Looking for a strategy to market your online course? Check out our list of 57 marketing ideas for promoting your online course, updated for 2021. Enjoy!
The day has finally arrived… you’ve finished creating your online course! It took several weeks (maybe even several months) to create it, but that’s okay. The important thing is that it is done, and after many long days and nights of being glued to your computer creating, recording, and editing your course content, you finally have time to enjoy daylight again.
There’s just one problem. Your course is completed, but nobody knows about it. And unfortunately, this isn’t the movie Field of Dreams where the “build it and they will come” approach works. This is the real world, where you have to hustle to promote your course and get some sales.
If you forgot to create a marketing strategy for your course, don’t feel bad. You’re definitely not the first person to create a course before they created a plan to market it. We’ve got you covered.
In this lengthy article, you’re going to learn the best marketing strategies for selling online courses to increase your sales and enrollments.
The first few strategies should actually be implemented before you create your course, but the rest of them can be used pretty much any time after your course is published. If you still have yet to create your course, check out why Thinkific is listed as the best online course platform.
Download our free guide that shares a proven path for reaching $100,000 or more in online course sales.
Okay, let’s dive in…
How to market an online course before it’s published
Here are some things you can do before you create your online course:
1. Craft your ideal student avatar
This is an important first step to take before you implement any of the strategies listed in this article. Understanding who your ideal student is before you start marketing your course will help you craft marketing messages that speak directly to their frustrations, needs, and desires.
Your ideal student avatar is essentially a representation of the ideal student for your course. Write at least a one-paragraph description describing your ideal student and keep them in mind as you implement the marketing strategies listed in this guide.
2. Identify your unique value proposition
Research some of the existing online courses related to your topic so that you have a good idea of what is included in those courses and how they are presented. The goal here is to determine how you will differentiate your course from your competition. What areas of your topic will you cover that your competition missed? What value can you add to your course that is not included in the others?
Identify your unique value proposition (aka a differentiator) and include it on your course sales page and in your marketing messages. Plus, when people ask “how is your course different from XYZ?”, it helps to have a good answer.
3. Survey your audience before you create your course
This step is important because it helps ensure that you create an online course that people actually want to take. If you have an audience (from a blog, podcast, email list, social media, etc.), send them a survey to ask them what topics they are interested in learning about. Create a course based on what they want, not on what you want to create.
Including your audience in your course creation process is also a great way to build anticipation for your course before you release it, plus you validate the demand for your course topic before you invest any resources to create it.
4. Create a compelling course title based on keyword research
Imagine for a moment that you are searching for some information about your topic. What search terms (aka keywords) are you going to use to find the information you’re looking for? If you wanted to learn how to design logos in Adobe Photoshop, for example, you would likely enter the keywords “how to design logos using Photoshop”, or some similar variation of that phrase.
Use a tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner or BuzzSumo to identify the most popular keywords related to your course topic, and include those keywords in your course title. This will help to position your course as exactly what a potential student is looking for as they search for your topic online.
5. Presell your online course
A great way to avoid the unfortunate situation of creating a course that no one buys – is to pre-sell it! It may seem counterintuitive to try to sell something before you create it, but trust us on this. It is much better to pitch your idea for your online course to your target audience and find out they aren’t interested in it than to spend significant amounts of time and money creating an online course that no one buys.
How to market your online course after it’s published
Here are some things you can do after your course is created to help increase your sales:
6. Promote your course on your blog
Your blog is a great place to promote your course, especially if you regularly publish free content related to your course topic. If you write articles about the same topic that you teach in your course, then every person who reads your blog is a potential student for your course.
Some great places to showcase your course are the top bar of your website (if your blog’s theme doesn’t include a top bar, you can add one using Sumo or Hello Bar), at the end of each blog post, in your sidebar, and on your About Page. Using Thinkific, you can also create Sales Widget for your course and place that sales widget anywhere on your blog.
7. Start a YouTube channel
YouTube is the second most visited search engine in the entire world (after Google). There are literally millions of people searching for “how-to” videos on YouTube on a daily basis. YouTube videos can even rank higher than websites in the search results of numerous search engines.
Start a YouTube channel about your course topic and publish helpful videos on a regular basis. Include a link to your website or course in your video descriptions.
Related: Youtube Video Marketing
8. Publish a course promotion video on YouTube
Create a short video to promote your course and publish it on YouTube. You could even create multiple promotional videos, each with a different title, to increase exposure for your course. Make sure you include popular keywords related to your topic in your video titles and descriptions so they rank well in search results for those terms. Include a link to your website or course in your video descriptions. If your promo video does well, consider running ads for it using Facebook or Google, for example.
