Promotion Through Education: How Courses Can Help You Grow Your Software Business

Episode Summary

Chris Badgett is the co-founder and CEO of LifterLMS, a popular LMS (learning management system) plugin for creating, launching, and scaling courses. So far, LifterLMS has helped achieve 8 million+ enrollments and 12 million+ completed courses and lessons. Chris is rightfully regarded as one of the leading voices in open-source eLearning and educational technology and discusses how software product creators can benefit from marketing through course creation.

Episode Notes

Chris Badgett is the co-founder and CEO of LifterLMS, a popular LMS  (learning management system) plugin for creating, launching, and scaling courses. So far, LifterLMS has helped achieve 8 million+ enrollments and 12 million+ completed courses and lessons. It stands to reason that Chris is rightfully regarded as one of the leading voices in open-source eLearning and educational technology. 

Chris is a passionate advocate for democratizing online education, and as a non-technical founder, he offers a unique business perspective on eLearning. He frequently shares this knowledge and expertise on LMScast, his podcast for innovators in the eLearning community. 

Before developing LifterLMS, Chris’s company built custom course and membership platforms for clients. Even to this day, some of those platforms gross over 1 million dollars per year, year on year.

In this episode, we pick his brain and explore the transformative potential of educational marketing through course creation, focusing specifically on the possibilities for software product makers.


Thanks to Chris for joining us and providing such valuable advice about building successful distributed companies. Join us next week with co-founder, bootstrapper, writer, and podcaster Arvid Kahl to learn about the positive impact that building in public can have on software product makers’ lives and careers. is brought to you by Freemius, your all-in-one payments, subscriptions, and taxes platform for selling software, plugins, themes, and SaaS. If you enjoyed this episode, head over to to check out previous episodes.

Episode Transcription

Chris: Every software company is an education company too, whether they realize it or not.

Patrick: Chris Badgett is the co-founder and CEO of Lifter LMS, a popular LMS plugin for creating, launching, and scaling courses.

Chris: There's one specific course every software company should make. 

Patrick: Join us today as we pick his brain and delve into the transformative potential of educational marketing, specifically for software product makers.


Map the main pain points and sub-pain points of your audience. That's where you go from being a software vendor to a trusted advisor, which is a much higher level of status and mindshare.

As of today, the plugin has facilitated Over 8 million enrollments and over 12 million completed courses and lessons. 

Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of My name is Patrick Rauland and today I have the pleasure of interviewing one of the leading voices in open-source e-learning and educational technology.

Chris is a passionate advocate for democratizing online education, but before developing LifterLMS his company built custom course and membership platforms for clients, and to this day some of those platforms gross over 1 million dollars per year. So there's certainly a market for this. 

Let's get into the interview. Welcome, Chris, and thanks for joining us.

Chris: It's great to be here, Patrick. I'm super excited for the show. 

Patrick: Let’s dig in. You are both the CEO and founder of Lifter LMS, and you are deeply invested in the e-learning space. On your Twitter feed, I see you talk about e-learning all the time. And e-learning has grown a lot on the internet. It's grown a lot. And especially through the pandemic, it's grown even more. What is your take on the industry right now? Where do you see the market going? 

Chris: Well, it's going to continue to grow. The statistics I've seen is something like it's projected to be a 500 billion dollar industry by 2026 or something like that. The pandemic did accelerate things. At LifterLMS, we had about two to three X in terms of users in business but e-learning is not new. It's actually been around for a long time. It's one of the original reasons the internet was created. And it's just going to continue to evolve as learning is what makes us human.

And people always are going to go to technology tools, whether that's a book, a textbook, a video, an audio, an online course, a coaching program, a community, humans are never going to stop learning and technology is going to continue to innovate, facilitate and fulfill the need. 

Patrick: Is there something about you that makes you interested in e-learning?

Chris: I’m just passionate about it. I realized that, you know, learning changed my life. I believe it's a powerful force for upward mobility and society and your economics in terms of making the world a better place. And I'm actually a big fan of something called unschooling. I actually unschooled my kids until recently, which means no curriculum. We did whatever they wanted. They didn't go to traditional schools. And recently they've entered the public school system because that's what they wanted. But I've always been a fan of self directed learning and then helping those around you learn and grow. So that's kind of the core seed of why my company mission and my life mission is the same, which is to lift up others through education.

