Ecourses: What they are and how to create one

I’ve been running ecourses for several years — mostly for my clients but sometimes for the brands I own (like the free course at GraphiteInvesting.com).

One of my clients heard me reference this ecourse and she asked me for a quick primer on what an ecourse is and whether it might benefit her business. The email I wrote her was long and after writing it, I thought I’d paste it here. I’ve made a few changes to make it a little more general for all audiences (instead of specific to her business).

DEFINITIONS

The definitions are (in my opinion) a little fuzzy but GENERALLY fall into the following two categories:

  • Ecourses are usually courses delivered by email
  • Online courses are usually courses delivered in a learning system that the student signs in to

These aren’t official definitions but fairly common practice. So the courses I’m talking about today are ones delivered through email.

The best kind of email course is one that you write and set up to send at regular intervals in a sequence starting the day someone signs up. The software to deliver these ecourses are sometimes called autoresponders. The advantage of using this system is that you only have to create the course once and then it gets delivered in the same order to your students, regardless of when they sign up.

HOW LONG SHOULD THE ECOURSE BE?

Courses should have a definite number of lessons or number of days. I have always been a fan of doing a 10 – 12 email course over 20 days, so you’re sending an email about once every 2 days or so. There are other configurations (shorter, longer, greater frequency of emails, lesser frequency of emails) but I really like the 10 emails/20 days configuration.

Some practical observations: If you decide to make your course shorter, I wouldn’t make it shorter than 5 days. If you decide to make your course longer, I wouldn’t make it longer than 30 days. You can if you want but I think courses that are too short will not feel like courses, while courses that are too long will lose their allure after about week #3 or week #4 (depending on how frequently you send emails).

HOW DO YOU DELIVER THE ECOURSE?

Go to Google and type in “autoresponder system” or “email marketing system”. That’s the easiest and most straightforward way to go. Don’t run a course from your personal email. I use Aweber; I’ve used Streamsend; I have clients who use ConstantContact. There are others but these are good.

In Aweber, I go in and create a “Followup email” (they might be called something different in other systems), I add the lesson, and then I set email to be sent a specific number of days after the previous message. So in the GraphiteInvesting ecourse I mentioned earlier, I have the first lesson going out on day 0. Then the second lesson going out 2 days later. Then the third lesson going out 2 days after the second lesson, etc. That way, it doesn’t matter when someone subscribes, they will always be on that sequence.

THE BIG QUESTION #1: WHY ECOURSES?

An ecourse is a great way to build your business because people will give you their email address in exchange for the course. Then you send them the ecourse and you have quickly and easily built your list to market to them later. It’s simple and very cost effective.

THE BIG QUESTION #2: FREE OR PAID?

I get this question a lot. “Should I offer a free email course or a paid one?” Free courses allow you to build your list more quickly; paid courses bring in revenue.

I think: If you are already a credible authority on a topic who gets a bunch of traffic to your site, then try a paid ecourse. People will pay because they trust you already.

But for most of us (me and maybe you, too), we don’t yet have that level of credible authority and we are competing against many other people who offer free ecourses. So my advice is usually this: Start with a free ecourse. Get people putting their email into your system. (You’ll get more people responding because it’s free). Then market to them afterwards — offer the paid ecourse you want to offer; offer your books, coaching, seminars, whatever. You’ll have more people to market to if you start with a free course… and they’ll be more likely to buy because you’ve spent some time building your credibility with them.

WHAT SHOULD MY ECOURSE BE ABOUT?

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll give you a few ideas and I’ll talk about some specific audiences that I write for.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.

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