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9. Add student testimonials to your course sales page
Social proof plays such an important role in a buyer’s decision-making process. Very few people are comfortable being the first person to purchase a product or service. They want to know if others have bought your course and had a positive experience. That is why testimonials and reviews carry so much weight.
Add a few positive testimonials to your course sales page from other students who have taken your course. If no one has taken your course yet, let a few people take your course for free in exchange for a testimonial.
10. Include a link to your course in your email signature
You probably send and respond to numerous emails on a daily basis, and some of those people you are emailing could be interested in your course if they knew about it. Add a short sentence to your email signature that includes a link to your course. Even if someone who sees your email signature isn’t interested in your course, they may know someone who is and tell them about it.
11. Add a course page to your main website
If you have a website or a blog, add a page to your website that includes details about your course. Once that page is set up, add a link to that page to the main menu of your website so that visitors can easily find it and learn more about your course. Include a link to purchase your course directly on that page, or alternatively, include a link to your course sales page so they can learn more about it and decide if they want to buy it.
12. Build an email list
Most people need to hear from you several times before they decide to buy from you. This is why having an email list is so effective. When someone is subscribed to your email newsletter, you get to earn their trust by sending them helpful tips and advice related to your topic over time. When you eventually promote your course to them, they are more likely to purchase it because you provided value to them upfront before asking for the sale.
13. Start a podcast
A great way to build an audience of people who are interested in your course topic is to start a podcast about that topic. Every person who listens to your podcast is a potential student for your online course. Share valuable tips related to your topic on each podcast episode, and at the end of each episode include a call-to-action to visit your website and/or learn more about your course.
By submitting your podcast to platforms such as iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play, you could end up reaching hundreds or even thousands of people on a monthly basis for free. This is great exposure for your courses and brand in general.
14. Get interviewed on podcasts
Do some research to find podcasts related to your topic and that have audiences that would likely be interested in your course. iTunes is a great place to search for podcasts. Enter some of the keywords related to your topic in the search bar, and make a list of the podcasts that appear in the search results. Make sure you read the description of each podcast (and even better, listen to a few of their episodes) before you contact the host. Send each podcast host a personalized email, introducing yourself and explaining why you think you would be a good fit for your show.
Remember, the purpose of doing a podcast interview is to add value to the listeners. Your interview should not be one big sales pitch for your course. At the end of your interview, tell the listeners how they can get in touch with you and learn more about your courses.
15. Optimize your social media profiles
Your social media profiles are a great way to build your personal brand and position yourself as an expert on your course topic. Update your bio on all of the social networks that you have a profile to reflect your area of expertise. Include a link to your main website (or even directly to your course) in your profiles so people who are interested in your course topic know where to go to learn more.
16. Create a free mini-course
Take certain sections or concepts from your main course and publish them in a mini-course. Give away your mini-course for free, and at the end of your course invite your students to purchase your main course if they want to dive deeper into your topic. This strategy gives your potential students a risk-free way to learn from you before they decide to purchase your main course.57 Ways To Market Your Online Course & Increase Sales In 2021. #teachonline #onlinecourses Click To Tweet
17. Host a live webinar
One of the best ways to sell online courses is to host a live webinar for people who are interested in your topic. On the webinar, share some of your best content for free. This helps to position you as an expert and it also helps to build trust before you introduce your course and ask for the sale.
18. Promote your webinar recording
After you’ve hosted a successful live webinar, you can use the recording of that webinar to sell more courses. Email the people who registered for your live webinar but did not attend and give them a link to watch the recording. You could even use the recording to set up an automated webinar, and then run ads to the webinar for ongoing sales.
19. Create multiple courses and cross promote
Create multiple courses that cover different areas of the same overall topic. Like with a series of books (think of Harry Potter), each course in your “series” helps to promote your other courses. At the end of each of your courses, mention that you have other courses related to the same topic. Since your current students are probably the most likely to purchase from you again, creating additional courses for them is never a bad idea.
20. Bundle your course and offer discounts
Once you’ve created multiple courses that are closely related by topic, you can bundle those courses together and sell them at a discounted. For example, if you have 3 courses that sell for $197 individually, you could sell all 3 courses together for $497 (resulting in a $94 discount for your customer). This provides an incentive for people to purchase multiple courses from you at once.
