How to Offer Limited-Time Access to Your Courses

Eduardo Yi

| May 10, 2017

Do you know one of the most effective psychological tricks for marketing?  

It’s simpler than you might think.

.. 

... 

It’s deadlines. 

Think about it. Deadlines are a regular component of your daily life:  

  • You attach deadlines to your goals. 
  • Teachers include deadlines in homework. 
  • Managers include deadlines in projects. 
  • And, most importantly, businesses use deadlines in their marketing.  

The underlying reason is simple. Deadlines get people to take action. 

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Deadlines are powerful in online marketing because they add a sense of urgency to the offer. FOMO, or fear of missing out, has probably influenced you in the past—maybe to go ahead and buy that drone at a Black Friday sale or when splurging on concert tickets that go up in price after a certain date. 

You can leverage deadlines in your online course business too. This post will cover two ways to do that:  

  • Entice visitors to purchase by offering a short trial of your course. 
  • Motivate your students to complete a course by providing limited-time access to your content.  

Before we go any further, I think it’s important to point out that using a deadline as a marketing tactic doesn’t have to be spammy. In many cases, inspiring a customer to take action now doesn’t just benefit you—it’s also good for the customer. If a deadline is the difference between a student working through your course and letting their purchase go to waste, adding a little FOMO to the mix is good for everyone involved.  

To use deadlines to market your course, you will need:  

  • A Teachable Professional plan or higher. 
  • A paid Zapier plan (starting at $20/month). 
  • A Google Sheet (for the second process only).   

How does the process work for limited-time courses? 

In this post, we will describe processes that work like this:  

  1. A student enrolls in a limited-time pricing plan or course. 
  2. Time starts rolling toward the student's unenrollment date. 
  3. The student is automatically unenrolled.  

There are two different methods, based on the length of time you want the student to have access to the course. The process for a trial of one month or less is fairly simple, but if it's any longer, you'll have to get a little fancy with it. Either way, we've got you covered—just select the tutorial you want to read from the menu below!  

  • How to provide a limited-time trial (for under 31 days)
  • How to provide limited-time access (for over 31 days)

Providing a Limited-Time Trial (under 31 days) 

Providing a short trial is a great way to let your potential students explore the full extent of your courses. This is particularly useful if you have many courses that you sell as a bundle, and want to give people a taste of what they will get (especially if they need to pay a large sum of money.) 

For short trials, we can use Zapier's built-in delay feature, which allows you to create delays of up to 31 days between the trigger step (in this case, enrollment) and the action step (unenrollment). This will allow students to access the course for as long as unenrollment is delayed.  

1. Duplicate the course for which you want to offer the trial. This is better than simply adding a trial pricing plan to your original course, because if a student is midway through the trial and decides she wants to purchase permanent access, she will be able to do so on the main course instead of having to wait until the trial expires. (Plus, it will be easier for you to keep track of trial students versus full students.)   

2. Rename the duplicated course "Limited-Time Trial of [Course Name]" or something similar, and set up a free/cheap pricing plan for it (deleting any original course pricing that was duplicated).

3. Connect your school to Zapier if you haven't already. Once you've finished setup, click Make a Zap! 

4. Choose Teachable as the trigger app.

 5. For the trigger itself, select New Enrollment. Click Save + Continue.

6. Choose your Teachable school account. If you haven't yet connected your school, you will be prompted to do so here.

7. Now Zapier will conduct a test, using a previous enrollment for a sample to use in setting up your Zap. (This won't affect anything on your school.)

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8. Before you continue to the action step, you will need to create a filter specifying the course. Do this by clicking the plus sign icon between the trigger and action steps in the sidebar, and choosing Filter

9. Choose the "Only continue if…" filter, then fill out the boxes like so: [Course Name] [(Text) Exactly Matches] [Your Course Name]. (If you prefer, instead you could use [Course ID] [(Text) Exactly Matches] [Your Course ID].) 

10. After an (optional) test, your filter will be done. Now, for your first action step, you will create the delay. Search for "Delay" in the action app search field, and choose Delay by Zapier as your action app.

11. On the next screen, select the Delay For action.

12. Now, you'll select a number and a unit of time (minutes/hours/days/weeks). Our example will use 30 days, but you can use anywhere between one minute and 31 days. (If you want to use weeks, it maxes out at about four.)

