Rob Cairns sits down with Adam Warner and talks Web Devlopement, WordPress and GoDaddy.
Rob Cairns talks to Chris Badgett about LifterLMS.
- What is LifterLMS?
- How was LifterLMS founded?
- Uses for a LMS product.
- Features of LifterLMS.
Hey everybody, Rob Cairns here, really excited to have this guest we met at Word Fest and today I have Chris Badgett of LifterLMS with me.
How are you today, Chris?
Doing great rob.
Thanks for having me on the show.
Oh, it’s such a pleasure.
I we had a good conversation.
We’re saying before we went to record and I thought, oh geez, I just need to reach out to you and get you on the show because.
I haven’t told you, but I’m kind of a lifelong learner, so this kind of topic fits right into my wheelhouse.
Awesome lifelong learning is what I’m all about too, so I’m excited to see where we go.
Yeah, so my and the one tip I throw out there is that all those other lifetime learners is don’t be professional learners.
Actually, learn a few things and then implement what you learned and you’d be much better off for it.
So I thought we jumped into one thing I always like, say to WordPress people is how did you get into WordPress and in your case how did you get into WordPress and why did you develop lifter LMS?
It’s a windy story, but it all started on a glacier in Alaska. In the in the early 2000s. I used to live up there for a decade where I ran sled dogs, and in the summer I operated a sled dog tour business.
On a glacier, you could only get to by helicopter.
And there were a couple hundred dogs out there, and the cruise ships would come into the ports in southeast Alaska and people would fly up and the company I worked for that I managed the company we would take them out on sled dog rides.
We actually lived on the glacier up there.
And in the winter I would help my boss train for the Iditarod sled dog race.
The Thousand-mile race across Alaska.
During that time I developed a passion for leadership and you know, managing people, personal development, learning about myself.
I’m I was always just a big adventurer and I I got to the point and I where I started learning about websites and like oh I could.
I’m really into leadership.
I want to create a blog about leadership.
So I went to YouTube.
I found some tutorial videos about how to create a blog with WordPress. I bought the domain name outdoortribe.com, ’cause I’m I’m like a outdoor leadership guy, though everything transfers no matter the context.
And that’s where I started.
That’s where I started.
But just to kind of go through the WordPress journey quickly, I’ve been on all sides of WordPress.
UM, I’ve been a Blogger.
I started building sites for clients after I left Alaska and I I just realized people saw me doing what I was doing and they were like hey can you build a website for my business?
And then over time I built up an agency to about 17 people and we specialized in membership sites and courses.
I was big into things like passive income and online business, so I developed some courses of my own with experts around the world and the permaculture niche.
And I started blogging about how I was creating these online learning sites with WordPress and my people just started contacting me to for help building those types of sites.
And then ultimately, this is in 2013.
We were building a lot of high end course membership sites.
Learning sites for experts, yoga teachers, business professionals, stuff like that.
But on the high end of the market, people often we had a specialty in marketing automation, with Infusionsoft at the time as well.
And there was not a good off the shelf solution that really combined the needs of the modern membership site with courses and learning and gamification and e-commerce all rolled into one.
So that’s why we built lifter LMS in 2013 and launched it in 2014, and that’s really.
In my journey from Blogger to freelancer to agency to product owner and I’ve been this WordPress product entrepreneur Guy for the past eight years.
That’s actually a really incredible journey.
It’s amazing how we’ve all gone through different experiences to get to where we we’ve gotten to, and that’s just incredible in terms of learning, and I kind of want to talk learning in general.
What tools do you think you need?
In a learning or an LMS system to kind of keep people interested in learning ’cause I think.
One of the things you mentioned their journey was gamification, and I think that’s really important with a lot of people in a learning space.
Yeah, the the we’re like the human animal is a learning machine and I’ve actually spent a lot of my life not connected to the Internet.
Not inside of a building.
And without technology without a lot of technology, and whenever I think about learning, I always go to what I call like the primitives first.
So when we’re when you’re out like I, I have a background and.
So another thing called the national Outdoor Leadership School took a semester off college to hike the Appalachian Trail. I used to do a lot of mountaineering and rock climbing all over the US, Canada and the world. And when I go back to those wilderness environments in my history.
And I think about learning like what?
What was it like, like?
What made the learning work?
