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Course Sales Funnel. Why every course creator needs one?

The course sales funnel is a series of intentionally created steps to guide your potential students towards your course, your brand, and ultimately making the decision to buy your course

Most aspiring course creators decide to create a course because they have a passion or expertise they want to share with the world. 

The sad truth is, after they spend months (sometimes even years) creating that course, they’re faced with the harsh reality of “build it and they will come” is NOT the way it works in the online world.

And if they’re going to get any return on their time and money investments, they need to spend every waking hour promoting their course. 

However, there is a much easier and less stressful way to get in front of your potential students and build your tribe.

And that can happen before or while you’re creating your course.


That’s where the course sales funnel come in!

Basically, the goal of a course sales funnel is to bring new leads into your world. 

Let’s delve into more details.

So why you should have a course sales funnel before building your online course.

1. Avoid ‘Launching to crickets’ scenario

Imagine spending months, pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into creating an online course. You’ve spent a lot of time and money outlining, scripting, structuring, recording, editing, and building your online course. 

And now it’s all finished and ready for launch

There’s only one problem: there’s no one waiting to buy your course

If you’re thinking Ads are here to save you, then I have bad news! 

Ads are very expensive!

By the time it’s all said and done, you’ve lost more money on ads than you’ve been able to make.

You might be thinking “but I see ads for courses at the same price point as mine all the time”!


What you might not know is that these courses are used as what’s called a “LOSS LEADER”. 

Meaning, the course itself is not going to generate revenue for the business.

In fact, the business is most likely taking a hit.

But every lead that’s generated through the Ad, creates an opportunity to sell a high ticket offer. That’s where the business makes that money back, and then some. 

But if I had to take a shot in the dark, my assumption is that as a newbie course creator you don’t have $1,000s of dollars set aside to blow away on Ads.

So you’d be able to make it back on your higher-end offer.

And if you’re thinking you can blast out your offer on social media (using social media automation tools to help you spread the word), or beg affiliates to partner & promote your course for you, you’re on the wrong way.


Simply because you’re going to work around the clock, run yourself ragged, only to be left frustrated & overwhelmed, with no real results at the end

2. Build a list of targeted fans

Instead, you can take an easier, less painful route to get there. 

For example, you can put in a little work upfront to build a list of targeted fans who are eager to buy your course, by setting up a course sales funnel.

The goal of a course sales funnel is to help you generate new leads – build an engaged tribe – who’s not just ready to buy your new course, but also your future courses and services.  

3. Use small freebies to acquire leads to your course sales funnel

With a course sales funnel, you’re using a small freebie as a way to acquire new leads and get targeted buyers into your world. 

Ultimately, you’re offering them something of value in exchange for their email address. Then you continue engaging with them by putting more valuable content in front of them.

And, when your course is ready, you have a huge list of fans to promote to. 

You can also offer to validate online certificates afterward.

One of the best parts of having a course sales funnel in place is that it gets stronger with every new course or offer you put out there. 

This helps to put your promotion and marketing on autopilot.

So you can focus your energy on coming up with other offers, products, and services. 

In a nutshell, every course you launch should be built with at least one freebie offer at the beginning of it, that encourages new leads onto your email list. 

So, not only you’ll have an existing list of targeted buyers to promote your course, but also new leads will be coming into your funnel (your sphere of influence) every single day

What are the 3 best key course sales funnel elements?

A course sales funnel can be as simple or complex as you’d like it to be. 

But in the spirit of keeping it very simple, let me walk you through the 3 main components you should include in every course sales funnel:

1. A Freebie Offer

A freebie is called a Lead Magnet

To get people to join your course sales funnel you’re going to need an offer. The offer is what makes them want to pass to you their email address.

For example, among freebies can be an eBook, cheat sheet, or just a mini-course

However, the format is not as important as making sure you’re showing up in front of your ideal buyer with the RIGHT solution.

And you’re doing that at the right time – which is when they need it MOST!

2. An Opt-in Landing Page

Normally referred to as a squeeze page or freebie landing page.

All the same thing!

Basically, this is a landing page, where you’ll be sending your leads to grab your freebie offer. 

The goal behind this landing page is very simple – give them a compelling reason to give you their email address in exchange for getting your Lead Magnet (your freebie).

3. An Email Sequence

The whole goal of your funnel is to get new leads onto your email list.

