Email Marketing Tips for Online Course Creators

Simply creating an online courses and putting a price onto it will only get you so far. To maximize your reach and revenue, you need an email marketing plan.

Email marketing isn’t new. It doesn’t have that same luster that it once had. It’s not as exciting as Facebook or YouTube ads. Not as cool as running automated webinars. But any business today will tell you that email marketing fits into every stage of the marketing process, and that includes your online course. It helps you build your customer base and is one of the most effective ways to get repeat business and referrals from happy students.

The entire process isn’t that complicated on the surface. First you have to get email addresses (usually through content marketing) and then you send emails to that list. The tricky part is getting people to care and open the emails you send. If you have a list of 20,000 people and only five people open an email you send. That list is worthless.

But first things first: you have to do is connect with prospective students and get their email addresses. Here’s how to do that more effectively:

  • Use an opt-in form on your site for people to give you their email address in exchange for a free report. This is the simplest, most proven way to get an email address. You just have to make sure the free report provides value.
  • Add an opt-in option to your contact form on your website. You can see that we do this with our contact form. It works.
  • Allow new contacts to subscribe to your email lists through your social media platforms.
  • Encourage current subscribers to forward your emails to friends who might also be interested in your courses.
  • Within the emails themselves, you can include a call to action button that leads to the registration page for your course or to your website.

Build Excitement

The moment a visitor submits a subscription request, display a Thank You page that tells them how much appreciate their support and trust. If you promised a download in exchange for the email, give this to them right away. Show gratitude and give new readers a glimpse of what to expect to build understanding and excitement. It’s also the perfect place to shamelessly plug your course.

Start by sending a friendly confirmation email that lets them know their request has been received successfully. Here is an example of how this should read for maximum impact:

“Thank you for joining and welcome to Green Thumb Gardners! We are so happy to have you on the team. Together we will create beautiful gardens, exchange ideas with other gardeners and learn about courses that take our craft to the next level. Just in case you missed the download earlier, it is attached to this email – enjoy!”

Nobody likes to feel trapped or tricked, so include an Unsubscribe link at the button of every communication. This may seem counter-intuitive, but making someone angry that the accidentally joined your group isn’t the way to build trust and encourage subscribers to pay for your courses. So, make it easy for people to leave.

Grow Your Customer Base with Effective Email Campaigns

Building a list is different than nurturing one. You have to entice subscribers with what’s in store for them, let them know the unique benefits you have to offer.

TIP: Offer Special Treatment

Offering special treatment to regular subscribers helps you build a relationship and sustain interest. People love exclusive access to deals, products and services. Here’s an example:

“My new course, Building a Greenhouse in Two Days, is available only to graduates of my Indoor Gardening Made Easy course. If you sign up for both, you get half off the Greenhouse course. Refer a friend and get 20% off any course this month only.”

This copy is packed with exclusivity, bundled products, discounts and an appealing members-only vibe that clients love.

TIP: Make Your Email Mobile-Friendly

According to Google, 75% of its 1 billion Gmail users check their account from mobile devices. That’s why it’s crucial to optimize your email for mobile subscribers. If your copy and graphics aren’t mobile-friendly then it won’t look good for you and could increase the number of people who unsubscribe. Keep it simple and test the look and feel on a number of phones and tablets before sending it to your list.

TIP: Hold Member-Only Webinars

Free webinars give your prospective students a chance to appreciate your teaching style and subject matter expertise. Don’t worry about giving away “too much”. You always want to over-deliver as it will make people even more excited about getting access to your entire course.

When the webinar is wrapping up, encourage people to contact you with questions and suggestions. You should also give them direct information on how to sign up for your course right away. If this seems opportunistic, it’s not. Students will be excited about the topic and want to know more. There’s no better time to clinch the deal and fill up your online course rosters! Enticing them with limited time (24hr) discount code is a great tactic.

Webinars are also one of the most highly effective venues to collect email addresses and other valuable lead information. These leads already spent an hour listening to you, so it’s likely that they’ll enjoy your courses as well.

If you don’t want to go it alone, consider co-hosting a webinar with a colleague who isn’t a direct competitor. Many online instructors find that webinars fill up their email lists quickly.

Repeat Business From Email Notifications

Presenting fresh content is the best way to get subscribers to read your emails. This can be done in a number of ways, the most well-known being with blogs and newsletters.

TIP: Use a Blog

If you have a blog, tease the content with engaging descriptions in an email. For example, if you’ve written a blog on how to prevent weeds from taking over your vegetable patch, you might write something like:

“Eliminate weeds in your vegetable patch with these proven tips and tricks.”

After linking to the blog, you can follow up with a call to action and link to register for your course. If you give away the first couple lessons of your course then your conversions will go up as well.

TIP: Try Calendars and Newsletters

Calendars can be useful if you plan to release new courses frequently, or if your online course is more of a “bootcamp” with live portions to it. Advertising your open-enrollment period is a good way to generate buzz.

Newsletters used to be more popular than they are today, but that doesn’t mean they are dead. In fact, some people make a good monthly income simply by offering a “$1 per month” exclusive newsletter for subscribers (often charged as $12 upfront for the year). Not only will you get emails to add to your list in this case, but you’ll also know that people on this list are willing to pay.

TIP: Refresh Your Email List

Is your email list outdated? Here’s where making it easy to unsubscribe comes in handy. You can send an email and let recipients know you are deleting everyone who doesn’t respond.

It might seem counterproductive to remove subscribers from your email list. However, starting fresh with those truly interested in your courses will probably improve your conversion rate. It’s a great idea to do this before a major email campaign or before you launch your next course.

Encourage Readers to Reply

Effective email marketing generates conversations with real prospects interested in taking your online course. Tossing information to your target audience isn’t the way to do it successfully.

Follow these tips for the best results:

  • Create an enticing subject line. Directly address members and give them a reason to open your email instead of letting it sit in the inbox. For example, readers are much likelier to open an email with this subject line: “Grow the best tomatoes you’ve ever eaten” than a generic subject line like “Fall Gardening Newsletter.”
  • Once you get prospective students to open your email, entice them to read through the message. It should be evident that the email was written by someone who cares about their success and well-being. For example, you could use empathy to galvanize them to solve a common problem. “We hate it when a single hailstorm threatens to destroy our entire crop. Here’s how you can salvage plants after a summer hailstorm and determine which ones are a loss.”

What to Do if Your List Gets Too Big

If you’re just developing your email list, this may seem like a far-off dream. It’s definitely a great problem to have. However, once you’ve built your email list, there are ways to optimize your contacts to maximize your conversion rates.

Segmenting your email lists by demographic groups helps you personalize your content. For instance, in our gardening example, it would be nice to create email content that addresses regional differences in growing seasons, local crop differences and other factors. You might even be inspired to create courses or workshops that address these differences.

The point is to encourage email recipients to respond — and sign up for your course.

Without Email, You Don’t Have a Business

I can tell you from experience that if you don’t have an email list, you don’t have a business. In fact, our very company started from an email list. We spent 10 months building up this list by blogging regularly and sharing the articles. People started to sign-up and when we officially launched LearnDash to this list we made our first sales.

So my advice to you is this: put just as much thought and energy into growing your email list as you do creating your online course. Both are going to be vital parts of your success.

Author

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Twitter | LinkedIn

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