There are many ways to market and sell an online course. In this article we want to break down eight different ways you can promote your online course and get it in front of potential students (aka customers).
#1 Way To Promote Your Course: Have a Good Sales Page
There’s a reason landing/lead/sales page companies are popping up left and right. You need a good sales page to clearly explain the product or service you are offering (in this case, an online course). We built a landing/sales page feature into Teachery because we wanted it to be easy for a course creator to quickly and easily put up a sales page for their course.
A couple things to consider when creating a sales page for your course:
Explain how your course will solve a problem for your student.
Write sales copy that you’d want to read (hire a copywriter, they’re not expensive).
Share examples of social proof (testimonials from existing course students, people who know you, or quotes about you from credible sources).
Go into some detail about what you are selling and exactly what people will get (what’s in each course lesson, how long it will take to go through it, types of resources in the course).
Be specific with outcomes a student can expect to have when they take your course.
Make it easy to buy!
There are many resources out there that can help you create a great sales page. But don’t get too far down the rabbit-hole Googling and reading article after article. Build a sales page, share it with a few potential students (not just your friends) and listen to their feedback. If you’re looking for landing page options, check out Leadpages, Unbounce, and Megaphone.
You’ll want to constantly update and tweak your sales page, this is okay!
#2: Create a Free Email Course
One of the best ways to get a potential course buyer interested in buying your course is with a free email course.
This article from Brennan Dunn is a fantastic resource when it comes to creating an email course. I’d love to pretend we have additional information to offer, but that article is spot-on. Here are just a few bullets about email courses:
Give away valuable content! Don’t skimp just because it’s a free course. If people like the content, it’s more likely they’ll buy your full course.
5-7 emails seem to be the right amount before getting to your sales pitch.
Offer a discount code in the email course (if you want), but make sure to create a deadline to use that discount. Urgency is helpful when selling via email courses.
Your email course doesn’t have to end on the last day. You can continue sending emails around your topic.
#3: Host a Live Workshop or Webinar
You’ve probably attended a live workshop or webinar. You’ve probably even attended one where the host was selling an online course during or at the end of that event.
Live events are a fantastic way to give value to people who attend, but also create a captive audience of potential buyers. Things to consider if you’re going to do a live workshop or webinar:
Be yourself! Don’t pretend to be or talk like someone else. Your first couple of live events will be uncomfortable, but that’s okay!
Don’t pull a bait and switch. Don’t promote the event as pitch-free and then have an offer you pitch at the end.
Use the 30/20/10 rule if you’re going to use Powerpoint or Keynote presentations.
Talk to your audience like a human being! Ask them questions throughout the event, don’t just teach/talk at them.
Test your sales pitch and sales page many times before your live event!
There are lots of resources available on how to get people to register for a workshop or webinar. Use things at your disposal (your email list, existing contacts, social media accounts) before paying for Facebook Ads or something else. You will need to spend time promoting your live event multiple times to get people to sign up!
#4: Partner with Other People
This is one of the best ways to market and sell an online course, but it can be difficult if you’re just getting started and don’t have a lot of connections. Let’s break this into two sections:
If you have connections with people in your industry
You want this to be a win/win situation for you and the person you are partnering with. Most likely if you’re seeking a partnership, it’s because you want to get in front of someone else’s audience. To get in front of their audience, you should be willing to go out of your way to handle the bulk of the workload. Things you can do to make partnering with other people easy:
If you’re doing a co-hosted workshop or webinar, offer to set up all aspects of it (all the partner has to do is promote a link and show up).
Write a sequence of emails your potential partner can send. Make it easy for them to copy and paste (and change to their liking).
Create any necessary sales pages, promo codes, etc.
Send them one email that includes your headshot, your course logo, a short bio, and some fun things about you they can share.
Make yourself available and offer to handle as many details, customer service issues, etc.
If you don’t have connections with people in your industry...
This will take a bit more time. You’ll need to do some outreach to get in front of the right people. The first thing you should do is reach out to the connections you do have (pro-tip: scroll through your email inbox to find your existing connections). Ask the people you already know if they know people they could introduce you to. The second thing you can do is send out emails to people you don’t know but want to partner with. Try to be concise and show what’s in it for them. A few things to remember here:
It’s not worth someone’s time and effort if you’re reaching out to them and they have to do additional work. They probably don’t need to partner with you, so you need to make it really easy and interesting for them.
Give people plenty of advance notice. Don’t email someone asking to partner for something happening next week.
Offer up a very fair split of the revenue. 50/50 splits are the best way to get started and keep things even.
People will say no, but if/when they do, ask if they can share why they said no or if they know anyone who might be a better fit.
Invest time getting to know people over email, Skype, or social media. It may take a year to build a relationship with someone where they want to promote your course. That’s okay! Good things come to those who wait.
Be gracious. Always be gracious, no matter what.
One last thing to mention about partnerships. There’s a “move” in the Internet marketing/online course world where people partner up and then they just drop any new email addresses (from the partner’s list) right into their own email list. Be careful with this! You can do it if you were explicit upon signup that it would happen. If not, you’ll want to send an email to the new list of people giving them a chance to opt out.
