How to market an online course?
Selling an online course is a strong way to not only build authority but to build scale-able revenue. Across almost any niche, courses can help learners expand knowledge or focus on a more specialized topic than normally allowed. Teachers and instructors have the opportunity to go deeper and offer a more direct or personalized approach to presenting their knowledge.
Do you have an idea for an online course? We’re not going to talk about building the course here (check out this article on Udemy for that). We start here with what to do once the time comes to get the course out to the masses. Once the course is completed, how do you get the word out? Here’s an outline of how to market an online course.
Do market research
Step one, before you ever create the course, is to do some market research to find out what people want. The goal here is to determine whether there is demand for your course idea. If no one wants it, no one is going to buy it.
Ask newsletter subscribers, social media followers, co-workers, anyone you can to fill out a brief survey. SurveyMonkey is a great site to build your survey and makes it incredibly easy on the participant.
Chances are, you’ll get some feedback that may alter your original plan a bit, but that increases its marketability after completion. If you haven’t got any followers to take a survey, it may be worth considering whether your market is reachable for you. Will the course be on a site such as this article, which offers marketing assistance? Or will it be affiliated with a school, business, or other institution that does? If not, are there any you can pitch?
Promote the course on YouTube and on your website/blog
We’ve written extensively about how to build a website for your online teaching business, and other building blocks that help you establish authority and momentum. Now that you (hopefully) have those in order, put them to good use! Create a short intro video for your course and upload it to YouTube. Here is a great example from Live Lingua:
Don’t worry, your video doesn’t have to include sweeping shots of foreign countries or natural landscapes. It can be simple – it just needs to get the message across in an appealing way.
Adding a dedicated page to your website is a great way to put it in front of everyone that visits. Create a separate tab on the tab bar at the top of the site. This can serve as the landing page for social media posts and advertisements, email blasts, and all other digital marketing efforts.
Keep your branding consistent
When thinking about how to market an online course, this is a big one. The public should be able to easily distinguish your course from others available online, no matter where they are on the web. Use a consistent color scape, hi-res photos and imagery, and description/elevator pitch.
Ensure that anywhere your course is discussed, listed, offered, or shared has the same promotional materials (and that they actually use them).
See this article on creating a product launch, which covers the steps to take before the big release day.
How to market an online course: Outreach Campaigns
Come up with a list of media outlets and influencers in your niche. This can include newspapers, journals, magazines, podcasts, blogs, and social media influencers. Put together a press release. Send the release, along with a hi-res photo, bio, and any other relevant information to the best contact person at each of these outlets.
Many times, the best contact will be listed on the site. It’s almost always better to reach out to a specific person instead of an ‘info@____.com’ or other generic email/ Sometimes, all you’ll find is a generic contact, but I encourage you to browse around the site and see what you can dig up. Many journalists and hosts have an email listed on their publication’s masthead, on their personal Twitter profile, or at the top or bottom of posts/articles.
How to market an online course: Webinars
Webinars are another great outreach plan. You can present a portion of your course, or a quick PowerPoint/Keynote presentation on something related to it, that leads viewers towards buying the course, or at the very least, signing up with their email to view the webinar. (You then add the email to your newsletter, and put it into your sales funnel).
Let’s look at an example here. An online guitar instructor wants to build awareness of his 6-part course, Introduction to Spanish Guitar. She researches Spanish guitar manufacturers, distributors, stores that sell them, and venues that host live concerts. She puts together a quick, 40-minute PowerPoint presentation on the fundamentals of Spanish guitar, including a Call To Action at the end to encourage viewers to sign up for the full course.
Using a press release written for the webinar, she contacts everyone on the list, promoting a webinar she has set up for a specific date and time. In the email, she includes a promotional flyer, biography, and any info relevant to the webinar so that the contacts can print and post in their facility, and/or forward to their newsletter subscribers and social media followers
She also includes an offer to partner with their business, maybe as an affiliate (she gives them a percentage of sales from everyone from their audience who signs up for the full course via their link) or offers their customers a discount on the full course if they sign up for the free webinar. She tracks sign-ups and links to determine where each came from to ensure that organization gets the payout or credit.
During the webinar, she casually mentions her course a couple times. But, at the end, she has included a strong Call To Action, encouraging viewers to sign up now to receive a special discount or offer.
How to market an online course: Social media
After reading our article on social media best practices, develop a way to work your new course into your social media plan going forward. This should include regular posting and buying of targeted ads on Facebook and/or Instagram.
Pay-per-click advertising with Google Adwords is another great way to go. It is tricky to learn, but helps you directly target people who are searching for and viewing material related to what your course covers. PPC advertising is a good way to take advantage of hordes of traffic, where even a nominal conversion rate can drive some serious revenue.
Networking is another thing we’re big on here at Teacher Indie. The more you’re out talking to people about your course, the more likely you are to see shares and sign-ups. Momentum doesn’t just happen, it’s built, and you have to be the driving force.
Attend happy hours, conferences, meetups, and maybe even schedule some public speaking appearances at events within your niche. All of this helps to build traction. See the article linked above for more.
Above all, it is important to develop a plan utilizing these methods BEFORE you release the course to the public. Raise awareness as early as possible, and do everything you can to build hype. If the course is valuable, both the media and the general public want to know about it – tell them!