If you’ve heard of email courses before but never made one, they might appear to be more trouble than they’re worth. What you want me to create an educational course from scratch?
Well, yeah. But again, it’s probably not as much work as you’re imagining.
First of all, an email course is just an automated series of emails. The content of the emails should be educational, but they don’t have to be too long. In fact, too long is not necessarily good. Sometimes short and sweet does the trick, especially when it comes to keeping the attention of your audience.
You don’t have to worry about making them interactive, you don’t have to worry about creating homework or tests (though it’s perfectly fine to include all of those things). You simply need to provide content to your audience that they’ll find valuable.
Who can create an email course
This one is easy–anybody, or just about anybody. Because the benefits of an email course are so wide-ranging, most people can find a reason to create one. But let’s go over some potential personas which might find creating email courses to be beneficial.
If you run your own small business, you are in a constant battle, fighting for the attention of your target audience—people who you want to buy from you. This is battle for eyeballs is a tough one, but one way to help you grow an audience and convince them of your expertise is to create an email course.
If you offer a service, create an email course that makes people think “yeah I wouldn’t mind paying for that person to do ‘x’ for me.”
In addition to establishing yourself as an expert, you can also use email courses to build your audience. Advertise for your email course on your website and use it as a lead magnet. People will be happy to give you their email if they can get valuable educational content in return.
Content marketers love email courses because they tend to convert well. Whether you’re using them to convert website visitors into subscribers or subscribers into customers, they’re a good option.
Plus, content marketers are used to cranking out content, so they’re low-risk relative to other tactics for growing an audience.
This might sound obvious, but email courses are great ways for teachers to generate some extra income. Actually, there are two types of teachers that can benefit from email courses.
First, let’s go through a scenario for a high school teacher or college professor.
You teach a certain subject and already pour tons and tons of hours into your work, but you’re only reaching the students in your classroom. Why not repurpose your teaching material, and turn it into a paid email course.
Now in order for this to reach an audience, you’re going to need to have a list, so if you want to learn a bit more about how to grow your list, check out this or this.
Once you have a list, send out an offer for your course. I’d pay a few bucks for a semesters worth of educational content.
Now for the second example of a teacher. Let’s say you’re not a teacher in the traditional sense, but rather teach a few online courses for a service like Udemy.
With this model, the more students you have, the more money you make, so use an email course to entice students to sign up. Create an abbreviated course that you can send out in a series of emails. Or maybe just your first lesson, broken up into several emails for free. At the end of the lesson, you make the pitch. “Like what you’ve seen so far? Sign up for the full class here.” It’s a great opportunity to grow your student base.
How to actually create an email course
The first thing you need to do is determine the subject matter of the course. Broadly, this should be self-evident. If you’re a content marketing consultant, you don’t want to create a course on woodworking.
However, when you try to figure out the specifics of your course, things are not so obvious. Using the same example, you might create a course on SEO or on ebooks.
Ideally, over the course of time, you can create both and see which converts better and use that info for future courses.
Where is the content coming from?
Guess what? It’s coming from you. But that doesn’t mean that you need to write everything from scratch just for this course. Chances are you’ve already created some content on the subject of your course. Reuse that.
Take from your existing content and reorganize it into an email course. In fact, when you’re deciding what you want your first email course to be on, pick a topic for which you already have a bunch of content.
Remember all of these courses are going to be delivered via email. When’s the last time you received a 5,000 word email and read the whole thing? I’m going to go out on a limb and say never.
If that’s the case, you’re not alone.
You want the content to be short. If it’s longer than an email that you’d read, it’s probably too long.
How to structure your email course
When structuring your course, you’ll have two primary considerations—How long should the course be (as in, how many emails will it consist of) and how long should I wait between sends.
Let’s start with the length of your course. The answer to this question is obviously somewhat dependent on the amount of content you need to convey, but that’s not the only thing you need to consider.
Don’t forget, your goal is for your audience to finish the course and then take a next step. That next step may be for them to buy your product or take your next class, but either way, you want your audience to stay engaged after they finish the course.
So, you need to make sure the length of your course isn’t too long. All things being equal, people are much more likely to walk out of a movie that’s four hours as opposed to 90 minutes. The same goes for an email course. If the audience feels it’s interminable, they’ll stop opening your emails.
Manage the length of your course. If you find that you have so much content that your course is stretching months-long, find an organic stopping point and turn the course into a two-part series.
Now for the question of how long you should wait between sends. This is a delicate balance. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with content, but you also don’t want them to forget about you.
A good way to figure this out is to have a few friends try out the course before you make it public. How long does it take them from the time they receive the course to the time they finish the lesson? Use this info to determine your schedule. You should send a lesson out a day or two after you suspect the preceding one is finished. That gives the audience time reflect on the first lesson and decompress, so they’re ready for the next one.
Don’t forget to automate
If all goes well, you’re going to have people signing up for your email course often. It’d be untenable to manage the scheduling for every single email for every single course. Lucky for you, it’s 2018 (or maybe it’s the future, I don’t know when you’re reading this), and you can automate tasks like this.
There are plenty of marketing automation products—ActiveCampaign being one of them—that give you all the tools to create automations to manage email courses.
Thanks to tools like ActiveCampaign, creating an email course isn’t all that difficult. Now, go find out for yourself, and get to teaching.