You’ve heard so much about online courses lately, and there’s a good chance you’ve enrolled in some online training or classes yourself. You have to admit the prospect of selling courses online intrigues you, and you’re toying with the idea of creating your own online course to sell. But you have one big concern - you don’t know the first thing about how to sell online courses.
Sure, you could create a course on a platform like Udemy, but since these courses are low-priced, you’d have to sell a ton of them to make a serious profit. And you want something more, the ability to sell courses online that make a real impact on your students and allow you to earn a decent income doing what you love. But how do you even start?
If this sounds like you, then listen up. Here at Mirasee, we’ve been teaching course creators how to successfully sell courses online since 2013, and we can teach you to do the same. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a proven 11-step process for selling online courses to show you exactly how it’s done.
Now let’s get started!
Why Should You Create and Sell Online Courses?
Before we look at the actual process of selling courses online, let’s first address the question of why you should sell online courses.
For one thing, if you want to make good money selling online courses, you can definitely achieve that goal. According to LearnWorlds, successful course creators make from $1K to $10K per month by selling their online courses. In fact, it’s possible to make 6 figures or even 7 figures through online course sales. Of course, many factors contribute to one’s success or failure in online course sales, so there are no guarantees.
What’s even more exciting is that the future of online course sales is even brighter than its present.
In fact, according to a study conducted by Global Industry Analysts, the global e-learning market is expected to skyrocket from $332.6 billion in 2022 to $686.9 billion by 2030. That’s an increase of over 100% in just eight years!
These trends show no signs of slowing, which means there’s no better time to sell online courses to create a new income stream for yourself, and potentially earn a full-time living from your online course business.
In addition to earning a side income or even a living doing what you love, online courses also allow you to share your knowledge and make an impact on a large number of people, far more than you could from teaching an in-person course.
So if you’re someone who has expertise in a particular field and a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing your knowledge and talents, then selling online courses could well be a fulfilling and rewarding way for you to earn a living.
How to Sell Online Courses
If you want to start selling online courses, it’s crucial to have a clear plan of action before you dive in. In this section, we’ll lay out the 9 steps you need to follow if you want to be successful at selling courses online.
Find (and Test) Your Winning Course Idea
A successful online course starts with a profitable course idea. You need to pick the right idea, one that there’s demand for and that your customers will actually buy. How do you go about this process?
Here’s what we recommend:
Choose a course topic
The first step is to come up with a viable course idea. This is crucial, because you can’t have a successful course if you choose a topic that no one’s interested in. For a course idea to be viable it must be in a profitable niche and there needs to be a demand for it.
To start brainstorming course ideas, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my niche or area of expertise?
- What topics am I passionate about?
- How have I previously helped people?
- Who is my ideal customer, and what is their biggest problem?
- What causes them pain?
- What is the solution they need?
- How can I provide this solution?
As you mull over these questions, write down any course ideas that come to mind. Then review your list and zero in on your top three course ideas.
Identify your target audience
Next you’ll need to uncover who would potentially be interested in your course idea. Look back at your list and consider who you’d like to help with your course. Then ask yourself what they struggle with, what they could do if the struggle wasn’t holding them back, and where you’re likely to find them hanging out online.
If you’ve already created a customer profile, now’s the time to refer to it. And if not, we highly recommend you review our post on how to create a customer profile. Having a clear sense of who your ideal student is and their interests, hopes, dreams, and desires is essential for creating a course they actually want and for marketing it to them effectively.
Conduct some research
You’ll also have to do some research to make sure you’re totally clear on what your target audience struggles with and what specific problem you will help them solve. There are many ways you can do this, such as searching on Google and social media, or conducting online surveys to uncover the problems your ideal customer wants to solve. And one of the most valuable things you can do is set up interviews with members of your target audience to learn more about what challenges they’re facing.
You’ll also need to research keywords related to your course topic, which you can do with the help of tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs and Keyword Planner. You’ll want to look at the search volume for each of these relevant keywords to get a sense of how in-demand your topic is. If the monthly search volume is low, this suggests that there is little interest in your topic. On the other hand, if these keywords receive many thousands of searches per month, this indicates there is interest in and demand for your topic.
Test your course ideas
Once you’ve clarified your number one online course idea, we recommend running it by some members of your target audience to ensure that it’s something they actually want - and would be willing to pay for. In other words, you need to validate your course idea.
You can do this by building a sales page for your course explaining who it’s for, why they need it, and what they’ll learn. Then you drive your ideal customers to this page and encourage them to pre-order, leave a deposit, or sign up for a waiting list.
