Let’s talk rookie course launch mistakes. Because we’ve seen our fair share.
By the very nature of the online course world, pretty much every person in the industry is an expert in some form or another. Whether they’re professional chefs, distinguished academics, experienced trainers or coaches…
That’s what makes it a such a unique industry to work in as a service provider. And, coincidentally, is also why we love working with course creators so much.
But the problem that many of these experts face is that—unbeknownst to them when they start on their journey—launching a successful online course requires a hell of a lot more than knowledge of your own subject matter.
To launch a success online course, you need to become (or hire) a good marketer.
But when you’re brand new to this online business stuff, it can be tough to work out the hundreds of things you need to learn.
So instead, we thought we’d focus on the rookie course launch mistakes you desperately need to avoid.
As long as you dodge these five bad practices, you’re off to a great start on your course marketing journey.
Mistake 1: Not validating properly
I don’t mean to scare you, but there are literally hundreds of factors that could cause your course to be a total flop.
Off the top of my head:
- People don’t want or need it right now
- People don’t want or need it ever
- They do want it but aren’t willing to pay for it
- People do want it but don’t want to do it online
- People would prefer to learn it from someone else
- They don’t trust you to deliver results
- People want to learn in theory but not in practice
- People don’t have time because it’s too long
- They want a slightly different take on the topic
- People don’t like the format
- People don’t know where to find your course
I’ll stop there since this is turning into a bit of a downer 😉 but rest assured there are plenty more factors. The great news is that you don’t have to be worried about any of those things if you validate your course idea.
Validation means finding a way to PROVE that your course will be successful before creating it in full.
You can see why we’d put this as the number one course launch mistake, given that a properly validated course should be virtually bulletproof when it comes to launching. You already have the cold hard numbers to prove that people will pay for your course—or that they’ve already pre-paid for it.
What’s the alternative?
Spending months creating content you don’t even know if people will buy. So validate first!
Mistake 2: Treating marketing as an afterthought
Easily one of the biggest course launch mistakes made by rookies.
I can’t tell you how many course creators end up posting comments similar to:
“I’ve finally finished my course! It’s taken a year to get here but I’m so happy with how it’s ended up! Now, does anyone have any advice on how to get students?”
This honestly makes my stomach turn when I hear it.
Because I know what a relief it is to finally finish your course. You’ve worked on it for months and months and now… it’s finally done.
Except it’s not. It’s really not.
Course creation is only half the battle when it comes to a successful online course. Treating marketing like an afterthought is a surefire way to spend all of your valuable time and energy before you even get to the halfway mark.
By the time you’ve created your course, the idea of spending hours learning, implementing and perfecting a solid marketing strategy often feels like a herculean feat. Too often, that means a half-hearted launch.
In our experience, you need to spend just as much time sorting the marketing as you do the course content itself. Don’t put it off until the last minute!
Mistake 3: Not knowing your numbers
Luckily, this is one of the pretty straightforward rookie course launch mistakes. And it’s the easiest to rectify provided you’re willing to sit down and do some math. Here’s an example.
If it costs you $5 to acquire an email subscriber via ads and you launch your $20 course to 250 subscribers with an average conversion rate per sales email of 2% and you send 5 emails… not only did you not make any money, you actually just lost $750.
Here’s that equation laid out:
($20 x 250 subs x 0.02 CR x 5 emails) – ($5 CPL x 250 subs) = -$750
You can even add to that by estimating how much time it’ll take you to develop and market the course, then figuring out your equivalent hourly rate. Because remember – even 5-figure launches can be wildly unprofitable when you consider how much time has been spent as well as how much money.
Stuck figuring out your own launch math? Check out the Online Course Launch Calculator we made. Play around with your own numbers and the spreadsheet will tell you how much of a profit (or loss) your course will make AND how much profit per hour spent on it.Download the calculator
Mistake 4: Not speaking your audience’s language
This is one of the course launch mistakes I could talk for hours about.
Understanding your material is not the same as knowing your audience. Knowing your audience’s demographics is not the same as understanding them (i.e. psychographics). And even if you understand them perfectly, that doesn’t mean you know how to talk to them. But that’s the crucial bit.
