Freebie Offerings and Educational Courses For Consultants

By Kai • Get daily marketing tips for consultants here


If you’re a consultant and want an easy, low-risk offer to make available to your audience, typically this takes the form of either:

  • A Freebie Offering like a downloadable cheat sheet, worksheet, or self-assessment
  • A Free Educational Course that teaches the subscriber more about the expensive problem you solve, your discipline, or working with you

These can either be paid together or given away separately. The most effective combination is pairing a small Freebie Offering (like a self-assessment) with a free educational course on the backend, further educating the subscriber and then propositioning them with a call to action to get in touch with you to learn more.

We’re describing an educational marketing funnel to lead into selling (or rather, pitching) one of your consulting services.

Let’s break this down: take a look at what goes into good Freebie Offerings and Free Educational Courses, and the prerequisites that are necessary before you get started.

Prerequisites

Before you start thinking about your freebie offering or free educational course, you need a few key elements decided on:

  • Your Target Market, the audience that you’re niching down your practice to serve (I highly recommend The Positioning Manual as a resource to help you refine your understanding of your target market)
  • A specific Expensive Problem that you solve for your Target Market. Any specific target market will be experiencing a multitude of expensive problems. You need to have a specific expensive problem that you’re positioning yourself to solve.
  • A Discipline, or a methodology for solving your Target Market’s Expensive Problem
  • An Initial Service Offering or the first service offering in a series or ‘Product Ladder’ that your Target Market can buy to solve their Expensive Problem. (If we mapped out, in series, how an ideal buyer would purchase your services, the Initial Service Offering is the first service that they would purchase. This can often be — but doesn’t have to be — a ‘roadmapping’ or ‘diagnostic’ session that you offer as the first step in working with you.

You want these four elements in place before you even begin to think about a Freebie Offering or an Educational Course. Why? Because the Freebie Offering and Educational Course serve as a means to bring someone into your funnel, educate them about their expensive problem, and then position your Initial Service Offering as the best step to get started.

  • We need to understand our Target Market because that’s where our understanding of the Expensive Problem comes from, as well as our understanding of whom we’re trying to reach
  • We need to understand our Expensive Problem because both our Freebie Offering and Educational Course connect to this expensive problem, teaching your subscriber about the Expensive Problem and offering small ‘fixes’ that they can implement themselves to better position you as an authority and expert
  • We need a Discipline because that is the methodology that we’ll be using to solve the Expensive Problem for our Target Market
  • We need an Initial Service Offering because that is what we’re ‘selling to’, in a sense. Our Freebie Offering and Free Educational Course are leading the subscriber on a path to becoming a prospect or customer for your Initial Service Offering.

Got that? If you don’t have a specific Target Market, or you don’t have a specific Expensive Problem that you solve for your target market, if you don’t have a Discipline that you’re operating within, and if you don’t have an Initial Service Offering available to solve that Expensive Problem, stop reading this article and get those in place first. I recommend reading these three books and taking this free course:

These four resources will help you get the baseline established. Then you’ll be ready to think about Freebie Offerings and Free Educational Courses.

Creating A Freebie Offering

You want your Freebie Offering to solve a small piece of the problem for the reader. Ask yourself this: how can the reader use this resource to help them better understand or eliminate some aspect of their Expensive Problem?

Your Freebie Offering can take one of many forms. It can be an:

  • Email Course
  • Short Video
  • Worksheet
  • Cheat Sheet
  • FAQ (with answers!)
  • Self-Diagnosis
  • Audio Recording
  • Interview

It can also be one of a dozen other things. What this means is that your Freebie Offering can take any form that will benefit the member of your Target Market consuming it.

You want to focus on creating the type of content that’s easiest for you to create. If it is easy for you to create short videos, create short videos. If writing email courses is a breeze for you, create email courses. I’ve found that what is easiest for me is a combination of recording screencasts, recording audio (either solo or in an interview format), and creating collections of written material (a bundle of a worksheet, a checklist, and a short analysis of the problem).