Patrick: I feel like getting into WordPress, I don't know, around 10 years ago, like there, you had to do so much reading random blogs. But essentially it just feels like online courses are, they just simplify. All of the learning that we had to do by browsing 10 different websites, 10 years ago, isn't that kind of like the core of it? Is it just, it consolidates and simplifies and puts it, puts everything in a nice package for the learner.

Chris: That's a good summary. I mean, in LMS software, I would call that structured data. And we can see that same trend continuing right now with artificial intelligence, which is, oh, how can I learn something even faster or just tell me what to do? You ask the artificial intelligence. So humans are always standing on the shoulders of giants in terms of leveraging what came before to learn and grow faster. 

Patrick: I'm a pretty big fan of AI and the potential it has to revolutionize various different industries. But if I'm being honest, there's the potential that it could maybe remove the need for courses altogether. I was lucky enough to sneak in a bonus question to Chris and he kind of turned my thinking around on it, so keep listening to get his take on AI and the future of courses. 

Patrick: Let me first talk about, you know, a lot of our audience are software creators, both in the WordPress space and outside of the WordPress space. Why should software product companies create an online course?

Chris: I'll just give you the biggest benefit and make it super tactical and easy to put into place. So for us, there's one specific course every software company should make which does both marketing and customer success at the same time.

I call it a quick start course. So you basically teach people the five to 10 percent of essential features of your product, how it works, how to implement them, and what it looks like on the screen. And what that does in your marketing is it helps resolve all the objections and internal questions people have, which in marketing, the number one question is, will it work for me? That's the most important question when you're doing copywriting and things like that. But in order to answer that question, you also want to show people that yes, it will work for you. So by showing them the 10 percent of your software, that's the most important. That helps to make the sale.

And then after they make the purchase, that exact same course can show them how to onboard into your software and get the value out of the most important 10%. You make that course free and that's a quick start course. I recommend making it less than two hours of content, keeping the beginner's mind and focus. And for Lifter LMS, that's besides our free plugin, the number one driver of email list growth,  we at this point probably have around 30, 000 people in that quick start course, and we've redone it three times as our software has evolved and improved and new features. So you kind of have to refresh it every two years. But it's one of the best lead magnets and automated customer success tools you can create. 

Patrick: So in the past and a lot of software places, I've used demos. How is a quick start course better than a demo of a product that theoretically would let users see that it also works for them?

Chris: A lot of demos are, it's like a tour, but of course it's more, go at your own pace and it allows you to kind of press, pause, implement, like watch, learn, implement. Some people do it really fast. There's all these different learning styles. Some people like to jump around like, “Oh, I don't already know about that thing. I want to go learn how to use this feature over here in lesson 17 or whatever.” So it's just a little more flexible. And for me, as an example, I learned how to use WordPress by watching YouTube videos, and that's literally where I self taught myself how to get involved. In a quick start course, like you mentioned, just consolidates and, you know, kind of curates the best path through all that content. And you know, a lot of people revisit the course over and over again, because a demo is sort of like a one time experience, but of course, people keep coming back to it over and over again. And some people, beginners particularly are very slow. And by the time I meet with them, let's say I'm interviewing somebody four years later about being so successful with the platform, they'll also reference their time in the quick start course. They feel like they know me cause I've, you know, I was there teaching them through video about how to use the tool and understand the landscape and all that. So it's a brand builder as well. And it builds that human connection, which is also really missing in a lot of software marketing and onboarding experiences.

Patrick: So, when you said less than two hours that stood out to me, in my brain, I think I'm, you know, thinking about conversions and getting web people to the website and through the, maybe on a list, but hopefully through the funnel and buying a product and making money. Is two hours too much? How many people actually make it through like a two hour course?

That's seeing, I  imagine it'd be very little, but maybe people are really motivated.