You’ll also need to track and analyze how well your sales page performs by looking at metrics like the number of visits to your sales page, your conversion rate, number of email opens, and number of link clicks.
If the results are satisfactory, you can move on and start planning your course content. If not, you’ll want to brainstorm some other ideas to test out.
Plan Your Online Course
After confirming your online course is something your prospective students want, you can start planning your course content.
At this stage, you don’t need to worry about scripting the videos or recording them. However, you do need to get clear on what your course will look like, which you can do by creating a high-level outline of your course.
A good way to begin crafting your outline is to first make a list of all your lesson ideas. Either in a blank document or notebook, simply write a list of any ideas that might become a lesson in your course.
Once you have a list of ideas, it’s time to start organizing them. For example, you’ll want to figure out which lessons should come at the beginning, middle, and end. From there, fill in the gaps from the list of ideas you created.
There are many different ways you can do this, depending on your specific preferences. You can use a notebook, Post-it Notes, or even a visual mind map tool like Lucidchart, MindMup, or MindMeister. At this stage, nothing you create needs to be perfect. All that matters is that you begin to form a clear image of what your course will look like.
Once you have a high-level outline of your entire course, you can then turn your attention to the individual lessons. For each individual lesson, develop some learning goals and objectives and make a note of:
- Why this lesson is important
- What this lesson involves
- How this lesson helps (and works)
- The specific action steps involved
After completing this step, you’ll have an organized high-level outline of your course, and a good sense of what you’ll be teaching in each lesson.
Create Your Online Course Content
After you’ve completed your outline of your online course, you should have a clear idea of the different modules and lessons that make up your course and what each lesson will cover.
From here, you can go ahead and create the first version of your online course. This involves planning and scripting your lessons and developing assignments, handouts, and any other additional resources to go along with your course.
Once all your scripts and other written course materials are ready, it’s time to start filming your videos. Depending on your course, you might appear on camera to deliver the lessons, opt for screen recordings with voiceovers, or use a combination of the two.
At this point in the process, you’ll need to decide what kind of equipment and software you’ll use to create your videos. The good news is that you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to create an online course and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, either.
The truth is, your students will be much more upset by poor content than they will by poor production values. You can have the best tech in the world, but if the content is substandard, your course will still flop.
But let’s assume that your content is top-quality. Depending on your budget, you have a variety of options for creating your recording setup. We’ll break down your tech needs into several categories and give you some low-end options, some mid-range options, and some high-end options to consider in each category.
For the sake of full disclosure, using video in your online courses isn’t absolutely necessary. Some courses use audio recordings supplemented with print materials and don’t use any video at all. Other courses include only an introductory video to welcome students and orient them to the design of the course, then use a mixture of audio and print materials or print materials exclusively for the rest of the course.
That said, video courses are considered the gold standard today and some prospective students will feel like your course is sub-standard if you don’t use video lessons in your course. And for some topics–those that are highly visual (such as arts and crafts courses) or those that demonstrate how-to processes–video is simply a necessity.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s much easier to create a connection with your students if they can both see and hear you. And a student who connects with you is much more likely to stick with you throughout the course.
So, assuming you will be creating video lessons, what kind of video equipment do you need? Here are some thoughts:
- Low End: If you have a decent smartphone camera, you can get by with using it to shoot your videos. Just invest in a cheap tripod to mount it on, and you’re good to go.
- Mid-Range: The next step up would be to purchase a good webcam, though this only works for “talking head” videos. One solid webcam option is the Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam.
- High End: If you want the highest quality video, you’ll want to step up to a digital SLR (DSLR) camera. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera fits the bill nicely (but that bill will run you $1,200+).
For some topics–especially software demonstrations or slide presentations–you’ll want to record your screen for all or part of a lesson. You’ll need some software to do so. Here are some options:
- Low End: If you really can’t afford to spend any money on this, you might be able to use the free version of Loom to record your screen for your lessons.
- Mid-Range: If you want a tool with more capability but is still very affordable, you might want to go with ScreenPal (formerly Screencast-O-Matic). This software is recommended by many people who run online courses. Plus, it’s fairly simple to use and offers an extensive tutorial library.
- High End: If you plan to do a lot of heavy duty screen recording and want something with more bells and whistles than ScreenPal, you can’t go wrong with Camtasia. This software delivers professional-quality video and can add special effects and music, as well.
Many people new to creating online courses think that their video quality is the most important thing. Not so. In fact, students are generally pretty forgiving of less-than-perfect video quality…IF the audio quality is good.
