“I have these grand plans to launch my first online course under my own brand... but I have zero email subscribers.”
Sound familiar? That was me when I set out to launch my course.
Here I was… staring at a completely flat line graph.
Fantasy Email List
My Actual List
...but fast forward 60 days, and I have 1530 email subscribers and a successful $20k launch.
I’m sharing exactly how I did it because I don’t want you to waste one moment listless when you can be outchea creating value and taking names.
So, let’s get into how I built my email list and made almost $20k launching my recent course!
(Note: I've been behind dozens of online course launches; this breaks down my launch for #CourseFromScratch, the first course under my own personal brand. #CourseFromScratch is my 8-week online accelerator where I help individuals create & launch their online courses.)
First things first…
Draw a Straight Line from You to the Cash
“Worrying about your followers—you need to get your dollars up.” -Drizzy
When I set out to launch #CourseFromScratch, I could've gotten seduced by the social media siren—spending countless hours creating the perfect IG posts and making sure my Twitter feed was poppin’ with immaculate word play.
I could’ve spent days choosing the perfect WordPress theme for my blog and designing picture perfect graphics in Canva.
You know what I did instead?
I drew a straight line from me to the cash.
As of writing this, I still don't have a professionally designed website (it's bare bones & I’ll share why it works wonders!), and I'm still not spending painstaking hours posting on social media (Just yesterday, I posted on Instagram for the first time in over 2 months!).
I cut the fat and laser-focused on the content that would get me the farthest, fastest.
Enter: Core Content.
One of your knee jerk reactions may be to post on every social media site and use every tool under the sun. After all, our favorite personal brands are everywhere, so we should be, too, right?
When I started building my email list in anticipation of launching my course, I put blinders on and only published core content.
The first piece of core content I tackled was my “website” (and I put website in quotes because it was just one page at the time of launching it… Yes, that’s right—no “About” page or “Blog” or even “Contact” page).
Step One: Turn your homepage upside down
Have you heard of the “Upside Down Homepage?”
I learned the Upside Down Homepage concept from Bryan Harris at Videofruit. The premise is that 99% of home pages are not designed in a way that’s helpful to your visitors (helping them solve the problem they came to your site to solve) or to you (helping you effectively invite new visitors to join your email list). The Upside Down Homepage solves for this.
Here’s a breakdown of mine.
Section 1: Above the Fold
Value Proposition: “Need help creating & launching your online course?”
I let visitors know they’re in the right place if they’re interested in creating and launching their own online course. Question for you: If I go to your website right now, will I know within 5 seconds what problem you can help me solve?
Irresistible Call to Action: “See how my former client turned her singing courses into a $300,000 per year business.” “Yes, show me!”
I invite visitors to claim a resource that helps establish me as an authority and helps them solve an urgent pain point. Question for you: Do you have a freebie up for grabs that will make your Perfect Customers’ mouths water and help you grow your list?
Credibility Markers: “As seen in TechCrunch, Udemy, Inc., Black Enterprise…”
I let others speak for me. I included well-known and respected brands that resonate with my Perfect Customers to show visitors I’m a trusted authority. You can do this with a “As seen in…” section, you can showcase customer testimonials, etc. Question for you: Have you included any third parties on your website to help instill trust in your brand?
Section 2: “How to” Content
I wrote a mini blog post on how to price your online course because: 1) This is a common obstacle for first time course creators, 2) The info I include helps get my Perfect Customers a quick win. Getting your Perfect Customers a quick win is a *major key* for building trust and having them invest in you as an authority.
Section 3: Content Upgrade Call to Action
Midway through the “How to” content, I include a call to action button to “See behind the scenes” and receive a case study that takes my How to content one step further.
This is the email opt-in that pops up after someone clicks the “See behind the scenes” button.
Section 4: Next Steps
At the end of my “How to” content, I invite the reader to take Next Steps by entering their email so I can send them my case study.
Notice how I only include links to my “About” page, “Contact” page, etc. in the footer of my homepage. I didn’t include any navigation above the fold like most home pages.
This is why Bryan Harris calls this the “Upside Down Homepage”—the navigation is at the bottom of your homepage instead of at the top. That way, you have more influence over how someone experiences your site, and they’re more likely to join your email list.
My questions for you: Is your homepage helping visitors solve the problem they came to solve or giving them a compelling reason to join your email list? Do you have a million graphics and calls to action competing for their attention above the fold?
Step Two: Create Content Events
After I turned my homepage upside down, I switched my focus to creating Content Events.
A timed event where people can experience your content firsthand. A Content Event can be a webinar, challenge, video series, etc.
Content Events are the best way to build a community of the right potential customers as quickly as possible.