Chris: Probably less than 50%, but I'm not recommending this as the only marketing or customer success stuff that you do, but in sales, there's this concept of like a slow lane buyer, a fast lane buyer. So someone who's moving really fast, that may be too much for them to make a buying decision if we're just talking about marketing. So we also have like a, you know, WordPress LMS buyers guide, which has a huge amount of downloads, which is a PDF somebody can consume in like five minutes. So maybe the fast lane buyer elects for that, but somebody who's been shopping for the tools in your niche for like years, they're fine with taking two hours to be like, okay, maybe this is the one and then you deliver it that way. Customer success is the same thing. A fast lane person might, it might be too slow. Maybe they're a developer and they don't like video and they just want the documentation or the developer documentation, a search box, and they're good. But I think it's, this is one of the beauties of all the different learning styles out there. The quick start course, you know, fits a certain type of buyer or customer persona, and people will use it differently as well, but I recommend having a mix of lead magnets and customer success content as well. 

Patrick: So I do want to ask, when is the right time to start building a course? Like, is it worth building that quick five minute, 10 minute read PDF?

You know, is it worth doing one or a couple of things first and then working on your course? When is the right time in your launching a product, launching a new software product to release a course? 

Chris: So it was a rainy night in Montana in October of 2014. And we were launching LifterLMS the next day. That night I recorded the quick start course videos in about two hours. My internet was too slow. So I drove a hard drive with the content to my developer, who was a couple of hours away, handed that off around midnight. And we had it live the next morning for the launch of our software. Now we're a little different because we're actually an LMS so this course I think is even more important to kind of demo the tool, but I'm a big fan of iteration and over time, you know, as new features drop, you just add a lesson or if somebody is like that thing didn't make sense, this lesson about X, Y, and Z, just redo that one. And over time, about every two years, just burn it down and redo it, make it better, increase the production value.

And one of the great things about making a quick start course, which a lot of software creators suffer from, particularly if they're a developer is they get a little detached from the user and the very act of teaching it and getting in that beginner's mind frame, you become much more in sync with your market. And even while you're teaching, you might come up with feature ideas or realize gaps or where you need to. improve the interface so it's more obvious and things like that. So teaching is kind of the last step in learning, you know, learn, do, teach. So you're also doing yourself a big service by teaching. You're actually going to learn even more about the product, even if it was you who created it. 

Patrick: If you're worried that you specifically can't create a course for your audience. Chris has a great piece of advice about an audience wanting to learn from the idealized version of themselves. So stick around to see what he means and how you can be that person.

So Rand Fishkin is charismatic. He was charismatic on my call with him, and he's just always been a charismatic guy. If you don't have a magical charismatic co-founder with hair that has the perfect bounce in it as Rand does, do you hire someone for a couple of hours a week to just do some courses for you? Do you work on your own skills, or is being charismatic not that important? 

Chris: I think it's both. I think you can work on it. Like I can't even go back and listen to my first podcast episodes. They're so flat and dry and I'm naturally more of a monotone person. I had to learn how to get a little bit more animated for video and audio and sound more excited than my normal kind of monotone style. There's a saying in marketing psychology that the audience likes to learn or listen to people that are an idealized version of themselves. So a pro tip of that is if that's not you, get one of your top performing customers to help make some content. That's why I'm a huge fan of case study marketing. So not just getting them on a writeup but interviewing them podcast.

I mentioned Will earlier, and Kurt, who's on our team. These are LifterLMS customers that now work at LifterLMS because they have that charisma. They have that sympatico with the audience. They have that vibe. It could be an idealized version. It could be, "Oh, this is that crazy techie nephew that's going to help me build my website." I mean, you just kind of gotta create that team of personalities around a brand, and you can always become a better public speaker. My recommendation is just do the reps, because you'll just get better over time, and don't focus on being something you're not. Just be authentic. If you see me on the street, I'm gonna be wearing the same shirt. I'll talk the same way. We'll talk about the same stuff. And that authenticity, especially in a world of overpolish, or AI deep fakes, or automation, and all the rest... People say that, like when we interview customers, they're like, "Oh, well, you just seem like a nice person I could trust." Like, you'd be shocked at how often that comes up in survey questions about, like, why did you choose LifterLMS?

Patrick: Is there ever a case where you'd make a course, you know, before you launch the product? You know, like a month or two months ahead of time, where you're as a marketing, even more as a marketing effort?