The truth is, there’s nothing more annoying than trying to learn something when you can’t follow the audio because it’s recorded at too low a volume or the sound is muffled or staticy, or because there’s background noise. People will abandon a course in a matter of minutes if the audio quality is poor.
So don’t let that happen to you! Even if you have almost no money to put into your setup, make sure your audio is up to standard by investing a little into a decent microphone.
One other thing to be aware of: there are dynamic microphones and condenser microphones. Dynamic microphones drown out background noise, while condenser microphones pick up just about every sound in the environment. So think about where you’ll be recording and choose accordingly.
Here are some ideas:
- Low End: The free approach is to simply use the microphone in your computer or mobile device, but this is the one category where we recommend you not go with the free alternative. The quality is often just not good enough.
- Mid-Range: A basic USB microphone is the next step up. It’s simple (it just plugs right into your computer), it will cost you less than $100, and it will give you good quality audio–but only if you’re seated at your computer. One popular option is the Blue Yeti USB mic.
- High End: If you’re going to be demonstrating something, standing, or moving around, you’ll need to go up another level and invest in a lapel mic, such as a Lavalier microphone.
As we stated earlier, video isn’t as important as audio, but you don’t want it to look like you’re filming from inside a cave, either. So, think carefully about where you plan to record and get the equipment you need to make it look good.
- Low End: Luckily, you can often get by without spending any money at all on lighting–if your filming location has good natural lighting. If you shoot during the daytime with a window in front of you, you should be in pretty good shape.
- Mid-Range: When the natural light isn’t as good or you need to shoot at nighttime, you can use an inexpensive ring light. On the simple end of the scale, you could use a ring light that clips directly to a smartphone, like the Meifigno Selfie Ring Light. On the other end of the scale, you can use something like the Neewer Ring Light Kit.
- High End: If you want maximum control over your lighting and you’re wanting a truly professional look, you’ll want to invest in a studio-quality setup like the LimoStudio Light Kit, which includes lights, reflector umbrellas, stands, and a backdrop.
Nobody is perfect when it comes to creating audio or video, so editing is always going to be needed. Again, there are a wide variety of tools available to you, from free to expensive, and the quality varies accordingly.
- Low End: Free tools such as iMovie do exist if you have an iPhone or iPad. For Android and a Windows computer, you could use Power Director (though there are ads on the free version).
- Mid-Range: ScreenPal is once again an excellent mid-range option. It’s easy to use and can edit both video and screen recordings. It also comes with many tutorial videos.
- High End: Camtasia is an excellent product and works on both Macs and PCs. Or, if you want to go to the very high end, you could go with Final Cut Pro.
Using some combination of the options above will allow you to create the video content you need for your courses.
However, there is one big problem many people have that none of the equipment or software above will solve; many people just aren’t comfortable speaking off the top of their heads on video.
If that describes you, it might be worth looking into a teleprompter app such as PromptSmart Pro. This software turns your scripts into a teleprompter feed that follows your voice as you speak. All you have to do is look into the camera and read. Brilliant!
Once you’ve finished creating and editing your videos and the accompanying resources, you can go ahead and upload your course content to your WordPress site or the online platform of your choice.
Of course, there’s a lot involved in the process of creating an amazing online course, which is beyond the scope of this article. So if you want to learn more about how to create an impactful online course, we recommend you review our guide to creating online courses. This guide provides a complete overview of the process (plus some handy resources) so that you know exactly what you need to do each step of the way.
Determine Your Course Delivery Method
When your course content is ready, it’s time to figure out your course delivery method, which refers to when and how specific lessons will be made available to your students.
At a basic level, there are three ways to deliver your course:
- Give it to them all at once.
- “Drip” the content out over a period of time.
- A combination of the two previous approaches.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each method:
Give It to Them All at Once
With this approach, you simply create your course content and give people who sign up a way to access the course. They get everything all at once and are on their own to consume it how they wish. Your job is done.
- Some people prefer to learn on their own without a live instructor and fellow students.
- Some people also have life and work schedules that keep them from attending scheduled classes on a regular basis, so they prefer to access a course in the “gaps” of time where they can squeeze in some learning.
- Some people prefer to binge content rather than get it a little at a time.
- There’s no interaction with an instructor, which means there’s no chance to ask questions or get help if they get stuck or don’t understand something.
- There’s no student-to-student interaction and no community.
- For many people, once the course is delivered and sitting on their computer, it’s easy to procrastinate and say, “I’ll get around to it” because there’s no schedule to force them to do so. As a result, the vast majority of students never finish these courses.
