From cross-stitch to CrossFit, from personal development to web development, from mindfulness training to Minecraft modding, thousands of content creators are making money online by creating and selling online courses.
But how do you create buzz about your course and get people to sign up?
How can you reach more people with news about your courses?
How do you even know if enough people will be interested?
By pre-launching your online course.
Pre-launching your online course is one of the best ways you can create buzz, validate the commercial potential of your idea, and expand your audience.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll be covering everything you need to know about pre-launching your course. We'll be looking at what you'll need before you can pre-launch, what great online course pre-launches look like, why growing your email list is so important, and how to create stunning landing pages as part of your pre-launch plan.
First, let's talk about what pre-launching an online course actually is.
What does 'pre-launching an online course' mean?
Pre-launching an online course is the process of creating buzz about an online course before the course is formally launched and made available for purchase.
One way to think of an online course pre-launch is as a kind of “teaser” of what prospective students can expect from your course. This might include a broad overview of the topics you'll cover, a sneak preview of the video content you'll be featuring, an early MVP of your first lesson, and other tantalizing details to encourage people to sign up for your course.
Something that many people don't realize is that you don't need the entirety of your course content to be complete before you can pre-launch your online course. In fact, it's arguably better not to create all your course content before you pre-launch. By only creating some of your course content for your pre-launch, you can effectively gauge interest in your course - and projected revenues you'll earn from your course - without having to create an entire course's worth of material. This approach will also save you a ton of time and effort producing a course with limited commercial appeal, and prime you to make your first sale a much easier one.
A crucial element of any online course pre-launch is a strong email list. Email is an amazingly effective marketing channel. It might not be as hip as social media marketing, but email is a solid, dependable workhorse that can help you sell your course to more people. We'll be taking a look at building an email list for your online course pre-launch a little later.
With that out of the way, let's look at how to actually pre-launch your online course!
How do I pre-launch my online course?
Regardless of what your course is about or what you plan to teach, there are two primary stages to pre-launching an online course: building your email list and creating the “teaser” content that you'll show off in your pre-launch materials.
Building an email list for an online course
Building an email list for your online course is the first step in any pre-launch plan.You can think of building your email list as a way of identifying and reaching out to your core audience. These are the people who are interested in what you have to teach and who will ultimately be buying your course. The main idea behind building an email list is to create a “warm” audience of prospective students who will be receptive to what you're offering.
Podia offers content creators two opportunities to include email sign-up forms on their pre-launch pages - once at the top of the pre-launch page and again beneath the main course description. This gives prospective students two opportunities to sign up for your newsletter, which can have a significant impact on conversion rates over time.
Creating 'teaser' content for your online course
The next phase of your pre-launch plan should be to create some content for your pre-launch.
As we mentioned earlier, there's no need to create the entirety of your course's material before pre-launching your course. There's nothing stopping you from putting the entire course together beforehand, of course, but it's far from mandatory.
The best teaser content accomplishes three distinct objectives:
- It tells prospective students what the course is about and what they can expect to learn.
- It shows prospective students what kind of projects they'll be working on.
- It outlines the specific skills or techniques prospective students will learn and how they can be applied.
Although text is crucially important to your online course pre-launch plan, your teaser content should be primarily visual. This could include video (including animation or motion graphics), still imagery such as screenshots or high-resolution photographs, and even code snippets or interactive apps. Visual assets not only convey a great deal of information very quickly but also allow the prospective student to see exactly what they'll be learning.
So, how much content should you aim to produce before pre-launching your course? Although no two courses are exactly alike, you should aim to have around one-fifth of your course's content produced and ready to go by the time you pre-launch. This should be just enough information to let your prospective students know what to expect and feel confident signing up to take your course.
Another consideration to bear in mind when assembling your pre-launch content is providing a sufficiently broad overview of the entire course. Producing around 20% of your course's total content should be enough for a pre-launch, but that 20% should cover the whole course, not just the first few lessons.
What tools do I need to pre-launch my online course?
Now that we know what an online course pre-launch is and the stages involved, it's time to talk about the tools you'll need to pre-launch your course. For the purposes of this guide, we're going to focus on the tools you'll need to actually pre-launch your course, not the tools you'll need to actually record and edit video for your course.
Fortunately, there are very few tools necessary to pre-launch an online course. Assuming you already have roughly 20% of your course's content ready to go, the only tools you need are an email marketing tool and a landing page tool. Let's take a look at each.
Email marketing tools for online course creators
Email marketing is fundamental to an online course pre-launch plan, which makes choosing the right email marketing tool very important. Fortunately, you can build and manage your email list directly within Podia. Our email marketing tools make it effortless to create and send beautiful HTML emails to your prospective students.
Creating engaging emails in Podia couldn't be easier. Podia allows you to create stunning emails in a matter of minutes using intuitive, user-friendly templates and offers a range of advanced functionality such as custom action triggers for drip and nurture campaigns, timing options, and audience targeting and segmentation settings to control who gets which emails and when.
Email marketing can be an incredibly powerful tool, but you don't need to be an expert marketer to get the most out of Podia's email marketing tools. Everything about Podia's email marketing tools has been built with online productcreators in mind. That means no wading through dozens of menus and hundreds of options to find the tools you need, no frustrating bottlenecks to navigate, and no previous marketing experience required.
Diving into the data behind your email campaigns in Podia is even easier than creating your emails in the first place. Simply navigate to the Analytics overview of your email campaign to see a range of data about your campaigns, including the number of clicks, opens, and unsubscribes, and other important metrics.