We’re sitting down with leaders on the business side of the creator economy to get their best advice for creators looking to launch and develop their careers. This week, we spoke with Sean Kim, the chief product officer and president of Kajabi.
Kajabi is a technology company known for its online course creation and marketing tools. It also offers other products for “knowledge” influencers, like tools for live coaching, email marketing, newsletters, websites, and educational podcasts and videos. On Nov. 1, 2022, it announced its acquisition of Vibely, rebranded to Kajabi Communities, a community management product that offers tools like community live calls, chats, leaderboards, and challenges. Kajabi is offered for a flat rate, with price tiers ranging from $149 to $399 per month.
In an interview with Passionfruit, Kim discussed his decision to join Kajabi, its pricing model, what kind of creator Kajabi is right for, his advice for creators launching online businesses, and more.
Kim joined Kajabi in February 2022 after operating as head of product at TikTok for two-and-a-half years, according to his LinkedIn. At TikTok, Kim said he realized how creators were struggling to monetize on the platform.
“There are things that Kajabi offers that these big platforms cannot. … You’re able to entirely own your business. You know exactly who your customers are, you’re able to reach out to them directly with your emails, and you can decide how much you charge. … Platforms aren’t able to provide this kind of value. And so that was one of the reasons why I joined Kajabi,” Kim said.
Kim said he noticed a trend in the creator economy of “subject matter experts” excelling in building online creative businesses. Kim said he is focused on helping these knowledge-based creators take their businesses to the next level in sustainable ways.
“You are able to provide a lot of value to your audience with this knowledge that you have. … It’s best to focus on these subject matter experts and provide them [tools] in education, content, and community. … We’re thinking about products that can really help them improve their marketing,” Kim said.
On Nov. 1, Kajabi announced its launch of Kajabi Communities. Kim said this is the latest development in Kajabi seeking to provide tools for creators to “monetize their content on their own terms.”
“Having an online community is essential for creators to own their own brand and audience independent of algorithms. In contrast, Vibely gives creators complete control over how they choose to run their businesses through vibrant and powerful communities,” Kim said.
Kim said Kajabi’s combined marketing, website, podcast and video, analytics, and other services lead it to have a higher price point. He said the price is worth it for “creators-slash-entrepreneurs.” He also pointed out Kajabi is a flat-fee service, as opposed to other course platforms, like Udemy, which require a revenue share and might be less ideal for large-scale entrepreneurs.
“These customers aren’t [your] typical TikTok creator. … [They] are definitely subject matter experts that have skills that they know are valuable to someone else. … They become bigger and they’re like, ‘You know, I’m the one doing this work, earn this money. I should be able to keep most of [it],” Kim said.
Blaine Anderson, a dating and relationships creator who offers coaching sessions and online courses, told Passionfruit she started using Kajabi in 2010 due to its automated payment capabilities; ability to share learning materials like workbooks; and its integration of email marketing, website, and other creative tools under one umbrella.
“I think Kajabi has the most robust offering across product and marketing. Competing platforms tend to specialize in either product (e.g. course hosting) or marketing (e.g. sales funnels), but they’re more limited in the areas they don’t specialize in. … Second, I think Kajabi has the best design, both in terms of how easy it is for me to use as a creator, and how flexible and aesthetic my customer offerings can be. Third, I think Kajabi is investing the most in improving its offering,” Anderson said.
Anderson said at her scale she was undeterred by Kajabi’s price tag considering she was once paying hundreds of dollars for email marketing tools like Mailchimp and integration tools like Zapier, which connect multiple apps under one roof.
“If you’re literally just beginning your journey as a content creator and entrepreneur, and you’re very price-sensitive, Kajabi may not be the best place to start. You may not need all of Kajabi’s functionality, and the intro-tier website hosting and email marketing services you do need tend to be quite inexpensive as stand-alone services. Still, I’ve helped several friends start course-based businesses, and I’ve recommended Kajabi from day one in some of these cases simply because migrating systems down the road is so time-consuming,” Anderson said.
Another course creator, permaculture educator Brandy Hall, told Passionfruit she uses Kajabi due to its email marketing capabilities. She is also not deterred by its price point.
“Kajabi integrates email marketing in a way that no other platforms offered, at least at the time I was creating the course. The con is that it is pricier, but it still offers an all-in-one platform which I really like. … It is worth it because of its integration with our marketing channels. It’s also very simple to use,” Hall said.
Hall advised other creators looking to grow their online course businesses to be “methodical” in analyzing data in order to make informed choices about what to offer.
“Offering an online course is not an overnight, sure thing. We originally launched [our] Regenerative Backyard Blueprint course with a sales runway and a hard launch. We learned the pros and cons and eventually offered an evergreen product. We’re also constantly testing creative and copy to see how it lands,” Hall said.
Anderson advised aspiring creators to not worry so much about which software they use to start out.
“There are thousands of entrepreneurs who have both succeeded and failed using every platform you’re considering—tooling just isn’t that critical relative to figuring out how to deliver something valuable to your customers. It’s OK if your processes are manual and labor-intensive for now. You can streamline them later. For folks who have businesses and can support themselves, but want to grow, my advice is to focus on making the activities you perform to find new customers repeatable. Tools like Kajabi can help!” Anderson said.
Kim said all of the most successful creators he’s seen use Kajabi acted like product managers, and they would not spend too much time in the planning phase of content creation.
“They would talk to customers to understand exactly who their customers are and what the problems are they want to solve, and then they would think of a solution. … They don’t spend six months building a video course, or a year. Like, some people might know it’s not perfect … they get that first version out quickly, and they get feedback immediately from the digital customers, … and they roll out version two, version three, version four.”
At the heart of Kim’s advice for creators is understanding product-market fit.
“It’s about really understanding who their customers are … and then making sure that you know what problem you’re solving. It sounds simple but not a lot of people actually go through this process. So if you are absolutely clear on those two things then you can start thinking about what the solutions are and then what the content is,” Kim said.
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