Monica Badiu, Email Copywriter & Copy Coach

The start of the year is filled with potential themes and events that you can tap into to engage your audience and sell more courses.

From setting new year resolutions and goals to dealing with the annual “Blue Monday” slump, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with your subscribers and provide value.

In this blog post, I’ll explore some ways to use the topic of resolutions in your emails to enroll more students in January.

But first, understand the context

Back in October 22, Statista ran the Global Consumer Survey to learn more about the types of resolutions U.S. adults would have made.

  • Health remains a top priority for Americans, resolutions include exercise more, eat healthier and to lose weight.

  • Save more money comes in at number 4 (an increase due to 2022 being marked by high inflation)

  • 19 percent of American adults also want to reduce stress on the job next year

  • 10 percent are planning to become vegetarian or vegan in 2023

Statista runs one of these surveys every year and it’s a good idea to pay attention to the results because trends do change in accordance with the times.

This chart shows the most common New Year’s resolutions in the United States in 2023.

The good news is that if you don’t want to rely on third party research you can always poll your own audience, specifically if you have a large following and/or email list.

Why we set New Year’s resolutions

We might not write them down or make a vision board for the year, but I’ll dare to say that every one of us is thinking about the future – our future.

It’s human nature to dream and try to plan for the unpredictable.

“We tend to set resolutions because the New Year serves as a cyclical marker of time during which we reevaluate and take inventory on our lives,”

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City

Sociologists have a more objective explanation: it has become a social norm to set resolutions based on peer pressure, traditions and the topic’s popularity in social media and mainstream media.

The tradition of setting resolutions is far longer than the rise of TV or the all-exposing social media. Similar practices have been found right back to the Babylonians 4,000 years ago, as well as ancient Rome.

“New Year’s gives us a sense of renewal, which causes us to think about areas in our life we want to improve [or] change and the start and stop of a clock always feels like the natural time,”

Mariana Strongin, PsyD psychologist.

But here’s the problem with resolutions

Setting resolutions is easy.

Sticking to them is difficult.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Scranton found that 23% of people quit their resolution after just one week. Only 19% of individuals are actually able to stick to their goals long term (two years, in the case of the study).

23% of people quit their resolution after just one week

The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts J C Norcross, D J Vangarelli

So, why do we lose motivation so fast and fail to stick to our resolutions?

There are many reasons and here are a few:

  • We don’t expect our resolutions to take so much effort

  • We have habits that need to be changed first in order to achieve resolutions

  • We have unrealistic expectations (especially of the time needed)

  • We don’t know how to plan

  • We don’t really believe we can actually do it

  • We set goals that are too big or vague instead of focusing on small achievable outcomes

You’ve read so far, congrats. Now you have a glimpse of what your audience could be going through during this time of the year.

So, how do you use the topic of resolutions in your emails to potentially enroll more students in your course throughout the month of January (and even later in the year)?

The New Year, New You emails

This is based on what I have tried or seen other brands do.

Do your research

Either poll your audience or read industry research regarding the topic of… yes, resolutions. This is going to give more insight into how to approach your audience and how they relate to this topic emotionally.

Here’s what you can ask:

  • What do you think of resolutions?

  • Did you set resolutions for the new year?

  • What is your biggest resolution for the year to come?

  • Have you ever succeeded in achieving a resolution?

  • What do you need to achieve your resolutions?

If that’s not an option, you can always go back to studying existent research, like Numerator’s 2022 New Year’s Survey: Resolutions 2023 that found:

  • More men are setting goals for the new year than female consumers (58% of male consumers said they were planning on making New Year’s resolutions for 2023, compared to 47% of female consumers)

  • Millennials are the most likely to set resolutions: 59% of Millennials consumers plan to make resolutions, followed by Gen X (50%), and Boomers+ (40%)

Identify the emotions at play

Not all audiences are the same and their emotions are going to vary very much in relation to the future. Let me give you an example:

One of the course creators I write for is in the personal development space. We polled her audience to see if the topic of resolutions is important. We got a lot of useful customer language and a new point of view. Most of them said “they don’t care about resolutions”. The emotions or moods mentioned were “fear”, “disappointment”, “hopelessness”. In correlation with other data we had about this audience and given the global context, we decided to take a new angle: help the audience see the future in a different perspective.

Based on the emotions that came out during the poll we organized the data under two categories of emotions: hope and fear.

Hopeful: the future can bring good things.

  • This audience is optimistic, resilient, curious, self-confident.

  • They usually make plans for the future, they are dreamers, even if they fail, they try again.

  • They can be overestimating their own powers, but that doesn’t bring them down.

  • Some of them are good planners.

Afraid: the future is uncertain and potentially painful.

  • This audience feels that life is a struggle. Their past or present doesn’t feel “good” so why expect things will change in the future?

  • They’re afraid of the future so in an attempt to reduce potential hurt, they just stop thinking about it, and go “with the flow”.

  • This audience has low self-esteem and is operating from limiting self beliefs that are reducing their joy in life.

  • There are mentions of trauma, anxiety and health related problems that make it difficult to focus.

  • Many have mentioned isolation, being alone or lacking support.

  • They want change, but are afraid of change, don’t feel like they have it in them or don’t actually want to change because of what that would imply.

  • They believe that resolutions are just “societal norms” or something that soccer moms do at their book clubs.

