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How to Market an Online Course: 7 Tried and Tested Strategies

Axel Grubba

Updated May 18, 2023

Individuals of different backgrounds and age groups are increasingly interested in exploring a wide range of subjects for a variety of purposes. This hunger for knowledge is powering the online learning market, which is experiencing a surge in growth and shows no signs of slowing down. 

The industry is already expected to reach $50 billion by 2026. Unsurprising, given that online courses offer more course variety and allow people to learn independently, and often, at their own pace. To that end, many new business owners are incorporating online courses to tap into its inherent benefits.

But no matter how great you are at building online courses for your business, the need to back this with an effective marketing strategy is critical to its success. The correct online marketing techniques make course promotion to the right people easier and more effective. And given this, we’ve reviewed seven of the best and most cost-effective ways businesses can market their online courses. 

What is online course marketing?

So, what’s online course marketing all about?

Online course marketing refers to the nifty tricks and tactics used to promote an online course. 

In most cases, this would involve: 

  1. Create a solid marketing plan that breaks down the methods you’ll use to sell your course (we’ve got 7 ideas for you further down).
  2. Crafting course material that’s both engaging and gets your learners fired up.
  3. Putting a course online using one of the dedicated online course platforms.
  4. Tapping into a bunch of digital marketing channels, like social media and search engines, to reach out to potential customers.

Executing a top-notch marketing plan means you will need a good grasp of the industry, the competition, your target audience, and your ideal customer. Plus, you need to be able to communicate the course benefits and outcomes in a way that’s clear and persuasive. With all this in mind, you’ll be well on your way to online course success.

Here’s a great example from the Founder of Indie Worldwide, a community of bootstrapped start-up founders, Anthony Castrio.

Online course marketing

In this tweet, Castrio is obviously promoting Dagobert Renouf’s Twitter course–and it’s effective for the following reasons: 

  • He tells his audience that he’s finally taking the course thanks to the flash sale in a very natural and organic way. 
  • He’s tapping into his large Twitter following that is made up largely of early-stage start-up founders–an audience that would likely show interest in Dagobert’s course. 
  • He leverages his defined expertise and credibility in this space. As an expert in the start-up industry, it’s likely that his followers will pay attention and listen to his recommendations. 
  • He indicated urgency in his tweet by mentioning that it was a flash sale. 

As you can see, the tweet gained great traction, reaching over four thousand views–and that’s what we want out of our marketing efforts for our online courses. 

Here’s why:

Importance of marketing your online course

Creating a fantastic online course is only half the battle. At the end of the day, you need to get your course in front of the right audience. Marketing your online course is the key to standing out in the ever-growing sea of e-learning opportunities. And by effectively promoting your course, you’ll not only attract the learners who’ll truly benefit from it but also ensure that your hard work and expertise don’t go unnoticed. Let’s go into it in further detail: 

# It helps build your brand and online presence

Giving your online course a proper promotional push not only carves out a place for your brand but also sets you apart from the competition, bolsters your credibility, and cements your status as a pro in your niche. The marketing tactics we’ll explore soon will help your course cut through the digital noise and catch the eye of eager learners. By cooking up top-notch content that truly resonates with your target audience, you’ll cultivate a community of engaged followers who’ll eagerly lap up what you have to offer.

# Get to know your target audience better

You must know your target audience well to promote your course successfully. And online marketing offers plenty of opportunities to learn more about them through direct engagement or looking at their social media interactions. Find the platforms that your audience is most likely to hang out on. For example, Twitter and LinkedIn may be best for finding start-up founders.

# Boosts revenue

Online marketing helps increase your course enrolment rate from people who may be aware of your course but have not taken action. When done right, your marketing strategy can give prospects the extra push they need to sign up and subscribe. 

Additionally, you can teach your current customers how to leverage the value of your offerings, which may lead to more conversions. And many marketing activities will cost you little to no money to execute, so you have more cash in your wallet.

How to market an online course

The good news is you don’t need to have everything figured out before you start marketing. However, you must be clear on your promised results and whether you can deliver them. This is key as you’re primarily selling the course value. Here are 7 ways to effectively promote your online course.

1. Create a lead magnet

Lead magnets can attract prospects with an attractive offer in exchange for their contact details. It can be a free asset like a template or ebook; or a special deal for customers. Their name, email address, and company details make it easier to develop a relationship. In giving you their details, they have consented to receive promotional material about your course and other content. And every interaction is an opportunity to build brand awareness and push them closer to booking your course.

Going down the lead magnet route is free, and offering upfront value to your prospects is an excellent first impression. Here is a simple and effective lead magnet example.

Example

Lead magnet example

The Sales Evangelist addresses a common problem for small business owners of inconsistent sales. They show empathy, discuss potential causes to demonstrate their authority, and advise that their ebook has what they need to resolve this issue.

