This is it.

Time to launch your full online course.

Now that you’ve refined and polished it to a gleaming gem, you’re ready for the students to stream in.

“But where will these students come from, exactly?” you wonder.

When you beta tested your course, you reached out everyone in your network—including the ones you only know virtually through LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

You’ve done internal launches with your mailing list, and they’re getting jaded. You know this, because every time you pitch your course, your email open and clickthrough rates plummet.

Your heart beats fast and sweat beads form on your forehead as you come to the inevitable conclusion: your list is burned out.

What do you do?

You know you need to reach new people, but you’re not sure how to do it.

This is the point when most online marketing experts will advise you to try paid advertising and marketing funnels. “You can print money,” they promise, especially through platforms like Facebook that let you advertise to ultra-targeted audiences.

And that’s completely true—for them. They’re established businesses with large advertising budgets and the manpower to create, monitor, and optimize complex sales funnels. At Mirasee, we spend thousands of dollars every month and have at least four team members involved in running our funnels.

Unless you get lucky, it takes time and money to maximize your ROI from paid ads. And Facebook, Google, and other ad platforms tend to favor advertisers with deep pockets.

So if you’re just starting out, I don’t recommend paid ads and funnels. They’re simply not practical without a lot of money and technical knowledge.

Fortunately, there are other ways you can expand your audience and find more students for your online course.

1. “The Money Is in the List”

Since the money is in the list—specifically the list you have a good relationship with—then the most logical thing to do is to always be building your email list.

In broad strokes, here are the steps to do that:

Create a First Impression Incentive

A First Impression Incentive (aka “lead magnet” or “ethical bribe”) is a valuable piece of content you give away for free in exchange for people’s contact information. Of course, if you already have a list, then you already knew that, right?

The challenge for you now is to attract new people by creating different incentives. Think in terms of different topics as well as different formats. If you offered a free PDF previously, how about offering a video series? A simple checklist? Or a webinar?

Collect emails from your website

Offer your First Impression Incentive on your website through opt-in forms. Here, you need to get creative and experiment with a bunch of different stuff as well. You can have a welcome mat, an exit-intent form, and forms that pop up, slide in, and hover. Just don’t put them all at once on a single web page, of course 😉

The point is, you now have many more ways of asking for people’s emails that are more effective than the traditional opt-in form. The tools to implement these are affordable, so there’s no excuse not to use them. And they even provide analytics so you know which Incentives and types of forms bring the best results.

Use content marketing to attract new visitors

Produce useful, valuable content to get the attention of your target audience, bring them to your website, and get them into your mailing list. You can blog, podcast, post videos, or live stream. Again, the options are numerous. Play to your strengths and do what you enjoy. That way, you’re more likely to do it consistently.

All this is well and good, but the truth is, you may not be building your list at the same rate that you want to fill your courses. For example, what if you want to launch your online course, say, next month? How many new subscribers can you realistically get by then? Not to mention it takes time to nurture a relationship with them so they’ll trust you enough to enrol in your course.

That’s why you need to explore ways that will help you sell your courses—right now. For that, you can….

2. Go into Joint Venture Partnerships

A joint venture — or “JV” — partnership, is exactly what it sounds like: a relationship where two (or more) businesses partner together in the promotion of an endeavor, usually a product launch, for the benefit of all parties. For example, you can have a JV with a popular blogger in your niche for them to promote your course to their list. In return, you give the blogger a 50% commission on every student they refer.

Here are the steps to follow:

Find potential partners

JV partners don’t have to have huge audiences. They do have to be the right audience—people you consider to be your ideal students—and to have a good relationship with them. You can find possible partners by searching for the influencers in your niche. They’re probably bloggers, YouTubers, authors, or online course creators themselves (but not direct competitors). Sign up for their mailing lists to see how they treat their audience.

Approach potential partners

Ideally, you can find a common contact who can introduce you to your potential partners. You can also introduce yourself in person by attending industry conferences and events. Barring all that, a cold email could work. You can warm up the relationship first by commenting on their blog or social media posts or even buying their products.

Introduce yourself, say what you admire about their work, and talk about ways the two of you might work together. The key here is to position the entire conversation in a way that benefits them, not you.

Outline the deal terms

It’s a good idea to get all the details in writing to make sure there are no misunderstandings. You’ll want to start with smaller “asks” and then work your way up as you go. For example, a lower level ask might be mentioning your course in their newsletter or blog post. The highest level ask will eventually be sending multiple emails to their list promoting your product.

Sell your course

You can give the partner a coupon code or a custom URL so you can track the sales they refer and give them the appropriate commissions. Make sure your partners are well versed in your course. You can do this through video chats, email, or for experienced entrepreneurs, an affiliate dashboard. You’ll also want to provide “swipe files,” which are pre-written emails and social media posts they can modify and send to their audience.

Reciprocate

In some cases, the JV agreement spells out promoting a partner’s product to your list. In other words, they’ll promote your product to their list for your launch, and you’ll promote their product to your list for their launch later on. Other times, it’s more open-ended. They might not have their own launch planned yet, but you commit to helping them out.

Of course, one of the reasons you might partner with someone is because they have a large list, but you don’t. If your audience is too small to reciprocate with traffic, you can offer other ideas to make the deal happen. Come up with ways to entice partners to work with you that don’t necessarily involve reciprocal launch promotions. Think about how you can add value to the relationship.

Repeat and scale

After your launch or when you’ve had enough time to track results, you should step back and evaluate. Now that you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can ask for introductions to other people who might be interested in partnering with you… ones with a bit more influence and an even larger audience.

3. Network and Speak

Networking and speaking is the process of meeting with people in your target audience, telling them your story, providing something of value, and making a genuine connection—whether it’s a single person at an event, or speaking in front of 1,000 people.

The name of the game is getting on ever bigger stages to capture the attention of people and eventually make a sale. There are 3 types of networking and speaking opportunities:

  • Teacher-centric: Speak and sell. The audience is attending something because they want to hear from YOU, the expert. More than anything else, aim to deliver value. And then provide attendees to opportunity to learn more from you, if they’re interested.
  • Industry-centric: Meet and sell. You’re not the focus of attention, but all of the attendees are gathered to learn more about the same subject. Talk about your online course when the opportunity presents itself.
  • User-centric: Meet and sell, but only when appropriate. Yet other events aren’t about the speaker nor the topic. It could be a dinner party or some other gathering where you may get the opportunity to talk about your work, but people really aren’t there to talk shop. Foster the relationship at the event, but take the business side of things off-site and set up a future meeting on the phone or over coffee.

Selling your online courses is an ongoing process. Even if you fill your online course today, you have to be thinking of how you’ll fill it again the next time you launch it. Or how you’ll keep selling your course, if you make it an evergreen product. That’s the key to a sustainable online course business.

Content marketing, JV partnerships, networking, and speaking are only a few of the tried-and-tested you can reach an ever-growing audience, build your own, and turn them into happy students and ambassadors.

Which of these strategies do you think will have the biggest impact on your course sales?

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Danny Iny is the founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimagined podcast, and best-selling author of multiple books, including Teach and Grow Rich. He is also the creator of the acclaimed Audience Business Masterclass and Course Builder’s Laboratory training programs, which have together graduated over 5,000 value-driven online entrepreneurs. Join Mirasee’s Online Course Creators Community on Facebook.