Online courses aren’t going anywhere. The total market value for online learning is now well over $200 billion. There’s a good chance you’ve taken an online course in the past, whether from an influencer, on a course platform, or even through a traditional college.
All this means it’s a great time to be creating online courses.
No matter who you are, you’ve got something valuable you’ve learned. All that wisdom you’ve built up over the years is worth sharing with others. And, in fact, you can get paid for doing so by creating an online course.
But there’s a catch. With more and more online courses out there, it can be a challenge to get eyes on yours. And, ask any course creator, the greatest fear is going to all the work to build an online course and nobody shows up. It can feel daunting trying to navigate how to not only make a course but also how to market online courses.
Fortunately, if you have a solid game plan and a good software platform to create your online course on, you’ll be up and running in no time. Ahead, we’ve got 11 useful tips to get you started and sustainable in the online course world.
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In this article…
Why you should build an online course
We sort of talked about it at the beginning, but dang the online course space is booming. And you want to be a part of that!
For the creator, an online course has a ton of benefits, bring the opportunity to build your brand, generate passive income or scale your business, and teach what you know – from anywhere in the world.
For your students, online courses bring learning to them, helping them to master something important! It might be the support to go through a career change, it might be about getting healthy, or learning a new skill or hobby, but they do want what you have to offer.
And thanks to an online course, they can learn from the comfort of their own home, for a reasonable price, with a course community of fellow learners.
What does the future look like for online courses?
The online course business, as we said in the intro, is booming. Here are some key statistics on e-learning.
- E-learning will surpass $243 billion in 2022
- It is expected that the e-learning market will exceed $1 trillion by 2030
- 40% of Fortune 500 companies use e-learning
- Increase in e-learning has made college more accessible
And the boom in online courses and e-learning isn’t just for colleges. More and more independent creators are earning a living through creating their courses and sharing them online.
What to think about before you launch your online course
When you’re thinking about how to market online courses, some of the groundwork comes before you even create a course in the first place.
Promoting online courses is challenging enough when you have a great foundation. It’s even harder if you don’t. So, we’re going to start off with steps to take before we think about marketing your online course.
Find your unique story
You might be thinking that you have to be an expert to run an online course. Wrong! You have a unique perspective. Figuring out what it is will help you determine how to market an online course.
You can be an expert, an enthusiast, or simply someone with a burning desire to learn more about the topic your online course is about. It doesn’t matter too much.
But the most important thing is that you know WHO you are and what your story brings to the table.
If you’re a 25 year old, you might imagine that the 65 year old executive knows so much more than you about an industry. And they probably do! But what that 65 year old might be missing is your valuable perspective on the realities of being a young worker today, of starting your career fresh.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to uncover your unique perspective:
- What do I know about X topic?
- What problems have I successfully solved for myself?
- What could I teach someone who is just starting out?
- What’s my unique perspective? Think about your background, your identity, your story – the things that make YOU a unique course instructor.
If you can answer these questions, you’re one step closer to creating and promoting your online course.
Who is your “ideal” student?
Once you’ve narrowed down your perspective, the next step for you to think about is finding your “ideal” student.
There’s a lot that goes into how to market an online course and a major component is knowing what your audience wants. When we say “ideal” student, we’re talking about your most enthusiastic members. These are the students who will be highly engaged in your topic and content.
When you know who your ideal student is you’ll be able to tailor your content to best suit their needs. Some questions you can think about when figuring out who they might be are:
- How old are they?
- At what stage of life are they? In college? Recently graduated? Changing careers?
- What is the goal they are trying to achieve?
- Why can’t they achieve their goal on their own?
The great thing about knowing the answers to these questions is that they blend nicely into creating strategies for marketing your online courses too.
Pro tip: You don’t have to guess at the answers to these questions. As part of our Community Design™ process, we ALWAYS recommend interviewing people 1:1 to ask them these questions. Your course will be so much better for it, plus you’ll have a group of people who need your course and know it’s coming!
