How to write a Sales Letter for Online Course

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Episode Transcript

Joshua Millage: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Joshua Millage, and I’m joined here with Christopher Badgett. Today, we’re talking about how to create a sales letter for your online course.

My question to you, Chris is why is it even important that we learn about sales letters? I mean, I’m just a teacher. I just want to teach. Like what’s the point?

Chris Badgett: What it comes down to it, if you’re an education entrepreneur, the big job is really creating your course and figuring out how you’re going to engage with your students, but it’s also important more on the entrepreneurial side to figure out how to sell that course and make sure you’re clearly communicating your offer. There’s a couple of things that come into play that limit education entrepreneurs in the sense of it’s mindset stuff where maybe you’re a little out of touch of what we call ‘The beginner’s mind’, or you have something known as the ‘Curse of knowledge’, and we can maybe unpack that as a place to start.

Joshua Millage: Cool. Let’s dive into it.

Chris Badgett: The beginner’s mind essentially, if you were to tie that to a marketing concept, but the marketing concept is to get really clear on your customer avatar, like ‘Who is your ideal customer?”, and then you could change out the word ‘Customer’ with ‘Student’. That’s like an avatar. It’s the perfect, ideal student that you want to teach to and sell your course to.

Getting inside the beginner’s mind of “What is this person coming to you for to learn?”, and like “What is their mindset like?”, “What is the language that they like to communicate with?”, “What types of words are they using to describe their problem or describe the solution they’re going for or what they want to learn?”

That’s kind of that getting in touch with the beginner’s mind is all about zoning in and getting clear on that customer avatar.

Joshua Millage: I think it’s really important. I mean, on our other podcast that I host, I had a gentleman on by the name of Josh Fagan. He has the … He’s in real estate training, but his customer avatar was insane. He had it down to like, “And Joe was in a car accident four years ago, and he has three kids, and he limps with this … because of this car accident”, and just all these details of this guy’s life, but Joe was fake. All right? I don’t know if his name was Joe, but he had a name for him.

When he wrote his emails, he was writing to this guy. Because he was writing to a person who made up a lot of different aspects of his customer base, he was able to create really personal emails that people would then respond to him and say, “Hey. I felt like you are really talking to me,” and the trick was just actually talking to an imaginary character that embodied who your customer actually was.

I think that that learning if we take that learning into the online course space, it’s really important to do that with our students. I think one of the easiest ways to do this is if you have a student base already, to get to know them, to pick up the phone and call them if there’s … and I think talking to people on the phone is one of the most incredible things that people don’t do because they don’t … They just like, “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t …” whatever. They carry all these excuses, but at the end of the day, they don’t know how to speak to that person because they’re not actually touching them.

I think taking the time to build a customer avatar, but maybe we should coin the term ‘Student avatar’ for people who are doing online courses is absolutely crucial I think.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Absolutely. That really is what the beginner’s mind is all about. On the other side of that is what we call the ‘Curse of knowledge’. This is what the educator experiences in the sense that they’ve spent all this time and life experience building up the skillset that they’re now going to teach, but it’s important to remember … to me, the customer, where they are and not get bogged down in all those little subtle things that you’ve learned that have moved down to your subconscious, that you have to pull that stuff back up so that your messaging can be really clear and spot on.

There’s a marketing concept here that’s important to learn and I’m going to use a quote from Henry Ford from the automotive industry, where he said if he had given people what they want, he would have given them faster horses, but instead, he built a car.

Joshua Millage: Yes.

Chris Badgett: Sometimes, our ideal customer and their beginner’s mind, they may not even know what they want, need or clearly be able to articulate their problems. That’s more of an advanced challenge is how do you step into that conversation with your ideal customer and communicate in such a way that your person is having light bulbs going off, when essentially, their subconscious mind is saying, “Wow. This person really understands me and get where I’m at.”

Joshua Millage: Right.

Chris Badgett: “Oh my gosh. I never realized this could be the solution to my problem”, or “This is the exact skill I really need. I didn’t realize that.” Those kinds of internal self-thought is really what you want to get to.

Joshua Millage: Right. I couldn’t agree more. I think one of the things that I want to share is to switch gears and get a little bit tactical here in our time today, and that is talk about some proven formulas that people can use to start to write their sales letters around. One of those is AIDA which stands for attention, interest, desire and action. It’s a very old formula put together. I’m not exactly sure by [Hugh 00:05:30], but I’m sure it was [inaudible 00:05:31] or one of the great ad geniuses of the 1930s and ’40s.

It’s a really easy, proven formula for putting together a sales letter that takes someone for realizing that, that what you’re doing can help them to actually taking actions. What do you think, Chris, I just go through form?

Chris Badgett: Yes. Let’s start with A. A is attention, so that really comes back to your headline, and I think a lot of people look at their headline as they don’t spend enough time thinking about it, or they spend way too much time deliberating on it and they don’t take action and actually create a headline. To make it really simple for you, your headline should really only do one thing, and that is to get someone to read the second line.

