Wayne and Garth on public access?

David Siteman Garland: Exactly, but worse. I had this Justin Bieber haircut and it was brutal. The idea behind it though was that I would interview entrepreneurs in all different types of industries. That was the idea.

I wanted to do an interview show. I wanted a chat show if you will. I was super interested in creative entrepreneurship and I wanted to see what people were doing in building these companies. So I ended up taking a lot of my savings and investing to create sort of this local TV show for a little while. That’s really where I got the start before we brought it online.

I was interviewing people in Saint Louis and then I ran out of interesting people in Saint Louis. So I was traveling around. And this was all stuff that I blew my savings on to be honest with you. It was to get this going.

How a Small Spark Can Become the Beginning of Success

I traveled around and I would interview people, and then the interesting spark came to me. And this was kind of a Captain Obvious thing now, but realize this was way back in internet years about a thousand years ago. This was 2008-2009.

I came up on 2008 and I said, “What if I could interview people through the computer?” I could sit here on my butt in my underwear or whatever and I could interview entrepreneurs via my computer. I know that’s very obvious to do now, but actually if you remember Brian all the way back in the day, it wasn’t so easy back then to figure that out.

Brian Clark: No, not at all. I mean it wasn’t even easy to subscribe to a podcast unless you were someone nerdy.

David Siteman Garland: You had to be a tech expert to subscribe to a podcast. Right?

Brian Clark: Right.

David Siteman Garland: So back in the day, we decided to give it a shot. And my business model at the time, which has changed now completely, was we had sponsors that I was able to hustle and get and move that direction early on. I remember the first interview that I did online. We did it via Skype video because I wanted to do video because I had done the TV show. I liked the visual aspect of it. And my first one was with (and Brian I believe you know him) is Peter Shankman.

Brian Clark: Yeah.

David Siteman Garland: Help a Reporter. It was my first online interview. And I remember it like it was yesterday. That’s because I did it and I was like, “That was amazing!” Then we realized that we only recorded his audio and not mine. So we had this full interview of Peter just talking to nobody.

Brian Clark: I’m totally telling you right now I always have this moment. Before we went live I said, “Okay, we’re going to pause. I’m going to hit record, and then we’re going to go.” And yet I always have this flash of anxiety and I check the recording light after you’ve been talking for eight minutes because I always have that fear like, “Dude, we got to start over.”

David Siteman Garland: Right. It’s super funny. It’s just the way it is. Thankfully Peter was super cool about it and we ended up reshooting it and it was great and whatever. But that’s really where The Rise To The Top began. It’s not where it is now, but it’s where it began, which was simply by doing interviews.

I did that for lots of years and over 500 interviews of people across every type of industry and that’s where this story begins is with a podcast and doing interviews.

Brian Clark: One thing that I’ve been dwelling on, which is one thing that works for me day and night, what is it almost nine years of Copyblogger archives now? But when you think about the podcast and that audience and the repository that you have in iTunes and the other audio channels and on your site itself of course, I was just perusing around trying to dig up our old interview together.

David Siteman Garland: Right.

Why David Ended His Podcast and Started an Online Course

Brian Clark: And you’ve got this immense catalog of content that continues to work for you and yet everyone thinks, “Well, if I start a podcast, I’ve got to do that forever.” You’re an example of someone who said, “No, I’ve done that enough and I’m going to let that work for me and I’m going to shift.” Talk a little bit about that.

David Siteman Garland: So this is a great question and that’s really where things get interesting to a certain degree. I published my very last in December 2013. So after five years I decided not to do the podcast. Why? Well a few things. Number one is I became obsessed with online course and creating and selling online courses. Now what I am ultimately known for is helping other people create their online courses. That is through my products and programs.

But how that all got started, and this is the funny sort of ironic story was through the podcast. That’s because, and you know this Brian, half the fun of having a podcast or maybe three-fourths of the fun besides creating content and having a great audience to share that with is you get to learn and hear amazing things from people. Right?

Brian Clark: Right.

David Siteman Garland: I always noticed when I was doing interviews that I was always more personally invested and I did a better interview when it was someone that I was really trying to learn something from maybe for my own life or for my own business.

