By 2030, the online education industry is expected to be worth almost $200 billion*. But in this growing field, many entrepreneurs make a crucial (and understandable) mistake. They focus too much on the coursework itself.
It makes sense. Even with a great idea and the necessary expertise, educators know presentation is key – but it’s not enough. These days, knowing how to market online courses is integral, too. Each year, thousands of new online courses are created. In order to stand out from the pack, creators need to present their products well and capture attention.
Even before you create your online course, there are some marketing rules you should keep in mind. The first is to know who you’re talking to. Imagine a person who is likely to take your course – this is your ideal user. Along each step of the way, you will make decisions with this ideal user in mind. From the way you write instructions to the color scheme and pricing, it should all be designed to appeal to them.
The biggest question any brand faces is “Who am I?” so lock that answer down before moving forward. It should be crystal clear what problem your course solves or what need it fulfills. Make sure your course offers something of unique value with a unique voice, and remain laser focused on that identity. This goes hand in hand with knowing your audience. It may be tempting to try appealing to everyone, but you’ll end up appealing to no one.
Now it’s time to start spreading the word, and the most powerful tool in your arsenal is social media. You should create accounts on major platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, but don’t count out the smaller/newer ones. Ramp up to your course’s launch date by teasing small bits of valuable content, and then after the course is live, maintain a consistent posting schedule with quality content that drives conversation and engagement.
SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it’s the mantra digital marketers live by. Almost all of the internet’s search traffic (about 90 percent) goes through Google, so you should try to work within Google’s algorithm to become the top result for a given search term. There are lots of best practices for this, but the biggies include researching keywords and using those keywords in context on your online course platform. This will help push it toward the top of Google’s search results.
Once you know what keywords you’re targeting, you can use Google ads to create an advertisement that will appear when someone searches for those keywords. These can be incredibly effective since they only show up for people who are already interested in the topic. You can also use Facebook to advertise, using that ideal user you came up with to target specific demographic features like age, occupation, and interest. Another idea is to buy some influence. Use a site like Fiverr to pay social media users for tweets promoting your course, just like big brands use celebrities to endorse their products.
In today’s digital marketplace, consumers are understandably wary of getting ripped off by a fake product, so they often look for user reviews when deciding whether or not to buy. You can use this to your advantage by asking students to leave reviews of your course. Feature those positive reviews and testimonials front and center so potential customers know they’re getting the real thing.
Podcasting has quickly become one of the fastest growing media segments, and it can be a great option when deciding how to market online courses. Set up a show that revolves around the topic you are teaching, and host a conversational discussion about that topic each week. You could also seek out other podcasts on the same topic and appear as a guest. But no matter what, make sure to include a shout out to your online course at the end. You’ll soon be building an audience who may also become students.
Once your online course is live, you might want to add a few smaller follow up courses, diving deeper into a related topic or something students expressed interest in. These add value to your brand and can also be promoted in the same ways we’ve discussed above. Tease them on social media before they launch, create a targeted ad to hook potential students, and talk them up on your podcast. It’s a great way to keep your content fresh and keep people coming back for more.
Everyone likes a good sale, so be sure to consider them on a strategic basis. You could go the traditional route, offering new students a discount for signing up. Or, you could bundle services together. If you’ve got multiple standalone courses, why not sell them as a package deal (for a limited time? Or throw in access to those new mini courses you developed—anything to give people a little added value.
Finally, it may seem counterintuitive for a digital business, but getting in front of real people can still be a useful tool in how to market online courses. Seek out local events that are related to your course’s topic, and ask if you can give a presentation. You could preview part of your course for the audience and slide in a pitch to check out the rest at the end of your time. You can even consider hosting virtual events to drive even more course sales. Make sure you choose the right event management software to make your life easy. Some platforms even have event management and online course features already built in.
There's a ton of interest in the online course business:
In today’s online learning market, there is still plenty of opportunity for an expert with a great idea to start a thriving business. But in order to reach your full potential – and to maximize your return on your effort – you need to stand out. If you use these tips on how to market online courses, you’ll be on your way.
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