How to market an online course

If you’re planning to create an online course, or even if you’ve already created your online course, you will need to have a robust marketing strategy in place to help you promote it to your target audience.

Before you create your online course

The first strategy really comes into play before you create your course. It’s important to know who you are aiming it at (your target market). So, how do you know this? Think about your ideal client and create a buyer persona.

So, you know who they are and what they do, how old they are, what motivates them and what interests do they have?

Create as many as you need as there may be different types of customers that you have in mind for your course.  

You can refer to these buyer personas when you’re creating your marketing content – it helps to know who your ideal client is, so you can tailor your content specifically to them.

What is your USP (unique selling point)?

Go into Google and look at courses that currently exist, that are based around the subject matter that you want to cover in your course. Make notes of what is included in those courses and how they are presented. Is there anything that they’ve missed? Are there any aspects that they’ve included that you wouldn’t?

Is there anything in the courses of your competitors that you think you could cover better or add more value to? Can you add in extra topics that your competitor doesn’t cover?

Putting a course out there means giving loads of value to the people that sign up. They want it to be jam packed with value, so they know that they’re not wasting their time and money.

Doing this kind of research will lead you to your USP…what is your USP? What is it that you do different to your competitors? What is the one thing that makes your business better than your competitors?

Once you know what that is, you can add it to your marketing messages. And the good thing is that when someone asks you what makes your course so special – or different to XXXX’s course, you have the answer!

Get information up front

Before you start making your course, you need to know if it is something that your audience want! It might be something you want to create, or something you think people will want. But, until you ask them, you don’t really know!

The best way to find this out is to ask! If you have an email list, or an audience on your blog, you can ask them what they’d be interested in learning about – you could send a survey to your email list. You can also ask people on your social media sites, or in the networking groups you belong to. Then create your course around what they want – not what you think they want.

Get to work

Once you know who your audience are and what they want, you can create your course. There’s just a little bit more research to do – what keywords or phrases will people type in to look for your course? You can research similar courses to yours, or you can use a keyword tool to look at the most popular keywords related to your subject. Then you can include those keywords in your title.

Once you are armed with all this information, it’s time to think about preselling your course. You need to treat your online course like a product launch…because basically that’s what it is.

Coming soon!

You want to try and create a buzz around your course, and one way is to create a ‘coming soon’ page. If you treat it the same way that you would treat a new product, you can’t go far wrong by building excitement and a buzz around the launch. You could just do a ‘coming soon’ page on your website, without giving away too much information…just the basic information! Then say that more details will be posted soon.

You can also use your social media pages to start some teaser information about your course. Don’t just talk about yourself and the course though – make sure that you give some valuable information to get your audience’s interest. For example, you could give away a checklist or cheat sheet that is linked to the information in your course.

You could set up a ‘sign up to show your interest’ page, either on your website, or on a hosting site, such as Mailerlite. When someone signs up to show interest, they get your freebie and an email that tells them a little bit more about the course. Then you have their email and can send them more details about the course as they become available.

If you run your own Facebook group, you can promote it there too.

You might send links to interesting articles you’ve found online about similar subjects to yours – you don’t have to just use your own content.

Start a podcast

You could start a podcast to highlight your expertise in your subject and talk about things related to your course material. Podcasts are great for interviews, so if you have done a course before, or have been running a pilot course with a targeted group of people, you could interview one of them to ask what they got from it.

If you do a podcast though, in the same way with anything that you give away, make sure that you don’t use the same information/subject matter that you’ll be using in your course, as they won’t be happy if your online course that they pay for, is the same content as the stuff you’ve been giving away for free!

Connect with your audience via an online webinar

In the same way as you can create a podcast, you can also run regular webinars…or even a one-off online webinar. You can pre-record these and cover some of the things you know that your audience struggles with – and give a solution to some of their pain points. Again, make the subject matter different to the course content you’re creating.

Running these kind of presentations gives your audience an idea of what you’re like to work with. You’ll no doubt get questions, which may give you ideas to include in your online course. It will also give you feedback, which you can use to show the value you give your audience. This all helps give credibility to your business.