What I noticed is that I had interviewed a gamut of entrepreneurs. We’re talking everything from Zappos and Tony Hsieh and those types of big people, to authors like the Seth Godin’s of the world and we even got to the Brian Clark’s from Copyblogger and Rainmaker, which are very, very difficult to get to. We got to them though somehow.

Brian Clark: Definitely a high point, I’m sure.

Are You a Mediapreneur?

David Siteman Garland: Exactly. We go to product makers and to all these different types of people. But what became so interesting for me is this subset of people that I’ve not deemed mediapreneurs.

These mediapreneurs were like an underground entrepreneurial society without necessarily even knowing each other. It was the Derek Halpern’s and the Maria Forleo’s and the Amy Porterfield’s. It was people like that and they were creating these online courses and programs. They were making a ton of money, and they had zillions of happy customers that were getting results.

They were living this really cool, I don’t want to say internet lifestyle because I think that has a weird connotation, but just more of a freedom based lifestyle. This was where they weren’t tied to, let’s say clients one-on-one work. They weren’t tied to stressing out at the office for twelve hours a day sitting there.

It was very much a freedom based business where they could work from where they wanted to. They could do what they wanted to do with their life, whether it was spending time with family and friends or traveling or whatever they want to do. They could watch paint dry.

To me that was super exciting and sort of a life changing moment, which was when I discovered these people. I said, “This is what I want.” I don’t want to be tied to doing stuff one-on-one. I don’t want to be tied to doing sponsors. I don’t necessarily want to be tied to the treadmill of a podcast.

Brian Clark: You wanted something that is scalable without you necessarily doing more work, right?

David Siteman Garland: That’s exactly right. It punches dollars for hours in the face. You have infinite scalability. So if you have something to teach someone how can you go about it? You, Brian, are obviously one of the best at this.

Well, we could teach someone one-on-one. Great, you’ve helped one person. Or maybe you could teach a small group and you’ve helped five people. Maybe you can go on stage at a conference and you speak in front of 500 people. That’s awesome, right?

But as you know, digital products and programs and courses have infinite scalability. You can reach as many people as you can possibly get to, with not necessarily requiring your time all the time.

Brian Clark: Do you think you would have been able to make that shift if you hadn’t put in the five years?

David Siteman Garland: That’s a great question and it is hard to say. That’s because I did after five years. You know what I mean?

Brian Clark: Right. In my case, it was no.

David Siteman Garland: Now realize, there was also an over two-year overlap. I think that’s important too. It wasn’t like I did the podcasts five years.

Brian Clark: Right, you didn’t just quit.

David Siteman Garland: We pumped the brakes and said we’re going a completely different way.

Brian Clark: Right.

How to Know When to Change Direction in Your Business

David Siteman Garland: I don’t think that’s a great decision for any entrepreneur a lot of times unless you know something is failing, because the podcast was working. We had six figures in sponsorships. You know what I mean?

We had six figures in sponsorships, but I had started to create my own programs behind the scene. It’s hard to say, “Well, do the five years help or hurt?” Obviously it helped to some degree because I got to meet these people and I got introduced to it.

I think people have moments in their life or in their business where they’re inspired or they find a way that they want to go down a rabbit hole. To me it just happened to be through the podcast.

Brian Clark: And think about all the relationships you developed.

David Siteman Garland: Exactly.

Brian Clark: They went from maybe not knowing who you were, to being featured and gaining a benefit out of your show. And you gained a benefit as well. Let me ask you this because I want to talk more about the online courses obviously.

David Siteman Garland: For sure.

The Power of Content Curation

Brian Clark: We’ve been kicking around a lot of ideas about the concept of curation and how becoming the gatekeeper in a world of no gatekeepers has become an important job. Who are the cool people? Who is writing the great stuff? Who is doing the good podcasts? Who is making the great videos in this great sea of content?

Most of it is dreck, but there is a lot of good stuff that never comes to the light of day. But think about the interview podcast for a second and something I said in the intro to this one in that you’re making my job easy. All I have to do is ask semi-interesting questions and let you talk. Right?

David Siteman Garland: That’s right.

