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So, you’re thinking about adding an evergreen funnel to your online business? This blog post will be covering some of the main considerations and case studies about what I’ve seen work in my business along with some trial and errors I’ve made. Keep in mind, these thoughts aren’t meant to make sweeping generalizations about what will or won’t work in your business. Overall, creating and selling courses requires a lot of up front work and a bit of determination and testing to figure out the models and methods that work best for you, your personality, and lifestyle.
By in large, tripwires have been the most successful evergreen funnel that I’ve created. By tripwire, I’m referring to a limited time discount coupon which is applied immediately upon someone entering in through a free lead magnet, normally something relatively similar in topic to the paid digital course, product, or digital download. I’ve had tripwires ranging in price between $7-$97 and many of them have sold fairly well.
The main consideration when creating a tripwire is to consider your traffic source. I’ve worked hard over the last few years to create “free traffic sources” which cover a variety of social media channels. Most of my traffic to my “funnel” is organic reach, although I’ve played around with paid traffic sources including Google Ads and Facebook ads. Below is an example of my breakdown of paid, social, organic, and direct traffic. By in large, I don’t use paid traffic sources, I generally rely on organic social media growth – which does take time.
I’m going to try to breakdown some of the bigger upticks in traffic that I’ve received which then resulted in either “brand awareness”, “increased subscribers”, or “paid or organic sales conversions”.
When students enrolled in a bundle, they often went on to purchase additional limited time discounted courses and programs. So even though I contributed to a bundle and wasn’t directly compensated – I was compensated through providing additional products and bump offers to potential customers.
Back in November and December 2020, I participated in two bundles which meant that a bunch of different course creators contributed their paid products into one giant “bundle” for a one low-cost price. The biggest benefit from this was that I increased my email list by about several hundred new people in a very short time. I also had a lot of new compliments from prospective course customers, which was awesome! Many of these prospective course customers, then went on to purchase other digital products from me.
Some unexpected challenges that came from participating from the bundle included:
- People unsubscribing to my email list after subcribing to my course
- My course platform charging a fee “per student” once I surpassed a threshold of enrolled students.
- Another unexpected benefit and new challenge was working with new subscribers that were from many different parts of the world. This made coordinating virtual events and time zones a new and interesting benefit and challenge.
Hosting a Summit
I’ve participated in many different summits as a speaker over the years, but this year in 2021 – I attempted to host my own summit. I planned the summit and hosted it within about 30 days. I had about 10ish speakers join me live on Facebook, Clubhouse, and Youtube which I streamed into my facebook group.
Hosting the summit gave me bigger visibility because I encouraged speakers to participate in the summit and contribute a bundle with their own digital course or product. I offered an affiliate commission for about 40% if someone referred a prospective course customer.
Benefits: I increased my subcribers by about 200 new people, but had a big drop-off of subscribers when I started promoting my bundle. My engagement within my Facebook group, page, and Instagram increased about 11%, but seemed to drop off right after the summit. One of the biggest long-term benefit was that I revived and increased subscribers to my Youtube Channel which proved to be the greatest benefit since I’ve made several referral commission sales from programs that I use and that I recommend. I also had several bundle sales and one of my clients benefited from seeing me host a summit.
Challenges: If I were to do it over again, I would have planned my summit much more in advance. I tried planning within 30 days, but this resulted in me working long hours writing emails and promotional graphics. I was also travelling two weeks prior to the summit being hosted. This resulted in me feeling stressed trying to figure out the tech and worrying about everything being done before the summit started. I may decide to host a summit in the future, but I think I would prefer to host it as a paid summit/ conference, running ads weeks in advance to get people to register – and then allowing speakers to prepare a slide deck.
Hosting a Bootcamp or Challenge
Challenges have been a great topic of discussion in some of my Facebook groups that I’m in, but I want to share with you some considerations and results that I’ve seen.
Challenges and bootcamps when free are a good list builder if you’re just starting out, but I believe that you’ll benefit more from charging a flat rate fee for participants, at least until you’ve run the challenge/ bootcamp once before.
Back in February 2021, I ran a challenge called Love Your Webinar Challenge. I didn’t run any ads for it, mostly because the challenge was brand new and I didn’t know if it would convert well for me. I hosted each of the trainings live via Zoom for free, but found that most people didn’t want to attend live and preferred to watch the trainings. I did not stream the videos into my Facebook group, but hosted the replays on my website. People responded really well to the challenge, and a few went on to attempt to create their own webinar as a result of the challenge. At the end of the bootcamp, I did pitch my larger course or program, and most people seemed interested – but I didn’t have as many signups as I had hoped. The following two weeks, I promoted my full masterclass to prompt my larger program: Wondrous Webinars. This resulted in sales and I did incorporate Facebook ads. One of the biggest objections I faced was cost – and so I think if I were to do it again – I would charge for the challenge.
In August 2021, I ran a live free bootcamp and at the end of the bootcamp I marketed my membership – which did result in a good mount of new sign-ups for my membership. It also increased my email open rates and significantly decreased unsubscribes.
Paid challenges: One of the paid challenges I originally created was my 5 Day Course Creation Challenge. Some people were a bit confused why this challenge was “on-demand”, but on the whole – most people responded well to it. I also think that if you decide to host a challenge and you’re doing it for the first time – you can do it for free – and then charge for on-demand access.
Here’s an example of a breakdown of how each of the services and masterclasses that I’ve created have resulted in bookings or sales. A few of these numbers have gone up in sales and some of the products or programs have since been retired.
I’ve played around with running live webinars and evergreen webinars, and I have seen that for the most part, live webinars convert much better (at least for me). In December 2019, I created my own on-demand Masterclass called “12 Mistakes New Course Creators Make and How to Avoid Them“.
