I am SO FREAKING EXCITED about this episode!!! Today, I’m interviewing the one and only Melissa Groves Azzaro, founder of thehormonedietitian.com.

Melissa is a dietitian who specializes in helping women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). After working with many many women 1:1, Melissa decided to create an online course to serve her audience. 

In this episode, Melissa walks us through how she came to that decision, how she learned to create an online course, and all the methods she used to validate and sell her course successfully. 

And spoiler alert – Melissa’s last launch generated more than $60,000 in sales. YES, $60,000 dollars!!! 

My hope today, in this episode, is to INSPIRE you that this is possible.  It’s possible for every single dietitian out there who wants to create passive income through an online course. 

If Melissa could do it, SO. CAN. YOU.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Melissa changed careers from advertising to dietetics
  • How she made the decision to launch an online course
  • Exactly how she earned over $90,000 from her presale and first few launches
  • The steps involved in creating a course (including the time investment)
  • How Instagram drives 90% of her business
  • Top 3 recommendations for dietitians interested in launching a course today

More About Melissa Groves Azzaro

Melissa Groves Azzaro, RDN, LD, is an integrative dietitian who helps busy women with hormone imbalances, PCOS, and fertility issues regain regular periods and get pregnant naturally. She uses a functional medicine approach to figure out the root causes of your symptoms and helps you develop a personalized nutrition, supplement, and lifestyle plan to balance your hormones and optimize your fertility.

She works virtually with clients one-on-one and in group programs, has a self-study course on PCOS called the PCOS Root Cause Roadmap, and her book, A Balanced Approach to PCOS came out in August 2020.

Connect with Melissa

Mentioned Resources

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified sales. If you click on those links and make a purchase, I will earn a small percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

Episode Show Notes

Erica Julson: Welcome to The Unconventional RD Podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We'll talk all things online business to help you start, grow, and scale your own digital empire.

Erica Julson: You guys, I am so freaking excited about this episode. Today, I'm interviewing the one and only Melissa Groves Azzaro, founder of thehormonedietitian.com. Melissa is a dietitian who specializes in helping women with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. After working with many, many women one on one, Melissa decided to create an online course to serve her audience. In this episode, Melissa walks us through how she came to that decision, how she learned to create an online course, and all the methods she used to validate and sell her course successfully.

Erica Julson: Spoiler alert, Melissa's last launch generated more than $60,000 in sales. Yes, $60,000, and for some of you, that may be more than you're earning in your current full-time job. My hope today in this episode is to first of all inspire you that this is possible. It is possible for every single dietitian out there who wants to create passive income through an online course. If Melissa could do it, so can you. It is fully possible to make six figures and more every single year from a digital course that you sell to your audience online. That's not even counting all of the other possible income streams that you could layer on top of that,

Erica Julson: I also hope that this episode takes away some of the intimidation factor around online courses. Melissa so generously shares with us the exact steps she took to create and launch her course, so hopefully, you can start to see how you could every much do the same. Without further ado, let's start chatting with Melissa.

Erica Julson: Hi, Melissa. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I am stoked to talk about your online course launch success.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I have to say I spend so much time on podcasts talking about PCOS and hormones and fertility that it's actually super fun for me to get to talk about my business.

Erica Julson: Yes, well, happy to oblige. I feel like I've known you in some ways, like via Facebook or the internet for a few years now, so I feel like I kind of know your story, but I'm guessing a lot of my listeners don't know your whole backstory, and I think it's super interesting how you sort of transitioned form a totally different field into dietetics and just started like killing it. I see you as a dietitian who was like, "This is what I want to do," and then you went out and you made it happen. Can you kind of guide us through your journey into dietetics and where you are now?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, it's kind of funny and same. I think that I first came across you Googling how to start a nutrition practice, and I somehow stumbled upon your Income Reports and I thought that was super inspirational, and then when I found your Facebook Group, you know... Yes, so that was years ago, like probably around three years ago. First of all, my first degree was in English and dance, making me highly unemployable basically, but I was in New York City and I was working in medical advertising. I had never really known that I liked science. I kind of had like one anatomy class and I didn't realize that it was something that I would find interesting, and the all of a sudden, I'm working on these targeted oncology drugs and just getting into biochemistry and all of that.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Advertising's kind of crazy. I was a copywriter and I worked my way up the ladder. I was a VP by the age of 32, so I was kind of killing it. To be fair, I was killing it in advertising, but I was burning out. It was 90-hour weeks week after week. It was a lot of travel. My clients were in Switzerland, so I was not home more than I was home. It's funny. I ran The New York City Marathon in 2008 and I was going to run it again in 2009. I qualified and I just got to the point in my training where I was like, "I don't want to run it again just to run it." I hadn't had time to train adequately because I've been on the road or working till midnight or all of the things.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I just got to the point where I was like, "I'm sacrificing too much for this job. What can I do instead?" I kind of describe it as like a duh moment, where I'm sitting in my living room and I'm looking at my four bookshelves full of food politics and cookbooks and nutrition and diet books and all of the things. That was when I started researching what it would be like to go back. I planned to go back for a Master's in Nutrition. I started taking all of the prereqs online while I was still working mostly part time in advertising. Then, my parents had moved up to New Hampshire in the meantime and I came up here to kind of decide which grad school I was going to go to.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I hadn't fully decided and I just fell in love with it up here. I didn't grow up here, so I didn't know anything about it and at the time, UNH did not have a Master's in Nutrition, so I ended up just going back and finishing the last two years of the schooling I needed there to get the BS. Then, I matched with their internship as well, and then I met a guy in New Hampshire, a local guy, and so now I'm here. It's been kind of a journey, but I really feel like so many of my skills from advertising, especially at copywriting, are so applicable to our field, so I think that's kind of why it's almost a little bit of an unfair advantage that I've had when it comes to understanding markets and ideal clients and how to talk to them.

