The Enigma of Digital Courses—How Do You Spot the Real Deal?

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Watch a few YouTube videos about digital marketing or real estate investing whether for work or for your own information and it will start to happen. Sponsored content will start to appear in all your social feeds, touting some pretty dubious claims ...

"Work from home." "Start your own digital marketing agency." "Make six figures in 90 days." "Become a millionaire day trader." "Strike it rich in crypto." "Make passive income through affiliate marketing." "Make sales through Linkedin." "Become an Instagram influencer."

In other words, get rich. Quit your job. Live the lifestyle of your dreams. All at your fingertips ... if you buy their course.

If you have ever bought one of these courses, it's not Harvard. Built on DIY platforms like Teachable or Kajabi, these courses are decidedly DIY affairs, little better than a PowerPoint presentation, recorded Zoom call, or Loom video. The video and audio quality are rarely great, and the "teacher" usually a young guy with a backward hat, advertising that he doesn't have to dress up for no boss is rarely well-rehearsed. The videos have the feel of a meandering first take.

If this weren't dubious enough, the prices of these "courses" may make your eyeballs bulge usually clocking in the thousands of dollars. Yes, as the phone sales team of hard closers will point out, it's less than a college education or the franchise fee of a McDonald's restaurant, and they're promising riches galore six or seven figures within your first year. But that's slim comfort if it doesn't ... well ... work. At least with a college degree, you have some established idea of the market value.

Let's ask the tough question can these courses be anything but scams?

After all, if these guys really are millionaire entrepreneurs in the discipline they teach, why do they need your money as a student? And why would they want to train you as their competition?

Dylan Ogline, founder of the boutique marketing agency Ogline Digital, doesn't think those courses are scams. He has bought them himself and had varying levels of success with them. Now that his agency produces seven figures in sales per year from just a handful of clients, he has developed his own offering in the digital course market—Agency 2.0, a training program for aspiring digital entrepreneurs.

"My approach isn't going to be for everyone," Dylan says. "But my course helps people get out of their own way and take the actions that actually matter to building a digital business."

So does everyone who takes his course become a millionaire digital entrepreneur? Wouldn't that be quite a course?

"No," Dylan says. "The subject matter [building a digital marketing agency] is straightforward to learn, but the secret sauce is to get out there and make sales. I make it as easy as possible, but that's what separates the serious people from the people who spin their wheels. I spun my own wheels for years before I realized I needed to go out and make sales."

If Ogline Digital is so successful, why does he need Agency 2.0?

"Well, online courses are an easy business to scale and automate," Dylan said, "so it's a great business model ... if you can bring value."

But it goes deeper than that. "My initial goal for Ogline digital was six figures," Dylan said. "Once I implemented the principles I teach in Agency 2.0, I surpassed that goal in six months. Then I surpassed seven figures a year later."

"That's when I realized I had met and exceeded all of my financial goals. I could keep growing the agency, adding employees and complication and gray hairs to surpass eight figures, nine figures, however much ... but it wouldn't have made me more happy. Growth for its own sake can become an addiction."

"The real reason I started Agency 2.0 was to give back," Dylan concluded. "People stuck in careers they hate, with no job security and minimal retirement savings ... They asked me how to do what I do, and I want to help them. I have enough money. Agency 2.0 is for them."

As for training for his competition? "I do seven figures from only a handful of clients," Dylan said. "Think of how many businesses are out there who need digital marketing services. I could train 100,000 successful students and never scratch the surface of the demand."

This article was first published on July 30, 2021