Into the launch phase!

Now you’ve done the ‘coming soon’ stuff, which may have gone on for a couple of months or more, now is the time to promote the course date and more details.

You can still use all the things you used pre-launch, such as podcast, social media, your blog, or email newsletter, or even a webinar. Now is the time to ramp up the communications.

Paid Ads

Paid Ads can be an effective way to advertise your online course. Even a simple Facebook post boost can help with this kind of content. You can target them to a specific audience, they don’t have to cost a lot and you can track their success. I can’t specifically say, with hand on heart, that paid Ads are worth it or that they work, as I have never felt the need to use them myself. But it is something I will try when I do decide to create my own online course.

You just have to make sure that you factor in the cost of these Ads, as they can be quite expensive. Just make sure that whichever platform you use for Ads, that it is a platform that your target audience uses.

Team up with others

Another good way to get your course out there is to team up or buddy up with other businesses…preferably not businesses who do the same as you, but those that you know and like – you need to like or be interested in the kind of things your buddy posts in order for this to be successful – otherwise it’s just the same as doing like for like, or follow for follow, which really doesn’t work.

So, ask people who you regularly interact with and agree to like, comment on, and share their posts or stories, as well as doing shout outs to each other.

This helps you, but could also lead to partnerships in the future, especially if the business you partner up with does something that complements your business. They may even be able to be a guest speaker on your course, or be an interviewee on your podcast, blog, or webinar. The possibilities with partnerships is endless.

Teaser Mini Course

Earlier I talked about a teaser on social media for preselling. Another idea would be to create a mini teaser course, just a few weeks before your main course goes live.

This is a free short course that gives people a taste of what you do and the value you give. At the end of the teaser mini course, you can give the option to sign up to your paid course, where they can find out much more and get even more value from you.

The other thing about creating a mini course, is that the audience that sign up will realise how little they actually know about your niche and will be wanting to know more.

Offer a discount

You can also use a discount offer to entice people to sign up. For example, the first three people to sign up get 50% off – or whatever figure you decide to go for.

Create a sales page

You’ve done your ‘coming soon’ page; now it’s time to create your course sales page or landing page. A landing page is a page on your website, or on a hosting site like Mailerlite, that is dedicated to purely selling your online course. This is where you can go to town with advertising what, specifically your course will cover.

Talk about the benefits of the course – what’s in it for your audience? What problems does your course solve? What will your audience go away knowing that they didn’t know before? How will it help them or their business in future?

Include testimonials from those who did your mini course or those who have listened to your podcast, read your blogs, or have commented on your newsletter. You may have feedback from the survey you sent out that you can use. Just remember to always ask permission from the person who gave the feedback if you’re going to use it to advertise your course.

Make sure that the content of your course is really clear, so your audience know exactly what they’re signing up for.

And, don’t forget to include a CTA (call to action), such as a button saying, ‘YES, SIGN ME UP NOW!’ Always make it short and snappy and make it sound urgent, like you mustn’t wait to sign up – do it now!

Passive Income

Courses

Your online course may be a course where you are very hands-on and run individual sessions over a period of weeks or months. However, if you record a course with individual modules, you can put it on an online hosting channel, such as Udemy, which is an online learning platform (a marketplace to sell and buy courses online). You make money on this platform by uploading your course and selling it. It’s a free service for those uploading courses and can help you achieve passive income. It won’t make you millions, but it will help give you credibility and the possibility of a regular passive income.

Students on Udemy generally take courses to improve their job-related skills. I have used it several times for course on various social media channels to help me understand them better. The good thing is that you can upload a course on any subject you can think of. I’ve seen everything from cupcake decorating, to car maintenance, interior design to computer skills. There’s something for everyone and courses start from around £15. I’ve even got courses free of charge and have had some great deals during January sales.

eBooks

As well as making passive income from your online course, you could also write a related eBook and sell it on your website, or even upload it to Amazon or a similar book selling site.

