When I created my first online course, I assumed the hardest (and most important) part was simply creating it.
I was wrong, and chances are you’re feeling in a similar way.
Don’t get me wrong, creating your course isn’t easy (and it is important).
But it’s what comes next that really matters.
After all, if you don't manage to sell your online courses, you won't be able to make it sustainable in the long-run, unless you have another source of income, right?
The way that you manage to sell online courses is by creating a sales funnel, and we have talked about what that is and the first stages of the funnel in Part 1 of this series:
In this article, we are going to take through the student journey down your sales funnel, and learn what happens after the initial phases of Awareness and Interest.
What is an Online Course Sales Funnel?
As a quick reminder, a funnel is a sequence of steps that your students go through, from the moment that first hear about you until the moment they purchase something from you, and even after.
Here are the multiple phases of an online course sales funnel:
And here is a quick description of what each phase does:
- Awareness: This is where much of your lead generation takes place. Your aim here is to capture your students attention and stand out from the crowd.
- Interest: Your aim here is to keep the attention of your students and highlight your expertise, by teaching them about what they want to learn from you, and by helping them out. The more they learn from you, the more they trust you and the more interested they become on learning more.
- Desire: This is when you build their trust and establish authority, proving yourself to be the solution to their problems. Your aim here is to highlight their pain, and show how you can help.
- Action: This is when you present your solution (ie: your courses!!). Your aim here is to reveal why your courses is what they need, overcome their objections, and provide clear steps to buy.
- Loyalty: This is when you turn a prospect into a loyal advocate (whether they buy your course or not). Your aim here is to build upon the trust you’ve built, provide various up-sell and/or cross-sell opportunities, and capture social proof
PHASE 2: MIDDLE OF FUNNEL
The first part of the funnel was covered in the first part of this series.
The middle of your funnel is when you turn interested leads into ready-to-buy students.
There are two stages to this:
At the top of the funnel, your focus is to initially capture your students attention (awareness) and to then keep it (interest) with more in-depth and valuable content.
If you do it correctly, they’ll register for your lead magnet, give you their email, and enter the next stages of your funnel.
This is when the fun begins 🥳
It’s in this stage - DESIRE - that you transform their interest into something more.
The likelihood is that they’re only vaguely curious about what you have to offer right now. They like what they see so far, but they hardly trust you.
This is understandable. I imagine you’ve downloaded MANY lead magnets in your time.
But have you ended up buying from each one of these creators? Of course not!
And the reason you haven’t is they didn’t turn your interest into desire.
This is your focus here, not only in this stage but throughout the middle of your funnel.
Your aim is to establish their trust and build a rapport with your audience.
You need to SHOW them you’re the real deal… that you are the expert they need, and that your solution will solve their specific problem.
There are several ways to do this, but much of the magic happens inside your Email Funnel.
The Email Funnel
The reason email is so important is that it remains the primary way to sell your digital products.
Most of your audience still opens their inbox each day. Most of them expect you to communicate with them via email.
Remember, they’ve just downloaded your lead magnet…
Where do they expect you to send them the file? Their inbox, of course!
This isn’t about whether email is as effective today as it used to be.
What I mean is that it still remains the easiest and most effective way to communicate with your audience, even though it's not as effective as it was say 10 years ago.
Despite this, it's still by far the best way to reach your audience and build their trust. 😉
In a nutshell, here is what you are trying to achieve with your emails:
- Phase 1: Establish Trust
- Phase 2: Build Authority
- Phase 3: Trigger Pain
- Phase 4: Provide Solution
Phase 1: Establish Trust
The first phase of your email funnel centers around establishing trust and building a rapport with your audience.
This often involves:
- Sharing your story, background, and experiences
- Talking about your vision, mission, and core values
- Framing their problem/pain as the one you used to feel
- Asking them why they’re here and what they hope to achieve
However, the point here is NOT to simply talk about yourself, that would be a big mistake.
Instead, you must frame your story and the problems you faced as their own personal journey and their own problems…
Sharing your story/experience in a way that relates to them…
Talking about your mission and vision, and how it aligns with theirs (or will help them on their journey).
