How to Pre-Sell an Online Course Before You Build It

Many online course creators get stuck in the idea phase because they don’t know how to pre-sell their courses. They spend months creating a course that nobody wants.

When I tried to sell my first online course over a decade ago, I opened up registration to absolute crickets!

Zero sales.

Luckily, I hadn’t created my course yet.

But to turn things around on my next course launch, I made some important changes to my approach that helped me pre-sell my online course the right way!

In this post, you’ll learn how to pre-sell your online courses like a boss!

How to Pre-Sell an Online Course Before You Build It

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Why Is Pre-Selling Important?

Pre-selling is important because it allows you to validate your idea before putting all the work to create your content.

As a course creator, you want to make sure there is market demand for your course and that people are actually willing to pay for what you have to offer.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as course creators is to assume we know what our target audience wants to learn. We build all of our digital marketing around an assumed outcome, rather than a researched one.

Let customer research impact the content of your course, product, or service.

Use your research in your digital marketing. This research is a powerful marketing tool.

Pre-selling can help you determine which topics are most important to your audience so you can focus on those in your course.

pre selling is important to validate your idea screenshot

Pre-Selling Your Online Course

When you pre-sell your online course, you get the chance to create relevant content from the get-go, rather than making assumptions about what your audience wants to learn.

You can tailor your sales page using their language and terms from your research.

Learn From My Mistake

In my example, if I would have built my very first course before I launched it, I would have had to redo all of my content creation for my course topic.

Luckily, I hadn’t created my course content yet.

When I launched it, but no one bought it, I knew I needed to go back to the drawing board.

validate your online course idea, product or service

Research With Your Existing Customers

If you have existing clients or a few people on your list, use them as a resource for research.

If you have a Facebook group or other community, ask questions and get engaged with your existing customers (or list).

In most cases, they want to talk to you! They want to share their struggles and will be happy to answer questions and have a conversation.

As small business owners, let’s use all the resources we have available to us to create the best possible product.

Being on the same page as your target audience lays the foundation for successful pre-selling.

Blog Post Research

You can use your blog post as a resource for research. If you haven’t already, enable comments on your blog post.

Check your traffic to see which on your blog posts are the most popular, and what search terms people are using to get there.

Discover Additional Revenue Streams

One overlooked benefit to engaging with your audience and conducting research is that you may discover additional revenue streams.

For example, in my case, I discovered that not only could I offer a course, but I could offer a downloadable Cure Cravings Forever cookbook.

The testing ground gave me all the tools I needed to not only have a successful presale but also discover a new revenue stream.

I offered lifetime access to this cookbook as a bonus for my online course.

In your pre-sale research, you may discover a new product or service that your audience is looking for.

How Presales Help Your Online Business

When you pre-sell your online course, here are a few benefits that you and your course participants will get:

Earn Money Before The Course Is Released

You’ll get money in the door to help fund your course creation process.

Upfront money earned is always helpful, especially if you’re just starting out.

Customize The Course Content

You will be able to customize the course content you’re creating to what your audience is wanting to learn.

For example, when I launched my first course (that flopped, watch the video if you haven’t already!), it was focused on having success on a raw food diet.

Nathalie working on her computer with tax compliance software

Course Content Based On Customer Research

But, it turns out, through my customer research I found out that people were really struggling with cravings. Now, cravings on a raw food diet can impact the overall success, but my customers were calling them cravings.

I didn’t know that until I did my course research.

Luckily I hadn’t created all my course content yet. So I was able to tailor my course content to cravings. In fact, I named the course Cure Cravings Forever.

customer informed product or service

Learning Your Customers Language

Anytime we can get into our customer’s heads and use their own words in our marketing, course content, or sales pages, we’re winning.

What we think our customers want and what they actually want can be worlds apart.

Research First

Before you presell your online course, do some customer research and target market research.

This is important to make sure that the content of your course is what people are actually looking for.

When you know what people want, it makes creating the content for your online course that much more helpful to your target audience.

how to price your online course or digital offering for a pre-sale

Content Marketing to Pre-Sell Your Course

If you’re using content marketing to pre-sell your course, you’ll want to create a lead magnet to get people interested.

You want them to know you exist and that they should be paying attention.

Use your lead magnet to collect emails on your landing page.

You can do this by offering a free gift that builds trust and credibility with your potential customers, such as an ebook or video series.

You’ll be able to use those warm leads later on in multiple ways: follow-up email sequence, webinars, more lead magnets, etc.

Then, when your course is ready for pre-sale, these lead magnets can help convince people to purchase it now instead of waiting until after the launch date.