Drip the Content Out Over Time
With this approach, you set up a schedule that you think will be manageable for students and you deliver lessons over a set period of time. The most common schedule is one session a week, though you could deliver sessions more or less often.
- This approach tends to keep more students engaged.
- It allows the instructor to solicit feedback and answer questions so students don’t get stuck.
- It allows students to develop a community with other students around the topic.
- It delivers the content at a manageable pace so students don’t get overwhelmed.
- It takes procrastination out of the equation, as students know they’re expected to show up for the next lesson on a specific date and at a specific time.
- This approach could be frustrating for people who prefer to binge learn instead of learning a bit at a time.
- Some people prefer not to interact with the instructor and other students while they learn and don’t enjoy being nudged to engage.
Combination of the Two Approaches
Some course developers employ a mixture of the previous two approaches as a way to tap into all of the pros of each method and eliminate the cons.
Here’s how this would work:
- You set up a starting date for your course and run a launch to fill seats.
- When the course opens, you give students immediate access to the entire course–all modules, all written materials, everything.
- Then, you deliver live instruction on a dripped schedule over a period of time.
- You provide recordings of all sessions.
The advantages of this approach are that students who want to work ahead of the live schedule can do so and people who prefer to interact with the instructor and other students can go that route.
Also, by providing recordings of the calls, those people who can’t attend the live sessions (or who prefer not to) can still access not only the instruction, but also the discussion about each topic.
Pick Your Online Course Hosting Platform
Before you can upload your course, you’ll need to choose the online course platform that best meets your needs.
There are countless online course platforms available, and they typically fall under one of four major categories:
- Standalone Online Course Platforms: A standalone online course platform allows you to create and host your very own online course or school. They typically provide all the tools you need to build an online course and sell your course on your own site. Some popular examples include: Thinkific, LearnWorlds, and Teachable.
- All-in-One Online Course Platforms: These provide you with all the tools you need to develop online courses and manage your online business, including marketing and customer service tools. Popular examples include: Kajabi, Podia, and Kartra.
- WordPress Online Course Plugins: These are plugins that you install on your existing WordPress site, which allow you to host your course on your own WordPress site and have complete control over your online course. Some examples include: LearnDash, Access Ally, and Course Cats.
- Online Course Marketplaces: Online course marketplaces are web-based online course platforms where you can easily build your course and promote it to an established audience. Some popular examples include Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera.
Since there are so many course hosting platforms out there, the process of finding the right one might seem overwhelming. To help you narrow things down, you can ask yourself a few questions.
- Do you want to host the course on your own site? In this case, you’ll want to opt for a standalone online course platform or a WordPress online course plugin (if you have a WordPress site).
- Does the idea of immediate access to a large audience appeal to you? If so, an online course marketplace is likely a better option for you.
- Do you want all the tools you need for managing your online business? If you want access to additional tools to help you market and run your business, consider an all-in-one online course platform.
Once you have a sense of your preferred type of online course hosting, you can then begin researching the different options in your chosen category.
To learn more about the best online course platforms in each of these categories, we recommend you review our post: 22 Best Online Course Platforms in 2022: Thinkific, Kajabi, & More.
Price Your Online Course
As you finish designing the first version of your course, you’ll need to figure out how to price it. If you have no idea how to price your course, you’re definitely not alone. Many course creators stress about this process and quickly become frustrated and overwhelmed.
To prevent you from going down that road, there’s something we want you to keep in mind: there is no such thing as a perfect price for your course. It really comes down to what price is right for your audience at this point in time.
So here are some questions to ask yourself when it comes to finding the right price for your audience:
- How much personalized support will I provide? Since one-on-one support takes up a lot of your time and energy and can’t be easily scaled, it’s very valuable. Consider how much support your students will need in order to achieve the promised result. In general, the more individualized support you offer, the more you can charge.
- What results will my students achieve? Instead of focusing on the features your course will offer, think about the specific benefits your students will get. Figure out all the positive outcomes they’ll get if they take your course and then price them accordingly. Remember that the more dramatic the results and transformation, the more you’ll be able to charge.
- What are my competitors charging? A good way to uncover how much your target audience will pay for your course is to check out what your competitors are charging for their courses. This can give you a good sense of how much your ideal students are willing and able to pay to solve the problem they’re facing.
- How much experience and expertise will I bring to the table? If you have a high level of experience and expertise, and plenty of social proof to boot, you can generally charge considerably more than someone who has less experience.
Once you’ve set an initial price for your course, the final step is to actually test it out to see what kind of reception it gets. You might find that your audience is happy to pay this amount, or you might realize you need to charge less (or even more) for your course. Remember that your course price isn’t set in stone, and you are free to adjust your price accordingly as needed.