You should create the type of Freebie Offering that’s easiest for you to create. The form isn’t as important as it being something easy for you to create and take live.

What’s important is that your Freebie Offering solves a small piece of the problem for the person who downloaded it. You want to make it a ‘small fix’, teaching them how to solve one aspect of the problem that they’re experiencing and that’s leading them to seek you and your services out:

  • If you sell A/B Testing Services, your Freebie Offering could be a 1-page self-diagnosis sheet to help them determine if their website gets enough conversions for A/B testing to make a difference
  • If you sell eCommerce Optimization Services, your Freebie Offering could be a video of you walking through an example store and demonstrating ’10 Common Mistakes’ that people make which negatively impact their store conversion rate

Make the Freebie Offering solve a small piece of the problem. It can go wide or deep on the Expensive Problem that your target market is experiencing. You want it to be focused on the Expensive Problem, not your Target Market or your Discipline.

If your Freebie Offering is going wide, you want it to teach your audience across the space of the expensive problem that you sell. A Self-Diagnosis of Problem Overview is great for you. Going wide is ideal if your audience is coming to you with a small understanding of the total problem, but not a robust understanding. By going wide, you can educate them on how to better understand the problem they’re experiencing.

When your Freebie Offering is going deep, you want it to teach your audience how to solve a specific aspect of the problem that they’re experiencing.

  • If you’re selling eCommerce Optimization, you can teach them ’10 common errors to look for in your store’
  • If you’re selling Search Engine Optimization, you can teach them how to write better titles or share an on-site optimization checklist for their most important pages
  • If you’re selling A/B Testing, you can offer them a list of optimizations that you’ve seen work in store after store that they can immediately make to their store
  • If you’re selling Outreach Marketing, you can offer them a free course on how to do outreach that teaches them what goes into an effective outreach campaign

Going deep is ideal if your audience is coming to you with a well-developed understanding of the problem and you want to educate them on your authority and expertise within the problem space.

Whichever strategy you follow and whatever form your Freebie Offering takes, you want to make sure it is a small, easily implementable fix that solves a piece of the problem for them.

How do you know what to create? Look at the questions that clients most often ask you when they’re hiring you, ask in public forums online, or ask their peers. Then, create a Freebie Offering that answers that specific question for them.

Whatever your Freebie Offering is, you want to make sure it doesn’t imply work: you want your Freebie Offering to give the person reading it some small victory. You want to frame the Freebie Offering as being easy to access. I like these two examples:

  • Content Promotion Checklist, teaching you the top 10 things to do to promote a new piece of content
  • 137-page eBook, collecting our 12 most popular articles on {topic}

Both are valuable and can be relevant to an audience, but the second implies work — the time required to read a large eBook — while the first implies it is highly actionable and easy to use.

You want your Freebie Offering to be, well, free. Freebie Offerings and Tripwire Offerings — small, initial product purchases — share a lot of elements, but we’re just talking about Freebie Offerings today. This is a free offering that you make available on your website.

Finally — and again — you want the information in your Freebie Offering to be easily implementable for your audience. This has to be information they can act on, either by quickly reading it and gaining an understanding of the breadth of the Expensive Problem or by being able to easily implement solutions to one specific aspect of the Expensive Problem.

You want this to be accessible and implementable. Not difficult to use, hard to follow, or time-consuming.

Creating A Free Educational Course

After they sign up for your Freebie Offering (by opting into your Mailing List), you must then follow up with more and relevant information, further educating them on the Expensive Problem and sharing a little information with them about who you are, what your discipline is, and who your target market is.

First, I’m going to talk about what goes into emails in a Free Educational Course. Then, I’ll break out what — high level — each email in your educational course can be.

Writing A Free Educational Course

When you write a Free Educational Course, you want to focus the content on diagnosis and initial solution implementation.

This isn’t you saying ‘do these exact steps to solve the problem at hand. Rather, this is you saying “You know that big, expensive problem you’re experiencing? Well, you know that smaller piece of that expensive problem? Here are steps to solve that smaller piece.”

