How To Sell Online Courses
Many of us love to create courses and share our knowledge with our students. For some reason what we don't like is promoting our courses, this directly results in fewer sales than expected. What good is it creating a great learning experience if no one see's it?
Because of the recent COVID-19 crisis the need for online education is growing which means that your potential audience is bigger but so is your list of competitors, so it is important to get everything right from the start and that includes your marketing channel.
E Learning is the future and taking time to build the marketing knowledge you need will pay off in the long run.
When I interview other course creators about their main issues with selling the online courses, I always get the same 4 replies.
– I can't find the right audience (This should have been addressed before recording 1 video or writing 1 lesson, knowing your target market is essential.)
– I find it hard to get people to my landing page.
– I can't get any traffic
– I'm not making sales.
On paper just like any online business selling courses should be easy as there are only 3 things you need in place.
A Good Offer, A Traffic System, A Conversion System.
However, without all of them working you'll struggle to make sales. You can see from the 4 common problems listed above all of them can be traced to one of the 3 “systems” not working properly.
Let's ignore the first one (finding the right audience) not knowing your target market or audience should be a big warning sign and means your offer no matter how good will never succeed. Knowing your customer persona or avatar is not enough, in fact quite often the time spent creating a client persona is wasted and can lead you astray.
You need to know what “job” your course can do and the people who need that job done. I strongly suggest researching “Jobs to be Done” on YouTube and spend a few hours learning about it.
All the other problems are almost certainly down to not having your offer nailed down, not having a traffic system in place and not knowing how to convert potential buyers.
People often think that their price point is wrong and spend time testing different prices, that is rarely the case. In fact most people price their courses too low if anything. In most cases adopting a premium pricing model would result in more sales and income in the long run.
In this article I am going to focus on getting traffic to your landing page and lead generation but please do take time to look at your offer and the methods you used to convert leads to buyers.
Marketing Strategy For Course Creators
Having a marketing strategy in place is just as important as having a good Learning Management System (LMS) to deliver your course.
You don't need to rely on paid ads, and until you have generated sales I would recommend using the following traffic system and focusing on organic traffic or at least very cheap paid traffic.
Paid traffic does have a place and running a few dollars a day through sites like Pinterest can bring sales but also a lot of data about your potential audience's demographic.
You'll have noticed that I haven't mentioned Facebook ads, for many courses it can be difficult to target your ideal potential customer until you have lots of data. I much prefer to use Facebook ads to retarget people who have already visited my courses but not purchased.
That way you are targeting visitors from organic traffic sources and also any paid traffic sources you may have.
The alternative to running paid traffic is to set out to create some authority for you, your online school and your brand so that you attract your target audience.
The easiest way to do this is by content creation and then distributing that content via multiple marketing channels.
By combining 2 standard digital marketing practices you can do often do away with the need to run paid ads, the 2 systems I suggest you implement are:
Content Marketing and Email Marketing, Combined they will create a steady stream of sales for you which allow you to switch to paid advertising once you know what resonates with your target audience.
By creating great content that leads to an opt in and then following up with an email sequence you create a simple sales funnel that delivers results and valuable data that allows you to scale.
Sprinkle in a bit of basic Search Engine Optimization and you'll be driving traffic to your landing page for years.
Please make sure you set up Google Analytics and your Facebook pixel before you implement any of the steps below.
This will ensure you know which sources are worth focusing ongoing forward. It will also mean that you can retarget visitors who have spent a certain amount of time on your sales page.
The Power of an Email List
As a course creator you should be building an email list, if you aren't collecting email addresses you are missing out on a lot of sales. 80-90% of my sales over the 15 years I've been selling courses have come from my email lists.
I've had conversion rates of up to 40% when I've created course offers for small targeted email lists. Compare that to the industry average of around 2% and you'll see why I love this system.
In all that time those lists have rarely been above 1500 subscribers and usually around 600-800 subscribers.
It's really not the size of your list that matters it's the quality of the subscriber and the quality of your engagement with them.
I know a fellow marketer who was making over $1,000,000 a year from selling courses and was proud that he never built a list, he didn't have one email subscriber... he wasn't so proud when the marketer fell out of his niche, and he had no list to turn to with his new products and had to start over.
