How To Create An Online Course: The Ultimate Guide
Launching Your Online Course
Your post-pilot launch is a one-off push for course members before you switch to more evergreen marketing.
Your goals in this phase are to:
A Word of Warning...
In the online marketing world the term "launch" or "product launch" has come to be associated with very large marketing efforts to launch a course with an army of paid affiliates, adverts and a wave of promotional emails.
These tactics have been very successful for "marketing gurus" with huge email lists and large followings, but they don't work so well for most people.
For the vast majority of people, a huge launch process just won’t work because you don’t have the giant email lists, affiliate networks or expertise in ads (or a big team to do it all for you) that the internet marketers have.
Instead, I advise keeping your launch manageable by focusing on the marketing channels you’re already using and the contacts you already have.
If you're a solo professional or small business your hands will already be full updating the course and the technology to deliver it, and spending your time delighting your new course members. You can expand your marketing to other channels and tactics at the right pace for you after your launch.
Planning Your Launch
Ideally, you'll want to launch as soon as possible after your pilot to harness the momentum and goodwill you've built up. If you launch within a few weeks of ending a short pilot, most of your audience will still remember the buzz as you announced the pilot itself and will be interested in hearing how it went.
First, estimate how long you need to get ready for launch. The three big things that will take time are any content updates you need to make, updating your technology, and setting up your marketing for launch.
Updating Your Content for Launch
As you reached the end of the pilot you'll have made a "snag list" of updates you need to make based on feedback from pilot members and your own observations.
Your snag list should contain recommended updates to your course content, structure, formatting, materials and how you run it (e.g. live calls etc). If you ran your pilot as live webinars/calls you may also need to split and edit the recordings of the calls to be used on a more evergreen basis or re-record the content as short videos.
Review the updates and categorise them into:
Estimate how long it will take you to make the first three types of update, and make a note to come back to the fourth type after launch as part of ongoing improvements to the course.
Updating Your Technology for Launch
For your pilot I encouraged you to keep the technology as simple as possible in order to test your course concept as fast as possible and at minimum cost.
This is made possible because your pilot members understand it's a pilot and they're much more forgiving of the technology being a little clunky as ling as they get the content and the support they need to achieve their goals. And that's partially reflected in the discount you give to pilot members.
When you launch and members are paying full price (or getting a smaller discount) expectations are higher and you will most likely need more robust technology. In particular:
You'll still want to keep the technology as simple as you can so that you can launch as fast as possible after your pilot, so rather than making a laundry list of everything possible you could do with technology, focus in on the areas that are absolutely necessary and bring big benefits to you or members and pencil in the other areas to review later as part of ongoing improvements.
You can find a detailed review of your options for technology for your launch and onwards here.
Preparing Your Marketing for Launch
You need to put more focus on your marketing than for your pilot because you’re targeting a colder audience. It's still a relatively warm audience because you'll be focusing on existing contacts and channels. But your warmest prospects will already have signed up for the pilot.
Stick to the marketing channels you already know: don’t add the complexity, risk and time of learning new completely marketing channels on top of launching your course. For example:
You can add new channels when you scale up - but don’t overcomplicate things by trying to do everything at once.
There are two main options for marketing your launch (outside the spammy, "rah rah" approach taken for online marketing products):
What you need for a simple, low key launch
What you need for a content-led launch
Instead of just emailing out to announce the course launch, you’ll email out links to the content pieces which build interest in the topic, demonstrate your expertise, and show them the course will really help them - then you’ll promote the course launch.
Strategies for getting the most from your launch
You can get even more impact from your launch with a few simple strategies:
Decide on what channels you're going to use for your launch, who you're going to focus on and whether you're going to go for a low-key or content-led launch. Then estimate how long it's going to take you to create the material to support that approach.
Finalising Your Launch Plan
Take your time estimates from the previous lessons and combine them to create an overall plan for your launch:
Use this timeline to estimate when you will be ready to launch. I'd advise being conservative with your estimates - especially the technology ones. If you plan to launch in 6 weeks time but you're ready early it's no big loss. But if you launch a week later than you told your audience you can begin to lose interest and credibility.
Ideally, you’ll want to announce the launch 2-3 weeks before the course goes live to allow you to do your marketing and have a close enough deadline to motivate people to take action.
If you start planning during your pilot you can often launch soon after it’s finished if you don't have too many updates to make.
Now it's time to launch - and then to move on to your ongoing work of running and marketing the course on an evergreen basis.