Insights from My First Course Pre-Sale
I recently went full time (beginning of 2017) working on my education business and, since then, I’ve gone through my first pre-sale. Below are a few of the lessons I learned — I hope you find some value from it and I look forward to reviewing this post in a few years.
A bit of back story before really diving in. I’ve been writing about React Native & Meteor for a bit over a year, seriously writing about it for ~9 months. In that time I thought about creating a guided course/book to be the single best source of information. I went so far as to create it (twice) and scrap it (twice) in that time. I wasn’t happy with the product and I was afraid to sell it.
When I went full time on this, in order to make it sustainable, I knew I had to sell and I knew that the sooner I got a quality product to market the sooner I could stop digging into savings.
My goal was to make 30 pre-sales. That’s it. I had a list of 884 people at the time that I was going to send it to. I thought that might be a bit of a stretch since I was expecting a ~1% conversion from my list, the goal I set was more like 3.4% conversion.
The course was going to be priced at $25 (about ~41% off of the final price) because I had nothing in it yet. It was a sales page, a curriculum outline, a proof of concept app, and a promise.
Since this was a pre-sale I determined that the only place I was going to sell to was my email list. I was doing this because they were people already familiar with my content and many of them had been patiently waiting for this course already.
I developed a short 4 email sequence (I use ConvertKit to manage my list) so that once it was started I couldn’t get cold feet and stop the sales process from going on (well I could have, but it was easier to let it run than it was to stop it).
Something else I decided on was that the pre-sale option would only be available for 1 week.
With those things in mind, this is what my pre-sale email sequence looked like.
- Email #1: Value add — I advocated for why I thought React Native & Meteor were a perfect match and linked to a popular post I wrote on the subject. I also briefly mentioned that tomorrow I would be opening up pre-orders for my new course but didn’t link to anything.
- Email #2: Course announcement — This email was basically a shortened version of the sales page (which was tailored specifically for people familiar with my content). It outlined benefits of pre-ordering versus waiting until the course was completed. Sent 1 day after the last email.
- Email #3: Quick email to remind them the course was open for pre-order and that it was a limited time offer. Sent 2 days after the last email.
- Email #4: Another short email that reminded the subscriber that the pre-sale was closing tomorrow. It outlined benefits of pre-ordering. Sent 1 day before pre-order close.
Beyond ConvertKit the other major tool I used in this process was Teachable which made hosting my course super easy (although code embedding is a pain).
Due to the integration available between ConvertKit and Teachable I was able to take anyone that bought the course out of the sales sequence and would note it on their profile in ConvertKit. I would then put them in a new sequence that would follow up with the student 2 weeks after purchase to see how things were going.
My system was simple but it was automated (which was a key for me to get over my fear of selling) and it all started on January 10 with the course being available from January 11–18. In the end I ended up with 152 sales in the pre-order, which vastly exceeded my expectations (by 506.67% to be exact).
It was a surreal experience. Below is a chart from Teachable showing the distribution of sales
Sales broke down as follows (approximately)
- Day 1: 48 (Announced course)
- Day 2: 20
- Day 3: 18 (Reminder about course)
- Day 4: 11
- Day 5: 7
- Day 6: 4
- Day 7: 23 (Sale closing tomorrow)
- Day 8: 21
A few things really stood out to me from this
- It’s fun. That first day was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
- A hard end date is effective. I had a few people ask to join afterwards, willing to pay, but I chose to respect the hard end date.
- Follow up emails work really well, the numbers don’t lie.
- Run the numbers on software. The plan I was on for Teachable ended up costing me a lot more in fees (percentage based) than if I would have just upgraded to the next plan level (higher monthly cost).
- I underpriced for the pre-sale. As much as I love the number of people who joined the course it shows that the value I was providing outweighed the price I was charging. Though I would rather provide more value at a lower price than the other way it’s still important to be in value-price balance.
- Writing full time can be exhausting. This happened after the pre-sale but in those ~2–3 weeks after where I was writing full time I was amazed at how mentally exhausted I was by the end of the day. I slept really well those few weeks.
- Proper planning makes things easy. I spent a little time upfront investing in the systems but they all worked without a hitch and made the funnel management free, allowing me to focus on customer service.
- Pre-orders are a great way to fund development. For the price I was selling at, number of sales I made, fees subtracted, the pre-order sales were able to cover about a month’s worth of my living expenses. Though not at my goal level of income it meant I didn’t have to dig into savings to cover expenses, which was a good feeling in month #1 of this business.
The course, Learn React Native + Meteor, is now completed and available for sale.
I’ve yet to do much of a marketing push on it yet (working on the systems) but writing this reflection gives me a few ideas that are worth testing.
I’ll also be experimenting a fair amount for this first course of mine — primarily leveraging email. If you’re interested in React Native & Meteor signing up for my email list is probably your best bet :)
Do you have any insights/suggestions on things to try in the future? I’m still very new to this game.