Brian Clark: In a certain sense, you were the curator of five years of content that not only gave a benefit to the people you interviewed, but it brought a benefit to you. Talk a little bit about your thoughts on that.

David Siteman Garland: Oh I couldn’t agree more. There were benefits across the board from doing it. The first thing when I started when I brought this online is I really had no audience whatsoever. I really didn’t. I didn’t come from an existing business of other venture where I had a bunch of people that could come in and be like, “Here comes my crew.”

The crew was me hitting refresh, and my mom when we were starting. No one knew who I was and you know what? I don’t think I knew who I was when I was getting started. It more became, “Well, I’m tapping in to information of others.”

I am exactly what you said, a curator of information. I could bring these interesting people and grow an audience that way. I didn’t necessarily come in as someone people personally wanted to learn from because I hadn’t really accomplished anything yet. Right?

Brian Clark: You’re not holding yourself out as an authority.

David Siteman Garland: That’s right.

Brian Clark: But in the process, which this is the fascinating concept because we talk all the time about authority, in the process of featuring all these people who did have some degree of authority already, you became one yourself.

How to Become an Authority

David Siteman Garland: Exactly, you hit the nail on the head. I’m laughing because that’s exactly what happened. I think there are a few reasons for that.

There is all of the knowledge you pick up and all the things you get to learn from guests and great content and all those things and those relationships you mentioned earlier. Also, you start to build a network of people that you can reach out to. It is really, really cool.

That also comes down to your skill of connecting with people too, which is obviously an important thing with that. But what happened was, and you’re right, there was this shift that happened. I think there’s a couple reasons.

One is how people see you. Let’s say they see you on camera with Seth Godin (let’s just use him as an example). They’re probably thinking to themselves in the back of their head, maybe subconsciously, “Well you know what, here’s David and Seth Godin. Seth Godin is a great guy. Maybe David is not a serial killer.”

Brian Clark: That’s not too much of a leap I guess.

David Siteman Garland: Seth Godin is hanging out with him. He probably wouldn’t want to do that if he was a serial killer, so hey maybe he has got something interesting. That almost rubs off a little bit.

Brian Clark: Of course.

David Siteman Garland: It rubs off with every guest that you have. Right?

Brian Clark: There is guilty by association, but there is also status by association.

David Siteman Garland: Exactly. This is where it gets interesting, I think is, and I said it a couple times but maybe it’s not that interesting, but then the questions started to be centered towards me from people. So audience members and people that were on my email list, on social media, and maybe even at conferences and things like that started asking me questions. That got really interesting because I never saw myself, at that point, as an authority or a teacher. I was just an interviewer.

Brian Clark: Yeah.

David Siteman Garland: And people started asking me questions usually centered around online marketing. This is because I’d built up a pretty decent sized audience and had a pretty strong Rolodex of guests on the show. There were also a lot of questions about interviewing and doing interviews and things like that.

Those led me down the path, or the shift from here’s a guy who hosts and asks questions, to here’s a guy who can teach people something. That was a massive shift in our business.

Brian Clark: Yes. And I do want to take a second here to acknowledge that I think your first move into online courses was essentially the skill you have to have to be this podcast curator, which is the art of the interview.

David Siteman Garland: Yeah.

Brian Clark: You did create a course on that and I think it did really well for you.

David Siteman Garland: That was exactly it. My first course was called Create Awesome Interviews, which is still available. The reason for that was I had to open my eyes. I had done a couple things in the past, I had gotten a book contract. I had started teach, but I was still trying to find my flow and where I was going to be in this teaching world.

I wanted to create a product and I didn’t know what it was going to be. I went back to a lot of these people that I’d interviewed and did all the research. I asked them questions about how they came up with their products. I did the obsessive, researching, crazy person thing that we do. Right? I have an addictive personality and so when I do it, I overdo it.

I did thousands of hours of research and conversations with people about their online courses. I remember I was at an event and there was a very sweet lady named Debbie who has been kind of one of my audience members/fans/customers for as long as I can remember. She came up to me and she shook my arm at a conference and she said, “David, you need to create a product. You need to create a product!” She’s like, “I’m going to buy it. I want a created product and you’ve got to do it.”