Chris: Yeah, we've done that too. So the way you do that in software entrepreneurship is you look at what your customer needs to know right before they become a perfect fit buyer for your product. So for us, because we're selling a tool that allows people to create courses, we have another free course called, uh, the Course Plan Challenge, which teaches people how to figure out what course they're going to make, who it's for, build out a syllabus, figure out what kind of tools they need, what kind of things they need to get in place for their business, and then the very last part is about actually selecting the LMS software. So it's all about buyer journey stuff. Even recently, just last week, I think I launched a course about how to do affiliate marketing, and I use Lifter LMS as an example. And what I'm doing there is at the far end of the customer journey is a stage called advocacy, and part of one way to be an advocate besides leaving a review or referring a friend is to become an affiliate for the products you know and love. So I created a course that teaches people how to generate affiliate income with affiliate marketing, and I show them how to go from zero to hero in less than an hour. So every stage of the buyer's journey has a potential content opportunity; one of those pieces of content could be a course.

Patrick: Fantastic. Every stage of the buyer journey. So, okay, let me ask you about this. So you just talked about affiliate marketing. That's, you know, you love this product, now let's refer, you know, refer it to other people, make money. We have Quick Start, that's at the very beginning when someone's adopting the product. I mean, awareness seems to be the hardest part of the marketing funnel for many companies. So, is that affiliate course actually awareness for you or is that after at the end of the buyer journey because I could kind of see it both ways?

Chris: The way we designed it is for the very end of the buyer journey, but in terms of generating awareness, I mentioned we have a PDF and ebook LMS Buyers Guide, basically. I think a course is harder to pull off at that stage, but it's still totally possible, like, to create a course where you kind of go over the industry, the three to six main players in the industry, and these are like different lessons. The place that courses really shine is when the information gets a little heavy for a long blog post or a video, and you really need that structure of sections and courses and lessons and stuff like that to help reduce the burden on the buyer's journey so that they can kind of get through that stage without getting overwhelmed. So that's kind of the mindset I'd have in terms of thinking about, should I stick a course in at this phase.

Patrick:Fantastic. Okay, so let's go back. I like hearing that. I like understanding you can create a course at any point in the buyer's journey. I imagine, again, that many people's biggest problem is the first step, which is just awareness. Is there anything else that software developers, creators, can do to grow their audiences with creating a course? What is the right strategy or tactic?

Chris: There's so many different ways to create brand awareness; this is one of my favorite topics. But just to keep it focused on courses is to use an LMS in a non-traditional way. And not really non-traditional, and what I mean by that is instead of creating a course, you can create an event like a virtual summit for your industry. So, for example, in January, I'm speaking at a web designer summit, and they're going to be using an LMS to capture all the talks. And of course, I'm going to be talking about courses and I'll mention LifterLMS. But you can also do that for your industry, or you can participate in somebody else's online learning event. And that's good content for higher up the marketing funnel, where people are more taking a tour of all these options, seeing what stands out, these different talks and topics. So, in that way, you can leverage another person's audience, or you can provide that service to your industry and your thought leadership and authority by organizing it yourself.

Patrick: I'm always a big fan of, if someone else is already doing it, it's like very little effort for you to email them and say, "Hey, can I participate in your summit?" Right? It's very little effort to get out there and join someone else's summit. And if no one else is running it, then you might as well just run it yourself and keep all the emails and all that stuff. I'm a big fan of summits.

Chris: Yeah, and if I could provide a pro tip, this can feel overwhelming, like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go all these places and do all these different talks." But if you actually do the work and get really clear on your persona in your buyer's journey, you just need to make one or two talks and perfect those, and you can use them again and again and again. So, for example, I have a talk. There's two kinds of buckets of buyers for LifterLMS. One of them is people in the WordPress community, and another is people in what I call the expert industry. So if I'm going to speak at somebody's thing or create some content for their course or a bonus or I'm going to give a talk. I have a different talk that I give to an audience that isn't super WordPress focused. But I just have those two talks, and I've probably done each of those like 30 times, maybe more.

Patrick: I would say I probably have. I've done a lot of talks, but there is one that keeps getting, I'd say I do that one talk at least once a year. So there is something nice about knowing what you only need a couple. You're right. So let me ask you about one of my favorite educators who, and I don't know exactly when these podcasts are releasing, but I did record an episode with this guy, Rand Fishkin. He became famous for Whiteboard Fridays. What made him stand out? Why did Whiteboard Fridays stand out as a format? How did he do something different? What was interesting? What made everyone tune in for that?

