How to Use Online Courses in Your Marketing Strategy
Any type of business can use online courses for marketing purposes. They are easy to create, hassle-free, and a great customer acquisition channel.
The online learning industry is huge. According to statistics, it will grow to $243 billion by 2022 and $325 billion by 2025. While this is impressive, what is more interesting for business owners is that 42% of companies who use online courses as part of their marketing generate more income than businesses that don’t.
There are two ways you can use online courses in your marketing strategy. The first way is to offer free courses, and the second way is to create and sell paid courses.
Both methods can help you make more money, create a community around your brand, and increase the value of your business.
Let’s take a closer look at both methods.
How to Use Free Courses in Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Users love freebies, and offering them a training course for free is no exception. Before getting into the business benefits, let’s see when you should choose to use free courses in your marketing.
You can offer something valuable to users – Even though the course will be free, it doesn’t mean that it should be low quality. You need to make sure that it will provide real value to users; otherwise, not only will your marketing fail but it can backfire and drive users away from your brand.
You have relevant products/services for upselling and cross-selling – A free course should be related to the products or services you want to upsell or cross-sell to users. For example, don’t create a free course on fitness (because it’s a popular topic) if your main business is selling t-shirts.
You have the necessary budget/resources to create a free course – Creating a course is not difficult, but it can be expensive to produce something good. So, before making this decision, check that the budget allocated for course creation will not take away money allocated for more important tasks like SEO or paid advertising.
You should introduce free courses in your content marketing strategy when you reach the maximum ROI from other channels.
You have an automated sales funnel ready to target leads generated from free courses – To make money from free courses, you need to have an automated system in place to gather leads, nurture them, and sell them a paid product or service.
This means investing in various tools (lead generation, email marketing tools, etc.) and creating an efficient email marketing funnel.
Let me give you an example of how free courses can be used successfully.
Reliablesoft Academy sells paid courses to users. To get more leads, they are offering an SEO course for free. Users need to sign up to access the free course, and once they do, they are added to an automated sales funnel.
Over a two-week period, they will receive emails introducing Reliablesoft’s paid courses and the benefits and value of upgrading, and some of them end up converting.
The Benefits of Free Courses for Marketing
Besides using free courses as an upselling tool, there are a number of additional benefits they can bring to your business. The most important are:
Growing your email list – Freebies are a great way to increase your email list fast. Users are more than likely to give you their email address to access a useful and free resource. To avoid receiving spam, make sure that you ask for email verification before allowing access to the material.
Getting more qualified leads – Users that are interested in a free course that is closely related to your main offering are more likely to become customers than users who sign up for your generic newsletter.
The main reason this works great is that, as a marketer, you know the exact reason they signed up to your email list, so with the proper email marketing sequence, you can turn those leads into customers.
It’s important to note here that free courses alone will not get you more qualified leads. It’s the combination of free courses with email marketing funnels that will generate the desired results.
Using free courses as link magnets – Offering a free course is a great way to get backlinks to your website.
If you search Google for free courses using the phrase “best free ___ courses,” you’ll find hundreds of articles. So, offering a free course on your website increases your chances of appearing in those listings and getting high-quality links to your site.
Educating your users – One of the most effective ways to make more sales is to engage and educate your audience. This increases trust between your brand and users, which in turn, leads to more conversions. Courses are a great tool for this purpose.
Increasing your website’s traffic – Searches that include the word “free” are very popular on Google, and with the right SEO techniques, your course landing page can generate organic traffic to your site.
Raising brand awareness – Last, but not least, freebies are good for brand awareness. Users are more likely to remember a brand they received a free gift from, and this has a number of priceless benefits.
How to Generate Passive Income with Paid Courses
So far, we’ve seen how free courses can benefit your business. Now, let’s see how paid courses can help you make more money.
Paid courses carry all the benefits of free courses with two important additions:
- They can turn into a source of passive income for your business.
- They can be used as the medium for selling more expensive products or services.
A source of passive income – The most obvious benefit is that paid courses can generate a stable source of passive income.
Although there is a lot of work involved in creating a paid course, and it requires an upfront investment, you can resell it passively for months or years to come.
Courses, and digital products in general, are low maintenance and hassle-free. The process of selling courses can be fully automated without worrying about stock management, logistics, or any other problems that traditional ecommerce owners have to face.
