Starting a web-based business, contrary to what many may believe, is no easy task. Early on, web entrepreneurs must do everything: product development, marketing, sales, coding, graphic design. It is very easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis or simply spend a lot of time and money but not get anywhere meaningful. Three web entrepreneurs decided that this was a problem they wanted to help solve.
Corbett Barr, Chase Reeves, and Caleb Wojcik, three web business owners whose individual successes include Think Traffic, Expert Enough, and Pocket Changed have come together for their ultimate project, Fizzle.co, a learning library and community for online marketing. The site combines high quality video-based learning from the founders’ own experiences, along with guest instructors, with an extremely active community that acts as both a support system, and motivation.
|Subjects Covered||Productivity, Startups, Blogging, Affiliate Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media, Building Relationships, Video Podcasting, Analytics|
|Total Courses||14 Video Courses, 12 Founders Interviews, 2 Product Reviews, 10 Office Hours, New content added monthly.|
|Content Level||Beginner & Intermediate|
|Format||30 minutes – 5 hr courses (totaling 40+ hrs.), PDF guides, Monthly Office Hours (1 hr.), User Forums|
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Fizzle is not for everybody. It will be most helpful for those who have a business idea they are ready to move forward with, or those who have already started a web business but are not generating the results they want. The material will be difficult to implement for those who have no outlet (i.e. website) with which to tinker and apply Fizzle’s concepts. According to Corbett Barr, the ideal Fizzler (a Fizzler is a member of Fizzle) is, “Anyone who hasn’t made the big breakthrough they’re looking for. We have several very successful business owners in the group, but for the most part our members are newbies and people who have struggled for as long as a few years to get something off the ground with little to show for it.”
Life at Fizzle begins (and never ends) in the forums. We at SkilledUp have reviewed a lot of online courses, and we’ve seen literally hundreds of different online learning platforms. It is rare to see a forum that is such a major part of the learning experience, but with Fizzle, it is absolutely core to the experience. Co-founder Corbett had this to say about the forums: “The most important thing for Fizzlers is action + interaction. We want Fizzlers above all to take small and consistent actions to build and improve their businesses every day, and to connect with and rely on other likeminded people for accountability. We try to encourage and facilitate this through the progress logs, mastermind groups, support and feedback forum threads.”
The first thing every Fizzler does is introduce him/herself in the forum, which covers describing their business, its challenges and key goals. The responses are immediate and very supportive. The forum has many active users who are ready and willing to discuss the both the video courses you are taking and the issues your business is facing. At the same time, Fizzlers double as fans to cheer you on. There is a special thread just for sharing major accomplishments and even shameless self promotion, where you can get feedback and constructive criticism for your business. Unlike a Reddit thread, there are no flame wars or objectionable content — people take time to give you specific feedback that is actionable and useful, often supplemented by links to resources or Fizzle content.
If it isn’t clear already, this is no ordinary forum. Fizzlers actually build relationships and collaborate with each other. Some members are even forging relationships with the founders, getting guest posts on their websites or interviews on their personal sites. Fizzlers are extremely passionate about their craft, and conversations regularly become heated debates. While you maybe able to watch Fizzle’s video content in less than two days (a video marathon!), implementing the strategies in those videos take months, if not years. Consequently, the discussion forums are a critical factor in being able to successfully implement the practices outlined in any given course. They help you reinforce course content, challenge yourself, stay accountable to your goals (via progress forum), and promote your content. To date, we have not seen an online course forum with this level of user engagement.
One of most notable recurring features in the forum are the monthly challenges. Every month, Corbett, Chase, and Caleb (I’ll call them C3 for short) propose a challenge to Fizzlers around the office hours topic of the month, which gets moderated and discussed in the forum. For instance, April’s month’s topic was e-mail list building, and the challenge was: over the next 30-days, focus on growing your email list. While this is very general challenge, Fizzlers take the next step to actually quantify their specific goals. Each challenger who participates provides their history, previous track record, new goals, and tactics they will employ. Almost 40 members responded to the challenge posting their goals and progress. It’s these challenges that put a fire under your you-know-where to do something different, and create a cohort with which to share and discuss your experiences.
Another forum feature worth pointing out is the Mastermind group thread. The idea behind the Mastermind group is to create a small group of 3 – 5 people, which acts as a support group within the Fizzle community to discuss relevant topics and help bring each others skills up. Thus far we saw Mastermind groups developing around locations and niches. For instance, there are groups for fitness, web apps, backpacking, as well as local groups in London, Los Angeles, Australia, and Asia. Mastermind groups are similar to study groups and foster collaborative learning, competition, and shared accountability.
[Editors Note: As of the writing of this article, there were 25,881 total posts and hundreds of new posts are being added each week.]
