A Complete Guide on How to Promote Your Online Course and Boost Sales20 minute read
The Global E-Learning Market is expected to reach $336.98 billion by the year 2026 - according to Syngene research from 2019.
That's great news for creators like you!
However, the bigger the market, the greater the competition.
If the statistics are correct, we'll see a significant increase in the number of online course creators over the next few years. But how does this affect you?
In order to succeed in such a competitive market and stand out from the crowd, it is essential to implement a solid marketing strategy for your course.
This article will uncover all the possible ways for you to promote your online course, both free and paid.
Here is what you'll learn:
- Benefits of Promoting Your Online Course
- When Are You Ready to Start Promoting?
- How to Promote Your Online Course for Free
- Promoting Your Online Course With Paid Marketing
So keep reading below to find out which marketing strategy is best for you!
Benefits of Promoting Your Online Course
If you are a creator, you know that the recipe for a successful online course is qualitative and valuable content, but is this really enough to drive sales?
The answer is no; it is not enough.
Nobody is going to enroll in your course if they've never heard about it!
Marketing can help you: other than growing your online presence, there are many benefits to promoting your course. Most obviously, it helps increase your revenue and earnings, but it can also improve the enrollment rate of those potential customers who already know about your course.
Especially with early promotion, students will be more inclined to purchase your course if they know what to expect in advance.
So however you decide to promote your course, offer sneak-peaks of what your lessons will be like, what your students will learn, and set goals for them to achieve upon completion. Include any social proof or testimonials you may have collected by now to stress your point.
These glances into what your course will offer and past students' reviews will build enthusiasm and desire for your course.
Promoting your course also allows you to get instant feedback from potential students. They may reach out to you with questions or requests about your course's structure, and it will give you the chance to improve the quality of your lessons according to their liking.
If you wish to validate your course idea, marketing your course's launch will help you capture feedback from potential customers. Pre-selling or early promoting an online course has many advantages, especially for creators who need to raise capital and validate their course idea before it's too late. Read more about it in this article from our blog: How to Pre-Sell Your Online Course and Profit Before the Launch.
Finally, marketing will help you establish your brand and spread the word about you or your company within your chosen niche.
When Are You Ready to Start Promoting?
Ok, marketing is great, so let's get started!
Before you spend time and money on marketing, ask yourself if you are genuinely ready to start.
Being ready doesn't mean that your course needs to be 100% finished before you start promoting or that you need to have everything figured out in the tiniest details.
What we mean is that in order to carry out a successful marketing strategy, you need to be sure about a few things:
- What results are you promising?
- Can you deliver your promises?
- Who is your target audience?
- Where is your target audience? (which platforms do they visit, or what do they search for on the internet)
First of all, think about how you will position your course: keep in mind that you are not just selling a course; you are selling results.
A prevalent mistake that creators make is forgetting to focus on their course's results rather than the course's content. Obviously, content is an essential aspect of a successful online course; however, you need to be very clear with your value proposition and what you are selling when you are promoting it.
Explain to your customers what they will learn from your course and set up one or a few goals for your potential students to achieve upon completion of your course.
For instance, if you are selling a cooking course that uncovers the basics of French Cuisine, you might think that a good title for the course would be:
"Learning French Cuisine"
In reality, potential students wouldn't understand the value you are offering from a title like this. Try to communicate the result instead:
"Learn How to Cook 15 Delicious French Dishes with Confidence in Just Two Weeks"
Of course, one shouldn't make up promises just to make sales. You need to make sure that your online course's content will enable your students to achieve their goals, as you stated. Remember not to overestimate yourself and don't promise what you cannot deliver.
Once you've decided how to promote your course, start thinking about where and to whom.
Knowing your target audience is an essential part of a successful marketing campaign.
You will never get a sale if you try to sell pork ribs to a vegetarian.
Same with selling an online course. Figure out who your preferred audience is, what age group they are in, where they are from, and what their hobbies are...
Another critical factor to consider is where to promote your online course. Once you have an idea of your potential customers' profile, try to think about where they are more likely to be found.
In other words, figure out which platform or social media they visit the most or what terms they usually search on Google.
How you can do this: Build and write out your ideal customer's persona. What are their interests? What problems can you solve for them? Where do they hang out online?
How to Promote Your Online Course for Free
There are numerous ways creators can promote their courses. Let's start by reviewing all the marketing strategies you can implement for free.
1. Use Word of Mouth Marketing
This is probably one of the most effective ways to drive sales for your online course. Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) implies promoting your product with a system of referrals and suggestions from person to person.
