When you get started with online teaching by offering a “minimum viable product” (MVP) or beta version of your course (which you will refine based on student feedback), you’re overlapping the work of development and selling—even blurring the lines between the two.

By that I mean that your first sales are made with a limited launch of a product you plan to revise.

The sales of these early products can be done with a soft launch. Here’s how the soft launch goes in a nutshell:

  • First, to take time to engage deeply with and develop a small group of interested prospects.
  • Eventually, offer your course to them with lower cost or other incentives that will help you test your course viability and performance.
  • And then, once you’re enrolled and taught a group of students, with feedback from them students, you’ll develop a next, refined, version for future launches.

Here’s a 6-step process for running your own soft launch.

STEP 1 Develop first audience connections as you research and develop your MVP.

Step 1 has to do with developing your audience. You’ll be doing this work before you even get to launch—as you research audience needs.

  • This work might start casually on one or two social platforms (Facebook Groups, YouTube, Instagram, Linked In, Blog posts). You’ll find your best social home as you execute on early research and engagement. If you’re going to teach on a topic, it’s important that you be passionate enough about it, interested enough in it, that you are ready and willing to become an known participant in at least three communities.
  • As you’re spending time in communities, be consistently answering questions, sharing free tips that educate and entertain and build up your authority.  You need to be seen and become familiar and trusted with a small and engaged group of people who could become your fans.
  • Create a “lead magnet” or a list building “freebie” that you offer up to move those people who know you on social platforms onto your email list.

STEP 2 Deepen your engagement with a small interested group.

Now it’s time to ramp up your engagement with a smaller group of people who are really liking what you have to share.

You can do this by scheduling more formal free teaching – in the form of live streams on Facebook or on a webinar/web-meeting platform.

You’ll Share more extensively than usual. This is an opportunity for these engaged prospects to understand even more clearly how you teach and what you know. The live video formats foster a deeper connection—and affinity—if these really are your people. So they’re more personal. But they’re also more formal in that you’ll plan the content more extensively that you might have with social interactions.

STEP 3 Do some “launch leaking.”

All this time together gives you a chance to do what launch specialist Anne Samoilov calls “launch leaking.”

People are paying closer attention to what you’re doing and you can build some anticipation of your upcoming offer. Do this by talking about how something special is coming.

  • Tell your people that your first beta version of a special course is coming.
  • Let them know there will be a special opportunity for them to take part in what’s coming.
  • Invite them to get on an “early-bird” list for first notice and the best offer.

STEP 4 Get people on your “early bird” list.

Any kind of launch gives you the opportunity to be talking to your people more than usual—and inviting people to get on your maling list, and especially onto an “early-bird” list that gets them first notice and special benefits or discounts related to this upcoming offer.

Get them them onto your email system and “tag” them as arly birds for this particular launch.

And that means they’ll get something special: early notice and/or a discount and/or a bonus . . .

STEP 5 If you’ve now got an engaged group, make your offer.

if you’ve got an engaged group on your list or in your audiences—if they’re reading your posts, watching your videos, interacting with you, asking about your upcoming offer, showing their interest–make the offer.

  • Making the offer via a series of emails would be best, but if you haven’t yet moved folks from YouTube or Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn over to that list, use those venues.
  • A series of emails—or social notices, if that’s all you have right now—should be made over 3 to 10 days. During these communications, you’ll be counting down to the offer expiration.
  • Your offer needs an element of urgency: it could be a discount or a bonus or a chance to be a founding member entitled to all updates. Whatever this special aspect is, it needs to expire—to go away within a short period time. Like 10 days or so.
  • Keep the sales page simple. Perhaps use just a shopping cart/buy now button.

STEP 6 Still need to deepen engagement? Run a small launch event.

A launch event is a party for your offer. It’s a way:

  • to generate attention and excitement.
  • to educate and create an awareness in your prospects of why they need your class.
  • to offer discounts or bonuses–and then to expire those discounts or bonuses to create urgency.

Launch events can range from something simple like an email or blog series to a multi-day challenge. Frequently used full-out launch approaches include:

  • a webinar
  • a mini course
  • a multi-day challenge
  • a video series

With a typical launch event, you make your offer at the end of the event and then follow-up with a multi-day series of emails. But we’re talking SOFT LAUNCH right now. The point of the soft launch is to invest less time and money than you would in a full launch.

And so . . . make sure this SMALL soft launch event does the following:

  • Keeps expenses low
  • Minimizes time to create and deliver launch content
  • Could be developed for a bigger future launch
  • Your people would be interested in
  • Precedes the work students will do in your class

These are 6 steps to a soft launch.

This process is a part of the Quick Start Module in the Teach What You Do eCourse Blueprint, my signature program at Teach What You Do, and the steps are:

  • STEP 1 Develop first audience connections as you research and develop your MVP.
  • STEP 2 Deepen your engagement with a small interested group.
  • STEP 3 Do some “launch leaking.”
  • STEP 4 Get people on your “early bird” list.
  • STEP 5 If you’ve now got an engaged group, make your offer.
  • STEP 6 Still need to deepen engagement? Run a small launch event.

Now it’s time to get your soft launch rolling …

…unless you still need to figure out what your MVP is. If so, check out this article and know that this is also covered more deeply in our signature class Quick Start module: How to Make First Online Teaching Sales with a Beta or MVP Offer

Once you get going on this work, share your wins and questions in our free Facebook community: Prep School for Online Course Builders