Recently, I sat down with a friend to help them launch their online course. But when I put fingers to keyboard to write the emails and plan out our strategy I got stuck.
What do I say? What works? What's actually going to make money? When do I send these things? How? What? Gah!
After getting stuck, drinking cider with my friend for a few hours, and realizing I hadn’t yet written about this on the Teachable Blog, I went back to the drawing board.
Everyone who creates a course hopes to launch it—hit publish and watch the sales roll in. But the pressure to get it right and make it work can feel almost insurmountable.
Pulling inspiration from our 12K course launches, hours of research, data mining and launches of our own, I’m going to give you everything you need to launch your online product.
So, before you launch your course or online product, you need two things:
- An email list
- 20% of your content
Let’s break that down.
Step 1: Build an Email List
If you've read anything about online marketing, you know that your email list should be the backbone of your business. It's how you gather a group of people interested in your course topic. More importantly to a launch, it is literally the only way to directly contact your tribe and notify them of a new product.
PLUS! With the right email sequence you can build trust, anticipation, and urgency to increase sales.
In this post, we’re going to focus on your email sequence as your main method of launching your course. Why? Because it’s easy and reliable. Two big high fives.
From our data, we’ve found that you can rely on .02 (2%) of your email list subscribers buying your course, which means you can use our “magic formula” to predict course sales.
According to Campaign Monitor, emails convert at 3X the rate of social media. For this reason, the most effective place you can spend your time is on your list.
If you have a small list, that's ok too. I enjoyed this post from Jeanine Blackwell on How to Create and Launch A Course With A Small List.
Step 2: Prepare Only 20% of Your Course Content
So here’s a secret—you don’t have to finish your online course before you start selling it.
Think about it, when you sell your course, you direct people to your course sales page or landing page. Then people want some content but they don’t need ALL.
Check out Bree Noble, she sold her course based off of her sales page alone.
“I was able to pre-sell my online course (Female Musician Academy) to 15 people at $290 ($4,350) without having any content in the school yet. In fact, my new students told me that my Teachable school was so beautiful that they could tell the course was going to be amazing.”
In fact, I’d argue that if you wait to create your content, it’s going to be better.
Picture this: you launch your course with only the first two sections created. Someone comments in the first section that your microphone has an echo. Imagine if you had recorded your whole content using that same setup! Uh oh!
What if someone comments - I love section 2. Wouldn’t you want to create more of that? What if people are confused by a lecture and you realize you need to make it a section.
By only creating 20% of your content, you’re able to get audience feedback and adjust 80% of your content to create a more perfect (more valuable $$) course.
Setting up drip content gives additional benefits, like generating revenue to finance the project, gather testimonials to help more people convert, and giving you a motivation to finish. All true. Consider it.
What’s especially nice is Teachable’s drip feature, which allows you to automate when each section is sent out. So if you batch your work and create three sections one weekend, you can still have them sent out week after week.
With an email list and 20% of content ready to go, it’s time to launch this thang! You ready?! I know I am!
Online Course Launch Strategy
There should be 2 phases to your launch strategy:
- Education: warm up your list
- Selling: sell to that list
Step 3: Provide Value to Subscribers
In the education phase, you’re essentially warming up your list. You're familiarizing yourself with the audience and getting them thinking about your product's topic and the pain points it solves.
Someone who gave your their email address a month ago, well, they’re not ready to buy. Selling to them now is like that annoying retail clerk who follows you around when you walk in the store asking if they can help.
When you walk into a store, you want to check out the place, the merchandise, figure out if you're interested—not be bombarded by a teenager with a headset trying to make enough commission to rent a tux for prom.
So, you should 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.
This education phase can last 0-14 days, depending on how long you want to grow your list before launching. You should be sending an amazing piece of content about every 2-3 days
You should send:
- Targeted blog posts (example from our The Profitable Teacher Launch)
- Webinars (example from our The Profitable Teacher Launch)
- Videos (example from our The Profitable Teacher Launch)
- Offer group coaching
- Any type of content that shows students what you have to offer
Psst...we also have an entire post on creating an email course, complete with plug-and-play templates.
This content is basically you stocking your shelves. It's saying, “This is the kind of content I have to offer and the quality you can expect from me.”
I always think of the taste tests at Trader Joes—give a little bit of cheese away so someone craves the whole darn block!
"For example, I didn’t have time to write the awesome content leading up to the launch. I also neglected to create a separate email list for interested parties and probably pissed off a few of the members of my blog newsletter with sales spam."
A good schedule for warming up your list is this:
- If educating over 0-7 days: Send 4 emails
- If educating over 7-9 days: Send 5 emails
- If educating over 10-14 days: Send 6 emails
So, what do you put into these emails? Write them like a newsletter, not like sales copy.
Interested in learning more about email marketing? Download our ultimate email marketing guide:
Once your list is warmed up, it’s time to sell!
Step 4: Open Your Sales Window
Here at Teachable, we call our signature email sequence the Crazy 8 Launch Strategy because it lasts 8 days.
And sure, you can launch over fewer and sure, you can launch over longer, we’re suggesting this strategy because we’ve seen it work AND launching is harddddd.
It’s truly exhausting to handle emails, workflows, questions, and technology failure and we wouldn’t subject anyone to that for any longer than they have to.
The Crazy 8 Launch Strategy
Over 8 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 running a magic wand over your course launch that can add thousands to your launch.
Before we get into it - you might be thinking, EIGHT?!? I don't wanna annoy the crap out of my list.
Don't worry. You wont. If you've done the work right and gotten qualified leads on your email list, your people want your content and it can solve a lot of pain points for them.