Chris: Yeah, well, there's a lot of things. One is he branded the event, so Whiteboard Fridays is branded. Two, he's like, an attractive persona, a charismatic speaker, like, so he's doing essentially influencer marketing and thought leadership. Three is each Whiteboard Friday focuses on a specific challenge, not just talking about the problem but providing an actual solution. So those are probably the main things that make that stand out. And just to kind of take that example, if you took all those Whiteboard Fridays and organized that in LMS and captured it, you might actually be able to get even more value and use that content over and over again. But those are the main points for that. I mean, we do something at LifterLMS called Feature Friday, and me and Will, will on our team, get all animated and go over like a specific thing. And another thing is, going back to the different buyer personality and psychology types, I always recommend a very diverse marketing mix. So a course is like one thing on one end of the spectrum, and, you know, there's a webinar; those things require longer attention spans. But then on the other side, you have like, you know, YouTube, TikTok shorts, or whatever, or something right in the sweet spot of like a YouTube audience, like five minutes, three to five minutes. So it's important to fill it out, like have something for all the different types. And just remember, some people don't like video learning. I'm a big video and audio learner, so I tend to gravitate that way. But that's why newsletters are having this huge resurgence. And what I realize is like about 50%, I'm estimating, of people prefer to consume by reading, which is not me, but it's easy to see the world as you are, not as it is. So having a mix is super important in terms of content types, links, topics, stages of the journey. It creates a content matrix that'll keep you busy for a while. 

Patrick: So with courses, how can you either use the course and break it into smaller pieces or vice versa have lots of small pieces of content, lots of little blogs, and then turn into the course? What is the maybe the most successful version that you've seen?

Chris: I'm a big fan of YouTube video marketing. So for example, whenever I make a free course, all those videos also go on the YouTube channel. They get organized in a playlist, the exact same order they are in the course. So that's like the number one tip. You can just totally double do it with free courses, and even with paid courses, I always recommend making a few of those lessons free and open without enrollment required and take those best lessons and put them on YouTube. In terms of webinars, for example, or content that tends to fade away, you can repackage that in a more structured way into a webinar vault or like a summit outline or something like that. So yeah, good content there's almost nothing we do in marketing that isn't being used in multiple places.

Yeah, and there are two very different things you mentioned. One of them was like reusing, and the other was using it for research or reformatting, and both are. Yeah, the more content you make, sometimes there's a saying, my friend D. Mar Marel says, which is you get tired of your marketing before your market ever does. And so if you're kind of marketing for a while, sometimes you just need to go revisit the oldies and maybe do them again or just resurface them or take a great, your most popular podcast video and get it chopped up into shorts by a service or do it yourself. So there's always, you know, for people who have been in business for a while, they often tend to be like, "All right, what's the next thing?" But sometimes you need to go back and amplify what's already working.

Patrick: I think that's a marketing truism, if you are always like, "Oh, we've already covered this in the blog post six years ago." Yeah, but I'm guessing 95% of your audience didn't read that blog post from six years ago, so you probably should update it, renew it, revive it, put it in an ebook, whatever. There's something definitely true about that. I guess I feel like if I record, let's say, this podcast, you know, I can put clips of it on YouTube, but I'm not going to use this in a course because this is the wrong format for a course. It's just the wrong medium. So I generally reuse things as, not reuse, I use them as inspiration, you know? I can copy the transcript and know the outline and stuff like that.

Chris: I have a pro tip around that, actually, which this is part of the doing the research, and this is one of the benefits of me not being a developer, I'm a, I spend a lot of time in product and marketing and understanding the market, and you can actually map, I use mind maps, but you can map the main pain points and sub-pain points of your audience. And so for example, with Lifter LMS or people creating courses, coaching programs, and online communities, they have five distinct problem areas. So one of them is just being an entrepreneur, one of them is technology, one of them is being an instructional designer, teacher/coach, another one is being a community builder. I'm missing the fifth one off the top of my mind, but then each of those, like let's take the technology example, okay, what other pain points around technology do they have? Okay, WordPress hosting, CRM, there's all these areas where they have these problems and that they're trying to figure out or questions in their mind. So when you actually create, put your customer at the center of your business instead of your business and surround, and like map out their pains, like the reason I have a podcast, LMS Cast, and interview people about all kinds of things besides building an online learning website with WordPress is I'm getting content that's going to help solve those other outside of the technology bucket, other challenges that my target market has. And by doing that, when you have that map, you can see where your holes are, you can see where, "Oh, this hosting topic is really hot, I need to do some marketing around that." And then it becomes less of like you trying to hold your entire site map in your brain when you really just understand the main pain points of your market and which pieces of content. You can also look at your data, your traffic, and analytics data around that, challenge your assumptions, like, um, because you'll find hot spots in there and be like, "Oh, I should do some more stuff here or bring back an oldie here."

