Why Some Email Courses Fail to Convert

My buddy Derick once put together an email course for JavaScript developers.

He picked a topic that he knew would be popular—the insanity surrounding JavaScript’s use of the keyword “this.”

Ever hear the old “Abbot and Costello” routine, “Who’s on First?”

Take a couple of minutes and watch this:

That gives you a pretty good feeling for how most JavaScript developers feel about the way “this” is used.

EVERYBODY is confused, and everybody knows it.

So Derick writes an email course to demystify “this.”

His plan was to attract developers who are interested in JavaScript, teach them something useful in his course, and then sell them on signing up for his subscription screencasting site where they could learn more about JavaScript.

And by all accounts, he hit a home run, at least when it came to the attracting and teaching parts. Developers loved his course—they sent him emails about it, and tweeted praise to their friends…

But when it came to sales, almost NOBODY bought. If memory serves, he’s sent thousands of developers through the course and had a handful sign up for his site.

Derick’s email course is a classic example of what I call a “Bridge to Nowhere.”

In Pittsburgh near my home, there’s a bridge over the Allegheny River called the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

When the bridge was built in the late 1950s, the project hit a minor snag.

See, the state hadn’t actually acquired the rights to use the land on the other side just yet. And as the legal proceedings dragged on and on, work on the bridge ground to a halt.

The bridge literally ended in midair. As you can imagine, that wasn’t super useful. One brave soul, a 21-year-old student from the University of Pittsburgh, managed to jump his Chrysler station wagon over the gulf and land safely on the far side of the river.

Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of traffic on that bridge until they finally completed it nearly a decade later.

When you’re looking to make a sale, there’s always a gap between where your customer is today—what they’re thinking, what they’re interested in, what they want—and your product.

A good email course is like a bridge that spans that gap. It builds a connection between what the customer already wants and the solution you’re offering.

The problem with Derick’s JavaScript email course was that the gap between the course and his product was too large.

His pitch reduced to something like: “Now that I’ve taught you everything you need to know about the JavaScript ‘this’ keyword, why don’t you sign up for my screencasting service and learn more cool stuff about JavaScript.”

The connection between the course and his product just wasn’t there—and most of his subscribers never made the leap.

So how do you avoid this “Bridge to Nowhere” problem?

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not just the emails you write.

In fact, Derick’s course may have been doomed before he typed a single word.

I’ll ‘splain more tomorrow.