So once this new lead joins your email list you’ll do two things:

  • Engage with them further to build a relationship;
  • Build trust so they’re ready and eager to buy your course when it’s ready

You accomplish this with an automated email sequence.  This is an automated sequence of emails that run as soon as a new lead joins your list. 

Now, let’s dive deeper into each of these 3 key elements. This will prepare you to get new leads onto your email list. 

How to set up your course sales funnel?

Step N1. Create Your Freebie

The perfect time to come up with this freebie is as soon as you have an idea for your online course and before you actually spend any time creating it. 

All in all, this is one of the surefire ways to validate whether there is a market for your new course

We all know creating online courses is time-intensive. It could potentially take 4-6 months.

Above all, the last thing you’d want is to spend all that time and energy on assuring there is no interest in your new course.

You can totally avoid this, if you first validate your course idea, by using a freebie around the topic of your course.

But how to come up with Freebies?

Overall, there are two ways to come up with the right freebie: 

  1. You could create a high level (10 foot view version) of your course. 
    • Touch on the pain points your online course solves
    • High level strategy or walk through of your solution taught inside your online course
    • And the outcome they’d get once they implement your promised solution
  2. Another way to do this is by brainstorming around other things your target audience needs to have in place, to position them for success, when they take your course. 

For example, let’s say you’re a website designer and you’re thinking about creating a course on “how to build your own business website”.

You could create a freebie on “how to write high performing web monitoring service”.

That’s something they’d need to know and have, to be positioned for the best outcome when they take your training & learn to set up their own website.

Now, if your course is already ready and launched, don’t sweat it! You can still reverse engineer this process and come up with a good freebie offer using the same 2 methods outlined above.

What are the best freebies ingredients?

In general, when you’re brainstorming around the topic of your freebie, you should make sure it meets these 3 criteria

  1. It’s related to your course topic – There should be a one-to-one correlation between the topic of your online course and the topic of your freebie
  2. It’s actionable – keep in mind that your ideal buyer is NOT looking for information. Information is FREE, and only a Google or YouTube search away. 

    So don’t waste your time by trying to stuff information into this freebie. You’re going to accomplish nothing, except leaving a bad taste in your prospect’s mouths.

    Instead you should make sure your freebie is actionable. Something they can take action on and get a small win.

    When they get a small win, they associate you with that win.

    And that’s exactly what you’re after. You want them to see that you’re the right person to help them solve their bigger problem or reach their bigger goal.
  3. It’s bite-sized- Again, as we just talked about, the goal of this freebie is to help them take action and get a small win.

    And ultimately associate you with that win.

    That’s how you’re going to increase their desire for your paid online course.

    If you make this freebie too massive to consume, such as a 100 page eBook or a 30 day challenge of some sort, you’re making it harder for them to consume it… preventing them from taking that action and getting the win that you’re after. 

Step N2. Build an Opt-in Page

The goal of this page is to present your freebie offer and have your prospective students enter their email addresses.

That’s it!

Above all, to give up their most personal information (email address), we need to give them a compelling reason to do so.

If they can identify themselves and their situation with what you’re offering and clearly see you have the solution to their ongoing struggle (as it relates to your freebie topic), there is a good chance they’d take you up on your offer. 

We can do that by making sure you’re communicating these 3 key points

Who is this freebie offer for?

This is typically the headline or title of your freebie landing page. Use this opportunity to tell them about the outcome they’re going to get from your freebie offer.

Or tell them what pain point your freebie is going to remove.

By doing that, you’re making it easy for them to see your freebie offer is exactly what they’ve been looking for.

What does your freebie offer help them do?

What is the solution they’re going to get? Is it going to help them write a better landing page copy? Impress their dinner guests with their fancy Napkin folds? Or learn which heirloom tomato grows best in their climate?

The key here is to stay away from being ambiguous. Be clear and straight to the point.

How does your freebie offer help them?

Tell them how you’re going to help them get that outcome or remove that pain point?
Is this a template they fill out? A guide they follow?

Or a series of video tutorials

I can’t stress enough: make sure the message and copy of this landing page is right to point.

Don’t try to get clever, especially with the headline.

And always remember this, clever means unclear!

Step N3. Create Your Email Sequence

As an online course creator, your email list will be one of your most valuable assets.