Taking Your Pricing to the Next Level: Upsells
Once you’ve tested your price point and made any necessary adjustments to land on a price you’re comfortable with, you’ll likely want to run your course at least once with your initial design before getting fancy. But after that first iteration of your course has been completed and you’ve processed the feedback and made any needed tweaks, you might want to brainstorm ways to further monetize your offerings.
One of the best ways to do this is to create one or more upsells that you can pitch when you run your course the next time around. There are many types of upsells you can create, of course, but for our purposes, let’s consider how you might create and pitch a premium version of your basic course.
A premium version might include bonus modules that go deeper into some of the topics presented in the basic course. It might offer a number of 1-on-1 coaching sessions with you in addition to the group sessions in the basic course. It might offer access to a private mastermind community with people who have completed the course previously and successfully applied the learning in their own lives.
You’re only limited by your imagination. Just ask yourself: what could I add to the basic course that would make it more valuable to attendees (and make it worth a premium price)?
There are several ways you can go about pitching your premium upsell once you’ve created it:
- If you’re using an online course platform that allows you to build in upsells and offer them right at checkout, you can create a second sales page for the upsell and offer it right there. People can stick with the basic course or decide to take you up on the premium version instead. The big advantage here is that these people have already decided to buy and they’re in a buying mood–now it’s just a question of which version of your course they want to go with.
- You could instead offer your upsell either in the welcome email you send out when they purchase your basic course or on the Thank You page you deliver once they’ve purchased the basic course. In this case, if they take you up on the upsell, you would just charge the difference between the basic course price they’ve already paid and the premium course price.
- Another option includes offering people extra material or support after they complete the basic course to help them achieve their goals. For example, you could add a pitch for things like 1-on-1 coaching sessions or membership in a mastermind group during the last module of the basic course. Alternatively, you could ask them to review the basic course upon completion, then contact them after they do so to offer them the upsell. Or you could just email them after completion and pitch the upsell. Basically what you’re selling if you take this approach is extra support and hand-holding as they take what they’ve learned in the course and attempt to implement it.
One warning, though: Make sure that the basic course delivers enough valuable content and guidance to achieve the stated course objectives and the transformation you promise in your marketing materials for the course. If people see the basic course as an inferior product that won’t deliver on that transformation, they’ll think you’re just trying to use this as a con to get them to purchase the premium version (which means they probably won’t buy either version).
The premium version of the course must provide the same transformation that the basic version does, only faster and easier. What they’re paying for by going with the premium version, then, is speed.
Since pricing is something that many course creators find to be extremely challenging, we’ve developed a guide to online course pricing that walks you through this entire process in far more detail.
Release Your Online Course Pilot
Once the first version of your course is ready and you’ve set your price, it’s time to test things out with a real live audience!
Launching an online course pilot is essential for verifying that people are willing to buy your course, and it also provides an opportunity to get valuable feedback from your audience. Armed with this knowledge, you can fine-tune your course and address any problems that arise before you officially launch.
Releasing your course pilot is an incredibly exciting milestone in your online course journey. Still, the experience can be really nerve-wracking too - whether you already have an existing audience or not.
If you haven’t established an audience yet, you’re probably stressing over how you’ll ever convince people to sign up for your course.
And if you do have an audience, you’re worried how they’ll react to your offer. Will they be turned off by the price, or the fact that you’re selling to them?
Fortunately, there are some highly effective ways to recruit people for your pilot, whether you have an audience or not. There are countless strategies out there for selling a pilot, but there are three main ones that we recommend because they are simple, fast to implement, and most importantly, they work!
Pre-Sell Email Campaign
This is the only one of the three strategies that requires you to have a sizable email list of at least 1,000 engaged subscribers. We’re leading with this one because it’s actually the simplest strategy of the three. Here’s an overview of how it works.
First, you send an email to your subscribers explaining your course idea and asking them to respond if they’re interested. Then you send out a survey to the people who respond positively asking them specific questions about what they want.
Next, you send an email to the interested parties letting them know that you’re going to produce a course based on what they want, followed by a sneak preview. After some more time has passed, you announce that the cart is open and send them a link to your enrollment page.
The final step is to send around an email stating that it's the last chance to enroll before you close sales and begin the course.
One-on-one Sales Conversations
If you’re starting from scratch or have a small or unengaged audience, your best bet is to set up a sales call with people who might be interested. For this strategy to work, it’s important to only contact people who are likely to be interested in your offer and to simply present the idea to them without trying to sell anything.
