Online Course Design: 10 Simple Steps to Your Profitable Online Course Part II

This blog post was supposed to about creating your content. But it turned into a post on how to pre-sell your online course.

This is part two of a four-part series. Read Part I first.

After talking to course creators, I realized that there’s a big piece missing if you start creating your content now. You have validated your course topic, but you don’t yet have proof that people will buy your course. Sometimes what people say they will do in a survey differs from their actual behavior.

So before you start creating your content, the next step is to pre-sell your online course. And that’s a topic all by itself, since we need to talk about designing a simple sales page and marketing your course to a warm audience.

*Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. I may, at no cost to you, receive a commission if you make a purchase*

Phase II: Pre-Sell Your Course

 Why Pre-Sell Your Online Course?

Course creators have two objections to this strategy:

First, some people think that no one will buy their course if the content isn’t created yet. After all, you wouldn’t buy a course from someone who you didn’t know and trust. But think about the people you admire and follow: would you buy a product from them before it was created? If you know that they will deliver on their promises, yes, you might.

Second, selling your course puts pressure on you to actually create the content within  a reasonable timeframe. It means that you need to make creating your course content a priority. If you’re not willing to do that, I don’t recommend creating a course at this point in time.

You may already have an email list and a decent number of followers. If not, selling your course will take some time. People who trust you will be willing to buy the course at this point, but people who don’t know you will be skeptical.

So you’re going to market your course to a warm audience. A warm audience is a group of people who know who you are. Maybe they have followed your blog or downloaded one of your freebies. Or maybe they’ve seen you in Facebook groups!

Building a Warm Audience

Continue to interact in the Facebook groups you joined in Part I. Provide value whenever possible. Offer free 30-minute consultations if you can.

Your goal is to prove that you know what you’re talking about, and that you are an expert on your course topic.

Don’t have a Facebook business page? it’s time to make one!

Invite your friends and family to follow you, and follow people who you interact with in Facebook groups. Be aware of any opportunities for promoting your Facebook page, course, or services in your groups and take advantage of them!

To get started with an email list, I highly recommend Nathalie Lussier’s 30 Day List Building Challenge. She’ll show you everything you need to know, including how to set up your email list, how to create an awesome opt-in, and how to promote yourself by guest posting on blogs.

Now that you know who you will sell to, it’s time to write the sales page.

Pre-Sell Your Online Course Audience

Step 4: Write Your Sales Page

This step may surprise some people. You haven’t even created your content yet, and I’m asking you to write a sales page?

There are two reasons why writing your sales page should be your next step. First of all, let’s say you create all of the content first. So with your content created, you go to write your sales page…and suddenly realize that your course is missing a huge piece! Now you have to go back and re-do your content.

By writing your sales page FIRST, you can write a sales page for the most awesome course you can think of. Then you can create a course to match.

Second, as mentioned above, although you’ve done your homework by validating your course topic, what people say and what people do are often two different things.

Once your sales page is written, you can pre-sell your online course. Don’t create the content until you’ve sold a few courses – you’ll end up just wasting your time if nobody purchases the course.

Writing the Sales Page

I could give you a formula or template and say ‘do it this way.’ While this is the easier way to do it, your sales might suffer. That’s because there isn’t “one” formula that will help you write a great sales page.

You need to know your audience, and tailor your sales page to their problems and how your course is the solution. Your sales page needs to be written in your voice, and a template won’t help you with that!

When I first started selling my course, I used a sales page template. The page ended up being clunky and awkward, and it didn’t sound like me. When I re-wrote it without a sales template, my sales increased – because it was written in my voice, and my personality came through.

Your audience needs to trust you. Writing a sales page that sounds formulaic and stiff will not encourage people to buy from you. What makes you unique? What can you offer that other people can’t?

If you have trouble answering these questions, ask your clients for testimonials. Or ask your blog buddies what they think. I guarantee you that you are the best at being you – so use that to sell yourself and your course!

That being said, there are some general guidelines that you’ll want to follow. Focus on what the course can do for your audience. What outcomes can they expect?