Patrick: Yeah, I found that when I do user research and people, I remember, I remember, um, we had this massive, uh, spreadsheet with all the reasons people canceled a product at a software company I worked at years ago. And I went through it, and I want to say, I can't remember the exact number, let's say roughly 50% of the people didn't cancel because the software was bad; it was something outside related to the software. But it's like they couldn't get inventory or they had a weird problem getting a business bank account, whatever, just all these other random problems that came up. And we never really addressed them in our content or in our courses. And I can see how just thinking about pain points, focusing content around those pain points kind of, it'll reduce some of those cancellations and some of the reasons people inevitably fail to use your product because of outside reasons, other related things.

Chris: Yeah, and that's where you go from being a software vendor to a trusted advisor, which is a much higher level of status and mind share.

Patrick: One of the really smart things that Chris said that stuck with me all the way through the interview is optimize for conversations, not conversions. He has some really powerful wisdom to back this up. And by the way, when you optimize for conversations, you're also very likely going to optimize your conversion rate. So stay tuned and listen in.

Patrick: I think courses, and you said something earlier about people trust you, it seems like courses can allow you to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. Do you have any examples of that, of just someone that was able to really connect with their audience? And without maybe naming names, are there any examples where someone just like totally failed with this and people lost trust? And then course dos and course don'ts.

Chris: Yeah, well, first, trust is not a tactic, it's also who you are. So if your audience's BS detector has never been more powerful, or some people call it in software sales, they call it commission breath, where they're talking to a salesperson and they're, they just know this guy, this person's doing everything they can to try to close the deal. So the first thing, like, foundation layer is you should love your product, you should love your mission, you should genuinely want to work with the type of people your product's designed for. If you, if you're missing any of those, you're going to lose momentum and motivation over time. And making money and building a profitable business and all these things is not bad either, but those other pieces give you the longevity to stay in the game. Putting your face on camera is good, even just being in your earbuds with the podcast is super powerful. I mean, I feel like I know Lex Fredman, but he's never, he doesn't know me from Adam. In terms of people that I've seen do it really well, there's so many. I mean, I'm just thinking about one of our users, for example, her name's KPC. She has the leading number one place to go to learn how to use and leverage active campaign and she's done quite well with her platform. But she's like making sock puppets, she's talking about what's going on in her life, but at the same time, I'm an active campaign user, anything in the world that any challenge I have with marketing automation or CRM or Active Campaign, she has proven over time that she is the go-to resource for that. And there's also a little sub story in that in the sense that K doesn't work at Active Campaign. So sometimes as software companies, the crazy thing that happens is somebody else is going to build a business around teaching how to use your product, and that's okay too. I've seen that over and over again in the software industry. There was a guy, I'm trying to remember his name, there's a book writing software called Scribbler, and this other guy, I forget his name, it's like Jason Michaels or something like that, he built a course called Learn Scribbler Now. And this is in the older days of, this is like 10 years ago, but he was hugely successful with that, and that was his own business, yeah. So that's like, there is hope if you don't want to create the course, maybe somebody in your community who's a power user will. A couple of things, just real quick, that you said where people don't do it well. I have this strategy around optimizing for conversations, not conversions, and your conversions actually increase when you optimize for conversations. And if you loosen your mind around what a conversation means, for example, like even a passive video content when somebody's hearing that, it's like a conversation. So when you create a lot of that content, like for example, currently on the LifterLMS YouTube Channel, we have around 120 watch hours a week, that's like four full-time people talking full time to people all over the world. Those are kind of like conversations. And what it looks like when it's not done well, we've all been users of software products where we just get pitched to constantly, support is non-existent, the documentation is missing, um, you can't tell who runs or works at the company, and it just feels like this faceless blob, and it's frustrating. So just do the opposite of that.