The first step is to list all the people you know who might be a good fit for your course. Next, you reach out to the people on that list and present your pilot course idea to them. Then you ask if it’s something they might be interested in and respond accordingly.
If they say yes, you can go ahead and give them the details of the course, following the offer outline you created earlier. If they say no, try to find out why and ask if they know someone who might be interested. You can then reach out to the people they recommend. Finally, if they say “maybe,” ask if they can give you a definite yes or no by a specific date.
Free Coaching Calls
This final strategy is a good option if you did free coaching calls when you were conducting market research. All you have to do at this point is to reach out to the people you spoke with during your market research and present your offer to them, following your offer outline.
Once you’ve enrolled students in your pilot course, it’s crucial to provide them with the best online course experience you possibly can.
To ensure your students have a positive experience, there are some important things that you need to do while running your pilot. This includes supporting your students every step of the way, answering any questions promptly, and noting places where they get confused or stuck.
It’s also crucial to gather student feedback throughout the course by sending surveys at the beginning, middle, and end of the course. Keep an open mind and feel free to adjust the curriculum as needed to help your students achieve the best outcome.
Finally, be prepared to work and commit to embracing it. Delivering a pilot is hard work. There are course materials to prepare and deploy, last minute changes, tech issues to address, and you’re likely to get more questions than you anticipated.
It’s important to keep in mind that this busy period is only temporary, and that you’re doing all this to ensure that your students succeed, which in turn will lead to the long-term success of your full course.
Launch Your Online Course
In the best case scenario, your pilot was a success, you’ve received rave reviews from students, and you feel confident that you’re able to deliver an excellent outcome. This means you are all set to turn your pilot into a full online course.
So what exactly are the differences between a pilot course and a full course? Here are some of the major ones:
- Full courses have a more polished, professional look to them, and any pre-recorded video content has a higher production value than the typical pilot course.
- Full online courses utilize more advanced technology and tend to boast a more streamlined design. They’re generally built on online learning marketplaces and platforms.
- Since pilot courses are offered to a much smaller group of students, they allow for far more one-on-one interaction with the instructor. Full online courses often have a large number of students, which limits your ability to provide personalized attention. This means that interaction with the instructor is usually streamlined in a full course.
In addition to making these upgrades, you’ll also need to take the feedback and insights you gained from your pilot launch and use them to optimize and improve your online course
Once your full online course is ready, it’s critical that you develop a launch strategy to help ensure your course is a success.
Before you can design a launch strategy, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a launch. As a general rule, a launch consists of the following three main phases.
For a launch to be successful, you need to plan it out carefully far in advance. The Pre-Launch stage is where most of the planning happens - long before the actual launch.
During this phase, you’ll figure out all the different components of your launch, create all the content you need, develop your email campaigns, schedule everything out, and do everything possible to prepare yourself for the launch.
Having a solid plan in place is crucial for a successful launch, and also can help reduce the stress of launching.
The second phase is the actual launch, which begins on the day when your cart opens and people can purchase your product (in this case, your course). During this time, which may extend several days or more, you make a hard sales push and try to get as many people as possible to purchase your course.
The final stage is the post-launch phase, which is the time period immediately after the cart closes. During this time, you should be focused on onboarding your new students, ensuring they get the maximum value from your course, and addressing any questions they have or challenges that come up. This is also when you analyze how the launch went — what went well and what didn’t, how you can improve the next time around, and what lessons you learned.
Before you start your pre-launch planning, it’s good to set goals for your launch so you know how to measure your outcomes.
The idea of creating an amazing launch can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re new at this and don’t have a huge budget to work with. That’s why we designed this guide that gives you an inside look at how to pull off an effective product launch (for online courses and other digital products), and highlights 21 proven product launch ideas to inspire you.
Market Your Online Course
In order to create a course that sells, it’s crucial to get your high-quality course in front of the right people. And the way to do this most effectively is to design a solid marketing strategy for your online course.
It’s important to keep in mind that an effective course marketing strategy doesn’t happen overnight, but rather it’s a long-term process that will help you build momentum over time.
Here are some tactics you can use to develop an effective marketing strategy for your course.
Create and Maintain a Blog
We highly recommend that course creators have a blog on their website that they update regularly.
With a blog you can accomplish many different things, including:
- Bring in organic traffic to your website and your course
- Share your ideas and build connections with your audience
- Build a library of valuable content
- Establish yourself as an authority in your field
In addition, writing blog posts that focus on your core topic allows you to showcase your expertise to potential new students. Yet it’s not just the value you share that matters, but also the social proof you establish.
