Select a course topic

How to Select a Course Topic in a Crowded Market

Let’s face it…some courses launch into a niche that’s already full of existing offerings. In this article, we’ll show you how to select a course topic that will stand our from the crowd.

With a seismic shift in the number of online course offerings in recent years, it’s now possible to find a course on almost every niche topic imaginable. Believe me…after working with over 20,000 course creators since 2012, we’ve seen it all!

So regardless of the industry or niche you’re planning to launch your course into, you’re going to face at least some competition for prospective customers. And in some categories, you may be facing a downright fierce fight for a share of the pie.

  • Topics that are just a good fit for e-learning may have created a market long before you got in the game.
  • Topics that teach to a more tech-savvy crowd might be a factor for more courses in your space.
  • Some topics are simply more popular than others, such as online day trading versus learning to knit homemade tutus (yep…we’ve worked with clients who teach both).
  • And there are topics that just offer the opportunity to make a LOT of money, such as courses that teach you how to make money.

If you’re going to be entering a competitive online course environment, let’s take a look at how to select a course topic that will stand out.

The Bad News

I’m a bad-news-first kind of guy, so we’ll start here…

There’s no way to sugar coat it. If you’re launching into a highly-competitive niche, you’re going to have to put in the work to get noticed, ensure your content and marketing efforts are on-point, and you’ll have to carefully evaluate and fine-tune your pricing.

The Good News

Well, first, you can do all those things! In fact, even if you were in a niche with very little competition you should still be focusing efforts on these activities.

Furthermore, you can make your course cut through the noise. There are a few ways to select a course topic in a saturated market and launch it successfully. Let’s look at those now!

1. Nail the 5 Elements

Working with course creators for over 10 years now, we have had front row seats to see the success that they have experienced with creating online courses. We have also taken note of some the common key characteristics that have made these courses successful in which we have narrowed down to 5 key characteristics.


Successful courses solve a burning problem or pain point

Customers may not initially know that the problem you’re willing to help solve is one for which they should be seeking a solution. However, when they see your course title they should have an “Aha!” moment. They should immediately recognize the value you’re offering. They should clearly understand that your course will improve their life in some way.

Successful courses almost always operate within a narrow niche of a broader market

Successful courses cut through all of the noise within a market by hyper-focusing on solving one unique problem with a specific and proven strategy. And they are often able to enter their segment of the broader market with little to no competition as a result.

Successful courses offer clear expectations of the outcome your customer can expect

They use concise and precise language when describing the intended outcome. They do not paint a vague picture of what a customer will get from the course.

Successful courses don’t just solve a burning problem or pain point…they solve an URGENT problem or pain point

Your prospective customers are going to be constantly bombarded with information and advertisements each and every day, all while being pressed for time to get things done in their own busy lives. Your course needs to frame your solution in a way that they make it a priority regardless of all of the other noise in their lives. Otherwise, they brush it aside as a “maybe someday” idea and we don’t want that.

Successful courses “niche down” within their markets, but they cater to a market nonetheless

We can’t create demand where there is none, so we have to stay just broad enough to ensure we have customers to whom we can sell our course.

2. Craft a Great USP

No matter how crowded your online course topic’s niche is, if you can clearly and concisely communicate precisely why yours is the best solution then you will make sales. Lots of them.

Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is your elevator pitch. It’s the one-sentence statement that causes a prospective customer to say…

“Wow…you really have experienced my struggle, you understand it, you created a solution that worked, and if I follow in YOUR footsteps my life will be better in some measurable and meaningful way!”

But it takes some work to distill things down into such a powerful statement.

A great USP begins with asking yourself:

  • What is the outcome that your ideal customer truly wants?
  • How can your course create that outcome for them?
  • What factors would motivate them to purchase your course?
  • Why would they choose you to lead them to that outcome?

And in the end it should loosely follow this format:

For (ideal buyer persona) who (want to solve this burning pain point), (course title) is (why your solution is best) unlike (the other solutions which are inferior).

3. Leverage YOU!

At the end of the day, there’s only ONE you!

And that’s potentially your course’s greatest selling point of all.

  • Only YOU have the combined life experiences that have brought you to where you are.
  • Only YOU have your unique perspective on your course content.
  • Only YOU have your voice and personality.
  • Only YOU could have combined and cooked the content ingredients of your course the way you have.

I don’t mean to sound corny, but…you know what?! Forget that! I DO mean to sound corny!

You can leverage your unique strengths and abilities to differentiate your course in a far greater way than a USP or identifying a particular pain point ever could.

What unique skills or experiences do you have that you can capitalize on?

We have a client who has a successful course in the crowded “how to start a podcast” market. While almost every course focuses heavily on video and audio content because the creator wants to appear as a master of technology, this course creator chose a different path.

See, he’s a truly visual learner. And in the truest sense of the visual learning style, these learners don’t respond well to video and audio. They need freeze frames of information to digest and assimilate.

He also happens to be an infographic all-star and can create brilliant information diagrams and flow charts from scratch. His course does use video to discuss the concepts of each stage of the podcast production process, but where his course really shines is in the printable process infographics he’s created.

Bonus points?

Those will remain in his customer’s view with his course logo on them long after they stopped watching his videos, since almost all of his students print them out and keep them in a binder or tape them to the wall of their office. He also sells laminated full-color versions as an upsell! If his students are ever seeking to up their podcasting game and he’s released advanced courses, they’ll likely check in with him for advice first.

Do you have experience launching a successful course in a crowded niche? If so, how did you select a course topic and how did you frame it to make it stand out? Please let us know in the comments!

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