How to Create a Pre-Launch Marketing Strategy
Increase the potential for your new course by building interest before it launches.
Everyone wants to launch their course with a bang, but drumming up enthusiasm for a new course can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are ways to build interest among your audience without sounding fake or over-the-top. It takes a lot of content and some careful planning, but the results pay off. Here’s where to start.
1. Write about your course and build an email list.
OK, that’s two steps in one, but as this is Content Marketing 101, it should be reasonably familiar. To recap: writing a regular blog (which means at least one post a week, preferably more) will help you grow an audience, build SEO, and establish credibility within your industry.
There’s a surprising amount of education that happens just in the selling of an online course. Your future learners need to know who you are, what you’re selling, and why signing up will benefit them. It’s not a hard sell, but it can be a long one. And pressing home the point can take repeated blog posts.
Fortunately, email is an effective way to make sure your learners get the full message. Once you’ve earned the attention of those visiting your website, use the opportunity to direct them to your email sign-up form so that they can keep receiving updates without needing to remember to check your blog.
2. Use the interest you’ve gained to pre-sell your course.
Both your blog and your email list are effective channels to pre-sell your course. Pitch an idea and ask for input. Develop and refine these ideas, and once you’ve built enough interest, open it up for purchase.
Using this method, you’re essentially crowd-funding the course, which is a great strategy, but not without its faults. The bad news is that once your learners pay for the course, they’ll want to see that course rather quickly. The good news is that this should light a fire under you to get it done.
Because of that time pressure, it’s good to have made a start before you actually begin pre-selling. Get your course 20% of the way there so that you have something to show your learners that indicates you’re serious about creating the course.
Also, you’ll want to push the idea of this as an “early bird” sale. Give your pre-sales learners a discount, and invite them to be beta testers. By inviting them in on the ground floor, you’re allowing the learners with the biggest emotional investment in your course an opportunity to shape it. Your course can only be better for it.
3. Create a sales window to introduce scarcity and drive action.
Human psychology programs us to be loss averse. Once we identify an opportunity, we accord it a higher value than it is actually worth because we are afraid of missing out.
This is what a sales window is all about: if your course is always available at the same price, it’s easier for learners to put off making a purchase. But change the conditions just a little, and suddenly that “now or never” mindset kicks in, and they leap on an offer that they would otherwise have ignored indefinitely.
There are several ways you can create a sales window, and you can even use more than one in your pre-launch marketing strategy to prod different kinds of learners to action.
First off, there’s the initial “course opening” announcement. By opening a course for enrollment, you subtly imply that enrollment will eventually close. Learners had better sign up now while there are still seats!
Next, you can put forward limited time offers with bonus content. Maybe an ebook as a teaser of upcoming course content, or a special pre-launch webinar.
Once you’ve left the more enticing offers on the table for a bit, it’s time to take them away and imply that time is running out. Put up a notice that there are only a certain number of spots left, or that the final enrollment deadline is approaching.
4. Set up an email calendar.
With some pre-sales under your belt and a firm deadline for launch, it’s time to plan your email strategy. You will hopefully be working with a reasonably-sized list at this point, but your strategy will depend on how large it is and how many of them you think you can convert into sales.
Begin by establishing a timeline, including the number and frequency of your emails. When you first open your course to general sales, you can send out a couple emails a week, but not so many that your list grows tired.
As the cut-off point comes nearer, you can start raising the frequency of your emails. Give your learners a countdown to launch which will justify the email count. Put a lot of love into these emails, and don’t be afraid to include lots of detailed information. Draw on your blog content, but use it as your opportunity to deliver your big closing statement. After all, that’s what this is.
Hold off on offering coupons.
At this point you may be wondering, “what about coupons?” These are a double-edged sword. There are undoubtedly a good sales strategy, and a way to create “limited offers” and false scarcity. However, because so many buyers are used to coupon offers, many will hold off on making a purchase in the hopes of scoring big on a last-minute sale.
If you run an “early bird” sale, then offer a better discount later, many of the people who bought in early will feel cheated. More importantly, they’ll take your coupon offer as an indication that the course didn’t sell well—and that they overpaid. And, if you rely too much on coupons to sell your course, you may wind up in a situation where no one will make a purchase without a coupon.
So, instead of offering them as a matter of course, save them for carefully-planned moments. Offer them on special holidays, at designated times of the year, or at specific stages of your sales process. Once you have a few courses under your belt, you can offer a “first-time learner” coupon, or run ads on a sponsored podcast or YouTube channel with your discount code. Just don’t make it your default.