10 Lessons in Launching Your Online Course

 

How to cut through a sea of options and make the launch of your new workshop or online course stand out

 

Download launch planner

As start-up founders and small business owners, everything falls to us. In addition to being experts in our field, we need to be skilled in many other areas especially given the rising cost of outsourcing.

 

Small businesses looking to up-skill are increasingly turning to online courses, DIY workshops and eLearning which offer cost-effective ways to acquire new skills, fast. As a result there are now an unprecedented number of online workshops and courses on offer.

To give your workshop the best chance of success, read on and download Idiello’s launch planners which we are giving away for free to email subscribers*.

*(our subscribers are always getting good stuff like this).

The ultimate online course launch planner

INSIDE YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD:

Project Flow Planner
A gantt chart tailored to planning workshops and online course launches. Includes a completed example of a successful launch timeline and a printable template to create your own.

Content Planner
A 4-week calendar to guide you on promoting a workshop launch through your social media. Includes a completed example of a content posting schedule. 

Download for free

10 Lessons in Launching an Online Course or Workshop

Tip #1: User language

You’ve designed a valuable workshop that is going to help so many people acquire new knowledge but here’s the thing, they don’t know what they don’t know.  

The first lesson is to use language that your customers will understand, not your industry peers. With so many alternatives at their disposal, users don’t have the time to navigate through your course outline to figure out if it’s what they’re after. Prioritise clarity over wordsmithing when it comes to your key messaging and drop the expert parlance. 

Ask your audience to describe the workshop in their own words by sending out a survey or simple poll on your socials.

Here’s some examples:

Workshop names that are clear (= GOOD CHOICE)

  • How to write engaging captions online masterclass – The Digital Picnic

  • Hack Your Own PR 9-week mentoring – Odette & Co

  • The recipe for SEO Success ecourse – Kate Toon

Workshop names that are unclear (=POOR CHOICE)

  • Hashtag Hustle 

Tip #2: Lead times

Have you heard of the ‘planning fallacy’? It’s a well-documented human bias which means we underestimate how long a task will take based on false optimism. In my 16 years experience of running marketing projects for big and small brands, I cannot begin to describe the accuracy of this. It’s just the truth: projects take much longer than we think they will, no-matter how many campaigns you have under your belt. So, what do the professionals do to ensure deadlines are met? They build fat into every project (and they still end up working day and night leading up to a launch).

Adding around 60% to your estimate is recommended.  

How much time is enough?

This varies greatly from project to project, but a realistic time frame to plan, run and evaluate a launch marketing campaign is 12 weeks.  

That may seem crazy and if your launch is the only thing you are working on, you have no partners or third-party suppliers to consider, it may well be. But if you are running a business, servicing clients and shipping orders while planning a launch, this time will fly by.  

Where does all that time go? Read on to Lesson #6: Planning to find out.

The best way to know exactly how long a campaign will take is trial and error. The more campaigns you run, the more accurate estimates you will be able to make.

Tip #3: Lead magnets

“Funnel” was definitely the buzzword of 2019 (and 2015… and maybe 2012), and while I couldn’t go a day without hearing the word twenty billion times, it did teach non-marketers a very important lesson: do not try to convert a cold audience.

Splashing out on paid ads and offers to audiences who have never heard of you, is quite simply a waste of money. Instead, design a lead magnet that helps generate quality leads via a high value giveaway and then you can nurture those leads through the buyer journey to conversion.

What is a good lead magnet tool? One that builds your email list. One of the best channels for selling an online course is email marketing, because it is an “owned” channel. Once built, it is a valuable marketing asset.

Your lead magnet needs to be valuable, generous and speak to your credibility but take it from us, don’t go overboard. Idiello decided our lead magnet would be a 7-day lab that stepped users through how to create a marketing campaign from start-to-finish.  The problem was we jam packed our lab so full that it would take participants 7 months to complete and not 7-days. It was overwhelming and it didn’t leave them needing more.  

Done well, your lead magnet will generate testimonials that you can then use for promoting your workshop or course.

