Meg Marrs December 27th, 2019

6 Tips on How to Promote Your First Online Course

Recently we released our very first online course called 30 Things to Teach Your Dog in 30 Days! We’ve hosted the course on the Thinkific platform and in our first month made over $600 in sales.

While we’re still new to the world of course building, we’re happy to share a few pieces of guidance we’ve dug up while promoting our first online course!

1. Nurture Your Email Your Subscribers (Gently)

Do you have an email list yet? If you don’t start one now! There are tons of resources online on how to build your email list, but at least one easy way is to simply offer a short ebook or resource in exchange for an email address.

What matters most for the purposes of this article is what to do once you have those valuable emails. Don’t just spam the heck out of them, trying to immediately get them to buy your course – that will just drive them away!

Instead, you want to create a funnel that guides users slowly towards purchasing your course. Initially in your first emails, you want to simply offer value and demonstrate your expertise. 

For example, in our nurture emails we give readers our dog adoption scorecard to help them choose the perfect dog for their lifestyle and provide suggestions for favorite dog toys, treats, etc.

Once you’ve established a relationship with your subscribers, you can start to nurture them towards buying your course. Offer a special discount just for your email subscribers so they know this deal is just for them!

Many course builders primarily promote their course through email funnels, so building an email list by offering high-value content, giveaway entries, and other rewards in exchange for email addresses is key!

2. Offer Launch Discounts + Specials

You want to make sure your course gets attention on launch day, and naturally the best way to do that is to offer deep discounts for new students. I’d suggest providing a very deep discount for your first cohort of students – something akin to 50% off. 

If you’re new to building a course, chances are your first students will have plenty of suggestions on how you should improve, and they may run into roadblocks or bugs you didn’t foresee when initially building the course. 

Offering your first students a major discount and being receptive to their suggestions will establish a great relationship and may even help build word of mouth for your course.

It’s also a good idea to offer discounts at various times of the year. Try to run discounts not just for standard holidays and shopping days like Black Friday, but also for occasions related to your industry (for example, we might run specials for National Hug-Your-Dog Day or Clear the Shelters Day).

3. Ask For Testimonials & Reviews

Get testimonials from your first students and then make the most of them. 

User reviews and customer testimonials are hugely influential. Getting those first reviews can be tough, so consider some kind of special discount on additional courses or some kind of extra resource you can give students who provide you with a review.

Once you have those coveted reviews, put them everywhere. Include them on your course’s Facebook page, on your sales page, in your email funnel – everywhere! 

Digital word of mouth is extremely powerful, and when users see students raving about what they’ve learned from you, they’ll be much more likely to open up their wallet.

4. Create an Affiliate Program

Creating an affiliate program is a great way to generate extra business for your online course. An affiliate program is basically when you offer bloggers, journalists, or other influencers a commission for every sale they bring in for you. 

Setting up an affiliate program doesn’t have to be difficult – you can use a service like Share-A-Sale, Clickbank, Refersion, Impact Radius, among others. 

These services make it easy to generate unique tracking URLs that are customized for anyone who signs up for your affiliate program. These custom links track when a user brings in a sale for you and will give the affiliate whatever commission you’ve agreed upon.

The higher the commission rate you offer, the more incentivized others will be to promote your course, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide how much of a slice you want to share with your affiliates.

Some online course services like Thinkific have their own affiliate option built into their dashboard, so all you have to do is put in a user’s email address and info for them to become an affiliate and start generating revenue for you!

5. Give Free Previews on YouTube

Consider giving away a key lesson or valuable clip from your course away for free so that students on the fence can see for themselves the value of your course. Having a few videos for free that demonstrate your knowledge and expertise will go a long way towards convincing folks to dish out cash for your course.

Ideally, you’ll want to do a bit of YouTube keyword research and find a problem your audience has or low competition term that’s being searched a lot in your niche. 

Try to connect the keyword research you do to some aspect or topic covered in your course. Next, take a section of video from your larger course to share on YouTube. When you create the clip, add an extra snippet at the end where you explain to viewers that this was a clip from your full course, and if they liked what they just watched, they can sign up for your course with the link in the description (with a special discount just for them)! 

Upload your video to YouTube, fill out the appropriate tags, leave a link to your course in the description, and watch the traffic come in!

6. Create a Facebook Group

Another tactic you can use to identify potential customers is to create a Facebook Group related to your course. 

People use Facebook Groups in a few different ways for online courses. Some people create private Facebook groups for paid course members to share their knowledge and insight. This is definitely a great tactic, especially if you have knowledgeable, engaged students already enrolled in your course.

However, you can go broader than that too. I’d suggest starting by creating an open Facebook Group loosely related to your course

We have a Dog Lovers Unite! Facebook Group that was selected by Facebook to promote for their #MoreTogether advertising campaign. This campaign has brought thousands of new members to the group.

The goal of this group is simply to share cute dog photos, discuss training methods, share dog stories, etc. 

Once you begin to have a decent number of members, you can start lightly marketing to them. When you’re running a sale, go ahead and post news of the sale in your group. 

The great thing about being an admin of a large Facebook group is that you can mark your posts as “announcements”, which will notify all your members that you’ve posted. If you have thousands of members, this can mean a lot of eyeballs on your course page, all for free!

Just remember that it takes significant attention and time to build a good Facebook group. You need to regularly post and encourage discussion between your members to be successful.

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Head of Marketing for K9 of Mine, a dog care website dedicated to helping owners care for their furry four-legged pals!

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