:Marketing / Marketing best practices

How to sell your course online while you sleep

woman working in booth woman working in booth

To take full advantage of the power of online content creation and marketing, you need to create systems so you can continue engaging with customers, selling, and making money while you devote your time to other, more pertinent tasks. One of the biggest secrets to sell your course online is to set up automations when you can.  Below, we’ll offer a quick guide to systems, automation, basic email marketing, and staying sane while selling.

The fault in doing it all

Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to handle and control everything, which is what Chris Ducker calls “superhero syndrome.” And, if you don’t systemize or outsource parts of your business, you’re going to have to put in a lot of late nights. But setting up systems can prevent this.

Once you create automation systems, you can focus on actually enjoying creating content as the automation systems we create handle the gears of turning readers into customers. Here’s the main question you’re going to learn the answer to: How do you systemize turning website visits into customers for your online course without micro-managing every detail? We’re going to start from your online presence (blog, podcast, etc.), email marketing, and more.

Here’s an overview of what we’re going to cover:

  • Systemizing content creation and editing plus why you need to do it
  • Turning people who consume your content into potential customers using automated selling processes, email marketing, and software integration within the Teachable platform
  • The number one way to attract an audience and get them to give you their emails (aka the start of the sales process)
  • The importance of creating a smaller tripwire product (that’s less than $10) leading into selling your more expensive Teachable course.

You’ll also get templates for:

  • A job description to hire a general virtual assistant to manage your blog
  • A surprisingly basic email that gets tons of replies so you can find out what your subscribers want and will pay for
  • Auto-responder emails you can use to create your own follow-up email series to sell your course

How to create “the machine”

The entire point of having an online business is to use automation systems to create a self-sustaining marketing machine, so you keep creating new awesome content and grow your list of interested buyers.

Digital Marketer talks all about creating “The Machine”:

customer value optimization customer value optimization
Source: Digital Marketer

There are different terms here. But basically, this graphic shows how to connect your online presence to your products using email marketing. Much of what we’ll be talking to you about comes from their course The Machine, and their book Invisible Selling Machine.

Here are the steps to follow to create your own machine:

Step 1: Systemize content creation on your online platform

You are a content creator. You got into this to create things that you think are important to your audience. Without new content, you have no idea what your readers, watchers, or potential customers are interested in. Without new content, your online presence will die. Pick a form of content and be consistent with your publishing dates: Blog articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, whatever.

Skipping a publish date one time is OK, but don’t let it go on for months. This can be difficult when life will inevitably distract us sometimes. However, a consistent content schedule is crucial. With no content there is no engagement for potential customers and your business.

Here at Teachable, we make sure that we are regularly scheduling posts, especially on our blog and social media channels.

teachable ig posts teachable ig posts
Teachable Instagram

You could outsource or ghost-create a bit of this, or have a rough outline for someone else to fill in. It’s up to you how much you want to stay tied to your company/brand, and how much creating you want to be a part of.

Action steps

Determine how often you want to be posting online, e.g., daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. We find that weekly posting is best. This way, you don’t overwhelm your audience, but you have time to write quality content. What’s more, you’re still keeping in touch with everyone and providing value.

Step 2: Systemize your content editing and posting

If you’re not passionate about the behind the scenes work that comes with blogging or social media, you shouldn’t be focusing your time there. What we mean by this is that you may want to create your own content. But that doesn’t mean you want to spend time formatting it, finding stock pictures, playing with headers, and determining SEO keywords.

These tasks can also add up to a lot of time that could be used instead to write a new book, talk to a coaching client, or do an interview. Even if you’re bootstrapping and don’t want to spend a lot of money, this is one thing we highly recommend outsourcing.

The power of freelancers

When outsourcing or hiring a freelancer, understand your editing process so you can give clear instructions to someone else. You must learn what to do first before outsourcing, so you can ensure that it’s being done properly. Create a standard operating procedure document (SOP) for how you want your content edited. Here, you list the exact steps that someone who has never done this before will need to follow. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be complete.

Outsourcing platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork, are useful sites to outsource for a social media creator or virtual assistant.

Step 3: Increase your email subscriber list

If your content isn’t doing work for you and it isn’t leading people to your email list or to buy your products, it’s not doing what it should. Use content upgrades to give your readers something in exchange for their emails. That’s what Brian Dean at Backlinko did to increase his email captures.

email capture example email capture example

People consume content to get a problem solved or to be entertained. That’s why offering a generic giveaway that’s unrelated won’t get them excited. But if you give them something directly related to what they’re looking at and it’s useful to them in the moment, they’ll be more likely to share their email addresses.

