Get 100s of new subscribers in 1 month with an email course

Here is an approach I’m using to unlock my old blog posts from the dusty “archive” and organize them in a way to give more value to my readers – and convert them to subscribers in far less time than writing new content.

This post answers this week’s Startup Edition question, “Why do you write?”

As our blogs grow their value decreases

Remember the last time you took a few hours to peruse the “archive” of a blog you discovered? Yeah, right! Me neither.

Let’s face it – our best content is getting moldy & lonely because blogs don’t provide a great way to get older content in front of people. I’ve answered most common Customer Develop questions entrepreneurs ask on my startup help calls somewhere in my blog – unfortunately even I can’t find the right post half of the time. No wonder I constantly hear, “Kevin, I love your writing but I don’t know where to start.” If your blog has more than 20 posts I guarantee your visitors experience the same frustration.

Blogging is great because it is unstructured (from a time perspective). Each Sunday morning I can sit down and share whatever I’ve learned. Unfortunately ……….. this flexibility comes at at cost – it presumes the readers have a base level of knowledge. If you start meeting them regularly you’ll learn that 99% of them are at step 0.

Email “courses” unlock the value in the archive

I’ve found a way to overcome this problem with “drip” email courses – I’m writing ~10 emails organized as a “course” based on my old posts and then sending to subscribers every couple of days (thus….drip..drip..)

Finally I can give my fellow entrepreneurs a packaged product to teach them how to do something instead of lobbing random snippets of information at them. Instead of saying “go back and read that thing I wrote about interview questions” I can point them to a resource to provide the whole context. And since hundreds of have subscribed in the past 2 weeks my readers obviously agree with me.

The emails don’t take long to write because you already know what you want to say – plus you can test the idea before writing a single one.

How I’m organizing my blog archive into courses

Step 1 – Identify your old content and develop a “course”

Browse through you blog archive and identify a common theme. Read through your old posts again – what are you trying your readers to do? And who are they? For me this was a no-brainer – most of my writing this past year has been about how to do Customer Development for the entrepreneurs building web and mobile products.

But don’t do anything yet! First test whether your readers care.

Step 2 – Get a landing page and let them opt-in

Your course topic might not be a no-brainer – you may have to test out a few ideas with a landing page.  Here is my landing page for Beginning Customer Development. I also created a page that lists all my courses.

Since I already know there is huge demand for Customer Development content I wanted to test the interest in the email course – in other words, I wanted to test whether it was worth my time or if I should just keep blogging. Here was the result from a few days of visitors who stumbled upon it from the courses page.

conversion percentage

42% – ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME???!!!

Obviously 42% conversion is skewed by the small number. Nonetheless, a handful of people sent me a unambiguous message – “Dear Kevin: get off your butt and start writing”.

Step 3 – Get a “drip email” tool

I wish I could offer a comparison of various options but I am biased towards Nathan Barry’s ConvertKit because he taught me how to do this.

Some people use Autoresponders in MailChimp but since Nathan converted me to a True Fan I prefer to pay him.

Step 4 – Get an writing application

I tried a few different tools:

  • Writing on ConvertKit directly – ok, but doing it over the web is too slow.
  • Microsoft Word – faster but versioning with HTML was painful.
  • TextMate – better since I already use it for programming but terrible for organizing
  • Scrivener – far and away the best option.

After a few emails I got into a rhythm writing in MarkDown syntax in Scrivener and then converting to HTML to paste into ConvertKit. By far the best option because Scrivener also has tools to organize my notes, blog posts, etc.

(I don’t have the space here to go into details but I’ll include them in my newsletter email this week – scroll down to subscribe if you’re interested. If there is sufficient interest I’ll do a blog post on it early next year.)

Step 5 – Outline the lessons

Scrivener makes this easy – just take your posts and organize them into a natural timeline. Add a few other email courses to fill in the holes – obviously these are great sources of future blog posts

scrivener_notes

Step 6 – Write your first 3 lessons & then start the course

On my first course I made the mistake of starting it as soon as I had 1 lesson written – I figured I would just stop if nobody opened it. But what I’ve since realized is that I needed to write a few of them to figure out how to organize the first one. So now I write the first 3 and kick things off.

If your email open rate is >25% you’re on the right track and should continue. My first one had open rates of 40%–65%, well above industry averages.

Step 7 – Finish the lessons & revise

Once you’ve guaranteed interest go ahead an finish the course.

Sure, like all writing it takes time, but writing these 10 emails is much faster than writing 10 new blog posts – and I guarantee you’ll get more subscribers from it.

Need help planning your email course?

As always…I’m here to help answer any questions about this topic or anything else related to your startup. Just make some time to chat during one of my Startup Help calls

Photo Credit: Stefanvds(.com)

3 Comments

  1. Stuart Brameld (@StuartBrameld) November 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    really useful, thanks

  2. Till December 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Your copy is amazing!!

  3. Themba Mkandla August 31, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    Very useful guidelines, I will adopt them for my course on bankable business planning

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