Certain things that are present there just translate over to the online world.
So things like we often learn in groups or teams and there’s like the social aspect, just the act of being together.
Creates more engaged learning.
Uhm, getting rewards as you advance like you know, as you’re figuring out how to climb a really technical or hard mountain and you get to a a certain place where you can at least stand flatly and have a snack like you get a reward.
It’s like a milestone.
It’s a treat.
Uhm, you know more traditional stuff too.
Like just the certificate of accomplishment.
Having having that picture on the wall, that hey I was I was on top of that mountain that looks impossible to even walk up to.
Those those kinds of things translate to the online world perfectly.
Uhm, we’re just using different tools, so social learning is important.
Whether you’re doing it on your site with I mean lifter has something called social learning.
There’s also a popular tool in Word Word Press right now called Buddy Boss.
There’s all kinds of forums and Facebook groups and things people use to to kind of create that social element.
And then in terms of gamification.
This is one of the big things I learned actually coming out of the Infusionsoft community where we used to do a lot of custom work and we haven’t worked with Infusionsoft in many many.
We I switched to activecampaign about six years ago and I’ve been with that, but.
Infusionsoft taught me about the idea of.
Kind of like triggers and actions and like this event happens and this thing happens, and that’s really the beauty of.
You know marketing automation or gamification automation.
As you start thinking in systems and thinking through time so as.
You know, a student completes a course or passes a quiz or first enrolls in something that’s a triggering event, and certain things can happen.
You know you’ve got achievement badges, certificates that can happen.
You can do points.
You can do competitions like Leaderboards and stuff.
There’s there’s personalized emails or text messages that can fire, so one of the biggest challenges is to get people thinking when they’re designing a learning experience to not just think about the content, but think about the experience through time and how you can put those touch points.
Just like climbing a mountain.
Like what happens here or what happens when you cross here or what happens if you fail?
Here there’s like kind of like negative gamification that can be.
It can actually work too, so that’s the high level of it.
We’re all we’re all kind of competitive too.
You know, it’s funny I.
Picked up the paper a couple days ago and I was reading another article and they were talking more about kids like 678 grades in Ontario and how.
It was back on this.
We need to do away with Marks and I haven’t.
A really good friend of mine.
And she’s gonna retire in her last year of her teaching career at DND Sierra.
And I said to her, what do you think about this city?
You know it.
Problem with that is the kids are all competitive anyway so it doesn’t matter what if we put marks on the papers or not.
They’re all comparing.
I did better than you.
I got this question right better than you.
I got 10 questions right, better than you.
You know, even at the younger age, the kids are all recognizing those challenges already.
Believe it or not.
Yeah, that’s that’s so true.
Yeah, so they it’s interesting so and I know like.
When I take courses, I’ll always say to myself and I was sharing with him a bit of a lifetime learner.
I’ve got 2 college diplomas and believe it or not, I have 15 designations after my name.
If I choose to put them there, yeah, and this is just from.
Pivoting a couple times in my career and you know, changing directions a little bit and always staying up to date.
But the key is when you learn you need to learn, but take two or three things out of every course you’ve learned and implement those and actually and then learn further.
By trial and error.
You know that reminds me, I was one of the ways I experiment is I go to into new groups.
I haven’t been in before and I I was invited to like this podcast or networking event.
And I went and I didn’t.
I had knew a few people there, but not many.
And there was like kind of mastermind breakout sessions and stuff.
And I realized somebody made a comment about the way I approached learning.
What the Super it was a question.
There was a conversation starter around what your superpower is.
And I I just basically said I’m for me.
I’m not necessarily intimidated to go into an area where I don’t know anything.
I have no influence.
I have no connections, but if I’m curious and excited and my interest is piqued, I will go in there and I will.
If I’m enjoying it, I will stick to it.
And I will develop competency in that.
And somebody said to me.
Oh, you’re you’re like the because I didn’t run sled dogs, but my parents weren’t mushers.
I have no background in technology.
I have no background in business yet.
Here I am doing those things I didn’t raise.
I wasn’t raised climbing mountains.
I I wasn’t raised, uh, a farmer, which is one of the things I do now.
Uh, these are all just interests I followed, but they made the comment that.
But you know what you’re good at is being a rookie like being a beginner, being the consummate rookie?
