Looking to sell your online course? Email is the #1 most effective way. In this guide, we'll share how to sell online courses like hotcakes with email marketing.
Did you know that 77% of people prefer to be sold to via email, as opposed to direct mail, text, phone, or even social media?
If you want to sell an online course, you simply can't ignore email marketing.
A well-planned email marketing strategy will give you an edge and help you attract an engaged audience for your courses. According to Peter Smith, a marketing expert for the Paper Writing Pro Service:
''The most effective marketing campaigns of this year combine the most current trends and the classic tricks from the past.''
Here are some of the most effective strategies online course creators are using right now. Combine a few or all of them, and your courses just might start flying off your "virtual shelves"!
Before you start selling your course, you're going to need an email list tool. For this, you could go one of two ways:
Option 1: Purchase a Standalone Email Marketing Tool
If you already have your course hosted on an e-learning platform which does not include email marketing, you'll need to purchase a separate tool to do that.
The one we recommend is ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is the best standalone email marketing provider for online course creators because it was built with online course creators specifically in mind. You'll have all the advanced features you need to compete with the big guys, without the big price tag.
Option 2: Purchase an All-in-One Course Marketing Tool
Here at Persuasion Nation, we use an all-in-one tool called Kajabi.
Kajabi allows us to not only host and sell our online courses, but it also has a full featured and powerful email marketing tool built right in to the platform.
Going with the all-in-one option of Kajabi saves us a ton of money, time, and headaches that we would otherwise have to deal with by piecing together multiple tools.
Either option works: you just need to decide what's best for your particular situation.
Now that you have an email list tool, next you're going to need to create a lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a useful and valuable resource that you give away for free in exchange for someone's email address.
It magnetizes your ideal students to you. So instead of saying, "Lookie! Buy my course!" you can say, "Here– let me help you for free."
Sounds a lot more appetizing, don't you think?
To learn how to create a lead magnet that attracts your ideal students, check out our article: How to Create a Persuasive Email Opt-in Form: The Definitive Guide.
Of course, in order to attract your ideal students, you need to first understand WHO those students are. That's why we recommend creating an Ideal Student Avatar– doing this will help you with every marketing decision you make from here on out. To download our free template, click below:
Next, you're going to want to send highly personalized emails to the people who opted in for your lead magnet.
What do we mean by "personalized"? Well of course you can use their first name in your emails, but that's not what we mean. What we mean by personalized emails is relevant and helpful emails.
You want to send emails that pertain exactly to your subscriber's wants and needs. Why did they opt in for your lead magnet in the first place? That should tell you a lot about what your subscribers want to hear from you.
A great way to send personalized emails is to create a free email course that pertains to the lead magnet you sent, and also leads them to your premium course.
For example, let's say you have a video course on How to Start a Succulent Garden, and your lead magnet is "101 Succulent Garden Ideas for Beginners". You could send a series of emails that teaches the basics of succulent gardening.
But of course, in order to learn about succulent gardening in-depth, they would have to purchase your full course.
Simply link to your course sales page at various points throughout your email series, and voila! You'll already have people clicking and buying.
Your email content serves to convert recipients into subscribers and customers, but first, you have to convince your audience to actually open the email!
People constantly delete emails sent out by marketers because the subject lines aren’t appealing enough. You don't want your emails to be like that.
Spend time tweaking and refining your subject lines before you schedule any email. It's easy to forget that subject lines are critical for the success of your entire email marketing strategy, so you might even want to do some testing to see which subject lines work the best.
In addition to making them personalized, a great strategy is to also make those emails interactive.
However, you don’t have to overwhelm the readers with fancy clickable animations. All you have to do to make your emails interactive is to include calls to action.
What's a call to action? A call to action (CTA) is when you tell someone to do something specific. In an email, your CTA could include a link to download your lead magnet, go read a blog post, share something on social media, or visit your sales page.
It's important to include CTAs in your emails (and not only to your sales page!) because doing so trains your subscribers to click on things in your emails. Just make sure that every CTA includes something valuable, fun, or interesting at the end of the click. Then, when you do ask them to visit your sales page, your subscribers will already be accustomed to clicking.
Although using graphics and photos can make your emails more interesting, overusing these things can make your emails appear less personal.
You don't want your emails to come across just like every other salesy brand. You want to come across as a real human being.