The fact is very few people are prepared to purchase a product when they first come across it, sometimes it can take months for the time to be right, but when it is right if you have a list then you are set up for success, if you don't they'll be buying from one of your competitors who do have a list.
By implementing a policy of list building and content creation and distribution you'll increase your course sales and grow a list of engaged buyers.
These following methods are all based on distributing existing content to multiple locations where your audience can find links to your courses and lead magnets.
I would strongly recommend that you don't link any of your content to your sales letter at this point, point each piece of content to a relevant optin form or lead magnet. This is simply because Sales Pages covert at less than 1%, to cold traffic the actual rate is closer to 0.5%.
To people who know like and trust you that figure can be as high as 20%-30%.
In fact, it's not impossible to get 40% if you really know your subscribers well and use segmentation to only address the right audience. Depending on how much you charge for your courses you probably only need 5-10 subscribers a day to make a good income from your courses.
Let me repeat that 5-10 subscribers a day.
Let's say that you are only converting 10% of your warm traffic, so if you are getting 10 subscribers a day you over time you should convert one of those new subscribers into a buyer, over a year that's 365 X your course cost.
If that figure doesn't excite you then you need to increase your prices!
#1 Share Key Lessons
Step one is to take some key course content and distribute it to YouTube and your Community /Fb page if you have one, yes give some of your content away for free.
When creating a course I usually plan several short lessons for this very purpose.
These lessons should give your ideal customer some aha moments.
Create a video title that answers a question your ideal client will have. Create a pinned comment below the video that gives details about your course or lead magnet that will direct them to your landing page.
I usually aim for 10%-20% of my course to be shared on my YouTube channel, a good reason to create courses with video lessons if you can.
#2 Repurpose Your Content
The content you've shared on YouTube is not finished yet in fact it's hardly got started!
Each video you have has several elements we can use to get the message out via social media.
There's obviously the Video, but then there is the audio which can be extracted and used for various things.
The video or audio can be transcribed for a few dollars, then turned into written content. Step 2 is to take each video you posted to YouTube and extract the audio and get a transcription.
If you think this is a waste of time as you'll only get a few uses from these think again… I usually get over 100 “uses” from each video.
In a recent case study I did one 2-minute video which resulted in over 120 posts on social media.
Below you can see a screenshot of a 2-minute video that was taken from a 50-minute live show, in addition to the square video below I also have vertical videos for Instagram and IGTV and landscape ones for YouTube.
#3 Take Your Transcription and Rewrite it Into a Blog Post.
Recently I got a 14,000 word transcripts from an hour long video for $15 using Temi, the accuracy was excellent, I am now using that transcript to create a two 3,000-word articles.
I could just as easily pass it to a writer if I was short on time.
Take your transcription and rewrite it into a blog post or series of blog posts , then post it on your website.
You can then link to this post from Twitter Facebook and other social media sites.
Set up an account at Medium and post your article there after it's been on your site for a week or two.
#4 Share content with your email list.
Next is to share that content with your email list, quite often I'll track which type of content gets better results video or text content and also who prefers which type of content by tagging subscribers with their preferred content type.
Then the next time I post I can ensure that my subscribers get the format they prefer.
You'll also find that you'll get a lot of shares from your subscribers which is an added bonus.
#5 Post Extracted Audio And Use As a Podcast
Use an audio tool like Audacity or even your video software (I use Screenflow) to extract the audio from your video and distribute it as a podcast and an .mp3 to sites like SoundCloud or as an apple podcast.
This won't get as much traffic as some other methods but it only takes a few minutes and everything helps!
#6 Publish Blog Post and Video to LinkedIn
Next up, it's time to take your blog post and post it to LinkedIn, then follow that up a few days later with a video.
It doesn't stop there though, you can take the video and blog post and post it to any relevant groups on LinkedIn.
#7 Create 2-Minute Video Snippets with Captions.
Find a 2-minute section of your video that has some key information and cut it using your video tool of choice.
You now what to create 3 different sized videos, this isn't as difficult as is sounds, you simply need to create the relevant templates and use them in your video editor, in most cases this will give you blank areas above and below the video which is perfect for what we want.
You need a landscape version for YouTube no need for captions so use your original video A square 1080 x 1080 for Facebook, A snappy title at the top and burned in transcription and the bottom.
A vertical version for Instagram, which you'll post to IGTV and allow it to be previewed on Instagram.