Where will they be 1 year from now?
One of the final steps we teach in the Community Design™ process is to think through what we call A Year in The Life. The purpose of this exercise is to think through where your students will be one year from now because they took the course.
For example, one year from now, your students might be:
- In a better-paying job
- In the best shape of their life
- Masters of meditation
- Owners of a successful art business
If you can get a clear vision of what your ideal members will have accomplished, and create a clear roadmap for your content and how it will help them on the path toward success, you've done half the work.
Remember, you don’t need to promise the moon with your online course. In fact, if you’re trying this for the first time, starting out with something simple as a clear goal is great. This will allow you to gain some experience with teaching online courses and creating an online course community.
On top of that, when you’ve got an idea for the goals you’re helping students achieve, you can include that in how you market your online courses.
How to market your online course – 11 strategies
If you’ve laid the groundwork for a great online course before launch, you’re ready to get your course up and running. OR you might opt to teach it live, which is also a great way to go!
Here are some ideas for how to market your online course once it’s up and running.
There are a number of different ways to promote online courses and it’s important to remember that results take time. We’ve curated our tips around strategies that will help you interact with your audience and get new people interested in the awesome content you’re creating.
1. Reach out to ideal members
If you did the work to reach out to your ideal members first, these are exactly the people who WANT your online course. After all, they told you about their challenges and you’re taking some of those and building this course!
So if you interviewed 20-30 people, reach out to them and invite them to be a part of your first cohort. You can even teach the first round of your course live, meaning you can sell it before you even build it! There are tips for doing that here.
2. Create a free webinar
We’ve all had an experience where we’ve been offered free samples that actually got us to buy the product we didn’t know about prior.
You can do the same thing when you’re thinking about how to market your online course by offering a free webinar or micro-course to potential students.
You can take a couple of lessons from your main online course and publish them for free as a micro-course. Or, create a great webinar that introduces yourself, your story, and the course you’ll be teaching.
Make sure you give enough value in the webinar that they’ll go away happy. Don’t just make it a sales pitch.
Then, once someone has completed all of the free content, you can invite them to purchase the whole online course.
Make it a great offer, maybe with a discount attached. Help them overcome any reasons they might have for saying no.
When you’re starting out for the first time, it can be hard to gain trust from potential customers. Offering some free content is a great way to market online courses because it gives people a taste of what they’ll be getting when they opt-in.
3. Create content
One of the most common ways to build your online profile to the point where people will buy an online course from you is through content creation. This can look like a lot of different things, but most content creators use one of three formats: writing, images, or video.
If you want to go this route, decide what you want to create and which platform you’ll choose. You might opt to double down on a social media platform and master audience-building. OR you might choose to start a blog or YouTube channel
One of the hardest parts in promoting your work online is giving people an idea of who you are. Using social media or a blog or channel gives you the option to share your story and build your following.
At the end of the day, if people like you and your perspective, they’re more likely going to purchase whatever content you’re selling.
But let’s add a caveat here. Creating content is a great way to market your online course, but resist the temptation to think that you need to spend all your time on social media or wait until you have thousands of followers. Many of our online course creators do absolutely fine, even without huge followings or constant social media posts.
4. Create a membership list
Email marketing is an incredibly effective strategy for marketing online courses. You can expose new people to the awesome content you’re creating and remind old members about what you’ve been up to.
At the end of the day, the best way to market online courses is to keep their existence ever present in your audience’s minds. Building an email list starts with inviting your “ideal” students. Remember—those are the ones who’ll end up being your biggest fans.
You can help in expediting this process by having a signup option on your website or social media accounts too.
And of course, the next major step in email marketing is making sure your emails aren’t boring. We’re trying to draw people in, not put them to sleep. Use interesting subject lines and a call to action that will bring traffic to your site.
5. Create a reward system
It may come as no surprise that people like being rewarded for their work. An easy and effective way to get the word out about your products is to have your members help with marketing.
