Start by setting a launch date and tangible goal:
Pick a launch date. It will keep you honest, and help you work backwards as you plan out all the details of your course launch.
Set a time-bound, measurable goal for the number of people you want for your upcoming cohort. You can work backwards from this number to determine how many people you need on your waitlist (e.g if you want 30 people in your cohort, you probably want to attract around 400 people to your list, 7.5% conversion)
1. Start building your audience
Your key to being able to effectively market your course and build a sustainable revenue source is all about building an audience you can build a relationship with. It’s important to pick an audience that matters and not spread yourself too thin.
You need to
create or curate valuable content
You need to distribute that content in as many places as possible.
e.g sharing in comments, DMing it to people.
Simple ways to start growing your audience:
Email capture via your website
Use lead magnets (e.g freebies - collections, eBooks, templates)
Leverage newsletter swaps to relevant audiences
Twitter (use cut off threads) to take them to your site.
Create SEO content - guides, blogs (long-term)
Drive social traffic to your site and landing page
Have you thought about how you can drive traffic from your social channels to an email list or waitlist? Social platforms are excellent way to establish thought-leadership, but you’ll be at the mercy of their algorithms over the long-term.
Your audiences can live in many places, but we recommend driving towards email from whatever vehicles you choose to focus on (e.g social, podcasts, content)
Things to consider:
Have you developed a daily writing habit to build an audience on social?
Have you set time to map out your content strategy and efforts? This makes it way easier to plan then doing it at the last minute.
Do you have a newsletter, email list or website you can drive people towards?
Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, YouTube, Instagram, Twitch
Study how top creators drive traffic from social to grow their newsletters:
for pre-populated shareable tweets
2. Optimize your landing page
Your landing page is the essential part of the course marketing journey. This is where you’ll provide prospective learners with more info about your offering including the core value prop, outcomes and social proof. You can think of your landing page as a living page that will evolve over time as you become clear on the value prop, and add more and more social proof. The more you’re able to speak the language of your audience on this page, the higher it will convert.
There are two goals for a landing page:
To answer any questions a prospective learner have about the course.
To eliminate any concerns a prospective learner would bring up.
Examples for reference:
Notice how these pages allow you to visualize what you’re going to get out of it, the course experience inside and have social proof to show you that they’re effective.
Key elements to consider for your landing pages:
Does your page have a clear value proposition?
Does your page have a clear call to action?
Do you have a FAQ to answer any objections?
Are you leveraging social proof from your audience?
Testimonials, tweets, videos
Do you have visuals that preview the course for students?
Are you leveraging video to tell your story? (e.g teaser video)
Does your page have a clear call to action?
Add your course URL to your social bio, email signatures and web banner.
3. Leverage email as your #1 channel
Email is the the most effective marketing channel you can leverage and will provide you with the highest ROI. Always be thinking through how you can have a direct relationship with your audience. Drive them to your website and course waitlist where you can collect their emails and start to nurture them with valuable content.
Email is about building a relationship with your audience. Every email you send out should help your audience achieve their goals in doing X. To help build your list, think through how can repackage existing content into valuable resources such as micro-videos, templates, and guides that incentivize people to engage deeper.
Tools you can leverage:
What types of emails will you need?
Quality is everything. Focus on offering highly relevant content over the long term.
Find great email examples here.
Your first touch point with your audience is critical and it’s where you start the conversation. This email could take different forms depending on if they signed for your newsletter, email list or course waitlist.
Once someone signs up for your email list, you now have an opportunity to send them highly relevant content over the long term. Focus on offering value and building deeper trust in your expertise. See inspiration below for ideas.
Keep your emails highly actionable. What are you trying to offer them in that email? In the same way you would write a blog post, define your theme and think through you're going to offer that person value.
Depending on your approach, you may want to consider having a specific series for people who sign up on your waitlist that is more tailored to the types of content and topics you’ll cover. Remember this should still be focused on offering value and should not be overly promotional.