I know that sounds crazy, but the idea here is that you want your prospect or your potential student to read the entire sales letter, the entire course description, what the course can do for them, how the course will help them in their lives or profession or whatever it may be, and that headline is just to get them to stop and start to read. It’s a …

I can give a good example of that.

Joshua Millage: Yes. Please do.

Chris Badgett: In my experience, I created a free course, and I titled it ‘How to Build a WordPress Website in a Weekend’. That title there wasn’t just WordPress 101 or WordPress for Beginners or whatever. It grabs your attention in the sense that I’m making the promise that you can build a WordPress website in a weekend, and right now, I have almost 7,000 students in that free course. That, I think really ties into getting the attention in the headline.

Joshua Millage: Yes. I’m going to use a really crude example that I heard Ryan Holiday, who wrote a book ‘Trust me, I’m Lying’. He’s a young man. He’s like 24 or 25. He wrote a very good book about modern PR and attention and how they make things go viral and that sort of thing. He was the director of marketing for American Apparel. I’m like 22. I mean, the kid is kind of a phenom.

He said something, and again, I’m going to be a little [inaudible 00:07:38] here, but he said, “One thing that people forget about when doing things online is that pornography is one click away.” His point is that I have … I do not support pornography in any way, shape or form. His point is things that are biologically addicting are one click away. Keep that in mind.

Someone … anything, whether it’s clothes, food … anything that someone is addicted to, anything is at your fingertips. What are you going to do to make someone stop and take a brief second to read your headline? Like the headline should have one goal, it should carry the weight of stopping you, and your track is going [nuts 00:08:15] for me.

I think people, what they do is they try and speak really broad, like “Eat better with my course.” It’s like, “Who’s eating better? Speak to me.” I want to read that and be like vegans … ‘Three Ways to Make Five Meals in Less Than …’ or ‘Three Formulas to Make Infinite Amount of Meals in 20 Minutes’ or something. I don’t know. I’m just wrapping here.

The point is they should literally stop and go, “Wait a second. That headline, that whatever it is, that sales letter is speaking directly to me.” I actually head a guy who’s a very smart copywriter named Dane Maxwell talked about the formula for a headline is really pretty simple. It’s desired result in an amount of time addressing the objections.

What would be an example of this? Let’s think.

Chris Badgett: Let’s do something on your vegan example and how to make vegan breakfast.

Joshua Millage: Yes. If people think that vegan breakfast are difficult and hard, you could say something like, “Five Delicious Vegan Recipes Using Five Ingredients that all Take Less than 10 Minutes to Create”. It’s like talking about the time frame or what people want which is delicious vegan meals. Like in less than … addressing the objections of time constraints, and really painting the picture of what the outcome is. It should just capture you really quick.

That one is a little hard because I’m not a vegan. One headline that really struck me was … and there’s a bunch of different ways to do headlines. If people want to learn about some really good headlines, there’s a book called ‘Breakthrough Advertising’. One of them that I heard from way, way back was a music training program. This one doesn’t use that formula, but it says something along the lines of “They laughed at me when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play, they were amazed”.

The idea that people … that really identifies with someone who doesn’t understand how to play piano, like, “Oh. I think people would laugh at me if I sat down, but then with that training course, when I started to play, I’m an expert and I’m going to amaze everyone”. It’s like, “Wait a second. What does that say?” You read that and you’re like, “Wait a second. Hi”, and you read the second line and the third line and fourth line.

Again, we’re going off on tangents here with the headline, but really, the whole thing is to hit the parking break, stop, and read the second line. The second line or really the second part of the ad should be engaging the interest mechanism in that person, so causing them to be interested in what you have to say. It’s opening and closing loops. It’s saying, “Let me tell you a story”, or “Let me tell you how you  can create all these vegan meals, but first, let me tell you a story about my experience being a vegan”.

You’re saying some things to come, so you don’t have to read to get there, but let me tell you a little brief story. It’s like it’s engaging them to be interested. Then, the third part is desire. It’s pushing on those desire mechanisms, making them want the outcome that your product, or in this case your course can give them. Then, the fourth aspect is action. You’re literally telling them what to do next. “Click the button”, “Enroll now”, “Register in my course” … entering your name and details and we’ll move …

It’s very … This methodology is very direct response, but the thing is, you cannot assume that your prospect or your potential student knows what to do. You literally need to outline it for them. John Carlton who’s another great marketer and copywriter said … He curated in what people call the ‘Carltonian formula’ which is, “Here’s what I got. Here’s what it does for you. Here’s what to do next.” That’s another copywriting and sales letter formula that works really well.

These are very time-tested. You can go and just type ‘Carltonian formula’ or ‘John Carlton sales letter’. Find that. Dan Kennedy who’s a very prolific direct response copywriter has a book on sales letters. All these people essentially say the same thing though.

Get their attention, tell them … Give them the interest mechanisms, show them why they would be interested, a list of desire and tell them to take action. I think these are just key things that people need to think about when they’re writing that piece of copy that goes with actually registering for their course.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. If I can tie it in and I bridge the gap between internet marketing, sales letters and online courses, course descriptions and things like that, many of us have a love/hate relationship with marketing. You don’t want to be seen as like a used car salesman, and for a lot of people on their entrepreneurial journey, they learn to embrace marketing and they eventually realize that it’s just a necessary part of doing business.