Nowadays, the digital consumer reserves very little trust for products sold online, whereas a recommendation from a friend - or someone the consumer values - can have a significant impact on their buying decision.
Think about your personal experience - did you ever receive a glowing recommendation of an online product from a friend and immediately trusted it? The same goes for your online course.
But how can you use this tactic to promote your online course and drive sales?
Start by spreading the news of your new online course among your friends and family. Share it on your personal social media account, where people close to you can see it. Send emails or messages to your contacts informing them (without spamming) about your next release and briefly explain the value of your course.
You can simply ask them to share the news with their friends or if they know anyone interested in your teachings. Additionally, you could set up a "family & friends" discount for your initial launch. Don't forget to encourage your contacts to write a positive review about your online course to increase social proof.
Another strategy to leverage Word of Mouth Marketing is to create a referral program: for instance, once you get your first round of students, they could receive a discount or a free digital product if they refer a friend.
How you can do this:
- Talk to friends and family and ask them to share your course or leave a review
- Set up family and friends discounts
- Start a referral program or affiliate program (see more about this below)
On Heights Platform, you can easily set up coupon codes and discounts for your students!
Word of Mouth Marketing can be a game-changer, especially when you are just starting out, but let's see more marketing activities you can do for free.
2. Set Up an Email Newsletter
Creating an email newsletter is essential to keep your students up to date with your course developments, but you can also use this strategy at the early stages of promotion.
If a potential customer is interested in your course but not yet ready to buy it, they might react positively to an added incentive (or captivating lead magnet).
In other words, try to collect as many emails as you can by giving something in return to your subscribers. You could give out a digital product - such as an eBook - or a discount for those who sign up for your newsletter.
Once you have collected your first addresses, set up an email sequence and start contacting your new subscribers. Craft emails that are insightful and not too "salesy", and that offer sneak peeks of what your course is going to be like - always without spamming them.
Pro Tip: To maximize conversions from your marketing campaigns, you should consider how your promotions work as a Sales Funnel. A Sales Funnel covers a number of your marketing strategies linked together, from a potential customer's initial interaction with your brand to their final purchase from you.
Here's a basic example of how this might look for some online course creators:
- Your potential customer sees your ad or social media post.
- This leads them to a landing page or lead magnet on your website.
- This webpage has a newsletter signup form to capture their email address.
- An automated email gets sent out and provides some free valuable and educational content to engage the prospective customer.
- A second email a couple of days later offers a free webinar training that your prospects can join to learn more.
- You provide value and build desire for your course with your prospects over your live webinar, and at the end you present them with an offer to buy.
- Your webinar directs the prospect to a checkout landing page to purchase your course, digital product, or membership.
- For those potential customers who didn't buy during the webinar, maybe you offer them a discounted option or a more affordable starter course later on to convert them.
You can imagine that a Sales Funnel is like a map; a step-by-step process of your potential customer's journey from initial ad or post impression to the purchase of your course.
Your Sales Funnel does not need to be overly complicated. Setting up an automated email campaign is a valuable step to include, and could be linked to other promotional activities such as webinars or online events.
3. Cross-Promote Between Products
Cross-promotion is a form of marketing where the seller owns different products or services and advertises them to each separate audience.
For example, if you are an online course creator and are also selling an ebook on Amazon, you could advertise your online course to the customers who bought your book.
If you are selling multiple online products, cross-promotion is a great way to advertise and build your branding, since you are dealing with an audience who is already familiar with you and trusts your work.
You could also utilize cross-promotion by offering one of your products as an add-on to your course.
To come back to the "course + ebook" example, if you are trying to drive up your ebook's sales, you could set up a promotion or bundle where customers who buy your course also get the book for free or at a reduced price (or vice versa).
How you can do this: Heights Platform offers a simple way to set up this type of promotion. You can upload your additional product to cross-promote and set up a bundle with just a few clicks. For more information, check out our Payment Guide on Selling Content Bundles.
4. Share on Social Media
We all use social media in our daily activities. However, when it comes to marketing, it can get a bit more complicated.
Depending on your online course's topic and target audience, you should choose the right social media platform.
Posting on something like your personal Facebook page is great to create brand awareness and social proof. However, your Facebook friends might not be the perfect target audience for your course.
When selecting the platform that will convert the most, it is critical to understand your audience and their interests.
So there is no right or wrong answer to the question of 'where you should promote your online course'. However, depending on your target market, you might want to focus most of your efforts on a specific platform.
For instance, if your online course is about business, LinkedIn's user base might react better to your promotion. Whereas if you are a Yoga instructor, Pinterest or Instagram could be a better choice. And so on.
