One of the hardest parts of teaching online is getting students to discover and join your courses. Even if you are on a platform with a few million users like Udemy, you still have to do a lot of marketing for your online courses. In fact, you can’t rely on anyone else to do it for you. So where do you start?
If you already have a blog with active readership or a decent twitter following, or even better an active email newsletter with subscribers, your job is a lot easier because you’ve already done a lot of the hard work. You just need to design an active promotion campaign targeting these readers. This can be done using coupon codes, which Siminars, Udemy and Skillshare all offer as part of their platforms. Creating an outbound email campaign highlighting your course and giving a special discount to your readers is a great way to start.
Free Promotional Courses
But what if you don’t have readers, or if you do, are just starting to establish your business of selling courses online? One of the best things you can do is to offer a free teaser course to start building an email subscriber list. Siminars makes this easy to do, as you can download and even pipeline the email addresses of students to your email campaign managers like MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact. You simply create a free course, and offer it up on your website as an introduction to your content, then promote your paid courses to these users.
Udemy and Skillshare make this slightly harder because they do not give you the ability to download or even access your student emails. However, there is a decent work around to this problem if your elearning content is on one of these two sites. You simply need to create a coupon at a $0 final price, and make it available to people on your website, blog or twitter feed after they subscribe to your email newsletter. You can use a WordPress Email Capture plug-in or you can use a tool like MailChimp to capture an email and send the coupon code to the user as their first message. This is a little higher friction but still works to build your user base.
However, this approach is a long and gradual one, and you’ll have to keep promoting your course through additional means. Perhaps the most significant of these is to get professional reviews of your course from “domain experts” who blog about the topic on other sites. Again, the coupon codes come in handy here; simply create a free access option to your course and provide it to the evaluators. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will actually go through with the evaluation, or give your course a glowing review, but a solid set of reviews can go along way to building traffic to your own website, from where you can up-sell your other courses.
The last, and most direct way to gain students in through affiliate programs. In a sense, Udemy and Skillshare behave as affiliates, but they are promoting many other courses to a wide audience. Your course could get lost in the noise. A better option is to find affiliates who already target your desired, specific audience either through a blog or newsletter of their own. But affiliates basically expect a cut of the final sale price for promoting your course. If you are using a site that doesn’t support third party affiliates, then your work is much more difficult, because you’d need to find a way to manually track and pay your resellers which is hard for you and often a non-starter for the affiliate. There’s also the issue of how to find your affiliates.
Both these problems are solved by the grand-daddy of affiliate marketing sites, ClickBank. With ClickBank, you can list your course and set the sales price. Then you can set the revenue share to the affiliate. All of this then is listed in a browsable catalog where affiliates can find your course, but you’ll probably want to take the pro-active step of finding affiliates who already serve your target demographic using ClickBank’s “Affiliate Finder” feature.
To be successful on ClickBank you need to provide your affiliates with a set of tools to make promoting your course easy. You’ll want to give them a great, pre-written sales pitch for your course, a handful of images and professional looking graphics, and a sample pitch page for them to review. You’ll also need to set your affiliate commission rate for your course. To get the best affiliates, you’ll need to set it at about 50% of the final price, but more than just the revenue share, if your course is appealing to students, then it will “convert” more. More conversions means you’ll generate more sales for the affiliates, which will make your online course list higher in ClickBanks product offerings to affiliates.
Siminars has direct ClickBank integration built in, allowing for a direct click-through to sign-up, and allowing affiliates to track their sales from pitch-to-payment. This is your easiest option, though you will need to contact Siminars directly to set it up, as they do not have an automated method for ClickBank listing. We’re told that this is because the Siminars customer service team wants to help walk course creators through the affiliate creation process to ensure the best converting programs. While we appreciate that level of service, for those who are already skilled at affiliate promotions it would be nice if they offered an self-managed option.
With Udemy and Skillshare using ClickBank is a little more difficult. It seems as if they want to automate and manage affiliates in their own tools, so direct listing on ClickBank is difficult. You can do something similar to the subscriber building free course mentioned above: have a free coupon to Udemy available at the end of the purchase flow on ClickBank. The risk here is that you could end up with a higher refund rate because it’s not integrated. Also there is the risk that ClickBank won’t approve your course for listing, for example if the payment confirmation isn’t clearly showing how the user gets to the coupon.
However, as said above, you really can’t just expect “build it and they will come” to work for you. As more and more online courses appear in the search results and course catalogs, you’ll need to take an active part in promotion. The lucky thing is that there are a lot more promotion tools available than ever before.