So, an ideal email marketing strategy should combine a sprinkle of "pizazz" here and there along with traditional, plain-text emails. In many cases, a plain-text email will perform better than any other strategy.
Of course, your choice will depend greatly on your audience. For example, if your course is about interior design, you will probably include more photos in your emails than someone else selling a course on marketing copy.
In the end, the best way to learn what works for your subscribers and what doesn’t is to test different things. See which emails get the most replies– generally speaking, when you get people actually taking the time to reply to your emails, you know you have a winner!
Surveys are important for online course creators because they help you to figure out exactly how to serve your audience best. Periodically, you should think of new ways to implement surveys into your email marketing campaigns.
According to Jason Peters, a successful email marketer and a college essay writer, the best way to do this is by using your welcome emails as an opportunity to implement a survey.
This is how it goes. You send a welcome email that is compelling and bound to generate great results. There is nothing as interesting to subscribers as is the email that prompts them to sign up. This is when you strike with a survey.
However, to avoid burdening the reader and overwhelming them with a ton of questions, make sure that this survey is super short and concise. One or two questions is perfectly enough for a welcome email.
Trigger-based emails are emails that get sent automatically according to specific actions that your subscriber takes.
Unlike automatic emails that get sent to everyone on your email list, trigger-based automations only get sent to specific people.
This is really important because each subscriber is going to be unique: you're never going to have two subscribers that are in the exact same situation. In order to stay relevant, you'll need to create emails that speak to your subscriber's unique situation.
For example, let's say your course teaches people how to build wealth. You might have some subscribers who are struggling with credit card debt, whereas other subscribers are wondering how to invest their money. These are two completely different situations– how do you handle this?
One way would be to send an email survey like we discussed above, and ask a couple of questions about their situation. For example, "Are you in debt? Yes/No". Upon answering the survey, you could trigger an automation which sends a specific email course depending on how they answered.
So for example, if they answered "Yes", you send an email course answering common questions about getting out of debt. If they answered "No", you could send a different email course answering common questions about investing, purchasing a home, etc.
This way, every email is extremely relevant and valuable to each of your unique subscribers.
So you might be thinking, this sounds like a whole lot of emails to be writing!
Well yes it is, and it's totally worth it. That being said, it can be time consuming in the beginning to get all of these automations set up.
Just two years ago, mobile devices were already beating desktop in terms of searches. Over 50% of all web traffic was performed with the help of mobile devices. This number is increasing fast and is expected to get drastically bigger by the end of this year.
So, if you haven’t tweaked the email marketing strategy to render across all device types, you are basically losing more than half of the potential leads you’re sending those emails to. To avoid this from happening, use reliable email service providers and run tests to ensure that this doesn’t cost you any course sales.
A cool tool we like to use to help us visualize our emails landing in our subscriber's inboxes on mobile is Zurb's TestSubject tool. Simply type in your subject line, and you'll get an instant preview of what it looks like on various devices.
"Retention" is a fancy marketing term for keeping your existing customers.
Of course getting new subscribers and students is a primary focus, but you shouldn’t be forgetting about your existing students in your email marketing strategy. If you keep losing old customers because you focused too much on getting new ones, you’ll be standing still instead of growing.
Adobe has reported that 40% of all e-commerce revenue is being generated by 8% of repeat customers. This gives us a clear idea of how many customers marketers lose along the way! Keeping those customers interested and building a long-term relationship with them should boost your online course revenue and keep your student numbers growing instead of staying the same.
There are plenty of ways to build relationships with your existing students. Some of the most popular methods include the simple thank you, small rewards in return for their loyalty to you, as well as an occasional outreach message that will keep them feel appreciated.
But if you want to really get cutting edge with this, send your students automated emails with congratulations and prizes for completing specific lessons in your course. If you have Kajabi, then you already have the capability to do this– doing this gamifies your course, and your students will be hooked!
This year’s perfect strategy for selling online courses is all about combining different email marketing strategies–both cutting edge and classic–to keep your subscribers interested. The best campaigns use various methods to reach out to potential students and turn them into believers– i.e., people who believe that you have the key to solving their need.
Try the strategies on this list, and don’t forget to track your results. With some dedication and patience, you’ll build a highly effective strategy for selling out your online course.
If you enjoyed this guide, you may also want to check out: How to Create a Sales Funnel for Your Online Course in 5 Steps.
These are powerful techniques that I've used to help grow 7- and 8-figure online businesses– and they can work for you, too.