This is a guest post from one of our Digital Dining Room members, Abe Crystal of ruzuku.com.

If there’s one question we hear at ruzuku over and over again, it’s, “How do I effectively market and promote my online course?”

Fundamentally? Marketing your course is STILL marketing. You’ve got to address the same challenges you do when marketing a service, coaching package, or product: build attention, interest, desire, and action in your prospective customers. You DO need to take into account the unique structure, timeline, and value proposition of your course, and create marketing campaigns that support it. Here are 10 tips that Tea shared recently with our audience — tips that can help you market your next online course effectively.

1. Know Your Audience – We get it — you already have an idea of who your course is for, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. The question is, have you gone deep enough? Is your understanding of your audience, and the focus of your course, SPECIFIC enough to market effectively? David Garland says your audience focus and course topic should be “laser specific.” Is yours? Start by asking yourself questions about the people you serve. What do they need? What do they want? What are they willing to pay for? Also – where do they spend their time online? These are all important considerations when thinking about your course. Other equally important questions: when are they online, or better yet, are they online at all? THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. Create a target persona, name her, and update her regularly. Don’t just rely on your memory for this step. Anything and everything you create from now on should target this persona that you have created.

2. The course marketing cycle takes longer than you think. Start the conversation about your course at least 3 to 6 months before you’re ready to launch. You want to be writing blog posts (for both your blog AND other relevant ones) that address the various issues of your course. In fact, your course topics should be the core message of at least 50% of your marketing efforts. Ensure that your guest blog posts lead to an effective landing page on your site, customized for each blog if possible. Here’s an example of a guest post and matching customized landing page.

Be sure to let folks know (in the author’s bio of your guest post) that you’re building or opening up a course for registration in a few months and that if this topic interests them, they should subscribe to your mailing list for updates. (And create a mailing list or segment specifically for people interested in that upcoming course, so you can send them emails that build on their interest and motivation to take the course). Finally, don’t be discouraged if your first class doesn’t generate massive interest and sales. You’ve gotta build your reputation over time. Plus, the first version of your course often isn’t perfectly aligned with what people are really looking for and willing to pay for — version 2.0 will be much better, as you get feedback and ideas from running the course.

3. Remember the Rule of 7. When you’re ready to open up registration, you’ll need to give people a heads up at least 7 to 10 times. That means (approximately) 3 to 5 emails dedicated entirely to your class (not thrown in as a sidebar in your newsletter); plus another 3 to 5 posts on each social media channel you’re present on. Share this with your online groups. People forget easily — even when it’s something they want and need. For maximum effectiveness, spread this out over a few weeks.

4. Enlist the help of your peers and colleagues. Ask those in your inner circle to help you spread the word. Marketing something you care about is always more effective when you have assistance in doing so. If you don’t have an inner circle yet, start now to cultivate one! That means joining or creating a mastermind, a blogging group or other small team of peers. You want to have people who believe in you and your materials and who will help you share them when it’s time. Joint webinars are another powerful technique for building your network. Put together a series of free webinars over a few weeks in which you interview peers and colleagues, and bring their best ideas your audience. Do everything you can to promote their expertise and work, so that they’ll consider doing the same for you. Webinars are also perfect venues for allowing people to “see you in action.” (Or, hear your voice if you can’t stream live video). It’s almost as effective as in-person speaking engagements — a great way to help build a personal connection with your audience.

5. Create engagement with your topic beforehand. This goes beyond simple conversations into fun things like contests. Have folks share their #1 question about your topic on your blog and then choose a select few from those comments to receive free tuition, bonus content etc. Interactions like these are invaluable in getting folks to self-select and buy-in to your offering before they actually BUY it. You want to get as many people raising their hand beforehand saying, “Yes, this matters to me.”

6. Testimonials are KEY. If this is your first time doing the class, you’ll need to use testimonials from other classes, programs, or services. The other alternative is doing a beta-test at a reduced rate and getting testimonials from this initial group of testers. Your classes will naturally need to evolve and grow anyway so it’s always a good idea to test out the curriculum and how it flows for people before you go whole hog with marketing. Either way, you need real people using and reviewing your products in order to add legitimacy. Consider offering incentives, such as bonus content, for those who write a testimonial on your behalf.

7. Be sure your sales page talks about benefits, not just features. What will they learn and why does that matter? What will they get out of taking your class? For example, your class might include transcripts of all the videos or webinars (which is a feature). The benefit of having transcripts could be that material can be reviewed easily at a later date. Your students can relax, knowing that you’ve taken into account different learning styles so they can reinforce the watching/listening with reading and note taking. If they’re learning something more concrete, like a programming language, be sure to include that in your sales page! The promise of a “Certificate of Completion” adds legitimacy to your course, even if your students can complete the class in their bed!

8. Include evidence of measurable results (if possible). Confidence is a feeling. And that is definitely a possible result. But have your students taken that new found confidence and actually done something with it? You’ll want to always strive for sharing tangible and measurable results with potential customers whenever possible. So build this into your curriculum and follow up with students 3 to 6 months after they complete your course to see if things have changed, and if they are doing anything exciting with the knowledge they learned in your course — you’ll be surprised!

9. Offer a solid guarantee. Your course isn’t and shouldn’t be for everyone. Let people know they’re safe and have a way out if it isn’t their cup of tea. A 30-day money back guarantee can make the difference between customers buying or not buying into your course.

10. Stay positive with your message. Instead of focusing solely on your client’s current pain points, paint a positive picture of what is possible if they take your course. Make them aware of the potential benefits of the course, whether tangible or not. Your positivity itself should sell the course. (Which isn’t to say you that you shouldn’t acknowledge the pain — just don’t dwell on it.) Of course, this list isn’t a road map to guaranteed success. You’ll still need to consider things like timing, pricing and what’s going on in your prospective student’s life. You’ll also want to be sure you create the best learning experience possible (so you can build on your success in a future offering).

Are you teaching an online course (or considering teaching one)? If so, have you found anything to be specifically helpful in marketing (and filling) your courses? Or, maybe you’ve got a specific question we can work on together? We’d love to hear from you in a comment below.

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