Erica Julson: Well, I can't wait to hear more about the details on that. Okay, you became a dietitian, and then, how did you end up becoming an entrepreneur?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I did not plan to at all. Like most recent graduates since there is basically no full-time jobs out there for dietitians, I kind of cobbled together three different part-time jobs to make ends meet. One of them, I was working as a retail dietitian, which it was so super fun. I loved that job, and I was working in a rehab facility, and then I was working part time in a local functional medicine dietitian's office. That did not work out and I really could not stay there, so after about I don't even think it was three months, I was like, "I need to get out." That was when I was like, "Okay, I have never really thought about doing my own practice before, but now I know what that looks like and how doable it is."

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I didn't really know... I kind of knew a little bit at the time that I didn't want a small-town in-person practice where I just saw insurance clients one after another for five days a week. That's not me. I'm a huge introvert, so I need down time. I find client days really draining. Good, and definitely hopeful and exciting, but also draining and I need that down time. That was... I opened my practice in January of 2018.

Erica Julson: Okay, and so it's always virtual?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I had an in-person office two days a week, but from the beginning, most of my clients have been virtual. Before COVID, I was at like 95% virtual. If I have a local client, it tends to be someone whose Mom found me. My local clients tend to be like the high schoolers who are just diagnosed with PCOS and their Moms don't know what to do, so they come across me, but now, I'm a hundred percent virtual. I may never go back.

Erica Julson: I feel you. How did you decide on PCOS as your niche?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so that same practice I was working in, I saw all of the clients who came in for weight loss, so from a functional medicine perspective, you are doing the deeper digging to find out why they're having trouble losing weight when you're looking at their diet and their exercise and you're like, "Something's not adding up." What would almost always come back was there was some sort of hormonal imbalance, whether they had low thyroid or high cortisol or this condition called PCOS.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: As I learned more about it, I really felt like these women were not being served by conventional medicine and nutrition and lifestyle, who play such a big role. When I was starting my practice, you want to pick a niche, but you want to pick a big enough niche that it's going to be successful. With an estimated 10% of women having PCOS, it's a pretty significant niche.

Erica Julson: You just were like, "This is it," and you picked that from the jump and it worked out?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, for the most part. I definitely see my practice broadening in the future to include more hormone imbalances because PCOS is not my own personal hormone struggle, but I know there is other places I could help as well, but for now, it kind of makes everything streamlined and easy when you focus on mainly one thing.

Erica Julson: I'm not even sure if this is how you feel, but just looking in from the outside, it seems like having that clear niche from the jump probably helped you excel very quickly because you're very clear on your messaging and you're like, "This is who I help," and it just seems like you have a good handle on your business and that side of it. Do you think that's true?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. I spent a lot of time, especially in the beginning still finding my ideal customer avatar. I spent a lot of time talking with them and interviewing them and it pays back because constantly every day I'm hearing a response to an email I sent or a comment on an Instagram post saying, "It's like you're inside my head."

Erica Julson: Which is ideal, you know? That means you have nailed it, which I'm sure comes back, too, to all of your advertising experience and copywriting. You know how to talk to people. Okay, so you started a practice and it's going well. How many days a week do you see clients?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Still two.

Erica Julson: Cool. What gave you the idea of then creating a course?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I think I had always kind of known that that's where things were moving and that that was really where the freedom was of a content creator, as someone who loves to create content. Having something that's mine and I'm able to expand my work to more than the people I'm able to work with because in only two days a week, my wait list is... I think it was like at 412 last I looked, so really, I don't take that many new clients every month. They're on my list for about six months now before they can work with me, and that happened pretty quickly.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I'd say like the first six months of my practice were kind of quiet, and then all of a sudden it just kind of blew up. I had like one client find me who referred like four of her friends to me. It just kind of blew up at that point and I've had a wait list since last summer.

Erica Julson: Someone brought this question up recently in my Facebook Group and I thought it was a good question to ask on the podcast. When you got to capacity and you're like, "Okay, something needs to happen here," what made you choose the online course route versus hiring another dietitian to work under you?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. I get some and I know it's sort of personal preference and some dietitians do want a practice with dietitians under them. That's just not part of my business plan. I really have no desire to manage people in that way. I have managed people in advertising. I had big teams working under me. I'm actually a good manager I think. I try to give my employees flexibility and empower them, but it's just not in my business plan I think because I'm so against the idea of like a local office. I don't want that at all.

Erica Julson: That makes sense, and I think so much of entrepreneurship is just knowing yourself and knowing what you want and being okay with being like, "Okay, that's not the route I want to go down and that's fine." I feel similarly about one-on-one work. I'm just like, "I could do that, but I don't really want to, so I'm going to do all of these other things." That's fine, even though it works obviously amazingly for so many people. If it doesn't feel right to you, it's okay to say, "Okay, I'm going to pass on that and do the things that feel better for me."

Erica Julson: Okay, so can you tell us more about your course? What do you teach? What's kind of like the structure? I'm not sure if the people listening here have a lot of context for what a nutrition-specific online course might look like.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so essentially it's the same protocols I use with my one-on-one clients. It gives women all of the tools they need to get the answer for themselves and know what to do about it. With PCOS from a functional medicine perspective, we're thinking about the root causes of the symptoms. My course is structured into six modules, it's a six-week course. There is an intro module that is the science behind the symptoms. That kind of gives the overview, and then each module dives into the main root causes, so insulin resistance, inflammation, gut imbalances, and hormone imbalances. Then, the last two modules are kind of advanced tips and tricks, sort of emerging research in PCOS and some things to kind of experiment with to take it to that next level. Then, the final module is keys to long-term success, so it's how to build your healthcare team, what labs you might want to order, how to decide for yourself what a good supplement plan might look like for you, that kind of thing.

Erica Julson: I know this is a question that comes up all of the time online as well. People are like, "What's the line? Like, can I do this if I'm not licensed in every single state or all around the world?" What are your thoughts on discerning what "MNT" is versus just education? You know?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so my view on an online course is I'm doing absolutely nothing individualized. I'm giving the same plan to everyone, and I have all of the medical disclaimers on it, that consult with your healthcare practitioner and this does not constitute a client's RD relationship, and all of the things. It really is just kind of general advice. I don't really see the material in my course as any different from, say, the stuff I put out on Instagram or my blog.

Erica Julson: Yep, or another example I like to use is healthcare professionals who write books. It's like more like an interactive book, where instead of someone just reading it, you're speaking it and demonstrating it more interactively. Okay, so it's six modules. What's the difference price-wise? How much would somebody paying to the course from you versus the investment to like work with you? Do you think that's something that helps your business having the differentiation between pricing?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Absolutely. The course is sort of my more moderately priced offer, and I'd say I have a book coming out soon, so that will kind of be the low-priced offer for now. My most medium-priced offer is the course, and I did do a DUTCH test mini package where it's just that piece of it, and then with my one-on-one clients, it is expensive. It's three months, it's all-inclusive. I do everything, so the course, depending on what price point I'm offering it ends up being a fraction of one on one, and it is, it's the same methods, same tools, just is lacking my guidance and the accountability and the customization and the testing and all of the things that I do with my one-on-one clients.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Pricing-wise for my course, I've done a couple of different things. You probably remember I reached out to you back in like October or so when I was like, "Hey, I'm thinking of doing a Black Friday pre-sale. What do I do?" I'm glad I did that. It's a little different. I follow Amy Porterfield's course launch methods and apparently she in the newer version of Digital Course Academy that's coming out in September, she's including pre-sale option because so many of her students have had success with it, but she didn't recommend that. I was like, "I want to try this. I want to do like a Black Friday pre-sale and then launch in January." I had 44 people sign up at Black Friday. I offered it at half the price of launch price, that was $247.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Then, I kind of had to do it. It was like, "Okay, I've got all of these people expecting something from me." Then, I launched in January at $497. In January, I did do an upsell, so I did a VIP upsell where they got six weekly calls with me to go along with the sessions.

Erica Julson: Like a group call?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, a group Zoom call, and I restricted that just to women in the U.S.

Erica Julson: Okay, and then what was the difference in price for just the course versus with the add-on?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: The course is $497 and the VIP was $697.

Erica Julson: Okay, and did that seem to work?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It did, it did. When I relaunched in June, I don't know, I didn't feel like I really wanted to put that extra time into it, so I launched without the VIP, so I just launched at... I kept the price the same in June because of a couple of things going on. We have COVID and the financial situation. It was in the height of all of the protests and all of the things going on and I didn't feel comfortable raising the price at that time, so I kept it the same and it went fine.

Erica Julson: What was the size roughly of your audience during that very first... like the pre-sale?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I think I was at about 20,000 on Instagram at that point, and my email list was maybe around 1500.

Erica Julson: Awesome. Those are great numbers.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah.

Erica Julson: I just think it helps to give people perspective, too, because they're like, "Okay, I've got 44 people that like... in what context," you know?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, yeah, and I also have a free Facebook Group, and I think it was around a thousand on the first time I launched, so-

Erica Julson: That's awesome.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Pretty decent-sized audience.

Erica Julson: Then, after the pre-sale when the actual course came out, how did you go about that? Did you pre-sale it? Then, was there like a gap in time where you made it and released it? Or was it like, "Okay, we start on this day," and you were like making it live as it was rolling out?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so yeah. What happened, let's see, I did the Black Friday pre-sale. I had signed the contract on my book like two weeks before that and the book final due date was March 6th and the course was set to launch I believe it was January 26th, so I did not have a single word written of the course by the time we went live. I ended up with 70. I got 26 more sales during the live launch, so I was simultaneously writing my cookbook and shooting all of the recipes and recording each module each week.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I highly do not recommend that. COVID actually came at kind of an opportune time for me because I handed in the book and the last day of the course was March 6th, and then it was like I was running around taking care of all of the things that had been on fire for the last six months. Literally, like my car registration was expired and I was like driving, hoping not to get pulled over on the way to City Hall to get back. That happened and then it was like, "Boom." The next week it was like so much uncertainty, and then pretty much everything on my calendar for April was just gone. I was really, really burnt out. It took a couple of months to bounce back from that, for sure.

