For the past couple of weeks we have discussed the necessary steps for how to get started selling elearning courses for profit. At this point, you have a good idea on how to find topics that are in demand and how to get your online delivery platform set-up. But just because you build it doesn’t mean that they will come!
Even though elearning takes place online, you need to think about your marketing efforts from two fronts: online and offline. The offline approach is probably the most intimidating for people because it is difficult to know where to start. If you are an expert in the topic of your elearning, this is somewhat easier. You can reach out to your network to notify them of your new program, and other connections you may have. However, what if you aren’t an expert in the area? Worse yet, what if you don’t have any connections?
If you are in this position, the best option you have is to partner with someone who is an expert (or perhaps an institutions in your local area), and share the profits. Don’t be afraid to be generous with the profit sharing seeing as you wouldn’t have access to this market without the help of this individual or organization. I alluded to this in a previous post, but if you can get an expert involved during the development process, then this becomes a whole lot easier.
Call First, Email Second
If you rely too heavily upon email for creating these connections, then you will not be very successful – at some point you will need to call. For example, let’s say that you created a fundraiser certification prep elearning course. Many non-profits belong to national and local organizations so that they can learn from one another and share ideas. This organization has the connections and marketing capacity to get your course in front of an interested audience.
You may first want to reach out in an email to a key decision maker and explain that you too are local in the area, and give some specifics on your background. Finding the email address is pretty easy as you can often find a “board members” page for these types of organizations. That said, if you can’t find anyone specifically, you can send to the generic contact account. I have found that these generally end up in a secretary’s inbox – the dreaded gatekeeper. Regardless, you should certainly send an email. In your note, you should also offer them the course at no charge, and then ask for a good time to call so that you can give them the information to access the course, and to answer any questions.
Wait a day, and if you don’t get a response, call anyway. When you call, reference your email, and say something like: “Hi, my name is John Smith, I am following-up on my message to and I’m calling with their credentials to the non-profit fundraising course”. This should at least get you past the gatekeeper. If you get the person that you are trying to reach, you should still give them the necessary information, but also explain your email again, and what it is you’re trying to do.
During this conversation, get the ball rolling for a collaboration. There are many angles here, but you could offer them a generous commission where it’s difficult to say “no” (i.e. 70%), offer it for free to their members for a one time license, so on and so forth. Don’t lose sight of the goal, and that’s to reach their end-users. Even if this course doesn’t make you a large sum of money, you establish yourself as a credible source for future elearning to the members.
I know it sounds crazy, but give members of this organization free access, although you require them to sign-up. Once they sign-up, you have their contact information and you can now cross promote additional, related courses. If it’s a certification prep course, then perhaps you can partner with a certified testing agency in the field and receive a commission for referrals. Most people taking these courses will want to have something to show for it, so this approach allows you to profit on the backend, and also get contact information for future promotions.
Online marketing is often what people desire the most – but a word to the wise, it is often more difficult to do as there are many different moving parts. I will discuss a couple of budget strategies to help you get the ball rolling, but know that there are an overwhelming number of ways to market online.
Strategy #1 – Partner Approach
This is almost a carbon copy of the method discussed for partnering with organizations offline in your local area. The difference here is that you don’t need to do it local. You want to partner with someone, or a group of people, who have a large reach. One fantastic method is to do a search for forums that exist in the same industry as your elearning courses. Forum owners are always looking for a way to monetize the users that they have, and they also have very large email lists. Propose a partnership: You give them an exclusive discount AND a healthy cut if they agree to email your offer to their list. If your offer is good enough, they will likely be interested to do the same thing for any additional courses you develop. You’re not limited to just one forum either; do the same thing for all major online groups in the industry!
Strategy #2 – Organic Search
This is probably my favorite strategy, but it also involves the most work. If you want lasting online marketing results, you need to get your website/elearning store ranked on the first page in Google for the topic. If you took my advice from the previous two weeks, then you should have a clear, narrow market, and you should have your site built on WordPress (which Google loves). The stage is set: now start writing! Write blog posts on your topic, have experts write guest blog posts, and form connections with other bloggers. Interact with other on social media (twitter is a good starting place), as well as on LinkedIN to form additional connections. The point is, if you don’t make noise, no one will know you exist! Make sure you provide valuable content, and avoid “spamming” people.
If you don’t know much about blogging, there are a ton of resources available. This post gives a pretty good overview on some strategies, but you should also check Amazon for popular books on the subject, and websites such as ProBlogger for useful articles and strategies.
As you research further ways to market your courses, you will come across an abundance of scams making outrageous claims about how they can get you ranked #1 in Google in “3 days”, or something similar. Let me tell you from experience: there are no shortcuts here.
The good news is, if you targeted a topic that isn’t too broad, then you’ll start to see search engine results. This part takes time, but it’s worth the hard work. Remember, don’t ever try to cheat the system – you’ll find that all your hard word will be wasted!
The way you approach your marketing depends on many factors, including how comfortable you are in the field of your elearning courses, your experience as an instructional designer, your connections, partnerships, and the like. There isn’t “one formula” for making this work – and some strategies may work better depending on the topic. The only way you will find out what works best is to pull the trigger and start putting yourself, and your courses, out there. The point of this series is to get you to take action, because one thing is certain: nothing will happen if you just sit there. Start DOING and you’ll begin to learn what works best for you. 🙂
Until next time!