A member might know how to market an online course in a new and exciting way that you haven’t thought of yet. If you’re willing to reward them with a discount on their membership or some other kind of benefit, that will build trust.
6. Ask for student success stories
Everyone likes to hear when they are doing a good job and that their content is making people’s lives better. Another good option for how to market an online course is to ask your students about their success stories.
This sort of proof for an online product goes a long way towards building trust with your audience, and people need to trust in order to buy.
If you’re wondering how this will help market your online course, think about it in these two ways:
- Relationship building: Highlighting student stories is a way to give back to people who support you. When you have systems like this in place, you’re building a relationship with your members and providing them a better experience.
- You’ve got the receipts: When you have your members promoting your online courses, you’ve got the seal of approval or as some like to say, the receipts. This shows that people are not only taking your online course, but they actually dig it too.
7. Bundle multiple courses at a discount
Another hurdle for marketing online courses is getting people to buy more than one. Even if your content is a slam dunk, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will automatically buy everything you create.
But you know what else raises people’s interest? Discounts. Bundling your courses doesn’t devalue them. View it as an opportunity to get people more invested in the ecosystem of your brand.
If you don’t have multiple online courses though, you can still promote your online courses by bundling them with other kinds of content like white papers, ebooks, and recorded presentations.
8. Build community
One of the secrets of online course building that we see every day at Mighty Networks is the power of community in online courses. So many of the online course platforms out there are offering canned courses, and students go through them alone and struggle to finish them.
As a result, a lot of course creators are scrambling to try to add community to their courses, often turning to a Facebook group or some other software to make it work.
We build community into all our courses from the beginning, meaning that your members can connect, engage, and learn from each other. The friendship, accountability, and help your members will get from a course community is second to none.
9. Promote old-school
If you are a part of a community group or some network of people or professionals that ISN’T social media, can you leverage this to market your course? For example, if you’re a member of a professional association, they might have a place for announcements and postings. If they’re open to it, this might be a good place to market your course!
10. Go B2B
While a lot of online course creators are going straight to the end-user: the consumer, in some cases it might make sense to market your course directly to a business instead. If you have a course that will be useful to businesses, you can reach out and let them know that you’re offering it and see if you can generate some interest.
And if a business opts to buy your course for their employees, you might make a bundle of sales in one!
Examples of courses businesses might want:
- Industry-specific courses (e.g. best practices for insurance professionals)
- Professional development (e.g. how to share your ideas at work)
- Workplace excellence (e.g. how to include D&I in your hiring plan)
- Sales & marketing (e.g. how to use Facebook ads)
11. Be willing to change course
All great leaders are willing to change course when things aren’t working… Okay, that was a bad pun, but the point stands! As you release content for your online courses, you’ll learn what your students like and what isn’t vibing with them.
First off, it’s okay if everything isn’t perfect. No one is a mind reader and teaching people you’ve never met is hard. Being flexible with your content will allow you to ask people for feedback which increases trust and interactions in your online course.
Also, the flexibility you practice with your course design will help in promoting your online course. When you ask your students for feedback on what they like and dislike, you’ll then have a better idea of how to market your online course to reach your “ideal” students.
Conclusion - Ready to start?
We’ve talked about a lot of strategies for online course promotion, but none of that will matter if you’re not using a great platform.
Mighty Networks is a powerful cultural software platform that replaces a website builder with a white label community platform. Mighty's flexible Spaces let you build the courses YOU want, adding in features like live streaming, online courses, discussion forums, and written and video content. We bring content, community, courses, and commerce together in one place, under your own brand and domain name, instantly available on web, iOS and Android.
Basically, when you choose to host your online courses on Mighty Networks, you’re getting a platform that will grow with you, your brand, and your students.
We covered a lot today, but hopefully, these 11 tips gave you some clarity and reassurance for how to market online courses.
The next step is the most important: Putting these tips to use and creating the online course you’ve been thinking about.
Get started, today. We’re eager to see what you create!