Email Courses 101: How to Use Autoresponders to Write an Email Course

This is the second post in our series about the many ways you can use Campaigns, AWeber’s new email automation platform, to deliver AWesome content to your subscribers. Check out last week’s post about welcome campaigns. Stay tuned for next week’s post about linking campaigns!

I believe that one of the greatest little pleasures in life is coming home and finding a package addressed to me on my doorstep. It never fails – even if I ordered something as pedestrian as socks, I still get excited.

When your subscribers see your emails in their inbox, you want them to be as excited as I am when I get my socks in the mail. One way to do that is with an email course.

With an email course, your subscribers look forward to seeing your messages. Whether you’re teaching a new skill or explaining how to use your services, you’re delivering helpful tips and information that enlightens your subscribers. (I have yet to meet an enlightening pair of socks.)

Why send an email course?

We already know that automated emails get serious engagement – 100% more than email newsletters. When you use email automation to deliver an email course, you help make your subscribers’ lives easier by delivering information they need in digestible courses. Email automation make your life easier because they help you build trust with your subscribers and keep them engaged over time. Everybody wins!

Creating an email course might sound a little daunting at first. But anyone can do it, and I’ll show you how.

Should my email course be free?

First thing’s first: no matter what type of email course you create, it should be free to your subscribers. Why? As countless bloggers and entrepreneurs have learned, providing value up-front with no strings attached is hands-down the best way to build trust with your subscribers.

People who trust you will buy from you in the future, but you have to win them over first. An email course is perfect for showing off your expertise and turning your subscribers into loyal, paying customers.

What do I write about?!

Your email course should provide solutions to your audience’s biggest questions. What questions does your ideal customer have? What do they find confusing? Is there a newer topic that no one in your field has covered?

Try this: think about what happens when you tell people what your business does. What questions do they ask you? Do you need to explain your business in greater details? Do you give examples of the type of work you do?

Let’s say you’re a traveling horse groomer. Not everyone knows exactly what a traveling horse groomer does. Your email course could help educate people about your grooming services and explain why they’re so important. Or your email course could give people one new grooming tip every day for a week – a prettier pony in seven days! (You’re welcome, traveling horse groomers.)

If you’re still not sure what to write, survey your audience and ask them. You can also reach out directly to people to talk about their pain points. Another tactic is using Google Analytics to find the most popular content on your website, then use that content as the basis for your email course.

The good news is that you probably already have the content created for your email course. It’s simply a matter of organizing it into a series of digestible emails.

How do I structure and schedule my email course?

Your email course should have a set number of messages – you shouldn’t add to it like you might add messages to a welcome email campaign. If I signed up for five lessons, I want five lessons – not 10 or 12.

A week’s worth of emails, or about five to seven lessons, is a good number to shoot for when you’re creating your email course. Too many messages, and you could overwhelm your subscribers. Too few messages, and you could lose the opportunity to truly teach them anything.

If you’re sending your subscribers short lessons, sending them a new message every day for a week is good way to keep them engaged. If you’re sending longer lessons explaining more complex ideas, you might want to give your subscribers a day or two to fully digest all of the information you’ve sent them.

If I’m a social media expert, my email course might look like this:

Timing: One day after my welcome email
Lesson 1: Expressing yourself in 140 characters or less
Goal: Teach people how to write engaging tweets

Timing: One day later
Lesson 2: How to measure your engagement
Goal: Teach people how to use analytics

Timing: One day later
Lesson 3: Connecting with influencers online
Goal: Teach people basic etiquette for reaching out to influencers in their field

…And so on. The length of each lesson depends on what you’re teaching, but the following tips can apply to just about any type of email course.

What should the lessons in my course look like?

  • Include the lesson number in your subject line
  • Make sure your subject line explains what the lesson is about
  • Stick with simple sentences and short paragraphs
  • Use headings to break up long chunks of text
  • Make sure your lessons make sense in the order they’re in
  • If your lessons are longer, include action items or next steps at the end of each lesson
  • Invite feedback and ask people what they’ve learned

Do you have any examples of good email courses?

Yes! Here are three email courses I’ve signed up for from three different businesses.

Type of lessons: Short and snackable
When you should use it: If you want to deliver to-the-point tips and tactics or if you suspect your readers’ attention span is short, try this type of email course.
Pro-tip: Deliver just one tip per lesson. Check out how blogger Henneke Duistermaat does it.

email course example
Copyright Henneke Duistermaat 2015

Type of lessons: Breaking down a new or complex topic
When you should use it: When your readers would benefit from a little more context and explanation. For example, if you’re introducing a broader topic like the value of creative work, you can’t really capture that in a few sentences. Check out how Tiny Designer does it in the example below.
Pro-tip: Ask your subscribers a question at the end of each lesson to get more engagement (and make sure they’re still awake).

email course example

Type of lessons: Taking your engagement to the next level
When you should use it: If you want to test your subscribers on what they’ve learned or just learn more about them.
Pro-tip: Include a worksheet at the end of your lesson to drive home your most important points. As a bonus, you can use worksheets to learn more about your subscribers and their pain points. Check out how Brennan from Planscope does it:

email course ideas

How do I promote my email course?

Your email course is an incentive for people to sign up for your list, so you’ll want to promote it in a big way on your sign up form. Be sure to tell people what they’ll learn, how many emails you’ll send them and include any social proof you have.

Here are the sign up forms that promote the three email course examples I’ve mentioned and why they’re so effective.

Henneke Duistermaat from Enchanting Marketing:

email course promotion

What makes it effective: Not only does this form tell people exactly what they’re signing up for, the call to action button stands out in a big way, with a contrasting color and first-person language (“Start My Free Course Now.”)

Jarrod Drysdale from Tiny Designer:

email sign up form

What makes it effective: Jarrod offers two courses: one for designers and one for non-designers. This approach lets him deliver a more personalized experience to his audience.

Brennan Dunn from Planscope:

free freelancing course

What makes it effective: Brennan includes a lot of social proof, including big-name logos and mentioning that he’s helped 10K people who have signed up for his course.

Take the promotion of your email course even further by encouraging your subscribers to share it on social, like Brennan from Planscope does.

email course promotion

Want to learn more about creating sign up forms that get results? Here are four easy tips for turning your sign up form into a subscriber magnet.

What’s next?

What happens when your subscribers finish your email course, but you have even more great stuff to send them? Not to worry, you can link your email course to your next campaign. Next week, I’ll tell you how to link multiple campaigns together to send your subscribers a variety of content and keep them engaged over a long span of time.

Until then, log in to your AWeber account to start creating your email course.

aweber free trial

3 Comments

  1. bruce jones

    11/17/2015 7:54 pm

    this article on putting out an email course is outstanding and just what I need. I am trying to build my list for my courses and I have content that I can use for a free email course. love the tips and strategy

  2. Extreme Sports Blog

    11/25/2015 7:50 pm

    Thanks for these simple explanation. I have had a few ideas for email courses and this has spurred me into action to get them set up.

    Also great to see the name Henneke Duistermaat in this post. I have been subscribed to her list for quite some time and highly recommend joining.

    The examples from Jarrod Drysdale and Brennan Dunns are also on my list to use.

  3. Greg Libby

    11/25/2015 8:05 pm

    Love the “short and snackable” example and the email with the itinerary wrap-up. Thanks for posting!