Here are the Content Events that helped me build my email list:
1. WEBINAR | #GETPAIDMasterclass: How to get paid for your content, skills, or expertise in 30 days
2. VIDEO SERIES | #CoursetoLaunch: How to create & launch your course in 60 days
3. WEBINAR | How to create & launch your online #CourseFromScratch in 60 days
So far, I mentioned turning my website upside down and creating three Content Events. What else did I do to grow my email list in time for my launch? Well, I’ll tell you what I didn’t do.
I didn’t stress about publishing countless blog posts or hiring a designer/developer to deck out my website. Here’s what I did instead…
I started my Business Page on Facebook because I knew I’d be running FB Ads. A Business Page is helpful when you’re running FB Ads because you can target everyone who likes your FB Page.
Now that we covered the core content and Content Events, let’s dive into how I grew my list.
How I Built My Email List
I grew my email list over 60 days primarily through 4 sources. Here’s the breakdown:
Step Three: Do a Friends and Family Round (My results? 0 to 100 real quick)
If I told you that you can grow your email list by 100 people in the next 24 hours, would you believe me? This is precisely how I went from 0 to 100 (real quick).
I enrolled in Bryan Harris’ course Get 10k Subscribers, and he challenged us to take out our phone and text as many recent contacts as possible with a message like this:
“Hey Sam, I’m gonna start writing about all the stuff I’m learning helping other people create and launch their courses and grow their businesses online. Want me to add you to the list so you get it when I start?”
Here’s one of my actual text convos:
I texted my first few contacts, which were my mom, dad, bf, bestie… and then as I got to certain friends in my chat history, I felt timid and hesitated to invite them.
But instead of chickening out, I pushed through.
By the time I reached the point of: “Okay, I’ve texted everyone I possibly can…” I counted up my texts, and I messaged over 90 people! I had NO idea I even knew that many people, let alone texted with them regularly.
When you complete this exercise for yourself, you’ll be surprised by the sheer volume of supporters you have in the palm of your hand.
Next, I turned to Facebook and sent private messages to friends I’d connected with recently, from college, high school, etc. Within 24 hours, I had over 100 people saying “Yes” they wanted to be added to my list. (HUGE win!)
Before you start protesting, saying: “But Danielle… These are my friends and family. They’re not interested in [obscure topic that I’m into]! Why on earth would I add them to my email list??”
To reiterate Bryan Harris’ wisdom, your family and friends are down for you, so even if they never buy from you, they will be your biggest supporters.
So, best believe when they meet someone who can benefit from what you’re teaching/selling, they’ll send that person your way!
This happened to me recently when my friend referred a potential client to me. If I had never invited this friend to join my email list, he would’ve never known the type of work I’m doing and the impact I’m making.
Here’s the actual text convo:
Truth is, we have to start somewhere, and why not start with the people who have an interest in our success? If you already have an established email list, my question for you is: Have YOU invited your 100 closest family and friends to your list to stay up to date with the moves you’re making? If not, get your phone out and get to texting. :)
Step Four: Partner with Affiliates (My results? 500ish subscribers)
If it’s your first time launching your online course or another product, you have the option to do the following:
1. Internal launch (you launch only to your audience)
2. Internal and external launch (you launch to your audience + affiliates’ audiences)
Even though it was my first time launching this particular course, I decided to do an Internal + External Launch because:
I was confident in my course curriculum since I’ve worked through it with dozens of clients.
I was comfortable executing course launches, since I’ve been behind dozens of them, and I felt confident my course would convert well during a launch.
I was starting out with almost 0 email subscribers, and Affiliates are one of the fastest ways to grow your list.
I had an existing Affiliate relationship that I could leverage to help me get others.
If it’s your first time launching your course, should you also start with an Internal + External Launch? To be sure, ask yourself the following:
Am I confident in my course curriculum? Do I have case studies and success stories as a stamp of approval on my teaching?
Am I comfortable executing a proper course launch? Am I confident it will convert 1-2% of my audience and convert Affiliates’ audiences?
Do I have existing relationships with individuals who have the right audience and would make great Affiliates?
Here’s What I Did
The founder of a huge content site (they get ~1 million unique visitors per month) asked me to host a webinar for a segment of their audience—mostly aspiring and existing bloggers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.
I recognized this as the perfect opportunity to: 1) grow my audience and 2) try pre-selling spots for #CourseFromScratch.
So, I created this webinar registration page.
#GETPAIDMasterclass: How to get paid for your content, skills, or expertise in 30 days (without having a huge following or professionally designed website)
Of course, one way to get paid for your content and expertise is to create and launch an online course, so it flowed perfectly into my offer to enroll in #CourseFromScratch.
