Different from many other businesses who migrated online from in-person teaching as a result of COVID-19, Dino and Micol had a competitive advantage: they gained a head-start on the online learning market since they simply started earlier.
On top of this, they already had an audience who trusted them and loved their content so much that they personally asked them for online lessons.
So this is how the online course membership of Rustico Cooking was born.
In less than one year, Dino and Micol managed to create a membership site using Heights Platform, with more than 10 different online courses, hundreds of students, and thousands in revenue.
"In less than 1 year, they created a membership site with 10 online courses, 100s of students, 1000s in revenue"
A closer look into Rustico Cooking
If you are thinking about starting your own cooking online course, Dino and Micol’s business is surely a great example of how to structure a program in this niche.
Rustico Cooking is a membership site, meaning that customers pay a monthly subscription in order to access the content of the courses.
Once a client signs up to the site, they have access to different courses (at the time we are writing this article, they have 12 courses and more than 100 lessons and they keep adding new content).
“Our program is completely non-linear - members can start in any section, or skip any lesson they wish. Right now we have over 100 Lessons and we are adding 4 to 6 new lessons every month. With such a large number of lessons, organization is key so that our students can find what they need easily.”
Each course covers a different topic in Italian cuisine and includes from 5 to 22 lessons. There is one course for pasta, one for meat, one for appetizers, one for desserts, and so on.
“For instance, the Pasta Sauces course is subdivided into modules focusing on sauces that are tomato-based, cream-based, meat-based, etc…”
What makes Rustico Cooking so engaging for its students is the fact that each lesson is dedicated to one single recipe. By doing so, students can easily scroll through the courses and find different recipes faster.
“The fact that each lesson can have its own image is invaluable - it is much easier for subscribers to visually scan hundreds of pictures compared to text when searching what they want to cook next.”
There is consistency in how the course is structured, and students know what to expect from every single lesson.
The lessons are all built in the same fashion: they include a video showing step-by-step how to make the dish, followed by the text version of the recipe rich with images and a downloadable PDF that can be printed by the students.
“Each lesson in our Italian cooking membership site hosted on the Heights platform features a video of making a single dish, from beginning to end. In addition, we supply the recipe written step by step both inside the lesson, as well as a print-friendly pdf version.
Our students appreciate being able to bring their mobile device to the kitchen to view the video, while having the printed recipe sheet to follow along simultaneously, without flipping between the two on their device.
Even better, the written recipes have step numbers - and each step number has a corresponding time stamp on the video that can easily be jumped to. This is a great time saver for more advanced students who can jump ahead to exactly the section they want to see - Already know how to mince an onion? Then just jump to the next step!”
Rustico Cooking, as for many other online courses, is a perpetual work in progress. Dino and Micol are regularly adding new content to their program, modifying past lessons, tweaking some old text, remaking videos, and so on.
“This constant addition of new content helps us retain our members.”
How about marketing?
Dino and Micol are not fans of social media.
Still, they have managed to organically grow and secure an active audience. How?
Their customers come from different marketing strategies they have been implementing over the years, however, their main promotion efforts include:
1. Promoting to their former audience who attended the in-person cooking classes
2. Word of Mouth Marketing
3. Cross Promotion through other product they sell, such as live classes
Since their New York cooking school was such a success, it is understandable that Rustico Cooking’s main customer base comes from there.
Dino and Micol’s example shows us how important it is to build an audience before you launch your online business. Securing a group of customers ready to buy your product even before you release it can help you validate your idea, get a head-start with marketing and collect initial revenue to sponsor future production.
Another way Rustico Cooking managed to grow its audience is Word of Mouth Marketing.
“There's almost an immediate effect when people sign up, and they think our course it’s great. So then they tell their friends.”
By building a wholesome online course with quality content, their customers are encouraged to tell their friends about it and therefore spreading the word about Rustico Cooking.
World of Mouth Marketing is one of the most powerful forms of promotion for any product or service, as we immediately trust recommendations coming from a friend or a family member.
Another strategy Dino and Micol implemented to leverage Word of Mouth Marketing, is to run a special promotion to incentivize spreading the word about their online course.
In this promotion, they simply said “Sign up to our course, and you get another membership access for free”.
Sort of like “buy one get one free” but for the online course world.
This way, customers who signed up with that promotion, were incentivized to send their free “access ticket” to their friends and family.
This strategy is great because:
1. it's totally free
2. You can easily reach your target market since your customers will only share the free pass with someone interested in the same niche (in this case, Italian cooking)
3. It leverages word of mouth marketing
“We had a promotion where if somebody was to buy a membership, they would get a free membership to give somebody. Through that promotion, more than 50 people signed up and bought a double membership. So it's a large number of students who didn't know about us, they just purchased as they would receive a free gift.”
Finally, another strategy that Dino and Micol like to leverage for their marketing, is to cross-promote between different products.
Together with the membership site, they also host live virtual cooking classes and events for different audiences.
The students who attend the live cooking events are mainly from companies or come from the corporate world and most of the time they are not enrolled in Rustico Cooking membership site.
Cross-promotion means to advertise product A to the audience of product B. In this case, Dino and Micol simply promote their online course to the audience of the live classes. If their customers enjoy the live classes and want to learn more about Italian cooking, they will be incentivized to purchase the full membership course.
This strategy is great because:
1. It's free
2. Your audience already trusts you and they can see your teaching style
3. Your students will have a positive experience from your course, as they already know what to expect from you
Why Dino and Micol love Heights Platform?
We asked Dino and Micol why they chose Heights to host their membership site.
“I love how easy it is to use. You don't need to think about it. And not only it's easy, but it's robust.”
Another reason why Heights Platform is the perfect solution for creators like Dino and Micol is the possibility to deliver content in multiple formats.
An average lesson inside Rustico Cooking offers video, text, audio, images, and a downloadable PDF all in one. If Dino and Micol did not use Heights Platform, it would be very difficult for them to deliver content in a similar way.
They also love Heights Platform’s customer service. At Heights, we provide the same level of customer service to all our creators, regardless of what pricing plan you are on - while many other platforms only offer better service to their premium customers.
“The customer service is stunning! Together with how fast the interface responds and how easy it is to put a program together, we'd recommend Heights to anyone. We are certainly hooked!”