Daniel Pink wrote a great book called ‘To Sell is Human’. I highly recommend it.

Joshua Millage: Yes.

Chris Badgett: Once you study sales letter, you’re going to Google that and you start looking around, you’re going to see a lot of like red headlines and yellow highlighter. I just want to encourage people to not be dissuaded by that … what may feel like scamming, but just look at that stuff and learn from it. At the end of the day, it’s about making a promise, putting your offer out there, getting people’s attention for your online course in a way that you really connect with people and get their attention.

When we talk about things like headlines, we’re talking about the actual title of your course or a sub-headline and the description of your course to really get attention, or maybe you’re writing a blog post and you improve their pre-selling about this course you’re going to create. These are all opportunities to create at what we’re calling as ‘Headlines’ and then get into the actual content and elicit that interest and  call to action and desire and those things.

Joshua Millage: Yes. I think people … Marketing in a lot of ways is a dark art. You can learn some very powerful things in marketing about persuasion and about changing human behavior. With that is like classic Spider-Man saying, It’s like, “With great power comes great responsibility”, and it’s definitely true in marketing.

I think if I were to end with this thought, is I think the most powerful marketing is simply the course instructor’s story. The reason I say that that’s the most powerful marketing tool is that for one, it’s truthful. If you can’t tell your story about how you became an expert, you shouldn’t be teaching the course.

Any marketers who are listening, who abide by the whole like, “Let me go pre-sell something I don’t know,” and then learn about it real quick and then teach, I just think that’s wrong, and I don’t think that you should be participating in what we’re trying to do here. What we’re trying to do with Lifter LMS, what we’re trying to do with the new vision of codeBOX and changing the online education is creating tools for people who are actually teachers, who actually care about their student’s learning.

I think this is the fundamental difference between people who are looking at learning, management systems that are really focused on learning, and people who are looking at new course systems or membership. I don’t want to digress too much because we’ve already created a podcast all about this, but really tell your story. Tell why you’re an expert. Talk about that journey. You talk about is it …

His last name is Campbell, right? ‘The Hero’s Journey’, Joseph Campbell I think?

Chris Badgett: Yes. Yes. You got him.

Joshua Millage: Yes. Talk about your journey about being the beginner and all the pain and struggle and triumph and victory and defeat or learning whatever it is that you’re going to teach. That is the most powerful marketing. That fits right in with attention, interest, desire and action because you can take your story and mold it into that. You know what? You don’t have to feel bad about it at all because you lived it. You experienced it.

Maybe your story is you are an undergrad who was dissuaded by job opportunities, and you found yourself down and out, and so you started freelancing, and then you started a company, and then now you can actually speak to the fundamental business nuggets, and you want to train the world. I mean, that’s like my story. That’s not a lie. I lost it all.

I was on my parents’ couch. I know option. My back was up against the wall. I started freelancing, and then boom. As the story rolls on, codeBOX happened. Lifter LMS happened. Joining forces with you happened.

I can speak to these things about partnerships and about picking yourself up by your bootstraps, and I can speak from it from a very real and true place in my heart because I lived it. There’s no lie at all. I’m not embellishing anything.

It’s been a hard journey, but now, I can take that journey, package it in a course, train people, and I believe that information will help change the way that people look at business. That is yet to come. It’s going to happen in the next six months. I’m going to create some courses. We’re all going to create courses.

What a better way to show people to how to create, to marketing and sell courses online by simply just doing it ourselves.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Just to echo your [cinema 00:17:43], Josh, telling your story helps your current students and future prospective students really connect with you on a personal level.

Joshua Millage: Right.

Chris Badgett: If you happen to be a part of the Lifter LMS plug-in that we created our VIP community, and you saw us launch the course or the plug-in, you notice how we did a full video about how it all started with breakfast, and I told my story about making my first course about how to make better omelets, and then we went on this whole journey to where this plug-in now became available to the world. If you’re looking for another example that you may have seen before, there you go.

Joshua Millage: It works, man. I really hope that people find this valuable, it helps teachers look at their courses and their life experience in a different way, and be able to package it and make it a little bit more persuasive, hopefully get them more sells and really have more impact. I mean, that’s the key thing here, is we want to help people have more impact by using online education, using WordPress and our plug-in to make that happen.

Any closing thoughts, Chris?

Chris Badgett: I would just say one of the common mistakes that people make when they are writing headlines and copy is that they focus on the features and not necessarily the benefits. If you’re telling your personal story and you’re getting into what it will do for the student, the number of modules you have and all these things are important, but what’s really important is your message of like, “What journey are you going to take me on? What are you going to teach me? How is my life going to be different after I take this course?”, not “How am I going to get there?”

Joshua Millage: Absolutely. I think it’s a great way to cap off this episode. All right. Until next time. You can reach me at ‘[email protected]’, and Chris over here at ‘[email protected]’. Until next week. We’ll talk to you soon.

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