It’s pretty clear to most online course creators that email marketing is critical to course sales and success.  You just have to search Quora and other forums to find disgruntled Udemy instructors who thought that simply putting their course on Udemy would bring in the income.  And it’s clear from our recent instructor survey that marketing and promoting a course is a real challenge for online instructors.

In this article, we give a general overview of how to go about creating a sequence of emails to help “pre-launch” and finally launch your course.  Since this is such a widely covered topic with a variety of opinions on how to go about it, at the end of this article we provide links to additional resources on email marketing and email sequencing.

What’s an email sequence and why is it important?

Email has by far the best ROI of any online sales technique (Source: Neilpatel.com)

Quite frankly, everyone reads email – and that, on a near-daily basis. Not everybody is on Twitter or Facebook, for example. Numerous studies have proven that email marketing is the most effective way to sell a product. It’s no different if your product is an online course or a Pez dispenser. Studies also show that people engage more via email than on social media.  A recent eMarketer study pegged the median ROI of email marketing at a whopping 122%.  So as a marketing channel for your course, email, ahead of social media, should be your number one priority.

An email sequence is exactly what is sounds like. It’s a list of pre-drafted emails whose goal is to capture your target market’s attention and guide them through your sales funnel so that they ultimately purchase your course. How do they do that? By creating anticipation for your course launch. Every step of the course launch email sequence is designed to promote reader anticipation.

Why anticipation? Your readers an inundated daily with emails. If you want them to keep reading yours until they ultimately are convinced to purchase your course, then you must get and keep their attention. 

Think about it. If you send out a great email describing all the benefits of your course. Then a month later you send out the link to purchase why would anyone after all that time and with so many other distractions remember what your course is about, much less decide to purchase it

Before You Build an Email Sequence…

We feel a need here to cover the bases on a couple of important steps to take before you embark on creating your course launch email sequence. 

1. Build an email list – We know, it’s obvious, right?  But while you can continue building your email list once you launch your online course email sequence, you need a substantial targeted email list to get going. How you build a list is the subject of another yet to be written article (there are many resources online as well for how to go about building email lists).  A few rules to keep in mind are:

Don’t purchase email lists – these are not targeted!

You need permission – You can’t just scrape emails off the internet or from business cards and put them on your list.  You need permission, which is usually given by collecting emails on your website in exchange for a lead magnet or other valuable content or by offering a webinar.

2. Choose an email marketing platform – Another obvious one, but choosing one is not so obvious because there are dozens. Some of the most popular ones are Constant Contact, Hubspot, Mail Chimp, ConvertKit and Get Response. Each platform has slightly different functionality and ways to set up your email sequences but they all have a fairly standard process: You create and name your sequence (i.e. Course X Pre Launch), draft the emails in the sequence, decide when each email will go out and to which groups on your email list.

Setting Up Your Course Launch Email Sequence

Guiding Principles of Email Sequencing

As we mentioned before the goal of setting up your email sequence is to create anticipation around the launch of your new online course. How you do that is open to a lot of interpretation and creativity.  Generally, however, there are some key principles to keep in mind:

  • Create catchy headlines to encourage opening the email – It’s pretty self explanatory why you would do this, you want email recipients to enter your sales funnel. Think of using humor, curiosity, fear, competition and generally play to people’s emotions. Common phrases used would be “Top Secrets of…” or “Are you…?” or “Warning:…”.  There are a lot of resources on how to create catchy subject lines. Have fun experimenting with them all!
  • Share some of your great content – You can even share bits and pieces of your upcoming course – This builds trust, authority and creditability with respect to your course topic. It also helps build a “fan base” or your target audience.
  • Your timeline should be a few weeks before launch – If it’s much longer, like months, people may lose interest. If it’s too soon, people may not have time to digest your valuable content and process what they are getting from it. There are loads of articles out there that provide 7-day email sequences, 30 day email sequences, and everything in between. Have a look and see what feels right for you.
  • Keep it short and sweet – Generally an email in your sequence should be no longer than 400 words. Save longer material for blogs.
  • Time it right – It is generally accepted that Thursday mornings are the best time to send out emails. Why? Who knows. At any rate, Saturday mornings, Friday nights are probably to be avoided. Use common sense.
  • You need more than one or two emails – Yes, two is technically an email sequence, but it does not allow enough time to build a relationship and trust with your audience. Typically 3-6 emails is common.
  • Use visuals when possible – They help to keep readers engaged. Video is great too.
  • Each email should address any psychological barriers – Address common objections to purchasing a course.
  • Each email should serve a slightly different purpose – Don’t just sent out 5 blog articles and then a course launch article. Think about the steps in the sales funnel. All emails should serve to help build a better relationship with readers.

General Course Launch Email Sequence

1. Welcome email – Remember that catchy headline? Well it should be especially catchy to get your “Welcome email” opened. These emails typically have the highest open rate, so make it a good one! 

In this email you will set the tone for the rest of the email sequence and for your relationship with your readers. You want to create anticipation and excitement at the start.  In this email you will cover who you are, what you are selling, why the reader should be interested in what you have to offer, where they can purchase your course and when.

You want to include links to your website and any relevant content, your course landing page, your online school page, etc.  You also want to tell readers how they can benefit from remaining on your email list.  Finally, if possible include a video welcoming people and getting them excited about your course. This will allow them to see you as a real instructor with whom they can connect, rather than an email subject line.

2. Newsletter or valuable content email – You can update your readers with new content on your website, new videos on YouTube, articles and links, etc.

3. Personal story or provide a testimonial – Give some background to how the course has helped others or how you decided to create it. Play on emotions.  This email may also take the form of asking a common question that people have problems with and then answering it for them, essentially offering some kind of help for a common pain point.

4. Urgency email – Remind readers that the course launch date is near. Perhaps offer some promotions or bonus.  Definitely have a link to your course landing page.

5. Day before launch email – In this email you would include all the relevant course information such as pricing and promotion codes for subscribing to your course. You might include an FAQ, answering questions such as “Who is the course intended for?” and “Can I get a refund?”

6. Course launch/Announcement – Showcase all that the course has to offer.  Offer an incentive if need be.

7. Follow up Announcements – You can generate excitement for those who have not yet signed up by including recent reviews of the course (which you may have gotten from friends and family), perhaps include a course change or update based on early feedback, maybe mention a follow on course if you are creating a series and/ or re iterate the benefits of your course. You can also ask for feedback on the course, which will remind those who haven’t signed up that they can.

8. Thank You email – You thank your subscribers and customers for supporting you and your course business and express gratitude that they are part of your learning community. You can include more student feedback and testimonials.

These are very general ideas and there are certainly more examples of what you can send out in your email sequence. Which of these types of emails you use depends on a lot of things. Regardless of how many emails you send out, you should include some kind of count down to your course launch in each email.

More Resources on Email Sequences

We’ve just touched on an overview of how you can go about using email sequences to launch and promote your courses. There are multitudes of resources and examples out there. Here are a few important ones:

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