Conclusion

Now it’s time for you to get started! Do your research, do a presale ‘coming soon’ campaign, choose the best strategy for you and just do it!

Let me know if you found this post useful and, as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  

Manage your online reputation!

In the dim and distant past, the reputation of a small business was all about word of mouth. With no internet, reputation was based on you…how you conducted business, how you interacted with your customers and how your products hit the mark. If you got a negative comment, you would soon know about it, as most businesses were local, and you then had the chance to fix it.

stock-624712_640Nowadays, most businesses, even very small businesses, have an online presence – be it a website, social media page or advert. Because of the internet, small businesses are not limited to local business; we can sell worldwide and reach millions of people at the click of a mouse…and businesses are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although this is fabulous, in that you can reach millions of potential customers, it’s harder to manage your business’s reputation. If someone has left a negative comment somewhere on the web, you won’t always see it, but it can be just as damaging as a word of mouth negative remark. So how do you manage your online reputation?

Google your name

Have you ever googled your name or business name? Try it and see what pops up…you will be surprised…when I did it, there was information about me and my business, but bar-621033_640also various events I was involved in years ago when I was employed in the UK. Also try entering your name into google images – that surprised me too!

Every single day, thousands of people are looking online for information about businesses or just a particular person, simply by typing their name into a search engine. With information about you and your business in the public domain, managing your reputation is crucially important. It’s not difficult to manage, but it does take time.

What if you find a negative comment online about your business? You’ll probably want to remove it. If the comment is something someone has said about you on their website or blog, contact them direct and politely ask them to remove it.

Set up Google Alert

You can go into Google Alert and request that you get an email notification every time your name is published online. Simply type google.com/alerts into your browser and open the site. Type your name or business name into the search box. Choose ‘show options’ to narrow the search to a specific language/source/region. Then select ‘create alert’ – you can choose to have alerts sent to you daily or weekly…and you can cancel at any time. I’m doing it for a month just out of interest to see who searches my name…could be interesting!

Be active on Social Media

Not all of us want to do this or have time to, but it is worth joining a few social networks – even if you just use them to fully fill out the profile pages. You don’t have to be ID-100167081completely active on them all the time, but if you add content once a month, this can help your online reputation. As well as the usual sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, there is also Tumblr, Pinterest and YouTube, which are great channels to be a part of. I belong to a few of them, but am mainly active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. One of my goals for this year is to be more active on these and a couple of other sites…even if only adding the odd article or adding a comment to something and why it is interesting to me.

If you do go onto new sites, fill out as much information as you can, especially your name – make sure you use your full name, not nicknames.

It’s also very important too, that if you do set up social media sites and potential customers contact you or ask questions, that you reply promptly. If you’re on social media sites, people expect you to be sociable! By posting regularly, asking questions, answering questions and giving advice, you’ll be engaging with people and eventually you will find you have a good and lasting relationship with your audience.

Be careful about what you post

There are times when we all take photos on a night out and post them to Facebook … but be wary of doing this as it could seriously affect your business reputation. The problem with social media is that other people can take photos of you and post them without your permission. If you do post pictures, remember to put a privacy setting on them so only attention-303861_640your friends can see them. There is still a problem with this as social media sites are always changing their rules and regulations, so you can’t be sure that privacy settings are really private…or will be in future. I always used to tell my children when they were teenagers – don’t post anything that you wouldn’t mind your grandparents seeing or, for that matter, the whole wide world! After all, it is the World Wide Web!

If someone does post an embarrassing photo of you and ‘tags’ you in it, you can remove that tag … and there is nothing stopping you from contacting the person who has posted it and asking them to remove it.

Encourage reviews

The upside to having an online presence, such as a website or blog, is that you can encourage reviews of your products and services. This is great for your reputation as those that love what you do tell the world about it when they write a good review. feedback-1978036_640However, there will always be the odd person who will give you a bad review or say something negative about you or your business. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the knee jerk reaction is to delete negative comments, but in reality, if you can address the problem publicly, taking a proactive feedback-3683068_640approach, apologising if necessary and offering alternative products or solutions…or asking the person making the comment to suggest how you can address the problem. Often, this shows you listen to your customers and take action, which can only show you in good light. The worst thing you can do is to ignore it and hope it will go away, or delete it. My advice would be to always reply and try and address any issues. Often this turns a negative into a positive.

