Whether it’s your first online course launch or you have prior experience, it’s always good to keep learning new and effective ways of selling your product.
Course creators including myself learn a lot from our experiences and I want you to have the opportunity to know what worked for us and what to avoid. Here we will discuss a checklist of 38 points which will assist you through your journey. For your ease I’ve grouped these points under broad categories – so let’s get started!
How to Successfully Market an Online Course
So what is successful in this context you might ask – remember if you’re earning fix or six figures from your course launch know that you’re doing it right! If not, don’t worry the following pointers will help in upping your ante!
1. First try selling your course on an individual level
A common mistake that course creators make is to immediately launch an online course before testing out the idea on a one-to-one basis with a target customer. First you need to convince someone over the phone, email, social media or in person to buy your course and then move on to large scale selling.
2. Facebook Ads are not magic
Keeping a big budget for Facebook ads doesn’t guarantee your course will be an instant hit. There is a possibility of targeting the wrong people and building a community that wouldn’t buy your product. Or the ads simply won’t lead to sales so thinking that pumping in money in Facebook ads is equal to making money automatically isn’t right.
3. Do the important stuff on time
It’s probably human nature to leave the most important stuff for last (like sales page or presentation in this case) but it is best if you prioritize and tackle important sections first. It’ll improve the results for you.
If you have a sales page ready you can get feedback from your close circle and having a webinar presentation ready beforehand means lots of time to practice and perfect.
4. A Complicated 3-part pre-launch video is not necessary
Yes marketing well is important but it doesn’t need to be complex. You can look at other successful course creator’s product launches and take inspiration but that’s not the only way to go about it. Choose whatever format you like to market your course be it videos, social media, webinar etc but make sure the message is conveyed properly and the product promise is clear.
5. Take inspiration but don’t base your course on someone else’s course
The thing is that although it may seem like certain tactics (ad campaign, video etc) worked out well for a course creator but it is possible that in reality the creator wished he hadn’t done that. Maybe it was a deal-breaker for them or a premature decision.
Bottom line – you don’t know the full story.
Hence use good marketing principles based on what your business, clients and goals dictate.
6. Get Affiliates on board but selling your course is your job
Your online courses’ success will not be guaranteed only by getting a few associates on board, even the popular ones with great following. They may help in promoting or launching the course but they’re not responsible for selling it. Don’t depend on them to reach your goals.
7. Offer your audience payment plans
The price you keep of your online course depends on what value it will bring to your customer however; the presence of a payment plan can definitely affect your sales. This means giving your audience options on how to pay for your course for example an option of paying in installments.
Payment plan options can make a large number of people say yes to buying your course.
8. Choose an attractive course name
Whether or not someone will buy your course can depend significantly on the course name so it has to be clear, memorable and creative but don’t overdo it – no cheesiness please!
Spend a good amount of time on coming up with a suitable name so you don’t feel the need to change it down the line.
You could ask a few people for their opinion before keeping it too.
9. Be prepared to answer questions
You need to be present during your pre-launch marketing program to answer questions about your online course. You have to be the salesperson for your course in this time period so make sure you have enough time for this role.
Keep a track of same questions popping up time and again and be sure to add them in the FAQ section of your sales page.
10. The ‘why’ behind the course is just as important as the ‘what’
The problem your course solves for your audience is not the only reason people will buy the course. They want to know why you’re so passionate about the topic and this gives them a reason to connect with you through your course.
If you’re just in it for the money, people will find that out too and you may not do so well then. Ask yourself why you want to launch this course and reflect your passion in your marketing.
11. Write and write!
Every course launch requires a lot of writing whether it’s emails or copy. You can also hire someone to do it for you – just make sure you preplan and prioritize. A successful launch will depend on writing persuasive emails and attractive pre-launch content to make your audience land on your sales page.
You’ll need to repeat yourself a lot
By the time you get to the end of your launch, you will have repeated your core message, product benefits, answers to FAQs a LOT of times but keep doing that. Don’t get tired of repeating yourself because people need to know!
12. Work hard on your headline
Give attention to the headline – set a target of spending at least 10 hours in writing it! Whether it is the headline of your webinar or sales page or the subject of your email, come up with something that compels the audience.
A tip is to try to use words that your customers use to describe a problem they need a solution for.
