This year, I took the plunge and enrolled in my most expensive online course to date: Marie Forleo’s B-School.
The investment had been a long time coming. My business mentor of 3 years said constantly that she had gotten her start through B-School–and with a million-dollar company in her fifth year, a team of eight, and an Instagram following of nearly 200K, she had to have gotten something truly valuable out of the program. Right?
I set aside my tax return for the cause, cleared the spend with my man friend, and when enrollment opened, I took a deep breath and committed. This was it. I was going to take my business to the next level.
Eight weeks later, after all the modules had been unlocked and all the bonuses rolled out, I felt a little…
… let down, honestly.
If you know anything about B-School, you probably know it’s a program that gets really hyped up. It only opens once a year, for one thing; that alone gives a lot of people FOMO (fear of missing out). I know each year I didn’t enroll, I had something like the opposite of buyer’s remorse (didn’t-buy-it remorse?), wondering if perhaps I’d shot my business in the foot for another whole year while I waited for the program to come around again. Plus, all these people at the top in the online influencer game just rave about it. Think Amy Porterfield, Nathalie Lussier, Sarah Jenks. You just look at the names on the list and you think, “Wow, this program is going to make me a bazillionaire!” … It almost becomes irrelevant that these same influencers have skin in the game. They get a 50% commission if they can convince you to enroll.
Since I had wanted to follow in my mentor’s footsteps for three consecutive years, I’m not sure I considered all possible factors when I enrolled in B-School. I didn’t really listen to the voices of the few around me I’d told about this weighty decision. Voices that said things like, “This all sounds like stuff you already know,” and, “What does it mean, you get mentors inside the program?” In the end, there was merit to a lot of their points, and some of their questions I never got answers to. Maybe if I had listened, I would have invested that money elsewhere.
Regardless, I thought it might be helpful for others in the future who may be considering B-School if I wrote an exhaustive review of the course. I looked for one before I enrolled and on retrospect, I think a lot of the reviews I read were written with the mob-mentality that hey, it seems to work for everyone else, and now I’m part of this elite group of people who have taken B-School and rave about it, so I’m going to be a part of this “influencer crowd” and rave about it, too.
So here are my thoughts, honest and true, by category and in pro-con format, so you get a glimpse of what I considered to be valuable and where I thought maybe the program fell short.
The Money-Back Guarantee
Pro: There is one. When you enroll in B-School, you’re not taking a total risk. As of 2018, there are 6 modules to B-School, which roll out one at a time over the course of 6 weeks (and then there are a series of bonuses that roll out for a couple weeks after the course is over). You can get your money back anytime in the first 2 weeks–that is, when just the first 2 modules are unlocked–so long as you’ve completed all your “Fun Sheets.” Just for enrolling you also get the “Start the Right Business” mini program, and this is unlocked during this period, so there’s a fair amount of material made available to you before you might say, “Nah, this program isn’t for me.”
Con: The first two modules are the most basic. Profit clarity and web design are the topics covered in the first two modules–two things that any existing businesses entering the program are probably all set on before they enter B-School. Since B-School is advertised as offering value to anyone in business, whether they’re in the brainstorming phase or they’ve been around for years, this really makes the money-back guarantee only of value to those who are in the early phases of brainstorming or launching a business. Those who already have profit clarity and websites have to wait to see if the rest of the program will benefit them, and by then, the guarantee is void.
My Experience: I knew, because the B-School sales website is enormous, that the first two modules were going to cover material I was already all set on. I knew that the money-back guarantee probably wouldn’t be useful to me unless it turned out the information in the first two modules was so low-level that it made me nervous for the rest of the content. I went through all the lessons thoroughly, filled out my Fun Sheets, and decided on my own that the content was basic but good enough that if there was information of equal level in subsequent modules, I’d get value out of them. So I proceeded with the course.
The subsequent modules covered things like creating a communication plan (what you’re going to email out and when), list-building (so that you’re actually talking to people when you send out your emails), and marketing (so that the people you’re talking to are the right people for your product or service). These topics were approached from different angles over the course of 4-6 lessons rolled out in a single module at the beginning of a week.
