7 Best Ways to Promote Online Courses

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Key Takeaways

  • Sales funnels are an effective way to promote online courses involving awareness creation, lead collection, nurturing, and conversion.
  • Social proof and testimonials are powerful tools to showcase your course’s effectiveness and address specific pain points.
  • Paid advertising should incorporate testimonials and social proof in marketing strategies and ad copy.
  • Social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are valuable for online course promotion, requiring consistent content creation.
  • Partnerships with influencers and other course creators can lend credibility and authority to your course in the market.
  • Offering limited-time discounts can drive sales and reviews, but careful pricing strategies are essential to maintain perceived value.
  • Search engine optimization is a long-term game and requires consistency to be an effective way to promote courses.

Sales Funnel

how-to-promote-online-courses-basic-sales-funnel-example
Example of a basic sales funnel, giving an overview of the different layers a sales funnel has. Image credits.

Sales funnels are one of the most effective and scalable ways to promote online courses. The top of the sales funnel is the starting point, where you create and grow the awareness for your online course. The next step in the funnel is to collect leads, nurture the lead, and ultimately sell your course to the lead.

Online course sales funnel structure:

  • Create awareness: Paid advertising, social media posts, and content creation.
  • Collect leads: Create a lead magnet or a simple purchasable digital product to collect email addresses and customer details.
    • Webinar: Create a webinar for collecting leads and selling a high-ticket course.
  • Follow-up content: Create a follow-up sequence to nurture your lead.
  • Action: Convert a lead to a paying customer.

Different types of sales funnels you can build:

  • Seed launch funnel
  • Beta group funnel
  • Discount funnel
  • Limited-time offer funnel
  • Webinar funnel

Create awareness

If you have no audience, paid advertising is the fastest way to create awareness for your online course. Paid advertising works best when you are selling mid, to high-ticket courses ($497+). Advertising is costly, and having a higher-priced product at the end of the sales funnel will make ROAS (return on ad spend) profitable.

Another way to create awareness of your online course is by creating content on social media, LinkedIn, your website, or other platforms that have organic traffic, like Pinterest.

If you have organic search traffic audience, following on social media, or an email list, you only need to mention your online course to create awareness for your course.

Collect leads

Collect leads by offering lead magnets, private access to premium content, a seat at a webinar, etc. Getting people’s email addresses is the most common way of collecting leads. The best lead magnets completely solve a narrowly defined problem for a person, which in turn creates a sense of trust that your course can solve the rest of the problems they have in specific areas in their lives.

Lead magnet checklist for collecting leads:

  • Step 1. What problem do you solve?: Figure out the problem that you want to completely solve and who you solve it for.
  • Step 2. Think about how you can solve it: Trial offer, case study, checklist, cheatsheet, assessment, etc.
  • Step 3. How do you deliver the lead magnet? Service, mini-course, file, information, service, digital product, etc.
  • Step 4. How do you package your lead magnet? What is the title of your lead magnet, how do you describe it, and what is the promise? The lead magnet itself can be the same, but if the title and value proposition are off, it won’t convert.
  • Step 5. Make it fast and easy to consume: Audio, video, images, and short paragraphs work well for fast information consumption.
  • Step 6. Make it great: Don’t be afraid to give your secrets, your best information. The goal is to make the lead trust you and see you as an expert.
  • Step 7. Lead magnet is an easy step to your course: Make the lead magnet’s call to action easy to spot. Make the next step easy to take for the lead. Be clear where they can find your offer and make it easy for them to buy your course.

Related resource:

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$100M Leads: How to Get Strangers to...
  • Audible Audiobook
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  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/20/2023 (Publication Date) -...

Different types of lead magnets you can offer:

  • Mini Guide or Ebook
  • Templates
  • Product Samples or Trials
  • Automated Evaluation
  • Whitepaper
  • Webinar
  • Case Studies
  • Quizzes, Surveys & Polls
  • Real-World Evaluation
  • Training Videos
  • Mini-course (an overview of the full course you are selling)

Lead magnet landing page checklist:

  • Check that your landing page has a clear title or a headline.
  • Ensure your lead magnet landing page describes the value of the lead magnet.
  • Make it easy to opt in to your lead magnet.
  • Hook your leads with your CTA (call-to-action) button.

Webinar

Webinars have evolved into an indispensable tool, serving as an effective means to promote and sell online courses. Webinars offer a platform for sharing valuable insights, showcasing your expertise, and creating connections that can lead to online course buyers.

