Let’s kick this off by saying, I’ve been at the online course and launching game since 2015. About two years after starting my business, I created an online watercolor course with Brit + Co. That’s when I caught the bug of teaching and all things online courses.
Shortly after that first experience, I launched two more classes with Brit + Co. and also three others as a part of a series called “Watercolor Summit.” Because I saw how successful online courses could be in terms of revenue, reach and exposure, I knew I had to create my own online course. I wanted something that I created, launched and hosted on my own. At the time, I had no idea how much would be involved in creating and launching something so massive like this. I just knew it needed to happen. I watched alllll the free webinars, took all the courses on automations and email marketing and creating courses and in 2018, I launched my very first signature online course: Pen to Press!
The day I launched it I made over $20k. In ONE day! I was floored. I had only worked with clients designing wedding stationery at the time and teaching in-person workshops, so making $20k would take me WEEKS of custom work to see that in my bank. Needless to say, I knew I was onto something and since then, I’ve made it my focus to dial, tweak, automate and create the best online courses and systems behind those courses that I possibly can.
If creating an online course is something you’ve been dabbling in or daydreaming about…or maybe you just want to up level your strategy for online products and courses you already have, then let me break it down for you.
All of My Pro Tips on Launching an Online Course
Build an Email List
An email list is the backbone of any successful business, whether you have online courses or not. The importance of an email list is something I cannot stress enough!
If you’re scratching your head and asking, “Why start an email list? Email is dead!”…think again!
Email is the only way to *algorithm proof * your biz and allow you to keep in contact with your potential and existing customers! Creating an email list is the KEY to sustainability and helping you weather any storm that comes along.
If you’re able to effectively nurture and develop relationships with your subscribers, the results and impact this can have on your brand and income is incredible!
When you regularly keep in contact with your subscribers with valuable (free!) content, you’re creating brand recognition and trust. You’re also showing your subscribers that if your free content is really good and helps them get the results they want, then how much more awesome is her paid content and online course?!
If you’re creating an online course and planning out your launch strategy and DON’T have an email list, it’s time to start focusing on email as a part of your pre-launch and launch strategy. For at least 30 days prior to a launch, we’re emailing our list specifically about topics related to the course we’re launching. This includes sending them helpful tips, insights and resources to pique their interest and get them enough results to increase their desire for more once it comes time to launch the online course.
And the beauty of email marketing is, you can pre write and upload and automate your launch sequence of sales emails, your weekly nurture or broadcast emails and more! You can also reuse that series of emails you send your contacts during launch and recycle it for every single launch. You can simply omit any contacts that have already received those emails from a previous launch by using tags and segmentation!
And just to hit you with some stats, according to Campaign Monitor, emails convert at three times the rate of social media, so you better BELIEVE emails and list building are a huge priority in our launch strategy for online courses.
The Sales Page
Just like strolling the aisles of your favorite store, your sales page should be designed with all the right hooks and interesting elements to keep the potential customer strolling scrolling til they’re convinced they need your course. Creating a sales page is one thing, creating a high-converting sales page is a whole different ball game.
So, what turns a regular, old sales page into a high-converting one? Good conversion-focused copy.
Good conversion-focused copy is focused on the audience you’re reaching and also the value you’d be adding to their life, business, etc. There are many nuances to writing copy that I will cover here in a future blog post, but when you understand who you’re making your online course for, you know what their main pain points or struggles are. You understand what benefits they’d like to achieve and their main desires.
Those are the main points to highlight rather than just talking about the features of your course like length, who teaches it, etc. It’s not to say those things aren’t valuable. But the pain points and value are what’s going to make the difference between sales page copy and high-converting sales page copy!
The Pre-Launch Phase
The pre-launch phase of launching your course is probably the most important part of any launch. This is a chunk of time where you spend at least 30 days—our sweet spot is 2-3 months—warming up and educating your audience to buy your course.
You’re familiarizing your audience with your upcoming course and you’re providing them with valuable free content that is directly related to the topics covered in your course. You’re essentially showing them steps A-C or the what and why behind your course topic. This will then pique their interest and desire for results even more. It leaves them with no choice but to purchase your course for steps D-Z and all of the how stuff they need like tangible, step-by-step videos.
For example, during the education phase for my course “Brand Plus Brand,” I’m talking about licensing and surface pattern design on all of my social media platforms and blog for at least one month prior to launching. This includes one weekly blog post, and sprinkled in stories and Instagram posts throughout that month. On top of that, I host a webinar (an online training or workshop), that shows my audience what licensing is and why artists should license their work, so they can see their answers to how to get into licensing inside my course!
During this phase we’re also spending a LOT of time building our email list. I usually create two to three freebies or lead magnets that we’re talking about on all platforms. Freebies (or lead magnets) can be a checklist, free video training, e-book, etc. Your audience signs up to receive it in exchange for their email. These lead magnets are specifically targeting information that will then warm up this contact to what’s covered in the course, so it needs to be related to your course topic. It’s an amazing way to generate new leads. Post your freebies on Pinterest, sneak them into your blog posts, talk about them on social media…people love free stuff!!
The Launch Phase
Let the games begin!!
This part of launching an online course, in my opinion, is the fun part! The list-building efforts are shifted to sales sequences and the content you post across your platforms is now focused on the selling phase. There’s a whole strategy behind writing sales email copy, facebook ads and more that I’ve come to learn over the years. I’ll discuss more in a future blog post. But this part of the launch is when the excitement is TURNED UP!!
Not only is it exciting to see revenue coming in, but email and social media engagement will be turned up as well. I like to use our launch weeks to be very present in my messages on Instagram and pay attention to the questions that are regularly coming in. If you’re receiving a lot of the same question, make a video about it! That’s clearly a pain point or objection that other potential customers for your online course may have as well. Do story Q&As, Instagram Lives, and YouTube lives. For email marketing, sending a sales email every day for the length of your launch is what we recommend. I’ll go into more detail on email marketing and sales emails in a future post.
Until then, start your strategy planning!