SWOT Analysis for courses on chessboard
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Planning New Online Courses Using SWOT Analysis

Teachers and coaches can utilize a framework called SWOT Analysis to think about and validate new online courses and businesses.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

The Strengths help you assess your internal skills and success areas, while the Opportunities help you think about what you can best do next.

The Weaknesses and Threats help you tweak existing businesses to improve and survive challenges.

In this lesson, you will learn how to use SWOT to self-evaluate your course business and strategically identify the best options for existing and new businesses – like which new course to consider.

Firstly, we’ll review how you can leverage your positive Strengths and Opportunities.

Secondly, we’ll go over what you can do about your negative Weaknesses and Threats.

Finally, we’ll summarize the most important tips to keep your business healthy and find new course business ideas.

Video Lesson – How To Plan Your Course Business with SWOT

The SWOT Axes

The Strengths and Opportunities are the positive areas of your business, while the Weaknesses and Threats are the negative skills or problems in your business.

You can also think about what are internal factors versus external factors. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to you and your business, whereas Opportunities and Threats usually come from external factors in your business.

Demonstrating strengths by fake lifiing or moving a rock
Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

Course Business Strengths

When you are analyzing your strengths you should first think of your main creative skills and work experiences that you teach. Knowing your strengths can help you design your first course and keep going after that.

Strengths also include your teaching and business skills including:

  • Slide creation ability
  • Content writing & teaching skills
  • Graphics & marketing skills
  • Video & audio production skills
  • Technical skills

Advantages And Expertise

What natural advantages and expertise do you have? For example, maybe you have been writing poetry for 20 years, or maybe you have written for 3 famous magazines. If this is true, these skills and experiences will help you sell more courses.

Do More And Double Down

If you have a strength that is working out for you, you should consider doing more of your core skills. For example, if you teach a course on writing fantasy books, your follow-up courses could be about how to get started writing fantasy books, character development for fantasy books, or how to edit your fantasy book.

Increase Revenues

If you are already dominating a skill set as “the best expert”, you can decide to raise prices to increase your revenues. Some business owners are surprised when raising their prices barely impacts the total number of customers that buy from them each month.

Market As A Leader

If you are leading your industry, you can choose to use your profits to fuel your marketing. You can use set aside a percentage of your profits for sales & marketing. First, you can use your excess cash to create or make better text, image, and video ads. Secondly, you can advertise using a variety of channels, locations, times, marketing messages, and keywords.

Course Business Opportunities

Business opportunities are new business areas that you can move into easily based on your strengths. They have a high probability of success because they are close to what you are already doing well. Here are four strategies when looking at opportunities.

Niche, Adjacent

One opportunity strategy for course teachers is to niche down into specific courses. For example, maybe you are a sewing teacher and can offer classes on specific machines or make certain types of historical clothes.

Adjacent strategies are when you approach neighboring markets. For example, maybe you teach how to sew with machines, but you consider teaching how to sew by hand or how to quilt blankets.

Enhance, Expand

You can also zoom out with your skill set. For example, you may be teaching how to sew blouses, but now want to teach how to make socks, dresses, and gloves. You could also zoom out and teach sewing machine or sewing-by-hand fundamentals.

Growth Areas

Every few years, there are movements or trends that last a few years that you can join in on. For example, you may be in the hat fashion industry focused on hats like fedoras. But this year you are finding that many people are sporting wide-brim fedoras with other modifications like different colored under-brims (on the bottom). If this is your skill, you may be able to quickly assemble a spotlight course on making, styling, or selling wide-brim fedoras.

Emerging Markets

Finally, every decade, there are new major inventions and breakthrough processes that spawn new products and services. These are things like streaming over DVD, driverless cars, and 3D printers over 2D printers.

One recent invention is the Cricut printer, which allows crafters at home to make highly customized T-Shirts and other products at home. Someone that has a little experience with the Cricut printer within the first few years of introduction, could make really good earnings with courses like:

  • How to use the NEW THING
  • How to find and buy the NEW THING
  • How to make money with NEW THING
  • How to master the NEW THING

Tired runner on track
Photo by Elisa Kennemer on Unsplash

Course Business Weaknesses

Your weaknesses may limit your business success, but you can work at reducing your weaknesses over time. In this section, we’ll go over a couple of approaches to work around your weaknesses so that they don’t get in the way or slow you down as much.

Learn, Improve

First of all, you can start to learn and improve the skills that you are not good at. This isn’t about going from terrible to awesome, but at least knowing the basics about something. Remember in learning, you can quickly go from a beginner that knows absolutely nothing to an intermediate that knows the basics of a field.

So as a teacher, you know that you too can learn by:

  • Reading books
  • Watching free videos
  • Taking courses
  • Subscribing to blogger email lists
  • Joining a community

Get Helpers

In many cases, you should be able to find someone to help you with areas that you are weak in. This can include getting a contractor, freelancer, company, or hiring someone.