I was like that’s right.
I I have.
I have no issues with just jumping in as a rookie with eyes wide open and.
At the bottom and seeing what happens.
Yeah, it’s so true and and the other thing you like to do as well and I know you do.
’cause I listen to it, you also do your own podcast called the MCAST.
Yeah, yeah, and that’s part of that exploration through.
Uhm, just like this one right here.
I’m learning talking to you, Rob.
Yes, just connecting with people like entered like especially.
The world the the I was talking to.
Jason Cohen, the founder of WP engine many years ago and he made a comment that the world is a really big place and we were talking about why he.
You know chose to focus on WordPress hosting in the earlier days of managed WordPress hosting.
And he was saying how hard it really is to wrap your head around how big the world is and how big WordPress is.
But it’s a really big market.
And you know, if when you think about the social network or the people out there and the people that are passionate enough to about something to have a podcast about it and they’re curious and they’re trying to serve an audience like it’s amazing the the things you learn, the connections you make, the the experiences, and the friendships you develop.
Doing podcasting and doing it consistently. I started podcasting the same time I launched the product lifter in 2014, so that’s seven years or eight years of podcasting.
And, uh, just showing up every week doesn’t.
I’m smiling, I’m smiling as you say that nodding my head ’cause I get it like I I got into podcasting 3 1/2 years ago and part of the reason was I blogged over.
2000 articles over three different domain names over 12 years, and I looked at somebody and I said, you know what I’m done? Blogging for my business, I’m done.
And and I said, what are you gonna do?
And I said, I’m going to podcast it and this person said to me, oh, you’ll be like everybody else and you’ll get past 10 episodes.
At the time of this record, I have 219 episodes in the can already, so and that’s over 3 1/2 year period and and I’m a lot like you Chris.
It’s the people you meet along the way and the people you become friends with in the communities you get into and the discussions you have and.
I mean, podcasting in itself opens up doors like you wouldn’t believe, and the more you show up in, the more consistent you are.
Is the little secret to all those new podcasters out there?
The easier it is to get people on?
Your show to fully.
Believe it or not, right?
So it’s just.
It’s like it’s a lot of work, but it’s.
A labor of love too so.
You know, and I agree with you, that podcasting.
I’ve done my fair share of blogging and writing.
And I’m not bad at it.
I’m not particularly great at writing, but I just find the format to be one of the easiest way to create great content.
Yeah, it’s so true.
So we talked a little bit about.
Gamification. What else?
Needs to be in an LMS.
System as as you if you make one.
Well, the the big one is like what doesn’t need to be in an LMS system because.
We’re at a place with technology in terms of what it can do and it’s affordability and all these free tools even.
That it’s easy.
To like kind of overcomplicate a learning, a course or a membership site or a training portal.
Whatever you’re going to.
Uhm, so I think the most important thing when you come at it is to have like kind of a minimalist mindset.
What’s the minimum effective dose?
I have a a colleague in the online learning space, another Canadian.
His name is Danny Annie.
He he had this analogy about.
If you’re teaching a course.
And you’re an expert and you’re on a plane ride.
Let’s say from Toronto to Seattle or Los Angeles or something.
And somebody sits down next to you, and they’re they’re really interested in what?
It is you teach.
How can you get them a great result in the amount of time at that plane ride if that’s all you have like, so the it’s kind of like the theory of constraints, yeah?
So chunking down content into manageable bytes is is really important.
Attention spans have never been lower, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make really long content either.
When you have somebody who’s really interested and focused and is willing to put in the time.
I mean, I was in a.
I was in a membership site for software entrepreneurs.
A coaching program actually for two years.
And I probably went through.
400 courses for and they were. They were like each course was probably maybe it was 300 courses but each course was about an hour and a half.
Focused on a specific problem that software entrepreneurs at my stage experience.
And I went through all that, it took.
It took a couple years, but I loved it.
But anyways, content is obviously a big part.
Uhm, multimedia is important.
I’ve I’ve realized just being in this business and in meeting lots of different people that.
You know the whole learning styles, thing and personality type differences are are very real, like there are people that hate video.
There are people that love video.
There’s audio, you know, writing.
Putting assignments in so that people can move into action for more of the tactile learners.
Having that kind of multimedia, not just like single track content is is definitely something that’s helpful if you’re just getting started.