Successful Lead Magnets Lead To A Successful Presale

If your lead magnet isn’t getting as much traction as you thought it should go back to customer research.

Your lead magnets should be directly related to your product or service.

Call to Action

There should be only one call to action on your landing page: enter your email to get the free offer.

If a prospect is confused about the call to action, they may never opt-in.

The call to action should always be clear, highly visible, and easy to understand.

Pre-Selling Allows You To Validate Your Idea

Pre-selling lets you validate whether or not your idea resonates with customers before investing too much time and energy into course creation or the launch itself.

It can also help to define your target market and determine what content you’ll need in order to appeal to them.

In other words, pre-selling is the process of building anticipation and interest for a product or service before it’s even available.

Types of Lead Magnets For Pre-Selling Your Online Course

Here are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Presell a course with an email series: Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to presell your online course.
  • An autoresponder sequence can help you capture leads and introduce them to what they can expect from your upcoming course while building anticipation for its launch date.
  • Pre-sell a free webinar
  • A dedicated YouTube channel for your product or service

Course Creation Process After Pre-Selling

Pre-selling changes the entire content creation process for courses. Rather than guessing what people might want, you’re hearing directly from them.

You know exactly what your course participants are looking for, and you’ll be able to tailor your content around that.

When I was launching my very first course (the one that didn’t sell any), I had the wrong messaging.

Customer Research To Generate Revenue

I ended up running a contest and 3 people got on the phone with me. After talking to those three people, I heard the exact same thing, loud and clear from them: cravings.

My original messaging was around raw food success – but they were calling them cravings.

So I pivoted: changed the name of the course, kept the pricing the same, and developed lead magnets around cravings, it worked.

I was able to offer high-quality content to my new customers and ultimately make more sales because of my customer research.

How Preselling an Online Course Will Impact Your Content

I knew I wanted to provide a course on how to cure cravings forever, but before pre-selling my course, I wasn’t completely sure what the content would look like.

So this brings us back full circle: presell your online courses or services before you build it.

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Create Content As You Go

After you have pre-sold and have a bit of money in the door, you can shift your focus to customer-centric content creation.

Connect With Your Customers

Ask your current customers what they’re struggling with the most. Use Facebook Groups or other communities you have to communicate with them and stay engaged.

For example, if you host weekly calls or have a group, you can hear what they’re asking about, what they’re struggling with, and what problems they want to solve.

In just a few minutes, you’ll have a direction for the content you need to create.

You’ll be able to tailor your content to the group’s needs. You’re already an expert in your area, now it’s just using their words to give your message.

Build A Pre-Sell Sales Page

If you plan to create and sell courses from your own website, you’ll need to build a sales page, making it clear that this is a pre-sale.

Make noise about your landing pages and sales page to your entire audience. Your pre-sale sales page should be its own page.

You can use a ‘Coming Soon’ page if you’re in the pre-launch phase. Pre-launch pages are common for a coaching business.

Add a date when the course will be released, and give them something to do in the meantime.

Engage With Your Customers After The Pre-Sale

Give your new customers something to do in the meantime before your online course or digital product is released.

For example, you could include a pre-sale checklist, or even give them access to other free content.

You could write a thoughtful email sequence that keeps them interested and build excitement for the release date.

You could even reach out to them personally and ask what they’re most excited to learn about. You could even use this as a time to discover more of their pain points.

If you have a Facebook Group for the online course, let new customers join once they purchase, even before the online course is open.

This allows them to connect with other customers and build even more excitement about the course opening.

The more personal connection and trust that you build in this stage, the better.

Create Your Course Curriculum After Your Research

Create a course curriculum that reflects your pre-sale findings.

Once you know what your target market wants, it’s time to start creating the content of your course.

Make sure that everything you create is in line with what they’re looking for and excited about.

If there are any areas where you’re unsure or hesitant, ask more questions to your target audience so you can get it right the first time.

Don’t Pre-sell Without A Hook

You shouldn’t be preselling your course if it doesn’t have a hook.

A hook is what makes your online course different from all the other courses out there – something that you can market and be uniquely you.

You already know what your hook is – it could be your personal story, your education, your experience …

Be sure to include the hook on your sales page. Answer the question for your customers: Why you?

Research, Research, Research

The more research you do on your target market and what they want, the better your course will be.

Don’t make assumptions based on what you think people want or need. Do the research to find out for sure.

One way to do this is by using surveys and questions.

Time Frames For Your Research

Ideally, you’ll be researching before the pre-sale. If you have existing customers, you can ask them questions.