It was a crazy feeling. At this point, people were like, “David, you need to teach something.” I didn’t know what. Some people know right away what it’s going to be; some people don’t.

Why You Must Listen to Your Audience

Brian Clark: I remember in 2007 after a full year of Copyblogger, and we hadn’t really sold anything, I had two reactions. One was “I don’t understand why you’re not selling me something.” And the other one was, “Will you go ahead and sell me something?” I’m like this is beautiful.

You’re always worried about making an offer because you think it is too soon. If you get to the point where you’ve delivered value, people start thinking you’re crazy on one hand if you don’t sell them something, which is a good place to be.

On the other hand, they’re begging you to sell them something.

David Siteman Garland: Right and that’s absolutely true. When a lady is coming up to you at a conference and grabbing your arm and telling you, “Just create something and sell it, I’ll buy it.”

Brian Clark: That’s not a subtle sign.

David Siteman Garland: That should set off some kind of thing. I’ve got to be honest and way back in the day Brian, I definitely had a fear of selling online to people I was offering this great free content and I was promoting sponsors, but I had this very irrational (that is completely gone now) fear of that “Oh my god what’s going to happen, is there going to be backlash?”

All these things turned out to be completely false and very limiting. I had that. I was like, “Oh, what if I put something together and it’s not any good. What if this or that, or what if people are complaining?” and all these different things.

I was able to fight through that by saying, “Okay, let’s give this a shot. I see these other people doing it. I’m going to model a lot of their top tips and their successes and I’m going to figure it out.”

What’s Your “Green Light” Moment?

To me, the green light moment was really looking around, but back then, all the questions that came to me were really associated about interviews. They were like, “How do I get guests? How do I ask good questions? How do I record it? How do I market it?” All those questions were coming to me.

Now it’s all about online courses, but back then, it was all about interviewing. That’s when the green light went off. I started looking back and I saw that I did a couple how-to posts that did well on my website. I saw that I had gotten a lot of questions about this. I was paying attention.

It was like, “It’s been under my nose the entire time, I need to do a course on interviewing.” And that is when I did my very first course called Create Awesome Interviews.

The Top Two Tips for Giving a Great Interview

Brian Clark: Alright. Give us the number one most important thing about being a great interviewer and creating an awesome interview.

David Siteman Garland: I will say first of all, the clich√© one that’s very true, which is listening. You have to actually listen.

That’s because then you will respond as opposed to just looking at what your next question is going to be if you prewrite your questions. Right? If people say something interesting, there are lots of nuggets that you can dig deeper into that you can only pay attention to if you’re listening and not just staring at a list of questions.

Brian Clark: Right.

David Siteman Garland: That’s one of the key things. if I were to have a 1B and cheat on the answer and not just give you one, is what I mentioned earlier. You have to be very personally curious about the guest and what they’re doing. Otherwise, you’re going to end up going through the motions and it’s going to be weird.

I’ve done that. Trust me, that’s why I’m mentioning this. I’m not going to name names obviously, but I’m saying there were some guests where I just wasn’t that excited about it. I was doing it maybe for the wrong reasons.

Brian Clark: You’re phoning it in, right?

David Siteman Garland: I totally phoned it in. There was a big difference in the types of stuff so those are my two major tips there.

Brian Clark: That is an excellent one because I’ve found with this recent set of interviews we’re doing for Rainmaker FM, that a lot of times I’m talking to people I know. I’ve been friends with or colleagues with for a long time.

In the case of Pat Flynn, I had never spoken to him before and I think that interview came across so well because I really wanted to know this guy’s story. I was fascinated by it and I really liked him. That’s a cool thing to discover during an interview that you actually hit it off with someone and I think that shows. But like you and I have known each other, it’s been years. We were just talking about how could it be three years or whatever since we last talked?

David Siteman Garland: Four even I think possibly.

Brian Clark: Even the interview with Jay Baer who I talk to and see quite a bit, but usually you shake hands at the conference. You have a very specific task that you’re talking about via email and then you have no idea what’s going on with this person otherwise. I do feel that if I weren’t genuinely curious at this point about even catching up with old friends, I would rather not do it.

David Siteman Garland: Agree.