Patrick: Just do the opposite, love it. It's fun. Yeah, I definitely had some issues with a software product last week where it took them like 20 hours to get back to me in live chat. So yes, I'm definitely familiar with the faceless blob. Let me, so there's something else that you asked or something else you said that made me think about. I guess one of my core business beliefs is that you should only focus on the things that you do best as a business. So if I'm really good at writing e-commerce software, I should only write e-commerce software, stuff like that. Do you think it makes sense for businesses to charge for courses? Because then like that's kind of how you pay for your staff to make them and stuff like that. And obviously you can have your quick start course that's free, and you can have a couple free courses, but if you dig really deep into making courses or you want it to be a five-hour Mega course, everything you need to know, whatever, then maybe you do need to charge for it. Does that distract companies, or have you seen companies succeed with paid courses for their own products?

Chris: Every software company is an education company too, whether they realize it or not, so I'll say that first. A lot of the best things you can do are free learning content creations, but for example, in the early days of LifterLMS, we did like a $2,000 coaching program to help people, you know, basically figure out what they're doing, find success not buy not actually building the website for them but teaching them how to become a successful course creator. And I think we had seven people enroll, and this is when our email list was very small. We have a few paid courses at our Academy. We've done some paid events like we talked about using a virtual Summit like those don't have to be free you can make them paid, and you can do high-end coaching programs too around your product or strategy like we have an add-on in our store that you can buy called LifterLMS Office Hours Mastermind and it's included in our biggest bundle but sometimes people buy that a la carte so that they can come to a weekly strategy and technical feedback call. I definitely recommend that that makes you really stand out and it's time-boxed because for us it's only one hour once a week but you get that strong touchpoint and for buyers who really want that or aren't cost-sensitive to that, it's it sometimes it becomes a deciding factor for choosing our largest plan. So you can't overdo it though I have seen some software companies that become like 80% education 20% software. I think to be a strong software company you really should be like 80%, software 20% education like keep it imbalanced in the Paro principle kind of way but yeah that's a good idea deal to to look for and also don't discount your other content like your documentation as part of that educational budget if you're allocating business expense and things like that.

Patrick: Right, that makes sense. Okay, so let me ask, do you know of any companies that are using LifterLMS to create, you know, educational marketing that also serves as like product marketing where they're, you know, speaking about the benefits of the product and positioning and how it's different than their competition? Have you?

Chris: There's a lot, I mean the one that immediately comes to mind is The Groundhog, which is a WordPress CRM company and they've done a couple interesting things. They basically copied our QuickStart course Playbook and immediately got results. So number one, number two, they built a certified partner program where they train agencies how to help clients implement their software, and that's a power move you can do as well. That's not so much awareness and on the marketing side, but that also helps, like when you create a certified partner program, Infusionsoft, as an example, did that. They really pioneered that strategy, like over a decade ago. So if you don't have an expert program or partner program, that's something you can do. And it's not just like putting it on your website, train these people on how to be awesome at using your tool with clients. And I know in Adrian Groundhog QuickStart course, you know, he is talking a lot about the amazing benefits of using his tool. So that's just some of the brand awareness stuff out there.

Patrick: Awesome, so I always like to ask, or one of my favorite questions is, what are things that you're experimenting with and what have you tried at LifterLMS that maybe worked for courses and what have you tried that definitely didn't work?

Chris: Well, the QuickStart course 100% works. You should go copy the strategy today. The affiliate thing is actually new, so I'm challenging that assumption that when you're a software company and you have affiliates, there's a small percentage that produces the lion's share of affiliate revenue and traffic. But what I'm challenging is the assumption that I can't teach a beginner affiliate to actually become an effective affiliate, know the tools, and figure it out and drive traffic and all that stuff. So we'll see if that works. I am getting heavier signups flowing into my affiliate program, but it's to be determined if this is an effective strategy. I also did a summit once where I brought in some famous guest speakers, and I think we screwed up the name of it. Oh no, we called it "The Heal Your Sick Course Summit," and I think the branding was off there and like I don't think people want to admit, yeah, like I'm an ineffective course creator. I got zero sales, so I think I really screwed up the naming on that one. So that was just to keep it positive. In our industry just like most software companies, I would say you see a lot of failure. You know, we were talking about CRMs like ActiveCampaign, Groundhogg, FluentCRM, whatever. There's people that aren't successful with marketing automation tools and there's a lot of challenges and stuff they need to learn on how to drive a platform tool like that. So there is a lot of opportunity out there for courses.

