How to pre-launch your online course

16 min to read


5 days to complete

In this chapter, you will learn how to finally launch your course. 

We recommend doing a “pre-launch”, meaning launching before the course is complete, and delivering each module as you make it. If you’re already done with the first section of your course and have completed the previous chapters of this guide, you’re ready for your starting your online course pre-launch!

This is chapter 9 of the Online course creation guide

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How to create your pre-launch email campaign

For full course launches, course creators often create 7 to 14-day email campaigns, but this would be overkill for a pre-launch. For now, we recommend going for a 3-day campaign:

  • It’s faster to set up.
  • It’s less likely to feel spammy to your audience, especially if this is the first course you’re creating.
  • It’s enough to get your first few sales and validate your product.

After this email campaign, you know if the course you’re building is worth putting more effort into. Then, you’ll be able to focus on finishing the content in preparation for a full launch.

Each email in the 3-day campaign will have a different goal:

  1. Announcement email: self-explanatory!
  2. Storytelling email: walk your subscribers through their future transformation
  3. Closing email: answer frequently asked questions, create urgency, and emphasize the cost of inaction

<p class="warning"> ⚠️ What if I don’t have an email list?
If you don’t have an email list but still have an audience, you can still adapt the basic 3-step structure (announcement, story and close)  to the medium of your choice, whether it’s Instagram stories or Twitter threads. But if you’re going to sell courses, you should really (really!) start building an email list.</p>

Email 1 - Announcing your course

Here is the structure of the first email:

  1. Pain: Describe your student's problems
    What are they struggling with right now? Try to describe it in their own words, and be as specific as possible.
  2. Solution: Announce your product
    Present your course as the ideal solution to the problems your subscribers are facing.
  3. List the benefits
    What is going to change in their life after taking your course? Explain these benefits in a concrete, emotional and visual way. For this, you can use examples, images, before-after sections, changes in behavior... 
  4. Call to Action #1: "Get it today"
    This link will redirect to your sales page.
  5. Why a paid product?
    You've always created free content — and that won't change. Explain that you want to offer something more complete to those who want to go further in [your topic] and support you.
  6. Explain the pre-launch concept
    Tell them what advantages they get by signing up now.
  7. Short reminder of the benefits of your online course
    Remind your readers of the benefits of your course in a few bullet points. 
  8. Urgency
    Tell your readers about the deadline to take advantage of your pre-launch offer (it could be anytime from 3 to 7 days).
  9. Call to Action #2: "Get it today"
    This link will redirect to your sales page.
  10. Add “PS: You can respond to this email if you have any questions about the course.”
    This will surface all the questions you didn’t think to answer in the sales page. Obviously, you want to answer each email, but think also of updating your FAQ section in your third email and on your sales page.

<p class="tip">💡 What about the subject lines?

The subject line is​ the most important part of any sales email. If people don’t click the email, they won’t read what’s inside.

Here are 2 key elements you can implement in each email title to increase your open rate:

1. Curiosity
to attract the attention of your readers among the multiple emails they receive each day. For this, you can talk about something counter-intuitive, or simply add the word “Announcement” at the beginning of your title because new things also make people curious.

2. Strong Promises, which make your email more desirable. To do so, you can use a shortened version of your value proposition or of your course’s main benefits.

For example "Announcement: The proven method to gain 30k YouTube subscribers in 1 year" is intriguing because people interested in starting a YouTube channel will be hooked from the get-go, and it contains the value proposition of the course, which makes it desirable, whereas "Learn how to grow your YouTube channel" is generic and forgettable.</p>

Copy the Google Doc Template of the 3 email campaign structure and complete the first email.

Email 2 - Storytelling

The goal of your storytelling email is to let your reader visualize their future success. You can tell your own story, a beta student’s, or simply guide your reader in imagining their own future.

