What’s the best way to market online courses?

By Jeff Cobb.  Last Updated on March 12, 2024

Photo of woman working on laptop to create an online course

What’s the best way to market online courses? Or any other courses, for that matter?

My #1 answer to this question is to build an audience before you build your course.

Ideally, you want to have a decent-sized group of people who have already shown they are interested in what you are doing – preferably by signing up for your e-mail list – and who will be likely to buy when you launch the course.

This initial audience doesn’t even have to be a large group of people. Indeed, if you take my advice about how to avoid course failure, you will likely only tap into a relatively small, but targeted audience to run a pilot course before you ever get into creating a full-blown, scalable offering.

Either way, if you wait until after you have created an online course to figure out who you will sell it to and how, you will be fighting an uphill battle.

But, of course, that answer isn’t of much help if you hear it once you have built the course. And I’m very often contacted by people who have already built their course (or courses!) Indeed, a reader just contacted me recently who:

  1. already has a course up and running on a course platform, and
  2. was trying to figure out how to market it.

So, this wasn’t a “how do I plan in advance for marketing an online course successfully” question. It was an “I’ve already invested time and money to build something and now I need to figure out how I am going to make money” question.

I get that kind of question a lot, and it always pains me.

And If You Have Already Built the Course?

So, what’s the best way to market online courses if you haven’t already built an audience and run a pilot?

Based on my own experience selling a variety of educational products, one of the first places I would look for opportunities is with “mid-tier” podcasters and bloggers.

These are people who have a decent-sized audience in the niche you are targeting, but have not yet jumped into the big leagues. Definitions of “decent sized” can vary greatly, but I’d be looking for at least 1000 subscribers, and preferably a lot more. (Lower numbers can be okay if the audience is really targeted to what you are offering.)

(You can, of course, also aim for the big leagues, but my aim here is to suggest a strategy that I feel is readily achievable for most of the people reading this post and that will have substantial impact.)

These people are almost always looking for content, and if you have developed a course, it should not be a stretch for you to do a brief audio or e-mail interview in which you provide three to five highly useful tips from the course. Easy for you. Easy for the podcaster or blogger. High value content for prospective buyers of your course.

And, by appearing on someone else’s platform, you get a nice dose of social proof and validation of your authority – two key elements of influencing your market and winning over your audience.

A real bonus is if you can find individuals or companies running Webinars successfully in your niche. Offer to present and discuss some of your key course content through a Webinar and ask for the registration e-mails for the Webinar to help with building your own list. At the very minimum, get a link to the landing page for your course included in the host’s follow up e-mail for the Webinar.

Don’t Hold Back on the Good Stuff

When you market online courses, it’s critical to put some of your best stuff out there so that people will trust that they will get even more value from the actual course. This

“Amplify” the podcast episode, blog post, webinar – whatever it is – like crazy in the social media channels where you have the most traction. And don’t just do it once – keep repeating over time, potentially using a scheduler application like MeetEdgar.

And make sure you always provide a link to a well-designed landing page to drive actual sales.


P.S. – Looking for great tools that can help you to market online courses (as well as building and growing your online course business in general)? Check out the Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox.

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