Erica Julson: I'm not sure if everyone listening here is really aware of what a pre-sale is. I'm not sure if I've really spent a lot of time talking about it specifically on this podcast, so could you just elaborate on what is a pre-sale? Why would you do that?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. I actually was kind of inspired. I know you do pre-sales in your business and I've seen you do it and you've talked about the success of it in your Income Report. I know Heather Neal also does pre-sales or early bird specials on the RD Symposium and the things she promotes. I was like, "There's got to be something to it." A pre-sale is basically selling the idea of something before it exists, and in some ways it can actually help you validate your idea because it will instantly show you if there's interest in the product that you are putting on offer or not.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Like I said, I do Amy Porterfield's method, so I had already done about 12 validation calls with my ideal customers to run them by what I was thinking, got their ideas and their input, so I already felt pretty secure. People had been asking me for something like this for quite some time, so I knew it was going to sell well. The pre-sale allowed me to hire a little bit of extra help as well. I have a mentee who's a student and she's a Canva rock stars, so I had her do the layouts for all of the handouts, the PDFs for the course for me. It just felt more comfortable being able to do that knowing that I had already made some money on the course.

Erica Julson: Yeah, that's a great point. I found myself in a similar situation way back when I first started my Functional Nutrition Library membership site. It was like years ago, but I wanted to do it, but I had all these other part-time jobs that took up like all of my time, so I was like, "Okay, I'm going to take time away from those activities to do this. It has to be paid for essentially, or I'm not going to be able to make my rent." That was a big reason I wanted to pre-sale the idea before I started it, and thankfully it worked out and I sold enough to fund my extra work for a month or two. I'm a huge fan.

Erica Julson: Obviously, it depends on your stage of business as well. If you already have a really thriving private practice and a huge audience, maybe you could launch something and it probably will go well because you've already done the work to build your audience, especially for beginners where you're feeling it out and you're like, "Do I have a connection with my audience? Do I know what they want?" They can help in that aspect as well.

Erica Julson: All right, so you did the pre-sale and then you did the live launch in January?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erica Julson: It was the same cohort of people, so the pre-sale people are going to get lumped in with the additional people who joined in January and then you were all going to start together basically, right?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Exactly.

Erica Julson: Okay, and then the people who signed up in that second offering, did they pay a higher price than the pre-sale people?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so they pulled the full price, so they paid $497 for the course.

Erica Julson: Perfect. Yeah, and how amazing. If you do the math on that, it's like, what, like a $20,000....

Melissa Groves Azzaro: $26,000

Erica Julson: Oh my gosh.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, for my first launch I was really, really happy with that.

Erica Julson: Yeah. I mean, it's freaking awesome. How did that feel, first of all?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It felt really good. And same, I had sort of started dialing back on taking those one-on-one clients starting in November because of the book and because of how much work that involved, and so I really had like almost no income for like November, December, January, so to suddenly make that much money in January, it was like, "Oh, okay. I can breathe easier a little bit now for sure." I was really, really happy with it. There was such good energy from the group, too.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I have a paid Facebook Group that they go into and it was just really good. Really rewarding, and then when I started to see... I had no idea if they were going to get the same kind of results that I got for my clients with all of that one-on-one attention. To be able to see the results that the women in the group have gotten just from the course is really, really rewarding. They're getting their periods back with a couple of babies on the way from the January course already. They've lost weight, their husbands have lost weight, they're like just feeling much better about themself. That's really good.

Erica Julson: That just gives you all of that... It's like the confidence snowballs and then the next time you launch you're even more excited. I think people can feel that, and usually the second, third, fourth launches do even better than the first one. I'm sure that was exciting and we're going to talk about that in a second, but before we get there, I just still want to help people understand, how do you create a course? What did you actually have to do?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so again, I'm a huge Amy Porterfield junkie. I've done all of her courses. I signed up for Digital Course Academy back in January of 2019 when it launched and that's how long it took me. It took me a full year to get a course out there. She kind of breaks it down in there. You start with validation before you even outline anything, before you even write a thing, and you meet with your ideal client and ask them. I met with some of my former one-on-one clients who I really enjoyed working with. I put a couple of calls out on my Facebook Business page, and I was just overwhelmed with responses of people who wanted to talk to me for free. Basically, it's like I'm not giving you anything. I'm literally asking you questions about like, what's your favorite TV show? Where do you shop?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: That was really good. Then, you outlined the course. I really love... She has a podcast episode, it's probably like a year and a half back at this point called The Post-it Method, where you put all of your ideas on Post-its and you just stick them up on the wall. Then, you kind of organize them based on where you think they should go. Then, you go through with a different color of Post-it and you stick on all of the handouts that you think should go with each module and each lesson. That really helped and I transferred that all into a group of Drag Doc and then... I'm not a big outliner. I'm not a big like outliner, scripter. I kind of jump right in, so from that point I just jumped right into the site creation.

Erica Julson: You're just basically creating slides in PowerPoint or something like that. Then, what tools did you use to record?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so I had heard Jenna Kutcher was talking about... What's the one that comes with the Mac? It's called like T-something -

Erica Julson: There's ScreenFlow, Camtasia-

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, the Mac PowerPoint thing, is it...

