First, let’s just get it out in the open. Very few people are going to create and offer an online course without some kind of ROI. (…uhh, yeah, you know that’s “Return on Investment” in biz speak, right?)
-> Sometimes the ROI you’re after is more validated emails on your list…
-> Sometimes your ROI is to entice people to plunk minimal $$ down and enter your sales funnel on their way to bigger and greater things…
-> Sometimes your ROI is a lot of quick sales at a high price point…
-> Sometimes it’s to keep the entry level clients at bay so you can focus on the juicy, advanced clients who keep your flame burning…
-> And sometimes it’s to build a premium product that that will under gird your entire business.
Even if you’re not worried about selling your course – in other words, even if it’s free – you are still selling your course in one form or another. You’re selling them on clicking the button, you’re selling them on taking their time to take another course, you’re selling them on you and your expertise.
Regardless of your reasons for selling your course there are best practices – rules of thumb, if you will – that you’ll want to do to ensure that it sells as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.
1st – Nail That Topic
You can’t get around it. You’ve got to come up with the hottest topic you’ve got in your arsenal. It’s got to be right on target. It’s got to make people so excited for your course they’re going to open their wallet right up and give you their money. Get this wrong, and you can just forget it.
There are a number of ways to make sure you’ve nailed your course topic. Take a look (again?) at Finding that Sweet Spot: How to Choose the Perfect Course Topic for Your Clients for some great tips.
But to cut to the chase, let me just say that the key in landing on the absolute right topic is not sexy, it’s not magic. It’s basically about listening and listening and listening some more.
Engage potential customers. Ask lots of questions. Really seek to understand. Listen for where the energy goes up. Listen for what draws people in – and what falls flat. This is the juicy work of needs assessment.
Then what? Check if you’ve got it right… If you have a decent list, start a poll. Get on your Facebook list. Propose your finalists and listen to what people have to say. (Oh, did I mention about the whole listening thing?)
Yes, I know you’re thinking you won’t really know which of your final ideas will sell until people take out their wallets and actually buy… but you can’t really pull a Tim Ferris on this one.
(You heard of this? It’s when he would test out product ideas by putting out a sales page and then, once someone “bought” his not-yet-made product he’d reply with a “sorry, out of stock” email. Check out the The 4-Hour Work-Week.)
But online courses don’t go out of stock. Right.
Now, you could reply with an email fessing up to your scheme and offering that person a wonderful price/life-time access and your next born child. But that feels kind of sleazy, doesn’t it? Personally I’m not going to endorse it but if you’re fine with it – go for it. Test out a couple of your course ideas and see if any of them fly.
2nd – Take a Pass on the Presell
Now that you’ve got your topic and your title nailed down, should you presell? This is different from pulling a Tim Ferris when you’re basically split-testing different topics and titles. No, this is when you package up your title and description and sales page and ask your audience who’d like to get in early (with some bennies, of course). And they pay for it.
Now, I have nothing but admiration for those who are so certain about their course that they can presell it. But I don’t advocate that approach – unless you are absolutely sure what your course is going to entail – unless you’re positive your promises are going to be met.
Not many people can pull this off – especially if you’re relatively new to your business or your topic.
It’s just too common to march into the course creation process only to see it morph into something a little different or seep in a different direction, almost as if by magic. If you’re a book author you might have experienced it yourself. Sometimes it’s not until you’re in the thick of it – creating your content – when your ideas start taking turns for themselves and what you end up with isn’t exactly what you had planned.
If that’s you, own it that this is the way you work and this is the way your creativity unfolds.
And don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. In other words, if this is you, DO NOT PRESELL!
3rd – Leave Time for Copy, Copy, and More Copy
Whether you officially launch and then shut down sales at a certain date or leave your course up for open enrollments, your marketing copy is going to be critical:
- Your email sequence….
- Your landing page….
- Your pre-launch content….
It takes writing chops to get this stuff right and plennnnnty of time. So be sure to give this a robust amount of time in your schedule.
(Don’t have it? Push out your launch date and take the time to make your copy sing.)
And before drafting be thorough in gathering all the words and phrases that you’ve been hearing as you’ve been testing your course content and topic and title.
(Look through your comments and Facebook groups and emails and reflect on face-to-face client interactions.)
- How do they talk about the issues or the problems they’re having that would drive you to your course?
- How do they talk about the solution they want?
You’re going to end up talking about these things over and over again. It’ll feel like you’re a broken record, so don’t stop with collecting just a few phrases. Keep going until you’ve exhausted everything you have.
4th – Make Sure Your Students Get Tremendous Value
As an instructional designer I can’t let this one go. It’s not enough to have a great course topic, a great title, and great copy. You also, obviously need a great course. You need a course that people talk about. That they want to share.
“Oh, if you’re doing X, you absolutely NEED to take this course!”
In other words, it needs to be referable. This means giving people a great experience. Then giving them more. It means your course is absolutely delighting them. It’s making them think, “Wow, this is great stuff! I can’t believe I [fill-in-the-blank] before without knowing this stuff!”
They should be so excited about it that they’re dying to share your course with others. They should be clamoring for an affiliate program. They should be nagging you about when your next launch is so that their friends/colleagues can take your course.
If you get there, you’ve reached ecourse nirvana.
This is the place every ecourse creator longs to get to.
And Finally… Remember that in the end, it’s a Mind Game
If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you know that so much of sales is a mind game. Yes, you may have a financial target for your launch that you want to hit, but…
Your energy, your focus, and your thoughts are best spent on the things that you can do to make this a successful course.
In other words, what can you control?
This isn’t a trick question. We’ve already covered 4 of them:
1 – Really nail your topic
2 – Don’t fall to the presale temptation (unless you’re really ready for it)
3 – Pour your heart and soul into your copy – and give yourself ample time to work on it
4 – Make sure your students are getting tremendous value – and then some.
If you can get these down – congratulations – you’re ahead of the pack.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!
How? Below in the comments, on my Facebook page, or on my contact form.
Best of luck to you! As always, let me know if I can help. Happy course creation!