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July 13, 2021
Blog post

How to automate a self-paced course to qualify your leads

Written by Claire Emerson

What impact would it have if you could quickly tell the hot leads from the cold leads in your business? 

If you’re using email marketing (and you should be), then you can leverage smart automation — using simple no-code tools — that can help you qualify each new subscriber. And help you get a better idea of where they’re at in their buyer journey. 

So that rather than bulldozing someone into an offer they’re not ready for, you can meet them where they’re at today. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re B2B or B2C — knowing who’s hot and who’s not will help you focus your selling efforts on the people who are “already interested”. And inform a slower path to purchase for anyone who's not ready for your offer (yet.)

This strategy is called lead scoring, and it’s what we’ll be talking about today.  

What is lead scoring?  

Lead scoring is simple automation (set up within your CRM or EMS) that makes your funnel more sophisticated by attaching a score to each subscriber, based on the engagement they’ve shown with your email content.

The more they engage with your material, the higher their score. 

And that “lead score” can then be used to prompt what action you (or your automated systems) should take next, based on their activity levels. 

Why do we want to do it? 

Simply put: lead scoring tells you which subscribers are more likely to buy. So you can focus your selling efforts where they will be the most effective.

The added benefit is that you learn more about who they are and what they need. And that informs the rest of your sales systems.

When done right, qualifying your leads can influence how, when and what you pitch new prospects, making your marketing more personal and your systems more effective. 

How do we do it? 

Using automation within your CRM, you can use action-based prompts — like digital worksheets, link triggers, and short surveys — to attach a score to each new subscriber. 

That score is then recorded within a custom field attached to their user profile. Each time a subscriber interacts with your content (in the way you intended) their score increases. 

The higher the score, the hotter the lead. 

But what does lead scoring look like in action? Let’s take a peek at this powerful piece of automation in real life. 

Case study: The self-paced email course

“A free email course is the fastest way to indoctrinate someone into your way of thinking, teach them something incredibly valuable, and give them an R.O.I. on the time they invested in your email course.” — Brennan Dunn

Now, maybe you’re thinking “big deal”, email courses aren’t new. And that’s fair, because they aren’t.

But what is new is the technology (and smart strategy) that can supercharge them. 

So while you’ll always do well to focus on wonderful content and a well-crafted customer journey, amping up the automation and taking advantage of the technology available can transform the typical drip-style you’re used to into something way more sophisticated:

A self-paced email course.

Six ways a self-paced email course can crank up conversions

Email courses aren’t new. 

But they’re typically pretty one-dimensional. Usually dripped out daily by your email provider. And rarely set up in a way that tells you who your most eager students are. 

But we can fix that by using the self-pacing strategy. Adding this extra layer of sophistication to your sales process can make all the difference when it comes to: 

  1. Boosting subscriber engagement — by getting them to actively participate in the delivery of your material
  2. Reinforcing learning — increasing your new subscribers’ understanding of their problem helps them persuade themselves that they need to prioritize solving it. Of course, you’re doing a lot of the prompting and persuading with your content, but they still need to decide for themselves whether working on this particular problem is worth it.
  3. Applying segmentation within your CRM — you can have subscribers self-segment using well-crafted multiple-choice options in either your form or directly in the email as a trigger link.
  4. Capturing Voice of Customer (VOC) data — You can design the questions within your homework worksheets to help you find out more about your prospect’s biggest pain points and pressing desires. 
  5. Informing future product R&D — all that voice of customer data can help shape your future service offers. You learn: what their real problem is, how you should position yourself, what the product should be, and what might work with persuading them. All of this can be influenced if you include feedback in your funnel.
  6. Attaching a lead score to your learners — as discussed, this here is the ultimate goal. We want to know how interested the person going through the material is. So we can craft a more personalized pitch for them upon presenting our course.

With a self-paced course, you give the subscriber back the control. And they determine how fast or slow they go through your material. At the same time, they provide feedback to your systems and influence the way they get pitched on your paid offer.  

Let’s talk tech: tools needed to build an auomated self-paced email course

What are the technical requirements to put this strategy into action? 

For today’s automated self-paced email course example — we’re using: 

  • ConvertKit for the email delivery
  • Typeform for digital worksheets, and 
  • Zapier to connect the two

The goal is to use homework sections at the end of each lesson in your email onboarding sequence, and intentionally prompt an action from your subscriber to distinguish the committed from the not-so-convinced. 

