The Magic Formula for Driving Your First Program Signups 

June 03, 2024

When you were studying to become the health and wellness pro you are today, sales and marketing likely weren’t on the syllabus. So it’s understandable if the idea of drumming up interest for your online course is new territory. 

Promoting your online program shouldn’t make you feel like the stereotypical used car salesman. You also don’t have to transform into a quirky, TikTok-style influencer to get noticed. (Unless that’s your jam, then let fly with the dances and memes.)

But marketing is necessary—people won’t magically flock to sign up for your new program just because it exists. 

  • You need a plan to get those critical first program signups
  • You can work on generating interest before you start building your program
  • You can use data to get insights that will help you keep tweaking and iterating to maximize your program’s success

Think of this article as your sales and marketing concierge. It contains tried-and-tested steps to quickly get the first program signups that fuel your passive income engine while you figure the rest out. 

A big shout-out to two experts from our past Programs Summit who generously shared the learnings that helped write this article. Michelle Leotta helps certified health coaches build profitable businesses. Deanna Wolfe (aka Dietitian Deanna) is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who has built three programs, each selling over $1 million in revenue. 

Let’s get right to it.

Tips on finding those first participants

Your mailing list

The first people to sign up for your course will be those you already have access to – most likely current and past clients. Your new online course can be an excellent complement to the work they’ve already done with you: 

  • If you already have an opted-in email list, you can start there. Depending on the size of your list, you can offer the course to your entire list or send it to a smaller segment.
  • If you plan to raise the price of your program soon in a second-wave offering, it might be better to only offer the beta to a smaller percentage of your list. 

Special interest audiences

Searching and filtering your client list in Practice Better, showing the left-side bar of the "My Clients" page. This panel allows practitioner to search multiple tags, such as Prospective Clients, Active Clients, Pending Invitations, etc.

If you’ve been in business for a while, you likely have a list of folks who have shown interest in working with you 1:1 in the past, but it didn’t work out. If it was for cost reasons, then the deeply discounted beta program could be of great interest, particularly if your course is closely related to the issue that drove them to consult with you in the first place.

In Practice Better, for example, you can tag people as “prospective clients” and target those folks as a potential audience to receive communications promoting your new program. You can also do this type of promotion and tagging within an email software or CRM.

 

If you host a private Facebook group for your practice, you can offer them exclusive access at a discounted price. “That makes them feel so special,” says Michelle. “Then you can keep promoting your course in that group while you run the beta so anyone who didn’t sign up gets a glimpse into what’s happening.”

No mailing list? No problem. 

If you need qualified contacts to reach out to, a lead magnet strategy can work well to grow your opted-in email list. A lead magnet is a free resource that’s closely related to the topic of your online course. 

“If your idea is to create a course for salsa dancers to have more energy and stamina on the dance floor, create something for free that’s called More Energy and Stamina for Salsa Dancers,” says Michelle. “Don’t create something like—get more energy in five days—because that doesn’t reflect salsa dancing. Create something that is 100% aligned with your program, and then you’re going to see if people want it.”

“If your idea is to create a course for salsa dancers to have more energy and stamina on the dance floor, create something for free that’s called More Energy and Stamina for Salsa Dancers,”

Michelle Leotta

If people are willing to give you their email address in exchange for the lead magnet, they are very interested in the topic. If they don’t, you need to go back to validation mode. 

Beyond email: driving ongoing program signups 

Your founding member clients are critical to creating the momentum and cash flow to launch your program into the world. Once you’ve refined the program to the point where you’re ready to charge full price, you must keep attracting new buyers to sign up. 

Deanna Wolfe, RD, has extensive experience teaching practitioners how to run thriving online practices. Here are three top tips she shared at our Programs Summit.

Be bold 

Deanna believes that creating a villain around your content gets attention in all the right ways. 

“I want you to stop regurgitating what everyone else is saying,” she says. “Create a villain and be the hero people want to follow to help vanquish the villain. The people who walk away from you were never going to buy from you anyway.” 

“Create a villain and be the hero people want to follow to help vanquish the villain. The people who walk away from you were never going to buy from you anyway.” 

Deanna Wolfe

What does creating a villain look like? It’s having a stand-out, or spiky, point of view. 

“Gut health professionals will create a villain around doctors who say your labs are normal,” says Deanna. “They create a villain that somebody can get on board with. It’s a huge marketing tactic that I know tons of business coaches are using to attract people.”

Use hooks to stop the scroll

Potential clients mindlessly scrolling through their social media feeds need a compelling reason to stop and read or listen to what you’re saying. Hooks are like magnets that compel people to pay attention and be curious about what comes next.

Deanna shared ten hook ideas designed to stop the scroll:

  1. Comments you need to stop making about _____
  2. 3 of my biggest mistakes
  3. 3 things that are keeping you stuck
  4. Everything you know about ______ is WRONG
  5. Red flags to look for in ______ 
  6. Here are 3 signs that you should ________
  7. Don’t you think telling clients x is unhealthy?
  8. My X condition isn’t that bad. (Then show signs that it is.)
  9. Create a Reel or TikTok comeback to a rude comment
  10. 3 things I don’t care about as a ______ (type of practitioner you are)

Relatability drives shares

Every practitioner would love to post content more people within their niche want to reshare. So why does it feel like every post gets crickets as a reaction? Deanna says relatability is vital.  

“Instead of thinking you have to be this perfect professional and an expert, why not release that stress?” she says. “Show up imperfect; show up fun. People will love that you’re in your sweats at home. And shares are free marketing for you.” 

“Show up imperfect; show up fun. People will love that you’re in your sweats at home. And shares are free marketing for you.” 

Deanna Wolfe

You also need to release the mindset to always be selling. It’s not always about an offer. Often, it’s about openly sharing your expertise and point of view. Being human and relatable makes people like and trust you. And we’re more apt to buy things from people we like and trust. 

Start attracting clients to your program

While things can feel uncertain in the beginning, practice makes…better. The framework above can help you kick-start your program, launching it to your list, clients, or followers. Then you can keep improving your offerings and building your passive income engine. 

Want to get even more expert advice on running better programs so you can scale your business on your terms? Check out last year’s Programs Summit 2023 replays. 

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