Selling your online courses through paid advertising can be effective, but when it comes to building trust and rapport with your audience, nothing beats high quality content. After all, when you create high quality content that actually helps your audience, you’re demonstrating your expertise by letting them experience it for themselves.
Plus, you’re beginning the relationship with your audience by offering them something of real value – information that you’ve taken the time to meticulously curate.
When I started blogging regularly in 2010, it wasn’t with the idea of selling online courses. Instead, I was looking to build up enough credibility to land a book contract (it works for that too!). Since then, I’ve written more than 500 articles for outlets like the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, Time, the Huffington Post, the World Economic Forum blog, and more.
So when I started created online courses in 2016, I was able to quickly create a new six-figure business, simply by sharing my courses with the loyal audience that I’d built through blogging (I wrote about that process in more detail here).
I’m not the only one who has done this. Online marketing expert Danny Iny, whom I interviewed for my forthcoming book Entrepreneurial You, told me that years ago, he had a disastrous launch for his very first online course – ironically called “Marketing that Works.” It sold exactly one copy. He knew he had to market it more effectively, so he started guest blogging aggressively, writing more than 80 pieces in a year. That experience turned his business around and sparked his first real online course success.
The real question, though, is how can you write that much?
Most people have full-time jobs, whether tied to your course or not. Even if we agree that content creation is an effective marketing strategy, most people don’t have the time to sit down and write dozens of posts on a regular basis.
How do you know what to write about? What would interest your audience? How can you quickly flesh it out so you’re not spending hours second-guessing yourself or trying to make it “perfect” (whatever that means)?
Because the ability to write quickly and well has been key to my own success, I actually developed an online masterclass to teach those principles. Here are three key elements to keep in mind:
1. Identify the roadblocks in your customer’s mind and address them
To create your course, you hopefully conducted detailed customer research –
A critical step step in ensuring the success of your online course is conducting detailed market research before you create your course. For example, interviewing target customers to ask about the main problems they face with regard to your topic (say, improving their drone photography or growing bigger daffodils or losing belly fat more quickly). Think back to those conversations, and the phrases they used. You can mine your notes for possible blog post ideas – for instance, “10 Surprising Reasons Why You’re Not Losing That Belly Fat” or (I’m making this up) “How Green Tea Can Help You Lose Belly Fat Faster.”
Other ways to come up with compelling topics include searching for your keyword terms on the website Quora to see what questions people are asking, taking note of what people ask you at cocktail parties or conferences (themes emerge pretty quickly), or crowdsourcing on Facebook or Twitter (you’d be surprised how many interesting responses you can gin up when you ask, “What are your top questions about weight loss?” or whatever your subject is).
When you write on a topic that interests others and demonstrate your expertise, it’s inevitable that some people will want to hear more from you. Be sure to include a link to a “lead magnet” in your bio (a free resource you give away to build your email list), so you can stay in touch with these interested potential customers. If you’d like to check out an example, here’s mine.
2. Nail the title first
Some people prefer to start by “free writing” and just putting ideas on paper. That’s not a bad strategy – it gets you some momentum – and if it works for you, great. But for most people, I recommend starting with the title, instead. That’s because having the focus in mind upfront saves you a lot of time on the back end, because you’re not fishing around afterward to find a unifying thesis for your post. So expend more brainpower upfront thinking about your positioning, and less time mucking around post facto.
You can hone your titles with this free Headline Analyzer tool by CoSchedule, which provides a numerical score to help you evaluate the quality of your title and make sure it’s not too long, too short, or too boring. In general, make sure the title is exciting enough that you’d want to read it if you saw it in your news feed. Think carefully about what would pique your interest and offer your insights accordingly.
3. Develop your team of early readers
In the research for my Rapid Content Creation course, I’ve talked to a lot of people, and one of the biggest roadblocks people face is the impulse to perfection. Of course, we know rationally that there’s no such thing as “perfect,” and that it’s an impossible goal. But that doesn’t stop the powerful emotional tug: “What if my articles aren’t good enough?”
You won’t do yourself any favors by putting out subpar content, but most people are far too hard on themselves. Clearly, your posts need to have proper grammar and spelling, and a reasonably interesting premise. But many aspiring content creators assume they have to share Einstein-level breakthrough insights in order to feel worthy of contributing anything at all. But if you set a bar like that, you’ll never get started.
The truth is, when you first begin writing, you just can’t trust your own opinion. Instead, it’s critical to assemble a small group of early readers whose opinion you trust. They should be people who are at least somewhat knowledgeable about your field, and have a close enough relationship with you that they can be honest, and tell you which of your writings are terrific and which still need work.
Many of us are paralyzed early on because we don’t feel qualified to offer our opinions and can’t tell what’s good or not. So outsource that dilemma to people whom you trust. Over time, they’ll help you calibrate your critical acumen – and, crucially, give you the confidence you need to get started and take action.
Create content to build trust with your audience
Creating great content is the best way to build trust with your audience, and pique their interest in learning more from you – quite possibly in the form of buying your course.
But it’ll never be worth it if writing is a protracted and painful process for you. Learning to create great content quickly is one of the best investments you can make in developing a long term, high quality pipeline for your online course.How to Sell More Online Courses Through Rapid Content Creation @dorieclark Click To Tweet
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out, and the creator of the Rapid Content Creation Masterclass.