Take Melyssa Griffin in her post: Exactly How I Earned $100,000 in 14 Days from My E-Course Launch.
"I was nervous about sending out so many emails and annoying people, but normally I keep my emails to about one per week, so I knew it would just be two weeks of insanity and then things would simmer down. I also knew that…HEY…I spent so much time growing my email list by providing free value that taking two weeks to promote my new product was not much to ask for. As expected, I received some unsubscribes, but nothing really out of the ordinary. One 82-year old man emailed me angrily, but aside from that, instead of angry emails, I was getting messages from people thanking me."
So now that that's solved, let's get into the emails.
DAY 1: Course Teaser
On your first email, you’re going to tease out the course and build excitement.
Let people know that you’re creating a course, what it’s about and that you’ll be opening it soon so they should pay attention to their email.
Use phrases like “I’ll share the fun details later.” “The excitement is killing me.” “I’ve been working hours on this for you.”
Keep upbeat and positive and generate excitement.
Here's an example from our recent launch of The Profitable Teacher. We'll use as many emails as possible from this launch—but we also deviated from the strategy using a few advanced tactics like a video launch series.
Let them be a guide, find your voice and sell to your tribe. :-)
DAY 2: "What's in the Course" Email
In this email, you’ll describe what's in your course. Make sure to write everything from a "sales angle" — this simply means empathizing with your readers and talking about the final benefits, not features.
- Bad: We provide email segmentation
- Good: We provide email segmentation that lets you target interested parties and make an average of 30% more on each sale
Tell what’s in your course. Explain the various modules and takeaways and build up the value of your “bonus content.”
At the end, tell your students that your course will become available to buy tomorrow.
I would also add a click-to-tweet. You can use these tweets as social proof later. The program is free.
Have your text read something like: Can't wait for the #NAMEOFCOURSE launch tomorrow! It's ________.
Allow students to fill in the blank.
Here's an example, though we deviated slightly having the course open that night and not including a click-to-tweet (we already had testimonials!).
DAY 3: "Course Opens" email
This is the day! The day your course opens and you start making money.
In this email, communicate that your course is open and link to your sales page so that people can buy.
Include testimonials from the click-to-tweet or extras that you've collected while creating the sales page. If you don't have either of these, you can pull statistics from articles about your course topic that validates how important what you're teaching is.
This is a big email and you want to knock everyone's socks off.
Here's an example:
DAY 4: FAQ email
This email doesn't sound as fun and exciting to write, but it's going to save you A LOT of time in the long run.
In this email you want to answer the logistical questions about your course:
- 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?
You can answer these questions NOW or you can answer them in angry emails later.
For an additional example, check out Ramit Sethi's FAQs for Zero to Launch.
Here was ours:
DAY 5: Surprise Bonus Email
You're going to offer an additional incentive to get people to buy now.
You're going to throw in an additional piece of content that's a "surprise" that everyone will get for free if they buy now.
Build excitement. Explicitly say you're giving a surprise not mentioned on your sales page.
And make that surprise banging! It should be some kind of valuable bonus content (like a workbook, consulting, a free tool) or a limited-time discount. Whatever it is, make sure it's valuable.
We didn't have this type of email in our recent launch, but we should have! If you've done this, forward your email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we're happy to include yours an an example.
DAY 6: "Thank You" & Social Proof Email
At this point, you've been selling hard for 5 days, so it's time to be a little grateful and say thanks to your people. And hopefully your launch has gone well—the money has come in and you have a lot to be thankful for!
Make sure to thank everyone for reading your emails and being part of your launch. Write from the heart and in your voice.
Say "I never expected this..." and include testimonials where people rave about your course.
This kind of language also builds social proof. It shows that people have bought your course and are happy with it and you may even bring in a few additional sales here.
For our launch, we included a bunch of testimonials in previous emails. While this email can boost sales if you're struggling, you don't always have to include this email, especially if you use your social proof in other emails.
DAY 7: Logic + Course Closing email
At this point, your launch is almost over. You're probably a bit exhausted, but hopefully excited by the amount of money you've made.
In this email, you're going to say that your course is closing. Build a logical argument for why it make sense to buy now, reference the surprise bonus, and build an urgency around getting the course before it's too late.
DAY 8: "Last Chance" email series
This day has the potential to be your most profitable day. Anyone on edge is going to either buy your course now or not at all. That's why you want to finish strong and send 3 emails.
Email 1 - send at 9:00am:
Tell your list that today is the LAST day to get the course and emphasize why you have to close your doors and at what time.
Email 2: 3:00-4:00pm:
Send a mid-day reminder that cart is closing, how thankful you are and how wonderful the course launch has been.
Email 3: 1 hour before cart closes: Last chance
This is a very quick email outlining that this is the last chance to get the course, it's going away, NOW!
You can also download our email sequence guide and reference it later:
Make it YOU
While we've given you a pretty darn prescriptive launch strategy and our own examples, I encourage you to be yourself and make this strategy your own.
You know your audience better than anyone else, what they crave and what they hate. Remember to write to your audience and for your audience in each and every email. Show off your personality with corny jokes, italicized sarcasm, or heartfelt mantras.
This course and launch is a culmination of the work you've done so far—don't hide!
For some additional course launch guides, I found:
- This post by Bryan Harris EXTREMELY helpful, really and beneficial.
- I also enjoyed this top line overview from Baily Richert.
What do you think? Is this helpful? Anything you've got questions on? How have you launched?
P.S. Shout out to the Teachable Team for helping me gather emails, finalize design and hammer out strategy.