After someone has payed and signed up for your course, the relationship doesn’t end. Think through how you can continue offering value to those people over the long-term to turn them into lifelong advocates and return business.
Consider how you can add share-ability to your emails. Using
you automatically draft tweets with populated content to capitalize on reach.
Email types for inspiration
View some great examples here.
Ensure the CTAs for your waitlist and email list are clear.
Ensure the CTAs for your waitlist and email list are clear. What are they going to get after they subscriber? Think of valuable hooks you can send after the subscribe.
Tiago Forte, Building a Second Brain
Billy Broas, Online Course Marketing
4. Find where your audience hangs out
When starting to market your course, it's smart to interact with smaller, niche communities, as your message can often get lost in large communities.
Start with yourself
Think about the communities relevant to your area of expertise. There's a high chance you're already a member of those communities. That’s a great start to being able to find like-minded people to start a conversation with. This can include places like FB groups, Slack, Subreddits, Forums, and Discord Chats.
Look cross-industry to find communities
It’s likely that your course can benefit a few different types of learners. For example, if you're teaching a course about how designers can market their services, it could be could be relevant to a design community like IndieHackers or Dribbble, as well as sales and freelance communities.
Keys around posting in different communities:
Source: Nik Sharma (Trends)
First off, don't be self-promotional. Moderation in most online communities has become pretty tight, so be sure to read through the rules and make sure you're offering something of value to that community. Is there a piece of content that you could offer? Could you share a thread of did on a compilation of the best places to promote your course? Value first.
Here are a few different themes you could share in communities:
Talk about your wins and losses building your course.
Creating the ultimate email drip flow? If you know how to do it, make a guide and post it to the community.
This is highly relevant to course creators because you're experts at it. What can you teach people how to do?
Have you built a swipe file, compilation thread, or Airtable with some valuable resources. Share it in the community.
Case Studies -
Tell people how you do something or break down examples of other makers and creators did it.
Things to consider...
Consider how different forms of content will work in each community. For example, IndieHackers may prefer longer-form breakdowns, HackerNews may be focused on link sharing. Think through the typical style to stay relevant.
Look at examples of other content that has performed well and use that as your template when posting in different online communities.
Recognize that you don't have to start from scratch on content. Think through how you can repurpose your existing content and leverage it across different communities.
Beyond your own content, consider how you can offer relevant insights and value to that community. For example, if you have found tools, guides and articles you've found that could be helpful to that audience.
Resources for reference:
for taking notes.
5. Look for opportunities to cross promote
One strategy that is highly effective is to leverage the audiences of others. Don't limit yourself to just your audience, think about how you can leverage others. This could be as simple as getting a friend, family member, or influencer in your network to re-share content. It could also mean highlighting a high-profile learner in your cohort and having them share.
Newsletter swaps can be an effective strategy in driving interest. For an example of your course is around professional networking, think through newsletters where people might get their daily business news as a cross-promotion opportunity. More potential readers for them, and potential learners in their audience for you. Cross-promotion can also mean doing guest blogs or takeovers on sites and channels that would be relevant to your audience.
6. Validate your course in public
No matter what your course offering, you need to be sure that there is interest in the market. Think through different ways that you can 'publically' test the idea. Start with the channels, you have an audience and share an announcement on what you're working on. Make it a two-way conversation. You can ask them a variety of different things about your course including the name of the course, the types of content/formats that you could offer, course length and more.
Ideas to start validating:
Post a thread on Twitter about how you're thinking of launching a course. Make it authentic. Tell them a story on what got you thinking about it and what it could mean for your audience.
Share a Poll on Linkedin or Twitter to your audience asking what would be most valuable for people to learn from you.
Write a newsletter piece sharing your recent thinking on creating a course and offer an opportunity for people to take a survey or join your waitlist.
