A few months ago, we wrote a post “The Ultimate Guide to Launching Your Online Course” which details our signature Crazy 8 Email Launch sequence. It outlines the exact strategy we used to launch our own courses, includes an outline of what emails to send with notes for what to write AND gives example copy.
We knew this was the kind of content that people normally charge for. We also knew that our community needed it. So we published it. For free.
You can imagine our excitement then when one of our own Teachable course creators started implementing the email launch sequence, cataloging his journey in our Facebook group and had over 240 students buy from a list of just 1,200.
That instructor was Lee Wasilenko. Sitting down in an interview with him, we asked how he implemented the launch sequence and what happened so you can get a closer look at a successful course launch.
Here’s step-by-step how Lee did it and how you can too.
Lee Wasilenko is the Founder and Instructor of VR Dev School where he teaches virtual reality development using Unity and for all the major VR platforms. Lee got started teaching virtual reality through courses he offered for free in his school.
Those courses got his foot in the door and helped establish himself as an expert in the VR space, encouraging him to create a paid, signature course.
Building His Audience
When Lee launched his signature course, his list size was around 1,200 people. That's a good size, but by no means impossible to replicate. Here's how he got there...
To grow his audience, Lee created two free mini courses to attract and prime his list before launching his larger course. His mini courses provide a lot of value for free and give proof to students that he is an authority in the virtual reality niche.Lee wasn’t just trying to carve a name out for himself, though, he actually created the free courses as a way to give back.
He says, “I wanted to give back to the community in that way. So I thought, well, the problem was that there were a lot of tutorials out there for Unity, some for Oculus Rift, but there was nothing for this one, the HTC Vive, which is a great piece of technology. I started working on that one, and that's actually been the most popular free course because there's really just nothing else out there for it, you know? There's the Google Cardboard, and a lot of people are using that, but it's just a piece of cardboard, you know? It's not the same thing as [the Vive]."
By creating a free product that was one of a kind and had a demand, Lee was able to attract a large audience that would be eager to buy from him in the future.
Beyond growing his list, Lee also made sure to keep it warm by regularly updating his community when he added a new video, or to let them know what was going on in the VR space.
Lee also utilized paid ads in order to grow his audience and launch to as many eager customers as possible.
“I did a lot of advertising on Facebook and with AdRoll with retargeting and stuff like that. So that was something I had set up a while ago. So I had already been building a retargeting market. That was fairly effective, but it's hard to judge the actual effectiveness, because I don't trust the conversion rates on the numbers that you get in AdRoll and in Facebook.”
Unpaid community marketing
Lee found success advertising to his Facebook Page for VR Dev School, though he claims that he regrets starting that as late as he did.
He also promoted his course on Reddit, but warned that the community could be a “double-edged sword” and that too much self-promotion would get you in trouble.
Instead, Lee recommends being helpful, earning karma and having people promote your course for you organically - this can be monitored in Google Analytics.
The social media that didn’t convert for Lee? Twitter. He used it mainly for communication rather than as a marketing tool.
Lee’s course sells for $297, though he originally presold at a 51% discount making the course $147. This cheaper presale price was important to Lee because a lot of his students are also students in college so they have a limited budget and his discount made the course more accessible to them.
Even at the full price point, Lee’s course is still one of the most accessible in the space.
When talking about other courses in the VR niche, Lee mentioned two: “There's another one in LA. A four week course in the evenings three nights a week and it's $3,500 U.S. I had mentioned that at the beginning of my campaign, and then on Sunday right before the campaign ended, Upload announced their course, and then I really used that to say, 'Guys, look. I told you this was a great value. Look at this. Now there's a course that just came out from Upload, and they're charging $10,000.' So $150 versus $10,000. The value is pretty clear there.”
Lee launched his course using our signature Crazy 8 launch strategy, selling 244 spots in his course - a 17% conversion rate.
Why crazy 8
The Crazy 8 Launch Strategy is our signature email launch sequence at Teachable, and it’s what we recommend to anyone looking to launch their online course.
Lee used our strategy because, well, we'll let him tell you...
"Probably because it was the most well-laid out in terms of methodology, in the sense that, you guys did a really good job of having, "Here's what you're going to do on day one," and there were some others that I had read about... but no one had a really nicely organized launch...So literally the whole week I had a tab open in my Chrome where I had that blog post plus the PDF that came along with it, and then the example emails. The example emails I think were really, really valuable"
Why Lee shared his launch
While a lot of successful instructors launch using the Crazy 8 strategy, Lee is the first to take us along with him, updating us daily in the Teachable Tribe. So we asked why.
The answer comes down to motivation, accountability and having peer-pressure to launch a course now rather than later.