So if you have a link at the bottom of your email to fill out a worksheet in Typeform, once they submit that Typeform, we have Zapier set up to tell Convertkit that they’re ready for their next lesson. 

The action of “submitting” their homework pulls subscribers through to the next lesson, bypassing the usual 24 hour wait period to get to the next lesson. 

This is how it becomes self-paced. And their participation is what triggers their score to increase in the backend of your system.


💡 Want to learn more about automations? Try Getting started with automation - a complete guide (with examples).


Self-pacing and lead scoring in action

Here’s what it looks like: 

Step 1: Your new subscriber opts in and gets their first email. As you can see, at the end of the email we have a link to a digital worksheet. 



Step 2: Once they click that link — they’re sent to a Typeform to complete the worksheet. And our CRM (Convertkit) is set up to send through the email address of the subscriber. This is so Typeform knows who is filling out the form and can send that info back to Convertkit when the worksheet is completed.



Step 3: When a student completes the worksheet (and submits the form), Typeform signals to Zapier that the worksheet was submitted, and lets ConvertKit know that the lesson has been “completed”. 



Step 4: Within Convertkit we have an event set up that waits for the worksheet to be completed (or for 24 hours to pass) before sending through the next lesson. 



Step 5: If the subscriber submitted the worksheet, their score increases via a change in a custom field value. And we can see their score recorded in their user profile. 



Hot leads vs cold leads

So now that you have a score… What happens next? 

Well, if someone is plowing through your content and is willingly working through your worksheets to get to the next lesson, then they’re showing a high interest in solving their problem (the same problem your product or service solves). 

And now, via your email automation, you can look at their score, and either: 

  • Use a manual process to reach out to hot leads, or 
  • Use automation to send them down the right path in your sales sequence. 

Let’s take a look back at our email course example: 

If you have six lessons that each have a score of (1) associated with the completion of a homework worksheet — then the people who completed all six of the homework sections would get a score of (6). If a student/subscriber only completes three worksheets, their score is (3). If they complete none, they have the default (0). 

Let’s say we assume anyone with a score of (4) or more is a hot lead. They filled out four of the six homework worksheets, they’re keen, and we want to treat them as such: 

👉 For hot leads

We can open the pitch window (i.e start your sales pitch) within a week of finishing the free course. For instance, you could send them 2-3 emails focused on letting them know you have something for them coming up soon. And you can mix in some extra content to address common objections people have when hiring you (or buying your product). 

The idea is to set the stage for the “big ask” you’re going to make with your pitch. And ideally, because they’re a hot lead, they’re more likely to buy during this onboarding window. 

👉 For cold leads

The pitch window will be longer. They’re not sold on us yet. So we can send them down an alternative path with our automation (based on their score). And rather than dive into a pitch they’re not ready for, you can follow up with some curated content (or perhaps more personalized contact) to help address their problems and fight their objections

Once they’ve had a few more weeks of nurturing, you can trigger your pitch sequence. And ideally, they’re now ready to buy. 

Biggest benefits of qualifying new leads

Before we wrap, let’s recap what three big benefits come from sprucing up your sales process and qualifying your leads:

  • More sales from people who are ready and wanting to buy from you 
  • You have an actual process for handling new prospects and potential customers
  • You learn more about your audience, their problems, and what you can do to help 

If you're craving more freedom and flexibility (and a lower touch sales process), then now might be the time to start squirreling away a few hours each week to focus on improving your sales systems.

And, starting with how you capture, qualify and convince new leads, can yield remarkable (relishable) results.

Most people won’t buy straight away, and that’s okay

While it’s great to make offers upfront, the majority of new subscribers are not going to buy from you. 

But our goal is simply to provide a more personalized and valuable onboarding experience for each new person. And get an idea of where they’re at in their buyer journey

Of course, if they don’t buy now, it’s okay. Because you now have their permission to keep showing up in their inbox. 

And, if you make it interesting to be on your email list, and make a point to serve first and sell second, then you’ll have ample opportunity to pitch them in the future — as well as gain feedback for future research and development.

Credit where credit is due

I love to learn, and sharing the strategies I learn from people who love email marketing as much as I do is always fun. 

Much of the technical side of today’s lesson comes from what I’ve been privileged enough to learn from Brennan Dunn’s Mastering Convertkit course. It blew my mind when I went through it last summer. And while today’s lesson is only a small piece of the puzzle, it’s a powerful one!

Brennan’s course is epic and a lot to unpack; here’s the link if you’d like to check it out.


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