10 Proven Strategies for Marketing Your Online Course

Need Inspiration?I spend quite a bit of time in our support queue, primarily answering presales questions. And I absolutely love it. Sure, I could hand off presales questions to our technical support team, but I really enjoy communicating with prospective customers who have an idea for an online course and who are so fired up to get started. It’s contagious.

While most of the presales questions we receive regarding WP Courseware are technical in nature, we occasionally have people contact us with different types of questions. They might want to run their idea by us for validation or sometimes ask if we’ve heard of other courses in a particular niche.

However, a couple of weeks ago a prospective WP Courseware user reached out to me with a different question. And it was this…

How do I know it’s going to be worth my time to build a course in my niche?

And it’s a very good question! This aspiring entrepreneur had a great idea for creating a very useful (and likely profitable) course in her niche. But she admitted she didn’t have a clue how to start marketing it and was therefore reluctant to invest dozens or perhaps even hundreds of hours creating her course content.

I realized that while we spend a lot of time writing technical posts for our blog here at Fly Plugins, we don’t often touch on the business of selling a course. And that’s why most of us are using WP Courseware, right?

As Ben just published an article last week on configuring WP Courseware and Easy Digital Downloads to begin selling courses, I thought this week might be a good opportunity to provide a few tips for marketing your course(s).

Ben and I have developed and marketed our own training courses and we’ve also had the pleasure of speaking with many, many successful online entrepreneurs who are using WP Courseware as a part (or all) of their business strategy. So we’ve been able to test our own methods and also hear what works for others.

Here are a few strategies for getting the word out about your newly created course…

1. Leverage Your Existing Audience

If you’re planning to create a course within a niche, there’s a good chance that you may already have a following or at least some traffic to an existing site or blog. The obvious place to begin marketing your course would be through your site by announcing it to your own audience, perhaps offering special discounted pricing upon launch. And we’ll look at a couple of other ways to leverage your audience as well. Now that we have that out of the way, on to the not so obvious tactics.

2. Start Building a List…Now!

If you haven’t already started building an email list, no matter how many visitors come to your website, start now! An email list is perhaps the absolute best way to market any online course. Think about it…you have permission to email people who are already interested in your niche. What could be better than that?

Perhaps place an opt-in form on your site which offers a free ebook or ask customers to sign up for the list in exchange for the opportunity to purchase your course at a significant discount upon launch. Be creative with this one. The more valuable your free lead magnet offer is, the more subscribers you’ll land.

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3. Offer a Free Mini-Course to Subscribers

This is similar to the lead magnet strategies mentioned above, but I wanted to discuss this idea separately as it actually creates a mini marketing funnel. And it can also help you gauge interest in your course without creating all of your content first.

The idea here is to create a short introductory course or a sneak preview of a larger course and offer access to your email subscribers. I probably don’t need to tell you where it goes from here. There are lots of resources available to help you build a successful email campaign so I won’t go into the details here, but essentially you’ll be communicating with these subscribers regularly in hopes of selling them your premium course later on.

4. Offer Your Course for Free to a Small Group

This tactic comes with a couple of benefits. First, by offering your course for free to a small initial group of students in your niche, you’re getting the word out. No matter how influential these “beta” students are, they’ll be engaged with others in your niche and will begin referring others to your course.

Secondly, you can solicit testimonials from these initial students. These testimonials can then be added to both your sales page and your email campaign. And when it comes to selling online courses at a premium price, testimonials are gold.

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5. Regularly Publish Blog Posts for Long-Tail Search Traffic

If you’re in a competitive niche, the chances of your course ending up on the first page of search results for high traffic search terms isn’t great. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but ranking for competitive search terms is more difficult than ever.

However, there are probable dozens (and sometimes even hundreds) of long-tail search terms in your niche that are not so competitive. Sure they may not have 20,000 searches per month, but landing on the first page of the search results for these terms sometimes requires little more than having a few of those words sprinkled throughout a blog post on your site. And the more frequently you blog about topics in your niche, the more of these you’re going to start showing up for over time.