Because no matter how well you understand your audience, if you can’t communicate effectively with them in your marketing materials, they simply won’t buy from you.
You can think about your understanding of your audience in three key areas:
- Demographics – Gender, age, location, ethnicity, occupation, income, education, etc
- Psychographics – Desires, personality traits, beliefs, values, attitudes, interests, etc
- Behaviour – Brand familiarity, usage rates, buying patterns, engagement levels, etc
And then think about your communication in two main areas:
- Content – What you’re saying
- Style – How you’re saying it
This all needs to be tied together so that your marketing message matches your audience.
At its simplest, that might mean steering clear of gendered language (“hey ladies!”) if you have a mixed audience. Or using more formal language if your audience are super corporate.
But on a deeper level, it means only using vocabulary that your audience would use themselves (no jargon, even if it’s technically correct). It means communicating that you understand where they are in the buying journey—are they aware they need a solution or do they not even know they have a problem? Because you’ll need to speak to each of those audiences slightly differently.
When you write sales copy that speaks directly to your audience, they’ll feel seen and understood, and they’ll know that they’re in the right place. The more your communication alienates them, the less likely they are to buy from you.
OK so that’s all well and good. But how do you learn what to say and how to say it?
Have conversations with your audience and listen to them.
Arrange interviews, free-form surveys, browse Facebook groups and other communities… Find ways to get your audience talking about your topic and make detailed notes about exactly what they said and how they said it. Learn their language so that you can repeat it back to them in your marketing materials.
Here’s an example.
I am technically all of the following:
- Business owner
- Company director
- Agency owner
- Online business owner
But if you ask me what I do for a living, I’d say I’m an online business owner. I would NOT say that I’m a company director or an agency owner—again, even though both of those are true. I just don’t identify with those terms.
My primary business goal right now is also to increase traffic to our site. And that’s exactly how I’d phrase it. “Getting more website visitors” means exactly the same thing, but that’s not the vocabulary I’d personally use.
So if someone pitches me the following two courses:
- How Online Business Owners Can Increase Traffic
- How Agency Owners Can Get More Website Visitors
I’m much more likely to buy the first one, since the second one doesn’t resonate with me in the same way and implies a lack of understanding about who I am and what I want. Even though the content might be exactly the same!
But someone who’s just at the start of their online business journey may well phrase it as “getting more website visitors”, in which case that title is going to appeal more to them.
Likewise, if the sales page for that course spends time explaining what traffic is and why it’s important… it’ll lose me because that’s too basic for where I’m at. And if it says something like “you’ve spent thousands trying to get good quality traffic to your site”… again, you’ve lost me. Because I haven’t. So now, even though I’m absolutely in your ideal audience, I won’t buy from you because I don’t feel like I’m in the right place.
This is just a simple example, but the principle of knowing how to communicate with your audience should come through in every single interaction you have with them during your course launch.
Mistake 5: Poor quality marketing materials
This may be a controversial mistake to include but, personally, I feel strongly that if the quality of your marketing materials is poor, you’ll drive away potential students. Not all of them, but a significant number.
By subpar marketing materials, I mean:
- Typos and bad grammar
- Pages that don’t work on mobile
- Bad user experience
- Bad visual design/styling
Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to pay a high-end designer thousands of dollars for a pixel-perfect sales page. Not by a long shot. In fact, plenty of successful courses have been launched with very simple sales pages. One example is Pat Flynn’s Power-Up Podcasting course. Pat is a top online marketer and his courses are always a roaring success. But his sales pages have very simple designs—designs you could easily replicate in Teachable without paying an expensive designer.
But the important thing is that though the design is simple, the pages and content are high quality. They’re well-structured, with no typos, bad grammar, warped images or mismtahced styling.
Conversely, if you landed on a sales page with all of the above… many people will wonder whether the quality of your course is also subpar and may be hesitant to buy from you.
So at the very least, get one or two people to look over your marketing materials to check for any quality issues.
That’s all folks!
Avoid these five rookie course launch mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to a successful launch. 🙂