Heights Platform How to Sell an Online Course Without Facebook Ads

How to Sell an Online Course Without Facebook Ads

9 minute read

If you are considering running paid Facebook ads to promote your new online course, read this article first.

Many new course creators make the mistake of jumping into Facebook ads as the main marketing strategy for their business.

When you are just starting out with your online course business, it is likely that you do not have an audience yet. It can be extremely hard to get people to buy your online course when you do not have a loyal following around your brand.

When creators are faced with this realization, they think that paying for advertisements will help them get quick results. However, this is not necessarily the case!

Unless you have a very significant amount of money to invest in Facebook ads, we recommend growing an audience organically and promoting your online course using different strategies first (it is cheaper and more effective!).

The only downside of traditional organic marketing strategies is that it takes time. While Facebook ads (or paid ads in general) can yield quick results, organic marketing can take months or even years to work.

Still, we believe this to be the best choice for online course creators, and in this article, you will see why.

Keep reading below to understand why you should avoid Facebook ads to sell online courses and what you can do today to promote your online course for free!

Why you should avoid Facebook ads:

Facebook ads are expensive!

Whoever tells you that they are able to generate hundreds of sales by spending only a few dollars a day is not telling you the full truth.

Facebook ads can definitely bring you awesome results, but only if you nail down the distribution after a long (and expensive) period of trial and error. If you don’t have this right, it is easy to keep spending money without ever achieving a positive return on investment.

How much do businesses spend on Facebook Ads?

Studies show that the average small business spends around $1,000 to $3,000 on Facebook ads every month. That's small businesses, not to mention what big corporations invest in these types of ads.

Check out this clip of Lisa Johnson explaining her experience with Facebook ads:

This is taken from an episode of The Creator's Adventure, a weekly podcast show for online course creators and coaches. Later in the article, we will explain more about what Lisa Johnson did to recover her business from the initial losses with Facebook ads.

Facebook Ads require trial and error

What many first-time course creators don't know is that it takes a lot of trial and error before nailing the perfect Facebook ads campaign. You may have to try countless different combinations and strategies (not for free!) before coming up with one that brings you results.

If you are an independent creator, you might lack the funds and resources for such a campaign, especially if this is the only marketing strategy you depend on.

Are you familiar with the rule of seven? Marketers believe that a prospect needs to see or hear an advertiser’s message at least seven times before they’ll take some sort of action (clicking on a link, opening a page, buying online courses...).

It is very unlikely that a complete stranger who sees your ads for the first time will go right ahead and purchase your course.

Before a customer makes a purchasing decision, there are a lot of other factors involved. If we take the example of Facebook ads, a prospect would have to see your ad a least 7 times (according to the rule of seven). And that is assuming that your ad is compelling to that person: if you are targeting the wrong audience, no amount of ads will get a person to buy something they are not looking for.

You are competing with giants

Facebook ads are the playing ground of big corporations that have enough resources at their disposal to afford the time commitment that comes with paid advertising. It can be very hard to compete with these giants because they know their numbers and are willing to spend so much that they lose money to acquire customers (since they know eventually the lifetime value of the customer will make up for it over the course of multiple years).

That said, you can definitely give it a try, as long as you have enough resources at your disposal and understand what you are getting into.

Facebook Ads are complicated

Let's say that you have the resources necessary to run a Facebook ads campaign. Do you have the expertise?

You might have already tried to run one ad on Facebook, and maybe it seems pretty straightforward.

However, if you want to run campaigns that convert, you need to test different ads over and over again, retarget your best-performing audiences and create multiple campaigns for different goals.

For this reason, many creators or businesses choose to hire a marketing agency and delegate Facebook ads to them. This is another added cost you might have to undertake.

Facebook ads should not be your only marketing plan

At this point you should know that Facebook ads are expensive, complex and require a lot of trial

and error.

This doesn't mean that you should avoid them at all costs. If you have the time and resources available, and you are at a suitable stage of growth, you can decide to give Facebook ads a try.

Still, this should not be the only way you promote your online course.

Keep reading below to learn what other marketing strategies you can (and should) use to complement your paid ads strategy. Or, if you are just starting out, you will learn what organic marketing ideas you should focus on.

How to promote an online course for free (with no audience)

The number one priority for new online course creators should be to build an audience and grow a following around their brand.

Building an audience goes hand in hand with promoting your online course, so a lot of growth strategies involved with audience building are the same you can use to market your course to the world.

Below we will share our ideas of what you can do to promote your online course instead of paying for Facebook ads, and at the same time, build your audience!

As you will see, the common thread that connects all the below strategies is proving value.

Whatever marketing activity to take on, make sure you are offering something in return. If you are writing a blog post to promote an online course, make that blog post informative and useful for the readers.

Generate Content

Content creation is the best way to grow an audience and attract new potential customers to your site or social media platforms.

One of the reasons why content creation is so powerful is because you are inviting your target audience into your space instead of you chasing them and begging them to check you out.

Learn more about content creation: Grow Your Business With Content Creation and Build an Audience Around Your Online Course

For example, if you write a blog post filled with valuable information, over time, the blog post will rank higher and higher on search engines like Google. At this point, people who search your topic on Google will find your post, and after reading it, they might want to learn more about what you do and the services you offer.