Patrick: So one of my takeaways though is it sounds like you do run experiments and just to be clear the QuickStart course that now you recommend to everyone was an experiment initially.

Chris: Yeah, 100%. I see everything as an experiment like fast decision-making, MVP, iterate over time, don't abandon it, test, gather data, trust your intuition as well. Yeah, it's all about rapid experimentation especially if you're going to commit to the full buyer journey and all the different content types and learning styles you gotta be quick and when you strike Pay Dirt double down there if it doesn't work abandon it.

Patrick: Okay, so I did rush through the last couple questions because I did have a bonus question right at the start which I'm glad we've a few minutes to get dig into here. So the way I've been thinking about AI especially regarding learning is I think the best framing for AI is I found them incredibly helpful as an online tutor and actually I found it most helpful recently I was writing some code and something wasn't working and I and I tried Stack Overflow, then Stack Overflow to answer my question, and then I went into I read the docs then Stack Overflow and my third step was ChatGPT. How do you think that'll affect the online learning space? Are people going to take less courses once chatbots become a little bit more rolled out a little bit more prevalent and everyone's comfortable using them and we don't need courses?

Chris: I think we've been through this cycle many times like, "Oh, I don't have to read the books because I have this new technology called Cliff Notes and I'll use that. Oh, I don't need to do the math because I have a calculator that speeds that up. Oh, I don't have to go to the library because I have Google." So it's the same story over and over again, but if you look at macroeconomics, what's happening here is an increase of productivity, that would be the economic term for it. So as a teacher and a learner and an entrepreneur wherever you're at, you have to be more productive to make it in the world. Say AI is a great tool to help accelerate that. We talked earlier about, well, let me rephrase it, in terms of online education has been around a very long time, courses help give people tools to structure it in a more efficient productive way. AI comes into the story and it's doing it again. So like if I'm thinking, always think about it from the user's perspective. From the user's perspective, "Oh, maybe I don't need to learn that. I'll just ask AI to write the code for me or to tell me what to do or whatever. I don't need to take a course or go to the library or do any of that. Just tell me what to do." So then it becomes about or give me the solution. Just go out there AI agent and build me an online business like maybe one day. But the human element, the creative element, is still, you know, we haven't dropped into the singularity yet. So there is a place for us in this world. So my main thing with AI is if you're an instructor, don't say, "Create me a course that I can sell about how to market a software business," or even if you do that, ask it to make an outline and then work with it and back and forth 20 times. And then when you get into lesson content like, "Oh, I'm trying to teach somebody about brand awareness or direct response marketing or I need this lesson to appeal to different learning styles, what should I add, this is my outline," and you just use that iteration, that's when you make some great stuff with AI. And the same is true on the learning side of the equation. If you're learning something and you have some gaps, you have to kind of mega prompt where you're at or go back and forth to get the context and then, then you can fill in the gaps and cement the learning.

Patrick: I like that, Chris. This has been fantastic. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Thanks, Patrick. 

Patrick: And where can people find you and LifterLMS?

Chris: The best place is to go to Our core plugin is free, so that's at And if you like learning about technology and online education, check out our podcast, which is called LMS Cast.

Patrick: Awesome! And thanks to our listeners for tuning in. If you enjoyed Chris's insights, please hit like and subscribe so that we can continue to bring on influential and awesome guests onto the show to share their knowledge, experiences, and expertise with you. If you're a social media person, we'd appreciate it if you could share this episode on your social channels to get the word out about the content we're creating for entrepreneurs just like you. If you're looking for early bird access, visit's website if you're not already on it and click on the subscribe button to find out who and what's to come before anyone else. is brought to you by Freemius, your all-in-one payment, subscriptions, and taxes platform for selling software, plugins, themes, and software as a service. If you're struggling to grow your software revenue, send a note to to get free advice from Frey's monetization experts. My name is Patrick Rauland, and thanks for listening to