You want these emails to teach the reader something useful, but also demonstrate to them the complexities of solving the expensive problem, the complexities of your discipline, and everything that they haven’t considered so far. Essentially, the free educational course is your way of saying “hey, look, here’s something you can do to solve Expensive Problem. Harder than you expected, right? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a professional to do this for you…?”

Your email course needs to be small and self-contained. If you’re looking for restrictions to help you focus, use this:

  • 5 Part Course
  • 5 Emails
  • 500 Words Per Email

Those are your restrictions. Each email should introduce a new concept to the reader. One of the emails should help the reader start to qualify themselves to work with you (“when I work with eCommerce stores, I see the most success if they have monthly revenue of at least $XX,XXX and…”).

This sequence of emails leads up to you offering a conversation to the reader to help the reader decide if they’re right for you.

Implementing A Free Educational Course

High-level, we can break a Free Educational Course into 6 areas:

  • The Delivery, where you deliver the Freebie Offering to them
  • The Follow-Up where you confirm that they received the Freebie Offering, call out one or two specific points and offer an additional tip
  • TheBridge / Invitation To Unsubscribe where you invite them to unsubscribe now that they’ve received the Freebie Offering, but teasing the additional information that you’ll be sharing with them over the next week (or whatever timeframe is appropriate)
  • The Free Educational Course, a multi-part free educational course that teaches the recipient about the Expensive Problem, shares who you are and what your discipline and target market are, and continues to share self-diagnostics and solutions that the subscriber can read about or test implementing
  • The Bridge where you switch from educating to pitching
  • The Pitch where you tell them about your Initial Service Offering and present them with a call-to-action to contact you (or reserve a time, or apply)

This covers what happens before the Free Educational Course, during the Free Educational Course, and after the Free Educational Course.

Let’s look deeper at each of these emails. We’ll start with the sequence for the Free Educational Course and then examine what happens before the Free Educational Course and then what happens after the Free Educational Course.

Building a Free Educational Course

At this point, the recipient has received your Freebie Offering and has an initial connection with your expertise and understanding of the problem space. They have, to some degree, started to trust you.

When you construct your Free Educational Course, you want to make sure that you’re focusing on further educating them about the problem space, teaching them how and why you’re an expert that they can trust.

When you think about the sequence of emails in your Free Educational Course, you can take it in any direction you like. I personally appreciate a sequence that’s focused on a classic copywriting formula:

  • Problem — Present the problem your prospect feels
  • Agitate — Poke at that problem until it starts to hurt
  • Discredit — Discredit other solutions
  • Solution — Present your solution to the agitated problem

Let’s pretend we’re selling Search Engine Optimization services. We have an understanding of the Expensive Problem that our Target Market is experiencing, so we start out by presenting that problem and spelling out the details.

Then, we switch to agitating that problem. We want to make the subscriber feel the pain in different, new ways. What’s the consequence of ignoring the problem? What are the side-effects of ignoring the problem?

After that, we switch to discrediting other solutions. Based on the Expensive Problem and the Target Market, what are other solutions that they might be considering? For example, someone considering investing in Search Engine Optimization might also be considering investing in Social Media, Paid Advertising, or Content Marketing to solve the Expensive Problem of “How do I get more traffic?” How do these options compare to your recommended solution?

Finally, we present our solution to the agitated problem.

Every single one of these doesn’t need to be a single email, and not every one of these deserves multiple emails. You can spend more time on a single area — like ‘Agitating’ or ‘Solution’ — if that will work best for your audience. I’m going to present an outline of a Free Educational Course below, but — and I want to emphasize this heavily — the Free Educational Course I’m illustrating below is simply a single way that this can be written.

Focus on the elements I called out above. Focus on following the copywriting formula of ‘Problem, Agitate, Discredit, Solution’.

Don’t worry about me only using a single email to talk about the problem and you wanting to use two. Your course should spend as much time on each section as is necessary to educate and inform the subscriber on that part of the process.

Cool?

Cool.

So, here’s an example Free Educational Course to look at. This is how I break down my Free Outreach Course for Podcast Outreach.