6. Start an Affiliate Program Early On

Remember those students in your “test group” we talked about earlier? Do you think they’d be even more likely to mention your course to others if you paid them to? Yep! By setting up an affiliate program early on, you’ll often get people selling your course for you that just come out of the woodworks. Many times you don’t even need to track down affiliates…they find you.

And having an affiliate program has another benefit. There are very likely authorities in your niche who have a much bigger following than you do. These authorities are always looking for two things: 1.) they want to be able to offer valuable resources to their audience and 2.) they are always looking for ways to monetize their own content. Your affiliate program may meet both of these needs for them and get you in front of a lot of eyes.

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7. Develop Relationships with Authorities in Your Niche

Since we just talked about authorities in your niche, another strategy which has worked very well for us in the past is to start developing relationships with these people early on. No I don’t mean call them up or ask them to lunch, just start reaching out to them.

Mentioning them on social media is a great example. I call this the “flattery” approach but very often when you mention one of these folks or their site in one of your messages, they’ll rebroadcast that out to their own audience (which can sometimes be tens of thousands of followers).

Another great tactic is to offer to write a guest post for their site. Many regular bloggers are happy to receive a short break from publishing and welcome guests posts. Contact them with an idea for an article and see what they say. I’ve been able to land guest posts on sites with over a million monthly unique visitors. And the best part is that content stays there for future readers and search engines to pick up, all linking back to your sales page.

8. Participate in Social Media Groups

Getting engaged with other people through niche-related Facebook or LinkedIn groups is not only sort of fun, but eventually people will start wondering who this incredibly intelligent, handsome person in the group who offers earth-shattering insight into every conversation. Yes…it’s you! But please, do make your conversation valuable and insightful. Don’t start spamming groups with your sales pitch.

On Twitter, there are often regular public “chats” or Q&A sessions hosted by authorities or companies in specific areas. Why not chime in during these as well and get your name (and course) out there for others to see?

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9. PPC Advertising

Pay-per-click advertising is a bit different than the strategies mentioned above. While most of those require brainpower and hard work, PPC ads require a budget. But it doesn’t have to be huge to have success. Sure paying per click with Google or Bing has gotten very expensive. However, Facebook ads for example are still very affordable.

One of my favorite strategies is setting a small budget for Facebook ads and then creating an ad which links to your offer of a free mini-course or e-book. And Facebook is great because even if you set a small budget of, say, $5 per day the ads are incredibly targeted because Facebook knows better than anyone exactly what its users are interested in.

10. The Proof Is in the Pudding

I’m not sure this is a marketing strategy necessarily, but I will say this: Most of our very successful WP Courseware course creators have said that their number one source of new customers is word of mouth from existing customers.

They took the time to create killer content and provide a great deal of value for the price of their course. Once their students had completed the course, they naturally began mentioning it to others. So above all else, if you are going to dive into creating your online course, make certain that your content is the absolute best it can be. The rest will follow.

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There are, of course, many other strategies for marketing an online course. However, I hope these tactics listed above will give you some ideas to begin exploring for getting your course in front of the right people.

Do you have other marketing strategies which have worked well for selling your course? If so, please let us know in the comments below!

About Nate Johnson

Nate Johnson is one of the co-founders of Fly Plugins, creators of the first and most widely-implemented learning management system for WordPress, WP Courseware. Since 2012, he has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, corporate training departments, and higher education institutions develop and deploy online training courses from their WordPress websites.

2 Comments

  1. Allan on August 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Hi

    Does the WP Courseware have a built in affiliate program, or would you need to purchase another plugin?

    Thanks
    Allan

    • Nate Johnson on August 3, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Allan,

      It does not currently have a built-in affiliate program. We actually use Pippin Williamson’s Affiliate WP and it works very well if you’re interested in adding that functionality.

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