It’s going to be the differentiator between someone who once published a course, someone who’s a trusted brand with an engaged audience, and a variety of solutions (such as courses, services, programs, etc.) ready to help their tribe reach their goals & dreams.

While you’re creating your online course and building your audience, you also should nurture your new leads by consistently offering them value through a nurture email sequence. 

Nurture Email Sequence Outline

Here’s a quick outline of a nurture email sequence you can create:

  1. A welcome email: so they get those warm and fuzzy feelings and giving them the opportunity to get to know you better.
  2. A mix of value-added emails. Topics like:
    1. Small tips on how to solve a smaller problem related to the bigger problem your online course solves, 
    2. Or flip it and talk about reaching a smaller goal, as it relates to the bigger goal they’re trying to achieve
    3. update on your new online course (this builds anticipation and excitement) 
    4. best-practice tips & tools around your industry that’s related to your online course topic

You should also have an entire Course Launch Email Sequence ready before you hit the publish button on your new Online Course. 

This positions you for a stronger launch, lots of sales, and many great reviews and feedback

In general, you’d want to have at least 9-13 emails in your launch sequence. This is not overkilling at all. Keep in mind that your new subscribers might not see or even open every single email.

When you’re writing these emails for your launch sequence, make sure each email has a good balance between nurturing and selling.

Also, the last thing you want to do is write a bunch of emails that are just pitching your Online Course and asking them to buy.

That’s a surefire way of having them ignore the rest of your emails. 

If you don’t know how to go about this, I have an entire template you can grab below – walking you through each email. Just fill in the blank and you should have a high converting launch sequence ready to go in no time.

Why the Course Sales Funnel is the most solid Marketing Strategy to invest?

It’s true that creating a Course Sales Funnel takes time and energy. 

But, I guarantee it’s time well spent.

And the bonus?

Following this strategy ensures the more courses you create, the more subscribers you add to your email list.  

This means every launch gets easier!

And, as time goes on, you spend your time doing what you love, which helps your audience, instead of a hustling day in and day out trying to sell your offers.  

If you want to have a thriving business, then a course sales funnel should be upfront and center in your marketing strategy


This is a guest blog post written by Eli Natoli

Eli Natoli is the founder of Service First Marketing. She is the author of “Service First Framework: My not-so-secret secret to thriving as an entrepreneur”. Eli’s unique approach to strategic, service-first marketing has enrolled more than 120,000 students into her training programs.

A waiting list landing page is not enough!

Experienced marketers will advise you to start building a list prior to launching. Why? Because they know that an email list is a gold and that building an audience will take time, so might as well you start doing as from day one.

EarlyParrot managed to collect 600 emails prior to having an MVP to show off and over a 1,000 emails by the time we launched our BETA program. So, if are thinking about whether it is worth it to start asking for emails think again!

Hotjar managed to build a 60,000 email list prior to launching is yet another example of why you should focus on building an email list.

Creating a waiting list landing page is a good start but it is not enough!

Most stop there. They build an awesome page, maybe throw in an explainer video and capture emails. Once someone inputs their email, they will find a dead end and will have to wait indefinitely until the time is ripe for the founders to launch.

But it should not be the case. Those who took the step and gave you consent to notify them about your launch are truly interested in what you are baking. They want to be involved, want to know more about how they can help out. Building a wall and hold these raving fans on the other side, with no visibility on what is being created is foolish, to say the least.

Turn their energy in your favour…

How likely is it that these early adopters are:

  • well connected?
  • willing to share on social media?
  • in contact with someone who will be interested in what you are doing?
  • future business partners who already see the potential in your company?
  • willing to write about what you are doing as part of their job?

The opportunities are endless and by just letting them wait endlessly, you are simply fighting off the momentum you are working very hard to build. Offering an easy way for your early adopters to share the news about your business within their network is the add-on that each and every waiting list launch page should have.

This is referral marketing and you can achieve that by integrating a referral marketing platform

I can already hear your questions why this cannot be done. I keep answering these questions during our free referral marketing consultation calls

Why would anyone refer my business which is yet to launch?

Reasons can vary. People feel smart when they are among the first to know about something new. Early adopters also feel great if they can recommend a solution to someone’s problem. On top of that, people love to try out new things and share new ideas, let alone if you are giving that extra incentive (a reward) for sharing your business.

I haven’t launched yet, what can I give out as a reward?