Handling the Technical Side of an Online Course
Whether it is the marketing or payment methods, taking care of the technical side of the course can be a bit challenging. Let’s look at some of the ways you can make your life easier.
13. Don’t spend a lot on tech tools in the early days
Even if you reinvest the money earned from the first course in the next ones, you don’t need to invest in costly software till you’re ready.
As long as people are getting results, they aren’t bothered about the tech tools you’re using.
Later when you’re ready to upgrade and bring in better tools, go for it!
14. Techie virtual assistants (VAs) may not work out
People hire VAs to avoid spending hours setting up their online course but it is strongly advised for course creators to know the basics at least and enough about the technical tools also.
In case of any emergency if the VA bails out at the last minute, you should know what to do and how to handle the basics or at least explain everything to a new VA.
15. Picking a Membership Site Plugin
There are tons of options to choose from for a membership site plugin (depending on our budget and preferred features) but most importantly look for one that will integrate with the systems you’re currently using.
You can upgrade to more sophisticated options as your business grows down the line.
16. Your branding and design should be consistent from beginning to end
Whatever style you choose for your branding it will represent what you stand for and what people can expect out of your course. Be sure to offer the same user experience before, during and after the sale.
So if you’re going for a high-end feel before people sign up, follow through with it during signup and till the delivery.
17. Technical problems can occur
Whether it’s the hosting server going down, internet acting up or issues with the billing software, many unforeseen problems can pop up at crucial moments – yes even if you’re tech-savy!
If a technical problem occurs, it doesn’t mean you did something wrong. Just be prepared to handle it promptly.
18. Some people don’t finish the online courses they buy
People may start the course with the right intentions but due to various reasons they leave the course midway unfinished. You as a course creator can facilitate them in finishing the course by making it easy for them and persuading them to take action after they’ve gone through the content. They will get the results you promised only after they finish the course.
Design your course by keeping the student in mind. Offer them support beyond the course material and you can add progress tracking or gamification.
19. Don’t leave technical stuff for the last minute
Take a decision on what systems you’ll be using ahead of time so you can focus on the launch and marketing without last minute stress.
The Emotional Rollercoaster of Online Course Launch
Yes online course launches are really like a rollercoaster with highs and lows coming your way all the time. One minute you would be super happy after a great review from a customer while the next minute a technical error can stress you out.
Just remember to go with the flow and let the following tips help you out.
20. What if someone launches the same course as yours before you?
Yes, just the thought is scary but it is quite possible. You might be developing a great online course for many months and suddenly find out someone launched a similar one – it will definitely shatter your confidence.
BUT don’t let that stop you from working. This is where your passion for your course topic and helping others will come in handy. There’s no problem in having other people out there doing the same thing. In fact it’s good to have some competition! It indicates there’s a market for the course you’re creating.
Your audience might choose you over others or with others – nothing to worry. Just because there are many burger joints in the world, entrepreneurs don’t stop opening up new fast food chains, do they?
21. You’ll tend to keep ‘checking the stats’ a lot – don’t!
While doing a course launch promotion you’ll want to keep hitting the refresh button on your inbox to check the sales folder or the dashboard of the website.
This addictive behavior is not good. Just relax and don’t let the numbers or no numbers get to you.
22. Don’t feel bad about the numbers on your webinar
It’s okay to feel a little nervous before each webinar no matter how prepared or experienced you are but remember that the turnout should not affect you.
You’ll feel disappointed no matter what the number is thinking you could have had a better turnout but the thing that matters most is to make the connection with the people who have joined.
23. A lot of effort is required during the launch
The ‘open and close’ launch strategy i.e. giving people a deadline to join the course works well because they get an incentive to join. Using the big splash launch model a lot of strain comes on you and your team to make revenue only during the big launches.
It can also lead to financial uncertainty because your launch needs to reach certain goals for your business to stay profitable.
The best way is to mix online course launches with more programs and products that are evergreen and always available. This is your way out of a desperate situation and you’re not marketing from a place of fear.
24. You have to create something people want to buy
You can spend millions in design and marketing but if your course isn’t what people need all is in vain.
Yes branding and design is important for launches but it’s not what makes launches successful. People buy the promise and the expected results you’re selling.
Work hard on your marketing message and create what people want and need.