Your quick story will contain 3 main elements:

  • The initial situation
  • The solution
  • The result

Here is the structure of your second email:

  1. The initial situation
    Show your reader a situation with struggles they can relate to.
  2. The false solution(s)
    Your protagonist tries existing solutions, but they don’t end up working.
  3. Things get worse
    Because their problems were not solved, they get worse, and the protagonist hits “rock bottom”.
  4. The revelation
    The protagonist discovers a new method that actually solves their problems. 
  5. The result
    Describe the protagonist’s life now that his problems were solved.
  6. Call to Action #1: "You can do it too"
    This link will redirect to your sales page.
  7. Short reminder of the benefits of your online course
    Remind your readers of the benefits of your course in a few bullet points.
  8. Urgency
    Tell your readers about  the deadline to take advantage of your pre-launch. Example: “You have until Friday at midnight to join the program”.
  9. Call to Action #2: "Start today"
    This link will redirect to your sales page.
  10. Add “PS: You can respond to this email if you have any questions about the course.”
Complete the second email in the "Email prelaunch campaign" template.

Email 3 - Close

This will be the most “salesy” email in your sequence, so make it count!

Here’s what should be inside:

  1. Urgency
    Remind your readers of the deadline for joining the course.
    Example: “This is the last day to join the program. Doors close at midnight.”
  2. Call to Action #1: "Join [Your product name] and get [The main benefit of your course]"
    This link will redirect to your sales page.
  3. Frequently Asked Questions
    Answer the main objections and questions you received from your community from the last 2 emails. You can also paste the answers from the sales page FAQ, since not everyone will read it to the end.
  4. Cost of Inaction
    Explain how their problem will get worse if they don’t take action today.
  5. Call to Action #2: "Join [Your product name] and get [The main benefit of your course]"
    This link will redirect to your sales page.
  6. Add “PS: You can respond to this email if you have any questions about the course.”
    You can answer directly and probably get a few extra sales.
Complete the third email in the "Email prelaunch campaign" template.

Getting your emails ready for the pre-launch

By now, you should have a solid first version of your sales emails.

Like in the last chapter, you can go through 3 quick rounds of editing:

  1. First Proofread: Anticipate the reader’s objections
  2. Second Proofread: Delete unnecessary elements
  3. Third Proofread: Correct grammatical and spelling mistakes

Once your 3 proofreading rounds are done, you can upload the campaign to your Email Service Provider (ESP).

Edit your emails with the goal of anticipating the readers’ objections.
Edit your emails with the goal of cutting about 15% of the useless words.
Edit your emails to correct grammatical or spelling mistakes.
Add your emails to your ESP (without scheduling them yet!)

3 tips for your pre-launch

Phew! That was quite the journey, but you now have finished creating your whole sales funnel for your course.

Here are some last tips before you send those emails.

Tip 1: Complete the course pre-launch checklist

It would be a bummer if no one bought because you forgot to add the proper payment link to your sales page, or if the links in your emails don’t work properly.

This is why we created a checklist for you to help you make sure that everything is in order before sending your emails.

Copy and complete the course pre-launch checklist before sending your emails.
Schedule your 3-day email campaign.
(For example, you can do your campaign over the span of a week by sending emails on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)
Announce the pre-launch on social media to bring more traffic to your sales page.

Tip 2: Overcoming the fear of selling

It can be uncomfortable to ask your audience for money. Most of it is in your head, but a few people from your audience members WILL get angry if you’ll be announcing your first paid product.

It’s fine, really. Everyone has to deal with that, and it doesn’t reflect on your work so far. 

Critics are generally just a vocal minority. If you created a product that you worked hard on and that is helpful, your actual fans will understand the effort you put into it, and support you.

<p class="warning">  ⚠️ What if not enough people end up buying your course?

From the first chapter, we tried to help you validate your product as early as possible, but you could still miss the revenue goal that you set for your pre-launch.

This can be frustrating, but it is not necessarily bad news because it actually saves you time from creating a whole course that people don’t want.

If the sales really are too low, refund your buyers and move on.