7. Back everything up with social proof
No one wants to be marketed or sold to. Use their own words to build trust. There are two loops that you can leverage when using social proof to market your course — the pre-launch loop and advocate loops. Let others sell your course for you. There is nothing better than others recommending your course. Social is so powerful.
Create a Google Doc where you can save screenshots and links for social proof. Then you won’t have to go looking for it when you need it.
The Pre-Launch Loop:
During pre-launch you can leverage social proof like the # of people who have registered for your course, revenue numbers, and testimonials from excited people.
Testimonials are the ultimate accelerator for your future course launch. The Disco Trust Flywheel illustrates how the advocates you create will be your #1 marketing tool and the ultimate accelerant to your long-term success.
Ideas on places to leverage social proof:
Thread on Twitter with all testimonials in one-place
Showing the real-thing is everything.
Get testimonials and other forms of social proof from friends, beta testers, and early adopters. Emphasize them on your website, pricing page, and marketing materials. Message learners who have completed your course for testimonials. Showing the real thing is everything. Show screenshots from emails link directly to the Twitter testimonial. Testimonials will be your ultimate accelerant to building trust with your audience.
Engage your friends, network and family to help promote your course during launch. This could include also having them join communities you're promoting to give it that little boost.
8. Building in Public
"Building in Public" means sharing daily updates around your progress, decisions, learnings, and social proof openly on your social channels. Twitter is amazing for doing this. To be great at it, consistency is key and offering valuable behind-the-scenes insights. It's a great way to collect real-time feedback as you build your course.
Source: Shaan Puri: ‘Behind-The-Scenes of my first course (numbers included)’
Think about how you can share progress as it happens.
Can you make metrics publicly available - traffic, registrants, revenue?
You can also leverage this approach in communities like IndieHackers.
Pin the updates to your course on your Twitter file to keep your audience up to date on progress, learnings and everything in between.
9. Leverage the "Association Principle"
Think of opportunities to "date up" your marketing and build your brand through association with leaders in your industry. For example, can you interview guest experts in your field as a way of bringing value to your audience and building your email list? Can recruit guest mentors, coaches and hosts for your course that could you promote on your channels and have them share?
Make it easy for people to share your content. DM them with a link to the Tweet. Send them proper sized images and sample caption text that they can use when posting. Whatever you can do to simplify and make it easier.
10. Use events and content as magnets
Think about the free resources that you can offer that give people value and a taste of your expertise before pushing your course to the audience. This could include weekly live streams, curated collections, small eBooks, and templates.
Think about how you can create hundreds of opportunities for discovery vs. just 1 ‘big’ one
Webinars and livestreams:
Webinars can be extremely effective in growing your email list and getting people's interest. Consider how you can leverage lean-methods like Facebook Live and YouTube Live. If you go this route, be sure to share a link if you are using those channels to move them to your channels (e.g newsletter signups or website)
AMAs and learning sessions (hosted by you and guest experts)
Connecting around a specific topic
Casual mixers for community building
Discussing industry trends
Get creative like crafting events and hackathons
11. Create a simple referral program
A simple referral program can go a long ways in helping you recruit incredible people for your next cohort. Think through different ways you can incentivize registrants and people in your network to invite people to apply to your course.
This could include a monetary value. For example, we offered $250 to people who were accepted into the Disco Accelerator if they could refer someone else who got accepted. It could also be in the form of merch or other valuable tools/resources.
You should also think about how you can get organic referrals from your newsletter, course, and other offerings. We love this template for Dave Gerhardt.
Source: Dave Gerhardt, Laws of Copywriting
12. After your launch:
Keep building your audience. It’s your greatest advantage over the long-term.
Provide people with a behind-the-scenes look at the happenings in your course.
Keep up a landing page up to continue to collect emails for future cohorts.
Check-in with your audience and find ways to showcase learner transformations.
Collect feedback and testimonials from learners to include in future marketing materials (e.g landing page, FAQ, social and emails)
Before you know it, It’s time for relaunch!
Podcasts, articles and case studies
with the founder of ZenCourses.