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How to Structure a Nurture Sequence

Siobhán James

Friday, 21 June 2024

Table of Contents

It’s important to nurture “know, like and trust” with your audience before pitching your course. Most course creators do this with an automated series of nurture emails. But if you're new to the course marketing world, it's hard to decide what to include in these emails.

In this post, I'll walk you through the 4 types of email I always include in clients' nurture sequences. These are emails that focus on Rapport, Beliefs, Awareness, and Movement.

By the end of this guide, you'll have a blueprint for structuring your nurture sequence in a way that primes readers for conversion.

Let's dive in!

Email 1: Build rapport

The first email in your nurture sequence should focus on building rapport. People buy from people they like. So the sooner in your funnel you can build rapport, the better they'll engage with the rest of your content.

There are three emails I use here.

Option 1: The ‘Origin Story’ email

This email centres on the "lightbulb moment" when you decided to help people solve this specific problem.

You'll need to think back to the moment where you first thought, "I should help people with this". Then tell the story of how you arrived in that moment.

Here's a basic example:

Before: Back in 2016, I was helping new course creators get their courses set up on Teachable. It was a technical service, so I would set up the structure of a sales page then leave it to them to fill in the copy.
Lightbulb moment: After a while, I realised that very few of our clients ever made money from their courses. I'd helped with their tech, sure. But their sales copy was so bad that even if an ideal student landed on their school, they didn't buy. So I decided to use my marketing experience to help and I started writing copy for clients too.
After: Soon, their launches were actually working. And now—8 years later—Teachable recommend me as an official marketing expert for creators who are struggling to get sales.
Next: I'd love to help you on that same journey.

This approach builds trust by positioning you as a benevolent mentor. You saw someone just like your reader struggling and you decided to help.

When to use it: I use this email for clients who don't have a personal transformation to reflect on. Ideally, you'd position yourself as a "relatable hero" in a story that mirrors the reader's experience. But if you don't have that to draw on, this email works by positioning you as a "benevolent mentor" instead.

Option 2: The ‘Moving Moment’ email

The focal point of this email is a single transformative moment you've helped someone experience.

You're looking for a time when a past student or client achieved an emotionally-significant outcome. It doesn't need to be a life-changing moment. But ideally it would be a moment where they could have shed a tear.

Here's an example:

Problem: One of my early clients had created a course she knew people needed. But it wasn't selling.
Struggle: She'd spent a year developing the curriculum—then another year struggling to get any sales at all. She'd tried everything from Facebook ads to sending hundreds of cold LinkedIn messages. She said she felt embarrassed and worried that the whole thing had been a waste of time. The "imposter syndrome" was kicking in hard.
Solution: So we worked together on an email funnel. I took the deep knowledge she had about her audience and put it all onto paper. And within two months, she'd relaunched.
Moving moment: I'll never forget the voice note I received two weeks later. She just said, "Siobhán, someone bought my course. Thank you." It didn't need to be a six-figure launch—I knew how much that first sale meant to her because I could hear it in her voice. That course now enrolls ~20 students every month, but it was the first sale that meant everything.
Transition: If that sounds like a moment you'd like to experience for yourself, stick around and I'll share some of my best course marketing advice over the next few days.

This email works well because it uses something called "future pacing". It uses emotive storytelling to paint a picture of what the reader could experience if they buy from you. And it positions you as a trustworthy guide for the journey.

When to use it: I use this email when clients have a particularly emotive topic. That usually means the outcome itself is emotionally-significant or their audience has struggled with the problem for a particularly long time.

Option 3: The ‘Personal Journey’ email

In this email, you'll share your own journey in dealing with this problem. The story should match your reader's experience as closely as possible.

Here's an example:

Problem: Five years ago, I launched my first online course. But I had no idea how to market it, so I made zero sales in the first 12 months.
Desire: All I wanted was a more passive way to earn money and to help more people.
Challenges: But no matter how much I spent on Facebook ads or how many blog posts I wrote—nobody was buying.
Solution: So I took the advice of marketing friend and started studying copywriting. I learned how to structure a marketing funnel and how to fill it with high-converting copy.
Transformation: It wasn't smooth sailing but within a few months of relaunching, sales started to trickle in. And soon, I was welcoming a consistent flow of students into my course.
Mission: Now, I'm on a mission to help other course creators build a marketing funnel that converts too.