2. Run a Presale

Running a presale is worth considering if you have an audience on your social media or email list. A presale is like a waitlist, where customers pay for your course before it’s launched. This method works because many people love having access to something new or exclusive. In this case, they’ll be the first to access your knowledge. And for you, the benefits are plenty:

  • You can gauge the interest level
  • You’ll receive 100% profit, which could contribute towards completing or refining the course
  • You create hype around your course

However, this method is slightly risky as unhappy customers may shout from the rooftops about their dissatisfaction and tarnish your brand. Ensure you deliver on your promises.

Example

Like a lead magnet, in addition to the course, you’ll need to offer the additional incentive of paying for the course now instead of waiting for the launch. Going back to our Twitter example, the flash sale was the added incentive.

Flash Sale Example

Spark My Relationship offers three freebies to anyone who purchases their course during their presale. They include the price of each product to entice prospects to take advantage of the offer.

3. Use a live event to give prospects a preview

People will be more attracted to your course when they have an idea of the kind of benefits your course can bring. Consider delivering a sneak preview of your course experience using a live stream on the social media platforms your target audience frequents.

For example, you could host a free lesson covering a segment of your course to create interest in your brand and offerings. Alternatively, a Q&A session discussing the topics covered in your course doubles up as a great course intro and the perfect opportunity to find out more about your audience. Consider taking notes of the types of questions and concerns raised by your audience during the session, or you could use a feedback form. This information will help tune your course or future campaigns.

4. Start a YouTube channel

YouTube is a highly successful platform with approximately 122 million daily users and is the second most visited search engine after Google. Many viewers use YouTube for “how-to” videos, which can rank higher than website content. Consider starting a YouTube channel to publish valuable and interesting content about your course, and include links to your course or website in the video description.

You can create short course promotion videos using different titles to increase exposure which you can then upload to YouTube. To rank well, include popular keywords related to your course in your descriptions and video titles.

Mix up your video content. Otherwise, you may give the impression of a desperate salesperson. Some videos should only briefly mention your course, with most of the content discussing a course-related topic.  For example, if your course is about becoming a landscape gardener, one of your videos can provide value by examining the best astroturf to purchase for specific garden designs.

Example

Khan Academy is a personalized learning resource. They demonstrate their offerings through short lessons on YouTube. They focus on a variety of topics, delivered in bite-sized tidbits which engages their audience more than a traditional long-form video would.

Khan Academy personalized learning resource

5. Start a podcast

Podcasts are not as niche as they once were. Starting one is an excellent way to reach podcast listeners in your audience, demonstrate your expertise on a topic, and grow your online presence. Alternatively, you could appear on someone else’s podcast, be an interviewer or interviewee, or work with other podcasters in the field to gain exposure to new audiences.

Everyone listening will be a potential student. Share valuable tips and end by asking them to visit your website to learn more about the course.

Example

The “Truth for Teachers” podcast collection by teacher Angel Watson offers practical classroom tips and inspirational messages for those within the education sector. She has a Facebook community where listeners have their say on podcast topics, guests, and the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned from podcasts.

Truth for Teachers podcast collection screen

Check out our roundup of the best podcast hosting to get started today!

6. Consider an affiliate program

You could also consider hiring someone to help promote your course sales and pay them a commission on each sale through an affiliate program.

Your affiliate marketer would be someone with access to your target audience. Look back to our Twitter example. While Anthony may not have been an affiliate, he’s a good example of the value an affiliate marketer can bring with their posts and content.

Your partner will promote your course and direct customers to it using a unique link to track the source of traffic directed to your website. In other words, the link proves which affiliate generated the sale so you can pay them. The great thing about this option is that you won’t need upfront cash to get started. Your affiliate partner will be paid through the sales they generate.

Moreover, an affiliate marketing program can improve your SEO. Your affiliate partners will post backlinks on their blogs and other online materials to increase website traffic.

7. Improve your SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is improving your website’s visibility in the search results to boost traffic. To rank high on search results, your website should follow SEO best practices, which include using the right keywords and working them into your content seamlessly. What words and phrases will your ideal customers enter into Google to find a course like yours?

Google is the best way to discover how people search for your course. Enter your course name in the search and check the “More to Ask,” “People also ask,” or the “Related searches” section for common keyword phrases. Embed these keyword phrases naturally throughout your content to tell search engines that you offer the course the people are searching for.

Alternatively, if you want to do keyword research like a pro, you might consider using one of the SEO tools to take your optimizations even further.

Use Findstack to choose the best software to grow your business

Marketing your online course can be seen as an exciting part of business growth. You can be creative and fun in your sales techniques, collaborate with others in the industry, and make more connections as you grow your audience. Plus, you can get started immediately without spending a penny other than to cover website running costs or software subscriptions.

At Findstack, we help business owners like you make informed decisions about which software is best to grow your business. We offer expert advice and consolidate all the information you need before purchasing.

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Axel Grubba is the founder of Findstack, a B2B software comparison platform, with his background spanning management consulting and venture capital where he invested in software. Recently, Axel has developed a passion for coding and enjoys traveling when he is not building and improving Findstack.

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