Pre-launch Strategy for Your Online Course
You put your body and mind to work for months and you have finally recorded the video (or a series of videos) for your online course. Congrats!
Content creation is not trivial - and the hardest part may be behind you. This pre-launch strategy is here to help your course meet the world - in a systematic way. Some parts may appear to be "muscle memory", and some involve more creativity and flexibility on the go.
I want to give you 80% of what you need, and 20% of whatever you make it to be.
These ideas are learned and tested from 12+ years of digital marketing experience working for Fortune 500 clients, as well as small business owners and individuals.
Disclaimer: this is not a blueprint that will work for every online entrepreneur, every business, every product. Your execution and follow through - really - matters.
Pre-launch strategy can be your game changer right off the bat.
Laura Roeder, CEO of MeetEdgar, used her pre-launch strategy to build a 100K high quality leads (“potential customers”) before the product was available for purchase. Her strategy? Invitation based referrals. Watch her video here.
Harry’s, a men’s grooming brand, gathered 100K emails in one week, also using invitation based referrals. The founder talked to Tim Ferriss in great details about their pre-launch strategy here. Their success was so over-the-stop that someone even bothered to create a visual strategy guide: (BTW, this guide is created by https://viral-loops.com/ - an online platform that allows you to create referral based marketing campaigns. Smart, right?)
But even a strategy as astonishing and proven like the one above won’t guarantee to work all the time. Why? The execution needs to be nearly seamless with little room for error. Both companies (MeetEdger and Harry’s) have great products, and teams. Their marketing messages and approaches were well curated and tested.
Now, if your product is an online course without a clear differentiator, it doesn’t matter how fancy of a marketing campaign you run, I’m not convinced it’ll result in significant revenue outcomes.
Instead, consider these pre-launch strategies. They sound basic, but they work.
Build your email list, NOW
The biggest mistake I made when starting Feisworld Podcast in 2014 was not having an email list.
Even if you don’t think you have something to say right away, start the list anyway. The idea and content can follow.
Tell people what you are working on. Don't be shy.
You want people to know that you are launching a course before post production is complete. How? Tell them via channels you already own. Facebook Page, Facebook Group, LinkedIn, Instagram - and don’t forget your personal email either. Telling people individually with a curated message is often much more effective than a massive update via social media.
Direct messages (DM) work really well, and comes with a bonus
Direct messages such as Facebook Message, LinkedIn Message, even mobile phone messages can significantly increase engagement between you and a friend or a potential customer. What’s the bonus? You can ask them questions and they WILL give you direct answers that not only increase their interest, but also help shape your messaging for future customers.
Tell them more than once
We hate repeating ourselves but it’s necessary in this case. MeetEdger reports that your Facebook (or Facebook Page) message is seen by only 4% of your connections. Therefore repeating your message will help you connect with bigger audience right away.
Don't want to repeat yourself? Then re-purpose your message and give it a touch-up using image editing services such as Canva.com.
Still feel pushy? Not every social post needs to be on the nose about your email list, your online course. Instead, you can embed the message in another post - i.e. when you share a beautiful image, or when you respond to a friend’s comment. Gently invite people in and let them know about this exciting new project you've poured your heart into.
Give away something for free
Could you open up the gate and let a few in to watch your online courses, for free? Better, ask them to offer their feedback.
The first X number of people you choose to be part of your tribe and community is really important. Ideally, these people should:
- Feel genuinely excited for what you are doing (even if they do not agree with all the decisions you've made)
- Have supported you in some way, shape or form in the past
- Not identical to one another in terms of age, experience, interest, taste, etc.
- i.e. if you are delivering an exercise video, try mixing up people who are more advance in their training vs. in good shape but not as familiar with the routine you are putting forward, vs. people who’re trying to get in shape, etc.
In fact, this very strategy is User Testing, which will help innovate your product, make it better and offer invaluable information.
Create a teaser video
If you have recorded a series of videos for your online course, consider creating a teaser / promo video. Tell your producer (if you have one), or pull out your smartphone, your camera and record one yourself. Teaser video works great as introduction (of the course) to your audience, AND it can be used for an ad on Facebook and elsewhere.
Teaser videos need not to be long. Consider 60 seconds or less. If you truly have more to say beyond 60 seconds, go for it and try to manage the final cut under 2 minutes. People's attention span is astonishingly short these days. Average YouTube videos are played for only 8 seconds.
Again, teaser video doesn't have to be fancy or has a high price tag, but it does need to be authentic and with a clear message for what the series (i.e your online course) will deliver for the user. Be you, and have fun.
All sound good... but you don't have the time!
It’s your product, your success, so own it! If you don’t take the lead, who will?
Take our your calendar (digital or paper), and block out 2-4 hours each week to focus on your online course.
No excuse, 2 hours a week is only 20 mins a day!
Some of my clients report that they could find only one hour a day and they spread the 4 hours over 4 days. They take notes and follow through on their next steps. If they are in-between tasks when the "session timer" runs out, they take down where they left off so they can easily resume the next day.
Some clients find it easiest to block out a 4-hour session in one seating to get things done. Obviously not everyone can afford to do this or find it helpful.
Ultimately it’s up to you to find what works and stick to that schedule.
Want to run some ads to get the word out?
You know you didn’t create the course just for friends and family. At some point, it’s important to get the word out to the general public. But how?
Thanks to the email listing you’ve been building. You can actually use that list to find other people who are “like” them on your email list.
With just 100 people (from a single country), Facebook allows you create lookalike audience.
The recommended “source audience” from your email list is 1,000 or over, quality does matter a great deal. (No fake emails, no buying emails from other sources. Build them!).
As your list continues to grow, your lookalike audience will also improve its accuracy and effectiveness in targeting and attracting people who will enjoy your content.
Grow your audience organically (guest blogging and appear as a guest on podcasts)
There are a number of strategies that can help grow your audience organically. It's important to try at least a few things and see what work for you and your content.
- Write on your own blog
- Better, write on other people’s and companies’ blogs (guest-blogging) - Check out this “Guide to Guest Blogging”
- Appear on podcasts (before my friend Dorie Clark launched her new book “Entrepreneurial You”, she appeared on over 80 podcasts in the course of two weeks!
In other words: Don’t just tell your story alone - let others share your story, too.
We’ve been talking for a while now without a word about branding.
Don’t get me wrong. Branding, specifically the logo and visual element of your brand, is very important. But this doesn’t mean that you need to spend the bulk of your money and time on creating your favorite logo, color schema before launching an online course. In fact, too many people made (and are still making) this mistake!
Someone I know launched an online product with a free Google Form. No logo, no website. But she’s a killer writer.
If you already have a website and you are comfortable spinning up a page or two, go for it! There are also affordable services that can help you. Regardless of what you choose, do NOT be paralyzed by your branding. Pick something you are 80-90% happy with and MOVE ON.
Did you find this article helpful? Have you launched an online course? Please share your strategy, pain points and feedback below in comments area.