Learning how to sell an online course requires you to create an online presence and provide value to your ideal customer profile. You’ll also need to craft your messaging so that when you write copy, it speaks directly to your avatar. Successful course creators use sales funnels to help sell more products and services.
1. Create Your Ideal Client Avatar
An ideal client avatar is another way of saying customer profile, or a dream client based on demographics, backgrounds, hobbies, and interests. Before selling online courses, you need to know who you’re marketing to. When you craft your message, you’ll speak directly to your ideal client avatar. This way, your dream client will feel as though your course is made specifically for them.
The two most important elements of a customer profile are knowing what motivates your avatar and how your business solves a problem they’re having. The ideal client avatar for your online course might be identical to your business’ dream client, but that’s not always the case. For example, if your business works with deployed parents, you can hone your niche even further in a course by offering one specifically for single moms who are deploying, or for grandparents who are watching their grandchildren while parents are deployed.
If you’re creating a course specifically meant for children of these parents who are deployed, that doesn’t mean your dream client is a child. That’s who the course is for, but that’s not the person who’s actually making the course purchase. This distinction is important to consider when you start to formulate your messaging.
2. Gather Testimonials
Before you begin to craft your messaging, you should gather testimonials from current clients about the work that you do. One of the best ways to do this is to incentivize your customers—you can enter each person who gives testimonial into a drawing to win a gift card, for example. Before using any client testimonials or comments, be sure you have explicit permission to do so. Depending on the nature of your course, you may want to use initials rather than a person’s full name for privacy.
If you have a client who wants to provide a testimonial but isn’t sure what to write, you can provide a template for your client. Typically, this template will ask questions such as, “Where were you before you started working with me, where are you now, and what results did you achieve by working with me?” You could then put their answers into a cohesive testimonial and send it over to them for approval before posting it publicly.
3. Craft Your Messaging
Keeping with the military childcare center example, let’s say you know that involved parents help establish better long-term outcomes with children at your facility. You’re creating a course for deployed parents who want to be involved with their children while deployed.
Your childcare center’s ethos is to help children learn, play, and grow. To tie this into your course’s objective, you’ll need to involve the parent. The messaging that you use on your sales page needs to speak specifically to how you’re going to help that deployed parent’s child have the best possible outcome.
The Story Selling Method
There’s an old saying in sales, which is “everybody loves to buy, but nobody loves to be sold.” What this means is that people love to shop, but no one likes to be told what to buy. The best way to sell through your messaging is to answer every objective your avatar might have in the sales copy but to do it through storytelling. Some copywriters like to call this story selling.
For example, let’s say that two common objections as to why someone won’t buy your course are time and money. In your sales copy, you can share a story about how you were working full time, going to school full time, and caring for three children as a single parent when you first got started in your industry.
You didn’t have time but spent a few minutes every evening refining your craft until you got great at it. You also struggled to afford the courses and tools necessary to learn what you need, but you started decluttering your home and came up with enough money to purchase what you needed by selling your excess stuff.
Each of these stories addresses objections as to why someone can’t buy your course. Instead of hard-selling, you’re using a story to sell for you.
The Hook, Story & Offer Method
Russell Brunson, the creator of ClickFunnels, teaches a method called Hook, Story, and Offer. The hook is the first part of any message you’re sharing, whether a social media post or your sales page. A hook grabs the attention of your audience and makes them want to continue reading what you have to say.
An example of an online marketer who did really well with her hook is Natalie Hodson, who is a fitness blogger. She was on a live video with another wildly popular fitness guru when she peed her pants doing a workout. Deciding to take the embarrassing moment in stride, she used it as her hook. With still shots from the video, the hook she uses in her sales page is that she peed herself while filming a workout with Drew Manning.
After using that hook, she goes into the story about how exactly it transpired for her. She admitted this happened often after having children and was mortified despite it being very common with postpartum moms. The story she tells is relatable to her client avatar, who are moms struggling with diastasis recti and a weak pelvic floor.
Once the story is over, she talks about how she partnered with a doctor to help combat these issues. Together, she and the doctor created “Abs, Core, and Pelvic Floor,” which is a book meant to address the problems her avatar faces. In four months, they sold over 60,000 books—earning more than seven figures doing so.
Your hook and story don’t have to be embarrassing to be effective. Someone selling a real estate course can have a hook that says, “I bought my first three investment properties with no money to my name and with terrible credit.” That hook is intriguing and makes you want to listen to the story as to how they did this. After the story, the offer is to teach the avatar exactly how to do this in a course.
4. Share Messaging on Multiple Platforms
When you create your online course, no one will know about it unless you tell them. The best way to share your course is to talk about it on many different platforms. You can’t just do this once and expect a flood of sales. You’ll have to continually nurture the platforms you post on by providing value and occasionally asking for a sale.