The best thing to do is to see it as a learning experience. You got better at:
1. Researching your market
2. Creating courses
3. Writing
4. Filming
5. Editing
6. Marketing

Now, is there still potential for a different product in this market? Look at the questions that come and the people that did buy, and see if anything stands out.

If you end up launching another product in the same space later, you might be able to reuse a lot of work, such as your research and maybe even your first section. 

Or maybe you’ll decide to switch to a different market altogether. At any rate, you’ll have tested your idea in the shortest time possible, and that’s really the best thing you could do as an entrepreneur.</p>

Tip 3: How to handle customer support during a course launch

If you play your cards right, you can convert as much as 40% of the people who ask you questions during the launch.

Learn to see each question as an opportunity to demonstrate value and build trust.Here is how you can approach it:

  • Explain which section(s) will help them solve their specific problem(s).
  • Try to understand what their motivations are, and position the course as a vehicle to accomplish what they want.
  • Try to understand what their objections are, and answer them. 

If you are not sure about what their motivations or objections are, you can of course ask them! People will often be gladly surprised that you’re taking the time to have a conversation with them to go deeper, especially when they’re used to support teams trying to close tickets as quickly as possible.

<p class="tip">💡 How to react if you get criticized for selling products to your audience?

Here’s a question for you: when you see a product that does not interest you, what do you do? Do you send an angry email, or do you just move on with your day?

It takes a certain kind of person to leave an angry comment. Those people have some… let’s say “issues”... that don’t have anything to do with you.

Look at the substance of their claims (if there is any), but don’t take their messages too personally.</p>

Finally, don’t forget to add the questions you receive more than once to the FAQ section on your Sales Page, and in your third email.

Getting feedback on your pre-launch

A few days after your pre-launch, you can start collecting feedback from people who bought your course, but also from people who didn’t end up becoming customers.

Getting feedback from people who bought your course

For this group you can keep it simple and send a short email:

📨 Subject line: Quick question

Thank you for your support and for your trust!

I’m now working on the next sections which will be released during the next few weeks :)

I have a quick question for you:

What specifically convinced you to join [your course]?

Please reply to this email directly and let me know.

Thanks again!

[Your name]

This is a way to understand which elements resonate the most. Sometimes, people will echo at you what was already your main value proposition — so you won’t learn much. But other times, they will point to a specific idea or bonus that was originally more of an afterthought, and you’ll want to emphasize it more in the final launch.

Send an email to your customers to collect their feedback.

Getting feedback from people who didn’t buy your course

For this group, we prepared a survey to investigate what could be improved in your final launch.

It contains 3 questions:

  • Did they consider buying the course?
  • Why didn't they end up buying?
  • What other course would they have preferred?

You can send an email with the survey link to the people who didn’t buy the course. Here’s an example what your email could look like:

📨 Subject line: Quick question

Thank you for following me, [your experience with the pre-launch, and the cool feedback you received]

I see that you did not end up joining the program. That’s okay, of course — but I’d love to know what I could have done better.

Could you spare 3 short minutes and answer a few questions about that?

Click here to answer the survey

[Your name]
Copy the survey prepared for you, completed it, and send it to people who didn’t buy your course.

You can copy this survey right here! Just right click on “(To Copy) Course Launch Feedback Survey”, and copy it to your Google Drive.

And speaking of surveys, we also have a few questions to ask you about the guide to know what you think about it so far, and what we could improve about this guide:

Answer the "What did you think of the course creation guide?" survey.
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The next chapter will cover what to prepare for your final launch of your course, and what to do next.
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Created by

Alexandru Golovatenco

Alex has enrolled in dozens of courses on marketing, development and design. He ended up with varied skills — and also a collection of best practices for teaching online.
He wrote the guide you’re reading.
Produced by

Stan Leloup

Stan has been creating courses for a decade. He built a 7-figure online course business called Marketing Mania.
He is also the founder of the website you’re on: SchoolMaker.