#5: Write Great Content Around Your Topic
This is a long-term plan, but writing great content is a marketing tactic that will always work. The trick is to understand that good content takes time for people and search engines to find.
Just like your course, great content needs to help solve problems for people. The more your content can help people, the better the chance you have that they’ll buy from you.
Here are a couple of thoughts about creating great content around your course topic:
Take existing content you’ve already put in your course and repurpose it into helpful articles.
Host a workshop or webinar around your topic and collect any/all questions you get asked about your course topic. Answer those in helpful articles.
Think of the content you write as “evergreen content.” Meaning, people could find your article a year or two from now and it would still be applicable and helpful.
Create a content plan and schedule. Do you want to share one article per week? Two? Do what’s best for your schedule and abilities.
Create a simple website and blog to share content around your online course. Squarespace makes it dead simple to launch a beautiful content website in minutes. WordPress is great too, but it takes a bit more technical know-how to get started.
Promote your content where applicable! Find places where your potential customers hang out and try to get your awesome content in front of them.
Remember, writing and sharing content is a long-term plan. It’s great for now, but you also realize this is an investment in the future of your course and topic.
#6: Write Guest Posts
Guest posting is a great way to get your content in front of existing audiences. Whether it’s a media publication or someone in your industry that has regular guest contributors.
The key to landing guest posts is being prepared. You want to do research on the potential outlet/person you are writing for and make sure the content you are sharing is unique and valuable for the audience. You wouldn’t write a guest post on iPhone App Building for a DIY Crafting blog. Make sure the content you are writing is helpful and a good fit!
When approaching potential guest post opportunities, think of the same principles outlined in partnering with other people (above). Be courteous of their schedule and try to make things as easy as possible. A couple of helpful tricks here:
Have multiple articles for a guest post person/outlet to choose from (3 would be fine).
Explain that you know the audience you are trying to reach and how your articles will help.
Don’t forget to ask for a byline and a link back to your online course or your website.
When sending guest post emails you will probably get told “no” a few times. This will happen. It’s helpful to build a spreadsheet to keep track of your guest post outreach and see who you can follow up with in the future.
#7: Create A Video Series On YouTube
This takes a bit more work, but can reap huge rewards. Think of this strategy as a longer-term play as well. YouTube videos show up in Google search results as often as blog posts and articles.
If you’re going to create YouTube videos, here are some important things to consider:
Have good lighting, clear audio, and high-quality video. Yes, you can shoot videos with your smartphone, but if you want these videos to have lasting value, you’ll want them to be high quality and well-lit.
Invest in audio equipment! You do not need to buy a high-end microphone to get great audio. The RODE Smartlav (aff link) is one of the best and most affordable microphones out there.
Use a good backdrop. You don’t need a professional studio, but don’t sit in front of a messy room. Create a simple and distraction-free (no kids or dogs) backdrop.
Practice your script, but don’t sound too rehearsed. Also, if you want to use a teleprompter app on your computer or iPad to read from, try to get good at it so you don’t look like you’re reading.
B-roll footage is your friend! No one wants to watch 5-straight minutes of someone staring directly into a camera. Switch it up and include b-roll footage of related things you’re discussing.
Video titles and thumbnails are important. Look at related videos to your topic and see what sticks out to you and grabs your attention. Learn from that and apply it to your videos.
Include a callout to your course during or at the end of your video and don’t forget to include it in the video description.
Have someone help you edit the videos if you don’t know-how. Good editing is very important.
The other thing that’s very important, aside from the videos themselves, is the content in them! People’s attention spans are really short these days. A 2-3 minute video can keep someone’s attention fairly easily, but a 10-15 minute must be incredibly compelling and interesting to keep someone watching.
If you plan on delivering some really great value through video, YouTube can be a great way to get the word out about your course. You may want to hire a professional to help you with videos.
#8 Way to Promote Your Course: Start A Podcast
Podcasting is here to stay and it's a great way to share what you know about your course topic.
I’ve written an in-depth article about starting a podcast here. I’ll outline it briefly:
Find a unique angle for your podcast, don’t just become another interview show.
Talk about a specific topic and create a consistent podcast release schedule (daily, weekly, or monthly).
Invest in good audio recording equipment (again, the RODE Smartlav would work here).
If you don’t know how to edit a podcast, pay a little money to have a service like Podcast Motor help you make your episodes sound great.
Create a launch for your podcast and kick things off with 3-5 episodes at the very beginning.
Don’t be afraid to ask for ratings and reviews, but don’t be a robot about it either.
Promote your new episodes to your email list, social media accounts, and make sure to explain the value of each episode.
With your online course, you’re obviously teaching someone how to do something. That same thinking can be applied to a podcast (or any of the things listed in this article). The $100 MBA is a fantastic example of a podcast that teaches bite-size business lessons every day and promotes an online course on the backend.
There are so many other ways you can market and sell your online course, but these should give you a great start!
Remember, building your online course is just the beginning. If you don’t promote it, no one will ever be able to find it!