13. After another optional test, the delay action step will be complete. Click the large + circle to add your second and final action. For this action app, choose Teachable.

14. For this action, choose Unenroll User From Course. This is a fairly new action, so you may have to click "See less common options" on the list of actions before it appears.

15. Before you set up the rest of the action, click Add a Search Step. This will allow Zapier to automatically find which students to unenroll.

16. The box that appears is just an example. Click Ok, add it! to proceed to your own search step. 

17. Click the small box to the right of the field on the search screen. Select the New Enrollment step to a drop-down list of options, and then User Email. Now, Zapier will be able to automatically search for the email addresses students used when they enrolled.   

18. Return to your previous action template. Box one should say "Use a Custom Value (advanced)," and box two should be the User ID from step 4 (the search step). Zapier should automatically fill in these steps for you.   

In box three, select the course. In box four, select the trial pricing plan.  

19. Name your Zap and turn it on. You're done!


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Providing Limited-Time Access (over 31 days) 

Since Zapier's built-in delay feature can't be set for more than a month in advance, creating a longer delay means that you will need to add Google Sheets into your automation process. Google Sheets is a spreadsheet app that will serve as a data repository, recording sales information that Zapier can use to trigger an unenrollment. 

Google Sheets will also help you to easily visualize your students’ subscription start and end dates. 

Let's review the setup process.  

  1. Add a new pricing plan to your course and name it One-Year Access (or the length of time you're choosing to limit access). Using an alternate email address and a coupon, create a test enrollment on this pricing plan so Zapier can incorporate data into its tests.   
  2.  Create a copy of this spreadsheet by going into File > Make a Copy.   

Within this spreadsheet are two separate worksheets: the Data From Teachable worksheet, and the Unenrollment Control worksheet. You can toggle between them on the bottom left of your screen.

The Data From Teachable worksheet (pictured above) is simply where Zapier will record your sales data—the student email and purchase date.  

The Unenrollment Control spreadsheet is a little more complex, with built-in column formulas, so we will review each column to explain each action point:  

  • Columns A and B simply pull the student email and purchase date data from columns A and B of the Data From Teachable worksheet, using this formula:
  • Column C uses a formula to add a specified number of days to the purchase date recorded in Column B. By default, the spreadsheet is set to 365 (to give the student one year of access), but you can customize this to be any number of days you want.
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To customize the formula, change it in one column and then drag down from that column as far as you want (see below). For example, if you want to provide access for two months, you should change 365 to 60.

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  • Column D compares the current date against the unenrollment date to determine if the student is due for unenrollment. If the dates match, Google Sheets will change the NO in that column to YES. 
  • Finally, column E has no formula; we will use this column to notify us when an unenrollment successfully occurs.    

3. Now that the spreadsheet is ready to go, we'll set up our first Zap. The function of this Zap will be to update Teachable sales data into our Data From Teachable worksheet. Open Zapier and click Make a Zap!  

4. Select Teachable as the trigger app.  

5. Choose New Sale as the trigger event.  

6. Choose the school account you want to use. If you haven't connected one, you'll be prompted to do so now.  

7. Before you move on, Zapier will conduct a test to get sample enrollment data. If you don't have any enrollments yet, make a coupon for yourself and sign up with a test student account.    

8. Add a filter by clicking the small + icon and choosing Filter.  

9. The purpose of this filter is to narrow down which course and pricing plan the zap will apply to. Fill out the "Only continue if" fields like so:  

[Course Name] [(Text) Exactly Matches] [Your course's name] 

AND 

[Product - Name] [(Text) Exactly Matches] [Your pricing plan's name] 

It should look like this:

(If you prefer, you could also use [Course ID] and [Product ID] in the first fields and input the ID numbers in the third fields. This is a good idea if you anticipate a future change to your course or plan names.)  

10. Now, we will add the action step—putting sales data into Google Sheets. Select Google Sheets as the action app.  

11. Choose Create Spreadsheet Row as the action.  

12. Select (or connect) your Google Sheets account.  

13. Choose the spreadsheet and worksheet from the drop-down menus in the first two fields. In the third field (student email), click the box on the right, select your New Sale step, and find User Email. Finally, in the fourth field (purchase date), click the box on the right, select the New Sale step, and find Webhook Event Created At. It should look like this: 

14. Using the information it got from your test earlier, Zapier will now conduct a test to input data into the spreadsheet. Head back to your spreadsheet to see it in action!   

