How to Reduce Refund Requests: The Black Lightning Approach

One of the realities of doing business online, particularly if you offer online programs, classes, workshops, membership sites, or any other kind of training is the dreaded refund request.

“Here Is the Number One Strategy to Eliminate Refund Requests…”

    1. Make zero sales each & every month (amazing…no refunds!)

OK, I’m kidding! But seriously, the higher volume of sales you make, the more likely it is that you are going to have people asking for refunds, even if you have:

  • The best product/training ever
  • The best customer support on the planet

Don’t take it personally.

Here are just a few reasons why your customers might want a refund:

  1. They never made the time to actually use it
  2. They simply got cold feet and convinced themselves that the cash was worth more than the benefits. In other words, it was easier to ask for the money back instead of taking the time to implement your product, service, or training and/or they weren’t convinced the results would be worth it
  3. They tried it out and genuinely didn’t like it
  4. They realized that it was not what they needed
  5. They couldn’t figure out how to access/use it
  6. They liked it but didn’t feel it taught them anything new
  7. They didn’t feel it was worth the price

The list can go on and on. Feel free to add your reasons in the comments below! What’s the solution? Today I’m going to give you a quick tip on how to reduce the number of refund requests due to points #1,2,5 and 7 above.

cliffs“Give Them the Black Lightning Version of Your Program…”

Remember when you were back in school and you realized that the assignment to read “War And Peace” was due tomorrow and you had never even cracked it open? What did you do besides fly into a panic? Depending on what decade you went to school, you might have run out to purchase a booklet that summarized  “War And Peace”, read through it quickly, and hoped for the best.

At my alma mater, UC Berkeley, we had “Black Lightning” notes That was a sanctioned note taking service for the most popular classes on campus. If you signed up for Black Lightning, you could pick up excellent notes and summaries for every single lecture.

Each class had its own note taker and the interpretation of what made “good notes” varied pretty widely. Some would record the lectures and provide a complete transcript of the entire discussion.  However, the most valuable notes, in my opinion, were from the note takers who knew how to summarize accurately and give me the main nuggets of each lesson in bullet points.

While some students used these notes as a “get out of jail free” card and never attended lectures, others used Black Lightning as a study guide in conjunction with the lecture experience.

From from being a way to cheat, Black Lightning was a resource to help students succeed in a particular class.

Well, as the provider of your content it’s your job to do what you can to help your clients, customers and members succeed. The higher the success rate, the lower your refund request rate.

“Here are a few tips on how to apply Black Lightning to your programs…”

  1. Chunk it down. Edit long videos and audios into shorter segments rather than leaving them at 60-90 minutes. I recommend keeping it to less than 10 minutes. And make sure the title of each segment is clear and to the point so a member knows exactly what to expect from that particular clip.
  2. Include a “Table of Contents” for your program. Instead of getting overly clever with the names of your lessons, make sure each title lets your customer know what to expect from each section.
  3. Include an “Index”. This might be as simple as having a Search bar function within your online program. Make sure that you “tag” your content appropriately with the key words a member might use to search. This means tagging your videos, audios, module pages, or posts. Be sure to point this out as a feature of the program. “Want to find something quickly? Type in what you’re looking for here…” Or you might want to include a listing of all of your “tags” on your website sidebar so members can easily click a link and find what they are looking for.
  4. Include an “Executive Summary” for busy and impatient members. Think about your ideal clients, customers, and members. Do they want to immerse themselves in hours of audio and video in a intensive workshop setting? Or do they want to consume information on their smartphone while they are on a plane? If your clients are generally very busy and impatient, giving them a quick summary of each section can turn them into your biggest fans. It can be as simple as the including an overview paragraph, the main learning points, and the benefits of this section. To download an Executive Summary Template, click here.
  5. Include a “User’s Guide” for accessing the content and troubleshooting. I bought my first iMac back in 2000. I remember the “quick start guide” and it was beautiful in that it had a single step on each page which included both a picture and text. Step #1: Remove computer from box. Step #2: Plug it in. Step 3: Plug in the keyboard and mouse Step #4: Press the “On” button. #5 Follow on screen instructions. The computer then walked me through exactly how to set it up and get started. Click here to see one of the iMac guides for a great example of how to marry images with instructional text.

Sometimes half the battle is getting new members to actually consume your content.

Make it easy for them and they are much more likely to stick around…and buy whatever else you have to offer in the future!

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Should You Drip Feed Your Content?

ID-10042507If you have a product such as a video or audio course or maybe even an ebook, you might have wondered, “What’s the best way to deliver the content to my clients and customers?”

Many people make their decision based on:

  • Whether or not they believe their customer will be overwhelmed by too much content if they receive everything at once
  • Worrying that someone will sign up, access and download all the content and then ask for a refund, essentially getting all of the content for free
  • Wanting to set the client up for success by guessing how the majority of people think and learn

When membership sites and virtual home study courses first became popular about 7 or 8 years ago, the prevailing wisdom dictated that it was in everyone’s best interest to “drip feed” the content to members or parcel out, for instance, one module/video/lesson at a time and either setting it so that the next piece of content was automatically released at a set interval (usually one week) or whenever the client completed the module.

The trick then became, how to engineer it?

Enter lovely pieces of technology like Wishlist Member and Digital Access Pass (DAP), membership plugins for WordPress sites along with online website platforms like Kajabi and JigsawBox that would host your content and give you the option to drip feed your materials for a monthly fee.

“The Problem with Drip Feeding…”

The outcome?

In my experience and behind the scenes of many of my clients and colleagues’ businesses, the result was more time wasted in customer support dealing with complaints such as:

  • The content isn’t being released on time
  • I’m already up to speed on some of this stuff and want to be able to pick and choose which part of the course I can access
  • I’m taking time off from work to immerse myself in your course and don’t have time to wait a week between modules
  • I can’t access the content!

People are impatient these days. We have been trained to expect instant gratification in almost all things, and when it comes to accessing online information, we expect to be able to put our fingers on what we want at light speed, or at least as fast as our fingers can type or text.

Glitches with membership site software, user error, and the varying amount of learning speeds and styles can make drip feeding your content a frustrating experience for you, your team, and your members.

“What To Do Instead…”

When creating your program, online study course, or membership consider releasing all of the content at once.

An important exception to this is when you are running a live program. In that case, it makes sense to have all members gain access to each module at the same time in order to facilitate community discussions, games, and even friendly competition.

Holding a live program is a great strategy if you find it difficult to create content in a solitary environment. In this case, you don’t necessarily have to create an entire program in advance, which can seem intimidating. Instead, you can create it week-to-week as the program progresses.

This strategy might not work for everyone, but I know more than a few entrepreneurs who can only create content in this manner. Something about knowing that clients, customers, and members are expecting something can be a highly motivating catalyst!

But if you are not running a live course, give your members 100% access from the beginning.

“Here Are A Few Things To Keep In Mind…”

  1. How you structure your content is very important! Break long video or audio lessons down into smaller, easily digestible segments so that it’s possible to watch a 10-minute topic now and come back to watch the next topic later. And that leads me to the next tip…
  2. How you label/title your content is critical too! Make it easy for your members to scroll through and put their hands on the information they want at that moment. Also, members should be able to easily find a piece of content that they have gone through before and now want to watch, read, or listen to again.
  3. Consider including an Index of topics that link back to each individual lesson.
  4. It’s OK to feature “Graduation Bonuses” that you release at a later date. To be clear, this content should not be part of the actual program itself, but generally billed as “more advanced” materials or the “next step” in their education. In this case, I do recommend having  those Bonuses released after the window has closed on your Guarantee. Also, I recommend, building anticipation for these Bonuses either via your auto-responder messages in a “preview of things to come” or actually described somewhere on your site. Let your members know that you will continue to take good care of them beyond the confines of the main program.
  5. Use your auto-responder sequence to keep members from diving into overwhelm. Structure your messages so that you address the pros and cons of immersing  yourself in the materials. Also, make them feel OK about their own personal learning process so they don’t feel they are falling behind.

Is it OK to drip-feed your content anyway?

Of course!

It depends on the audience you are working with and exactly what you are teaching. Keep an eye on:

  • Feedback from members
  • Refund request rates
  • Client results

No matter what, if you or your members are not happy with the experience of your membership site or program, it’s time to retool and find a better way to connect with your members, whether that involves how you release content, any additional support, or the content itself.

What do you think? Has drip feeding content worked for you in the past and/or it continues to work for you now? Have you been frustrated as a member with how you were able to access a training you paid for in the past?

Share your story, questions, or comments below…

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/

AWeber Vs. MailChimp

aw-mc2One of my longtime readers sent in a question about auto-responder services, specifically what would I recommend between AWeber and MailChimp?

Great question!

Working with clients over the years, I have gotten my hands deep into many different services that allow you to both collect and build your email list as well as send out messages to them either automatically via an auto-responder or as a scheduled blast via a broadcast.

The services I have direct experience with include:

However, I have never personally worked with MailChimp!

So I put out an inquiry to one of my networks of super savvy, smart entrepreneurs (try saying that 3 times fast!)

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 2.52.27 PM

Hands down, the winner was AWeber. And actually, that’s what I recommend to most of my clients!


Here’s what my colleagues had to say about AWeber:

  • Love AWeber!
  • I moved twice to other services but always kept AWeber going. I am happy I did. It has its quirks for sure but does the job best!
  • Even my non-techie clients can get the hang of it.
  • I like that AWeber integrates with almost everyone. And I like AWeber form plugins for my WordPress site.
  • I use and recommend AWeber to clients with online businesses. (to avoid issues with affiliate links; ease of managing multiple lists)

For my part, I started with AWeber about 5 years ago. I’ll admit it had a bit of a learning curve. But they have made many improvements over the years. They have a new HTML editor which most of my colleagues don’t love at this point, although one said it’s growing on him.

Plus, AWeber continues to be the Gold Standard when it comes to email deliverability.

“Reasons Why You Might Still Want to Use MailChimp…”

In a distant second was MailChimp.

Here’s what some had to say:

  • MailChimp is relatively user friendly. I steer people away from the free version since it doesn’t have follow up messages.
  • I second their user-friendliness. Not perfect, but a pretty darn good alternative.
  • I have been known to send people to MailChimp when they are non-profit oriented. It seems to work well for that.
  • I have some clients who are solo and on a shoestring budget. They usually have just one list and they aren’t running an online business (e.g. authors). I recommend MailChimp because it’s fairly easy to teach them how to manage their own email campaigns after I do initial set up with newsletter template and RSS feeds.

“My advice?”

Instead of going with the service that seems to fit the current state of your business, go with the service that will work for where you ultimately want to go.

It can be difficult (but not impossible) to start growing a list with one service and then importing that list to another service down the line. Much better to start and stay with one.

Many clients say to me, “But i’m just starting out and don’t need a lot of fancy analytics and features. I just want to go with the cheapest option.”

But when you are starting out is EXACTLY when you need those “fancy analytics and features”! If you are serious about growing your business, treat it like a business and not a hobby.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer but not all that tech savvy, then sign up for a $10/month account with MailChimp and give yourself a challenge to figure out how to do the following in 7 days or less:

  1. Set up an autoresponder
  2. Format and send an email broadcast
  3. Set up a subscription form

If you find it fairly easy to use, then stick with MailChimp.

If you’re unhappy with it for any reason, go over and sign up for a $1 trial with AWeber.

Set yourself the same challenge and compare your experiences.

In some cases, research can only take you so far.

It’s experience that will give you the best data. Play with a couple of services. You might find that none of them is perfect. But you will probably discover that one is the easiest for you to understand and use. Go with that and keep moving forward in your business!

“Do you have an opinion or experience with AWeber or MailChimp that you’d like to share? Please chime in below…”

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How to Assemble Your Dream Team

If you are wearing all the hats in your business, your official job title might look like this:

“CEO/Marketing VP/Copywriter/Graphic Designer/Webmaster/Sales Associate/Personal Assistant/Bookkeeper/Coach/Technical Support…”

Waaay too much to fit on a business card, don’t you think? 😉

At some point, you’re going to come to the realization that it’s just ridiculous to be doing everything yourself. And that point might come a lot sooner than you think. Maybe you’re even past that point already?

hire-your-dream-teamIn fact, in a recent series of interviews done with successful entrepreneurs, when asked what they wished they had differently in their business back in the early days, nearly 100% responded that they would have hired help sooner rather than later.

