During a typical work day, I spend a lot of time communicating with our WP Courseware customers. And I love it. I absolutely love engaging with everyday people who have settled on an idea for an online course in order to create an income-generating digital asset which has the potential to change their lives.
However, one of our customers recently hit me point blank with a very simple question that I had not been asked before. And the question was one which I’d like to share in this post as I think it’s a question that many new online course creators should be asking themselves as soon as, or even before, they begin creating content. This was what he asked…
If you were in my shoes, how would you go about acquiring your first 100 customers in 30 days?
I was flattered that he asked. I don’t consider myself a marketing guru, but I realized that I was probably in a good position to provide some feedback to help him get started.
First of all, as many of you know Ben and I created WP Courseware several years ago to deliver our own online training. At the time there were no LMS solutions for WordPress, so we built our own platform which became WP Courseware. So we know how important it is to build a customer base quickly after spending hundreds of hours creating a course.
Second, over the last five years we’ve directly interacted with thousands of WP Courseware users who share their stories and strategies with us. So we have a unique perspective on marketing online courses based upon use cases across hundreds of different training topics.
So why did I think this was such an important question?
Some of you are familiar with Dan Sullivan’s concept of “10x Thinking“. Dan is a fantastic source of advice and inspiration for budding entrepreneurs, but if you haven’t encountered this concept he basically states that it’s much easier to grow a business 10x than 2x. You may be reading this thinking, “That’s ludicrous…growing business 10x is quite obviously five times harder than doubling my business (or customers or units sold or whatever else!)”
While I agree that this advice seems counterintuitive, Dan has some sound reasoning and case studies to back it up. You can refer to his Strategic Coach website for further insight, however, it essentially states that when you begin thinking in terms of growing your business 10x as opposed to incremental growth certain changes evolve in the way you apply yourself to the business:
- You are intellectually and emotionally committed to a higher goal and achievement.
- You develop your business systems from the ground up in a way which is much more scalable.
- You learn to focus on the “big rocks” and spend your time and energy on tasks which fuel faster growth.
- You learn to delegate low-impact tasks and invest your time and energy in high-growth strategies.
- Over time, you identify and hone in on your strengths to exploit those.
But what does “10x thinking” have to do with the question?
Successful online businesses operate on a foundation of scalability. Once a process is in place, it doesn’t matter if you have one customer or one million customers…you use the same automated processes to handle those customers. Sure, there are a few exceptions. There are formulas for how many support employees are needed for every 1,000 customers. Hardware, hosting, or payment processing systems may need to be upgraded to service a growing customer base.
But for the most part, the systems you put in place at the start of your business will stay there and remain core to its success for a long time to come. So having exponential growth front of mind while creating those systems will help to ensure your success.
And marketing is one of those systems!
When this particular customer asked me the question above, he wasn’t really asking me how to get 100 customers. He doesn’t have his sights set on 100 customers. He has his sights set on thousands of customers.
He was asking for a system.
He wanted to know what marketing processes he could start with which would lead to 100 customers. If those work for him, he can increase the input in those systems and scale to 1,000. Then to 10,000. Then to 100,000.
We’ll get into a few details shortly, but let’s think of it in terms of ad spending. If you found a way to turn $1 in ad spending into $10 of revenue, would you only invest $1?
Heck, no! You would do anything within your power to come up with $10,000 in cash to spend on ads and turn it into $100,000 in revenue and then you’d do that over and over until the goose ran out of golden eggs!
Find 100 customers, then 10x what works!
The “10x thinking” methodology has four basic strategies:
1. Adopt the 10x mindset and commit to high growth
2. Turn that mindset into action by implementing test strategies
3. Use technology to test strategies that you can scale if they work
4. Pour 10x into what works and drop what doesn’t
I’ve been involved in the early stages of multiple startups and from my experience, this is almost always how a successful marketing strategy plays out. You’re basically spending a small amount of money of many different channels, then dropping the ones that don’t deliver sales, keeping the strategies that are effective, and reallocating money to successful channels.
So what are some effective marketing strategies to get 100 customers signed up for your online course and then 10x’ing them?
With over 1 billion users who willingly tell them what their personal and professional interests are, Facebook is your best friend when it comes to marketing your online course. And with their new advanced tracking pixel, you can hone in on your target audience with laser precision and almost guarantee that any dollar you spend on a Facebook ad will make you money. As an example, we’ve fine-tuned our Facebook marketing to the degree that we can consistently generate $100 in revenue from $5 of ad spend. There’s definitely a learning curve, but there are plenty of courses out there to teach you the ins and outs of putting together successful ad campaigns with Facebook.
