Planning an online course launch is one of the most important things that you have to take as a course creator. Not only does it take time to build an audience, but a good start is a predictor of how well your course will do in terms of popularity and generating revenue.
So where does the “build it and they will come?” factor come in all of this? Well, it does, in the sense that the entire thing is a common entrepreneurial fallacy, in which people tend to assume that if you make something, others will want it. The truth is far more complicated than that, as a good product-market fit is what you really need to succeed.
If you’re already done with the testing part, and you’ve come to the conclusion that your course is something that people want, there’s still plenty of things to do before, during, and after the launch to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward.
Launching an online course doesn’t leave room for do-overs. You can’t launch twice so you must make the first time count.
That being said, launching a course is exciting and rewarding so let’s see how you can make an excellent first impression on your learners:
This is a course entrepreneurs’ worst nightmare. You’ve made it so far as to create and launch and then… well, nothing much happens. That’s because it’s up to you to make it happen!
Depending on what you plan to do, the pre-launch phase can start one to several months in advance. Planning ahead makes you actually stick to your launch schedule and set realistic goals. Here are some ideas on what you can do pre-launch:
First, it helps to build an email list so you can actively engage with prospective learners. However, you have to constantly nurture that list with carefully crafted email series, so by the time you launch, it will be easier to convince them to buy. How? You can create a preview of your course, launch a series of videos that give them an idea of what the lessons will be like, infographics, or even ebooks. The idea is that they should be insiders and get exclusive content from you.
Overview of your channels and content
You need a clear idea of how, when, and where you’re going to promote a course. Organize a spreadsheet or use a tool of your choice to keep track of your goals, which should be as realistic as possible. For example, if you want a 50 percent open rate on the email that announces the official launch of the course, you have to create a great subject line and good content. The same goes for tailoring promotional content specifically for different channels.
Reaching out to people
Having others talk about your course is a great source of social proof marketing. You can send a preview of your course to people who can, in turn, give their honest opinion about your content, and who can mention it ahead of time to their audiences. You can also feature as a guest on their podcast, for example, or do an interview with them on your platform. Doing this in the pre-launch phase also means that you’re not scrambling to build some hype after the launch.
Preorders are a way to gauge people’s interest. It’s also a form of social proof since it shows others that your product is wanted and offers something of value. You can send out an email announcing the preorder opportunity one to two weeks before the scheduled release date.
Teasers are fun ways to build some hype and anticipation as the launch date approaches. You can do countdowns on your social media and main platform, show previews, share blog posts related to the course material, and even host a webinar in which you also talk a bit about your new project.
Given that you’ve already done some work, the actual launch part should be much easier to do. The key is to be consistent and on schedule. To make things go smoothly, you should at least be prepared to send a series of emails announcing your launch, with the exact date and links, and also:
Make it an event
Just because everything happens online, it doesn’t mean that you can’t turn it into an event. Host a Zoom event, a webinar, or simply make it into something entertaining such as a launch cocktail party.
Make an offer
To boost sales, sometimes people need a little nudge in the form of a great offer. You can give a discount code for the first 200 users or set a time limit on your offer. However, depending on what you teach, you can also give away a prize such as coaching sessions for the first 10 people or learners chosen by random selection.
Get ready to launch!
Once you launch, it’s advisable to allocate a few hours per day if not more for answering questions, helping people that might have trouble purchasing your course, and for being present on social media. Even if you’ve automated the process and are confident that it works, there’s always room for improvement so be on the lookout for feedback.
Marketing an online course doesn’t stop after the launch. In fact, it actually means more work after the launch, as you need to constantly promote it if you want to see a return on investment. The post-launch phase is therefore crucial for its success so don’t miss out on doing a:
There will always be people on your email list who actually opened your emails, but didn’t purchase. So there’s an interest there since they’re subscribed, but something holds them back from purchasing. Before culling the list, you might want to send a follow-up email to see exactly why they didn’t buy the course.
Make a new offer
This is your window of opportunity to change their minds by making a new offer. For example, maybe you can set up a subscription plan in which they pay a smaller fee every month for accessing your courses. Alternatively, you can offer a bundle of courses at a more convenient price point for them.
Continue sending valuable content
Building an audience is key to marketing your content, yet many people make the mistake of letting it fizzle out and only promoting when they have something to sell. You should continue to send a newsletter with valuable information, don’t let your social media channels die out, as you’re planning your next online course launch.
Ready, set, go!
Your online course launch isn’t a one-time event or a marathon that you just have to finish. It actually comes in three stages: pre-launch, launch, and post-launch, all with distinct opportunities to maximize your marketing efforts. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process!
Ioana believes that learning doesn’t stop when school stops. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.