Webinar checklist when promoting online courses:

  • Make the webinar as long as needed.
  • 3/4 of the webinar should be reserved for completely solving a problem your target audience has.
  • 1/4 of the webinar should be reserved for pitching your online course and presenting the offer.
  • Solve one narrowly defined problem your target audience has. The problem should be different and separate from what you solve in your course.

Webinar funnel structure and follow-up sequence:

  • Webinar email: Send an email that has a link that enables the lead to either join a live webinar or watch a pre-recorded webinar.
  • Post-webinar email: Webinar replay link
  • 3rd email: Describe their current situation and their life if they continue on their current path.
  • 4th email: Describe what their life could look like if they would acquire your course.
  • 5th email: Address objections and misbeliefs. Social proof and testimonials work the best.
  • 6th email: F.A.Q
  • 7th email: Final notice. Describe why they should join and offer bonuses to sway customers to buy your course.

Follow-up content

Follow-up content is content you give or send to your leads after they opt in to your lead magnet. Most digital marketers and online course sellers automate their follow-up sequence with an email service provider like ConvertKit (we recommend and use them).

Follow-up content aims to nurture the lead and make them ready to buy your course at the end of the follow-up sequence. The more expensive the course, the stronger and more thorough the follow-up sequence you need.

Notice! The follow-up content can be the lead magnet or part of the lead magnet, depending on the lead magnet. If you provide a digital product, downloadable file, or cheatsheet, for example, the follow-up content is a separate part of the funnel.

Follow-up content sequence overview for a course funnel:

  • Day 0: Deliver: Welcome email, introduction, free gift, lead magnet
  • Day 1: Add value: Share a personal story and agitate the problem you’ve identified in your target market.
  • Day 2: More value: Make people understand their pain points
  • Day 3: Break: No emails sent this day. Give your lead a breather.
  • Day 4: Make people see you as an expert. Gain your customer’s trust. Build excitement around your course. Offer details about your course.
  • Day 5: Launch your course, offer a discount, create a launch offer, present bonuses, etc.
  • Day 6: Address objections and misbeliefs people might have while promoting the discount, limited-time offer, etc.
  • Day 7: F.A.Q
  • Day 8: Final reminder. Send three emails every 4-6 hours.

Related resource: Six-Figure Online Course Creator

You can create a shorter or longer email sequence than what is presented above. The core idea of a follow-up content sequence is to make the lead know, like, and trust you.

Action

The action part of the sales funnel is the part where you try to convert a lead to a paying customer. Make the call-to-action (CTA) as easy as possible for the lead. CTA should be easy to spot, easy to act upon, and easy to understand.

Ways to increase conversion percentage in your sales funnel:

  • Optimize CTA: Make CTA (call-to-action) easy to understand, easy to access, and easy to use.
  • Offer guarantees: There are 4 types of guarantees:
  • Implied guarantees: They pay if you perform. You don’t get money if they don’t achieve the results you promise with your course.
  • Anti-guarantee: All sales are final, no refunds.
  • Unconditional guarantee: Customers can try your course, and if they don’t like it, they get a refund.
  • Conditional guarantee: Customers need to apply the teaching (some or all) in the course, and if they don’t get results, they get a refund.
  • Show social proof, testimonials, and course reviews: Present customer results to prove that your course works.
  • Agitate pain points: Remind your customers about the pain points they have and how your course solves those pain points.

Social Proof and Testimonials

Social proof and testimonials are the strongest ways to promote online courses. The reason why social proof and testimonials are so powerful is that real people showcase/testify that your online course works and people get results by applying your teachings.

The best testimonials address specific pain points you’ve noticed in your target audience. When people see that course students nullify their beliefs and objections, it will strongly signal that your course is worth their money.

Ways to get testimonials and social proof:

  • Gather 2-10 persons online to become your beta group, with whom you will offer your online course for free or at a massively reduced price. Gather feedback, improve the course curriculum and content, and gather customer results.
    • If possible, optimize your beta group to include only people with specific paint points you want your course to solve.
  • Coach a small group of people, create the course with the group’s feedback, and gather testimonials.
  • Offer the online course with a huge discount to get initial customers to ask for a review or a testimonial. If needed, offer a bonus product or a module for getting the review and the testimonial.