The opposite happens with Facebook ads: with ads, you are actively chasing potential customers by proposing your services to them and popping up in their Facebook feed. They did not ask to see your ad.

This is yet another reason why content creation can generate better results compared to Facebook ads. By creating content about your area of expertise, you are making sure to attract people who are specifically looking for your services!

These kinds of people are your ideal customers and target audience, and thanks to a blog post, YouTube video or social media post, they are now willingly visiting your site and might become your customers in the future. All you have to do is create valuable content directly targeted to your audience and let them come to you.

Content creation ideas include writing blog posts, recording YouTube videos, hosting a podcast, and sharing insightful posts on social media.

Are you scared of offering too much free content? Check out this blog post: Why Creating Free Content Won't Hurt Your Online Course Sales

The first step of content creation is to prioritize value and the quality of content.

You need to make sure that your target audience not only clicks on your link but actually consumes the content and gains something from it.

Once you have provided value, you can go ahead and advertise your services. At the end of a YouTube video or blog post, you can mention your online course as a way for visitors to learn more from you.

For content creation to yield results, it takes time.

Related article: 4 Easy Tips to Boost Content Creation and Promote an Online Course

When you publish a new blog post, it can take months or even years for it to show up on Google searches and attract new clicks. However, the possibilities are endless as content creation is a long-term strategy.

Especially when it comes to evergreen content (topics that are valid throughout the years), your content will generate results over and over again, without any action needed from you.

Become a Recognized Expert in Your Niche

People will buy your online course if they see you as an expert and trust you.

But if you don't have an audience, it can be hard to get recognized as an expert. There are a

number of things you can do to gradually grow your following and become a leader in your niche.

First of all, start creating free valuable content (as we explained in the previous point).

At the same time, join online communities around your area of expertise. Look out for Facebook groups, private communities or forums where people gather to discuss about your online course topic.

Instead of simply advertising your course, make sure to answer everyone's questions and provide value. If you do this long enough, people in these groups will start recognizing you as an expert on that particular topic, and you will become the to-go person when they need assistance. At this point, you can start talking about your online courses and the products you offer.

Another way to show off your expertise and expand your audience reach at the same time is by joining other people's podcasts as a guest.

You can often do this for free as it is a win-win situation for you and the show host, plus it gives you a chance to explain everything there is to know about your business and communicate your unique values.

As an example, in our podcast The Creator's Adventure, we interview new business owners and creators every week. Look out for similar shows that cover your topic of interest and ask the host if you can be a part of it.

Check out this article from our blog to learn more about how to get recognized as an expert: How to Position Yourself as an Expert to Sell Online Courses

Create a Community

Other than joining other people's communities, you can create your own community!

This is what Lisa Johnson did to grow her business after she lost more than $30,000 on Facebook Ads.

In one of the episodes of our podcast, The Creator's Adventure, we interviewed online coach Lisa Johnson. She explained that when she started her business, like many first-time entrepreneurs, she made the mistake of investing in Facebook ads.

After losing a huge amount of money, she decided to go another way and start an online community. This is when Lisa started a free Facebook group and went live in the group almost every day, sharing valuable bite-size information with the group members.

Watch the full interview with Lisa here:

How Lisa Johnson made $3 million in a week with her coaching business - The Creator's Adventure #13

Creating a community is a powerful tool for connecting with your ideal customers and growing an audience. You can also build your own private community without having to rely on the Facebook algorithm.

Heights Platform offers a built-in community feature across every pricing plan. The community in Heights is a place where students can share their thoughts about your online course, ask questions, provide feedback and interact with you and each other.

Collaborate with Partners

Setting up a partnership is a good idea to gain extra visibility and increase online course sales, whether you are just starting out or have been a course creator for years.

There are many ways you can decide to partner with other business owners.

Try to research online events where you could join as a speaker. Being interviewed on a podcast, joining a webinar or live stream, and writing a guest blog post are great ways to gain additional visibility and broaden your audience.

More complex collaborations involve partnering with other creators who specialize in your same niche to offer more value to your customers.

For example, if you are selling online courses and you know someone in the same niche who wrote a book around the same topic, you could team up and promote each other products (or online courses - assuming they are not your direct competitor).

These kinds of partnerships are not easy to start and usually require you to do some networking, but they can be a great way of organically promoting your online courses.

Other Organic Marketing Strategies

When you create online courses, there are so many ways to grow your audience, promote your online business and sell courses online without having to use paid ads.

If you follow the steps described above, you will be able to grow your following, become a recognized expert in your niche and expand your audience's reach (while selling a successful online course).

Once you manage to grow a small audience, you can start leveraging other marketing ideas: things like email marketing, affiliate marketing and referral programs are great ideas to expand your audience from the people who already follow you.

Learn more about ideas to promote your online courses, both organic and paid, from this article in our blog: A Complete Guide on How to Promote Your Online Course and Boost Sales

Or learn more about online course creation and online course promotion without Paid Ads: Get Your First $100k Without Paid Ads - How to Grow Your Online Course Business Organically

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