9 Fresh Ways to Promote Your Online Course
Developing an online course is only one piece of the magic. Learn how you can promote your course to optimize sign ups, grow your list, and get new customers.
By Monica Montesa July 14, 2016
As a professional consultant or expert, you work hard to educate others and help them develop their own skills. But you love every moment of it, because you get to share your passion and expertise with others who strive to learn more.
And when you can do so by creating an online course, it removes all geographical and time barriers so you can teach the masses.
Plus, the sky’s the limit for the content you create and how you turn it into a course. Between videos, emails, ebooks and more, there are so many ways to optimize your course to better help your students.
But if you’ve created your own course or are still in the planning process of getting it together, you know that actually developing the course is only one piece of the magic. After all, you need people to sign up in order to reap the benefits and hopefully, turn into new customers.
So, you need a defined plan for promotion.
The key to successful promotion
At the end of the day, the success of your online course is directly tied to how valuable it is to your target audience.
If your course isn’t helpful, no amount of promotion and advertising dollars will make up for that. And unfortunately, you’ll see that in your metrics when you don’t meet your goals. From the get-go, you should be confident that the course you’re encouraging them to sign up for is something people want. If you think you might need to go back and make some updates, I encourage you to do that now before you put in the effort to tell the world about it.
Another thing: Before you start promoting anything, make sure you have clearly defined goals for your course. What action do you want course attendees to take after the course? How many people do you want to sign up for your service or purchase a product? Whatever it may be, this will have a significant impact on your promotion strategy. To keep your plan targeted, you want to make sure you’re meeting people where they are.
Now, let’s dive into your promotion strategy.
Embracing the hub and spoke
Identifying where to get started can be overwhelming … or you could be facing a totally blank slate – and that’s OK! To help you stay organized and tackle your promotion for your course, I recommend adopting the hub and spoke model.
With this mindset, you should view your online course as the central hub. Anything else you do to drive people to that hub becomes the spokes:
Before we dive into the individual spokes you can leverage, take some time to think about your audience and the ways in which you stay connected with them. This might not be the same for everyone, but some communication channels could include your emails, website, blog, social platforms, ads, and so on. Then there might also be offline opportunities where you’re engaging with customers in person.
(Have that in mind? Great – jot those down for later!)
Nine “spokes” to kick-start to your promotion plan
Depending on your business and industry sector, you might find that there are other avenues you can take to promote your online course. And that’s great! These nine tactics are simply suggestions for you to either adopt into your own plan or gain inspiration from. So let’s dive in!
1. Highlight the course in an email campaign.
As with any product launch, there are different times when you can spread the word about your course to both customers and prospects: before, during, and after you launch.
If you haven’t yet created the course, this is a great opportunity to tell your audience about it and even field questions to get their feedback on what they’d like to see in your course. By discovering topics they express interest in, you’ll be able to create content that directly speaks to them and their needs.
To do so, consider sending an email or posting to your social communities. Here you can tell them you’re working on a new educational course, and ask what they’d be most interested in learning about. Or if you already have a general idea on the topic, get their feedback to see if it resonates with them.
As you gain more insight into what will make for a successful course, you’ll also simultaneously build hype around it. When someone knows there’s something coming down the road that’s going to help them, they’ll be more excited for its release.
When your course is ready to go live, be sure to send out an email to your subscribers. With 91 percent of people checking their emails daily and 74 percent saying they prefer to receive communication through email (according to Cognique), you need to make sure you have this channel of communication covered.
In your email, be sure to share the benefits of the course. What will people learn from it? If you surveyed your audience beforehand, be sure to tell them that what they’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. Get them excited!
And of course, be sure to include powerful calls to action (CTA) to download or register for it.
Sending one email to your audience isn’t going to cut it.
After at least a week, check out the performance of your Launch Day Email to see how many people opened and how many clicked the call to action. You’ll want to plan your next email to those who didn’t open it the first time, as well as an email to those who opened the email but didn’t click the initial link.
For those who didn’t open your email, consider how you might be able to tweak the subject line or send the message at a different time or day. If someone didn’t click the link, consider how you might be able to tweak the content of your message to make it more influential. You could also move the location of your CTA button, or tweak the copy.
2. Share on social and boost with paid ads.
If you’re active on any social media platforms, consider how you might be able to post about it to your followers. Keep in mind that different channels require you to change the way you communicate on them. For example, you’d want to use a compelling image if you promote a course on Pinterest, whereas on LinkedIn you’d want to include a bit more copy about the benefits of the course.
