7 Ways to Build an Email List to Sell Your Online Course

Sinwan Zahid

Sinwan Zahid

Published on

August 9, 2021


You have created an online course and launched it as well. Now everyone, even the internet, is telling you to start using your email lists to convert and sell. But what if you don’t have one and how do you start building it?

Digital marketers talk up email marketing everyday, and for good reason. In a DMA, 2019 study it was reported that on every $1 spent on marketing emails, you can expect an average return of $42. The return on this investment, as compared to other digital channels, is massive. 

Hence, it comes as no surprise that to minimize costs and multiply conversions, email marketing is usually considered the best channel. But for that, you should know how to build an email list. 

An email list is a list of email addresses that are voluntarily given to you based on the value you’ve provided in some shape or form, and for which you have permission to send emails to. 

Emails can end up in your list in exchange for:

  • Blog and newsletter subscriptions
  • Freebie access
  • Past purchases

Email list building is quite frankly pretty simple. We make it difficult. 

Everyone, even big companies, start small. So without wasting time, let’s walk you through how to build an email list to sell your online course/s.

How to build an email list to increase sales and grow your course?

Emails are a fantastic way to connect with prospective learners and convert them into customers. They are also great for keeping past learners interested in you and your business when there is no new course to deliver.

Blue email envelope image indicating how email lists are grown
Source: WP ERP

Chances are this is your first online course, and as a beginner you might wonder how you could sell when the only people who support and read your newsletters are your grandmother, father and bestfriend. Well, that’s actually not a bad practice to start with. 

But the idea is to grow from there and reach more family and friends. Then move on to old classmates, and then professional connections. Test your readers - see what emails they’re opening, which ones they’re responding to by clicking on a button. 

You never know who among your immediate network you attract. Build upon this. 

In my consultations with several digital creators building recorded or live courses on Airschool, I always make it a point to talk about the importance of emails. They are often overlooked and underestimated - but it’s quite the opposite. More and more people are creating email addresses every year, currently at 4 billion users and estimated to be at 4.6 billion by 2025.

If you’re not collecting emails, you’re missing out on reaching a greater audience. 

1. Define your focus

Before you start off collecting email addresses, it’s important that you know what the email list will be used for, and how many ways you intend to use it. If you’re asking for an email address to give someone access to a free course toolkit, make sure that this specific list of emails is tagged and named to avoid confusion and mix-ups with other lists later on.

If a few days later you start emailing them about buying your course when they aren’t even at that part of their journey, they might think you’re selling upfront without forming a relationship. What they feel, in turn, can be classified as a turn off. Hence focus. 

2. Set up an email automation and marketing tool

In order to market online courses, it’s important that you have a system in place. If you start selling your course without having an email tool onboard, you could miss out on several opportunities to involve and engage people in your email campaigns. 

When you have a tool like Mailmunch onboard, any missed opportunities open up. An example of this could be setting up a form on your blog to collect leads. You give someone a free ebook in return for their email. They sign up and instantly go into the free ebook email list. 

Then an automated email, set previously by you, shoots out to them with the free ebook and a thank you note. Later on, you could use this same email, and several other email lists, to run email drip campaigns. 

How to set a sequence for email drip campaigns targeting your email lists


And so with your funnel automated, your email list starts to grow. Those interested sign up, those that aren’t, move on. And all this time you can monitor the progress as it updates right in front of you.

It’s safe to say, investing in an email automation and marketing tool like MailMunch saves money, a lot of time, and definitely your sanity.  

3. Create a lead magnet 

Lead magnets are baits that attract prospective customers and for which they trade in their email addresses. If you wish for people to give up their emails to you, they will require some incentive in return. 

Opt-in form offering a free course creation toolkit lead magnet in return for an email address

For this, start going through your blogs, resources, worksheets, and see what is unique and valuable, and would persuade people to sign up. Most people turn information like this into the following: 

  • E-books
  • Detailed guides
  • Templates
  • Webinars and free trials
  • Checklists, infographics, etc.
  • Free short courses 

People don’t allow themselves to be part of email campaigns just because it is free. They do it out of value, the kind of advice you provide, and the unique knowledge you offer. So make sure you check these boxes. Because if you fulfill these criteria, you will get quality leads in your email list.