21. Publish a book on Amazon
A great way to repurpose your course content is to share the same concepts in a book. You can self-publish your book on Amazon in digital format using Amazon Kindle and in paperback format using CreateSpace. Publishing a book can be a great way to add an additional revenue stream to your business, but your book will also help you attract more students for your online course. Be sure to mention your course in your book, and invite your readers to visit your website or course sales page to learn more about it.
22. Improve your course sales page
Write a description of your course that is very compelling and clearly articulates the benefits of taking your online course. Speak to the result your target audience wants to create, and how that will benefit them. You may even want to hire a professional copywriter to write your description for you. Also, make sure you include specific keywords throughout your description to help your course rank in the search results for those keywords.
23. Speak at local events and Meet Up groups
Local events and Meetup groups are a great way to get in front of your target audience. Do some research to find local events related to your topic and contact the hosts of those events. Mention that you have an online course, and would love to give a presentation to their audience. If they allow their speakers to sell their product or service at the end of their presentation, offer to split the sales revenue with them. Remember not to make your entire presentation a sales pitch. As a rule of thumb, your presentation should be 80% valuable content and 20% sales pitch.
24. Start a local Meetup group
Starting a local Meetup group about your topic is a very effective way to get in front of your target market on a regular basis. It also helps to position you as a leader in your community. You can also invite other speakers to come and share their insights with your group. This strategy is definitely a lot of work, but in the long-run (as your Meetup group grows) it can be very effective.
25. Ask your students to review your course
At some point in your course, ask your students to leave you a review or testimonial for your course. This simple request will help to ensure you receive an ongoing influx of positive reviews from your students, which you can then use in your marketing online. If you receive any negative reviews from your students, use that feedback to improve certain parts of your course to ensure a better learning experience for all future students.
26. Run a price promotion
Running a temporary price promotion is a great way to drive sales for your online course. You can even schedule your price promotions to coincide with widely recognized holidays such as Boxing Day or Black Friday. Waiting for specific holidays to discount your course is more effective than discounting it randomly and for no apparent reason. With Thinkific, you can create specific coupon codes to share with your audience whenever you want to run a price promotion.
27. Contribute to other blogs and publications
Write articles related to your topic and submit those articles to other blogs and publications online. Make sure you submit a unique article to each website (they do not want articles that are also published on other sites). Spend some time researching popular websites related to your topic to help ensure you submit an article that is a good fit for their audience. Include a link to your website or course in your author bio at the end of your article.
28. Become a HARO source
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a great service that connects reporters with relevant experts (aka news sources). By signing up as a news source, you’ll receive an email three times per day that includes media opportunities in which you could be quoted. Reply quickly for the best chance of getting selected for a quote in an article, and ask for a link back to your site.
29. Partner with other online instructors
Find other online instructors who serve your target audience and have courses that are complementary to your own. Consider becoming an affiliate for them (and vice versa), or bundling your course together with theirs to create a special “package deal” to offer to new students.
30. Host a webinar with a Joint Venture partner
Find people who are followed by your target market (but are not your direct competitors) and offer to host a webinar for their audience. For example, a blogger who writes articles about your topic but does not have an online course would make a great joint venture partner because their audience would likely be interested in your course. Spend the majority of your time on the webinar sharing valuable tips about your topic for free, and when you pitch your course at the end of the webinar, split the sales revenue with the joint venture partner.
31. Offer a satisfaction guarantee
Offering a satisfaction guarantee to your students is a great way to increase your course sales because it reduces the risk that a person assumes when they buy your course. It also conveys confidence because you wouldn’t offer a satisfaction guarantee unless you knew that very few (if any) of your students are going to unhappy with it. A commonly offered satisfaction guarantee is the 30-day money back guarantee, where anyone who is not satisfied with your course can request a full refund within 30 days of their purchase.57 Ways To Market Your Online Course & Increase Sales. #teachonline #onlinecourses Click To Tweet
32. Offer a payment plan
Some people will want to purchase your course, but they don’t have space on their credit card to pay the full purchase price of an online course upfront. However, they can pay for the course if those payments are spread over an extended period of time. For example, if you sell your online course for $497, you could offer your students a payment plan of $97 per month for 6 months as an alternative to paying $497 upfront.
33. Answer relevant questions on Quora
Search for discussions related to your course topic on Quora. Add value to the discussion by sharing your insights. Don’t try to hard sell your course in your posts, but definitely include a link to your website or course in your Quora bio.
Related: Marketing Your Course With Quora
34. Use Google Ads
You can use Google Ads to create ads that appear in the search results for specific keywords related to your topic. If you know what keywords your target audience is using to search for your topic online, this is a great way to get your course in front of them just as they are searching for your topic. Have a look at this guide to quickly set up your Ads account and start advertising.
