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5 types of drip email campaigns to help you sell your online courses

How to use drip emails to convert leads, engage customers, and create brand advocates

By Sinwan Zahid · October 6, 2021
Hero image with an icon of an envelope representing email

Drip campaigns don't need to accomplish everything in one email. Instead, over a series of emails, you get the chance to create genuine interest in your online course and build a connection with your audience.

At Airschool, we provide course creators with tools and a platform to build their courses. And as a growth manager, it's my job to help these creators acquire leads and convert them into customers. After all, I acquired and nurtured them the same way.

Since I first set up my email drip campaigns, my conversion rate has gone from 2% to 20%, increasing the number of courses created and launched on Airschool. And I've even gotten feedback from course creators about how authentic the emails felt—I didn't take a one-size-fits-all approach, and instead really thought about my audience for each campaign.

The email drip setup Sinwan used in Mailmunch
This is the email drip campaign I set up in Mailmunch.

We also offer built-in email drips. For example, when there's an abandoned course in someone's cart, personalized emails on behalf of the experts go to prospective students, asking them to enroll. If they don't enroll, a few days later, another email is triggered mentioning the various benefits of the course. Then another to create FOMO, by telling them they'll miss out. And so on.

Email drip campaign flow
The typical flow of an email drip campaign for an example online course

When drip campaigns are goal-oriented and relevant to the audience, they can be just what you need to get people to sign up for your course. But where do you start? Here are the five types of drip campaigns we suggest that our course creators send their customers. Pick a drip email app, and start setting them up.

1. Qualified leads drip campaign

Qualified leads are people who've shown an interest in you or your course. You'll know who they are because they've engaged with you on social media, downloaded resources from your business, or filled out some sort of form on your website.

But just because a lead is qualified, it doesn't mean the person will sign up. You still need to convince them—and a drip campaign can do the trick.

In the emails, provide them with even more value, whether that's exclusive downloadable content, links to existing blog posts, an invitation to a webinar, or anything in between. You can keep a campaign like this going for a month, each week sending them new content, and even throw a student success story in there. The key here is to be consistent. These are people who already like what you have to offer, so continue offering it. Only once you've proven your value should you ask them to sign up for your course.

You might also go for a more educational drip campaign, either establishing your authority and talking about your experiences, or even dripping a free mini-course in order to market the premium one. I did the latter—sending a mini-course about creating curriculum—and it worked great to send leads further down the funnel.

An example of a drip email to qualified leads

2. Retargeting drip campaigns

It's much easier to sell your course to people who've already shown a specific interest in it—that's precisely why marketers retarget.

Say you've built a series of courses. After launching the beginner course, it's time for the intermediate one. Who do you tell about it first? A qualified lead, sure, but even better: an old customer. 

Retargeting can take a lot of forms, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Send a series of emails announcing a new course, giving sneak peeks throughout.

  • Ask people for feedback if they enrolled in the course but didn't make the payment, and let them know what to do if they change their minds.

  • Offer another valuable resource to keep your courses top of mind, even if there's nothing that appeals to them at the moment.

A retargeting drip campaign
The built-in email drips at Airschool.com go out from the expert to their prospects. They're mostly retargeting emails, sent to encourage the purchase of a course. 

Be sure you're only sending these emails to people who've been with you for a while. If someone just signed up for your beginner course yesterday, don't send them a retargeting email quite yet. 

3. Training drip campaigns

If your retargeting drips don't work (though they usually do!), you might try a training campaign: teach your contacts to do something.

An example training email
An excerpt from one of my training drip campaigns. This one is about how to use storytelling to market courses on social media.

For example, if you want to teach keyword research, you could use one email to teach folks how to find a keyword's search volume and difficulty and the next one to show how to select five ideal keywords for a certain topic. And so on.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you're providing actionable tasks—something the recipient can actually do.

  • Since you're teaching them to do something, don't keep them waiting too long between emails. Leave a day (max) in between each—enough to build curiosity but not enough for them to get frustrated or go elsewhere for the info.

  • Save the premium offer till the end, once you've provided some nice value for them.

4. Post-course drip campaigns

When someone finishes your course, you want them to spread the word. Set up a sequence of emails, asking students who just completed your course to:

  • Leave a review on your landing page or on other course discovery platforms

  • Share their certificate online and share your course on social media

  • Recommend the course to friends (you might even create a referral program)

Send this drip right after they finish the course, so it's fresh on their mind. Using social proof to promote your online course can be a great way to grow your customer base.

5. Promotional drip campaigns

Promotional drip campaigns are like other promotional campaigns, except they're set up as a sequence. But just because you're doing a promotion doesn't mean you stop creating value, so continue offering something your audience wants—whether that's a discount, a sneak peek of your course, or anything else.

Whenever you send a drip campaign, make sure you keep an eye on your metrics. Are people opening your emails? Are they engaging with them? We've definitely sent campaigns that didn't seem to resonate with our audience—that's ok, as long as you take the opportunity to switch things up. Once you find something that works, the automated drips will work for you in the background.

This was a guest post from Sinwan Zahid, General Manager of Growth at Airschool.com. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'