Let me upgrade you

A content upgrade is a form of a lead magnet, which gets people to provide an email. It’s valuable because once someone is on your email list, you can market to them and encourage them to buy your product down the line.

Segment subscribers so you know which piece of content they came from. This will help you run your email marketing more effectively, as just getting people on a general list isn’t useful. Some might come to a site about internet marketing signing up to learn about social media, but don’t really care as much about an article you also wrote about increasing productivity. You want to be specific.

bonus email capture bonus email capture

You can use Google Analytics to find your most popular content. Then, create a useful content upgrade that people coming to see these popular pieces of content want, e.g., a checklist, small report, transcript of a podcast, etc. Now it’s time to lead your readers to your Teachable course and sell your course.

It all starts with a to-do list

We’ve made an “online course creator’s to-do list” so you have everything you need to teach anything you want—for free.

Your "online course creator's to-do list" awaits

Not everyone has the same needs when just getting started launching an online course. This list is designed to help you find out exactly where you are in your journey, so you’ll know exactly what to do next.

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Step 4: Place subscribers into a relevant email series, leading them to buy a small product

A big mistake some make at the beginning of launching an online business is expecting unconverted subscribers and general people just to buy a $100 course right away—even before buying something that was $1.

Turning a reader into a paying customer is an essential step to sell your course. Once your audience psychologically crosses the barrier from a consumer to paying customer, something shifts in the mind. And, they’re more willing to buy other products from you.

Laddering up

You create a yes ladder by first getting a potential customer to give an email, then buying a smaller product, then buying a bigger product (such as your Teachable course). This is what’s known as a tripwire. Your small product should be something less than $10, like a small download or ebook that solves a problem.

You then need to create an automated email series. When people sign up via your content upgrade or lead magnet, they’re put into an auto-responder series that sends them into buying your tripwire or directs them to your tripwire’s sales page. If you don’t know the pain points of your customers already, send an email to people on your segmented list from your content upgrade. After you get the pain points, decide on a product that can solve one of these.

Automation station

Sign-up for or purchase automation capabilities (being able to automatically send emails once someone signs up with you) with your email service provider if you don’t already have it. Mailchimp doesn’t come with this in the free version, but it’s worth it. If you don’t know how, you can search your mail provider and automation to find out how to set up an email series.

There are plenty of examples around for writing email copy. Here are some ideas if you need to get started. Set up your automation steps so that when people get added to the lead magnet segmented list, they get these emails at set up durations (e.g., 1 day after the next, 3 days after…).The point is to lead them to buy the relevant product.

Step 5: Set up tripwire delivery, and make it so that when someone buys your tripwire they are automatically added to another segmented list

Most tripwires are small PDF guides, podcast transcripts, and things like that. The best service to deliver them is E-Junkie. It’s fast, easy to use, and extremely cheap ($5 a month if you only have a few products). It even comes with a free trial.

You can integrate E-Junkie with your email service provider so that buyers get added to a new segmented list! After creating your tripwire, set it up so it can be purchased using E-junkie. Set up the auto-add to list function following the instructions for your email service provider:

  • Mailchimp is here.
  • Aweber is here.
  • ConvertKit is here (requires Zapier).

Step 6: Once someone buys your tripwire, put them into another email series that leads them into buying your Teachable course

Assuming your content consumer has now become a paying customer, they’re now primed to pay for your higher priced course. All you have to do is set up another email series so they get lead into buying it. They like your content, they’ve gotten free things, and they’ve even paid for something…now it’s time to offer them something more!

You can then integrate Teachable with your email service provider, so that people who purchase your course are added to another segmented list.

Action steps:  
  • Write another email series leading from the tripwire purchase to course purchase.
  • Pro-tip: People and basic sales psychology don’t change. Internet marketers have crafted tons of emails for selling things. The best way to figure out what works is to stand on the shoulders of giants: Sign up for an email series of someone in your field and see what they have that’s working for them. This doesn’t mean copy and paste, but you should use it as inspiration. What’s the overall outline, general flow, how are they speaking to the reader?
  • Set up another automation step so once people buy the product, they are added to a new segment and receive your new email series.
  • Purchase a subscription for Zapier and set up Teachable integration to add people who actually buy your course to another segmented list.

Final thoughts

After this final step you can even offer people more content—add-ons to your course, homework sheets, coaching, and more. This entire process will require a ton of tweaking and optimization to get the highest conversions, but that’s the great thing of selling online—you can change and test anything and everything almost instantly.

You are constantly creating content, and you have systems that automatically sell for you. By doing this you are removing yourself from the selling process so you can focus on creating the life-changing content your subscribers want and need while also saving yourself from burn-out and stress.


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