The process of launching an online course is more than just creating a course, putting it on a website and announcing to the world that you have a course or membership ready for them to buy. In fact, with some types of launches, the content isn’t even created until after the launch is over.
How to launch an online course:
Course launch timeline
How long does it take to launch a course online? It depends on you, and the size and engagement level of your list. If you have a highly engaged list of 300 people on your email list, you could be ready to start planning a launch. If, however, you have a list of 15,000 people you haven’t emailed in months or rarely responds to your emails, you probably have some work to do before you’re ready.
While the timing on a launch may vary from days to months, there are some benchmarks to give you a good idea. One of them is to download my free 27-page Launch Planner to see how many steps you have already taken care of and how many more you have to do before you’re ready to go. It’s a detailed version of the information below.
Step One: Collect emails before a course launch
The very first step in launching a membership or course is to make sure you have an engaged email list. The best way to get people on that list is by offering them something amazing free of charge, and then asking for their email address in return. This is done using an email service, landing page and opt in form. If you’re not sure what landing pages and opt in forms are, you’ll definitely want to check out Build Your List for Launch: Landing Pages & Opt in Forms
If you still need to choose an email service provider, you can find out more information about that here.
And if you think you don’t need an email list because you have a great following on social media, you definitely need to check out this blog post: Why You Need an Email List to Have a Successful Online Launch
Step Two: Decide what type of launch you’ll do and how much you can spend on the launch
There’s no one right or wrong way on how to market an online course. Some people like to do multi-video trainings, some use live events (either in-person or virtual), some use challenges and some just go with a series of emails.
Your first launch should be something you can do easily and without spending an arm and a leg. Keep in mind that while running an online business and putting together a successful launch won’t be free, you also don’t need the biggest and best of everything when you’re just starting out.
Once you’re in the throes of the launch it becomes easy to spend money you don’t have just because you need something to get done. Thoughtful planning of what you’re capable of and how much you have to spend is going to save you from getting in over your head and will definitely help with your stress levels.
Step Three: Figure out your tech
Online course or membership launches can be complex or very easy. At first, it’s a good idea to stick with the tech you know and understand. Will you be shooting videos with your phone? Who will edit them? What will you use for your email service?
For your first launch it’s a good idea to look at the platforms and services you already have and figure out if there are features you’re not using that could fill a need you have. Leadpages, for example, not only does landing pages and opt in forms, it also has a checkout process which eliminates the need for a separate shopping cart. If your launch is going to require a piece of tech you don’t currently have or know how to use, considering going simpler the first time around. Here are some ideas on how to save money on your launch tech.
Step Four: Plan your content
Whichever way you choose to market your signature course, you’ll need to have a plan before you start. How many parts to the launch will there be? How will your training unfold through the launch to keep people engaged and ready to buy?
Great launches lead people down a path from knowing they have a problem that needs solving to believing the problem is solvable, to realizing your product could well be the answer to what they’ve been looking to find. Planning your content well will lead them down that path and prepare them to buy.
Step Five: Create marketing materials
When it comes to marketing your online course, you’ll need to develop landing pages for your videos, a sales page that allows people to buy what you’re selling and thank you pages that not only thank people for buying but also reminds them to check their email inboxes for more details on the program.
These landing and sales pages can easily be created with a program like Leadpages. For more information on what landing pages are and how to create them, check out How to Build High Converting Landing Pages.
Step Six: Draft your emails
Writing launch emails can be a daunting process. There are a lot of emails in an online launch even if you’re using videos or live events to do most of your teaching and selling. You’ll still need to tell people about those video training and live events.
When you’re launching online, you can expect to need 30 or more emails over the course of the several weeks you’ll be in official launch mode. Those include pre-launch emails, open cart emails, close cart emails, an onboarding sequence, and even occasionally an off-boarding sequence.
While the emails for launching don’t have to be long, they do need to be strongly written so people will actually keep opening them. Each email has a specific purpose, and that purpose shouldn’t be “buy my stuff.” You can get more info about which emails you need to launch in Email Sequences for Launching.
Step Seven: Plan checkout process
Ironically the most important step, getting paid, is often the one that people forget when planning their online launches. You probably have a monetary goal for the launch but do you know how you’ll get paid at the end? In many cases you’ll need both a payment processor and a shopping cart service.
This is an important step to consider early on in the process, as it can take some time to get your payment processor and shopping cart set up. There are verification steps to go through and perhaps even bank accounts to set up. You can find out more in Online Shopping Carts & Payment Processors Explained
Whether you’re trying to launch a coaching business, create a course to launch online or launching a membership site, there are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. My Launch Planner is one way to keep track of all of the steps, but if that’s more than you need, if you just want a checklist, I can help you out with that as well. Get my course launch checklist here.