I mean, it’s OK to maybe just do a certain type of lesson or whatever.
The pros really kind of.
Create more of an experience than just chop up content into manageable pieces.
Uh, I would.
I would agree with all that and kind of where I was gonna go as we’ve all been through covered the last two years to you know, it’s been a hard time and we’ve seen an increase in the number of people trying to learn online.
And the biggest example is our kids in schools.
Now I know most of the schools.
Are kind of using Google Classroom, which is Google’s equivalent. Their LMS if you want to call it per southeast.
Uhm, has lifter LMS growing in popularity in the last two years have grown in sales and where are you seeing the biggest increases if you are?
Yeah, it’s definitely come because of the pandemic.
There was an increase.
Uhm, not as much in like the traditional like kind of K through 12 market.
But well, where we saw?
A lot of the growth is from a combination of.
People that would run conferences and events kind of moving to the Virtual summit or needing to figure out hybrid online live slash prerecorded training.
That was a huge thing.
Uhm, there was also just in general.
A desire in the market for people that had kind of been sitting on the on the fence about, you know?
Wanting to do a side project or side hustle to.
You know, make a course or something like that.
Maybe they got laid off for the job.
They got time.
To do it?
Or maybe they just now that they’re working from home.
They could actually.
Make this side project more feasible.
Maybe they have more time ’cause they weren’t leaving the home as much.
Uhm, and there were just in general a lot of kind of niche education scenarios, mandatory continuing education as an example for professional licenses.
Well, there’s there’s literally like 40 different niches that I monitor within the online education niche, so there’s never just like this one avatar.
Uhm, but they many of them, you know, did have an increased interest in in WordPress LMS.
You know, LifterLMS
During that this period and The thing is, even as we’re kind of later stage in in.
The pandemic and and things kind of getting back to where they were.
Uhm, there’s no real sign of this slowing down, so it was more of just like an acceleration with a big spike.
And now we’re just kind of at A at a higher new normal in terms of of the world and online education, and that kind of thing.
No, I I would agree.
Uhm one of the tractors I hear all the time and I’ve been in WordPress for over 14 years is.
I’m gonna buy an LMS product.
It’s gonna be installed in WordPress.
It’s gonna slow my site down and it’s gonna kill my speed ratings.
Do you have any response to people that say they shouldn’t install product like yours within WordPress and go to an external product?
I, I mean I have a really old site that has a, you know, a lot of courses on it that’s running on a very cheap Bluehost hosting shared hosting account and it’s completely fine.
But the reality is, UM.
That an LMS.
It’s first of all the fact that you can just add a learning management system on top of WordPress and turn your website into an entire online school store gamification membership site engine thing is pretty amazing, but it does use more resources than like a static blog.
But any any online learning site in WordPress, especially in the beginning?
It doesn’t matter what hosting you use, it will all work.
It will all be fine as you scale up and you get.
You know 10s of thousands of users, maybe thousands of concurrent people like hitting the site at the same time, taking quizzes at the same time?
Teachers running reports in the analytics system and the reporting engine.
You need to have more professional hosting at that point and that’s.
Some some solid managed hosting comes in in in our community specifically, we actually get asked this question a lot, so we just we put together the the short list of resources so some of the top hosts that people really like and it doesn’t mean you have to have an expensive plan, but one that can scale up with you as you need.
Two are companies like Cloudways, Keinista, WP Engine.
Those are some of the top ones.
Liquid Web those they a lot of people use that, but a lot of people also use.
Uhm, you know the GoDaddy, Bluehost? The siteground’s? It’s just a question of scale. But just like an E commerce store.
If your store gets really popular.
You have all those transactions and stuff happening constantly.
You’re going to need a little bit bigger hosting, but at that point.
You’ve got a viable business, and you’ve got the funds coming in the front door to help improve your infrastructure.
Yeah, I always say your host has to be your partner in this game and I don’t care what you’re doing in the WordPress game, not just a company you hired to dump your site on.
And I I stress that to P.
People and you know, we all know there’s some not so good hosts out there and you go to them for support and you just shake your head.
So I think you want your host to be your partner.
I think that’s the whole key on that one.
Now moving on kind of a little bit we so we talked a little bit about that.
Now let’s get really specific.