Erica Julson: Oh, Keynote?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah.

Erica Julson: Is it?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah.

Erica Julson: I never use that.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I had planned on doing that because I had listened to... Jenna Kutcher has an episode about how to record a course in a weekend basically. I know, I was like, "Well, this sounds great." I had thought about doing that and then the learning curve on Keynote was going to be too steep. Not that I'm a PowerPoint expert by any means, but I give myself a solid C+ in PowerPoint, so I was like, "Okay, I'm going to be able to crank through PowerPoint." It was a very, very last-minute decision that I ended up going with ScreenFlow, which has been relatively user-friendly for someone with absolutely zero video editing experience.

Erica Julson: Yeah, and that's just basically a tool where you can record your screen, right?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erica Julson: Did you put your face in it at all? Or just the slides and your voice?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: No, just the slides and my voice. I'm doing a pretty big overhaul for the fall launch, so I'll definitely be doing at least an intro video of my face. I'll probably stick with just the slides for the recordings. I feel like it's kind of distracting when you've got someone talking on the side, but I'll do like a welcome video and maybe a celebrate video that I'll add to the expanded course in the fall.

Erica Julson: That's a great example of how it's never going to be like a thousand percent perfect when you launch, and every time you do it you're like, "Oh, it'll be cool if I could add this thing here and make it even better," so thanks for sharing that. As you're building it, how much time per week do you think you spent on it?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Modules-wise, because I know exactly what my schedule was. I was writing the slides on Thursdays and Fridays and I was averaging about a hundred slides per week, so per module divided out between the lessons, each module had anywhere from five to seven or eight lessons, depending on the topic. It would pretty much take me like a day and a half to write the slides for the week, and then the recording part's pretty fast. It turned out being around an hour of content per week.

Erica Julson: In my opinion, the best part of that is as you move forward and you launch it again, you probably don't need to redo all of that. Maybe a few things here and there, but it's significantly less work as you continue to launch it again and again.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. I'm actually in the process right now, so talking about my third launch, I'm in the process right now. I just rebranded and changed my URL and I'm just about to debut my new logo and my designer's also sort of making me a better branded template for the slides so that I'm hoping that the course this fall will be as close to done as I wanted it to be at first, but you kind of have to let go of stuff like that. It's turns into, "I just have to get it done and out there." You know?

Erica Julson: Yep, and that's another way that pre-selling can push you to do that because there's a date attached. Okay, so you did it in January and then you did a second launch more recently?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yes, and my plan was to relaunch in April, and that didn't really happen. Then, I felt like June was a good time to relaunch, so I think at that point people have been home long enough, they're kind of bored. People were asking it again like, "When are you going to be doing the course again?" I launched in June, or actually by the time this airs, it will be done, but right now we're in the fifth week of six out of the course with the second batch.

Erica Julson: Awesome, and that's a good point, too. People could only buy it initially during that live launch in January and then the cart closed?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. Cart closed. I did the live launch in June and I do one more live launch in September-October, and then I'm going to set it on evergreen after that.

Erica Julson: That's awesome. Yeah, I think that's kind of where my business is heading as well. I'm starting to dive deeper into the evergreen world and it's so much fun.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: More tech to learn!

Erica Julson: I know. Actually, I have a baby funnel going right now using some of those tools, like Deadline Funnel and all of that and it's working. I just know I could make it significantly better. All right, so tell us because I know I fangirled out and I watched you. You had a Facebook Live interview with Amy Porterfield and I was like, "Oh my gosh. I know her. I have to watch this." You shared how successful the second launch went, so do you mind sharing again for everyone listening here?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, sure. First of all, I was fangirling out, too. When I got the email from her team, I was like, "Amy Freaking Porterfield." I felt like Oprah called me herself and I was just like, "I can't believe it." I got to share the numbers on there. I was, again, really blown away. I had 70 in the first in January. I was hoping for a hundred and I thought a hundred was a good target for this launch. I ended up with 182.

Erica Julson: Dang.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah.

Erica Julson: What's the math on that?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It's $66,000.

Erica Julson: Oh my God.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, yeah, so-

Erica Julson: For everyone listening who's like, "Oh, you can only do courses selling other business tools." This is a PCOS course. This is a nutrition topic. This is in all of our wheelhouses. So if Melissa can do it, you can do it, too.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I will say the things I didn't really anticipate going into the second launch compared to the first is how much easier it is. Once all of this material exists and you're pipelines exist and all of your emails exist, you're aren't building anything from scratch, so I just felt like I was much more able to be present during the launch and add in some more fun things, like I threw in an Instagram Live. I was able to really kind of get in there, responds to more people's questions this time around because I wasn't so, so stressed about the fact that it didn't exist yet.

Erica Julson: Yeah. That was going to be my next question. What do you think made the difference between the two launches? It sounds like that's part of it. Did your audience grow, too, in between them?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. My email list is up to... it was up to 5,000 after the launch and it's at about 5500 now. I also recently tweaked my lead magnet, though, and it's like gangbusters, so that's been really good. I had a quiz. I've had a quiz for a while and actually after I spoke to Amy, it just sort of spurred me to do what I've been meaning to do, which is align it more with my course. I felt like the quiz topic wasn't fully aligned with my course, whereas now it is. It's been doing really, really well. I think I got 2,000 leads in like a three-day period or something like that.