Think about it… when you visit someone’s website, what pages do you look at first? Chances are their blog is on the list. Why? Because you want to make sure they know what they’re talking about.
Your potential new students want to know the same about you. A blog can help you achieve this - as long as you maintain it, and update it with fresh new content regularly.
Build an Email List
Creating content that drives people to your site is one thing, but it means little if they leave and never come back. And in reality, most people won’t buy your course right away. There’s just too much competition out there, and you need to show them you are the only choice they need.
The best way to do this is to build an email list so you can nurture your audience. Here are some ways to get people to join your list:
- Add a pop up to your site encouraging people to provide their email to download a free guide or other valuable resource.
- At the end of your blog posts, include a call to action to join your newsletter or to download a free guide.
- Throughout your site, promote your newsletter, guides, free courses, and anything else that allows you to turn a visitor into a subscriber.
Once you have your visitors’ email addresses, you can speak to them more often. You can design messages and content and send it to them, rather than hoping they come to you.
It’s important to remember that you don’t just want to send them sales emails, but also valuable email sequences to help nurture them and build trust with them over time. This is by far one of the best strategies for turning a cold lead into a warm prospect.
Run Online Advertising Campaigns
Another strategy that you can employ is paid online advertising. It’s important to remember that the costs can add up over time, so you’ll want to be strategic about when you use them.
There are many different types of advertising campaigns you can use, but for course creators some of the best options are:
- Facebook Ads: Facebook is one of biggest social media platforms around with the most advanced targeting and retargeting methods. You can specifically message certain people with relevant content, messages, and promotions. When it comes to selling your online course and nurturing your audience, Facebook ads lead the way.
- Google Adwords: Many, if not most, people rely on Google when they have a question to ask or a problem to solve. As a course creator who sells courses to solve problems, this is a big deal. Organic reach matters, and so does advertising on Google. Together, paid and organic reach can help drive new prospects toward your content/site.
- Outbrain: The truth is, many people spend a lot of time simply browsing the web. When they do, you want to reach them. Outbrain is a powerful tool that lets you retarget people who have already visited your site or joined your email list, keeping you top of mind.
Aside from these, there are many other advertising channels you can choose from. In our experience, advertising campaigns are a powerful way to reach the right people with the right message, allowing you to promote your online course and build trust at the same time.
Find Partners in Your Niche
No matter what industry or niche you’re in, you are not alone. It’s inevitable that you’ll have competition. There are different kinds of competitors, including those you’re directly competing against and those who complement what you do.
For instance, your course may align with an author’s book, or a coach’s mastermind group, or a podcaster’s annual conference. Or maybe there are bloggers with large email lists, vloggers with an established channel, and even fellow course creators who create content similar to yours.
And in some cases, there’s an opportunity to partner with these individuals. There are different types of partnerships, including a joint venture, shared webinar, cross-promotion, or affiliate launch, which can allow both you and them to thrive.
For example, you get to reach a new audience while they get a cut of sales (or a pro-bono promotion). It’s a great way to promote your course, build your audience, and generate momentum.
It’s important to remember that optimizing and promoting your course is an ongoing process. You’ll need to continue promoting your course, developing your marketing and lead generation strategy, and honing your traffic strategy.
To learn more about how to create an effective marketing strategy for your online course, we recommend you read our post on how to promote your online course.
Develop a Sales Funnel
Now that you’ve planned, created, and started marketing your new course, it’s time to take things to the next level by creating a sales funnel and automating the process.
First of all, let’s talk about what a sales funnel is. Basically, a funnel is simply a system for...
- Connecting with new people (prospects)
- Interacting with them in such a way that intrigues them so that they want to hear more from you
- Giving them something of value in exchange for their contact information
- Building a relationship with them over time
- Offering them other valuable (paid) products or services
When marketers talk about a sales funnel, they generally talk about the stages of your relationship with the prospect as they progress through the funnel.
Most often, those stages are described this way:
- Awareness: This is when the prospect first encounters your content, whether that’s a blog post you’ve written that they find through organic search or a social media post they run across in their feed or even a paid ad they see on Facebook. At this stage, they’re just learning about you and what you have to offer, so your job is to build that awareness by driving them to your website or some free content you’ve produced.
- Discovery: At this stage, you present them with an initial offer, something of value you give them in exchange for their email address (this is often called a lead generation magnet or lead magnet, for short).
- Evaluation: Once they’ve joined your list, your primary goal is to begin to build trust with them, often through nurture emails and retargeting ads that teach them more about you and what you have to offer while also introducing them to your story. During this stage, they are evaluating you with every encounter, deciding whether you truly understand their challenges and have one or more solutions to their problems.
