Marketing in today’s crazy-busy world requires that you gain people’s trust and make at least seven connections or impressions with a potential customer. One way to achieve both these goals is to create an electronic minicourse that provides benefits for your customer and to divide its subject matter into at least seven lessons. With today’s technology, you can distribute your minicourse 24/7, either on your website or through your e-mail program, while you’re on the beach.
A minicourse is a how-to information product that contains one or more brief, concise lessons on your subject–the topic and product or service you want to promote. The successful minicourse gives your customers real value–educates, informs, and explains. With fiction, it might center on excerpts or characters from your book.
My Dad and I created an electronic minicourse last summer to promote an e-book on customer service. Our course features 12 segments in total, including six lessons on how entrepreneurs and businesspeople can upgrade the level of customer service in their businesses, plus a couple bonuses, etc. (see below). Opt-in subscribers receive the customer service minicourse lessons via e-mail every other day for 12 days, hence six marketing connections, and then we achieve the next connections with our catalog, the bonuses, and so forth. We decided on a frequency of every other day to give our readers more time to study and digest the material and avoid overloading them with e-mails.
Opt-in is key here, as people resent spam. Also, with regard to spam, beware of words that attract spam filters and reduce the likelihood that your e-mail minicourse will arrive safely. These words include free, guarantee, toll-free, savings, money-back, bonus, and sex. If your minicourse e-mails contain any of these words, split them with a caret or hyphen (e.g., F^ree) to increase the chance of getting past the spam filters.
Here are some other factors that contribute to success with a minicourse.
Pick one theme that’s central to your product or service and devote each lesson to an aspect of it. Our lessons dealt with defining customer service in a particular business, customer service on the Internet, and the people factor in customer service, among other things, and we tried to build real value into each one with how-to information and bullet-point lists of steps to take and points to consider.
Minicourses must clearly explain your topic. Do NOT use the minicourse to sell directly. We combined explanatory text, bullet points, and anecdotes that our readers could relate to, including one story about the local phone company–an easy target–which wasted two days when they attempted to install a new business phone for us. That anecdote helped us help our readers see how little things, such as calling to cancel an appointment or keeping the customer informed, lead to good customer relations.
Consider writing your lessons with a Text Editor program rather than Microsoft® Word, especially when you intend to launch your minicourse via e-mail. Text editor language and format is more compatible with e-mail. We prefer TextPad (
http://www.TextPad.com; $27); you can download a trial version and make a purchase decision later (we used this program when we created our minicourse; we use it for our Publishing Gold e-zine. When a few of our media contacts expressed interest in offering our minicourse to their customers via snail mail, we converted the TextPad file into Microsoft® Word; with TextPad, it was easy to import the Text version into Microsoft® Word and to reformat the material).
Our Lesson 1 introduces my Dad and me with detailed bios, and also introduces the minicourse with information on what readers will get from it and why we created it. We chose a “serial” style, ending every lesson with a one-sentence lead-in to the next one. At the end of each section, we also wrote, “To learn more, click here,” and this brings readers to our website where they can purchase the Customer Service Goldmine e-book.
For obvious reasons, we include contact information in every lesson.
Always promote more than one product or service relevant to the minicourse subject matter. Your students elected to receive your material, which gives you a terrific opportunity to pitch a variety of products and/or services that will help them.
After the six lessons in our customer service minicourse are delivered, we then provide our complete catalog and offer a 20% goodwill discount. Two subsequent bonus lessons cover personal selling and growing your small business. Then we send two “thank you” notes that signal the end of the program, invite people to sign up for our Publishing Gold e-zine, and promote our consulting practice. Finally, 60 days later–a relatively long time–we launch segment 12 that again contains our catalog; we think that some people need more time than others to make a purchase and the catalog serves as a nice reminder that we are here.
Once you load the minicourse into your server, it can become a permanent promotion machine. This is easiest if you have a sequential autoresponder system.
Autoresponders are probably best known for those “out-of-the-office” notices, but sequential autoresponders let you program your server to launch a series of e-mails–your minicourse–in a specified order at specified intervals.
The shopping cart system we use at our site, KickstartCart.com, offers unlimited autoresponders and sequential autoresponders. But you can also obtain autoresponders from A. Weber (http://www.Aweber.com) and Get Response (http://www.GetResponse.com). Just make sure you pay a monthly fee (typically $15 to $20) that ensures that your e-mails will NOT include some advertiser’s pitch. Remember, you want to create goodwill and make a professional presentation, so it is essential to avoid junking up your minicourse.
We offer our minicourse free because we view it as a cornerstone of our permanent marketing initiatives and our goal is to enroll 1 million readers. You can charge a fee for your minicourse, but we believe free minicourses offer an excellent way to build your customer base. One effective strategy is to make the minicourse free and charge for an expanded version.
Market your minicourses the same way that you market your other materials:
- On your website
- In your sig file; in your e-zine
- In the back pages of your books
- Through associations as member benefits and news
- In resource directories
- As a bonus with the purchase of another product.
A new minicourse gives you the opportunity to keep in touch with your existing customers, give them more value, and introduce them to your new products or areas of expertise.
Copyright © 2003 Eric Gelb
Eric Gelb, MBA and CPA, is the Editor of the Publishing Gold e-zine (
www.PublishingGold.com). To test-drive his free minicourse on customer service, send a blank e-mail to MiniCourse@SmallBusinessAdvice.com. For more info, call 516/374-1387.