Erica Julson: That's amazing, and I know you're not fully evergreen yet, but I can see how that would be the perfect integration because the people filling out that quiz are your ideal course customers.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, and I guess I'll have to start doing like a mini tripwire after the quiz, too, so excited to do that.

Erica Julson: Can you explain what that is for people?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, so there's this whole like new trend right now about tiny offers as opposed to all of the stuff we give for free where they sign up and get... One of my original lead magnets was a five-day meal plan. Instead of that, what you do is you kind of get their buy-in by having them buy something really small from you, like a seven-day challenge or a 15-page E-book where they're paying 3.99 or 7.99.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: The goal of the offer is not actually for you to make money, it's for them to feel like they've invested something in you and then they're going to pay more attention to your bigger offers down the road. I'm in the process of working on that now. I will be playing with Deadline Funnels and all of that. Oh, and we didn't talk about it. I host a course on Kajabi, which-

Erica Julson: How's that been going?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It's good. It does all of the thing that I need it to do. It's definitely not intuitive from a how to do things. I'm resourceful. I just Google, "Kajabi how do I 'fill in the blank?'", and figure it out. There's always a lot of swearing here on tech days. It's not good.

Erica Julson: Kajabi, it kind of markets itself as more of like an all-in-one solution, but are you just using it for the course?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I am. I don't want to leave ConvertKit. I'm really happy. That makes sense to my brain the way that all of the automations are visual and I can see where everybody is. That just makes more sense to my brain, and I've heard mixed things about Kajabi's email capability, so you know-

Erica Julson: Yeah.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It pains me every month to pay the ConvertKit fees, but I'm pretty ruthless when it comes to pruning my list, so I try to keep it small.

Erica Julson: Yeah, but if you do any sort of email marketing, you make that money back relatively easy. In terms of getting the sales, did you track like where your sales came from? Do you have any idea of like what marketing efforts were the most effective for you?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Okay, so here's where I'm a baby course creator because I really don't know how to do that. I mean, I have the Pixel set up in all of the places I was supposed to set the Pixel up, but I really don't know how to tell where they came from, so that's something for the future. As far as like marketing of courses and what's recommended, I haven't at all dabbled in Facebook Ads yet because it's so, so hard as a healthcare professional to get an ad approved because not only is everything you say on the ad have to get approved, whatever's on your landing page has to get approved. You can't say PCOS, you can't even say women, so it really makes it hard site. I have to kind of figure out a workaround so that I can start incorporating Facebook Ads, drag them to a blog post or something instead that's innocuous but has links to where I ultimately want to send them, yeah.

Erica Julson: Yeah, or just get them on your list and then sell them in your funnel.

Erica Julson: That might work.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: That's been my strategy so far.

Erica Julson: I'm not super... I don't have a ton of tracking set up for my stuff, either, but I just at the most basic level always put a question on the sign-up form like, "Where did you hear about us?" Then, at least I can see where my customers are coming from, so that's how I know that the podcast isn't super lucrative or it's not the primary way that people are discovering me because it's much more common for somebody to say that they found me through Facebook or Google or something like that.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I do check that metric in my one-on-one clients or anyone who comes into my EHR portal gets asked that question. On any given month, it's anywhere from 92 to 95% who find me on Instagram and the rest are from podcast interviews I've done.

Erica Julson: You're really good at Instagram.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Thank you.

Erica Julson: Speaking of which, is that just something that it came naturally to you? Or did you take a course?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I did a course. I took Rachel Paul's Beat The Algorithm Course and I did that... It's kinda funny, I had worked like a whole year to get my Instagram up and I managed to grow it to about 2,000 by myself, which I felt was pretty good. Then, I took the course in... I actually did it over Christmas break right before January 2019 and I went from 2400 in January 2019 to 24,000 by January 2020.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Currently, I just hit 40,000 this week, so it just keeps growing. I think I was doing a lot of the right stuff. My content was good, it just wasn't getting seen. Honestly, if there's one change I attribute my most growth to, it was changing my name, changing my handle. Then, that turned into a whole headache because then everybody knows me as The Hormone Dietitian and nobody could find my Facebook page and nobody could find my website. Now, I'm in-

Erica Julson: Hence, the rebrand.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Hence, the rebrand and the refiling LLC and redesigning the logo and all of the things, so yeah.

Erica Julson: That's a great name, though, so maybe it's for the best.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It is. It's good. I knew I loved the name Avocado Grove Nutrition because avocados are my favorite food and Groves is my last name I just felt... but it's fine. It chose me is what I say.

Erica Julson: The idea being if someone sees you interacting with someone else on Instagram and they see your handle, they're going to be like, "Oh, The Hormone Dietitian, I need that," and then click on your name.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Exactly. They instantly know what you do by looking at your name. You know how Instagram will suggest to you, "Other accounts like this to follow," and so I really feel like that name change was the biggest driver of growth.