Brian Clark: There’s nothing worse than “Hey David, welcome to the show, go ahead and give me your spiel.” Who wants to hear that?

David Siteman Garland: Right. Whether you’re doing it on audio like this interview or video or whatever, either way it will shine through. It will shine through when you’re excited and curious and genuinely want to pull some stuff out and you just want to know versus like you said, phoning it in. That’s a very good point.

Understanding the Value of Online Courses

Brian Clark: Okay. Let’s shift gears a bit to your favorite topic. We’ve got a lot of people listening right now that are very interested in creating online training membership sites. Essentially, they want to find a way to make a living from whatever you want to call it, premium content, digital commerce (insert buzz phrase here).

David Siteman Garland: Right.

Brian Clark: Primarily it’s an online business. There are hybrids. One I like a lot is the service model combined with the online model as a lead generation strategy with the idea of building it into an online play. How many people who take clients don’t dream of that?

David Siteman Garland: A lot.

Brian Clark: Exactly. For those people, I think it is less difficult to find the topic. Well, you’re already providing value in a client based model already.

David Siteman Garland: Absolutely.

Brian Clark: You understand what that is. I think those people need to realize the value that the online course is the new book. Remember how we always talk about why you write the book. You don’t make any money from it, but it’s like a five pound business card.

David Siteman Garland: I have one of those.

Brian Clark: I’m the perfect example of someone who said, “No, I’m skipping over that part. I’m going straight to the online course.” The rest is history.

For those who are really trying to do it in the purer sense as in this is the business I want to start, we’ve talked about how do you find your topic? It’s the intersection of what you’re interested in and what people will pay for. What are your thoughts on that? How do you give guidance to people in that area?

David Siteman Garland: This is one of my favorite topics. There are exactly two categories of people. There are people that know exactly what they want to do their course on and there are people who don’t.

The people that do, it’s usually something maybe they have a book or maybe they do one-on-one work or small group work or maybe they have a blog on a very hyper specific topic and they know that’s exactly what it is. Those are the more obvious categories so we’ll just put those aside for a second.

Category two, you’re more like me when I started. Meaning that you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t know exactly what I should do, what’s going to sell, or even, what do I need to do?”

I’m going to give a couple of very quick strategies. The first one I went over already, but let me review what I really meant by it. A lot of times your topic is right under your nose, and you don’t know it yet. What I encourage people to do is to start thinking about what questions do you get? What advice do people ask you for?

Brian Clark: Right.

The Best Advice for Finding Your Online Course Topic

David Siteman Garland: What’s something that you’ve done personally that you’ve gotten a result from? Maybe you lost twenty pounds after being overweight for twenty years. Maybe you discovered how to do the perfect golf swing that added a hundred yards to your iron game of something.

What personal things have you done that can be put into a how-to step-by-step system to teach others? Think about that. That’s a great starting point, which is to mentally getting there thinking, “Okay, what have I done?” It could also be that maybe you’ve done it for other people. It doesn’t have to be, but maybe it could be.

For example, say you lost twenty pounds. That’s a personal result. Another example is if you work with Sam, Joe, and Sally, and they all lost twenty pounds. Maybe you work with them in a different way. Maybe you did a one-on-one or whatever it might be. That’s another opportunity. It’s either personal results or from other people.

Then what I always have people do, and this isn’t an obsessive thing, and I think people sometimes can get stuck here and I encourage you not to get stuck here, is do a little research. Are there other courses out there on your topic? And guess what, Brian? You know this too. If there are, that’s a good thing.

Brian Clark: Yes.

Fun Fact: Competition in Your Market is a Great Thing

David Siteman Garland: Fun fact.

Brian Clark: It’s the hardest thing to get people to understand that you’re looking for competition to differentiate yourself from.

David Siteman Garland: Absolutely.

Brian Clark: You’re not looking for some vacant niche because that means no one is buying anything. Sorry.

David Siteman Garland: That’s right and that’s very true. That’s a red flag if you go out there and you see no courses, no books, or no associations. It could be any of these things, I’m just giving an example. But look to see if there is no evidence of commerce in that industry.

Brian Clark: Yep.