If you don’t monitor and actively improve your online reputation, you are missing an ideal opportunity to grow your brand, earn respect from your customers and hopefully question-mark-1751308_640build your business.

I hope this article has helped address some of the issues around managing your online reputation. If you have any other tips, please let me know – what would you add to this list?

How to promote your small business online

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In this day and age, where technology is easier than ever to access and where most of the population use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+ or one of the many other social media platforms, you can’t afford not to have your business online. If you have a small business, it’s also worth considering setting up a website. These are the two online vehicles I’ll be talking about in this blog.

Why have a website?

id-100249653Having an online presence not only puts your business in front of a huge, global audience, it can help you get more sales and enable you to become more ‘real’ to your customers. The internet never takes a nap, gets distracted or falls asleep, so once you have your online presence, your business has the potential to be working for you 24/7. Customers can see your products and services in their own time, whenever they feel like it, so whether they work 9-5 and go online in the evening or whether they are night-shift workers and search for what they want during their break (at three in the morning), they can find you. More importantly, if you sell products and have an online store, a customer can order from you as soon as they feel the urge…they don’t have to wait for a shop to open at 9am, by which time they might have changed their mind. And they don’t have to travel to get what they want – whether you live in their neighbourhood or whether you lives hundreds of miles away, they can still buy from you.

A website gives potential customers the chance to check you out. What do you sell? What services do you offer? What is your business all about? What are you like? Your website builds your brand – online reviews from satisfied customers conveys the message that you are trustworthy; that your products or services are good; fills them with confidence in choosing you above your competitors. Your website can do all this…without you having to be there!

If you haven’t got a website yet, but would like to, click here for a very helpful site, which takes you through the process, step by step.

Social Media

id-100255669Using Social Media is the most common way to let people know your business exists and to build your brand. Social Media networks have millions of customers passing through them every single day – some of them will be your new customers. If you run a social media campaign for your business, or publish useful and high quality content on a regular basis, you can slowly, but surely build your online reputation. I don’t mean constantly bombarding people with images of your products with the hard sell, but taking the time to tell your audience what your product or service can do for them. Solve a problem, answer a question, show them that your products or services are worth buying or using and why.

However, Social Media is not a quick fix for your business – it’s an easy way to promote what you do, but it takes time and effort on your part to make it work and to build up your businesses reputation. Also, once you are on a particular social media platform, you need to monitor it to make sure you answer any questions or queries someone may have posted and to deal with any potential complaints or negativity.

Top 10 sites   

id-100282617Once you have decided to go the social media route, you just need to decide which one or two to go for. There are loads to choose from, but here are the top 15 sites, compiled in September 2016 by eBizMBA Rank – a US company. http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

  • Facebook
  • You Tube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • VK
  • Flickr
  • Vine
  • Meet-up
  • FM
  • Classmates

You don’t need to use them all – it’s better to pick a couple and be brilliant at knowing how that one works for you, than to be on several that you know little about.

Email Marketing 

Email marketing, simply put, is the method companies use to send a message to a group of people using email. Sometimes it is used to send out adverts or maybe to inform id-100426841customers about a new product. However it is effective for small businesses to use this method to send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. This can be written in a friendly, chatty way and is a great way to stay connected to your customers. You just need to collect email addresses of new and existing customers and, most importantly, ask them if they would like to receive your newsletter. You MUST have their permission to do this, so good to have a form they can complete online on your website to ask to subscribe. You can then use it to let them know about any special offers or discounts, inform them about new products and generally tell them a bit about your business and how it works. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers and build customer loyalty.

These are just three ways to promote your business online. Which method do you find the most effective for your business? Please comment in the box below.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net