Six Steps to a Successful Presale

Morgan Timm

| Apr 26, 2018

I’m going to be real with you for a minute - I have a serious case of perfectionist syndrome. Before I allow anyone to see my latest project I want to have it finished, polished, and perfected.

Launching an online course for the first time is intimidating, to say the least. If you’re new to sales, figuring out where to start can be a major headache. And what if after all of the hard work you’ve put into creating your course, nobody buys?

The best way to ease those worries and guarantee your launch is a success? Preselling your online course.

Preselling is the #1 way to ensure that you're creating an online product that 1. has an audience and 2. is exactly what your audience wants and needs.

Presale Background Info

What is a presale, anyhow?

Long story short: A presale is a targeted sale before your product actually goes live. You sell the idea of your course to a small portion of your audience BEFORE you've created all of your course content.

Typically, you presell by setting up your sales page, discounting your course, and sending an email out to your list. This gives you feedback that allows you to charge more with a better course for your fully priced launch.

That is the TL;DR version of what a presale is, but stick around because we are going to dive into the nitty gritty.

Why you should presell

You presell so you can drip out your content and get feedback from a small batch of customers. You will use this feedback to adjust your game plan as you go and improve the quality of your course before you launch and begin promoting to your entire audience.

Collecting feedback from a targeted audience who wants you to succeed is powerful. You can use that feedback to increase the value of your course and work out all of the kinks before you make your course available to the public.

Collecting feedback also allows you to move past the common fear that Pat Flynn mentioned when we talked to him about his book Will it Fly? The fear of the “what-ifs.”

“A lot of people have ideas, but they don't want to execute because they're not sure whether or not that thing that they are going to be working on is actually worth that time and effort.

And those what ifs, which are initially “What if this works”, “What if this is the one”, those end up turning into “What if I fail”, “What if I let my family down” and “ What if it was all for nothing.” And they don't do anything — they are much more comfortable being complacent with where they are than potentially failing.”

Preselling your course eliminates the possibility of failure — if your audience isn’t pumped about your course idea it’s fine, on to the next! Whether the feedback is positive or negative doesn’t matter; so long as you receive feedback and respond accordingly, your presale is a success.

Preselling your online course lets you assure that you're going to make money. Imagine pouring your heart and soul into your first online course only to have nobody purchase. That's a lot of time and passion down the drain.

When you presell, if only a few people are interested, you can refund them their money (and perhaps send them a stellar freebie) and dive back into your audience to determine what course topic they'd be most interested in.

Presales allow you to create a course catered to your audience, work out any silly mistakes, and ensure that you’re selling the best product that you possibly can.

How to Presell Your Course

Now that we have an idea of what a presale is and why they are a must for launching your online course, let’s dive into how to presell your course.

Before I jump into the strategy, let me say this: I’m covering a lot in this post, but I promise that the presale process is easy (and this guide is here to make it even easier).

Step 1: Decide to Presale and Find Audience Pain Points

You know a lot and want to create a course to help your audience. Fantastic! Now, how can you make sure that you’re creating a valuable course that they are going to love?


Don’t overthink things — the easiest way that you can go about doing this is simply observing your audience.

It's likely you already spend a lot of time in the same communities that your audience does, so now all you have to do is start taking note of the conversations that members of these communities are having.

You’ll begin to notice that the same pain points will pop up over and over again.

When you know what your audience is struggling with, it’ll be easier to cater a course directly to them and ensure that you’re providing the most value possible.

Be scientific about it. Copy and paste specific complaints that you see in comment sections, discussion boards, and forums and chart them to make it easier to find the trends.

Step 2: Create Course Content

...But not all of it. 

We recommend dripping your course out and creating content as you go as opposed to creating your entire course before launching any sort of sale.

Make around 20% of your course to begin with and make that available to your beta testers. Collect their early feedback before creating the rest of your course.

This is important for four reasons:

  1. You won’t be wasting a ton of time. If your presale flops and you realize your audience isn’t interested in your idea, you’re much better off if you haven’t poured your soul into 100% of your content. If you decide you don’t want to continue creating that particular course, you can repurpose the 20% of content you did create and you won’t be at a loss.
  2. You get feedback as your audience consumes your course. After the first section goes live, your audience might say that they prefer your screenflows over live video, or that the sound quality was a little wonky. You can take this early feedback and implement it into the rest of your course, catering the content to what your audience prefers. But more on that later.
  3. You’ll be on a deadline. If you have a course full of eager students who are looking forward to weekly updates, you’ll be much more likely to prioritize content creation and won’t fall behind.
  4. You’ll be making money to improve your course. Like I said, presales allow you to get audience feedback, and you may decide that you need to invest in a microphone or a better editing system to add value to your course. Now that you’ve made money preselling, you’ve got a cushion to do so.

Step 3: Create a Sales Page

Before you can start generating presales, you’re going to need somewhere to drive traffic. Creating a sales page on Teachable is intuitive, but here’s a quick peek of what you want it to look like:

Follow these six steps to successfully presale your online course

The sales page above is for Pinfinite Growth, a course by Melyssa Griffin. The page has a clean layout, a clear call to action, and the purpose of the course is laid out. Find more examples of top notch sales pages here!

You can get creative with the design and formatting of your page, but in our experience (and the experience of some of our most successful instructors!) you will want to consider adding these elements in addition to what we recommend in a standard sales page.

  • Be explicit in saying that this is a presale. Let your customers know that they will be beta students and content will be dripped out to them. Also mention when the course goes live and officially launches.
  • Make the discount apparent. Write directly on the enroll button that your course is at a special presale price. Knowing that the price is going to increase will add a sense of urgency.
  • Add a countdown timer. Piggy-backing off my last point, I want to reiterate how powerful urgency can be. Giving your customers a visual showing them exactly how much time they have to buy until the price increase will make them more likely to take the plunge then and there.
  • Add Testimonials. Given that your course is new, you can’t add testimonials pertaining to the course. But if you can get testimonials about how informative you are and how high quality your other content is, you can use that until you get course testimonials.
  • Don’t skip out on the author bio! Sure, it feels awkward to write about yourself, but move past that and take this opportunity to toot your own horn a little bit. Use this space to establish yourself as an authority and as a real person! People want to know who they’re buying from.

We've seen first-time instructors presell their course and have incredible success.

For instance, Bree Noble runs The Female Musician Academy & Artist Collective where she helps women master the business of music. Her presale strategy was simple, but it worked.

Bree presold her course before she had created any content at all using only her sales page. She said, “ new students told me that my Teachable school was so beautiful that they could tell the course was going to be amazing.”

Follow these six steps to successfully presale your online course

Trusting that her sales page would do all of the talking, she took a leap of faith and reaped the benefits.

Using her sales page alone, Bree presold to 15 people at $290 each making $4,350 off of her course before it even launched.

Step 4: Promote your Presale to a Targeted Audience via Email

During your presale, you don’t want to market to your entire audience. Rather, you’ll market to a select group of people.

At Teachable, we recommend sending your presale offer to your email list.

Your email list is full of people who are already fans of yours, and you’ve already provided them with a lot of high-quality content. We are targeting this audience because they like you and they’ll be more forgiving as you work out your presale kinks.

You’ve basically been buttering your list up to your course idea via newsletters and blog posts jam packed with actionable information surrounding your course content. These newsletters show your audience that your topic is important and something that they want to know more about.

From there, you should send your list a single presale email. This email should announce your course and let your audience know that they have the exclusive opportunity to be beta students.

Sending the Email

The key to marketing to your email list is to send only one email announcing your prelaunch — you want the best of the best to sign up, and everyone else can wait until the actual launch date.

By sending only one email (that’s actually pretty easy to miss) you’re targeting your most engaged, loyal, perceptive subscribers.

