Focusing on the real keys to success selling online courses

Focus on Success Selling Online Courses

A lot of people end up on this site because they are seeking success selling online courses and usually have come across my 15 Platforms for Selling Online Courses post. As you might expect, I also get a lot of e-mails from people sharing their challenges and asking for advice. If there is one common thread that tends to run though these e-mails its this: too much focus on technology.

People want to know which platform to use. Which course tools are best. How to best host videos, or Webinars, or eBooks, or …. name your product of choice.

But the thing is, when it comes to success selling online courses, these things are not what makes the difference. [Read more…]

What I’ve learned about selling online courses


I’ve been working in the learning technology and adult education markets for nearly two decades now and I’ve been witness to the success and failures of many education business, including my own. Both as part of my own ongoing development and with the hope of being of some help to you, I thought I’d jot down a few of the key lessons I’ve learned.

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What’s the best way to market online courses?

market online courses - photo of person putting credit card info into Web site

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

I recently responded to a question on this topic that I received from a Learning Revolution subscriber. The person who contacted me:

  1. already has a course up and running on a 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.

In this case, because I prefer to stay positive in providing advice, I didn’t actually give my #1 answer to this question in responding to this reader. If you have read Leading the Learning Revolution, you will know that my #1 answer 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 developed 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.

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.

Teachable-smIf you are interested in how to launch a profitable online course as a vehicle for your subject matter expertise, I recommend Teachable’s free weekly Webinar on 7 Steps to Create and Launch Your First Profitable Online Course. And check out the Teachable platform in general. You can create a free course right away, and I know you will like what you see. – Jeff

Don’t hold back.

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 (which I use myself).

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

That’s what’s worked for me. How about you? What have you found to be most effective in your efforts to market online courses? Drop me a line and let me know.


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.

Association Mavens & the Learning Revolution

Association Mavens - Learning Revolution

After a long pause, I am back with a new episode of the Learning Revolution podcast. In this one, the tables are turned, and instead of me interviewing someone, I get interviewed by Bryan Kelly of Association Mavens. We talk about how the Learning Revolution is impacting trade and professional associations, and in the process, highlight many of the key points from the book.

While associations are the focus of this episode, I’ll stress that the topics covered really apply to any of the audiences for the Leading the Learning Revolution – speakers, trainers, consultants, businesses interested in educational content marketing.

Finally, I’ll note that this is the final episode of the podcast. Having started it primarily as a way to publish the interviews I did for the book, I’ve decided that it has pretty much run its course. If you have not listened to earlier episodes, I certainly encourage you to do that. I also encourage you to subscribe (or stay subscribed), as I plan to announce a new podcast via this platform at some point in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, pop in those earbuds or slap on those head phones and listen in to the interview with Bryan Kelly.

Listen to the Podcast

Listen in below or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes | Stitcher Radio

Get the Show Notes

04:42 – Kick-off of Association Mavens and introduction of yours truly – Jeff Cobb – author of Leading the Learning Revolution and founder of Tagoras.

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Build Your Digital Empire with Chad Barr

Chad BarrDo you want to build a Web presence that will really convey the value you have to offer? That will build your brand and keep customers coming back over time?

Are you struggling with how to tame the “content beast” while still creating Web content that will have an impact?

We cover those questions and more in this episode of the Learning Revolution podcast with Chad Barr. Chad is an internet and business strategist and co-author, along with Alan Weiss, of Million Dollar Web Presence. He also specializes in helping experts and organizations create what he describes as a “digital empire.” You will get some great insights and tips in this show for how he does that and how, in general, you can build a much more consistent and high value presence across the Web.

Drawing on listener feedback, I also comment briefly in this show on why Learning Revolution does not tend to feature the “usual suspects” when it comes to talking about education and the education business.

So, click “Play” below, grab the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher Radio, or subscribe to the RSS feed. Whatever you do, don’t miss this interview with Chad Barr!

Play the Podcast

Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes

Get the Shownotes

00:50 – Comments on feedback from Michael in Australia – it’s not just about the “usual suspects” here on Learning Revolution. I’d love to hear from you too. Just use the contact form to send me an e-mail, or use the voice mail option over to the right.

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