Online courses offer a great way for businesses to share their expertise with their audience. Through an online course, you can:
- Establish yourself as an expert in your field and draw new people to your business
- Build a closer relationship with existing customers or potential customers
- Create high-quality content that can earn you further profits
- Learn even more about your target market through running online courses for them
- Help people who need it with your expertise
A great deal of work goes into creating and running an online course. So, how do you make sure that all this effort doesn't go to waste?
Here are the five key elements that create an outstanding course that's guaranteed to sell.
1. Your Course Should Solve a Real Problem
If your course has a specific problem it solves for your target audience, it's sure to sell. Your audience members are suffering or are blocked by some type of obstacle. If you have a method they can implement to remove this block, kill this pain, face this challenge, or solve this problem, your course will offer great value to your audience.
Keep in mind that I didn't say “problems.” A good online course focuses on only one problem and offers a solution. It should be straightforward and as simple as possible, while still getting the job done.
For example, you might have a simple technique you've used to balance the family budget. You've never heard of anyone using this method before and it creates a way of easily working out your family finances. You can create a course that teaches this one unique method.
Or, through your business, you might have expertise that others could use. Maybe you have a stress-free process for managing social media that you think would be helpful for other businesses who use social media. You can create a course that teaches this one specific technique.
It's important that you don't try to solve every problem and you don't offer a plethora of solutions or you'll overwhelm your audience. The key is that they can learn your method, implement it, and see results. If you find yourself with multiple problems or solutions, pick one for this course and save the others for the next few courses.
How do you know what problems your audience face? Do some market research and try to discover the most pressing problem they're facing now. Is there something you know about and can help with? If so, you already have the topic for your first online course.
2. Give Your Audience a Reason To Take Your Course
You might have an excellent solution to your audience's problem, but you still must sell your course to them. You must give them clear reasons to take your course and make sure that these reasons are communicated.
You need to have clear learning objectives so that each prospective student knows what they will get out of the course. This communicates to them the value of the course and helps them picture the result they'll get out of taking it.
The learning objective for a course that teaches how to easily set a family budget might say, “By the end of this course, you will be able to set a simple budget for each member of your family which provides for painlessly paying off your debts while enjoying life.”
The social media management course above might have a learning objective like this: “By the time you finish this course, you will be able to double the engagement on your social media channels while spending only 30 minutes per day on social media.”
With reasons like this, the prospective buyer can clearly imagine what his or her life will be like after the course is finished. They know whether the course is right for them or not.
These benefits need to be published anywhere you're selling your course. Try as much as possible to emphasize how your course differs from similar courses that might be on the market. A good way to drive home benefits is to explain concretely how your unique method for solving the problem saves the person money, time, or effort. Give them concrete benefits they can feel.
3. Relevant Course Content
For a course to be successful, it needs to be easily digestible. It needs to be organized in a logical way and all the content needs to be relevant to the learning objectives.
Think of it this way: Your course leads the participant from Point A to Point B. At Point A, they are struggling with the problem your course seeks to solve. The course leads them step-by-step to solving this problem, solving each small problem along the way. At Point B, the end of the course, they have either solved the problem already or they're fully prepared to take the next step and solve it.
The way this is done is to break the task down into modules. Each module tackles one task or problem they should deal with along the way. Each module is then broken down into steps. At the end of each module is a learning activity where the participant completes a task to get them closer to the goal.
If you have a course on researching competitors, for example, it might look something like this:
- Module 1: The benefits of researching your competitors
- Module 2: Identifying your competitors
- Module 3: Identifying your competitors' customers
- Module 4: Analyzing your competition
- Module 5: Comparing yourself to the competition
- Module 6: Next steps – Taking action on what you've discovered
Every single element in the course should be focused on the end goal. If there's anything not completely relevant, trim it out. If it's information you think the participant could use, provide a link where they can learn more. If your course gets unwieldy and you have more than 5-7 modules, consider creating two or more separate courses. If the course loses focus, your participants will too.
4. A Marketing and Promotion Strategy for Your Course
A good online course needs to have a solid marketing and promotion plan in place. There are many online courses available on the internet and you need to set yours apart and communicate its unique value to your potential students. You also need to develop a strategy for getting the word out about your course.
A marketing strategy includes:
- Marketing content that clearly communicates the unique value of your course, including, as mentioned above, a clear message of the benefits your participants will receive.
- SEO traffic strategies to drive potential leads to your site, where you have this messaging in place. This could include organic search SEO, social media marketing, blogging, video marketing, guest blogging, and other tactics.
- Effective sales funnels that start with a lead magnet to draw leads into the funnel. It enables communication with the lead and builds a relationship with them, making offers along the way.
An example of a marketing strategy is to offer a lead magnet and drive traffic to the magnet's sales page. You would then offer the free download in exchange for the person's name and email address. The lead magnet is closely related to your online course, so you know that if they've downloaded it, this means they're interested.
Once the person is on your list, you can send them helpful content on a regular basis to build a relationship with them. Also through email marketing, you can learn more about the person to determine whether they will benefit from your online course. You can offer exclusives like webinars and free content to assess whether they're interested. Then, advertise your course to your list members, and you'll see them sign up.
As leads travel through to the narrow end of your sales funnel, you will have qualified them well, so that it's almost a guarantee that they'll sign up for your course when it's offered.
5. Your Course Should Improve with Feedback
An online course isn't finished when you put the finishing touches on it and get ready for launch. You'll constantly improve your course by getting feedback from your participants and making improvements.
For example, you might survey your participants when they leave and ask whether they found the course helpful. You can then ask them to explain what was helpful and what wasn't.
If you find that several participants felt the course wasn't interactive enough, you can make the next course more interactive. If your participants say that they wish you'd covered a certain topic, or if there was a step along the way that they struggled with, you can focus more on that or add it to the next course.
It can be tough to hear feedback sometimes, especially negative feedback. But keep in mind, negative feedback is the most valuable kind because it shows you the weak points. Try to get as much honest feedback as possible and use this data to make changes to your next course.
Through your feedback, you might also discover new online course ideas. A participant might reveal to you an area where they’re struggling related to your course, and you can then add this to your idea list.
Online courses offer a great way to help you build your expertise and turn a profit. If done correctly, they can be extremely profitable. But you learn by launching your first course and collecting feedback, so why not get started today?