- Intent: At some point during the relationship-building phase, you’ll have some offer that you’ll want to pitch to your list, such as this new online course you’ve developed. During the lead-up to the pitch, you’ll begin to introduce them to your online course offer. If they have become convinced that you can help them solve their problem, they’ll be ready to buy.
- Purchase: Once you convince them to pull out their credit card to buy your course, they move from prospect to customer. Your goal at this point is to deliver a quality learning experience and deliver on the transformation you promised in your sales pitch.
- Loyalty: Once your new customer consumes your course, the sales funnel doesn’t end. Your job is to keep them engaged and make follow-up offers in order to turn them into loyal, repeat customers.
Why is it called a “funnel”? Because if you picture a funnel, the top end is much wider than the bottom end and many more people enter to top of the funnel (prospects) than come out of the bottom of the funnel as paying customers.
So, what does all of this mean in practical terms as it relates to selling seats in your newly created online course?
Let’s say that you plan to launch your course twice a year moving forward. It’s now January and your next launch is in June. What do you have to do to get a decent number of people to attend your June course?
First of all, you need a well-functioning system for generating new leads (prospects entering the top of the funnel). So, if your primary methods for generating new leads are through your blog posts and social media content, you need to be putting out a lot of good content, with links to your website, in January and February.
You also need to have your lead generation system (lead magnet, automated welcome sequence, etc.) set up and working so that, when these new leads land on your website, some percentage of them will opt-in to receive your lead magnet, which lands them on your mailing list.
Now that you have some new prospects on your list, you have a few months to build your relationship with them by sending consistent nurture emails and giving them even more valuable free content.
If all goes well, by the time you start your email sales sequence for the June launch of your new course, enough people have grown to trust you and are intrigued enough by the topic of your course to sign up.
As you can see, a well-designed funnel takes a lot of work to set up and maintain, but it’s absolutely essential to your online course success.
Too many entrepreneurs think that they can just create a course and post it on their website or some other platform and the buyers will just automatically show up. That would be lovely, but it’s not how things work in the real world. A successful online course launch starts many months before the launch itself.
Help Your Students Achieve Their Desired Results
Once you have students enrolled in your course, you’ll need to do everything you possibly can to ensure they are successful and achieve the transformation they desire. This helps your students change their lives for the better, and it also benefits your own online course business.
That’s because students who have a positive experience with your course are more likely to purchase additional courses from you in the future, and to recommend your courses to others.
There are a number of different things you can do to ensure that your students get the most out of your course.
An online learning community
One of the most important ways you can support your students is by giving them access to an online learning community where they can interact with you and other students in the course. Your online community can take many different forms, such as a private social media group, a designated Slack channel, or a specific Members Area on your website, to name a few.
In these communities, your students can make connections with other people who are seeking to achieve the same goals and transformation as themselves, pose questions, and seek feedback or advice from the group on a particular issue they’re facing.
As the course creator, you and other people on your team should also spend time in the online community, monitoring the conversations, answering student questions, and providing guidance and support.
Another way you can help your students succeed is by offering some degree of personalized support.
This might include holding regular one-on-one or group coaching sessions, office hours where students can check in if they feel stuck or need some advice, and constructive feedback on homework assignments.
This personalized support also helps you track the progress of each of your students to ensure they are making progress towards their goals.
FAQs and troubleshooting resources
It’s also important to note common questions students have, as well as any challenges they run into along the way, including technical difficulties.
Any tech problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and it’s also a good idea to include FAQs and troubleshooting resources so students can find the help they need more easily.
It’s inevitable that some challenges will arise, but responding to a student’s concerns or frustrations in a helpful, timely, and sensitive manner can greatly improve their overall course experience.
Taking the time to support and assist students in achieving their goals goes a long way and provides incredible benefits both for your students and your online course business. It’s truly a win-win situation!
Give your students an amazing experience, and they will become your biggest advocates and will stick with you for many years to come.
How to Sell Online Courses: Next Steps
Congratulations on making it to the end of this guide! By now you should have a greater understanding of what selling courses online really entails.
Remember that this is ultimately a high-level overview of selling online courses, and we recommend you review the different resources we’ve highlighted in this guide to learn more about each step of the process. But understanding the process is just the beginning, and the next step is to begin turning that knowledge into action.
So when you’re ready to take that next step and start designing your first online course to sell, we invite you to join our Hybrid Courses Bootcamp. It’s totally free to join, takes just a week to complete, and will help you to lay the foundation for creating and selling successful online courses.