But here are some common questions that might be floating through your brain right about now:

  1. How do I find the right people for my team?
  2. How do I know they are someone I can trust?
  3. How do I find the time to train them? I could probably do it faster myself!
  4. How much is help going to cost and how can I manage it so I don’t end up with hidden expenses?

OK, let’s cover those questions one at a time.

But first, I want you to draw up a list of who you’d like to have on your Ultimate Dream Team.

If money and time weren’t a factor, who would you absolutely love to have supporting you in your business?

Here are some possibilities:

  • A Business Coach/Mentor who can guide you and ask the tough questions
  • A Marketing Expert who knows what’s working now
  • A Marketing Copywriter who is trained to write highly converting copy that gets you more subscribers, sales and clients
  • A Virtual Assistant who knows what you don’t know, who doesn’t have to be babysat and almost seems to read your mind before you even know what you want or need
  • A Webmaster who is fast and reliable
  • A Technical Assistant to handle problems with video uploads/downloads, audio editing, etc
  • A Graphic Designer who understands exactly the vibe you’re looking for and can quickly produce product images, logos, etc
  • A Financial Whiz who can keep all your financial records in order
  • A Publicist who spreads the word about you and your business and drives more traffic to your website
  • A Social Media Manager who engineers it so that it seems like you’re constantly present to your potential clients on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn
  • A Joint Venture Manager who can introduce you to and manage relationships between you and great partners who want to promote you
  • A Sales Expert who can handle one-to-one sales conversations for you and sell your programs and products
  • A General Manager who will make sure everyone is doing their job and that all projects are being handled on time and under budget

Take a moment and jot down which roles you would love to fill on your team.

OK, now let’s go back to those questions from earlier…

#1: How do I find the right people for my team?

  • You can use online resources, depending on the role you want to fill, such as Elance, Craigslist, Fiverr, Freelancer, and FiveSquids.These places can be a great source for roles like Graphic Designer, Webmaster, and Copywriter.
  • For more hands on roles in your business like Virtual Assistant, General Manager, or Business Coach, ask for referrals and recommendations from your mentor, colleagues, mastermind partners, social networks, etc

#2: How do I know they are someone I can trust?

  • Referrals from someone you know and trust are generally the best. Because the person you are hiring knows you have an acquaintance in common, they are less likely to exhibit any kind of behavior that will damage their reputation or the trust they have with the original referrer.
  • Networks like Elance, Fiverr, and Freelancer have a few mechanisms built in to protect you from someone untrustworthy. First, check out the potential service provider’s rating and reputation based on previous jobs. How many times have they been hired in the past? How did previous employers rate them? If a vendor tries to convince you to hire him/her outside of the schematics of say, Fiverr, that’s definitely a red flag! I recommend working with them via Fiverr, Elance, etc first before considering them hiring on your own.
  • You can never know for sure. I recommend giving a new hire a small project first to see how well you work together, how they communicate, and whether you are happy with their work before giving them a larger project that demands a greater level of trust.

#3: How do I find the time to train them? I can probably do it faster myself!

  • First of all, that’s the wrong attitude to take. You will never “find” the time. You’ve got to “make” the time. And do it because you see the tremendous value and countless hours of time that having someone to help you on your team will gain you in the long run.
  • I recommend hiring someone with more experience who doesn’t need a lot (if any) hand holding vs. someone who is a complete newbie (like your friend’s kid who just wants to earn a few bucks while he/she is in college). If you get someone who knows their stuff, training shouldn’t take long at all. Again start with a small project and build your way up.
  • Just because you CAN do something like data entry or putting up webpages, doesn’t mean you SHOULD be doing it yourself. Identify the areas of your business that will bring you to profitability the fastest. Which are the tasks that only YOU can do that will bring in more revenue. Understand that delegating other, lower level tasks to someone else will free up your time so that you can focus on the more important tasks.

#4: How much is help going to cost and how can I manage it so I don’t end up with hidden expenses?

