Before you build it, you have to first determine if it is worth it.
There are many reasons why you may decide to create an online course.
Maybe when you were trying to learn something, you found few resources with a systematic approach to transferring the knowledge you needed. Perhaps you are just passionate about what you do and want to pass on your wisdom. Whatever your reason may be, there is one thing you need to do before you invest time and energy into this project — determine if your online course has a market.
Marketing any product online is no easy task. You’ll surely lose more than a little sleep as to whether your investment is going to pay off. Don’t worry though, there’s a solution for that.
It is important that you do your homework before you write or record a single lesson. Once you determine there’s a market for what you want to teach, you simply have to find a way to attract the students who can benefit from your course.
But before you get to marketing, you have to first determine what that market is, and you can do so following these five tips:
1. Define your market sub-segment.
Not even the most established company enjoys 100% of its market share. Newcomers often target a specific subsegment that’s underserved. This strategy can work for your online course too. For instance, let’s say you’re a yoga instructor and have written a book on the topic. The truth is there are many online classes on writing and how to practice yoga. However, how many classes talk about how to write a novel about yoga? Even better, to widen the net, you could teach people how to write about fitness and spiritual well-being.
Here are a few questions that can help you focus in on a few ideas:
- What are the different segments of the market?
- Do we want to compete in all of them or only some of them?
- Which ones are growing and which are contracting?
2. Size your market.
Determine the market size for your course so that you can establish an estimate for your target market share. For example, there are about 45,000 working writers in the U.S. All of them could be included in your larger market, however, only a portion of them write about or want to write about fitness. Even more to the point, you want to reach people who have only thought about writing on the topic of fitness.
In this case you’d have to dig deeper. Look for professional organizations for trainers and instructors, such as Yoga Alliance for our example course. Once you have a list of them, determine the number of members in each one. This process helps you calculate a plausible sub-segment (and you may even come back to your list when it comes time to promote your course).
3. Conduct a bottom-up analysis.
Determine where you’ll promote your course. For instance, if your class is on raising bees to harvest honey, then you can join organizations that have access to your target market. That could include a local or national apiary society and various environmental groups interested in bees.
Attending conventions and joining online forums on the subject are just some of the things you can do to flesh out your market size from an insider’s perspective. If you believe that 1-5% of the total market would be interested in taking your course, you have a realistic subject.
Similar to conducting top-down research on the larger market, a bottom’s up analysis gives you insight into how many people might sign up for your course.
4. Check out the competition.
A google search for courses on your topic can help you determine if the market is saturated. You have to cast a wide enough net to attract enough students for your course. However, if your classes are too generic, they won’t benefit the niches you’re targeting — this can differentiate you from less focused competitors.
You might want to piggyback on a larger market, which is smart, but trying to reach too many market segments can really impact the effectiveness of your course.
5. Determine why people will take the course.
Nobody pays a personal trainer just to get in shape. What they’re really buying is a “beach body” that builds their confidence. Trainers sell results not exercise. Consider what your students, who will give up nights and weekends to work through your course are really buying and market that.
In the case of the instructor writing a course on beekeeping, the course might promote environmental awareness, help home chefs use natural, locally sourced ingredients and bolster the agricultural industry. Everybody wants to save the world, and it’s these higher causes that you’d be marketing. Identifying them for your course gives you insights into your larger market and how to appeal to them.
Taking your time during the market research phase can save you countless hours down the line.
No one likes to waste time, but unfortunately many course creators do just that because they don’t take the necessary steps to properly research their market. If you plan on selling your course then market research is a must.
Something to keep in mind is that no amount of market research will give you a 100% answer as to whether your online course will be successful. The data will help you determine if you have a chance of success, but in the end you need to execute properly if you want to start and grow an online course business.