Pro: Marie makes an effort to leave no stone unturned. While some of these topics probably could have been covered in a single, one-hour lesson, she’s chosen to break down the topics and deliver them piecemeal over several shorter videos. If you’re a busy parent, your business is moving almost too fast for you to catch up, or you are starting your business from the very beginning, this method probably works well for you.
Con: Marie errs on the side of making her video content too generic. I think this comes in her effort to make sure that it can apply to anyone–meaning, online or brick-and-mortar businesses; retail or service-based businesses; freelancers or CEO titans. It’s easy to tune her out mid-way through a lesson because it doesn’t feel like she’s speaking directly to anyone.
My Experience: While some of the perspectives on the content were interesting, all of the strategies covered in B-School turned out to be things my business mentor had taught in free Periscope broadcasts, with a lot less fanfare–by which I mean, my mentor could teach in one class what Marie could teach in six. Since I’m someone who wants action steps fast, I learned more in less time with my business mentor (for free) than I learned in B-School. My mentor also tends to focus more on why everything she teaches is necessary for getting you to your end goal/the next level while Marie focuses on “why this is smart,” and the former just feels a lot more motivating to me.
Now, in one way, none of what I’m saying is Marie’s fault. She can’t control the fact that I already got a free education from one of her students on what she charges $2000 to teach. But in another way, it turns out that a lot of the information in the program has become pretty mainstream, even if when the school was founded in 2010 it was new and fresh. Although the production value of the videos is high, in the end, I’d have taken lower-quality videos with denser content and come out happier.
One of the big selling points for me in choosing B-School was the idea that I could talk to successful businesspeople who knew online education-style businesses really, really well. Although I’m part of a number of online groups and I’m part of a local Mastermind, I actually know very few people at my current level who want to scale an online education business, so it’s difficult to find resources or gain valuable network connections for outsourcing.
However, I can’t even do a pro-con breakdown of this topic because it wasn’t clear to me how I was supposed to gain access to these mentors until a “last call” email went out, and since I had a scheduling conflict that day, I never got to take advantage of this part of the course. I found the area on the B-School site where you can connect with former students in your area; I participated in the Q & A areas under each lesson; I joined the Facebook group and caught some of Marie’s live streams; I read my weekly emails. But how to talk on the phone with a mentor somehow slipped through the cracks, which was disheartening.
The Facebook Community
Pro: Facebook is an easy platform for community because most people are familiar with it. Also, unlike Facebook communities in a lot of programs, for B-School, students actively participate. The community guidelines are very reasonable, and enforced. If you need a steady flood of positivity, or a community of dreamers around you to keep your head in a good space, this Facebook community has those things.
Con: Way, way, way too big. If you’re hoping for an intimate community of business connections you’ll have with you for life, this is not the community for you. Maybe it once was that way, back when B-School wasn’t this massive phenomenon yet, but when 3000 people enroll in a course in one year and they’re all in the same Facebook group, personal connection is a real long-shot. Also, you’re looking at possibly seeing a hundred posts per day, which is too much even for Facebook standards.
My Experience: I went down to “Just Highlights” for my notification settings, and still, B-School posts were all I ever saw in my feed. Because I manage my own Facebook communities, this also disrupted my notifications, as I sometimes missed posts in my own groups that I needed to respond to; they were just buried under the deluge of information coming in from the B-School group. Since in the beginning I was participating in conversations in the B-School group, I didn’t want to shut off my notifications completely for that group; but ultimately, it was kind-of necessary.
My mentor swore by the connections she had made through B-School, but she went through in 2012 (I think), and the group then must have been smaller; when I searched up her posts, she had a lot more engagement than member posts in the group do today, simply, I think, because everyone is trying to talk loud enough to be heard, and just creates a cacophony.
I actually have two different things I want to draw attention to here. The first is the bonuses that come with B-School, and the other is the bonuses you can get through affiliates.
B-School Bonus Pro: There are a lot of bonuses in B-School. Some of them were created by some very prominent influencers just for B-Schoolers, so you legitimately can’t get that content elsewhere, which is kind-of cool. The bonuses are also geared toward specific audiences, which balances out some of that “generic” feel I was talking about earlier in the main lessons. For example, there’s a how-to-set-up-your-website bonus for beginners, and there’s access to a seminar on how to grow from six to seven figures, which is clearly for people who are more advanced.