While one platform might be a more significant focus for your brand, try not to limit yourself to it: sharing content in various outlets will increase your credibility as a creator and give your customers the confidence to purchase your course.
5. Improve your SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of increasing traffic and gaining exposure to your website in search engine results.
A website with "good SEO" will rank higher on search engines like Google for relevant keywords and phrases.
To improve your online course site's ranking, publish new content frequently and create a landing page for your course, focusing on relevant keywords that you'd expect your target audience to search for.
How you can do this: If you are using Heights Platform, you won't need to worry too much about the technical side of SEO. Instead, you'll want to focus primarily on creating quality, relevant content. Here is how Heights Platform helps ensure that SEO best practices are followed:
- Landing pages are customizable with your own content and meta description to appear in search engines
- Heights uses an optimized and SEO friendly HTML structure, easily indexable by search engines, with the proper HTML tags to help search engines understand your content
- Heights allows you to generate a public landing page for each course, digital product, or bundle you create
- Course pages can have their URL customized, and this is one of the areas a search engine will look at to understand the content of the page
You can also link your Heights account with your Google Analytics to track your marketing campaigns' progress!
Creating a Blog linked to your online course or writing guest blog posts can significantly help to improve your SEO and website traffic. Let's see how to do it:
6. Write a Blog Post
When it comes to promoting your course by writing a blog post, you can either decide to create your own blog, write guest posts for other bloggers, or both!
Creating your own blog can have a massive impact on your website traffic and will definitely help you rank higher on Google. However, there are certain things you might want to consider before starting your blog.
Many creators underestimate the amount of time and effort needed to create a blog that will drive traffic to their course. For your blog to make a difference, you need to regularly publish qualitative content over a long period of time (most blogs take at least 6 months before ranking significantly for search terms on Google).
For these reasons, many course creators choose to write guest blog posts as an additional marketing strategy. Try contacting bloggers in your niche and ask them if you can write an article for their blog. You are asking them to work in exchange for linking to your site and building your credibility around a similar audience, rather than for money, so they shouldn't say no! Plus, you are an expert in your niche, which their readers will surely appreciate.
This is a fantastic way to get your name directly under the eyes of potential customers who are already interested in what you are teaching!
How you can do this: Carry on industry research to find the most influential blogs in your niche. Contact each blogger individually and offer your advice as an expert in writing a blog post for them.
As a starting point, check out this list of sites that accept contributors and guest blog posts. However, doing your own research will allow you to find bloggers more closely related to your niche, and you'll have the opportunity to build strong relationships with them.
7. Create a Free Mini-Course
This is an excellent strategy for promoting your online course. Giving out a mini-course for free means creating a quick course, sort of like a movie trailer, to tease your audience and offer them a taste of what your course can be.
You can give this away for free or offer it as a lead magnet in exchange for your potential customer's email address.
The important thing to keep in mind is not to give away too much information, just as much as to inspire your potential students to want more.
In the worst-case scenario, if someone gets your mini-course and doesn't like it, they will simply not buy your full course, and this lowers the chances of having dissatisfied students in your main course - and may prevent any bad reviews! If someone decides they don't like your mini-course and they tell you about it, even better! This will help you understand where you can potentially improve either your course or the positioning of your marketing message.
So overall, this is an awesome way to gain the trust of your audience while showcasing your teaching skills, and if you do this well enough, you won't have any problems making sales.
How you can do this: to create a mini-course with Heights Platform, simply create a separate course that is not set to "sold separately". Courses created without a pricing plan set are automatically free by default to any students who enroll!
8. Start a Podcast or Live Stream
A podcast is an audio recording of a discussion over a particular topic. As a blog post or a video, podcasts are a form of communication, and they can be used for promotional purposes too. What differentiates podcasts from other forms of media is not only the audio format, but the audience.
By creating a podcast, you can reach a completely different consumer base than blog readers, videos, or social media users. Publishing a podcast will attract your niche audience to you with little effort.
According to statistics carried out in January 2021 in the US, around 155 million Americans listen or listened to podcasts (55% of the entire population).
To publish your podcast, you can choose between a podcast hosting service or upload it to your own website or blog. After uploading your podcast to a hosting website, you'll be able to apply for publishing on Spotify or iTunes, where you can reach a broader audience.
Just like for blogging, if you aren't ready to put in the effort of creating a podcast yourself, you can ask creators to be interviewed in their podcast. This is a great way to promote your online course entirely for free!
How you can do this:
- To create your own podcast, you first need to choose among a podcast hosting service. Check out this list to choose the best platform for your podcast.