Over the years, I’ve found that live webinars are fantastic – especially if you can get people to show-up. Unfortunately the flip side is that you’ll need to create a time that most people can attend, and if your email subscribers come from largely different parts of the globe – this can be tricky.
Evergreen webinars often do increase my subscriber list, and result in people purchasing lower priced digital courses or programs. I think in large live launches with webinars are much more effective (as long as you have a good organic/paid traffic) source encouraging people to sign-up. Webinars are also great to run with affiliate marketing campaigns, but many other business owners need a good deal of advance notice before they decide to participate in a webinar launch.
Open and Closed Cart Courses
Over the years, I’ve created new digital products and courses. Sometimes these courses are open and available on -demand, but I often find that “live launches” often result in better enrollments. This often requires a set period of promotional period window, and often incorporates longer periods of planning including prepping promotional marketing campaigns on social media (organic or paid) and creating email marketing campaigns to go out in advance.
One challenge of “always open” memberships and courses is that if you have a set monthly curriculum, people will sometimes stumble into the program and feel stuck like they need to catch up with the material. This can result in feeling frustrated with the program, because they didn’t start on the same page as some that have benefited from curriculum delivered live. I like to incorporate some sort of pre-recorded orientation for my membership, mastermind, and some courses. This allows students to identify their starting point and choose with course/curriculum that will help them, based on what they’re struggling with/trying to learn. With some of my courses, I also include an “onboarding email sequence” which gives new customers a step by step path to work through the content – and provides given prompts to review certain lessons based on where I’ve seen students struggle through content in the past.
Running Course Sales
Running a sale on your courses are a great way to boost your income, especially when you don’t have the time or engery to create something new. In October 2020, I ran a sale during Halloween called “Spooky Spectacular” – I didn’t incorporate affiliates into my marketing, but I made a few sales on products that hadn’t been sold in awhile. I’ve incorporated digital product sales into my business and I’ll admit I don’t always have them planned much in advance. The exception however is during holiday sales periods including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Years.
Additional Reading and Resources:
Waitlist Vs. Presale
Some folks really enjoy creating waitlists for a new course or program. I think this might work very well for larger signature courses or high-ticket services. If you like to plan things in advance and have a team and finances to invest in a larger course launch, then I think a waitlist is effective in building up an audience who is at least vaguely interested in what you have to sell.
Personally, I find that I’m very impatient with launching new things. I like to develop and create content quickly and see the result first hand from my efforts. This is why I’ve adopted a presale approach to selling courses and programs. This often involves me creating the Minimum Viable Product, and then selling the program and adding content to the course over time. This also leads to less effort on my part to create something, and more emphasis on creating content that my audience will find useful.
Additional Reading & Resources:
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Working With Affiliates
Affiliates are a great way to boost your revenue for your course, without having to pay for paid marketing campaigns. I often find that guest interviews from podcasts are effective enough to encourage new signups for your email list as well as promote a paid product or course. I often find that my customers are my first affiliates, then peers or colleagues that I meet at conferences, and lastly new people that I meet inside of social media groups like Facebook groups. It’s much better in my opinion to work with someone that I know, like, and trust, than to work with a stranger that knows nothing about me or my business.
Additional Resources & Trainings:
Managing a Paid Community
Fostering a thriving paid community takes a lot of planning and support. In 2020, I did have some paid admin team members helping me create social media graphics and managing some communication for emails. However since late 2021, I’ve been operating as a solo business owner. My husband sometimes helps me review my business finances and I do have an accountant, but for the most part I do all of the marketing and business development. I may hire someone in the future to help me with admin, but I actually enjoy speaking with and supporting my community members.
Paid Facebook groups: I’ve tried a variety of ways to communicate with paying course customers, but it seems that Facebook groups are amongst the easiest and cheapest to use. My membership, The Business of Courses does incorporate a Facebook group where I post weekly trainings about upcoming and current trends in digital marketing for course creators. I also share monthly templates for Canva and Googe Documents for folks that want to plan out their marketing or create a new course.
New Content: One of the reasons I decided to go with a membership was because I realized that I wanted to focus on long-term support and development for my folks that joined. I really didn’t enjoy having to spend time launching a new product, supporting the customers for a short period, and then suddenly they were left with only what was in the course- and not the entire larger picture. I rather enjoyed having the space and creativity to create new content based off of what was pressing at the moment and existing trends.
Course customers often may feel more inclined to stay for a longer period when new courses or trainings are provided each month or quarter.
Pricing & refunds: I think it’s important to consider your profits when creating your pricing, but also realizing what someone is willing to pay. It’s a balancing act, but for memberships I’ve found offering monthly has worked more effectively and then offering an annual discount. For larger signature courses, I have also found that monthly payment plans are more effective than one-time payment options. All of my digital courses and programs have refund policies, normally within 7-14 days of purchase. I have a less than 1% refund policy for all the courses I’ve sold, and I believe it’s been I’m fairly communicative about the refund policies on the sales page and also try to support my students once they buy.
For failed payments, I’ll try to reach out manually to people to see if they wanted to continue access to my program. Most times it’s a financial situation, so I’ve worked out a payment plan specifically for them, or ended the membership if they weren’t able to continue the membership because of a time/financial commitment.
Onboarding calls & incentives: For both my membership and group mastermind, I include an onboarding call. I also found that offering an incentive to join and participate has resulted in better engagement with the overall course. Some incentives I include in my membership include getting featured on Facebook/ website/newsletter. I’ve also inclued salespage audits, podcast and youtube features for completing course content or sharing their review.
Additional Resources & Reading: