Editor’s Note: We all want to create a successful online business that brings more time, money, and freedom into our lives, don’t we? And more than likely, creating and selling an online course is a part of that business plan. But creating and selling is the easy part. If you don’t get your online course launch right, it might derail your dream of building a successful online business. Luckily, Morgan from the Teachable team (who are all experts at helping people create and sell beautiful online courses), will help you build buzz around your online course launch so that you can take off like a rocket.
Creating and selling your own online product is one of the best ways to make money online. They are built, sold, and consumed online and are a great way to go about making residual income in the future. We highly recommend creating an online course because:
- You’re in complete control and can get behind a brand that you’re proud of (yours!)
- The business model allows you to create a product once and then launch over and over again.
- Online courses can be sold for more than ebooks (people love interactive content) and are more impactful, too.
No matter what your niche, we believe that everything is teachable. In some cases, your audience will already be all about online courses and know what they are and why they’re useful. All you need to do is get them excited about your online course.
In other cases, audiences might be more skeptical. So in your promotion, you might need to not only explain why your course is valuable but ensure your audience understands that your course is your most valuable piece of content.
If your target audience is software engineers, for example, they are already pretty tech savvy or used to an online learning format, so chances are they won’t need any warming up to the idea of online courses.
If you’re hoping to teach people how to grow a vegetable garden, on the other hand, your audience may not see the value of online courses yet. However, if you present your course as a shortcut to an outcome, you can help them get excited about purchasing. Mention that you’ll be teaching them the ins and outs of vegetable gardening in 4 short weeks, whereas it took you nearly ten years to master everything.
Time is money, and if you can save them years of trial and error and outside research, chances are they’ll be willing to pay.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, though, building buzz around your course launch and getting people eager to buy is a simple process that we at the Teachable team could probably execute in our sleep at this point. The idea might seem overwhelming to you, especially if you’ve never sold anything in the past, but we’ve mapped out every step of the process.
Plus! The beautiful thing is, when it comes to online courses there is room for everyone to be successful, so we are more than excited to share the exact process that will help you become a profitable course instructor.
To learn more about Teachable’s 7-step process to creating, marketing, and profiting from your own online course, register for the free live training here.
The foundation: Build your email list
First things first: You’re going to need something to sell. In this case, an online course.
If you haven’t created an online course yet, you can refer to this series where we’ll walk you through the process. For the rest of this post, though, we’ll assume that you’ve created your course and are ready to sell.
And the starting point for selling an online course is an email list.
If you’re anything like I used to be, you just let out an internal groan. Between your websites and products and social media, you already have so much on your plate that throwing in an email list might feel like it’s a nice to have, not need to have.
While it is possible to have a successful online course launch without an email list, your list is going to help guarantee success and that is why we highly recommend it.
There are a few reasons why email lists are superior to social media:
- Your pitch will end up straight in their inbox. Most people don’t see every tweet in their timeline or Instagram post in their feed, but they check their inboxes every morning.
- You own your email list. With social media, you run the risk of having your account deleted or banned and losing everything. That’s why putting all of your eggs in the social media basket is a huge gamble.
- There are no algorithms to navigate. Social media sites are constantly evolving and integrating confusing algorithms that may keep your content from getting to your audience. That doesn’t exist in email marketing.
Two easy and effective ways to grow your list
Hopefully, you’re convinced at this point and eager to start growing your list. One beautiful thing is that if you already have a website or social media presence with even a small following, it’s not all that difficult. Starting from scratch? Create your website and start building your social media accounts. Here is a guide to getting your first 1000 followers on every social network.
From there, we have two main ways to grow your list.
1. Offer free content
The secret is offering free content in the form of lead magnets or free downloads in exchange for email addresses.
Creating these content upgrades can be as simple or complex as you like. You can create an in-depth course or just a one-page checklist relevant to the course you’re selling. If you’re looking for ways to create these upgrades (and free templates!) our designer, Allison, wrote an incredible post walking you through creating your lead magnet. Plus, she made free templates you can use!
2. Host a webinar
If you want to step up your lead capturing game even further, you can schedule a live stream or webinar covering a topic that is complementary to your online course.