  • They have perfectionistic expectations that set them up for failure.

  • They don’t believe they can actually achieve their goals.

These insights informed the strategy behind the emails and how we could provide value to this audience in the new year.

So, instead of going at it with New Year, New You, we took a different route and positioned our message closer to where they stand.

Context is everything

The future is a major topic for every person on Earth. Even if they say they don’t care. That’s not what they feel. Uncertainty is the biggest fear we deal with every single day, every moment. It’s connected with an utter lack of control that can drive all of our decisions without us even knowing it.

And when the current context is not all that positive, it can be hard to ask the audience to set goals for a future that is… uncertain.

So look at the global, regional or local context of your audience. We had two years of Covid before 2023. A war broke out in Europe in 2022. We had frightening weather events, massive protests over women’s rights, inflation on the rise. All of these are elements of a puzzle that each mind is trying to make sense.

Addressing these elements in your emails is part of a conversation you’re having with your audience. It’s like meeting your students in class and seeing that some of them are struggling. Wouldn’t you want to see what’s going on? What’s keeping them stuck? And how you can help?

  • Understanding the bigger context will help you tap into the conversation your audience is already having in their minds.

  • Addressing these fears for them is going to position your message as one that is relevant to them at the moment and they will pay attention.

Now it’s time to make sure your message is valuable, easy to digest and leads your audience on a journey.

How does your course help?

Many course creators mistakenly promote an overwhelming and a bit vague outcome. And enrolling in a new course is = to setting a resolution. If the goal is too big and too vague it can be a trigger, so instead of selling the ultimate transformation: (like “becoming fluent in Spanish in one year”, “healing from trauma”, “manifesting your ideal partner”) you can break it down into smaller, achievable goals such as:

  • mastering 100 common Spanish phrases in 2 months

  • feel confident speaking Spanish when ordering at a restaurant

  • being able to watch a Spanish drama without the subtitles

Whatever your course’s specific outcome, apply the SMART framework to make sure it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

OK, so now you know:

  • how your audience relates to resolutions and the future

  • the global, regional, local context

  • what is the specific, easy-to-achieve outcome of your course

All you have to do is start putting it all together. And I’ll explain how I use all of this in an email promo right below.

The email promotion

Most brands will start to talk about resolutions in early January. But if you know your audience checks their emails ahead of New Year, you can get a head start in the last week of December.

The strategy I employ involves three stages.

Stage 1: warm-up, massive value and context awareness. This involves one or three emails that don’t sell but prepare the audience for the pitch. At this point you can even use the poll to engage your audience.

Here are a couple of subject lines:

  • Fname, what’s your resolution for 2023?

  • Fname what do you want in 2023?

  • A poll on 2023 resolutions

  • My big dreams for 2023 (plus an invite inside)

  • Do you suck at resolutions?

  • Why you suck at resolutions?

  • Why you never keep a resolution

  • You’ll probably fail at sticking to your resolutions

  • 23% of people quit their resolution after just one week

  • Ditch resolutions for the new year

  • Resolutions… are so boring!

  • Don’t even bother with resolutions this year

  • New year, new you?

  • The truth about resolutions

Stage 2: active promo with focus on the problem the course solves. Your first email should connect the dots between stage 1 and stage 2. It’s where you justify the actual pitch.

  • Resolutions don’t work. But this does

  • Tired of failing? This helps

  • Future you will thank you for this

  • How to make your resolutions stick

  • Get a head start in 2023

  • You, your goals + this = ❤️

  • Doors are open to the best year of your life

  • You, this & 12 months to succeed

  • This gives you an early start in 2023

Stage 3: call to action focus with benefits, social proof and urgency. Now that your subscriber has been exposed to your offer, you can begin to pitch for the course itself and address various objections.

  • Results

    • She made $X with this method. Will you?

    • Grow your business by X% in 2023

    • How to become fluent in Spanish in 6 months

  • Social Proof

    • XXX parents have succeeded with this. Will you?

    • The method XXX parents swear by

    • “testimonial quote”. You could too

    • The reviews are in!

  • FAQ:

    • [FAQ] How to succeed in 2023

    • [FAQ] Course name

    • Are you doubting this? [FAQ inside]

    • Dear doubter [FAQ inside]

The going going emails are a big part of stage 3. These are the emails that go out at the end of your campaign (think last 48hrs) and here’s what you can talk about:

  • Money-back guarantee

  • Last day to try it risk free for X days

  • x days to give it a try (offers expires tonight)

  • Procrastination

    • [6hrs alert] How much longer are you going to wait?

    • [ends tonight] Don’t let procrastination kill your success

    • [last chance] Only procrastinators will get this

    • $X today, $X tomorrow – are you willing to wait?

    • FNAME, what are you waiting for? [expires at midnight]

  • Fear of starting something new

    • [time is now] Afraid of trying something new?

    • What if it works? [decide before midnight]

There’s so much more you can do with the topic of resolutions in your emails. Obviously more than I could cover in one blog post without it becoming overwhelming. So if you have questions, just drop me a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.

In the meantime, make sure to check the thread for more topics on what you can talk about in your January email promotions to enroll more students.

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About the Author

Monica Badiu is an email copywriter and copy coach. She specializes in sales copywriting for online course creators who want to send emails that speak to their ideal customer and generate conversions without using fearmongering or pressure. She’s made clients over $3 million in 2023.

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