Creating & Using Free Courses To Promote Your Membership Website | by Nick James, The Internet Business Coach

There are so many good reasons why you should give away free courses to promote whatever you’re selling. Giving things away free is one of the best ways of selling something. Crazy but true!

But why, you might ask, should your freebie be a course? Well that’s the really clever bit! Because a course is something that you can deliver over a period of weeks or days. Most marketing experts agree that your customer has to be exposed to your sales message at least seven or so times (opinions vary) before they will buy. So using a course much, much better than just a free eBook download etc. is a very good way to increase your exposure, pass the ‘lucky seven’ mark and make your sale.

A few years ago, giving away a course would have cost you money – with all that paper, printing, postage, admin, and so on. Today you can do it at next to no cost once you’ve set it all up by delivering it all automatically by e-mail.

Before you get started on putting together the actual course, take a few moments to plan it all out. How many lessons, parts, or units are you going to have? And how long should each be?

When you’re thinking about this, bear in mind your freebie course needs to be good enough to impress your prospect. It needs to give them that nice warm glow you get when you receive something for free and realise it is genuinely good. And put them in the right frame of mind to actually subscribe to your website, or buy your product. But it mustn’t be so good – or give them so much usable information – that your prospect feels they don’t need to buy whatever you’re selling. In many ways it’s a very fine line to tread. So it’s worth spending some time getting it right.

As a very general guide I would say that your freebie course should be at least five parts long – but no more than ten. It doesn’t necessarily need to be seven. Think about how many other times your customer is exposed to your message to make up the ‘lucky seven’. Each part needs to be at least 500 (ideally 1,000) words long. But there’s no hard and fast rule here. Play around with it to find what works best for you.

So next, how do we actually put together our freebie course?

  • Write it from scratch. If you haven’t already read them, there are loads of other articles on covering writing courses.
  • Have a look on the Internet to see what existing courses you could buy – or even copy for free.
  • The very best option, of course, if you already have an existing course is simply to distil this down into a free version. Now this is very, very clever. Just a couple of hours on a word processor, cutting and pasting, chopping and changing. And you can have your very own freebie course that will dramatically boost sales of your paid-for products, all made from little more than thin air!

What I would recommend you to do when you’re creating your freebie course is to use a bit of simple marketing psychology. Remember at the end of the day we’re using this product to sell stuff and make money. We don’t really want to be in the business of giving too much great information away!

  • A good way of doing this is to ‘cripple’ your freebie course ever so slightly. This is a technique that’s very common in the world of computer shareware or freeware. Take out the really meaty stuff – facts, figures, examples, case histories, tables, illustrations, links, and any useful addresses and further contacts.
  • Use lots of endorsements, sprinkled liberally throughout your freebie course. These get your prospect interested in, and direct them towards, your paid-for product. But remember: an endorsement shouldn’t be a blatant ad for your membership website or other product. If your prospect feels they are being sold hard it could make them less likely to buy. That’s the worst thing you can do. So make sure your endorsements are fairly subtle.
  • Good tip: Be sure to include a helpful little link in most if not all of your endorsements. So readers can get signed up for your site (or buy whatever else you’re offering) with minimum effort.

Once you’ve created your freebie course, try a simple acid test: Check it through carefully. Think about it from the recipient’s point of view.

If you signed up for your own free course and it arrived in your inbox, what would you think? If it would get you hitting the ‘delete’ button after one or two parts then you obviously need to go back to the drawing board. What you ideally want is a freebie course that’s so good, so enthralling, so compelling that your recipients actually look forward to receiving it. That will get them clicking links, signing up, and spending their money like crazy!

Sending out a freebie course is (or should be) simple enough: All you need to do is bung it on an autoresponder so that it is delivered, at regular intervals, on ‘autopilot’ with no extra work for you to do. You can send your course either in the body of the e-mail, as plain text, HTML, or as a PDF attachment. If it’s short, try and send it in the body of an e-mail if possible. Some people don’t like downloading files so, this way, more people will read it.

I would suggest that the first part of your course is delivered immediately once your prospect signs up. The next ones should be delivered either at daily intervals, or once every 4-5 days. I wouldn’t recommend sending more than one part per day. But, similarly, don’t make them wait more than a month to get the entire course. If you do, chances are, they will have gone ‘off the boil’ as hot prospects by then.

Now one last very important thing: Don’t overlook the marketing of a free course. Don’t assume that just because it’s free (and good, I hope) people will be queuing to sign up for it. They won’t. You need to encourage, persuade and even sledgehammer them into it! So make a big, prominent splash on your home page pushing your free course with a simple one-click subscription box to make signing up easy. Better still, try using a squeeze page, or some kind of subtle popup or popover. This makes it very difficult for visitors to your site to ‘forget’ to sign up for your freebie. And once they have – well – you’re well on the way to making another sale, all from something you give away free!