The Onboarding Emails For Your Online Course

When writing your onboarding emails don't make this mistake

I'm not an email expert.

I'm telling you that up front so that you know I'm not going to give you a perfect set of templates for your onboarding emails.

But I am good at making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. And I've launched a lot of products – mostly SaaS products. And made a lot of onboarding mistakes.

So while I may not be able to tell you what to put in each email of your onboarding sequence, I can help you avoid a common mistake.

Before I get into it, this is part 8 in a series on online courses.

  1. Who should build an online course
  2. How do come up with an idea for your online course
  3. How to structure your online course
  4. All the pre-requisites before you launch
  5. How do you price your online course
  6. The gear for recording your online course
  7. Which approach is best for selling courses – evergreen or launch?

Now let's get into the common mistake I'd like to help you avoid.

Let's look at what happens before you send your onboarding emails

See if this sounds familiar.

When you've gotten a prospect in your funnel, you're emailing them all the time. Prepping them for the launch, or getting them excited to buy your evergreen course (either approach).

Those emails are agitating the pain of their past experiences. Why the last course they took didn't work, and how this one is designed differently. Why most people don't finish the courses they buy, and again, how this one is different.

If you're doing a product launch, you're prepping them for the opening – highlighting all the extra bonus material you're including. And you've put them in a sequence, so they're getting not just one or two emails but several.

Maybe you even include, in your sequence, emails about other customers and how they've had success with your program.

Everything you're doing, you're doing for one reason. To get them excited to buy.

Then they make the purchase.

Before I tell you about the mistake, let's talk about high end purchases

Have you ever had the opportunity to purchase something really expensive? Something that would be classified as a “luxury?”

I have several friends who live in that world. Their purchases are all luxuries. And if you've ever bought a luxury item, or been close with someone who has, you notice something.

The selling doesn't stop at the purchase.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about the mistake of “selling past the close.” That's when you keep selling after the customer has everything they need to make a decision and are actually ready to make a decision and you keep pitching.

No. I'm talking about something else.

I'm talking about the salesperson who sits with you inside that $140,000 car and keeps highlighting all the cool stuff in the car after you already bought it.

They're not pitching you with the hope you'll buy it. That's already happened. They're pitching you on how amazing the item is that you've already bought.

I once bought a high end car where the salesman sat in the car, passenger side, and wanted to give me a personal tour of every option, screen, and knob in the car. It was the red carpet treatment – post-purchase.

Why does this happen? Especially since the deal is done?

It's all about post-purchase regret

On a much lower scale, there are some restaurants whose waiters are still super attentive after you've paid the bill.


Because every one of us is prone to feel regret. Every one of us has the ability to talk ourselves out of a decision as much as we were able to talk ourselves into one.

Have you ever heard this?

“People decide with their hearts and justify with their heads.”

Abraham Lincoln. Or someone on the internet. No idea.

After we make a decision, mostly with our hearts, we need our brains to help us lock it in. And those moments after we were swayed to make a purchase are critical.

And that's where we make our mistakes.

Don't stop selling after the sale

I'm guessing your onboarding emails are all about the details of where to go (links) to get access to the course, where to go (more links) to get support, and where to go (even more links) to see their receipt.

I bet your onboarding emails after the initial receipt are all about how to use your software. Tutorials. Answers to common questions.

You've shifted from sales mode into instructions mode. And in that moment, you've opened up the possibility that your new customer may suddenly regret what they bought, or feel like it's going to be too much work, and they start looking for a refund.

When we built the first version of our Managed WooCommerce Hosting platform at Nexcess, I made this mistake (again). The first emails were how to log into the portal. That was followed up with emails about how to get help with SSL and DNS for setting the final domain before launch. And then more emails about how to get some of our bundled products configured.

We stopped the messaging around how incredible this new platform was – a one-of-a-kind service. Instead we moved into the instructions of how to get going.

And few people got going.

Then we rewrote the onboarding emails. And in each one we worked on telling the story of how unique this platform really was. And how they could get the most of it. But instead of instructions, we articulated a lot more of the “why” we did things the way we did.

And guess what? Less cancellations. Faster go-lives.

I'll be honest, now, several years since those initial days, I realize I haven't gone back and looked at what our onboarding emails say today. I should go look and make sure they haven't returned to “instructions.”

I bet you might want to look at that as well…