What does your business provide for your audience?
Products and services are important. But knowledge is often the most vital solution your company provides. Knowledge isn’t just power. It’s profit. You’re missing out if you don’t use it. And one of the chief vehicles you can use to share knowledge with your audience is an online course.
Many commercial services sell courses created in a learning management system (LMS). Think Udemy, Coursera or Code Academy. You might have even built LMS courses yourself on Rainmaker Platform with one of our two LMS solutions. But an LMS isn’t the only way to build a course. You can use email too.
Email carries some advantages that set it apart from traditional LMS courses.
- In the signup process they’ve given you permission to talk to them; that makes it easier to funnel them into other products, lists and offerings after the course.
- They don’t have to go to your site to take the course — the information comes to them. There’s less friction as you build engagement.
- You have complete control over the pace of learning.
Here’s how to build an email-based course:
Decide on a Goal
What is the purpose of your course?
In some cases, sharing knowledge is the only goal. You’re not evaluating anything, you’re just giving students information to increase their knowledge.
In most cases, you’re looking for tangible results — an assignment or benchmark of some sort. Think of a writing class or an online yoga class where there are assignments to be sent in on a regular basis.
Either way, there must be a purpose behind your course, and it must be clear to your audience.
Commit to the Contract
When you get buy-in (whether that’s an email address or a course fee of thousands of dollars), you’re entering a tacit contract with your students: they give you something of value, you need to give them something of equivalent value.
Don’t abuse that contract. You owe it to your audience to keep your content relevant and up to date. I’ve run across multiple YouTube courses lately, some from very successful creators, that are WELL out of date — and they’re still being sold at full price. That’s bad business. It doesn’t help your audience, and in the long run it makes you look like you don’t care about their knowledge as long as you get paid.
Commit to professionalism. Triple check for curriculum problems, typos, and other formatting errors that make you lose credibility; it’s far more impactful here than in other places because of the level of buy-in you’re seeking.
Few courses are “set it and forget it;” set a standard of professionalism and polish your course up on a regular basis.
Define Your Scope
The scope of your course depends on the size of your topic. Make sure the amount of knowledge matches the level of commitment.
For example, take a lead magnet course where you offer a handful of headline hacks. It’s a free signup and the only purpose is email capture. Three to five emails is enough; sending 20 is like proposing on the first date. They don’t know you that well and they’re not ready for that level of commitment.
The number of emails usually goes up as commitment level increases. Most email courses fall within the $10-40 range (or $9.99 to $39.99 if you’re using psychological pricing). For these, consider somewhere between ten and fifteen emails.
As you get into the more expensive courses, there may be an email component, but there are also workshops, individual instruction and other value-added elements. Simply make sure that your course, costs and expectations are all aligned.
Break Your Content Into Email-Sized Pieces
Split every course into lessons, whether you’re using an LMS or a sequence of emails. Be extra aware of length. Emails have limitations that an LMS doesn’t.
Some email clients clip messages at a certain size. Gmail clips HTML emails at roughly 100-102 kilobytes (if you want to get into the weeds, here’s a GitHub thread digging into it). Delivery size can be difficult to gauge; don’t assume you’ve got it right. If you’re selling an email course, set aside the time to test your sequence thoroughly for proper display and deliverability.
500 words is a good length for a lesson; the average person reads at about 250 words per minute, so one lesson is an approachable two-minute commitment. Be simple and straightforward with your content. Break the subject down into chunks you think you can cover in 500 word emails — and make sure each email can stand alone.
For example, if I wanted to write an email course on cocktails, I could devote an email to each recipe. This Old Fashioned article clocks in around 450 words and is a good example of the way you would structure a lesson — picture, quick explanation up front, recipe. Add a short introduction reminding them that this is part of a series and a teaser for the next lesson at the end and we’re right at 500 words.
Use an Autoresponder Sequence
An easy way to manage the emails in your course is to use an autoresponder sequence.
Autoresponder sequences ensure that each lesson is sent at a defined interval; this builds consistency and creates expectations with your students. Any interval from daily to monthly may make sense; experiment and see what works best for your content and audience.
In addition, make sure you always tell them when to expect the next email. Signpost it — say something like “We’ll see you tomorrow for the next lesson, How to Create the Perfect Manhattan.”
Don’t put emails in between lessons unless you feel you need a personal note to break up the series or add anticipation.
Finish with “next steps”
One of the biggest mistakes we see people make in their marketing is not giving their audience next steps.
For most businesses, it’s hard to find the proper balance between “salesy” and standoffish. Realize that your audience appreciates a road map — they want a direction to go. They might turn down that call to action, but they’ll appreciate that it’s there.
So when your email course finishes, give students an action to take. Include a link to sign up for your newsletter, offer another course or invite them to a social media community. There is a next step that makes sense for your audience. Tell them what it is.
Get Started with Email Courses
An email course turns your knowledge into tangible value for both you and your audience. Follow these steps to create your next email course. And if you need a hand, don’t hesitate to reach out — we’re here to help. Just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services