Chris, the LMS game is starting to be a little crowded in the WordPress space.
What separates LifterLMS from your competitors?
What makes your product a little better in your opinion?
From a fill out philosophy standpoint, from day one, we’ve always just kind of had a general rule that we focus on our customers, not the competition.
So everything we’ve built inside electoral mess has been built from first principles around.
Our early our first customers were our agency clients, so we built exactly what they needed and you know, as our user base grew.
We’re just super front lines like with them.
For example, after I get off this call right here, I’m going into our office hours mastermind, which is what our top level customers.
It’s a level of support they have where we host a live call to answer questions, but also.
Connect them with each other and explore strategy help they need and not just.
It’s not just tech related stuff, so we’re very close to the US.
And and so honestly, I don’t.
I don’t really look at what else is going on in in the in the in the word press space.
We’re just super focused on our customers, I will say.
What I hear from people ’cause a lot of people do switch to left rail mess.
And they say you know why they switch.
A lot of it has to do with the level of support that we have.
Uhm, in terms of you know we’ve got we do a bunch of live stuff.
We we have a really active Facebook group.
We have an incredible support team spend a lot of time with people, log into sites if we have to to help them resolve.
We work with other plugging companies.
If people have conflicts to to really resolve and not.
Just pass the buck.
So that supports a big one?
UM, the all-in-one nature of it.
I mean, it’s WordPress, so you can add a lot of other stuff, but lifter in and of itself.
You don’t need a separate membership plugin.
You don’t need a separate ecommerce solution.
If you love woo commerce, we integrate with it, but we have our own as well.
You don’t need a separate gamification system.
All that’s built in.
So kind of that like one stop shop that has pretty much everything you need and but is also extendable is another aspect.
And then the third thing we hear from people is just the you know, the clean usability and it just it just works.
It makes sense to people.
Those are those are really the three things.
I love I love how you say you don’t worry about your competition but you worry about your customers and.
One thing is always stress in the web game is to give your customers exactly what they want or your viewers or users stop worrying about what you as a course creator want that at the end of the day doesn’t really matter.
What did the people consuming your course want?
What did they want to get and your company?
Is taking that approach, which is rather refreshing to hear Chris it’s it’s a really good approach.
Hey, it’s made all the difference.
I mean if you listen, that’s probably one thing we do.
I mean, it’s a a strength in mind as an individual, but it’s also a strength as a company is really that active listening.
If you really listen to the market and.
You you care.
And you kind of get into the weeds with them and you slow down.
And you talk to enough people and it’s one of the things I I like to help course creators with and coaches and people who want to teach online.
The the biggest mindset shift.
If I could wave a magic wand with people is to turn the focus from being inward.
You know I need to make money or I want to have an online business or I want to quit my job or whatever it is and focus it outward.
Get really clear on that.
What they want.
Become a servant.
To that person, not so much.
Somebody who’s trying to you know, build their online empire while those things are.
Great and good and and money is great and and quitting your job and and having a business online is all that stuff is great, but if you help the people and there’s a lot of them and you do it well and and you really stand out, everything else will fall into place.
I so agree with that philosophy.
I couldn’t agree much more.
In terms of LMS, as I’m sure some people have come up for some creative uses for your product that are not traditional LMS products.
So I’m going to throw that one to you and then I’ll share with you a.
Creative use I’m working on with lifter LMS, So what with some some of the creative stuff you see.
I’ve seen people do like live stream sporting events with it.
I’ve seen people come deliver like digital templates with it.
What else I there’s a lot of stuff like with artists and and movies.
You know people build, they’ll use the the cool thing about a course structure.
Like if you think about like the syllabus or the less course outline whatever you want to call it.
It’s a it’s.
It helps a regular user who’s non technical, basically structured data so you can use that outline for anything so I’ve seen.
People use a course to house a virtual summit, uh, so that’s that’s kind of like a more obvious thing.
But people do a lot of different things with the course outline.
I’ve seen people write books into it, so it’s it’s just structured data.
That’s the cool thing about an LMS.
Is it helps?
Somebody with something to share, maybe not just teach, but just in general share to like kind of organize and structure.
That and for people to map progress through that.
So if that if that Spurs any kind of.
Creative idea it’s probably possible with a LMS.
So I’ll give you 2 creative ones.