Some of the things you get help in your course business include:

  • Creating graphics for your lessons
  • Editing lesson videos
  • Technical setup and monthly operations of your course
  • Supporting your community
  • Creating resource guides

Get Tools, Hardware, and Apps

Often you can level up simply by buying some better tools. These tools will instantly make you better at what you may dread, stink, and get stuck on.

Here are some things you can buy that can overcome some of your weaknesses:

  • Getting software for graphics, video, and grammar
  • Buying a better or second camera, mic, or lights for your studio
  • Licensing graphics, stock photos, or fonts to create better content
  • Investing in a better desk, chair, monitor, or whiteboard
  • Buying maker hardware that makes things easier like stands, holders, glue guns, cutting boards

Minimize Impact

In some cases, it’s just not cost/effective or pleasurable for you to develop across all your weak areas.

So if you have a big gap that’s stopping you from success, try to improve, get help, or get some tools so that you can do all the basics.

The important thing is that you aren’t blocked.

It’s unrealistic to expect you to be an expert at everything, you simply want to get help and avoid getting blocked because some course business aspect isn’t in your zone of genius.

Course Business Threats

Threats are usually external factors from competitors or the industry that can negatively impact your business. While having a few competitors does mean that students need this service, you still want to be among the best options across all the course providers.

Here are a few strategies to consider when thinking about what to do about competitors.

Defend Against Competitors

Sometimes your competitors are inching their way closer to your core business.

When this happens, you can re-market your course or add a few missing lessons to improve an already strong course.

Here are some ideas on how you can keep your competitors at a safer arm’s length distance:

  • Update your sales page angle for who is this course for
  • Update your sales page benefits describing a better end state for your students
  • Update your module and lesson names to reposition them slightly
  • Update your lessons or add in a few new ones to better serve a segment of your customer base
  • Update or add a new bonus that addresses a gap that your competitors have

Finally, from a strategy point of view, you can think about this as building a bigger moat (water defense) around your castle to keep competitors from coming into your space.

Plan Ahead

If you are having a fierce market share battle with some of your competitors, you can consider scouting ahead to new content instead of fighting brutally now. This battle could be painful, leave public review scars, and burn through a lot of expensive ad money.

For example, if you teach 3D and there is a new software app or file format coming out, you could invest in learning and teaching the next big thing. This way you launch a new course or a refresher course with content that addresses the new skills that students will seek out in about one year. As a teacher, you could get involved in beta versions of software and hardware, read new books or content by leading authors, attend an industry conference, or hang out with your community’s insiders.

Reduce Risks

If you have a particular course that isn’t keeping up with the industry or is getting too many negative reviews, you may want to do something with that course before it starts damaging your reputation. This can especially happen on course marketplaces where one course out of many can affect your overall rating as a vendor, teacher, etc.

If you feel your content is outdated, you may want to refresh your course with new content or reframe it by salvaging any relevant topics.

Exit Products and Services

If you are struggling with one of your courses, you can consider just letting it earn some smaller money or stop teaching that class as you shift your area of focus.

You may not highlight this weaker class that is often outsold by a competitor, but you may choose to leave it in your catalog because it earns a few sales each month.

Some people switch their underperforming classes from a paid class to a free class. This class is then given away to your community or prospects in exchange for an email.

Or you may realize that one of your courses is simply not what you do anymore and instead of trying to improve it, you would rather exit that particular area.


SWOT Analysis Slide For Online Course Planning and Validation
Photo by ArtsyCourseExperts.com

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a business analysis framework where you analyze your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

They can leverage their leadership by marketing more and charging more.

They should expand from their strengths into new niches and adjacent markets.

They should minimize their weaknesses by investing in learning and getting help to complement their skills.

They should focus on new opportunities while avoiding threats by planning for the future and considering exiting dying businesses.

Summary – Using A SWOT Analysis For Your New Course Idea

Now you know about the SWOT analysis, you can use it the next time you’re thinking about your next big move.

It’s a great way to assess where you are at and your best options forward as well as how to deal with the rough sides of your business.

Here are a few of the most important tips for analyzing your situation with SWOT:

  • Assess the main creative skills and expertise that you teach
  • Assess your secondary generic skills like writing, production, marketing
  • Assess your current customers, social, mailing lists, community
  • Identify your top 2-3 core areas of strength from different angles
  • Brainstorm on opportunities as new options that are a few steps away from your strengths
  • Always keep leveling up your weaknesses with training and help, so that you are not as weak over time
  • Think about how you will deal with threats, you can fight and defend, or move on to new grounds
  • You can make these moves in short 2 week chunks or over the course of months or a year

For more creative teacher help building, operating, and growing your online courses, check out our ArtsyCourseExperts blog and subscribe to our email for regular tips.

More Tips For Online Teachers

The following lessons can also help you plan for new courses:

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