How I Launched an Email Course to 500+ People

About a month ago, I joined - a community for solo-founders launching their own thing. Once a month, the group engages in a Week of Hustle - a week long sprint to launch something. I chose to launch an email course on the topic of building a Ruby gem.

Why Build a Ruby Gem?

A few years ago, I was building my first Ruby gem and I was left pretty confused with the process and conventions. After working through my frustrations, I thought the information I learned could be useful to others.

Honestly, I thought to write an eBook at first, however, the last thing I wanted was to invest a month or two of my time only to find out people weren’t interested.

An email course was a good medium - I could cover the basics well enough to get people through their hangups, while also validating the need for an eBook. I figured if I got 100-200 people to sign up for the course, I would move forward with the book.


It turns out my marketing efforts were more successful than I anticipated.

Today, almost 600 people have taken the Build a Ruby Gem email course!

Email is King…still

Prior to launching this email course, I’d read about the value of building an email list from people like Nathan Barry, Amy Hoy and Justin Jackson.

I’d also read countless other posts describing the most common regrets when launching a new product. Almost all of them included not building an email list. With that said, it was one of the first things I setup.

I blogged each day about my progress. Each post had a mailing list subscription form that sent them subsequent daily updates. Subscriptions were slow at first, but interest built. By then end of the week 232 people had subscribed. And the day the course went live, I was able to to convert 115 (~50%) of them.

The people subscribed were EXACTLY my target audience so it’s no surprise conversion was high.

Finding Your Target Audience

Fortunately for me, my target audience was Ruby developers and they hang out online (surprise, surprise). But where online…

Let me hit you with something that seems obvious in hindsight:

Marketing is easy when you build a product for an audience you’re already part of.

This was something I’d read over the past few months, but not seen its value until now.

The email course is for Ruby developers, I’m a Ruby Developer, so the question becomes….where do I hang out online?

That question is easy to answer - Ruby weekly, Reddit and RubyFlow.

And don’t you know…it turns out those 3 sources have been the highest converting sources since the course launched:

  1. Ruby weekly - 131
  2. RubyFlow - 65
  3. Reddit - 62

The remaining sources were a combination of direct links, social media and other technology news aggregation sites (probably mostly stemming from the top sources above).

Note: I’ve been reading 80/20 Sales and Marketing and the numbers above coincide, almost exactly, to the 80/20 curve. That is, 80% of the conversion came from 20% of the sources.

Twitter Tip

The last day of the email course has a Summary section thanking people for taking the course and attempting to get feedback. While I haven’t received much constructive criticism, I dropped this little doozie at the bottom:

"Build a Ruby Gem Email Course Click To Tweet"

I’d read a post about GroveHQ’s emails going viral and this was something they did in their campaigns.

The link allows people to click and immediately be setup to Tweet the following:

"Build a Ruby Gem Email Course Tweet"

It’s difficult to determine the value of those tweets, but over 10 people have clicked and tweeted. To me, this was surprising, but valuable.

I’ll probably look to make it stand out a bit more to hopefully improve the click-through.

In Summary

I spent a total of 16 hours creating the Build a Ruby Gem email course, which has since validated the need for a book. While interest in a free email course doesn’t guarantee a book on the same subject will sell, it was the closet thing I could think to do outside of taking pre-orders.