Forms of social proof:

  • Testimonials
  • Customer reviews
  • Mentions on social media
  • Star-ratings
  • Media mentions

Paid Advertising

Paid advertising is best used when you don’t have a large audience yet, but have proof that your course works. To make paid advertising work best for you, use collected testimonials, customer reviews, and social proof as part of your marketing strategy and ad copy.

Gradually scale your advertising budget as you optimize your conversions.

Popular paid advertising platforms:

Key things to consider when doing paid advertising:

  • Track the ad performance daily and eliminate the ads with the poorest performance while creating new ads on top of the working ones.
  • Optimize landing page conversion using Google Tag Manager, Meta pixel, Pinterest tag, or other ad analytics tools.
  • Structure your landing page to be as simple as possible while providing convincing evidence that your online course generates results for customers.
  • Create a clear, easy-to-use, and easy-to-understand CTA button for immediate course sales, webinars, or lead magnets.

Remember that successful paid advertising campaigns for online courses require a combination of effective targeting, compelling ad creatives and copywriting skills, and continuous optimization.

Social Media

Social media is one of the most prominent places to promote your online course. Social media platforms tend to act as the bridge for creating connections and making sales with online courses. Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are some of the best platforms for promoting online courses.

If you don’t already have an account on those platforms, consider creating one, and remember that creating content consistently is the key to building an audience on any platform.

Don’t forget to align the content you create with the online course you sell.

Related article: How to promote digital products on Pinterest

When to use social media for course promotion:

  • If you have an audience on social media platforms.
  • If your target audience is mainly on social media platforms.
  • If your social media following is aligned with the course you are promoting.
  • If your following on social media is able and willing to buy your course.
  • If your social media content aligns with the course you are promoting.

Popular social media platforms to promote online courses on:

Combining authenticity, relatability, and video-based content makes social media an influential and effective platform for promoting online courses.

Partnerships

Forming partnerships with other course creators, social media influencers, or websites is especially useful when you are selling a high-ticket course. When your course is visible on multiple platforms and promoted through multiple influencers, it will give your course credibility and authority in your niche and market segment.

If possible, make an affiliate program for your online course and offer special bonuses, higher affiliate percentages, special affiliate links, discounts, etc., to be shared with your partner and with their audience in exchange for promoting your course.

Different ways of forming partnerships for course promotion:

  • Write guest posts for blogs.
  • Participate as a podcast guest on popular podcasts (or rising podcasts).
  • Arrange a YouTube interview with influencers.
  • Collaborate with other online instructors.
    • Offer your course as a bonus or as a complementary offering.
  • Use affiliate marketing.

Discounts

To celebrate your new course (or to promote an existing one), you can create a limited-time launch offer for your course, for example, offering -40% off. The idea is to get sales, reviews, and feedback. Remember that you shouldn’t have discounts too often, as that can lower the perceived value of your online course.

The discount amount is also a signal of your course’s value. Too significant a discount will signal that your course has room for improvement, while a small discount signals that it’s hard to sell such a valuable course at a low price.

Discount pricing strategies:

  • Offer discount in round numbers. $400 vs. $399
  • Place the discounted price below the original price.
  • Visually differentiate the sale price from the original price. Have a different text color for the discounted price than what the original price has.
  • Tell a reason why there’s a discount. This signals the discount is temporary and not permanent.
  • Reduce every digit in the discounted price. $499, discounted price $347
  • Give percentage discounts for prices below $100. $1997/$400 off vs. $97/20% off.

Examples of holidays and events when it’s an excellent time to use discounts:

  • Black Friday
  • 4th of July
  • Spring, summer, fall, and winter sale
  • Thanksgiving sale
  • Beginning and end of school sale
  • Christmas sale
  • Cyber Monday
  • Launch sale

Related article: How to price online courses

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy for promoting online courses. SEO is about creating content around the subject of your online course, whether to rank on Google, social media platforms, or any other platform people use to search for information.

Content creation and the topics discussed should be aligned with the course you are promoting and selling so that the readers and content consumers who find you can become potential leads and ultimately paying customers.

SEO takes time, effort, perseverance, commitment, and constant learning about how search algorithms are perceived to work. Most platforms don’t share how their algorithms work. However, Google has given comprehensive guidance on how to do search engine optimization.

Key aspects of search engine optimization:

  • Follow the official guidelines given by the platform you create and optimize content for.
  • Spend enough time on the platform to experience any traction, traffic, or audience growth.
  • Create content consistently while keeping in mind your physical and mental health.
  • SEO and content creation is a long-term game where you see results after a long period (except if you get lucky and go viral with your content).

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Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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