You see, even when you are talking about you, it's really not so much about you as it is about them and their difficulties, and how you had the same difficulties that you somehow managed to solve.
One of the best ways to build trust with your audience is to share stories, namely your origin story. 😉
Beyond this, one of the most effective ways to build a rapport between you and them is to share a story that brings the two of you together.
This is NOT a time to talk about your course, but it is a time to talk about your own journey and the pain you used to feel, how you were just like them, and how you now managed to solve those issues because of the process you went through.
Here’s a quick overview of what this phase of your email funnel might look like:
- Email 1: Welcome & Download -- introduce yourself, thank for them registering, and link to the lead magnet/download.
- Email 2: Your Story -- introduce your story and provide an overview of the journey you’ve been on (making it as relatable as possible and similar to the path they’re currently on). Where appropriate, link to a more detailed about page, welcome video, or article.
- Email 3: Your Mission and What's Next -- this is where you introduce your vision and mission (and core values), but rather than just delivering them, craft a story around all this, and tell them what type of educational content they can expect to receive in the next few weeks.
Phase 2: Build Authority
At this stage, your audience begins to trust you.
They feel like they’re in the right place and that you are someone that can help them.
BUT they’re not sure… they still don’t know if you’re the real deal.
Your aim in this second phase is to prove your expertise, by teaching them what they want to learn. This often centers around:
- Blog posts and articles
- Educational videos
- Instructional email text
- Reviews and testimonials
- Features and interviews
- Awards and qualifications
But again, the trick here is to share all this without it coming across like you’re bragging or anything.
Once more, this is really not about you… everything you share has to serve your students. 😉
Here’s a quick overview of what this phase might look like:
- Email 1: Relevant Articles -- share something you’ve written about that not only provides an interesting and valuable read but showcases you as someone who knows what they’re talking about.
- Email 2: Ask a Question -- turn the focus on to your audience and ask them about a common problem or pain they may have. This allows you to introduce them to someone you’ve helped in the next email.
- Email 3: Answer The Question -- on the back of the question you ask, share a story, testimonial, or case study from one of your students that “shows” them how you helped/had an impact.
Again, this is just an example for you to use. The aim is to develop authority and prove yourself as someone who’s further along the road than them.
It’s also a great time to start introducing the main pain and/or problem, which takes center stage in the next phase.
Phase 3: Trigger Pain
Now you’ve proven yourself as a credible resource, it’s time to edge your audience toward the solution they need for their problem.
In fact, it’s safe to presume they don’t.
And it’s your job to show them the way…
There’s a simple process you can take to achieve this:
- Meet them where they are
- Acknowledge their situation
- Provide a deeper insight
- Show them what life could be like
What this simple process does is trigger their actual pain, hints at the solution, and builds a GAP between where they are and where they need to be.
And what fills this gap? Your course! 😉
However, you cannot go in too hard and start telling your audience what their problem is and how the problem they think they have is wrong.
Instead, you need to meet them where they are, reminding them how you were once in their shoes.
This is why sharing your story in phase one is so powerful, they already know you “get” it.
Next, you need to acknowledge their situation, which can be hard for a course creator because it may involve talking about something you *know* is wrong.
For example, let’s say you help people be more productive, and you know from years of experience that their real problem tends to focus on poor habits.
You *know* this is their problem.
Yet they *think* their problem is how they don’t have enough time.
You have to acknowledge this rather than push it under the carpet. Don’t discredit them or say how they’re wrong.
Again, step into their shoes and *show* them you’re someone who understands.
Once you’ve done that, you can nudge them in the right direction by providing deeper insight.
Sure, they don’t have enough time, but the reason for that is due to bad habits they don’t realize they have.
At this point, you open their eyes and show them what life could look like if they make a few changes.
They don’t know what the solution is, but they now believe there is one.
Taking them on this journey places them in The Gap. They know where they are and where they want to be, but they have no idea how to get there. That’s where the fourth and final phase comes in.