When you are navigating around the site between the forums and library, you’ll often be passing through dashboard. It contains news about the latest activity on Fizzle, including announcements, new courses, and thread activity. There is also a large orange button titled, “YOUR NEXT LESSON,” which can be quite convenient for getting back to your last video module.
Video Training Library
Fizzle’s course count now stands at 38 modules (including 10 past office hours), with a run-time of ~45 hours. Compared to most platforms we see, this is relatively sparse. However, Fizzle is a new platform and 1 or 2 courses will be added each month. Small or not, the the videos address fairly complex topics and contain substantive instruction. The best part of the video instruction is that C3 (that’s Corbett, Chase and Caleb) teach using specific experiences, anecdotes and examples to drive home points, and if they haven’t done it, then they find someone who has. According to Corbett, “We don’t have all the answers, so several well-known guest instructors are teaching Fizzle courses or sharing their Founders Stories to fill in our gaps.”
The video content can be broken out into 4 categories: Business Foundations, Tech & How-to, Founder Stories, Comparison & Reviews. Business Foundations covers important strategic planning considerations like productivity, design, web traffic, finding your target market, and creating a unique selling point, and includes guest instructors like Leo Babauta1 Scott Dinsmore2. The Tech & How-to category gets more tactical and covers video product, podcasting, Twitter, WordPress, and Google Analytics, with guest instruction from Pat Flynn3 and Richard Boehmke ((Vibrant Motion)).
This Founder Stories are an important addition to the the Fizzle offering. As of now, there are now 12 founders stories from successful web entrepreneurs including the likes of Pat and Leo (mentioned above), as well as Sahil Lavingia (#2 employee at Pinterest), Brett Kelly4, Steve Kamb5, Barron Quadro6, and more.
While maybe you’ve never heard of these entrepreneurs, many of them make six-figure incomes off of web businesses and have repeatable strategies that deliver real growth. The series is delivered in one-hour installments in an intimate face-face interview setting with C3, and delves into the challenges faced, methods undertaken, and results achieved. Each case study serves not only has a startup how-to guide, but also as an inspiration for Fizzlers who are are going through similar struggles.
The last video category, Comparisons & Reviews, is the least developed but still quite useful. There are only two modules: video hosting and payment processing service comparisons. These are in-depth reviews contrasting and comparing similar products that most web entrepreneurs need to operate their businesses successfully. For example, Caleb gives an incredibly detailed rundown on all of the video hosting options (Youtube, Vimeo, Wistia, Amazon, and iTunes). It’s super informative and he also uses humor and sarcasm to keep things interesting. They also aren’t talking theoretically — these are decisions that they have made, so they’ve done their research already and are sharing it with their members.
Overall, the video production quality is extremely high — on par with the best we’ve seen (i.e. Team Treehouse, Lynda, Grovo). Every video has a studio quality feel but is filmed in a living room setting which gives a warm homey feel. Images, video, and text are used throughout to support important concepts. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that these guys are genuinely funny and that is a big deal in online courses. They are having a good time, and it makes you look forward to the courses rather than delay watching them.
The real value in Fizzle’s instruction comes from the real stories and examples from each of the instructor’s work experience and personal lives. The use of humor adds entertainment value. Combined, they create a truly authentic and personal experience that really makes you forget you are watching a video, and simulates being in the living room with Caleb, Chase, or Corbett. Although it may sound like a strange word to use for an online course, Fizzle courses creates intimacy with their members that is rare in online courses, where instructors typically have an agnostic tone that creates some distance with viewers.
The final component of Fizzle is the monthly Office Hours session with C3. The office hours are delivered in a webinar format and each session is devoted to a specific topic (web design, email marketing, video production, etc.). The calls lead off with a presentation deck containing some pre-planned content covering new and interesting additions (i.e. new courses, site updates, Fizzler accomplishments, tips). Members can interrupt at any time with a “Raise Your Hand” feature, allowing Fizzlers to ask questions on the fly. The office hours sessions are 100% spontaneous. Some members are even joking around with C3, and they will reference the best jokes.
Once the session gets underway, C3 start by addressing questions, mixing previously submitted questions with live questions. There is a lot that can be gleaned from theses Q&A sessions, but they are best utilized when you bring your own question(s). While you may not have any questions yourself, it can helpful to just listen in and absorb. Question or no question, this level of instructor access is hard to come by in most online courses, and represents a major portion of the value of a membership. If you join, you should make it a point to take advantage of these sessions.
While the office hours are only held once a month, you don’t need to worry if you’ve logged in late or missed the latest one. Every webinar is recorded and archived, so you can go back and watch them all. Right now, there are office hours going back 10 months. It’s probably most useful to revisit older sessions in tandem with their corresponding video course.