Sharing your story helps build a deeper connection with your audience. When people see that you've faced and overcome the same challenges they're dealing with, they're more likely to trust your guidance.

When to use it: This is the email to choose if you've been in your reader's shoes. It's the most compelling option of the emails listed here.

Email 2: Reframe limiting beliefs

The second email should deconstruct a belief that prevents your ideal student from buying.

This is important because a single belief can prevent action. You need to handle these internal barriers as early as possible in your nurture sequence. Because while the limiting beliefs are still in place, readers might not be receptive to your message.

Here are three options for how you can write this email.

Option 1: The ‘Big Shift’ email

This email focuses on one 'macro-level' belief that might prevent people from buying your course. This is usually at an industry-wide level rather than an individual level.

You'll identify a broad misconception or norm that needs to be challenged. Then you'll introduce a new approach or belief and help them understand its merits.

Here's a basic example:

Statement: Something big needs to shift in the online course industry.
Belief: Too many aspiring course creators are being sold on the idea that creating an online course will give them 'passive income'.
Source: The passive income dream is peddled by course platforms and online business gurus to create a bigger market for them to sell to.
Truth: But creating an online course is far from passive. It often takes a year or more to develop the curriculum. And then another year to figure out the marketing. And it takes consistent work to keep up a steady revenue stream.
Problem: This misconception means that people spend years creating a course before realising how much work they'll need to put in. And then many of them bail before seeing the fruits of their labour.
Shift: The ones who 'make it' see things differently. They know that it will take time and effort to get sales. Instead of aiming for passive income, they're willing to put in the work to get results.
Callout: So which camp do you fall in? Are you looking for an easy buck? Or are you part of the 1% who are willing to keep pushing until it works?

This example focuses on the belief that a course should 'just sell' without much active effort. Because if someone believes this to be true, they won't be willing to dedicate adequate resources to marketing it.

When to use it: This email works best when there is one obvious misconception in your industry. I use this email when a client is going against the grain in some key way.

Option 2: The ‘Common Myths’ email

This email focuses on handling multiple myths rather than one big belief.

Ask yourself what common misconceptions people have about your topic, then reframe and re-educate—one myth at a time.

Here's an example:

Myth #1: You need a huge email list or thousands of followers to launch a successful course. (Truth: You can run a successful course business without any pre-existing audience—provided you choose the right marketing strategy.)
Myth #2: People will stumble across your course organically. (Truth: You need put your course in front of your audience, not wait for them to find it.)
Myth #3: You should spend money on paid ads. (Truth: It's easy to burn a lot of cash on ads, fast. Most people shouldn't run paid ads until after they've validated through organic methods.)
Myth #4: Once you launch, the hard work is over. (Truth: Launching is only the beginning. Continuous updates, student support, and marketing are forever.)
Myth #5: Discounting your course is the best way to attract students. (Truth: Discounts can help, but lower prices can make your course seem less valuable.)
Myth #6: You should create a course for everyone. (Truth: Focusing on a specific niche helps you market better and attract more students.)

This email works because it tackles multiple misconceptions at once. Each myth you debunk helps to clear the path for potential buyers.

When to use it: Use this email when your audience is likely to have a range of common misconceptions. It's particularly useful for warming up an audience that may be skeptical or misinformed about your industry or product.

Option 3: The ‘Winning Mindset’ email

This email focuses on an internal belief shift. Rather than an external myth, you'll identify a mindset issue that could prevent them from buying.