B-School Bonus Con: The bonuses roll out at the end of the program, which means you can’t apply them in “real time” for the corresponding module of the course. If you feel super inspired after the website module, you have to wait another month and a half to get the training on how to implement, by which time you’re likely no longer motivated, or you’ve simply gone and gotten that information elsewhere.
My Experience: I feel the way some of the bonuses are advertised on the B-School sales site is largely inaccurate. The advertising over-promises and under-delivers. I was under the impression I’d be getting templates for how to be featured in magazines for my industry in one of the bonuses–how to secure the contact information for the right editor to reach out to; how to shake hands with folks in the media even without a mutual connection to introduce you–and the bonus turned out to be a basic pitch-letter seminar. Since I studied English in college, I was already very familiar with how to format a pitch letter–but even if I hadn’t been, that’s a super easy thing to Google, or read up on at Barnes & Noble. The thing no one knows how to do is get an editor’s best contact info. That would have been valuable.
Affiliate Bonus Pro: Since there are so many influencers clawing to get a 50% commission through your enrollment through their private link, you have a veritable buffet to choose from in terms of what supplemental material you’d like to get for free or cheap at the same time you enroll in B-School. With this incentive, even if you only get one or two takeaways from the main course, you can still get your money’s worth through bonus materials.
Affiliate Bonus Con: Honestly, every beef I have with affiliate bonuses is just about my own morals; I don’t like the fear tactics a lot of the affiliates use to pressure people to buy from them. But in the end their third-party offers have nothing to do with B-School itself, and it’s always the buyer’s decision how to spend his or her money. There really aren’t any legitimate cons to getting extra content from other experts for free.
My Experience: I actually signed up through my mentor’s private link, even though I already had access to the main bonus she offered, because another of her bonuses was video and audio recordings from when she was a mentor in B-School a few years earlier. I would have paid $1000 just for those, and I have listened to them on loop since I completed the course. Like I said, she teaches actionable content fast, and focuses on why what she’s teaching is necessary to get to the end goal. This is highly effective for me, and in the end, I am glad I joined B-School if only because I got these recordings.
The End-of-School Survey
Clearly, I have a lot of thoughts on how this program succeeds and falls short. Although in the end I am probably glad I enrolled in B-School because it has given me structure to fill in some of the holes I already knew existed in my business, I was looking forward to the end-of-term survey so I could offer feedback like, “Next year, you might want to offer smaller Facebook groups so students can really get to know one another.”
The way the survey is worded makes it very difficult to say anything constructive about the class. It feels more informed by self-interest than interest in the student experience. I had to get creative in order to offer my honest thoughts, because the questions (which I should have screenshot–hindsight!) felt kind of like this:
- What’s one measurable way your business has grown or gained clarity because of B-School?
- What are 3 valuable lessons you learned in this course?
- Would you ever be open to being interviewed for future B-School marketing materials?
As you can see, this sort-of positions the survey as if to say, “If you say kind things about our school, you might end up being interviewed by Marie,” which of course no sane person would ever want to turn down. I remember when I was thinking of enrolling, I checked out every business that was highlighted by Marie in video interviews. Because of it I ended up on newsletter lists and following businesses I liked on Instagram. The chance to be on the B-School sales site is a huge marketing opportunity for the people who are chosen.
If I could summarize my B-School experience, I’d say that the “Fun Sheets” sometimes provided real value; I gleaned maybe 3-5 insights from all the videos together that shifted something in the way I position or promote my business; and I’m grateful for a sequence to return to in order to keep improving my business. Overall, I understand why the school is supposed to be worth $20K, but I would have had to get more out of it to make it worth the $2K I paid.
As for whether I would recommend it to anyone else… If you heard about this school because of an online influencer you follow rabidly, I think it’s highly likely that your influencer has already taught you at least 75% of what you’ll learn inside the program. If you’ve been in business for years, you’re probably not going to learn a whole lot.
On the other hand, if you’re thinking of starting a business and have no idea where to begin, this course could have value for you. If you’re a brick and mortar or service-based business and you want to scale or shift to an online model, this course could help you with that.
Just read all the sales materials carefully and ask yourself if you might already know what they’re selling you on. Because if you think you might, you probably do.