35. Use Facebook Ads
Using Facebook, you can create ads that target people based on their specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and affiliations. Keep in mind that Facebook is a social network, so people are there to socialize (not to buy stuff). You’ll need to get those people off Facebook (and on to your blog or email list, for example) in order to sell your course to them.
36. Get bloggers to review your course
Find bloggers in your industry and ask them to review your course. A good review from a popular blog related to your topic can definitely help you to increase your course sales. The best way to get your course reviewed by a blogger is to offer them free access to your course in exchange for a public review of your course on their blog. You can even offer to include them in your affiliate program (more on this later) so that they earn a commission whenever someone who reads their review decides to purchase your course through their affiliate link.
37. Promote your course on other YouTube channels
Find popular videos related to your course topic on YouTube. Contact the owner of the video through a private message and tell them you have a way for them to make some extra money from their videos. Offer to pay them to include a link to your course in their video description or even a call-to-action to check out your course in the video itself. You could also set them up as an affiliate for your course, and give them a unique link to use to include in their videos and video descriptions. This way, they will be paid a commission each time they refer a new customer to your course.
38. Start a Facebook Group
Starting a Facebook Group centered on your topic is a powerful way to build a community of people who are potential students for your course. Running a Facebook Group is also great for personal branding purposes because it helps position you as an authority on your topic.
39. Start a LinkedIn Group
Starting a LinkedIn Group centered on your topic is another great way to build a community of potential students for your course, especially if your target market is professionals. LinkedIn is also a great platform for professional networking in general, which can lead to numerous opportunities including speaking engagements, partnership opportunities, client referrals, and more.
40. Write a Press Release
Press releases are a great way to get the word out about your online course. Plus, getting featured on news outlets, large publications, and popular blogs helps to increase your ranking in search engine results. There is a correct way to write a press release (see www.wikihow.com/write-a-press-release), so make sure you write it in proper form. You can also find people who will write and submit your Press Release for you on Fiverr.
Keep in mind that the goal of a press release is not to sell your course. It’s to create news and tie that news to your course. Once you have your press release prepared, submit it to a press release distribution website such as PR Web.
41. Create a free email course
Take one of the modules or lessons from your online course and turn it into a series of emails. Offer that training as a free email course in order to build an email list of potential students for your main course. At the end of your free email course, invite your students to sign up for your by directing them to your course sales page, or even a webinar where you pitch your main course.
42. Create a Facebook Page
Create a Facebook Page (this is separate from a Facebook Profile) for your online course. Name the page after your online course or something very similar to it. This will help your Facebook Page rank in the search results on Facebook for your course topic. Having a Facebook Page will allow you to attract fans to your page so you can share content related to your topic with them. Hire a graphic designer to create a professional cover image for your page, and include a link to your course in your page description. You can also run Facebook Ads from your Facebook Page (you can’t do this from a personal profile).
43. Publish a shorter course in an online course marketplace
Publishing a course in an online course marketplace can be beneficial simply because of the exposure to thousands of potential customers that already buy courses from those marketplaces. Most online course marketplaces restrict you from promoting products and services that sell you outside of their marketplace, but they do allow you to link to your main website. Publishing a shorter version of your main course in a marketplace can be a great way to increase your exposure and direct visitors to your website, where they can learn more about your main course.
44. Comment in Facebook Groups
Join a few Facebook Groups related to your topic. You can search for groups about your course topic from the main search bar on Facebook. In order for this strategy to work, focus on adding value to the groups that you join. Share helpful tips, answer questions, and participate in discussions. Most Facebook Groups prohibit self-promotion, so make sure you read the group guidelines before you share any direct links to your website, blog, or course with the group. The goal here is to build relationships with your target audience.
45. Share infographics on Pinterest
Infographics are very popular on Pinterest. Create an infographic that shares some interesting facts, statistics, or a step-by-step process related to your topic and publish it on Pinterest. Include a link in your post to help drive traffic from Pinterest to your website or online course. You can easily create attractive infographics using Piktochart.
46. Participate in Forum discussions
Use Google to search for forums related to your course topic. Forums are essentially online communities where people who share a common interest hang out and interact with each other. Get involved in the discussions. Answer questions. Be helpful. Pay attention to the questions people ask about your topic (this is also a great way to get ideas content ideas for your course). Don’t promote your course without first adding value to the forum.