Very easy! You will be amazed by how your early adopters will appreciate minute rewards such as early access/priority access, VIP status when you launch or simply go on a call and ask them for their feedback. You can lock a lifetime discount too if you already have a plan on how much you will charge for your new product or service.

I don’t have time to handle a referral program

You shouldn’t. Your time is best spent getting feedback and building an MVP. We will help you handle referrals.

How many will share my business? Is it worth it?

Like everything else, there is a conversion rate. Not everyone will be interested in sharing on social media and not everyone will send email invites to their friends. You experience 10%-12% of your early adopters to recommend at least 3-4 new subscribers. These are averages – some do better some do worst!

The Lifetime Deal (LTD) fallacy

How are we going to get customers to pay to cover our costs and generate a profit?

One of the biggest challenges (since there are many more) that every business has to face is customer acquisition and revenue generation.

Starting an online business is relatively easy, especially if you already have the technical expertise. You can get a head start with existing open source technology to hack a solution but eventually, you still have to convince others to pay for your solution. This is where most businesses stagnate and spend most of their time and effort, as mind you, it is not an easy feat.

Even if you have done all the necessary research and market validation, even if you have started building a list prior to coming up with an MVP, even if you have discussed your solution with hundreds (literally) of potential clients prior to having a fully working prototype, it is still difficult to break into a market and get a constant feed of customers who are willing to pay for the SaaS you have built.

Why is it difficult to acquire new customers?

      1. There is a lot going on online – there is a lot of noise online. It is very easy to get buried under the ton of content generated daily. Basically, you will end up preaching to yourself or only to the converted.
      2. Competition – For one problem there are possibly tens or even hundreds of solutions competing for the same pool of potential customers. Most of the time potential customers won’t pick the best solution BUT the solution which is known to them or to their network.
      3. Budget restrictions – Some business (especially new ones) do not afford to spend thousands in online advertising with no guarantees on the returns! One mistake and their business will get blown away!

….and various others. Please feel free to add more in the comments section.

Lifetime Deal – the cure!

One promising solution to all of the above problems is the Lifetime Deal or in short LTD!

A lifetime deal is when a SaaS does a limited promotion offering a lifetime access for a fixed price. Usually, for a month’s worth, a user can have a lifetime access to a particular SaaS. Needless to say, such promotion will create a lot of buzz, especially when such a deal is promoted by influencers or platforms such as AppSumo and/or other similar communities.  Such platforms can take you from ZERO revenue to a SIX figure revenue in under a week! For SaaS founders this is intriguing and rest assured I, as a SaaS founder, was intrigued!

Lifetime Deal – the simple logic!

After talking to various SaaS founders in my network who have been through the process of offering a LTD on various platforms, I got to know the following:

      • you will get hundreds (and in some cases even over 2000) deals sold in days.
      • you will get a spike in customers. For some founders, it was very difficult to keep up with support tickets and feature requests.
      • you will get customers who buy a SaaS LTD with the intention of reselling it later on.
      • you will get customers who do not need the SaaS at the moment but might need it in the future (FOMO).

After a busy launch, founders are happily smiling with a fat cheque:

Number of deals sold X a month’s worth of SaaS plan

1500 deals X $49


Lifetime Deal – the full logic!

Life is never simple! So are Lifetime deals! After further consideration and even yet more consultations with SaaS founders in my network, the real and full picture of a lifetime also includes the following:

      • With hundreds of raging customers all pushing their feature requests
      • Close to ZERO customers who are willing to upgrade to a subscription plan, even if the LTD plan is well planned ahead to be restrictive
      • Very few customers who are willing to refer others on a monthly paid plan
      • Platforms such as AppSumo charge up to 70% of the generated revenue, hence in the above example founders are left with a mere $22,050 from $73,500

Lifetime Deal – the fallacy

Even though a lifetime deal launch will generate revenue and acquire customers, after careful consideration of:

      • the hours spent to prepare for such a lifetime deal launch
      • the hours spent into supporting lifetime deal customers both during and post-launch
      • the resources such as hosting, software requirements and most importantly human resources you need to support lifetime deal buyers for life

you will end up with a net loss for each deal sold. This means, that the more deals are sold during a lifetime deal the more loss you will make in the long run. I haven’t yet met a SaaS founder who has put a LTD together and proved to me that it was worth the effort and generated a profit in the long run. If you are such a SaaS founder please come forward! I want to meet you!