Here's an example:

Belief: Many of my clients doubt themselves hard when they first come to me. They haven't had as many sales as they expected, so they worry they're not cut out for this.
Validation: It's completely normal to feel this way. Many successful course creators started with the same doubts.
Story: One client, Sarah, came to me feeling like a failure because her first course launch only had a handful of sales. She was ready to give up. But instead of walking away, she agreed to let me tweak her messaging approach. We worked on refining her marketing funnel and improving her email copy. A few months later, Sarah relaunched her course and saw a significant increase in sales. Her persistence paid off.
Shift: The difference between those who succeed and those who don't often comes down to mindset. It's not about instant success, but rather about persistence and continuous improvement.
Encourage: If you're feeling doubtful, remember that most successful course creators went through the same 'dip' you're in right now. But they just kept working at it.

This email is powerful because it addresses internal fears that can paralyse buyers. By acknowledging their feelings and providing a success story, you offer hope. A positive mindset makes them more likely to believe in their potential and take action.

When to use it: I use this email for clients if their course requires a significant commitment or if the audience is likely to feel overwhelmed or disheartened.

Email 3: Increase problem awareness

The third email in your nurture sequence should focus on problem awareness.

If your audience aren't aware of their problem, you'll need to enlighten them before they'll buy. And if they are aware of the problem, it will need to be front of mind when you introduce them to your course.

Here are three options I use for this email.

Option 1: The ‘Rookie Mistakes’ email

This email highlights common mistakes beginners make in your industry.

You'll identify several errors that your audience might be making and explain why these mistakes are problematic. Then you'll offer some insights but you won't give away practical tips to resolve the issues.

Here's a basic example:

Mistake 1: Jumping straight into paid ads. But without a solid foundation, you can burn through your budget fast without any returns. (Instead, start with organic methods to validate your course and refine your messaging.)
Mistake 2: Outsourcing to a marketing agency too soon. Agencies are expensive and if you don't understand your own marketing needs first, you might not get the results you want. (Instead, nail the basics of marketing yourself before bringing in external help.)
Mistake 3: Targeting too broadly. Targeting "everyone" makes it harder to stand out and connect with potential students. (Instead, focus on a specific niche and you'll be able to scale more than if you cast a wide net.)
Mistake 4: Relying on sporadic social posts. Inconsistent posting means low engagement and missed opportunities to connect with your audience. (Instead, find a consistent or automated way to connect with your audience.)
Mistake 5: Writing bad copy that doesn’t communicate value. Poor copy that fails to convey the benefits of your course will mean low conversions. (Instead, learn how to write clear copy or hire a copywriter to work on your message with you.)

This email works because it helps them realise they might not have the expertise to succeed on their own. It implies the value of getting support and opens the opportunity for your course to be positioned as the bridge they need.

When to use it: Use this email if your audience is already attempting to fix the problem, but in the wrong ways. It's particularly effective if you can identify specific mistakes they're making right now.

Option 2: The ‘Fly On The Wall’ email

This email focuses on uncanny insights into their problematic situation.

You'll act like a "fly on the wall" and describe the ways in which their problem is manifesting. The more specific you are, the more powerful the email is.

Here's an example:

Opener: Does this sound familiar?
Insight 1: You've posted on social media about your course, but engagement was minimal and your follower count isn't growing.
Insight 2: You’ve tried running Facebook ads, but the results were disappointing, and it felt like throwing money into a black hole.
Insight 3: You’re constantly tweaking your course content, even though you know that won't solve your marketing problem.
Insight 4: You feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting marketing advice out there, making it hard to decide on one clear path forward.
Insight 5: You’ve attended webinars that promise to help you sell your course, but you balk at the high price tags.
Insight 6: You worry that your price is the problem, so you constantly change it and offer discounts on a whim.
Conclusion: If any of these hit close to home, you're not alone. These problems are common but they don’t have to be permanent. With the right guidance, you can turn things around.

This email works because it makes your audience feel seen and understood. By describing their struggles in detail, you build a connection and trust.

When to use it: Use this email when your audience is likely to be experiencing problems you can describe in great detail. You're aiming for "how did you know that?!" as a response.

Email 4: Create movement

The fourth email should prompt your audience to take some small action. The goal is to give them a sense of progress in solving their problem.

By now, you've built rapport, reframed limiting beliefs, and increased problem awareness. Your audience is primed to take actionable steps toward a solution. Encouraging even small steps helps build momentum, making readers more likely to engage with your course when you pitch it.