The final component of Fizzle is its Perks page. The section is a deal page for all sorts of web business support products services. Some of the perks include discounts up to 50% for web hosting, themes, analytics services, and plug-ins from popular service providers like WooCommerce, SquareSpace, and Optimizely. These are all tools that most any web business operator needs, so it’s particularly useful especially for those who are just starting out and want to save a few bucks.
Cost of Program
We struggle with the cost component simply because everything about Fizzle is very high quality, except for the total available course content, which at 45 hours is very low for $35/month. Other learning libraries have thousands of hours at this price band. While course content is on the slim side, the high level of instructor access and the community in the user forums help balance out the relative lack of content. Regardless, the $1 30-day trial is a fantastic deal, and we expect to adjust this score as they continue to add to their library.
Ease of Use
Fizzle is very easy to use and you can tell they’ve spent a lot of time getting it right. You can’t even tell its been built on a WordPress theme. The only notable missing features are closed captions and transcripts for the hearing impaired and those who prefer learning via text.
Quality of Content
The level of instruction is top-notch. They provide the how-to with real-life examples coupled with authenticity and humor, and with A+ production quality. Furthermore, they have invited the best in online marketing to share their experience and teach. For what they are teaching, they’ve hit the nail on the head.
Quality of Support
The forum provides a community that gives moral support, instant feedback, and validation to projects you are working on. Fizzle gives you access to a truly passionate community that is quick to respond with criticism and applause. The Office Hours also provide a level of instructor access that is infrequently seen in online courses.
Fizzle isn’t about giving a step-by-step guide or acquiring specific skills per se, but in that vein they can’t hold your hand while you build your own web business. The success stories give a good indication of the money that can be made in the business when done right. It is important to note that subscribing to Fizzle is not a guarantee of success. Fizzlers – like any entrepreneur – still need to put in blood, sweat, and tears to achieve success.
Fizzle Sizzles And Pops
We were fortunate enough to get some insight into the latest developments at Fizzle. According to Corbett, “We’ve recently spent time coaching several Fizzlers 1-on-1 and publishing the recorded sessions. We’re also starting to work on organizing Fizzler-hosted meetups on a regular basis, where members can gather to discuss a particular topic in a mastermind format.” It’s important to note that getting a 1-on-1 coaching session with C3 isn’t guaranteed or even a common occurrence, but it does serve as an example of why joining early is a good thing — you are given a chance to be a guinea pig while the founders provide a lot of value in helping you succeed. This also demonstrates quite clearly that the founders understand that connecting with peers and mentors is a critical element of their overall model — so you can expect it to continue to grow in the future.
After spending a considerable amount of time in Fizzle, we believe strong that Fizzle is among the best learning platforms for those starting a web-based business. It is definitely not for everyone, but it is perfect for those who have an idea they are ready to launch or a web business that’s already up and running. However, Fizzle is not a silver-bullet cure for a struggling web business. Online businesses (like any other startup) require a lot of work. Fizzle has great instruction from credible and trustworthy instructors, and the user forum provides a great community from which to learn from, share in the highs and lows of web startup life, and promote your business. Assuming you have a viable business model, these components of Fizzle combined with hard work is what will take your business from good to great.
C3 are just like their students and they are completely open about it: “Honestly, we’re just three simple guys who are finding our way in the business world like everyone else, only maybe we’re more transparent about it. We don’t have million-dollar pedigrees or eight-figure case studies. Our site Think Traffic attracts an audience of between 100k and 200k visitors per month. Fizzle currently has 700+ active members. Our little business grosses shy of $500k annually.” C3 really practice what they preach, which provides trust and credibility.
While that all sounds great, Fizzle is about the community, not the founders, and they agree, “Fizzle is about our members, not our personal successes or history. We started Fizzle with the three of us, but it has grown through the contributions and support of hundreds of people. Our job is just to harness all that energy into helping our members build successful businesses.”
There’s no better indication of the usefulness of Fizzle than the success achieved by Fizzlers. Some of these accomplishments include:
- Darlene had 3,027 new people subscribe to her email list in one month. Her previous month’s number was just 278.
- Andy was picked up as the Seattle Times wine columnist because of the blog he started.
- Barrett was selected for Seth Godin’s incredibly competitive and prestigious internship program in New York.
- Paul launched an instructional program for drawing and painting, and signed up 60 paying members during his 3-day pre-launch period.
Fizzle is not about the overnight success story, but rather the consistent daily successes that build a business. To illustrate, there is a “Share Your Successes” forum with 143 little (and big) wins people have posted about. “So many breakthroughs are happening every week, it’s incredible to watch.” Corbett says it best: “The most impressive accomplishments are simply the little wins that get our members one step closer to having a successful and sustainable business. The little wins matter, because big wins are the result of stringing together a long series of little ones.”Footnotes