Be careful not to offer any guarantees: if you want to say that people can lose a certain amount of weight, focus on the actual results that someone (yourself or a client) experienced:

Instead of saying: “You’ll lose 30 lbs. in 30 days!”

Say: “Read about Marcia, who lost 30 lbs in 30 days!” Write a true story about results that you or your clients have had from your program.

Your elevator pitch provides  good starting point. What are your audience’s 3 biggest problems, and how does your course provide the solution? Write at least 1 paragraph for each problem, so you have 3 paragraphs (or more) when you’re done.

       How long should each paragraph be?
Remember in school when you learned that a paragraph had to have at least 5 sentences? Forget that rule. Your audience doesn’t want to read long paragraphs. A sales page paragraph should be no longer than 3 sentences to keep your audience’s attention.

Focus on the outcome of the course, not on what your audience will learn. You’ll get to that later – right now, your goal is to grab their attention so they keep reading!

Let’s say you’re teaching guitar. Here are two ways you can express what your students will learn:

What they’ll learn: “You’ll learn how to play the C, G, and D chords!”

The outcome: “You’ll be able to play dozens of popular rock songs!”

The first sentence is pretty meaningless to anyone who doesn’t know any music theory. But the second sentence makes it clear. When you provide the curriculum overview, you’ll clarify that they’ll learn the C, G, and D chords.

Now you have the introduction to your sales page. For bonus points, you can turn this into a brief video that will play at the top of the page. Videos are great for sales!

After this, you can add a testimonial if you have one. You can use a testimonial from a client, if applicable. Don’t worry if you don’t have one yet.

Other sections you’ll want to include on your sales page:

  • Real-life story: can be yours or someone else’s
    • How did the strategies you teach in your course help someone?
  • Curriculum overview (this will be very general – you’ll update it after completing Step 5)
  • Bonuses
    • What will your audience get if they purchase prior to the launch date?
  • Author bio, including a picture
  • Frequently Asked Questions
    • Anticipate your audience’s objections and crush them!
  • More testimonials, if you have them

Writing the Story

Your sales page needs to tell a story. It can be a story about how the concepts in your course have changed your life. Or it can be about someone you know – a friend, family member, or client.

To pre-sell your online course, you’ll need to tell a true story about how the concepts in your course have helped you or someone you know. Here’s my story from my sales page:

When I started my business, I was scared to charge too much for my services. I was also new to entrepreneurship, so I spent a lot of time learning the ropes of having an online business.

After about two months I was completely burnt out. At that point I realized that I needed another income stream. The money I was earning from clients just wasn’t enough, even after raising my rates.

I realized that I had two options. I could become an affiliate marketer and make money with other people’s products, or I could make my own product, where I would earn 100% of the revenue.

So I created my own product. With my background in education, and passion for promoting lifelong learning, it was only natural to create an online course explaining how to create online courses.

Whoa, wait a minute. How do I know how to create a course if I’ve never created a course on anything other than online courses?

I have over 10 years of experience in education with students of all ages, from 5 to 65. My expertise includes a variety of subjects, including music, math, reading, English as a second language, and test preparation. I worked as a student advisor for an online university and coached students on how to succeed in their online courses. With my combination of education and experience, I have a solid understanding of educational techniques that are effective, both online and offline.

My services include designing courses, andI have designed courses for several clients. I worked with clients who were creating courses on a number of different topics, from owning a private psychology practice, to the history of Bible translations, to OSHA and HIPAA regulations for dentists, to mindfulness. This is the first online course that I am selling under my name, but it is not the first online course I’ve created.

From these client experiences, I detailed the processes that we used to create, market, and set up the courses. Even though the courses were on very different topics, the basic process was the same. And I’m here to show you how YOU can do it too!

In short, I experimented with the best way to create an online course so you don’t have to.

Once I mastered the course creation process, I knew that I could show anyone how to do it.

Notice that I used bold and italics to highlight key points from my story. I also used my story to crush some objections that people might have about buying this course.