The best part is that you can create several different ads and target audiences, spend a small amount of money for your test period (say, 30 days), and then…yep, you guessed it. Dump the ads that don’t work and 10x the others. And as your course grows, your ad spending can grow, allowing you to experience exponential gains in the number of students you sign up. But be sure to keep your ad rotation fresh and updated.
This is a 10x strategy to marketing that requires almost no input from you. We always, always, always recommend setting up a generous affiliate program as soon as you launch your course. Start with a very generous commission to entice early affiliate signups as you can always lower it later on.
However, bloggers and other online entrepreneurs are almost always looking for quality products to promote on their sites. The best part is that, although you can seek out affiliates by listing your program in affiliate directories, much of the time affiliates will find you. They’ll then start marketing your product for you without any effort on your part.
And over time, as you develop more and more authority in your niche and sign up increasing numbers of satisfied students you will begin to create an army of affiliates who sell your course while you’re sleeping.
Guest posting and authority posts
When we first started marketing our online course, I’ll be honest, we had no idea where to start. However, as Ben and I both had backgrounds in internet marketing and SEO we knew of one marketing channel which we could roll up our sleeves and dig into right away…guest posts and authority reviews.
We started by contacting every blog or website in our niche offering to write high-quality guest posts. We also reached out to all of the established bloggers who we knew were authorities in our niche, offering free access to the course, a generous discount for their audience, an affiliate link, and even offered to hop on a quick webinar if they wanted us to talk them through the course.
And guess what? Every time we generated a great piece of content for someone to use as a guest post or had an authority figure review our product those posts stayed there indefinitely, all pages that were comfortably nestled into Google’s index and displaying for thousands of long-tail keyword searches for years. Yes, years! That’s 10x’ing!
This strategy ties in closely with the discussion of Facebook ads above. However, as most of you probably know by now when you see an advertisement for a free “live webinar” on Facebook or at the beginning of a YouTube ad those “live” webinars aren’t actually live. They may have been recorded live once, or maybe even created offline in the privacy of someone’s home office all while speaking into the mic as if it was a live session. But these are pre-recorded “evergreen” webinars which can be recycled over and over. Talk about 10x marketing!
If you’re selling a new online course, it’s simple to install a screencasting software package, purchase a decent microphone, and deliver a free one-hour webinar on a topic within your niche while pitching your paid course at the end. You probably see these all the time and some of them include very valuable, high-quality free content and actionable advice. But once you set them up, you can offer free “live” webinars five times a day, seven days a week if you want.
I bring up Facebook because it’s a very inexpensive way to market a free webinar. You can run an ad inviting signups to your webinar, test out your signup rates, and adjust accordingly.
Another great way to use Facebook ads is to develop and ad offering a free resource other than a webinar in exchange for an email address. This could be a white paper, free ebook, or even a free “mini-course”.
Once you begin building your email list, you’ll want to implement a sales funnel to gradually push your audience toward purchasing the course by providing an autoresponder series with valuable content. Stay away from marketing too heavily though, as you’ll want to build some trust with your list by showing them that you’re truly interested in their success. You can then cycle in promotional emails by offering bonuses or discounted pricing at certain intervals.
YouTube is another great 10x marketing channel. It receives billions of searches every week and since its search algorithm comes from Google, it’s very, very good at finding content that viewers want to see. Why not make it your content, right?
It’s likely that you’re already creating a ton of video anyway for your online course, so it’s a convenient way to get some free content out there which works much like guest and authority posts…it’s out there for good. You may choose to produce videos focusing on hot topics of interest in your niche, basic how-to guides in your niche, or anything else.
Get to it!
I hope this look at finding 10x-able marketing strategies for your online course was helpful. If you don’t have customers for your course yet, I hope they can help you get to 100 students and well beyond. But no matter how many students have signed up for your course, these are all strategies that can create exponential growth either through repeated, systematic effort or by doubling down on your marketing dollars.
Look at it this way…
- If $10 in Facebook advertising gets 1 signup for your paid course, $1,000 in spending gets your first 100 customers.
- If 1 affiliate can bring you 5 students, 20 affiliates can bring your first 100 customers.
- If 1 authority review post generates 10 sales, 10 of those will nab your first 100 customers.
- If running 1 webinar gets 10 people to sign up, showing it 10 times signs up your first 100 customers.
- If 1 YouTube video gets 1,000 views and leads to 20 students, you just need to produce 5 videos for your first 100 customers.
And guess what…you can 10x any of these strategies. Then 10x again. Then 10x again.
Do you have other ideas for 10x-able marketing strategies for selling your online courses? Let us know in the comments below!