For example, if you’re teaching how to use Instagram to grow your business, your webinar can be on taking beautiful iPhone pictures for Instagram.
Your landing page for the webinar should include the date, time, and an opt-in form so you can collect emails and send out the live page the day of the webinar.
To see what an awesome webinar and its landing page looks like, check out our free live training, especially for you: 7-steps to launch your own profitable online course
What if your list has gone cold?
So you’ve got a list, but they haven’t heard from you in months? Don’t worry; hope is not lost.
Warming up a cold list can be a lot of fun, and even the iciest of lists can be turned profitable once again.
The best way to warm up your cold list? Reintroduce yourself and provide value. If your list is segmented into how your audience signed up (specific content upgrade, guest post, webinar, etc.) even better. You can write personalized emails to each list that looks a little something like this:
This is just the basic structure; try and make this email super personalized so your audience feels a connection. You can include a picture of yourself or a gif of you waving, and make the template branded to your business.
The freebie that you give away at the end should be the most valuable thing you have to offer (besides your course, of course) and prove that you’re an authority in the niche that your course falls in.
If you’re blogging within a tight niche (healthy eating, for example) there is a chance that there will be a lot of crossover in your audience’s interests. So even if your free resource is about buying fresh produce, they are likely going to be interested in a course all about meal prepping even if they aren’t directly related.
Now, if you’re more of a lifestyle blogger or don’t have a defined niche, you might have more trouble. If you blog about healthy eating and fashion and beauty and travel, you might find that most of the people who come to your blog for your healthy eating post will love your meal prepping course, whereas you might just have a few people from each of the other sections who are interested.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to segment your list to include the people who would be interested in your course. Send out a newsletter with a subject line mentioning healthy eating or meal prep—the people who open are going to be more likely to buy from you so target them in your marketing efforts. To grow that section of your list, publish a few extra healthy eating posts with content upgrades directing people to the segmented section of your list.
Keeping your list warm
Make sure to check in with your list weekly or bi-weekly and continue to provide value. Make your list feel special and like they are getting exclusive content that they aren’t going to find anywhere else.
You should never write a newsletter for the sake of writing a newsletter—every single one should provide value.
Every email you send provides an opportunity for your audience to either connect with you or unsubscribe, so think twice before hitting send.
The Crazy 8 Online Course Launch Strategy
You’ve got your list built up and warm, now it’s time for the fun part. We get to launch your course and see the $$$ role in. Cha ching!
There are a million ways to launch, but at Teachable we’ve seen amazing things come from our Crazy 8 Launch Strategy.
Over eight days you’re going to send a strategic set of emails that build anticipation, excitement, and urgency that effectively urge people to buy.
Doing this right is like waving a magic wand over your course launch that can add thousands to your launch.
Before you start the crazy eight launch strategy, though, make sure that your list is warm and educated on why a course like yours can benefit them.
People who gave your their email address a month ago might not be ready to buy. Selling to them now is like that annoying retail clerk who follows you around in the store asking if they can help.
So what you should do is slowly introduce yourself through your education phase.
Your goal is to generate demand for what you’re teaching by educating, creating an understanding of your product, increasing a need for the benefit AND build trust through high-quality content.
Your education phase might look a little something like this:
Before we get into it, you might be thinking, EIGHT emails?!? I don’t wanna annoy my list!
Don’t worry; you won’t.
You’ve done the work and have gotten qualified leads that are excited about you and your business. Your people want your content, and it can solve a lot of pain points for them. We’ve found that the only people who get complaints are those with a list of tens of thousands of people and they might get two or three subscribers who are upset about the frequency.
Executing the Crazy 8 Launch Strategy
Day 1: The course teaser email
On Day One you want to build excitement for your upcoming course and let your audience know to keep an eye out for it. Use phrases like, “I’ve been working on this nonstop!” or “I am SO excited to share this with you!” and your enthusiasm will rub off on your audience.
Day 2: The “What is the course?” email
Today offer up more information on your course and dive into what you’ve got to offer.
Make sure that you’re presenting your course in a way that will be enticing to the buyer rather than just listing out features.
Bad: This course will teach you how to file taxes as an independent contractor.