If everything worked correctly, column A should display your test student email, column B the enrollment date, and column C your desired unenrollment date.

15. Name your Zap (something like Data From Teachable Zap) and turn it on.  

Your first half of the process is done! Just one more Zap to go.  

16. Go back to your Zapier homepage and click Make a Zap! Again. This Zap will allow Zapier to automatically unenroll students using the second worksheet.   

17. Choose Google Sheets as the trigger app.  

18. For the trigger event, choose Updated Spreadsheet Row.  

19. Choose your Google Sheets account again, then move on to set up the parameters of the trigger. From the drop-down menus, specify your copy of the spreadsheet, and select Unenrollment Control as the worksheet. In the third field, choose the Trigger Unenroll? column as the one to monitor for changes.  

20. Test your trigger step. When you're done, add a filter using the small "+" icon. The purpose of this filter is to only trigger unenrollment if the text in the Trigger Unenroll? column says YES. To accomplish this, put the following information into your fields: [Trigger Unenroll?] [(Text) Exactly Matches] [YES]. 

21. Next, you'll make two action steps—one unenrolling the student from Teachable, and one updating the worksheet so you can track the unenrollments. For the first action step, select Teachable as the action app. Then, as the second action step, choose Unenroll Student From Course. (This is a recent addition, so you may have to first click "See less common options.") 

22. Choose your school account, and continue to set up the specifications for your action. First of all, click Add a Search Step. This will allow Zapier to automatically find which students to unenroll.  

23. The box that appears is just an example. Click Ok, add it! to proceed in making your own search step. 

24. Click the small box to the right of the field on the search screen. Select Updated Spreadsheet Row from the drop-down list of options, and then choose User Email. Now, Zapier will be able to automatically search the spreadsheet for the email addresses input by students when they enrolled.

25. Return to your previous action template to finish setting it up. Box one should say "Use a Custom Value (advanced)," and box two should show the student email from step 3 (the search step). Zapier should automatically fill in these areas.  

In box three, select the course. In box four, select your temporary pricing plan. You can test this action before continuing to make your second action (by clicking the large "+" circle).  

26. Finally, we will create an action to update the worksheet. Select Google Sheets as the action app, and Update Spreadsheet Row as the action.   

On the action template, choose your spreadsheet copy and the Unenrollment Control worksheet.

In the Row field here, select Use a Custom Value (advanced). Then, select the Row ID from step 1 of your zap.

Finally, in the Unenroll Completed? field, write YES.  

27. Go ahead and test this step—then head over to your spreadsheet to see it happen!  

28. It's been a long journey, but it's time to name your Zap and turn it on.   

Zapier will take it from here; you can start selling your time-limited course without doing any of the legwork to unenroll your students.   

How to take this further 

This post is just a baseline on how to offer limited-time access to your Teachable courses. 

These are a few ideas that (I think) would be cool to add:  

  • Turn your short trial (under 31 days) into an acquisition funnel similar to the one described in this post
  • Use this process as an incentive to increase course completions by doing an “accomplish X in Z days” challenge. 
  • Set up an email workflow for students whose plans are about to expire and give them an option to extend their access to your course. 
  • Create a nice-looking business report of subscription progress, using the data from the Google spreadsheet. 

We'd love to see you take your school beyond the steps explained in this post. To get started, please visit our Knowledge Base or, better yet, click below to attend one of our weekly webinars.

Limitations (that I could find) 

No automatic renewal 

You won’t be able to set up automatic renewal of the limited-time access. Your students will be unenrolled at the end of the established period. However, if you want to give them an option to renew, you can do that by creating an automated renewal reminder email. 

You might need to expand the spreadsheet 

The spreadsheet provided in this tutorial will work for about a thousand students. If you have more students coming in, add more rows to the spreadsheet and make sure to include the formulas in the new rows. 

Did you find this useful? Want to see more content like this? 

Now, I want to hear from you. 

If you found this useful (or didn’t), found something I missed (I’m sure I did), think of something cool we could add to this process, want to see a similar post about another topic, or just want to say hi - pleeease add a comment below! 

I’ll personally read and answer every comment.

Eduardo Yi is a content marketer.