But before we get to that, here’s an overview of what this might look like:
- Email 1: Meet Them Where They Are -- step into their shoes and reiterate how you were once where they are and that you understand what they’re going through.
- Email 2: Acknowledge Their Situation -- rather than discredit their feelings, acknowledge what they think their pain is but hint that there’s more to it (and that you understand this because you’ve gone through the process already).
- Email 3: Provide a Deeper Insight -- this is where you focus more on what their actual problem is (the root cause… the problem your course helps solve), explaining what’s really going on and how it could get worse if they don’t solve.
- Email 4: Show Them What Life Could Be Like -- on the back of the last email, you need to give them hope there’s a real solution that awaits that can give them access to a better life (paint a clear picture of what this life looks like, using your experiences and/or those of your students to build proof and credibility).
There’s often (but not always) a disconnect between your students perceived and actual problem. Your job is to guide them in the right direction. Sometimes a few emails will suffice.
Other times, you may need to incorporate webinars, challenges, samples from your course, or other content to get your point across.
The point is you NEED to place your audience into The Gap.
Trigger their pain. Hint at what the solution is; what life could be like.
Show them progress is possible and that it’s closer than they think.
Once you get them here, you’re ready for the final phase.
Phase 4: Provide Solution
This final phase is when you not only hint at what their solution is but give them tangible tools to walk away with.
However, this is NOT when you launch your offer and sell your course.
But this is when you start introducing it.
For instance, there’s a good chance your course includes some kind of:
- or possibly several of these…
By introducing at least some of this now, you not only provide your audience with relevant value but introduce your course without placing any focus on it.
It’s a subtle way of showing them how you can help and what their next steps look like without talking about your course, how much it costs, or what their next steps are -- all that comes next. 😉
The other thing at play here is it gives your audience some of what they need to make progress.
There’s a fine line to giving them too much, not only because it might make your offer redundant but also overwhelm them with too many details.
But giving them something practical they can leave with IS important as it not only helps you stand out from your competitors but SHOWS them progress is possible.
You have the solution they need, and you give them some of the tools or information to go away and do it themselves.
The key to all this, of course, is how you deliver it.
A webinar… a challenge… a lesson or two from your course?
Each situation is different, but a general rule is to deliver something that provides them an instant result.
- What can you give them from your course that creates an immediate impact?
- What can you teach them that allows them to make progress right now?
- What tip, hack, or tactic can you produce that produces quick results?
Remember, you don’t want to offer them too much right now. Doing so doesn’t serve you because it makes your course redundant. But it also doesn’t serve them because all you’ll do is overwhelm them.
Less is often more.
Here’s what this might look like:
- Email 1: Reiterate Their Current Situation/Problem -- your first job is to remind them of their current situation and reiterate their pain/problem. From there, reassure them that help awaits and you have the solution they need.
- Email 2: Introduce Your Mechanism -- this is where you introduce your method, framework, or blueprint that plays a huge role in your course as a whole. Don’t go into too much detail, but do provide a clear overview of how it works and WHY it’s powerful.
- Email 3: Provide a Deeper Insight -- here is where you go deeper into your key mechanism, often focussing on one part of it so they can make instant progress.
- Email 4: Offer The Bandaid -- this is where you expand on your previous email and provide something they can walk away with (an exercise, workbook, PDF, or possibly something more in-depth like a webinar or challenge).
As you can see, the point here is to SHOW them how possible progress is.
You literally give them something they can use today - something that lets them do it themselves!
This reinforces the trust you’ve built but also leads nicely into the next stage of this process: ACTION.
That’s when you launch your course, which is the period where so many course creators fail.
The reason for that is because they don’t get this stage right - they “give” too much or too little.
Once you find that balance, everything that comes next becomes easier 😎
All good journeys come to an end, and although this stage doesn’t mark the end of the process, it does represent the whole point of your sales funnel.
Your aim isn’t simply to bring someone into it and nurture them.
Your aim is to take them on a journey that results in them ultimately purchasing a course from you, subscribe, etc.
There are two key players in this stage:
- The Launch Sequence
- Your Sales Page
These two elements work together, as this final email sequence directs people to your sales page.