Good: This course will save you hundreds of dollars by teaching you to find hidden tax deductions and file taxes yourself as an independent contractor without having to hire an accountant.
Day 3: The “course opens” email
After teasing your course for two days, you are going to open up the cart and officially launch today.
Add a link or two (or three or four) directly to your sales page and make your call to action clear. You want people to click through to buy your course, so make it easy for them.
Day 4: The FAQ email
People will naturally have a lot of questions, so today we are going to nip their doubts in the bud by sending out an FAQ and save you hours of answering the same questions over and over again.
Cover details about your course, but also logistic details like:
- How long do they have to buy?
- How long will they have access?
- Is there a money back guarantee?
- Are there payment plans?
- Are you dripping content?
- Who is this course right for?
- How much time does it take?
Day 5: The surprise bonus email
At this point, your audience might be interested but not quite sold, so you can offer them a surprise bonus to serve as an incentive to buy now.
Your bonus should be high quality and something that your subscribers will really want. Consider a mini-course, ebook, tool, or free consulting. These are high value and high converting.
Day 6: The thank you & social proof email
Today it’s time to show some appreciation through a thank you email and add in some social proof for good measure. Show genuine gratitude and include any screenshots of people who may have tweeted or posted elsewhere about buying your course.
Day 7: Logic & course closing email
Here is where you tell your audience that your course is closing, remind them of your surprise bonuses and build urgency around your course. This is where FOMO comes into play—remind your students that if they don’t buy now, they might not have the opportunity again for months.
Day 8: Last chance 3 email series
Today we’ll actually be sending three emails to make sure that your audience doesn’t miss out on your offer.
Email 1 – 9:00 am
Tell your list that today is the last day to get your course and tell them why and when you’ll be closing your doors.
Email 2 – 3:00 – 4:00 pm
This midday reminder will serve as another thank you with a gentle reminder that after today the carts will be closed.
Email 3: 1 hour before cart closes – last chance
This is a quick email and a final push reminding your audience that your cart is closing NOW.
The “Crazy 8” launch strategy is just one piece of the online course launch puzzle. For more in-depth knowledge about the whole course creation, launch, and marketing process, check out Teachable’s free live training, especially for you:
When your list is still small
We find that the average conversion rate for launching to an email list is 2%. This is great if you’ve got 5,000 people on your list, but might be discouraging if you just started growing and you’re still at 100.
Not to worry—you can launch on your blog or social media channels in conjunction with your email launch. (And small lists can still be mighty. 2% is the average, but we’ve seen people convert at a significantly higher rate, too!)
Regardless of the size of your list, you can follow these exact steps below to leverage your blog for your course launch.
The 4-week game plan:
If you’re the sporadic blogger who publishes whatever is on your mind whenever you feel like it, you’ll need to tighten the reigns a bit, so your audience will be “trained” in what to expect from you and be excited about the product you’re selling.
Now, this might mean you lose fringe audience members, but when you start writing targeted content, your target audience will be more likely to share your posts, so you’ll gain audience members, too.
Your goal is to position yourself as an authority on the topic of your course and make your audience eager to learn more. This means creating a mix of informative and storytelling content that is long form and high value.
These first two weeks we are going to work on educating your audience on the topic you are teaching. Here is where you’re going to put your course topic on their radar and let them know why it’s important.
Let’s say you are teaching an online course on how to develop a consistent yoga practice. Your first week might look like this:
Tuesday Post: 10 Ways Yoga Changed My Life. Whether you primarily blog about yoga or not, now your audience is going to know that you’re a yogi and have seen a great change in your life since starting yoga. People who are interested in yoga are going to want to know more.
Thursday Post: 5 Easy Yoga Flows. This post is starting to educate your audience on how they can start practicing yoga without having to contort themselves into unimaginable shapes. So now they know why you’re into yoga, and they’re beginning to see you as a resource they can go to if they want to practice yoga, too.
Week two is going to be a bit more aggressive, you really want your audience to see you as the yoga authority, so you’ll have to up your ante. Before you plan out your blog posts here, decide what key benefits your course is going to offer and make it clear that you’re able to deliver those benefits into your blog posts.