  • Well, if you use a service like Fiverr or FiveSquids, you know the cost upfront. You agree to the amount and pay in advance. Your payment sits in an escrow account until the work has been delivered. So the service provider can’t take the money and run! If they don’t deliver, they don’t get paid and you get all of your money refunded automatically.
  • On Elance and Freelance, I recommend that when hiring someone in the beginning, ask for a flat rate per bid instead of accepting an hourly rate. For instance, if you want a graphic designed for your website, say you will pay a flat fee of $99 instead of $50/hour.
  • With service providers like Virtual Assistants and Copywriters outside of these internet networks, most will probably charge you an hourly rate. Some will ask for payment upfront for a certain number of hours. For instance, a Virtual Assistant might ask for you to pay for 10 hours in advance to be used during the course of the month. Others will bill you at the end of the month and submit an invoice. It’s really all a matter of communication, setting expectations, and being very clear about your budget. Ask them to let you know when they are getting close to 10 hours, etc so you can either approve more time for that month or decide that you want to wait. That way, you can manage the costs.

Don’t let a lot of fearful questions get in the way of you hiring the help you need to quickly grow your business.

If you hire well, each person on your team should be directly or indirectly responsible for you bringing in more clients, more sales, and more revenue into the business.

If you have questions about any of the service providers cited in this post or want a referral to some great, trusted virtual assistants, business coaches, general managers, or copywriters, post them in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Adamr /

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Client Getting Tip: Get Reviewed

Today I ‘d like to share a little used tip on how to get a lot more exposure for your membership site or opt in offer as well as how to get the all important Third Party Endorsement for your wonderful product, program, or service.

OK, before you move forward with this strategy, you have to have a few things in place first.

You must have:

  1. A landing page that you want to drive traffic to. Preferably a highly converting page that offers a way for visitors to easily sign up or opt in.
  2. A solid niche, meaning a specific audience of people that you can clearly describe. Whether they are Rescue Dog Owners, Powerboat Enthusiasts, Shellfish Lovers, or Stamp Collectors, your intended audience must identify as such and must be fairly enthusiastic about it.

Have you got those 2 pieces covered? Great!

Let’s move on to the “Get Reviewed” Strategy…


This strategy works best if you have an online  product or program but it can also work with physical products, or live workshops.

What you want to do is come up with a list of respected authorities in your given niche, whether that’s a blogger, an author, a professor, or a trainer. Take the time to evaluate whether or not that person or entity has a good “following.” How do they rank in Google and Alexa? How much engagement is happening on their blog or website via readers comments? How much activity do they have in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?

Once you’ve got a list of authorities, see if you have a “friend” in common who could introduce you. If so, tell your friend what you’re up to and why you’d love an introduction to Authority X.

If you don’t have any friends in common, you can still introduce yourself to that person. Let them know why you respect him/her and that you were wondering if he/she would be open to reviewing your product, program, or workshop and let them know that you would be happy to share a review copy.

OK, this strategy isn’t fool-proof! There are a lot of mistakes you can make.

“To help you out, here’s a list of Do’s and Dont’s…”

  • DO your homework before you approach anyone. Make sure you open communication with something specific that you like about him/her
  • DO compile a list of 15-25 potential reviewers. Some won’t get back to you and some will say no.
  • DON’T take anything personally! They are busy people just like you, so they may not have time to help you out.
  • DON’T send a generic email. Make it personal for each recipient.
  • DO make it easy for the potential reviewer. Provide them with a list of specifications (specs) that they can easily refer to which includes: your name, name of your program, website, price, audience, your claim to fame
  • DO ask how you can help them
  • DO offer to set up an account for him/her in your membership/program.
  • DON’T just send them a link and have him/her register on their own
  • DON’T make it look as though you assume he/she will say yes by sending them a copy of your program right off the bat
  • DO ask if there is anything additional that you can do to make it an easy yes for them

If you do this right, you have the potential of having your product, program, or membership featured on a highly visible blog or website.

Once the review comes out, make sure to promote and share it via social media. You can also ask for permission to use their logo on your website saying, “As Featured In…”

Of course, you run the risk of getting a bad review.

If you feel the review is unfair or erroneous, you can go back and gently try to set the record straight.

In the end, you must be able to stand by your work. If there is criticism, examine whether or not it’s a great learning experience. Take the notes and use them to make your offering better. Let the reviewer know that you have gone back based on what he/she said and made improvements.

Ultimately, if you do good work, chances are that other people who are also passionate about serving your audience will be happy to share what you are doing with the folks that you can help the most.

This tactic is just one of 18 that I share in my online video training, “45 Ways to Get More Clients for Your Membership Site…”


Get all the tips plus proven enrollment strategies, sales letter tips, and much more here.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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