Here are three options for how you can write this email.

Option 1: The ‘Top Tips’ email

Purpose: The fourth email should prompt your audience to take some small action. The goal is to give them a sense of progress in solving their problem.

Why now: By now, you've built rapport, reframed limiting beliefs, and increased problem awareness. Your audience is primed to take actionable steps toward a solution.

Why it matters: Encouraging even small steps helps build momentum, making readers more likely to engage with your course when you pitch it.

Here are three options for how you can write this email.

Option 1: The ‘Top Tips’ email

This email provides actionable tips your audience can use right away. You'll share a list of practical tips that address specific aspects of their problem.

Here are some examples of tips:

Tip #1: Only speak to one segment at a time. (Ensure each asset addresses a specific audience segment experiencing the same problem. If you're targeting multiple segments, use separate pages or funnels to keep your message hyper-specific.
Tip #2: Use a value ladder. (Start with a free lead magnet or a low-ticket "tripwire" offer. Gradually introduce smaller products before pitching your high-ticket course. This approach eases your audience in and builds trust over time.)
Tip #3: Give away the farm. (The more detail you share about your course content, the more value they'll see in the curriculum. Don’t worry about giving too much away. The depth of information will make them realise they need your help.)
Tip #4: Blow your own trumpet. (Modesty doesn’t help your audience. Many course creators struggle with self-promotion because it feels like boasting. But you need to set aside your ego and share your story to help your audience make the right decision.)
Tip #5: Focus hard on before/after at the top of your message. (Clearly spell out the problem your course solves and the outcomes students can expect. Dedicate several sections to this in the top third of your sales page to ensure it's front and centre.)

This approach provides immediate value and positions you as an expert. If they put one of your tips into action and get results, they'll be ready for more.

When to use it: I use this email when there are multiple things readers are getting wrong while trying to solve their problem themselves—as opposed to one or two minor issues.

Option 2: The ‘Quick Win’ email

This email gives your audience a specific, actionable task that can give them a quick win. You'll identify a simple but impactful action they can take to see immediate results.

Here's an example of a quick win:

Quick win: Set up an exit popup to capture leads by offering some free lessons from your course.
Step #1: Create a free version of your course with taster lessons for free.
Step #2: Set up an exit-popup form in an email tool like ConvertKit.
Step #3: Install the exit pop-up on your Teachable school.
Outcome: If someone decides not to buy your course immediately, the exit popup might still capture their email. That means you can nurture the lead and increase the chances of conversion later.

Giving them a quick win that they can implement right away increases trust. They'll know you can help them and will be more open to the idea of buying when you pitch your main course.

When to use it: I use this email over the 'top tips' email when there's one very specific action I know they can take to get quick results.

Option 3: The ‘Secret Shortcuts’ email

This email shares lesser-known strategies or "shortcuts" that can make a big difference in their progress. Give them insider tips or advanced techniques that can give them an edge.

Here are some examples:

Shortcut #1: Write your copy out loud then edit the transcript. (Most people find it easier to talk than to write, so try writing a list of questions then recording your answers. You'll find your copy flows much better and you'll write it quicker.)
Shortcut #2: Use your lead magnet for audience research. (If you don't know which segment is coming to your page or there's something you need to know about their situation, add a multiple choice question when you collect email addresses.)
Shortcut #3: Give ChatGPT your copy and request objections. (Ask it to suggest reasons why someone might not buy and you'll be able to plug those gaps in your FAQ section.)

Offering unique insights like this positions you as an authority. If your shortcuts help, they'll trust in you to deliver results in your main course.

When to use it: This email usually works best when the audience is fairly advanced. They're already solving the problem in part but they'd benefit from more a more sophisticated approach.

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Conclusion

Creating a successful nurture sequence for your online course involves strategically guiding your audience through building rapport, reframing limiting beliefs, increasing problem awareness, and prompting action. By including these four types of emails, you can establish trust, address concerns, and demonstrate the value of your course.

Remember: It’s important to nurture “know, like and trust” with your audience before pitching your course.