To stick with our yoga example, we’ll say that our benefits are helping people lose weight and live healthier. With that in mind, here are the week two blog posts:
Tuesday Post: How I Lost 30 Pounds Doing Yoga. If you are aiming to help people lose weight by incorporating yoga into their daily routine with your online course, give them proof that not only can it be done, but you’ve done it yourself! This post should be general but informative. Let them know your before and after, but don’t give away all the secrets in the middle. You want them to feel satisfied and informed but still, want to know more of what you have to say.
Thursday Post: DIY Printed Yoga Mat. This is your viral blog post or one that you’re hoping that just about everyone in your target audience is going to want to share. Yoga newbies and pros alike can get excited about stylish yoga gear, so teaching them to make it themselves can help get them excited about you.
During weeks three and four you are going to announce that you’re working on a course, start increasing your interaction with your audience and continue positioning yourself as an authority.
Week three is where you’re going to tease your course while remaining informative. Let your audience know that it’s in the works, and you can even take this time to ask them what they’d like to see.
Tuesday Post: Everything You Need to Know About Getting Started with Yoga. Let your audience know that you’re embarking on creating the ultimate guide to starting a daily yoga practice and you’d love to know what they’d like to see in the course. Open your post with something along the lines of, “I’ve been keeping a secret from you guys. For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a project every free moment I had, and I’m finally ready to let you guys know what it is.”
To ensure this post is still valuable share a “starter kit” for your audience. The supplies they’ll need and the classic “consult with your doctor before starting any health program” advice.
Thursday Post: The Complete Guide to Mastering Inversions. This post is going to be a teaser for your course. Open it by saying, “I originally created this post as a module for my online course, but I’m so excited about it I wanted to share it with you all now.” This post needs to be killer. I’m talking the-best-post-you’ve-ever-written killer. Include video elements and maybe a content upgrade or two.
Week four is launch week. Your main goal is to get people to buy, so you’re going to announce your launch (!!!) and start sharing “teasers” like you did in last Thursday’s post.
Tuesday Post: My Course is Live! Here is where you’re going to open the doors so people can begin to buy. Open with, “As you might already know, I’ve been working my rear off on my Yoga Course for the past few weeks, and it’s finally ready.” Use this post to post behind the scenes screenshots of your course content.
Thursday Post: The Top 5 Resources for New Yogis. This is a post that’s going to be highly shareable on social media and generate a lot of buzz. You’ll want to compile resources that compliment your course rather than compete with it.
Whew! You’ve officially launched! The beauty of this four-week blog launch is that as long as you’re creating and including content upgrades in your post, your email list will grow in tandem, so you’re essentially killing two birds with one stone.
How to relaunch your course and earn more
The beautiful thing about online courses is that you can put in the legwork to create them once and then launch over and over again as your audience grows or you update your course.
Now that you’ve got a stellar online course in your arsenal and you’ve already had one great launch, you can focus on improving your product and growing your audience.
If you’re looking to improve or make any updates to your course after your first launch, consider sending out a survey to your students. To create an incentive for taking the survey tell them you’ll randomly select one person to receive a $25 gift card to Amazon.
Take that feedback and see if any patterns have developed. If one person has something negative to say about one component of your course, there is a good chance that it’s more of a personal problem of theirs than it is a problem with your course. But if 5 or 6 people are pointing out the same thing, consider making some adjustments.
When your course is new and improved, let your current students know what changes you made so they can go and check them out.
When you’re ready to relaunch your online course, segment your list. That way you don’t market to the people who have already bought and then reuse the same strategies, you did in the past.
I’m not kidding; you can seriously copy and paste the same email sequence and everything, making sure to update anything that needs updating.
At this point, you might be feeling like a ninja and raring to do your own online course launch. But hold your horses! You do not want to miss out on implementing the seven steps to successfully launch your course. To learn more about these seven steps to make your online course launch profitable, register for the webinar by the Teachable team
About the author: Morgan is a Content Marketer at Teachable, an online course creation platform that gives anyone the power to teach online. At Teachable, Morgan creates free tools each week to help course instructors create and run profitable and successful lifestyle businesses. You can see more of Morgan’s work on the Teachable Blog.
Full disclosure: I am a proud affiliate partner of Teachable, and may receive a commission if you upgrade to their paid membership plans.