A medium for selling more expensive services to customers – As with free courses, paid courses can also be used as the medium to get customers in the door and upsell them a more expensive product or service.
This is a popular way for digital marketing agencies to get more customers. They attract users by offering them a paid digital marketing course and then upsell them with digital marketing services.
The reason that this works so well is that some of the users enrolling in a marketing course will need additional help to execute what they’ve learned, and the first provider that comes to mind is, of course, the agency that created the course in the first place.
What Paid Courses Should You Create?
To take advantage of the above benefits, you need to create a product that is worth selling. In simple words, this means creating a product that:
- Is better than a free course.
- Adds real value to users either by learning something new or helping them to solve a problem.
- Is worth paying for.
The following tips will help you make a decision on what kind of courses to build.
Choose popular topics that people search for – Unlike free courses, when creating a paid course, you should do your market research carefully and pick topics that are popular among users. This is extremely important for the success of your course.
There are three easy ways to do market research before creating a course.
- The first is traditional keyword research to find popular search phrases related to your topics.
- The second is to check the best-selling courses on popular platforms like Udemy and Coursera.
- The third way is to check popular videos on YouTube. Users turn to YouTube first to learn something new, and good research will give you an indication of the size of your audience.
Create courses on topics you’re passionate about – Another important factor in convincing people to buy your course is showcasing your expertise and experience on a topic.
Users want to learn from experts and not teachers.
To become a true expert on a topic, besides having the necessary knowledge (and sometimes academic credentials), you also need to have passion.
So, while you should approach the process of creating and selling courses as a marketing strategy, you should also create a product that demonstrates your passion for the topic.
This will help differentiate your product from the competition and provide a more convincing selling point.
Best Ways to Sell Your Online Courses
So, you have a fantastic course, but what’s the most profitable way to sell it?
At Reliablesoft, we’ve been selling online courses for a few years now, and while there are different ways to sell an online course, the most effective are:
Build a blog and an audience
Set up a blog on your website, and start publishing content related to your course topics.
- Do your keyword research and find out all possible search phrases related to the subject of your course.
- Create a content marketing plan, and produce useful and interesting blog posts around those topics.
- Optimize your blog for SEO (using on-page and off-page SEO techniques), and over time, you’ll manage to build an audience that is likely to be interested in your course offerings.
- Use free courses as a way to build your email list and promote your paid courses.
This is by far the best and most profitable way to sell online courses. It will take some time to generate a decent audience, but in the long run, it is the most efficient way.
One of the main reasons is that you won’t have to pay for advertising, and this dramatically increases the profit from each sale.
Sell your courses through webinars
Another popular way to promote your online courses is through webinars. Many people believe that all webinars are “live,” but that’s not necessarily the case. Depending on the webinar software you use, they can be pre-recorded and presented as a live event.
The only caveat for webinars is that you need to have a large audience to make good sales. So, if you’re starting out now, you should first concentrate your efforts on building your email list through blogging, and then, once you have a decent list, you can engage in webinar production.
Sell your courses through paid advertising
Another way to sell your digital products is through paid ads such as Facebook video ads or Google Ads.
This is a good option if you don’t have an organic audience yet. The biggest problem with paid ads is that, in some cases, the cost of customer acquisition will be high, leaving you no room for profit.
In this case, you need to examine the possibility of increasing your prices, or use paid advertising only as a retargeting channel. Retargeting campaigns on Google and Facebook cost less than campaigns targeting a new audience.
Publish your courses on popular learning platforms
Last, but not least, a way to start making money from online courses is to utilize the traffic and popularity of learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera.
This is a good option for beginners. While working on creating your own audience through blogging, you can publish your courses on platforms that have millions of monthly users and share the sales with them.
For example, if you publish your courses on Udemy, you’ll get approximately 40% of the sale value. It’s not ideal, but it’s a way to make some money and introduce your brand to a new audience.
Online courses are great for marketing. They can be used by almost any kind of business to generate new leads (through free courses) or as a passive income source (through paid courses).
They are also perceived to be an online asset that can potentially increase the value of your business in case you decide to sell it.
It’s important to remember that in order to have any benefits from courses, you need to create something useful and representative of your brand. Tricking users by offering them a low-quality course for free or as a paid option can do more harm to your business than good.
Do your research, create a digital product you are proud of, promote it using the techniques explained above, and enjoy the benefits online courses can generate for your business.