4 Tips to Market and Sell Courses Online

Once you’ve mastered the basics of content marketing, what more can you do to sell your course?

When it comes to advice for selling online courses, content marketing is one of the first things you’re likely to hear about—and for good reason! The combination of blogging, high-value downloadable content, and email marketing has proven successful time and again. As a means of growing your audience, demonstrating the value of your course content, and creating a relationship with your core customers, it’s hard to beat. And, because fresh, high-quality content is one of Google’s top ranking factors, content marketing boosts your SEO as well.

But if you already feel established in your content marketing ways, you may be looking for new opportunities to reach more members. For some educators, doing so may mean rethinking their course itself. Maybe your idea is solid, but you need to refine your messaging. But for others, growing their business means branching out into new marketing avenues. Whatever situation you find yourself in, if you’re ready to step up your marketing game, here’s a few strategies to try.

1. Narrow your course topic by refining your audience.

People like feeling as though something was custom-designed just for them, and that’s what happens when you choose to refine your course to target a very specific audience. Your course might work just as well for a wider group, but by narrowing your focus, you will see a higher conversion rate from the audience you target.

How does this look in practice? If you’re running a financial planning course for home buyers, you could be speaking to a range of people, from young couples ready to purchase their first home to those still struggling to find their feet after the financial crisis. Or maybe you want to target older couples who want to downsize now that their kids have moved out, and have special financial considerations to make in preparation for their upcoming retirement.

There may be small ways in which you alter your course for each of these groups, but the greatest shift is one of packaging. The financially struggling home buyers may have disqualified themselves prematurely, whereas the elderly couple may assume they already know the ropes. By focusing on one group, you send a clear message that you have something to offer them.

2. Use sample lessons to lower the barrier to entry.

Learners who have never taken an online course tend to be more reluctant about signing up for their first one. They aren’t sure what the format will look like, how credible the material will be, or whether they’ll be able to smoothly navigate the user interface. They need some reassurance that the course is what they’re looking for before they sign up.

Fortunately, sample lessons are the perfect taster for most learners. A sample lesson can be as simple as a five-minute lecture with a review test at the end (just to let the learner explore the interface), or it could be the first lesson of your course. (If you operate on a subscription basis, the corollary might be a free week’s trial.)

Similarly, splitting up longer course content into small micro lessons can be another effective way to introduce learners to your course, or else win over those who might not have had any interest in a larger course but are keen to take a more focused version.

3. Offer limited, high-value experiences.

There’s nothing like adding reducing supply to drive up demand. In this case, you’re not reducing the availability of your course so much as creating a new, high-value opportunity and then limiting access. Maybe you only have a certain number of places available, or perhaps you only offer it for a limited time. Either way, by presenting your offer as a rare opportunity you put the pressure on learners to cut the procrastination and sign up.

What kind of opportunities could you offer? The most in-demand resource for many online educators is themselves. (How’s that for an ego boost?) If you think about it, though, this makes sense: they’re the name behind the course, and what they’re offering to sell is their expertise.

Offering that expertise in a one-on-one (or small group) setting is therefore a high-value experience for many learners. And given that you only have so many hours in the day, you’re not even imposing a false limitation to heighten its value! Organizing Skype sessions, AMAs, or webinars are just a few options you could try.

4. Look for speaking opportunities at conferences.

Your course may be online, but that doesn’t mean your marketing has to be all digital. Public speaking at events and conferences allows you to cast yourself as an expert in your subject matter and raises your profile in the field. Plus, if you record your speaking event, it’s a great piece of social proof to use on your website to establish your credibility.

Of course, if you can’t speak at a conference, attending is also a great way to get a leg up in the industry. Conferences offer an opportunity to network both with learners and potential collaborators. You may even learn a thing or two which you can apply to your course!

There’s a reason why content is at the heart of online marketing. But you can always go further.

As we said, you first strategy if you want to sell courses online should always be content marketing. Even the examples we gave above largely assume you have a strong base of content to work from. Your content strategy should involve writing an in-depth blog post at least once a week—preferably more. But if you’ve hit a point where you’re writing deep content multiple times a day, expanding your repertoire of marketing tactics can draw more attention to your content—and your course.

Author

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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