You've seen the screenshot above now here is the full 2-minute video.
#8 Create “Quoteables”
Let's go back to your blog post now and time to create Quotables.
These are little snippets in the form of quotes which can be distributed over the coming year using a tool like Missinglettr.
They are easy to create and you'll get a year or so's content in 15 minutes.
They also get a lot of traffic..
#9 Conversation Starters
I've saved one of my favourite methods to last Conversation Starters.
While not strictly related to the methods above they are most important as they help guide what you should be creating.
These are simply short posts on online communities such as Facebook Groups, Instagram, Twitter or your social media platform of choice that get the conversation started.
The simple post below will give me ideas for content, videos, workshops and follow-ups for weeks to come.
It also gives me an opportunity to reply with an article that addresses any particular problems people have. Do it right and you can drive traffic to your relevant posts and videos.
You create these yourself using Canva or hire a graphic designer to create several for you that you can use over and over again, while you are at it get them to create some cool images that you can post on various social media outlets along with a strong call to action that can help drive traffic to your landing page.
What's The Best Online Course Platform
There are many options to choose if you are looking for a Learning Management System you have self hosted that you add to your own WordPress site with tools like Learndash and LifterLMS or standalone options like Teachable or Thinkific.
I don't recommend Udemy as they control your pricing and you may be up against 20 or 30 courses covering the same topic. One other option is Skillshare but personally I feel it's similar to Udemy so I've not tested it.
I prefer standalone options as their infrastructure tends to be more robust, and if the site goes down they have people on hand to fix it ASAP. I've had problems in the past where tools like BuddyBoss and Learndash caused my web hosting to regularly crash.
Why deal with problems when you can use someone else's customer service deal with it!
They also tend to have less of a learning curve for new students as they have spent time on money on the UI.
Also consider how you are going to get student engagement and social interaction, have an inbuilt community or external community is important especially if you intend to upgrade your courses over time.
I've found that a Slack group or Mighty networks group is much easier to manage and keep track of than a facebook group.
Having tried almost every learning platform over the last few years my LMS of choice is Thinkific ,(one month free link) but sometimes I'll use a standalone site as the landing page and link that to Thinkific but you don't need to do that.
What's The Best Email Marketing Platform?
If you are serious about selling your course you need an email list and that means you need a good quality Email Marketing Tool one preferably with marketing automation.
For this very reason alone I would not look further than ActiveCampaign.
How Should I Take Payment for my Course?
You course hosting platform such as Teachable or Thinkific should have a built-in payment gateway that you can use. They are usually restricted to credit card payments via Stripe or PayPal.
3rd party shopping carts like Thrivecart or Samcart are often better solutions as they are customisable, and in addition to Stripe and PayPal will allow you to use a different payment processor or payment gateways. They also integrate with many other tools like CRM's and Email Service providers which allows you to add new customers to your email lists as well as create a list of cart abandonments.
A good payment system can lead to a higher conversion rate than if you just use the built-in carts
Where can I find Affiliates to sell my course and how to I manage them?
Most good LMS tools like Thinkific and Teachable include a basic Affiliate Program, in addition if you use a 3rd party shopping cart like Thrivecart or Samcart you'll find pro level affiliate tools as part of the package.
I would recommend only recruiting your own customers as Affiliates, they know the course they've seen results, and they can attest to the quality of your training.
Affiliate Marketing can be a mine field I've seen so many products have problems simply because a few affiliates writes articles with titles likes “Is Product X a scam” which then plants a seed of doubt.
In addition, your own customers can provide social proof which is often better at converting new customers that any number of affiliates.
How Do I Create an Online Course
The first thing you should know is that it's not expensive to create an online course and you need very few tools to get your course out there.
If you are creating a video based course you need a tool to record your desktop with video software such as Camtasia or Screenflow (Mac) or if it's just you on camera, your phone and a tripod. If you are doing text based training then you are good to go if you have access to a writing app or google docs.
The one tool you will need is a place to host it, either self hosting or using Thinkific, (That link gives 1 month free) or Teachable these can work out to be a cheap and effective way to get started. I have a private client I took through our How To Create Your Online Course training who has gone from having an idea to taking over £13,900 (over $18000 ) in course sales in the past 6 months.
You can check out the training at: