The problem with cookie cutter solutions for complex problems

There's a shit ton of BS in the online marketing world that's couched as advice, when all it really is is a funnel that leads you to buy something that worked for the person that's selling it.

They've now packaged their experience, scaled it, and are selling it to you, and almost always as a course.

Don't get me wrong. There are lots of great courses. And many are a necessity to grow one's business. I believe that.

But the courses, I am referring to are not that.

There are plenty of funnels I've been an active participant in that I eagerly bought and benefitted from at the end. These courses are not that.

The real issue I see for many service based businesses is it’s hard to see the forest for the tress when it comes to investing in courses that help you grow your business. Mainly because so many courses are packaged as A MUST DO in order to grow your business.

And sometimes they are. But figuring out which is which and when you need what is a whole next level hat trick at times.

Investing in courses when you’re not clear on the solution you actually need will almost always create more problems, waste your resources (time and money), and quite possibly do irrevocable harm to your business especially if you’re looking to fix a problem in your business that the course doesn’t specifically address.

Been there, done that. Hi!

Shiny object syndrome to the Nth degree

The onset of course mania over the past 4+ years has created two problems I'm seeing for service based business owners that are within their first few years of business online.

(I know these problems well, because I’ve experienced them both in my first few years, and I don't want that for you.)

The first, is that service based businesses buy into these courses thinking that the scaled experience will help them with the unique problems in their business.

If you're buying a course that shows you tactics, wonderful.

If you're buying a course that you think will solve a strategy issue, buyer beware.

These types of courses* are cookie cutter solutions for complex problems.

Yes, you can absolutely apply tactics to most online businesses and see some form of results, even great results.

But you can not buy someone else's strategy and apply it to yours.

And that’s almost always the problem, most business owners can’t diagnose what’s going wrong for them in their business, so they pile on courses thinking it will solve issues immediately.

(*Please be aware I’m speaking specifically of courses that do not offer a coaching experience or 1:1 with the course creator or their mentees. I’m also not speaking of group programs or masterminds where there is lots of hands on feedback from the person running the program. I run these, take part in them, and believe in them.)

The course creation bandwagon

The second issue I'm seeing is jumping on the course creation bandwagon as a fix to bring in lots of revenue and make things easier.

I thought course creation was kind of dead in the water in 2017 but yet, I still see big time marketers pushing course creation for new business owners.

I don't get it. (I mean I do, there’s no other shiny object to sell right now. They themselves have built their businesses on this model.)

I'm sure courses can work for some businesses starting out, but they certainly didn't work for me (and many other friends). I learned this the hard way when I basically destroyed a profitable, thriving consulting business in 2016/2017 by jumping on the course bandwagon.

I took a course that was all about creating courses.

I know, very meta. The course itself was amazing, and really well done. And it did its job of helping me launch courses. I’ve also recommended that course to others.

However, the real problem here for me, was I bought into a quick fix that I thought would solve fundamental problems and issues going on in my business: stop serving one person at a time and scale to serve as many as you can.

This in and of itself for me was the death knell my business.

Hindsight is a magical, bastard of a beast

In the spring of 2016, I basically abandoned a profitable and growing business model where I offered 1:1 services to start something totally brand new. Which meant an entirely different business model, with so much launching, good god so much launching. (All in a matter of months! lol. Do not ever do this.)

I thought I could trade in these high touch services for something totally different. I mean if it wasn’t completely naive I would call it arrogance.

What ended up happening, in a nutshell was it killed my momentum and my drive and my income — eventually (due to absolute burnout).

Do you know that retention and attrition rates on courses are absolutely dire? There are multiple figures out there, but the stats all hover at around 4% of students stick around.

Yes, that's right 96% of the people that sign up never show up and complete the course.

I noticed this immediately.

I had something like 20 people sign up for my first course and there were maybe 6 people there at then end. Which is actually a high rate, my course was $500 a head, not cheap.

But it still didn't stop people from not showing up and doing the work. And that sort of feedback loop is something I personally need to do my best work.

I look back on this time in my business and I feel awe, anger, and am completely shooketh (as the kids say) when I see what a monumental and catastrophic decision this was.

It's hard to convey how badly it destroyed everything for me.


It’s so easy to find distractions that we believe are business solutions that we think will solve our problems.

It’s so easy to buy into an end result.

It feels so good to pull the trigger and make a decision to completely upend everything, anything to make a change. Heck, in that moment it almost always feels like we’ve already fixed it!

Dreams are fun.

But these are all distractions.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with not knowing what the next right steps are for growing your business further.

But here’s the deal, if you’re in business and you’re bringing in clients and making an income. Even if you feel like you have plateaued, something is definitely working for you.

You just need to get even better at it. I really don’t think creating courses will help you, or buying another course (what you need is hands on help).

How can you make it work even better? (This is where I remind you completely overhauling and adding MORE to your workload is most likely not the answer.)

For me, looking back on all of it, I just needed to streamline my 1:1 services, increase my rates, and possibly offer group programs.

I also needed to get back to what I truly love — working with people 1:1.

But I couldn't see that. I was less than 3 years into my business.

Getting back to business

Running my business and helping others has always been personal for me and taking that out of the equation was a huge lesson for me. My zone of genius is working with people and seeing where they shine and what they need to focus on, and how I can help them get there.

I can’t do that from a recorded video or a static worksheet.

If I had any piece of advice for you it's to pay attention to what works for you. Pay attention to where you truly shine and what lights you up, and go there.

Go there! Keep going there!

Always buck the trends. Trends are rarely ever viable or create longterm growth.

Thinking I could serve lots of people through courses removed what makes me good at what I do.

Find out what’s unique to you, what sets you apart, and how you can do more of that in your business.

I hope me sharing my tale of teetering on the precipice of destruction, and having to continue to clean up that mess today, helps you make better decisions in your business. Because, it's what I love to do, regardless of what I had to get through to get here.

Photo by Mark Mühlberger on Unsplash