Erica Julson: In your opinion, do you think that really any RD is capable of creating and selling an online course? Or are there any like benchmarks or things that you should focus on to know that you're ready?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, absolutely. You definitely want to have that one-on-one experience with clients or with groups so that you know you can get results for people because the results are what they pay for. Results are the reason why they take the course, so if you never worked with anyone and you just want to create a course, it's like you don't really have any metrics to know that that's going to work for most people. Where I know that most people who follow my methods will get their results that my one-on-one clients have.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: There's kind of differing views on when to launch a course. Personally, I think a course is so, so much work that I wouldn't want to launch it to crickets. If you don't have an audience somewhere, like if you don't have an email list, if you don't have a social media following, you don't have good SEO numbers, where are you expecting these people to come from who are going to magically buy your course? I recommend, especially in healthcare because we can't rely on ads to get our information out there, have a decently-sized audience because I would hate to put that much work into something and then make $700. It's not a good return on investment of time if you're not going to make that much money off the course.

Erica Julson: Yeah, I would agree with that, and in my experience and just from hearing other people talk about their conversion rates, they're pretty low online. Even if only 1% of the people who saw your offer bought it, that's not abysmal. That would be right in line on the lower end, but still in line with what online sales look like, like one to three percent. You know?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: I think for my first launch, when you crunched the numbers, it actually was more like 0.2%, so if you've got a hundred followers, that's not even a person.

Erica Julson: Right.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: You know?

Erica Julson: Exactly, and I know I was this way, too, when I first started out. If I had like a thousand people following me, I was like, "Oh my gosh, probably a hundred people will buy." It's like, "No, maybe 10, and on a good day."

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, I know. Spend some time in your email metrics and see how many people are actually clicking over and looking at your things. It can take you from feeling like a rockstar to feeling pretty bad about yourself real fast. To be like, "Wow, only 2% of people actually clicked through to the link I just sent." You know?

Erica Julson: I also think normalizing it... That's why you don't just send one email one time when you're promoting something. That's like driving home the importance of consistent communication and consistent promotion as well.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Same with Instagram. I would say that's probably one of the biggest mistakes I see is people popping on just to start a drop of promotion and run. You can't do that. People don't know who you are when they do that. They're like, "What is this thing? I don't even know."

Erica Julson: Exactly.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah.

Erica Julson: You have to build that relationship, which if anyone needs a great example of how to build a solid relationship with their followers on Instagram, please go to Melissa's Hormone Dietitian. Are there periods in there? Or is it-

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It's the.hormone.dietitian. Yeah, I've actually gotten to the point where imagine one quick question times 40,000, you'll start to know what my life is like. I get hundreds of hundreds of DMs a week. I actually just last month hired someone to manage the DM requests my general DM box because I still... I didn't want to let go a hundred percent because I have all of my dietitian friends I chat with on Instagram, so I was able to kind of organize it and keep everyone I know in my primary box and she handles the rest. It makes me less angry, which makes me more willing to serve my audience instead of resenting them, for sure.

Erica Julson: Overall, do you like doing online courses? Is it something you think you'll continue doing?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Absolutely. It's one of those things where you get a little taste of it and it's like I already have my whole next course outlined in my head. I know exactly what it is and I'm just excited. I think, like you said, knowing yourself and knowing what you enjoy doing and what you're good at, and for me that is content creation. I know you and I both had the same article writing experience in the past and creating content for someone else is not quite the same as creating content for yourself and your business that you want to create. I'm so much more passionate when I'm doing that and I enjoy it. I have a knack for the health communication and breaking things down into simple language for people to really understand. That's really where my heart lies is in that content creation piece.

Erica Julson: Are there any tweaks you might make to the model in the future? Or things you might try or experiment with

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. For my next course, I'm actually considering a beta launch because it's a niche-adjacent topic, so I haven't spent a lot of time communicating about that topic yet, so I'm starting to filter more of that into my content. I'm also still really focused on PCOS because that's the big live launch that we'll be doing in the fall and the topic of my book right now. Started filtering it in, so I think doing a beta launch where I could keep it kind of loose and get feedback as we're going along might help me more with knowing what that particular audience needs.

Erica Julson: Yeah. Can you just explain what a beta launch is? What would that look like?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. Usually it's at a lower price than a full launch and it's done with kind of the understanding that the people in your group will be giving you feedback as you go through it, so you'll be serving them. They'll say what they like, what they don't like, what they feel is missing. It's really hard getting testimonials on a course. I've had... What are we up to? 250 people who go through my course now? I've gotten 12 testimonials and that was with like a giveaway raffle, you know? I know you just did one recently, too, where... It is.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: It's like pulling teeth to get feedback, so this way it's kind of baked into the process and it helps you finalize your decisions to make the course better before you launch all out. Usually you limit it to a small number of people. Things might not look as finished, you know?

Erica Julson: Yeah, kind of like an intimate like... They get the benefit because it's cheaper and it's more closer access to you, but in return for that discount and more interaction with you, then they have to give their feedback and it's expected. They can't just be like, "I want to be a beta tester," and then like not ever show up. It's more involved on their part as well.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. For this second launch, I actually offered scholarships to minority women in the U.S. All they had to do was apply. They tell me why they're a good fit for the course. I ended up taking eight full scholarships for the course, which has been really, really good and glad I was able to do that with this one, too, where I felt like the group was big enough. I was like comfortable enough with the process to do that, so that-

Erica Julson: Awesome.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Worked out really well. I hope to do more of that in the future once I build a team to review scholarship applications.