With this course, my Target Market is ‘Consultants and Product Creators.’ The Expensive Problem is ‘how do I reach my target market and get them to know about my solution?’ The discipline is ‘Outreach Marketing’.

  • Email #1 (Problem): How are you reaching your target market?
  • Email #2 (Agitate): Do you have a Digital Public Relations plan in place?
  • Email #3 (Discredit): Why Search Engine Optimization is dead and the solution is Outreach Marketing
  • Email #4 (Solution): How To Quickly Reach Your Target Market With Outreach Marketing

Four emails. Each one touches on a single part of the copywriting formula. I could also have made the sequence longer, with two emails focused on the problem, two on discrediting alternative solutions, and one each on presenting the problem and solution.

That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I wrote the emails to hit on each element of the copywriting formula to move the subscriber from knowing about the problem to knowing about the full implications of the problem of knowing the shortcomings of other solutions to knowing about the solution I recommend.

Let’s take a look at what comes before and after the Free Educational Course.

Before The Free Educational Course

The Delivery, where you deliver the Freebie Offering to them

In the first email, you’re delivering to them the Freebie Offering. This can either be the first email of the Free Educational Course or the email where you give them the asset — checklist, worksheet, etc. — that you put together for them.

The Follow-Up where you confirm that they received the Freebie Offering, call out one or two specific points, and offer an additional tip

One or two days after The Delivery, you want The Follow-Up where you reiterate the benefits of the asset and give them a download link again, if necessary.

This email primarily serves as a reminder / nudge / follow-up. “Hey, remember that thing you wanted? Just letting you know it arrived a few days ago!”

The Bridge / Invitation To Unsubscribe where you invite them to unsubscribe

Once they’ve received your Freebie Offering, you want to invite them to unsubscribe while simultaneously bridging to the future information that you’ll be making available to them.

You’re teasing the information you’ll be sharing shortly (promoting the value that you’ll be delivering) and generating loss aversion in the mind of the subscriber (“if I unsubscribe, I’ll miss out on all of this value!”).

Then? You invite them to unsubscribe. You tell them something like:

“Hey, your time is valuable. I want to make sure that I’m not wasting any of your time. Because of that, I want to invite you to unsubscribe from these emails: {link}.

If these emails have not helped you better understand Expensive Problem for Target Market, hit unsubscribe now: {link}.

But — over the next few days, I’ll be sending you answers to the three questions that business owners in {target market} write to me asking:

  • Question #1
  • Question #2
  • Question #3

If these emails have not been valuable to you, please unsubscribe now (link) — but if you’re curious about the answers to the three questions above (and additional information and resources I have available to share with you), you’ll want to stick around.

That’s a quick template that you can use and adapt. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a good starting place.

Your goals with these emails are two-fold:

  1. Teasing the future information that you’ll be making available to them
  2. Inviting them to unsubscribe if you haven’t been able to deliver any value so far

The people who unsubscribe aren’t right for you. It’s always easier to market just to your ‘dream buyers’ than all buyers, so by inviting people who aren’t a good fit to unsubscribe, you’re clearing your list down to just the dream buyers.

After The Free Educational Course

The Bridge

This second bridge is a transition from your freebie offering and free educational course to where you offer your first service offering for sale. This isn’t where you start the pitch, but where you bridge from teaching to pitching.

Here’s an example of what this might look like:

Over the last week, you’ve done a lot:

  • You’ve gone through self-diagnosis checklist, confirming that your Pay-per-Click advertising campaign has opportunity to grow
  • You’ve reviewed fixes to the 5 most common issues that I see in every Pay-per-Click advertising campaign that I personally audit
  • You’ve gone through a 5-day educational course on optimizing your Pay-per-Click campaign to focus in on your dream buyers, people who buy more and more often, instead of all buyers

That’s a ton — congratulations! You’re well on your way to a higher return on your pay-per-click investment.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at another way you can rapidly leap past your competitors, increase your return-on-investment, and guarantee you’re reaching the right people — and converting them into subscribers, prospects, and customers.

