September 20th, 2022 Sell Online Courses

Before creating your first online course, you might be thinking: will anyone want to buy this? 

Determining if there’s a market for your course is an important first step in the creation process. The best way to do this is to conduct market research. Market research helps you understand who might want your course and ensure there’s enough demand.

Market research also helps you write content specifically tailored to your audience. Because of this, it’s important to perform market research early, preferrably in the ideation stage. The more you know about your market, the more you can speak to their specific pain points. Plus, the more useful and attractive your content becomes. 

Here’s how to start conducting market research for your online course. 

Determine your course idea 

First thing, ask yourself: “is my course worth creating?” The hard truth is that your original idea may be wrong. Thankfully, you can use hard data to answer this question instead of relying on your own inner critic. Here are a few tools to help:

  • Check course marketplace sites. Exploring sites like Udemy can help you figure out how your online course fits into the broader market. Udemy lets you browse popular topics within subjects like business, design, marketing, and more. Check to see how extensively your course subject is already offered and which topics are most popular and trending. 
  • Perform keyword research. There are a bevy of tools available for keyword research. Sites like Sparktoro can help you search what your audience is frequently talking about online. See what results come up to make sure your course topic is not only relevant but necessary. 
  • Stay up-to-date.  Read industry news, blogs, and articles within your niche so that your course reflects the newest and latest within your subject field. Additionally, by staying up to date, you may find a new segment of the market who needs your online course. 

Create a Learner Persona

A learner persona is a similar concept to a buyer persona. It’s a representation of a potential student who may enroll in your course. The benefit of a learner persona is to get in the mind of your learner to find out what they would need from an online course. This single persona serves to represent the target market and can help focus your guidelines for developing an effective course.  

Here are some key characteristics to fill out for your learner persona:

  • Demographics (don’t forget to give your persona a name, too) 
  • Their comfort level with the material (beginner, intermediate, expert, etc) 
  • Their pain points and goals within your niche. For example, are they looking for self-improvement, or to build on the skills learned in your course for their own business ventures? 
  • Their level of technical ability. How streamlined should your own course be for their sake? 

Conceptualizing your learner as a real person can help make sure you’re talking and writing like a human, both within your course as well as your marketing material. 

Send Out a Survey

Surverys can provide some quick feedback on how likely your audience would be to take your online course. Before sending out a survey, consider first your newly-created learner persona. Can you segment your market into a smaller group that fits the description of your learner persona? Send those folks the survey first. 

Here’s an idea of what you can ask users in a survey: 

  • If they’ve ever taken an online course 
  • If they’ve taken a course, if the content was useful 
  • How much they paid or would be willing to pay for an online course
  • If you offered a course on a chosen topic, would they take it? 

LearnDash integrates with SurveyMonkey for an automated process with a variety of trigger settings. For example, if a user enrolls in a course (even a free sample course), you can set up an automation to email your new learner with a survey. 

Of course, you can always create a generic survey before getting into LearnDash by using SurveyMonkey or your favorite survey tool, such as Google Forms. You can even send out tailored buyer persona surveys using templates via tools like Survicate.  

Check Out the Competition

Once you’ve done some research on the marketplace and your audience, you’ll want to narrow your scope and look directly at your competitors. Start by making a list of who your course competes with for attention. Then, write down how they describe their course. Finally, compare  your course idea and see what makes yours unique. The more you stand out from the crowd, you more you may pique learner’s interest.

Another helpful tool can be to perform a SWOT analysis of competitors. A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Growth) is a tried and true business strategy for planning and execution. You’ve likely already done this for your own course and brand, but have you considered your competitors from a SWOT analysis standpoint? You may learn that an area of weakness from your competitors is a potential opportunity for you.

Create an Action Plan

With the knowledge gleaned from examining the market, creating a learner persona and a survey, and analyzing the competition, you can form an action plan. 

In your action plan, identify: 

  • Your overall goal for the course
  • Your next steps 
  • Your priorities organized by importance 
  • Solutions to any problems you’ve identified
  • Due dates for deliverables (and your course going live!) 

Remember, no amount of market research will give you a perfect answer as to whether your online course will be successful. However, conducting market research will help you determine if your course has a chance. In the end, you still need to execute properly if you want to start and grow an online course business.


Ready to explore how to build your first course? Check out the LearnDash demo both from a learner and a course creator’s perspective. Once you get started building, you can export your progress when you buy LearnDash, so none of your awesome work is lost.

Rachel Kolman photo

About Rachel Kolman

Rachel Kolman is a Content Specialist for StellarWP. She has over 10 years of experience writing and editing for a variety of clients and brands. With an MFA in Creative Writing, Rachel finds new ways to use language to tell a story. She is passionate about education, social change, pop culture, and video games. She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and two cats.

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