Starting a blog provides an opportunity to showcase your expertise in your niche. Your blog posts serve as a way to give your avatar a taste of what it’s like to work with you. When you provide tremendous value in your blog posts, readers are more likely to want to buy your course.
There are many different ways to engage an audience on social media. This includes creating static posts or using stories, which disappear after 24 hours. You can also produce videos or record yourself live on your social media platforms. Each social media post you make should have a call to action, such as encouraging your audience to comment below or subscribe to your channel. Posting regularly can help build your expertise, authority, and trust—which in turn, can create more course sales.
You don’t necessarily have to create your own podcast to deliver value and promote your online course. If you’re a guest expert on someone else’s podcast, typically you’ll have an opportunity to talk about what you’re promoting at the end. Podcasts are a great way to expose yourself to new audiences and sell more courses.
5. Create Attractive Graphics
If you use low-quality graphics, your avatar might think your course isn’t high quality. In turn, they’re not likely to purchase it. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create attractive graphics. There are a couple of excellent online, drag-and-drop graphic design tools.
Canva’s free version is more than sufficient to create graphics to use in your course, sales pages, and social media posts. You have access to stunning stock photos to use without needing to attribute them to the original photographer. If you have the premium version, you can upload your own fonts, magically resize your images, and access premium stock photos. The premium version costs $12.95 per month.
Another really popular graphic design tool is PicMonkey. It’s also drag and drop, so you can create graphics in just minutes. You’ll also find free stock photos and templates to use with the free version. If you get the premium version, you’ll have access to even more fonts and photo options. PicMonkey’s premium version costs $7.99 to $33.99 per month.
6. Use Email Marketing
When you’re posting on social media and securing interviews on podcasts, you’re creating opportunities for people to become part of your inner circle by subscribing to your email list. Typically, people offer a freebie in exchange for an email address. Freebies are also known as an opt-in or lead magnet, and it’s usually a cheat sheet or checklist. To collect emails, you’ll need an email service provider such as Constant Contact.
After you’ve added someone to your email list, you’ll set up what’s called a welcome sequence. This is a series of emails designed to help nurture your new relationship with your subscribers. Generally speaking, it’s a series of three to five emails that’ll tell more about what you do while providing tremendous value to your audience.
Periodically, you’ll send newsletters and broadcast emails to your list. It’s important not to spam your email list, and you should focus on creating value. For example, sending an email twice a day, five days a week for a month might be considered spamming.
Once you’ve established a great rapport with your email list, you can begin to make offers to your list every once in a while—including an offer to purchase your course. Many course creators find that a weekly newsletter is the perfect amount of emails to send. If you look at your email open rate and find that less than 10% of people open your emails, you may want to try sending your emails less frequently.
7. Create a Sales Funnel
A sales funnel is a way to describe your customer’s experience from initial discovery, the sales process, to after the sale. There are three essential elements to every sales funnel: how a client gets to the sales funnel, what they see on the sales funnel, and what happens after they make a purchase (or don’t).
Bring Potential Customers to Your Sales Funnel
To get potential customers to your sales funnel, you can bring them in through running ads on social media or Google. You don’t have to spend a lot on ads either. Just $5 per day is a great start. Potential customers can also discover you through podcast interviews and word-of-mouth referrals.
Provide Value Before Asking for a Sale
If you ask a potential customer to buy immediately after they first discover you, it’s not likely that they’ll buy your course. It’s similar to dating—you wouldn’t ask for someone’s hand in marriage on the first outing. You’ve got to date them a bit first. This is where you’re providing value—show your avatar exactly why they should want to buy from you through the value you provide.
You can invite your avatar to a webinar or a free workshop where you’ll teach something they want to know. Then it’s time to ask for the sale. You’ll want to make sure the offer you ask them to purchase at the end is related. If you’re teaching a webinar on how to make croissants, it doesn’t make sense to ask them to buy a course on writing your first novel.
Deliver Your Offer
Once the sale is made, your work isn’t done. You’ll have to deliver the course and provide customer service. If you don’t make the sale, you can continue to nurture that relationship through free content. There could be any number of reasons why your avatar doesn’t make a purchase. These include poor timing, lack of funds, or the offer itself.
After all, if you called up your neighbor and offered them an extra Ferrari you have lying around for just $10,000—you can bet they’d call all of their friends and relatives, trying to come up with liquid cash to make the purchase because it’s a no-brainer. Sales often work like that—your avatar will buy when they feel the value is worth more than the financial investment.
Bottom Line: How to Sell an Online Course
Marketing and selling your online course involves speaking to your ideal client avatar through multiple platforms. During these interactions, you will use a hook to draw them in, a story to engage them, and an offer to purchase your course. Meanwhile, you’re providing value through each outreach method you use.