We’ll only touch upon the Sales Page here as I’ve written a separate guide that breaks down this page, how to build it, and what to do with it:
Everything in this stage centers around action, the whole point is to get your audience to DO something!
That’s why quality over quantity is so important in the previous stages as the only people that ACT here are the “right” people.
By now, you’ve taken your audience on an engaging journey that’s captured and kept their attention, transformed their interest into desire, built trust and rapport, and provided various pieces of value throughout.
You’ve proved yourself credible, and you’ve even given them practical tools to walk away with.
Not everyone is the “right” fit for your course, but those still opening your emails are likely at least on the fence.
They’re ready to buy from you (or at least see what you have to offer).
They *think* your solution might be the one they need…
Your job now is to show them this is the case! 😉
The Launch Sequence
You attach this launch sequence to the end of your email funnel where you Provide a Solution. In that phase of your email funnel, you gave them actionable tools to go away and solve their pain on their own.
You’ve given them a great deal, including the confidence to move forward.
What you need to do now is have them stop, reflect, and consider their next steps.
Sure, they could do the work themselves and figure it out…
Sure, they could try and find all the other tools and resources they need…
OR they can turn to you -- the person who’s been there and done it and has the compact solution with everything they need to know 😎
That’s what is at play here as you:
- Re-Open The Gap
- Introduce Your Offer
- Reveal Core Benefits
- Overcome Objections
- Present Clear Next Steps
Your first step is to Re-Open The Gap and remind them that although they could figure all this out themselves, it’s risky and time-consuming to do so (which it is).
You’ve shown them what life could look like. They’re excited. They also feel confident because you’ve given them some of the tools they need.
They may think this is enough… you know different!
Remind them of this and their current situation, and that the pain they feel is still very much real.
If they want to make the progress they desire, it makes sense to turn to someone (and a course) that helps speed up the process.
This is when you Introduce Your Offer and break down the various features involved: the course material, community aspects, coaching calls, tools & resources, etc…
This is also when you reveal the price and explain their next steps.
Not everyone will buy at this stage. In fact, many will remain on the fence.
This is fine. Some will, and it’s these early adopters you’re speaking to.
Next, you turn attention away from the features and instead Reveal The Core Benefits of these features!
Too many course creators get caught up on features and create a long list of various details. Although this is what some of your audience needs to make a decision, it turns many more off.
Most people make decisions based on emotions rather than rationale.
They want to know how what you offer will help and impact them.
They need to see how all “this” makes sense to them and the specific benefits of each core feature.
This gets most people closer to making a decision, but many STILL have certain worries, fears, and objections holding them back.
This is when you Overcome Their Objections by acknowledging what they are helping them see past these with relevant stories, social proof, bonuses, and answers to the questions stuck in their minds.
All you have to do now is Present a Few Clear Next Steps on how they can get off the fence.
How you do all this depends on you and your audience. A few emails may suffice or you may have to dig deeper with videos, case studies, and detailed FAQs.
Much of this already exists on your sales page, but you may have to repurpose at least some content into fresh articles, stories, and testimonials.
Here’s what an email sequence like this might look like:
- Email 1: Re-Open The Gap - an email that places them at a crossroads where they *could* try to solve their problem on their own or how they *could* follow a proven process that saves time, money, stress, etc...
- Email 2: Present Your Offer - this is where you break down your offer, focus on the core features involved, and reveal the price (including any early-bird discounts or bonuses...)
- Email 3: Reveal Core Benefits - now they know what your offer includes (the features), you need to bring these alive by focussing on their specific benefits and the impact this has on THEIR life!
- Email 4: Overcome Core Objections - the aim here is to preempt a few of their core objections/fears/questions, acknowledge these, and turn them around by providing specific answers, bonuses, case studies, and other relevant stories and/or messages.
- Email 5: FAQ - following on from the last email, this one dives deeper into their objections by answering common questions, worries, fears, and anything else that keeps them on the fence.
- Email 6: How To Buy - finally, you produce a “harder” sell and bring some scarcity into your message by focusing on how NOW is the time to act.