“So, what I thought was I'll tell everyone how it's going, and then I want everybody every day to expect a post from me in the Facebook group, and if I don't post, it means I didn't do anything, which means that you guys should get your pitchforks and come after me and say, "Lee, what are you doing? What's your excuse today?" And that worked. That really helped me. It helped me keep focused and also, for learning, then I forced myself to sit down and write a review of every day, here's what I did, here's how it went, here are the numbers, and so it was really good to keep me on track, and it turns out a lot of people were happy with that and got a lot of value out of it. So that's cool. That's a win-win.”
When you’re launching an email campaign you need to use a trustworthy software. Lee used MailChimp for his launch, though he mentioned that he’s looking into switching to ConvertKit.
If you're thinking the same. Check this out, we currently giving away 3 months of ConvertKit when you upgrade your Teachable plan AND we've created a free mini course on how to integrate the two platforms that you get for free when you upgrade.
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 them 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 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 urge reminding your audience that your cart is closing NOW.
Thoughts on Preselling
If you look at Lee’s sales page you’ll see that he launched his course as a presale at a discounted price. There is no shame in selling your course before it’s entirely finished. In fact, we actually encourage it.
There are three main benefits of preselling your online course:
- First and foremost: You can test the water on a course idea. If you presell your course and only one or two people are interested you can decide whether it will be worth devoting your time and resources to creating a full course. If not you can refund your students at no loss to you.
- Your current students can help you create it. As you create your course and upload lectures ask your presale students for feedback. You can then shape your course based on what they have to say.
- Your presale can help fund the production of your online course. You can use some of your presale income to buy equipment for your home video studio. Lee used his income from his presale to invest into the Vancouver virtual reality community to help local developers.
A lot of people worry that it is dishonest or irresponsible to sell your course before it’s finished. To combat that fear be very explicit in explaining that your course is still in progress and let your audience know that you’ll be releasing it it’s created. As long as your customers know what they are getting you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Lee mentioned, “I'm working on the material, and I made it very clear that this is a presale, it's early access to the course. What I did was I had already kind of come up with the curriculum on Trello. I have some Trello boards where I plan out, here are the topics that I'm going to cover in this course. [...] That really helped me because the thing was, it's going to take me probably four months or more to create the course in the way that I want it. If I had waited four months to actually launch the course for other people, there would be a lot of competition out there, and the students want it now.”
Lee was smart in knowing that the sooner he could get a course in the hands of his students, finished or not, the more successful he would be. In competitive and emerging niches there is a huge advantage to being an early player.
As mentioned earlier, Lee saw wild success with his course launch. Launching to only around 1200 people, Lee made 244 sales. Lee’s conversion rate was an incredible 17%, while a lot of people advise you to expect just 2% for your launch.
Lee thought he was ambitious aiming for a 10% rate saying, “I was expecting to get maybe 50-100 signups. I had 1,200 people at the start of the campaign. I thought, ‘Okay, so if I get a 10% conversion rate, that would be extremely high.’”
With the money Lee made preselling his course, he’s able to invest back into the Vancouver VR community, benefitting a lot of local developers.
Not only was Lee able to make a sizeable income from his course launch, but he also created a Slack Community for his students that has been a great place to keep up to date and gather feedback to improve his course.
When we asked him about it he said, “That was part of my bundle, like when you buy a premium course from VR Dev School you get access to the private VR Dev School Slack group, and that's where we all hang out and talk about VR dev and we talk about the courses, and the guys tell me what they want to see, and I use that feedback to make the course.”
Beyond being a place to gather feedback, the Slack group has been a great place to “...just hang out in and everybody can share what they're building as well as all their experiences and everything.”
When you’re keeping up with what might feel like a million different tasks and being pulled in all directions during your launch, you might feel like you’re missing something. Looking back on his own launch, we asked Lee what he might have done differently:
“I would have prepared a little bit better. I would have taken the stress off of the whole launch sequence by writing some of the emails up front, or at least drafting them.”
“I definitely would have set up more of the social media in terms of my Facebook page. You've got to get everyone on your list as much as possible to like that Facebook page, because once you do that, it gives you a lot more options when you're targeting groups in advertising, getting in front of those people on Facebook.”
“Another thing is to set up your Google Analytics. Make sure that your goal tracking is done. So sign up for AdRoll if you're going to be retargeting. Get your AdRoll pixels going. Set up your audiences in AdRoll so you are already targeting the people who are signed up for whatever other courses, and then also have that set up so that you can differentiate those ads from people who've already paid for your course so you're not serving them ads after they've already signed up.”
Building your list or getting ready to launch your own course? Get all the tools you need - like a reliable email provider. We've seen multiple people switch to ConverKit and now, you can get 3 months for FREE when you upgrade your Teachable Plan.
The bundle also includes a minicourse that shows you how to integrate the two technologies. Snag it before it disappears.
Have you tried our crazy eight launch sequence? How did it work for you? Let us know in the comments!