Laura Berg Case Study: Building a Business by Selling Video Online
Laura Berg has been a MindBites author from pretty early on. She found us when we were first getting the marketplace up and running - and well before we’d built out any of the platform features and functionality. Anyhow, we’ve worked a ton with Laura and are absolutely crazy about her! Laura is a Baby Sign Language instructor in Toronto, Canada, and her approach to selling videos online is one that we could see all sorts of physical instructors benefiting from.
Her story began when she was teaching 8th grade and had been asked to run her school’s literacy program. While researching she came across a study that used the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet to help students develop their spelling skills. She was fascinated with this concept, and latched onto it right away. ASL encompasses a number of learning styles but specifically kinesthetic and visual. Her school was similarly interesting in giving it a shot, so Laura set about designing a curriculum and revamping her school’s literacy program. It was a tremendous success, and Laura subsequently was asked to lecture at various universities on the idea of using sign language to address literacy challenges in schools. This ultimately led her to launch My Smart Hands. In 2005, while pregnant with her daughter, Fireese, Laura began designing the My Smart Hands baby signing curriculum . After signing with Fireese and watching her learn ASL, she was able to fine-tune her program.
In January of 2007, Laura uploaded a video to YouTube of her signing with her daughter, Fireese. This video has since garnered well over two million views. While, on first glance, this was great publicity for her company, it was a bit of a double-edged sword. Laura lived and taught signing classes in Toronto, Canada, and, while many of these viewers were keen to ask Laura questions, few were candidates for her classes given that most were not in Toronto. Laura worked diligently to respond to submitted questions and follow-up with additional videos, but the outpouring of interest made her realize that there were a ton of people online looking for baby sign language instruction. This made since as an online outlet for instruction allowed for video-based instruction, which was particularly well-suited for subject areas that are better learned visually than through text-based approaches. Plus, online outlets were open 24/7 to users across time zones… and to moms that were up at odd hours.
Laura found MindBites in May of 2007, even before we’d launched the Beta version of the MindBites marketplace. MindBites was the perfect solution for her, as it enabled her to easily offer baby sign language instruction online in the form of discrete video lessons. And, while the production quality needed for a DVD requires a significant investment in equipment (for both production and editing), MindBites allowed her to easily get started and charge a price for access that felt commensurate with the lesson content and production quality of her lessons. Plus, with MindBites, it was easy to attach supplementary files to her lessons where appropriate - for instance, some of the baby sign language song lessons have MP3 files that are made available to the user upon lesson purchase.
Over time, Laura uploaded ~18 baby signing video lessons to MindBites, and with every significant product release from MindBites, Laura has been there to take advantage. Notably, in addition to her individual video lessons, she now sells bundles of baby sign language lessons (called series), as well. Users feel good about it because they get a discount buying a bundle when compared to buying all of the included lessons a la carte, and Laura feels good about it because it has dramatically increased her revenue per visitor numbers.
Additionally, Laura was one of our Beta customers when we rolled out the MindBites custom video stores. The custom store launch was really a turning point in the evolution of MindBites - with the launch, we changed from a marketplace to a platform. The custom stores basically offer our content partners and creators a way to sell their video content on their own sites. While there aren’t features on the custom stores that are missing from the MindBites marketplace, there were some compelling reasons why Laura and other content creators like her were interested in a more private and custom option. First, anyone with a web business would prefer to actively drive traffic to their own site with their own branding and navigation links rather than to the MindBites site, which obviously has MindBites branding and navigation links. This is especially true when one considers the fact that the MindBites site is an open marketplace, and, as such, it may also offer competing products. Second, the ability to enable users to purchase and immediately view videos through a custom video-on-demand store on your own site makes your site feel substantially differentiated and robust. Plus, the custom video store option lets you pick your own categories (rather than having to use the ones that we define on the site) and very effectively match the look and feel of your own site with its styling and customization options.
Laura has also been an active recruiter for the MindBites Associate program, our version of an affiliate program. Laura already had tons of fans that were promoting her lessons and series before we rolled out the program, but it offered her an excellent opportunity to reach out to these people to suggest that they get signed up such that they could get compensated for any sales generated off of their promotional efforts. This, again, was a win-win for her and the affiliates that were linking to her videos. They loved her content and, in many cases, had already been recommending it. With the program, they got paid for it. And, on the flip side, Laura gets paid the same amount whether there’s an affiliate involved or not. Hence, for every additional sale they make for her, she sees additional earnings in her bank account.
Laura is a phenomenal example of how a physical instructor, who traditionally relies on local customers that he/she can serve with 1-on-1 tutoring meetings or group classes or training sessions, can build out their business online by leveraging the power of the web and the power of video as an instructive medium. Anyone from a yoga instructor to an art teacher or a Spanish tutor stands to realize a considerable upside by taking their business to the next level and opening themselves up to a business that isn’t tied to any one geography. And, one more thing that’s a pretty good deal - you can sell the same video to 100 different people and there’s no incremental work required on your part. Laura uploaded her videos some time back, but the content won’t “expire”. There will always be more new mothers out there looking to teach their infants sign language, just as there will always be yogis and aspiring artists and beginning Spanish students looking for instruction. With that in mind, I’m pretty sure that Laura would agree that the more marketing and promotion efforts you make, the better off you’ll be. In addition to her website and YouTube presence, My Smart Hands also uses newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, traditional PR, etc.
Are you a physical instructor of some sort or do you have a business like Laura’s? We’d love to help you expand your business by marketing and selling video content online to reach a worldwide audience. You can learn more about selling videos on MindBites here and then check our various video-on-demand platform levels, which geared towards individuals and small/medium businesses. Or, even better, feel free to contact us to ask more questions, get us to mock up a custom video store for you or see if there’s a way we can work together.