David Siteman Garland: That’s a massive red flag. What I always tell people is don’t be discouraged. Imagine we go to a bookstore, I think those still exist nowadays Brian, right? There is not just one cookbook sitting there in the bookstore. There is an entire section of cookbooks.

Now imagine the second cookbook maker. He’s like, “Oh no, there’s already one here, that’s it, I’m packing up shop. I’ve been cooking for 25 years and I’m packing up shop. I’m out of here.”

That’s not how it works because there’s always ways to stick out from the pack. There’s always ways to differentiate. No one has your story. No one has your teaching style. No one has your relationship with people, so it’s a different thing there. So that’s the research, which is the next phase.

The Most Important Question to Ask Your Audience

Then what I always encourage people to do, Brian, and this is a big simple tip. I suggest you send out a one question survey to people. The one question, which I’ll tell you right now is simply asking people what do they want to know more about (blank)?

What do you want to know about better distance on your golf clubs? What do you want to know about creating a podcast? What do you want to know more about (blank)? You require an email address obviously for this because it begins a lead generation thing.

You will be fascinated by the responses that come back even if you don’t get that many responses. It’s not about quantity because if you get five, there’s a good chance there’s another five people like that. If there are another five people like that, there’s probably fifty like that. And if there are fifty, there’s probably a hundred.

You will start to pick up language used and you’ll start to pick up questions. And, Brian, I don’t know if you’ve ever done surveys before, but one of the fascinating things I find from surveys is people are always amazed about how simplistic a lot of the questions are to you.

Brian Clark: Yes.

David Siteman Garland: Right? It’s the plight of knowing something, right? You’re like, “What do you mean not everyone knows how to interview Seth Godin? That’s ridiculous, they should all know that.” It’s one of those things where you’ll be surprised about how much you really know and that’s a big confidence booster too as you move forward. Those are some initial steps to getting you on the path of narrowing down the topic.

Brian Clark: After nine years of doing this, I never get over what I take for granted that people need to know.

David Siteman Garland: Exactly. And it’s usually fifty levels to the left than what you think it is.

Brian Clark: David, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. I do want to give a plug to David’s products. I am not getting paid for this although I should.

David Siteman Garland: I’ll send you something depending on how many.

Brian Clark: Just send me a fruitcake or something.

David Siteman Garland: No, I was going to send a pony. It is going to be a live pony and then you’re going to be responsible for it.

Brian Clark: My daughter would love you. And I would kill you.

David Siteman Garland: Exactly.

Brian Clark: So TheRiseToTheTop.com/products, that’s where you’ll find that interview course which if you’re just getting started, start there because think about what you can do with podcasting. It finally became the thing we’ve been waiting for it to become since 2005.

It is a curation strategy when you can get together and interview people that in essence build your authority over time. Then of course, he has his online course, Create Awesome Interviews, which I’d like to take a look at it, David.

David Siteman Garland: I’ll hook you up.

Brian Clark: You can hook me up?

David Siteman Garland: Yeah.

Brian Clark: I have heard nothing but good things about it so I can send you over there without a bit of trepidation because David is a good guy and he knows what he is talking about.

David Siteman Garland: Well thanks, Brian. I appreciate it. Also, if people head over to CreateAwesomeOnlineCourses.com, they will see that oftentimes the page up there says there is a waitlist and things like that. If you just enter your email, you’ll go through and you’ll get a lot of great free content, and all kinds of other cool stuff. Eventually, you’ll receive an invitation to find out what it’s all about. So just giving you a transparent behind the scenes view of what will happen if you check that out.

Brian Clark: And it wouldn’t hurt to watch what he is doing with his onboarding process too. Right?

David Siteman Garland: Absolutely. Steal it. Go for it.

Brian Clark: Alright, David, I want to wish you Happy Holidays and thank you for taking time out to be on the show. Let’s talk more often.

David Siteman Garland: Absolutely. Sounds good. Same to you. It’s been a pleasure chatting as usual. It just feels like catching up with an old friend, that’s the good stuff. I will make sure to get that pony at some point in the mail and so you might want to start stocking up on some food.

I appreciate it, Brian. It’s been great as always.

Brian Clark: Excellent. Talk to everyone later.