Case Study: What Does ‘Homework’ In Email Courses Do For Sales?

My short take on giving “homework” in email courses is:


Almost no one actually follows through on your assignments, and you’re just adding guilt and stress to your subscribers’ lives.

Subscriber Ed calls me out though:

Interesting. So you’re suggesting a “pure info” course with no homework?

And yet, on Simple Programmer, the blogging course definitely has homework. I just signed up for the course to see what it’s like and in both the video and the Lesson 0 email, John mentions that there’s homework. So I’m a bit confused?

Ed’s referring to an email course that we offer to our audience at Simple Programmer.

The course is called, “How to Create a Blog that Boosts Your Career,” and it shows software developers the nuts and bolts of setting up their own blog. Subscribers get 2 lessons per week, and the entire sequence stretches out over nearly 8 eight weeks.

And Ed is exactly right.

This course DOES have homework—a TON of it. Every lesson is a specific, step-by-step guide to some step in the process, and it ends with a laundry list of action items for the reader.

So what gives?

Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do”?

Not exactly.

In fact, this course is the case study that got me thinking about this whole issue of homework in the first place.

My business partner John created this course a couple of years ago
before he and I joined forces.

John was looking for a way to promote his flagship product, “How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer.”

Since one of the cornerstone principles of John’s program is that every developer should have a blog, offering a free email course about how to create a blog seemed like a logical way to generate interest.

The idea was to get subscribers to take action with homework assignments, and at the end they’d be salivating to take the next step on the journey they’d already started—and they’d buy the paid product.

Weeeeell, it didn’t actually work out all that way.

The blogging course has been VERY popular as a lead magnet—well over 10,000 developers have gone through it by now.

But in terms of making sales, I’d rank this course somewhere between “anemic” and “dismal.”

In an average month John was getting maybe 1,500 signups, and only a tiny handful of those developers ended up becoming customers.

The only way he could really get this product to sell was by doing quarterly discount offers.

For months I’ve wanted to replace this “dead dog” blogging course with a new email course with fun, easy-to-read lessons…

And last week I finally finished it up.

I won’t know how well the new email course performs for a month or two, but early indications are that sales are up, up, up.

I’m sure I’ll write more about this new course as I learn how our customers respond.

But for now, the takeaway is:

Homework doesn’t sell.

So if you want to see your business grow, save the assignments for inside your paid products.