- To be interviewed as a guest in a podcast, research the most popular podcasts in your niche and contact the creators asking them to schedule an interview with you. Check out this step-by-step guide.
You might also consider live streaming your content, and then repurposing the recording of your stream as a podcast. A live stream can have many purposes, such as event coverage, teaching some of your social media following, or more bite-size promotional videos on social media (ex: live Instagram, Facebook, YouTube…) or other types of streams.
Creating a live stream is very simple and can be a great way to promote your course.
A significant advantage of live streams is the human touch. Even though the events are hosted online, your audience can see you talk about your course in real-time, which gives you an opportunity to gain their trust.
Live streams are also a great way to connect with your audience; you can set up a Q&A time, where you will be able to answer their questions and find out about any preferences or requests they may have.
9. Set Up a Joint Venture
A joint venture is a strategic partnership between two (or more) parties - in this case, course creators - who promote each other's businesses.
Online joint ventures between course creators can be done in many ways, such as holding webinars together, sponsorships, posting content, podcasts…
The advantage of joint ventures is that you don't need an audience to get started. While with any other advertising strategy (blogs, podcasts, webinars, ads, etc.) you need to have a pre-existing audience or to build one, when you create a joint venture, your partner will send you customers by promoting your course to their followers or newsletter subscribers.
Starting a joint venture is generally free, however, most creators work out an arrangement to pay their partner in commissions for every sale they make through the venture — sort of like affiliate marketing for course creators. For example, you might know a creator with a similar audience but a different product, and you could offer them something like 30-50% of each course sale they get for you if they promote your course to their email newsletter. This allows you to instantly tap into a relevant audience without spending any money until you get results!
How you can do this: carry out some research in your industry and personal network to find possible authors, creators, bloggers, etc., who could partner with you. Reach out to them and ask them to schedule a meeting to discuss a possible partnership.
Promoting Your Online Course With Paid Marketing
Paid marketing is undoubtedly one of the most popular and effective ways to promote a product or service.
According to recent statistics, website traffic generated through PPC (Pay-per-click) advertising yields 50% more conversions than organic traffic.
Sounds great. But...
As a course creator, there are certain aspects of paid marketing that you should consider before diving into it.
As the word implies, to see results through Paid Advertising, you will need to invest capital.
If you're on a tight budget, PPC marketing might not be the best solution for you, as it doesn't leave much room for growth, so you might want to try free marketing strategies first.
Additionally, you need to gather information about your audience for paid advertising to work, which will help the software target the right people. You can do this in two ways:
- Spend bunches of money to run your first ad campaigns and gather information about which user reacts better to your ads
- Try out free promotion strategies first and analyze your results, which you can leverage later with PPC
In other words, if you are just starting out and you don't have a lot of information about your audience - or capital to invest - start with free strategies first. Once you have collected enough revenue and you'll have a more in-depth understanding of who your customers are, you can experiment with using paid ads.
Now that you're aware of the pros and cons of paid marketing, let's see what some of the best strategies to promote your course are.
1. Social Media Paid Marketing
Over 2 billion people use social media every day.
So obviously, social media marketing is at the top of our list. Most platforms nowadays use a bidding model to charge for ads: you can bid for CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions) and set up a spending limit. Most ad platforms also let you choose the conversion event you wish to achieve for each specific ad: you can decide whether your goal is to simply increase website traffic or to get lead/purchase conversions.
Our advice for course creators like you is to keep the ads simple and focus on conversion-oriented ads rather than traffic objectives. More specifically, focus on leads as a conversion goal. This means that the objective for your ads campaign should be to collect leads, like email addresses of potential customers. Most likely, especially for a higher-priced course, customers will not buy the first time they see your ad, but paying to show them ads over and over again is expensive. By making it a goal to capture their email the first time they see your ad, instead of getting a purchase, you can then insert those leads into your email marketing software and continue to market to them organically (for free).
We have seen that this strategy is the most effective and straightforward one for course creators, especially if you don't have considerable capital to invest in paid ads.
This platform allows you to program your ads to target your niche and preferred audience. You can specify location, gender, interests, behaviors, and demographics of your potential customers, and it will showcase your ads to users who match your description.
If you want to get a positive return on your investment, it is crucial to add a catchy hook in your ad to draw attention and a CTA (Call To Action) ex: "subscribe to our newsletter".
Important note: Facebook ads are more complicated than they seem. In order for your ads to be successful, you need to set the right goal and target the right users. Having the Facebook Pixel installed on your website is critical to help you optimize your ads so you can get a positive ROI on your ad campaign.