- Email 7: Last Chance - with one final email, you follow up and let them know this is their last chance to act (after this, the price rises, enrollment closes, bonuses end, etc…)
You don't have to write all these emails at first.
My advice is to start small, test your launch sequence, and adapt it where you need to.
In most instances, you’ll direct all these emails to your course sales page.
The course creators that last the test of time are those that create loyal students that follow them and learn from them over time.
If Someone DOES Buy Your Course…
As soon as someone comes through your funnel and buys your course, they’re officially a customer.
Your job now is to turn them into loyal customers, so they:
- Purchase and join future courses and programs.
- Become members of your future mastermind or paid community.
- Beta test future projects and help you turn good into great.
- Share your work with friends (and their audience), and build valuable referrals.
- Provide testimonials, reviews, and successful case studies.
This is the difference between someone remaining a one-time customer that buys your course and does little with it, and one that becomes a valuable advocate of your work and has a high lifetime value.
Which would you prefer?
An easy choice, right 😏 😎
The thing is, this doesn’t just happen. You need to consciously turn up for your customers and continue to provide value. This begins with your Onboarding Sequence and continues by inviting them to be part of an engaged Community.
From a simple Private Facebook Group to Slack Channels, Forums, or even a Membership Site… building a community for your students is a great way to keep them on your side.
A community allows them to:
- Meet fellow students and form connections...
- Collaborate with other people on a similar journey…
- Stay accountable and help other people do the same…
- Ask questions, share stories, and confide with each other…
A community like this also allows you to share new content, ask questions, gather testimonials, build your launch team, observe and research your audience, test new ideas, and beta test future projects.
Creating a community like this is a growing trend, but it’s still something many course creators overlook.
This is an opportunity for you to not only stand out but build upon the trust and rapport you’ve already developed with your students.
If Someone DOES NOT Buy Your Course…
Now you know what to do with someone who becomes a new student, but what about the group of people that choose to not buy your course (for whatever reason)?
Well, you may find these become the most valuable people of all as you move forward.
If you choose to nurture this group and learn to understand them better, you can:
- ASK them why they didn’t buy and learn about their core objections.
- Cross-sell, down-sell, or even up-sell different products that may be more relevant.
- Re-promote your course a few weeks (or months) down the line.
- Involve them in future giveaways, contests, and other promotional material.
- AND share future ideas and hone in on how to best serve them.
Just because they don’t buy now doesn’t mean they won’t in the future.
And just because they may never purchase one of your courses doesn’t mean you can’t learn A LOT from them.
Conclusions and Next Steps
When it comes to gaining an unfair advantage over other course creators, a sales funnel is huge. 😎
It not only helps you reach more people but ensures the “right” people go on a journey where they learn about you, your story, their own pain (and how you can help solve it), AND why your course is the one they need.
Best of all, your sales funnel can (and will) evolve over time.
Don’t feel overwhelmed with all this, start small and keep it simple.
As you learn more about your audience and test what does and doesn’t work, expand your funnel.
Add new layers and make your journey even more effective, engaging, and efficient.
And if you need a platform to host your courses, with integration with the most commonly used email marketing solutions, we've got you covered.
We can help you get started, so why not head over to OnlineCourseHost.com and create your free account. 🥳
Besides giving you all the tools you need, we also give you the information you need to become a successful course creator through our Course Creator Academy and private Course Creator Facebook Community - where you can ask questions, connect with other course creators, and learn best practices from people that have been there and done it.
Don’t forget to sign up for my Course Creator Academy newsletter to get notified when I release new guides like this…
If you’ve found this guide valuable, you may like to explore our Course Creator Academy for other valuable content, including articles, posts, and guides like:
- How to research course topics
- How to choose the right equipment
- how to record an online course
- How to create an online course website for free
- How to sell an online course
- how to create an online course business
- and much more 😉
Thanks for reading, and here’s to your own successful sales funnel that will help you sell courses online.
OnlineCourseHost.com Founder & Online Course Creator
You are welcome to ask me any questions in the comments below: 👇👇👇👇