25. Launch days will be intense and super busy
You will be working day in and day out responding to emails, following up with people and tasks and keeping the launch on schedule, so much so that menial daily tasks will get neglected.
Focus on the big picture and get through these heavy workload days with full dedication however don’t forget to maintain a balance.
26. You will doubt your course and launch along the way
This happens to the best of us and we think of pulling the plug on our own course launch. You will feel like canceling emails that need to be sent or disappearing from social media but remember most sales will come right at the end so don’t give up! Your launch is over when the cart closes so hang on.
If you close the cart before the deadline you’ll miss on at least half of the sales so never do that because the last day of launch is usually the most profitable.
27. Your sales don’t reflect your self-worth
If the sales numbers are up or down, don’t make it a measure of your worth as a human being. The comments and sales do not indicate your value as an entrepreneur or person.
Your course is just one of your creations among other things.
Using Sweat Equity to Design Your Course
Creating an online course can be done in two ways – you either hire someone to do it for you (by investing money and resources) or you put your energy, time and effort into learning how to do it yourself.
The second method is called Sweat Equity and it is highly recommended.
28. Expect a lot of late nights and lot of learning
When you work on an online course for the first time, you will come across a lot of small details to learn about that you didn’t anticipate. This will also mean putting in lots of extra hours of the night working.
Even if you’re an experienced course creator with a big team and lots of pre-planning in place, some details can still pop up unexpectedly leading to pulling all-nighters before a big launch.
It will however get easier with time but it’s impossible to foresee every little detail that needs to be taken care of while creating and selling an online course.
An online course is three times the work you think it is
Whatever estimate you have in mind, an online course will take three times that amount of work because it involves:
- The work of planning your launch (this will take 1/3rd of the work in creating a successful course)
- The work of the launch itself (telling the world about your course in a convincing way)
- The work of designing the course content and delivering it
29. You will need to edit some parts of your course after launch
Once students go through your course, you will need to re-do some sections based on their feedback. This is a good opportunity to improve your course for future students based on valuable feedback from paying customers and tweak it for current customers.
Constructive criticism allows you to make necessary changes that will in turn cut down the number of questions you’re getting. Also your testimonials and marketing will become easier because people will give better reviews now.
30. The first week of your online course is very important
In this week you’ll be establishing the tone of your course and you can focus on giving the audience a nice overview of what to expect ahead. This big picture will tempt them to go deeper into the future weeks. Don’t overwhelm the audience by cramming up too much content in the first week.
During the first week, deliver at least one promise you made in the marketing of the course. This will build up trust and significantly reduce requests for refunds.
31. Re-launch instead of offering a second course
Focus on improving and re-launching your existing course. However tempted you must be to launch a new course, using your creative power in attracting new customers and using the power of your course will definitely pay off better.
32. Setting a low price for your course isn’t useful
You might think that selling your course at a low price will bring in lots of customers but the truth is that it requires the same amount of hard work as that of a high priced program.
The basic structure will be the same so you might as well charge a good amount according to the work you’ve put in and offer something substantial.
33. Don’t neglect your health in the process
When the days will become busy, pre-planning your meals will come in handy. Your health should be your priority. Include taking a walk, exercise, yoga in your schedule to remain energized and positive.
Snacking on unhealthy food items and slacking will not get the job done!
34. Put your family first
Yes you’re working hard and don’t have time to spare but don’t let your family members become strangers. Take out time for family commitments and special occasions – in the long run, the business will be here but they might not.
During exceptionally busy times, you can let your close ones know you won’t be readily available and they’ll understand but yes prioritize them otherwise.
35. It will take long
It’s good to prepare yourself beforehand that everything will take longer than you expect it to. You’re creating a life-changing online course so don’t expect it to happen overnight.
However it will be worth it since you’ll be leaving a mark on hundreds and thousands of people.
Go ahead and spend extra hours on tweaking, reviewing and editing – it will pay off!
36. Once you’re done, you’ll want to do it again
After you close the cart and you might be exhausted, you’ll still want to do it all over again!
A lot of positive emotions spring up at the end of a launch because of enthusiastic new students, generated revenue and a marketing campaign that you’ve worked on already.
It’s your call – take some time off or start recreating!
I help business owners, educators and entrepreneurs the profitable action steps for building a profitable online business, creating online training courses, and using online marketing strategies to sell with ease.
Reach out to me at email@example.com