4. Add forms and landing pages

An opt-in form is where you will make an offer and your leads will drop their email addresses. Together with your email marketing tool, opt-ins automatically collect emails and sort them into the intended email list. They can be embedded in articles, can pop up upon entry or exit to a page, they can even scroll up and down along with you. 

MailMunch campaign options for lead generation and email marketing

Moreover, if you want to create a dedicated landing page for an action, you can go through thousands of templates on MailMunch and select which landing page serves you best. If, let’s say, you plan to organize a webinar for your students - don’t go for the usual Google Form. 

Instead, make a personalized webinar landing page and redirect visitors to it. Tell them all the many aspects and benefits of your webinar. Illustrate its impact and importance. Use creative and powerful copy to convey your brand message, persuade like a pro in your call-to-actions, and get them to sign up for it.  

Lastly, if you’ve got a discount or offer to give out, make it fun! Try to gamify coupons by adding Spinwheels - you know you love them. Who, after all, can resist spinning a wheel and seeing what option they land on? 

Spinwheel and coupon options on MailMunch gamify the offer process

If you’re the center of your brand, use your visuals and write personalized messages to keep your audience engaged on your forms, landing pages, and coupons. You didn’t think 

5. Set up autoresponders

If you’re offering something and asking for an email address in exchange, you’ve also got to deliver what you promise. And while manually catering to such requests would be a nightmare, autoresponders take up that burden for you and deliver on your behalf - even if it’s 2 AM. 

Use these emails to warmly welcome your new prospect and offer your lead magnet. Continuing with the previous example about the webinar, this email must include the timing and date of the webinar, an exclusive link to the webinar and some more information. 

Don’t forget to personalize the subject of the email by adding the subscriber’s name. Even start your email by mentioning their name. This is a significant step in building a relationship with your audience. It also leads to higher open rates, because people become instantly curious about someone directly talking to them. 

Other than the name, keep your email subject catchy. Explain what you’re emailing them for, that is, to deliver the magnet. The inside of the email can totally be your choice, as well. MailMunch offers SO many options to make emails look like they’re your own. 

How to set an autoresponder email on MailMunch and set various parameters

Add visuals, videos, your social channel links, and even a timer - which can create a sense of urgency, and can definitely be used to get emails or sell courses within a limited span of time. You could also offer a discount inside the email and set a timer for its expiry. The possibilities are endless on the platform. 

To make click-throughs a regular occurrence in your emails, be sure to make the call-to-action button pop. If they’re not appealing enough, your subscribers can lose interest very quickly. 

Lastly, in order for your email automation and marketing tool to trigger an email, don’t forget to specify which list both your form/landing page and your autoresponder email are connected to. 

6. Set it live!

Before you can declare your system as ready to collect email lists, there is one final thing that you need to do i.e. test everything. To test out if everything looks good, embed your form, create your email campaigns, and connect them to the list. 

Then add your email address to the form, hit “submit” and see if you show up in the subscriber list. Not much time later, you will get a notification in your inbox where your very own lead magnet will have arrived! If it works as desired, then pat yourself on the back, half your job is finally done. 

7. Now bring traffic and get sign ups!

Drive traffic towards your websites and social media pages, so that people find value and trade in their emails for it. This is SO important, and requires your attention and effort. Below is a list of ways by which you can turn visitors into leads.

  • Blogs (your own and on guest sites)
  • Social videos and images with CTAs and links in descriptions on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube channel
  • Webinars
  • Pay-per-click ads and targeted paid social campaigns

The goal is to bring awareness around you and generate leads after people find value in what you offer. Keep working on distributing incentives, offers, valuable advice and keep collecting those email addresses. And this, folks, is how to build an email list with plenty of help from MailMunch. 

Lastly, if you have a fantastic course idea, plus skills and a community to back it up, don’t let it go to waste. With Airschool, experts and digital creators in big numbers are monetizing their skills and scaling their knowledge businesses - and succeeding.  

Author Bio

Sinwan Zahid

I help experts and creators build & launch successful online courses via Airschool.com

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