It’s not enough to send an email saying, “Hey, I made a thing! Buy it?” No. You want to be strategic and clearly communicate your expectations.

Focus on generating excitement in your email — you’re trying to convert subscribers into beta testers. Get them amped about your content, and about having the opportunity to directly influence your course through their feedback.

I know it might seem like a lot to take in, so let me reiterate a few things I want for you to keep in mind as you’re crafting your email: 

  • Generate excitement by reminding your email list that this is an exclusive opportunity just for them. They are the only ones who will be able to be beta students.
  • Include a strong Call To Action in your email. Don’t just hyperlink text — put in a button that your audience won’t be able to miss. 
  • Set expectations for your beta students by:
    • Telling them that you’re eager to hear their feedback and will be sending them emails as the course progresses.
    • Ask for engagements in comment section of your course.
    • Let them know that you’ll be sending a survey to collect feedback at the end of your course in addition to the emails.
    • As an optional bonus, you can offer your beta students a live Q&A. This is going to increase the value of your offer. It will also create a more personal relationship between you and your students, which will create goodwill and increase the likelihood of them providing feedback that is above and beyond.

Step 5: Collect Feedback

Here is the fun (and terrifying!) part. After your presell, you get to hear what your first round of students think. If you’re a perfectionist as I am, this part is probably going to make you feel nervous and vulnerable — do it anyways.

Collecting feedback and taking action is the best way you can increase the value of your course and cater it to your audience.

There are three different ways for you to collect feedback:

  1.  Aggregate your feedback. Compile feedback from within the course and any accompanying communities you’ve created. Make special notes of questions that pop up more than once.
  2.  Email your most engaged students. There were probably a few students who stood out — these are the people who commented on every lecture, asked and answered questions in your communities, and were all around eager to participate. Reach out and personally ask for their input on what they liked and what you should adjust.
  3.  Send a survey. Now that you’ve personally reached out to your most engaged students, send a general survey via Google Form to your entire audience to collect more feedback.

The feedback you request for will depend on what transformation you are providing for your students, but there are a few general questions you may want to ask:

  • What parts of the course (if any) were vague? Where were you confused?
  • What wasn’t taught in the course that should have been?
  • What do you want to see more of?
  • How was the quality?

Stress to your students that you will use their feedback to make the course even better. As your beta testers, they have lifetime access so they will be able to enjoy the improved course content that will come from their feedback.

Once you’ve combed through and collected your feedback, aggregate it into a Google Sheet. Being able to see everything in one place will help you fight negative bias and also organize all of the ideas presented into one place.

Upgrade_Spreadsheet.pngFollow these six steps to successfully presale your online course

We provided a template you can use where you can easily organize the feedback.

Step 6: Launch Your Course

Congratulations! You have a completed a high-quality course that your first round of students already love! The presell phase is now over, and you can move on to the exciting phase of launching your course!

While you’re preparing to transition from presale to launch, make sure that you update your course sales page to reflect current pricing, and change any presale language.

Collect Testimonials

While collecting feedback from your first round of students, consider collecting testimonials, too. Now that you’ve had students complete your course, you can get rid of the more general testimonials in exchange for custom ones that speak directly about your course.

You can pick through the positive feedback that you received from the feedback form to find testimonials, or you can send an email out to your first round of students asking for direct quotes to use on your sales page. Let them know that you’ll include their name and link as an incentive!

Of course, you don’t want to tell them what to say, but you can guide them by asking how your course helped them, under what time frame, and what their transformation was.

Testimonials are powerful because they prove to prospective customers that you are legit and you have delivered on your promise.

Have you presold a course in the past? What kind of feedback did you receive from your audience? How did you harness that feedback to improve your course? 

Morgan Timm is a content marketer at Teachable with a background in blogging and social media. She runs Mostly Morgan, a life and style blog that reaches an audience of 40,000 people monthly.