Everyone has a story to share. You might not think you do. Start by writing down the reasons you have for creating the course. You probably have a strong connection with the content that you’re teaching, so explain how that content has affected you.

Setting Up Your Sales Page on Teachable

I highly recommend using Teachable to host your course. For now, you want the Free plan. Once you’ve sold a few courses, you can upgrade if it makes sense for you and your business.

First, you’ll set up your school and create your first course

Add a price (start low – you can always go higher later) and copy your text on to your sales page. You’ll need to format the text within Teachable’s text editor.

Get the specific steps you need to take to set up your Teachable account (before you pre-sell your online course) in my Online Course Design Guide.

Here are some examples of great sales pages:

30 Days to Launch: A step-by-step plan to launch your course in 30 days (this is my course)

The Digital Gangsta:  Create a powerful and profitable online business

Brand Designer for a Day: You can finally afford a beautiful customized logo

Persuasion Hacks Lab: Turn your business into a persuasion powerhouse

Making the First Few Sales

Your sales page is set up! You’re ready to pre-sell your online course.

Now you need someone to sell it to. Start with what you already have: if you have a list, send the information to them. Have a Facebook page, blog, or Twitter followers? Promote your course there.

And if you don’t have any of that, remember those Facebook groups you joined in Step 1? Start there, making sure to follow the group’s rules regarding promotional posts. For groups that have weekly promotions, make a reminder on your calendar to promote your course on that day each week.

(If you’re not sure where to start, join the Online Course Stars for regular promotion opportunities!)

Also, if you haven’t started building an email list, now is a great time to start! Remember that you want to market your course to a warm audience, to people who already know, like, and trust you. Join Nathalie Lussier’s 30 Day List Building Challenge to jump-start your email list!

If you don’t have a list, it may take some time to sell your first course. Be patient. Continue to be active and provide value in your Facebook groups, and be persistent in promoting your course.

Here are a few things to keep in mind at this stage:

  • Be upfront: explain that the course won’t be available until the launch date
  • Offer a discounted price and awesome bonuses for any early purchasers
  • Continue to be active and add value in your Facebook groups
  • Don’t be discouraged if your course doesn’t sell right away

Pre-Sell Your Online Course: How many sales do you need?

What If My Course Doesn’t Sell?

If your course doesn’t sell, don’t give up! This doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t a market for your topic.

Here are some potential problems and solutions:

  • Your elevator pitch isn’t clear: Revise your elevator pitch
  • Your audience doesn’t know you: Be consistent in providing value to your Facebook groups. Remember that they won’t buy from you until they know, like, and trust you!
  • You’re marketing to the wrong audience: Try selling your course to a different audience
  • Your sales page is unclear or impersonal: Add details about yourself and what your students will know and be able to do
  • The course is priced too high: If your course is priced over $100, try lowering the price
  • Your course is priced too low: If your course is priced less than $25, try raising the price
  • You need to tweak your course topic. Go back to Part I, review your survey results, and see what you can change.

At worst, you’ll need to choose a different topic. If that’s the case, go back to Part I. Be thankful that you didn’t start creating the content for a course that won’t sell!

Once you have sold a few courses, move on to Phase III and start creating your content! Continue to promote and pre-sell your online course while creating the content.

Want one-on-one help with your course? Check out my services!



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15 Replies to “Online Course Design: 10 Simple Steps to Your Profitable Online Course Part II”

    1. Yes, and it can be hard for people who aren’t naturally good sellers. Don’t be afraid to put your best foot forward!

  1. These are great tips! I just launched my first courses and used some of these same methods. Once you do them, they seem so obvious, but unless someone guides you, you may not think of them! 😀

    1. Yes. I see a lot of people who have an idea but then get stuck in the implementation. That’s what this is for. 🙂

    1. Definitely! So many people have a vague idea of a course they want to create – but until you sit down and plan on how to make a reality, you won’t have a course!

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful! Let me know if you have any questions when you’re creating your course.

    1. You’re welcome! My purpose is to de-mystify the course creation process so that anyone can create a course.

    1. That’s my goal! Creating a course does take time and effort, but these steps can simplify the process.

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