The Pitch

The Pitch is where you tell them about your Initial Service Offering and present them with a call-to-action to contact you.

So far you have:

  • Given them a ‘Freebie Offering’ to help them improve their business that connects with both the target market they’re in, the expensive problem they’re experiencing, and the discipline that you’re in
  • Further educated them through your Free Educational Course, teaching them more about the specifics of what steps to take to improve their situation, following the ‘Problem, Agitate, Discredit, Solution’ formula
  • At the appropriate times, you’ve invited them to unsubscribe, reducing your audience from ‘all buyers’ to just the ‘dream buyers’

Now, after receiving these emails, you need to switch to your pitch. This is where you present them with an invitation and application for your initial service offering. There are two ways you can approach this – I recommend the second.

  • Option 1: Send a single email telling them about your service offering and present them with a call-to-action to reply, call, or apply
  • Option 2: Follow the ‘Problem, Agitate, Discredit, Solution’ formula to present the subscriber with a 4-part pitch for your service, ending in a call to action to reply, call, or apply

I prefer Option 2 because it gives you more time and space to talk to the subscriber. It lets you properly position your Service Offering against the Expensive Problem your Target Market is experiencing. Option 1 works fine but the more emails you send educating the recipient, the better your results will be.

Cautious? Worried?

Start with Option 1. Write a single email pitch using the ‘Problem, Agitate, Discredit, Solution’ formula.

Then, after a bit, expand on the email, writing additional emails, turning it into a 4-part sequence.

This way, you can get started with something smaller that you’re more comfortable with and then expand to a larger sequence.

Attaching A Call To Action

At the end of your pitch — one email, four emails, or more — you want a Call to Action that tells your subscriber what action to take.

In this case, you want to give explicit instructions on what steps to take to move forward with your Initial Service Offering.

You want to consider framing the call to action as an invitation for more information, not necessarily a call to action to purchase. That’s the difference between these two:

  • Call me at (XXX) – XXX – XXXX to discuss if this solution is right for you and your business
  • Call me at (XXX) – XXX – XXXX to order this solution right now

Option 1 invites people to contact you, giving you an opportunity to discuss their business and their goals with them — and then politely sell them on your solution. (I recommend the book Spin Selling for more on this sales methodology).

Option 2 works for people who are ready to buy now. This is a smaller group of people than the first group, so there will be fewer contacting you out of a population of 10, 100, or 1000 people. But these will be people who are ready to buy, so the sales process will be shorter.

Which one should you use? Well, answer this question: At this moment, is it valuable to you to have more conversations with potential prospects in order to discuss their business and goals and refine your sales process?

If you answered yes, I recommend the first option. It will get you talking to more people.

There are four calls-to-action that you should consider using:

  • Call me at….
  • Hit reply and email me at…
  • Click here to apply and…
  • Click here to order and…

Call, reply, apply, and order. These are the names of the four options that people have to engage with you.

‘Order’ is best if and only if you’re just pitching to people who are ready to buy. Typically, for consulting services, if you’re asking someone to buy before you’ve gotten them on the phone, it’s too early to ask them to buy.

‘Call me at…’ is great if you’re comfortable talking on the phone and your ideal prospect is comfortable talking on the phone. If you’re able to get the prospect on the phone, it’s much easier to discuss their situation and close them on working together.

‘Reply and email me…’ is a good option to initiate a conversation. From there, you can work on closing the prospect over email or transition the conversation to the phone.

‘Click here to apply…’ is my preferred option. It really initiates an email conversation but moves people through a short client intake process that focuses on answering specific questions about their business, allowing you to pre-screen them before continuing a conversation with them. You can download my cheat sheet on setting up a client intake process and avoiding headache clients here: http://clientintakecheatsheet.com.


That’s it.

At this point you have an understanding of how to set up a Freebie Offering, how to set up a Free Educational Course, how to bridge a subscriber from your Freebie Offering to your Free Educational Course, and then how to bridge a subscriber to a pitch for your Initial Service Offering and then present them with a Call to Action.

Questions? Ask me anything about this (or anything else on your mind) here.