For social platforms that allow businesses to promote via paid ads, you’ll want to include those in your strategy as well. Facebook, for example, allows users to target their ads to specific groups of people who have a higher chance of signing up for the course.
(To learn more about creating paid Facebook ads, check out our recent post on the topic.)
3. Get creative with quizzes and contests.
Want a fun way to build excitement for your course? Try creating a quiz that relates to your course, and drives people to it at the end! There are a number of tools, such as Interact, that allow you to easily create quizzes and collect email addresses.
Contests are another fun way to raise awareness, especially if your course is paid. You can offer the course for free to those who participate in the contest, and encourage people to share it with others to increase their chances of winning. And of course, there are tools available to help you set up those too. (See how one photographer used contests to grow his email list.)
4. Add it to relevant locations on your website or blog.
Whether you place a permanent sign up form or ad on your homepage, or set up a pop up or slide-in form, be sure to include your website traffic in your promotion.
To ensure it doesn’t come across as unwanted or spammy to your visitors, the places you promote your course should be relevant to it.
Let’s say you run a healthy food blog and recently launched a course about transitioning to a gluten-free diet. Instead of just promoting it on your blog’s homepage (where people are there to learn about a variety of information), you can get more targeted by promoting your course on posts that speak to gluten-free foods.
5. Tease content from your course in a blog post.
Sometimes, people need a little preview before making the commitment to send over their email address.
A great way to hook people into your course content is to write a blog post that gives them a taste of the content they’d be able to consume if they signed up. Here’s an example of one we did for one of our own online courses:
In addition to simply announcing its launch, we wanted to give them a reason to sign up, and that reason was some of the course material itself. If they found it valuable, then they’d be more incentivized to subscribe and learn more.
6. Spread the word at conferences or networking events.
If you plan on attending any events where you’ll be interacting with your target audience face-to-face, be sure to take advantage of those natural opportunities where you can promote your course.
If you have a booth, for example, print out marketing collateral they can take with them that includes a link to the course and hand it out to those who might have expressed interest.
Or, consider signing up for a text-to-sign up app, which allows people to send a text message with their email address to a pre-designated number, and syncs with your list so they get automatically added. Tools like LeadDigits (which we recently used at the Podcast Movement in Chicago!) and SlickText can be easily downloaded and sync with a number of email marketing providers (ESPs).
You can even download a mobile sign up form app (like Atom) to your phone or tablet. These types of apps can also sync with specific ESPs, so anyone who signs up using the app will get added right to your list.
Either way you go, you won’t be short of options to promote your course and get people to register for it!
7. Take advantage of partnership opportunities.
Guest blog posts, webinars, cross-promotional emails … each of these are perfect opportunities to expand your reach by teaming up with businesses that have similar audiences to yours.
When you do, you’ll want to find a way to angle your blog post or webinar presentation so that it can tie back to your online course. Remember, the more you can hook people into your course, the better. This also ensures you maintain a connected experience for those who sat through your webinar presentation.
Here’s an example of a webinar we presented on writing content for your emails …
… which provided the perfect opportunity to promote our email writing course.
8. Invest in paid online ads.
To get even more eyes on your course, consider investing in paid ads to promote it to new audiences. If this is new territory for you, you’ll want to do your research before diving in.
Between the different types of ads and locations to place them, it’s important to learn the landscape and what might work best for you. You’ll also need to identify a budget for the ad(s) and how you plan to track its performance.
Once you have an idea of the strategy you want to go with, it’ll be up to you to design the ad based on the dimensions provided. If this might seem like a hurdle, there are a number of tools that allow even non-designers to create beautiful-looking images, like Canva and PicMonkey.
When creating your ads, be sure to maintain the branding of your online course. This will create a consistent experience for your visitors as they move from the ad to your course landing page.
(To help you navigate the world of paid ads, check out this great read from Kissmetrics.)
9. Encourage fans of your course to share it.
Throughout your course and your promotion plan, you should leave plenty of opportunities for people to share it with friends and colleagues. Social sharing buttons, click-to-tweet links, and even general CTAs that tell people to share are all great ways to influence people to spread the word.
You can optimize sharing in a variety of assets related to your course, including the course itself and emails you send out to promote it.
And remember: the more valuable and engaging the content you create is, the more people will naturally want to share it with others.
Ready to promote your course?
Now’s the time to go forth and get started! If you have other tactics you’re going to use that aren’t listed here, share them below.