By leveraging Facebook Pixel's data, you can create retargeting ad campaigns. This type of campaign will show your ads to users who already took action on your site. For instance, after a user arrives at your site from social media, or a Google search, you can then choose to show them an ad in your retargeting campaign to get them back to your site to buy from you.
How come retargeting ads are so important?
"It takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase will take place."
This means that a specific potential customer, on average needs to see your ad or some form of content from your brand at least 7 times before purchasing your course. Retargeting ad campaigns are generally the easiest for course creators to make profitable because you can feel confident that your ads are targeting people who already have some interest in what you have to offer. After all, they have already visited your website in the past through some other source.
So to summarize, our advice for course creators who wish to increase sales with the help of paid social media ads is:
- Set your ad campaign goal to a lead conversion objective (ex: collecting people's emails) and then keep promoting to them organically
- Install Facebook Pixel if you are using Facebook Ads (Heights Platform provides an easy Facebook Pixel integration option for your site)
- Run retargeting campaigns
How you can do this:
Facebook and Instagram are not the only social media where you can advertise your online course: platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora - and more - all operate similarly. Let's see now how to advertise your course on Google:
2. Google Ads
Google Ads is an online advertising platform - created by Google to promote your online course or digital product by bidding to display your ads through a PPC (Pay Per Click) bidding model.
You can decide where to showcase your ads, which will appear in search results for specific keywords you choose.
By selecting the right keywords, your course will appear right in front of the eyes of your potential students. In order to run a successful campaign, it is important to carry on extensive keyword research before you start advertising (both because general keywords may be too expensive to target effectively, and it may take time to find the right balance of more specific phrases which still have enough search traffic for you to get the visitors you are looking for).
Keep in mind that YouTube Ads are also part of Google Ads, and they are a great way to advertise your course to the right audience.
Our advice for creators who wish to dive into Google Ads is to choose the right keywords attentively and make sure that your brand name is a targeted keyword.
For instance, don't waste too much time and money on super popular keywords with the most competition, instead focus on your brand and make sure that your website ranks high on Google searches if people search for your brand name.
Like Facebook, Google allows you to run retargeting campaigns, which can be a more reliable and effective way to promote your online course, especially when you are new to paid advertising.
How you can do this:
3. Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing is a type of advertising strategy where "influencers" - social media users with a large following in their niche - review or promote a product/service.
If done correctly, this kind of marketing strategy can have an enormous impact on your traffic, simply because influencers have gained their audience's trust, and their mere recommendation can provide all the social proof the buyer needs.
Influencer marketing might work better for some niches of online courses than others. Still, if you have a niche where it would make sense to have an influencer promote your course or digital product, this type of marketing generally has a very high potential to provide a strong ROI for your business.
How you can do this: To get started with Influencer Marketing, do some market research about influential social media accounts in your niche and start contacting them! Depending on their following and how often they post sponsored content, their fees and conditions might change.
Alternatively, you can check out sites like Upfluence, Post For Rent, AspireIQ, and Grin. These are online platforms where you can easily find and build a relationship with influencers willing to promote your brand to their following.
4. Affiliate Program
An affiliate program involves paying a commission or a percentage of your revenue to someone who promotes your product or service through an affiliate link.
As a course creator, you could leverage affiliate marketing to promote your online course.
The advantage of affiliate marketing is that you don't need to invest capital before you get paid. Since it works on a commission-based structure, you are only sharing a part of the revenue with your affiliates.
Another considerable advantage of this marketing strategy is that it can improve your SEO, since your affiliates will place backlinks in websites, blog articles, and other areas of the internet.
How you can do this: Sign up to Heights Platform and you will have access to our built-in affiliate program, where your students and external affiliates can earn commissions by referring your online course.
You’ll have access to real-time data about your affiliate’s referral, lists of affiliates, commissions left to pay, and much more! You can set up your preferred commission percentage, decide if you want to pay recurring commissions or not, set a payout threshold, and so on.
Create your Heights free account and launch your own affiliate program!
Now that you have a better understanding of how to promote your online course, you can start testing which strategies work best for you.
Depending on your budget, topic and target audience, you may prefer one strategy over the others. However, one thing is for sure: in today's competitive market, putting effort into promoting your online course can - and will - make a difference.
Just keep in mind that marketing is a long-term game, and you might not see immediate results: it takes a lot of practice and testing to find out which tactic works best for you. Eventually, with a consistent and well-thought-out strategy, you will see the results you were looking for.
So start testing out these strategies for your online course, and let us know how it goes!Create Your Online Course Today