Erica Julson: Well, okay. To wrap things up, let's close it out with... Do you just have like maybe three solid recommendations for dietitians who are thinking about creating and selling an online course?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Number one, do it. Number two, I would say this might be a little bit controversial, but work outside the dietitian field when it comes to coaches and mentors. I think we by far are not known as like the marketing gurus, so don't be afraid to learn from people who are unabashedly marketing gurus. They know what they're talking about, so I would say that's one thing I kind of always gotten education from outside the field as well inside.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Third thing, really start with knowing your client, knowing your ideal customer avatar, like down to what's her name? How old is she? What's her hair color? Is she married? Did she go to college? Where does she shop for her groceries? Also, like what books they read and things like that. Really, really know this person, and if it helps, have a picture of her, even if it's one of your former clients. Just have a picture of her in mind and then write, or him or them, and have a picture of them in your mind and only talk to that person.

Erica Julson: Yep, so the idea being if you can envision your ideal client as an actual person, it can make it easier to write to them instead of sometimes our voice gets lost if we're writing to the great void of the internet and it doesn't feel personal.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, and I'm sure you've covered this a lot, but don't be afraid to niche. Even though my person is 32 years old and works in marketing and lives in a big city, I attract customers who are outside of that specific niche because there's enough in there that speaks to them.

Erica Julson: Bottom line, having done... I'm a huge Amy Porterfield fan, too. Would you recommend her program? Obviously, you had fabulous results.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. I've listened to a bunch of them and I've bought other people's little things here and there. She's the one I never miss a podcast, so that's what I really appreciate about Amy is it's actionable. Everything is the bullet points of what you need to do. That's why I gravitate towards her more than some of the other ones. I just can't with the fluffy, positive stories, you know?

Erica Julson: Yeah.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah. Amy is really my person for the business stuff. There are others out there. There are dietitians who do it as well. I've heard different things from different people who've worked with different people. There's a lot of options out there.

Erica Julson: Yeah. I just took that advice and I enrolled in Caitlin Bacher's Scale with Success program, which was a huge, ginormous investment. It's a year-long commitment, but she's not a dietitian. She's just like an online marketing person. I don't even remember how I found her, but I was like, "All right, this is what I want to do. The next step for me is make my offers evergreen and scale them, and I could do it myself, but how freaking long is that going to take me?" I just decided to sign up. If nothing else for the kick in the pants and the accountability, you know?

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, absolutely. That's her thing is like scalability?

Erica Julson: Yeah.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Cool.

Erica Julson: Yeah. It's like-

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Cool.

Erica Julson: She teaches you... It's basically like an evergreen webinar funnel. I can't access all of the content yet because it's like she gives you access to part of it and then you have to finish that before you're allowed to move on to the next step. I'm still on the part of like redoing my webinar, my sales page, and all of that, which already looks a thousand times better. There's different levels, so once that's set up, it's like the bigger picture of like Facebook Ads and going live on your Facebook Group and using the Pixel to retarget people and funnels. I'm like, "That's the meat that I really need to get to," so I'm excited.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Yeah, that's sounds awesome. I can't wait to see your new stuff.

Erica Julson: Yeah. I'm just doing it for the SEO course to start out because they recommend just like focusing on one thing, and then you can decide if you want to make more funnels after that, but yeah. Well, thanks for being here today. It's a wonderful conversation and I know people are going to be endlessly inspired by your story and all of your success, so thank you for sharing so openly.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Thank you so much. Yeah, I'm actually helping with the third launch. This is a six-figure product for me this year. I don't see why it wouldn't be, so really, really kind of impressive and exciting.

Erica Julson: Smashing the broke dietitian stereotype.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: For sure.

Erica Julson: Well, thanks again. I know we went like five minutes over and I am shocked. The gardeners were supposed to come today and they haven't come, so I'm like, "Somehow I escaped. The podcast interviews are unscathed."

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Okay. Well, thank you for having me. This was super fun. Like I said, I never get to talk about my business, so it's like super fun.

Erica Julson: You're like so good at it, so thank you for sharing.

Melissa Groves Azzaro: Sure. Happy to inspire.

Erica Julson: Okay, so wow, right? How inspirational is Melissa? Please go follow her on her Instagram @the.hormone.dietitian, or check her out at her website, thehormonedietitian.com. Of course, if you want the links to any of the resources we mentioned today, head to the show notes for this episode available on my website at theunconventionalrd.com/episode042.

Erica Julson: P.S., if you want a more intimate place to connect with amazing digital entrepreneurs like Melissa, I highly recommend enrolling in my SEO Made Simple online course. This course teaches you how to build your audience through blogging, which can be one of the cornerstone traffic drivers to your online business. Melissa's in that course, along with over 300 other entrepreneurial-minded wellness professionals, so if the general TURD community, that's short for The Unconventional RD.

Erica Julson: I know, an unfortunate acronym but we're rolling with it, so if that general unconventional RD community on Facebook feels a little overwhelming at times, because I get it, there's nearly 10,000 people in there now, and if you're looking for a more intimate space to connect with people, get advice, share wins, and maybe most importantly, network, the Students Only Facebook Group, which you get access to after you enroll in one of my courses, is the place to be. You can find more information about my courses at theunconventionalrd.com. Simply click on the Courses tab in the main navigation to learn more. Thanks again and I will see you next Monday.

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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.