One I’ve used LMS software before as a customer service portal for things like contracts and stuff ’cause they can’t be bothered to build out a membership site.
Yeah, and the other thing I’m about to use left rail mass for.
That’s a good one.
Is I have a new product I’m launching which basically customers pay for email support so they get one on one email answers and then to build that all out into lifter LMS because again, it’s it’s an easy solution.
Instead of building out a whole membership site.
That’s awesome, yeah.
So sometimes you gotta think out of the box to make the tools do what you want them to do for you and work the tool.
I think what you said is an important point on.
The word membership side is really an interesting one.
I I kind of came into this world.
Of LMS and online courses and information products and all this back in 2010.
And at the time what people would do, especially more in the kind of the expert guru market, is that all they wanted was a membership site and a paywall, and they would throw.
They would put all the this like premium content and all this stuff like behind the the paywall inside the membership site and maybe they kind of organize it, but there was no like.
Progress tracking or any.
Uhm, but the you know, the industry is really evolved and we’ve been a part of that like help it, especially in the WordPress.
Niche, but you know a membership site.
Somebody is a member on your website and when they when they are viewing the site as a member, what do they see like?
There’s so much you can do with that concept right there.
That’s true, that is so true.
Uhm, what in terms of pricing?
Is lift around that’s selling for at this point in time? I know one of the things I would encourage all people do is you have a $1.00 trial where you basically can go get a sandbox site to play with to find out if you like the product. I think that’s an amazing idea and and then from there, what do you look at in?
So similar to Woo commerce, if you’re familiar with that, yeah, lifter LMS has a free core plugin which is really powerful in and of itself.
About 70% of people use lifter LMS completely for free, so and they don’t need any of our paid add ONS, so just putting out there the the bottom end is free and free. Can be very powerful and valuable for a lot of people.
Then we have about 20 different.
Add ONS that do different things and most people. You can buy them individually or you can just get the universe bundle which costs $360.00. That has like 12 of them.
And then there’s the Infinity bundle that has everything and and the most popular add ONS we have are either.
Integrations like so Stripe or PayPal if you want to take payments for access to your courses or memberships and then we have things like advanced features like an advanced quiz system, or if you want to sell into.
The groups or you want to offer private coaching and kind of like have a private blog between the instructor and and students.
Those are like advanced feature add ONS and the Infinity bundle there at the top end is $1200 a year.
That’s not, that’s not, I mean, if you’re making money and selling courses, that’s not a hard.
Uhm pill disposal.
Let me tell you a story, let me tell you a story.
One of my favorite lifter illness.
You can find this whole story on our website on on on the examples tab at the top.
But his name is Ziv Raviv, and he’s an Israeli man, and he he is a what’s known as a kid entertainer, and he teaches other kid entertainers.
Basically, how to start and grow their businesses. This is a very small niche with he says less than 5000 people in the whole world. You know a lot of what they do is.
Tie animal balloons or make.
Like make balloon displays or make costumes out of tide balloons and crazy magic tricks and things like this.
Uh, when I first interviewed him after using it for literal mess in in in 2020, he made $277,000.
Teaching people how to tie animal balloons essentially from his membership site.
Wow, I actually re interviewed him recently.
And now he’s he’s almost up to $400,000 a year.
So, uh, if you hit the right market and uhm.
It it can have, it can have a great ROI for you.
And, uh, ziv.
I particularly like because he just has so much fun.
He’s so passionate, he cares about his market so much.
He does a lot of like private coaching and stuff like that too.
He’s just an example of what I think of when I think of an education entrepreneur.
Which is kind of how I I think about our target market.
That’s a pretty incredible story from tying animal bones to over $200,000 a year. That’s pretty compelling.
Yeah, you got it, that’s a.
Good story to share.
Hey Chris, I really appreciate the time today and and thanks for joining me.
If somebody wants checkout lifter LMS or get ahold of you, what’s the best way?
Just head over to lifterlms.com. You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and on the podcast we do have a podcast called LMS Cast.
Where I I interview a lot of people, not just around the tech side of learning management systems, but things like marketing and instructional design and community building and stuff like that and that podcast is called LMS Cast.
I’m also very active on Twitter.
You can always DM me @ChrisBadgett
And Chris is. easy to find him approachable, so if you need something, reach out to him.
Have a great. Day