Jane Doe decides to create an online course. She’s seen online courses promising everything from how to grow beautiful orchids, to how to home-school effectively, make your own pickles, or learn business bookkeeping, and she’s up for it.

She’s participated in several courses, bought many more she hasn’t used, and loves the idea of adding a passive income stream to her consulting business.

Jane invests time and effort into putting her course together on how to sell your advice online. She hires a videographer and rents a studio to film in. She enrols her graphic designer to make her worksheets attractive. And, after pulling her hair out, hires a copywriter to write her copy and build out an email funnel.

Nine months later, and $10,000 down, she’s ready. It’s time to market her course.

So what happens next? Not much. Having begged and pleaded with friends, family and her closest clients to help spread the word, she’s enrolled two clients – one at a significant discount, and one who she’s already working with. She’s $9500 in the red already, and exhausted before she’s even started.

There is a better way to launch your flagship program or online course. A more profitable, simple, and easier way.

It might provoke some skeletons in your closet, preaching at you to always cross your ‘T’s and dot your ‘I’s, but you can put these skeletons to rest, I promise, once your bank balance reflects a successful online course launch.

Begin at the end

The first thing I do when I want to create something new is to publish a preliminary sales page. This process – which I teach inside my Hustle & Heart program as well as inside our Leverage Mastermind – helps me begin with the end in mind.

By publishing the preliminary sales page first, while the idea is still nascent, I need to get out of my head and into the heads of my ideal clients. The preliminary sales page – as short as just a few paragraphs – helps me clarify what problem, issue, worry or inconvenience I’m solving for people. It also outlines the end stage – the transformation that they’re longing for.

By beginning with the end in mind, I’m modeling the future my ideal clients most want to see – and testing the water to see if they find this appeal strong enough to warrant registering their interest on the page.

Front-and-centre with your ideal clients

As business owners, we’re not just creating for the joy of it; we’re creating for a distinct group of people – our ideal clients. That group of people have specific challenges that they’re actively seek help with. They want concrete outcomes and they know they have lots of options to choose between.

There are many ways to solve a problem. Your method is not only competing against other, similar methods, but also against alternate methods.

If I want to improve my self-confidence at work, I could hire an executive coach, or even a coach who specialised in confidence. But I could also join Toastmasters, take an acting course, join a martial arts centre, or speak with a therapist.

By starting with our preliminary sales page, we’re putting our ideal clients front-and-centre.

We’re actively testing the market every time we promote the page and ask for attention. If the preliminary sales page is failing to excite people, we need to tweak our messaging, interview our ideal clients, or go back to the drawing board.

Front-and-centre with your difference

One of the major reasons why online courses, programs, memberships and service packages fail to sell is that they’re same-same-not-different. The creator hasn’t sufficiently differentiated how they’re different and why we should care.

The sales page lacks some essential information that defines and differentiates:

  • The values or philosophy that the business stands for;
  • What’s missing from other mainstream options – without dissing your competition – and why this is important for your audience;
  • How your past experience and expertise is relevant to your offering and why people should care;
  • Your signature system and why it’s relevant to your audience;
  • A deep understanding of your ideal clients’ specific situations.

Your ability to empathise with, and graphically describe the particular, specific circumstances that your ideal clients are grappling with, does two things: it differentiates you from your competitors who are using jargon, hackneyed language and broad generalisations that say blah blah blah; and it builds trust.

Your sales page calls out your ideal clients in vivid detail. By painting pictures in people’s mind, you’re harnessing their gut desires to change their situation.

Open up!

A radical change – one of many! – has happened in business over the last 20 years. Business is no longer conducted by closed doors, with the audience in the dark until the marketing campaign is good and ready to launch.

Nowadays, the most progressive and exciting companies are co-opting their audiences to grow, hand-in-glove.

User-generated content, social media recruitment campaigns, competitions, and other collaborative moves works to demonstrate that a company cares, enables changes to be tested before they’re implemented, makes customers and clients feel seen, heard and valued, and creates buy-in before something is available to purchase.

So when an online course, program or membership is open for enrolment? People are signed up, ready, excited and waiting to buy.

Writing your sales page BEFORE you create your online course, program or membership can feel premature. It could even feel foolhardy to speak about something which is still in development, or barely conceived.

But it’s actually far riskier to do things the old way. By leaving marketing last, our audience is struggling to catch on with the new thing you’ve just launched. Which means a lot of work ahead to communicate why they should buy.

We don’t go ahead and create work for potential clients on spec. We don’t write a marketing plan for a company before we send them a proposal. We write the proposal first, then when the client accepts, we proceed with writing the marketing plan.

First define before you create

It doesn’t matter how self-evidently awesome your work is, if you can’t sell your courses, packages, memberships or programs, it’s all a bit pointless.

Before we create something, we need to define it. This is done through our sales page. By focusing first on our sales page, we are creating for someone, not simply because we want to. Our sales page communicates our online course’s relevance and benefit to the world. It is the one place through which your future clients must travel in order to experience the value of your work.

The words you use to sell are important. Not any old word will do. Words make meaning. They provoke, inspire, cajole, assure, or beckon.

Your sales page – live and out there in the world wide web – is your first step to defining your online course or flagship program to the world. Giving it focus and definition, and inviting people to engage, to test whether this is indeed, what your people want.