47. Create an affiliate program
Let other people promote your course for you in exchange for a percentage of each sale by creating an affiliate program for your course. But don’t just sit back and hope that affiliates will find you. Be proactive. Reach out to people who have audiences that would likely purchase your course and ask them if they would be interested in promoting your course as an affiliate.
Thinkific users can easily add people (including their students!) to their affiliate program. With a few clicks, you can add a new user to your course, designate them as an affiliate, and choose the commission they will receive from each sale they refer.
48. Translate your course into another language
Translating your course into another language is a great way to increase your sales without having to create additional courses. But unless you’re fluent in another language, you should probably hire someone to help you with this. Pay them to re-write your presentation slides and record their voice in the chosen language. You can find professional translators on freelance networks such as Upwork and Freelancer.
49. Buy Tweets or Facebook Posts on Fiverr
There are numerous sellers on Fiverr who will promote your message to their Twitter followers or Facebook Fans. Look for sellers with a large number of fans and a high rating from previous customers. Ideally, they should have a fan base that is likely to be interested in your course. Make sure you tell them exactly what to post. You can even give them a specific image to include in their post as well.
50. Buy shoutouts on Instagram accounts
Find Instagram accounts with a large number of followers. Send the owner of the account a private message and ask them if they would consider posting an image from their account to help promote your course. Since Instagram posts do not allow links, it is appropriate to ask the owner of the Instagram account to change the link in their bio for 24 hours, and then post an image with a description that instructs their followers to click on the link in their bio.
You can also have a celebrity record a shoutout video, and it’s cheaper than you think!
51. Record a Google Hangout
Host a Google Hangout to record a presentation about your online course. Publish the video on your YouTube channel and on your Google Plus Page or Profile. Since Google owns both of these, they give preference (from a search result standpoint) to videos that are created using Google Hangouts. Include a link to your website or course in your video description.
52. Live video on social media
Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are all doubling down on live videos. This means that you can use any (or all!) of these platforms to share live presentations with your friends, followers, and subscribers. You can host a live video presentation almost in the same way that you would a webinar – ie. you can schedule it in advance, deliver share some of your best content, and pitch your course at the end of your presentation. Hosting live videos on your social networks is a great alternative to hosting webinars, which require additional software.
53. Buy YouTube ads
Buying YouTube ads is a great way to promote your course to people who are watching YouTube videos related to your course topic. You can also target your ads to specific geographic areas and/or demographic criteria. To learn more about advertising on YouTube, click here.
54. Buy banner ads
Reach out to websites and blogs that serve your target audience and offer to pay them to add a banner ad for your course on their website. Before you commit to paying a website owner for a long period of time, ask for the opportunity to test your ad for one month to see how their website visitors respond to your ad. You can find a designer on Fiverr to create banner ads for you. Create a unique link or coupon code for each website you place banners on so you can track how many sales come from each website.
55. Post a slideshow on SlideShare
SlideShare is a website where you can share presentations, documents, infographics, etc. Posting a portion of your PowerPoint presentation is a good way to get some traffic. Do not directly promote your course in your slideshow title or description. Instead, include an invitation at the end of your presentation to visit your website or learn more about your course.
56. Create a sales funnel for your online course
Last but not least, create a sales funnel for your online course. A sales funnel is a very specific process that you guide a potential customer through and that results in them making the decision to purchase your online course. Although all of the different marketing tactics listed in this article can help increase your exposure and course sales, on their own many of them are less effective at getting people to jump straight to buying your course than others.
If you want to supercharge your course sales, you need to create a sales funnel that includes several of the marketing tactics listed above working together cohesively. In fact, most of the marketing tactics listed above are great for getting people into your sales funnel. And if you have a sales funnel that is proven to convert potential students into paying customers, then you can scale up your marketing efforts knowing that it will result in sales.
57. Build an audience on TikTok
If you do it right, TikTok can help you amass thousands of followers. On June 7, 2020, Wildly successful course creator Kat Norton made her first TikTok video to teach people how to use a program that changed her life. By combining practical Excel tips with creativity, fun, and enthusiasm, Norton posted a new video once a day. Three weeks later, she had her first video go viral; Within 24 hours, it hit 3.6M views and she had 100,000 TikTok followers.
Which online course marketing tactic will you implement next?
Now that you are armed with 57 ideas for marketing your online course, it’s time to implement what you’ve learned. But remember, it takes time to implement and test each of the marketing tactics listed above.
Instead of trying to implement them all at once, commit to implementing a few of them and measuring the results before implementing more. Figure out which ones work best for your course topic and target audience, then double down on those.
This guide was originally published In Jan 2018, and updated in August 2021 to provide more recent tips on how to market online courses.