Tip #4: Landing Pages

Another owned channel essential for launches is a campaign landing page. A dedicated online page for promoting your workshop. Here you include all the information your audience requires to make the decision; pricing, inclusions, specifics, testimonials, course outline.

Take the time to research what make a good landing page from a User Experience (UX) perspective; specifically layout, content hierarchy, messaging and calls to action.

Don’t have a full website yet? Not to worry, check out Squarespace for beautiful and simple landing pages.

Tip #5: FAQs

If you are offering a workshop or course of any kind, draft snappy but clear FAQ’s and add these to your landing page. Think about the kind of questions you are likely to be asked and frame your FAQ’s in the same vein, like we have:

 

Tip #6: Planning

Campaigns fail all the time. The main reason for failure? Lack of planning.  Critical steps are overlooked, materials are thrown together and key opportunities are missed. We like to start with a task list broken down into 5 buckets:

  1. Planning: brainstorming, campaign outline, collab partners etc.

  2. Design tasks: Key messaging, visual identity, Facebook ad creatives, automated edm’s.

  3. Project Development: Set up landing page, setup custom audiences.

  4. Campaign launch tasks: Launch social media ads, send out bulk emails, send out press release.

  5. Post campaign tasks: Follow up survey, request for testimonials, compile learnings for next time.

Once you have all your tasks written down, plot them on a Gantt chart template (like the handy one we are giving out for free). For guidance on how long to allow on each task, we have created an example version.

Plan your social content in advance so you don’t end up posting a million times on the one day (and annoying people) because of lack of other options.  If you put out the same message every day, your audience will become message immune and tune out. We’ve also included an example content planner in the free download to guide you.

Tip #7: Promotions

Basic guidelines: 

  • Begin teasing your audience with information about the workshop no earlier than 4 weeks out, open up a waitlist for participants.

  • Actively promote the workshop 2 weeks out.

Making your promotional period too long is a common mistake. You are creating a rod for your back if you try to be “always on” for more than a few weeks.

Over-reliance on social media is perilous. Social media is a highly saturated channel and cutting through is getting harder than ever. Instead of betting all your hopes on the algorithm, best practice campaign strategy is to use a combination of paid, earned and owned channels;

 

Why is a smart mix of three platforms important? Because they each revolve around different touch points in your customer’s journey.

Owned media gives you great brand control but its hard to scale and it takes a while to build traction organically, so for generating awareness and reach around your brand, we look to paid channels.

Paid channels can get expensive, especially when you’re starting out.  They also doesn’t speak to your credibility or authority so that’s where earned channels step up for the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey.

As your customers arrive at the evaluation stage of the journey, your website and email list may come into play which are owned channels, and when we want to put an offer out there, paid channels are great at converting quickly.

Tip #8: Retargeting ads and abandoned cart emails (ACE)

While you are considering your promotional arsenal, be sure to add ACE and retargeting ads to the mix as these two gems are must haves for plumped conversion rates.

Over 70% of shoppers will abandon carts at checkout but with ACE, the average recovery rate is 15%. It’s worth investing time and effort in creative and strategic recovery emails rather than just relying on your online store’s default template. Want to nail the ACE or need help with retargeting ads, The Digital Picnic have you covered.

Tip #9: Missing in action

Your campaign is in-market, you have deployed all your assets and spent all your ad budget.

This campaign has consumed you for weeks of planning and posting and pitching and promoting and you are done... Except you are not. Repeat after me: “I will not go M.I.A”.  

While your campaign is in market, you need to be present, available, focused and tuned in. Respond to every comment, answer every question, check-in regularly with ads manager and makes tweaks, share content to even more closed groups and be available on short notice for press enquiries.

Don’t drop the ball when the finish line is so close.

Tip #10: Post Mortems

There is a window following your workshop or course to nurture your participants and lay the foundations for ongoing brand advocacy and repeat business. If that window closes, you will find yourself almost back to the start. Ask for feedback, ask for testimonials, send a personalised thank you, check in a week later, add them to your closed online community, and definitely offer a discount on future courses. Converting active customers is much easier than lapsed ones.

Don't forget to download your free launch planner

 

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