In anticipation of the webinar and to maximize registrations, here’s how I partnered with my first Affiliate:
- Social media takeover, appearing on their Instagram and Snapchat accounts sharing lessons from my experience getting paid to work with dream clients and create dope content
- Multiple social media mentions across their accounts
- Broadcast email to a segment of their email list
The results? 335 email subscribers and over $8,000 in pre-sales for my course.
During the public launch of my course, I partnered with 4 more affiliates who graciously invited their audiences to my #GETPAIDMasterclass.
The results? 168 email subscribers and $2,197 in course sales.
I’m so grateful to my affiliates for rockin’ with me and helping reach more people with #CourseFromScratch.
When it’s time to construct your email list growth strategy, take time to think about whether your first launch is the right time (or nah) to enlist the help of affiliates.
Now let’s see how I grew the other half of my email list with the help of Facebook Ads…
Step Five: Hello, Facebook Ads! (And hello 700ish subscribers!)
Here’s the thing… my background is this odd mix of Silicon Valley startup principles + internet marketing principles. I’ve worked for 6+ different venture-backed startups (including one I co-founded myself), and the name of the game is scale.
How can you scale your users and revenue as quickly as possible? Facebook ads have become a huge part of that equation.
Figuring out your CAC (Cost to Acquire a Customer) is like the holy grail in startup land. So, I’ll admit, I was intrigued by the allure of predictable growth and cracking this customer acquisition code.
I was also racing the clock.
I had limited time remaining to get the word out about my “Course to Launch” video series and start building a community on Facebook around course creation.
“Course to Launch” video series
I hired a Facebook Ads specialist to help run my Facebook ads. I’m addicted to learning new things, so I wanted oh-so-badly to run the ads myself, but I knew if I ran the ads, other parts of my campaign would suffer (launch emails, affiliate communication, etc.).
The results were amazing: Complete strangers registered for my “Course to Launch” video series or for my #CourseFromScratch webinar. And apparently, I was paying HALF what others were paying in my niche per lead.
How did this happen? I knew the type of messaging my Perfect Customers would respond to, and I took the time to research various Facebook Pages where they were hanging out (Pages most people overlook).
This made the difference in my campaign. For every $1 I spent on Facebook, I made $2.67. There’s room for improvement, but not bad for a first try. :)
Step Six: Instagram (Yup, you read that right.)
I posted only 6 new photos to Instagram during my entire 60-day launch period (yes, just 6 posts over 60 days!)—and despite that, added 7,000+ new followers and made $2k from my Instagram during that time.
First, I made my Instagram bio speak to my Perfect Customers as much as possible. I also linked them to sign up for my “Course to Launch” video series. I was not playin’.
Then, I created posts that shed light on what people could expect to learn and experience in #CourseFromScratch. Here are a few of the posts:
So, how was I able to grow by 7,000+ followers?
My good friend Tara Reed told me about this new IG automation tool that doesn’t require you to set it up or manage it yourself. If you’ve looked into Instagress or FollowerLiker, you know they require you to set it up and manage it yourself, but the tool Tara told me about has a team managing it for you. Naturally, I said, “Sign me up!”
I was skeptical when I first started using the tool. I figured there’s no way they’ll be able to find people interested in creating and launching their own online course; it’s such a niche topic!
Luckily for me, I was wrong.
Using this Instagram tool, I attracted more of my Perfect Customers. Here’s a look at some of the comments on one of my posts.
So, I am a believer that you can attract your Perfect Customers on Instagram with the right messaging in your bio and in your posts.
Step Seven: There’s No Step Seven—You Made It!
That’s it! It’s lit!
Review time.... :)
I was able to grow my email list:
1. By turning my website upside down (so organic leads from Facebook, Instagram, etc. had an enticing call to action to join my list)
2. By creating Content Events (webinar, webinar, video series, oh my!)
3. From 0 to 100 (real quick) with a friends and family round :)
4. 500ish more with the help of Affiliates
5. 700ish more using Facebook Ads (& some savvy, ninja targeting)
6. The rest using Instagram (only 6 posts over 60 days, a killer bio, and laser-focused photo captions)
One thing I (re)learned during this launch is how important it is to know your Perfect Customers inside & out. What are they Googling? What’s keeping them up at night? *Major keys*
It can make or break your course launch. It can mean the difference between paying $2 per lead or $10 per lead on Facebook. It can mean adding 5 new followers on Instagram per day versus adding 50.
Now that you know how I grew my list from 0 to 1530 subscribers in time for my course launch, I want to send you the tools I used to grow my list!
What did I use to turn my website upside down, set up beautiful webinar registration pages (that converted ~50% of cold leads), and grow my Instagram by 7,000+ relevant followers? Click below, and I’ll send it your way!
And if you’re interested in creating & launching your own online course, I invite you to join me for my LIVE #CourseFromScratch Masterclass (happening soon, so register now)!