Retain learners with class funnels
How to keep enthusiastic learners coming back for more classes by intentionally designing courses that complement or build on one another.

When parents are choosing which Outschool classes to enroll their learners in next, a good experience with an educator is often a more important deciding factor than class topic. Once you’ve formed that special relationship with learners in class, how can you make sure there’s always a way for them to keep supporting your teaching business? The answer: By intentionally creating multiple courses that create a natural “next step” for families, sometimes called a class funnel.

A class funnel is a technique used by many educators on Outschool to keep learners signing up for new classes in their catalog. Educators should be aware that the word “funnel” isn’t generally used with parents and is simply a way to describe this technique of creating complementary classes. In this article, we’ll go over:

  • Different types of funnels based on class format or subject
  • How to create a catalog of classes that allows you to build long-term relationships with families
  • Best practices for communicating the next class a learner should enroll in

Types of class funnels

Let’s walk through a few common funnel types we see on Outschool, when to use them, and the steps to adding each one to your class catalog.

One-time class → ongoing class

We recommend this type of funnel especially to newer educators who need to build the foundation of their learner audience. It can also be a useful strategy for trying out a new class topic or curriculum that may appeal to a different audience than your existing learners.

This funnel starts with a one-time class. One-time courses are the perfect way to get your feet wet as an online educator or try out some new lessons you’ve been working on. They’re usually offered at lower prices and require minimal commitment from families, so you’re more likely to see new learners willing to join your class (even if they don’t already know you).

Once learners have completed the one-time class (and loved it, of course), you have the chance to harness that interest and send them right to another learning opportunity. Here’s how to do it, from start to finish.

1. Create a one-time class that matches your teaching expertise. Maybe you offer a 30-minute class on “Drawing Dolphins With Colored Pencils” that meets this Friday at 3 pm.

2. At the same time, create an ongoing class on “Drawing Sea Creatures of All Sorts” that meets once a week on Fridays at 3 pm, starting the week after your one-time course.

3. Imagine you receive six enrollments for your one-time course. At the end of class, you briefly mention that you teach more classes on drawing sea creatures and hope to see each learner again soon!

4. After class is over, you send a personalized message to the parents of each learner. You let them know that you enjoyed having their child in class, and if they’d like to keep learning with you, they can sign up for your ongoing drawing course that meets every week at the same time as today’s one-time class.

5. Four of the six one-time learners sign up for your ongoing class, plus you receive three more enrollments from new learners who found your class using search keywords. Now your “Drawing Sea Creatures of All Sorts” class has seven learners, and you’re on your way to more 5-star reviews and weekly payments from ongoing learners!

Note that there were two important steps we included in the above example that you shouldn’t overlook to create a successful one-time → ongoing funnel:

  • The ongoing class met on the same day and time as the one-time class. Since learners signed up for the one-time class on Friday at 3 pm, you can guess that they will continue to be available at this time to sign up for more classes.
  • You sent a direct message to each parent, letting them know about your ongoing class and providing feedback about their learner. Parents are often more likely to respond and enroll after a personalized invitation to join your class again.

This last point applies to all class funnels and any other marketing messages to parents through the Outschool platform. Learn more about messaging parents to promote your classes here.

Basic skills → advanced skills

Designing multiple classes that work toward building an advanced skill is a more classic approach to creating a class funnel. This may be appropriate for some class topics, but others work better with a non-sequential funneling strategy (featured in the next section).

Educator Melanie Pauli shared with us in this interview how she has used a piano class progression to enroll hundreds of learners in her courses. She’s created an 8-part, multi-day class series, where learners start at level one and can progress to more advanced levels as their skills improve. To ensure parents enroll in the correct class, she clearly lists prerequisites and the 8-step learning process in her class descriptions. If a learner were to complete every course, they could be taking classes from Melanie for a year or more.

The key to making this type of funnel work in the long term is to consistently bring in learners to your “level one” course using a variety of marketing techniques. You’ll also want to consider how you can design your class schedule to allow existing learners to re-enroll at a time that works for them. While you can’t offer every class at the same time (like in the one-time → ongoing funnel), could you stick to a general timeframe on weekday mornings? Or better yet – allow for some flexibility and ask returning families what time would work best for their next class?

Eventually, learners will of course come to the end of a sequential class series. To make sure you don’t lose their business, think about how you could direct them to our next type of funnel: variations on a theme.

Variations on a theme

If a one-time → ongoing funnel is the perfect way to get a new learner to sign up for their second class, then a catalog of classes on the same theme may be how you get them to enroll for their third, fourth, or hundredth class!

Imagine you’re nearing the end of a 4-week multi-day class, and your enrolled learners don’t want the fun to end. They’re having a fantastic time, and you’re getting great feedback from parents. But, you’ve completed your class project, and the course is coming to a natural close. How can you avoid losing touch with families who love your teaching style? By directing them to other classes that match their interests but don’t necessarily need to be taken in a certain order.

Not requiring that classes be taken in a particular order gives learners the freedom to choose their next course right away, instead of waiting for a specific class to begin. By creating a diverse course catalog, you also give yourself the opportunity to direct different learners to the best next class for them.

Here’s an example of a group of classes that follow this funneling strategy:

  • Silly Science: Make Gak, Oobleck, and Silly Putty! 3-week multi-day class
  • Silly Science: What’s Cooking in the Kitchen? 3-week multi-day class
  • Silly Science: Experiments to Do at Home Ongoing class
  • Outdoor Science Adventure: Mud, Dirt, and Worms 4-week multi-day class
  • Outdoor Science Adventure: Creepy Crawlies in Your Yard 2-week multi-day class
  • Outdoor Science Adventure: Nature Journaling With Friends Ongoing class
  • Science Sleuths Escape Room Ongoing class
  • Scientists in Training: Design Your Own Experiments 6-week multi-day class

Each of these classes fits a certain theme (science and experiments), and a learner could potentially take every one, in any order. They can pick and choose between different formats, schedules, and prices to find what will meet their needs.

Since each class follows a different format and runs for a different length of time, you can also ensure that there’s always a new section starting soon for learners finishing up a class. As an educator, you get to choose from several options when thinking of the right follow-on course for each learner and truly personalize their experience with your teaching business.

Create intentional class funnels for your learners

Designing a diverse course catalog with complementary classes encourages families to go from one-time fans to repeat customers. Make sure you always create new courses with your target audience in mind, and avoid these common pitfalls when messaging families to promote your other classes.

Lastly, remember that long-term schedule commitments and high price points can both be a turnoff for parents. When planning class funnels, think about ways you could break up your content into shorter or ongoing courses that may make it easier for parents to decide to invest in your business. For more pro-tips, check out the educator events calendar to sign up for our Business Coaching program (free to approved educators).

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