You can use social media marketing, either in a Facebook Group or publicly to find out more about your audience.

You want to become them. Read what they read, listen to what they listen to, and ‘hang out’ (in the virtual sense) where they hang out.

Selling Online Courses

One way to pre-sale your paid online course is by offering a free online course.

The original 30 Day List Building Challenge

For example, I have offered the 30 Day List Building Challenge course for years now.

It’s a free course where course participants learn valuable, actionable tools to grow their list quickly.

The 30 day list building challenge online course is free, and it’s based on customer feedback.

Now, we do sell in this sequence, but this free course is a great way for new people to get to know me, Nathalie Lussier, and the AccessAlly brand.

The free course builds trust, and is truly valuable, even if they don’t purchase anything from us.

Plus, it’s a great way to measure what people are interested in.

If someone signs up for the 30 Day List Building Challenge course and they’re not really interested in list building, that’s okay!

Cross Sell To A Potential Customer

cross selling dashboard for your online course pre sale

We can then recommend or cross-sell another course or product that would be more relevant to them.

When you pre-sale an online course, it’s one of the best ways to collect feedback that will be helpful to your entire audience.

As a course creator, when you pre-sell your online course, it allows you to be profitable online selling products your audience is interested in (because you collect feedback), and possibly get a new product idea for your next digital product.

Always gather feedback when you pre-sell your online course

When you presell your online course, you have a unique opportunity to implement positive feedback into your course.

Let’s say for example that your existing audience is talking a lot about a specific topic, but you haven’t built a module for that in your online course outline.

During the pre-sale and pre-launch process, you have a chance to listen to your audience and actually add that content into your online course.

You’ll also want to be sure that you’re targeting the right market when you presell your online course.

You may even get a new course idea or bonus course idea from your research.

It’s common for this research to uncover an additional revenue stream.

Let The Feedback Impact Your Course

customer research for the e learning market

As you get feedback, let that feedback impact your course material in a positive way.

When you create online courses, you can start with a rough outline, then let your audience feedback determine how the content is laid out, and what you need to add or remove.

That’s one of the beauties when you sell courses online.

Pre-Sell Online Course: Title & Content

When I heard feedback from my target market that they were struggling with ‘cravings’, I changed the course title that I had planned to something totally different: Cure Cravings Forever.

Although I changed the course title, the course topic stayed the same. I simply used my audience’s words that they’re saying to themselves in their own heads.

When you use this strategy, your online courses will be more successful and impactful for your audience.

Your Sales Page When You Pre-Sell Your Online Course

You can include these elements on your sales page:

  • A video or introduction to you and your course
  • Course content overview
  • Testimonials from happy students
  • The price of the course and when it will be available

Sell online courses: pre-selling sales page

When pre-selling an online course, you’ll want to make sure that your message is clear.

You don’t want buyers feeling confused about when they’ll get access to your online courses.

When you sell online courses, trust is one of the most important factors.

In your marketing efforts, make it clear that this is a pre-sale. And make the release date for your online courses very clear.

Consider making a graphic for your course sales page that includes the start date for your online course.

Make it clear to your prospective customers on your sales page when the online course starts.

Build trust in your online business with clear communications.

And, it should go without saying, but deliver as your promised. When you sell online courses, deliver them exactly how you said you were going to, and on time.

The last thing you want is angry customers emailing for a refund because you didn’t release the online courses as you promised while pre-selling.

Pre-Selling Sales Funnel

When you pre-sell a course, put together a sales funnel to increase the odds of someone buying your online course.

Use the pain points that you’ve discovered in your research in your sales pitch to your target audience about your product or service.

The funnel will include lead capture pages and email sequences that provide value to your target market.

To capture leads, use an attractive landing page with relevant content related to the topic of the online course so that potential customers are more likely to buy it.

This is a key to pre-selling.

Generate leads on your landing page with a relevant offer, then send them through a nurture sequence before you start selling.

Pre-Sale Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy is a critical piece of the puzzle in order to increase conversions.

When you’re ready to start pre-selling, make sure your offer is irresistible and that the price point is something that your target market would be interested in.

You’ll also want to create urgency around the sale so people feel like they need to buy it now.

For example, if you run a coaching business, you can limit the number of seats available to create that sense of urgency.How to pre-sell your online course before you build it

In Summary: Why Pre Sale?

The pre-sale process is important because it allows you to test your idea with a target market before you invest the time and money into creating a course.

It also helps to ensure that you are creating content that is relevant and useful to your target audience.

Pre-selling can also help to increase the chances that someone will actually buy your online course.

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