As the world continues to realize the benefits of online courses, new courses continue to be created and launched. This means course creators are faced with rising competition – just consider this: the total number of MOOCs at the end of 2017 was 9,400 - up from 6,850 in 2016.
In such a saturated market, the battle to stand out keeps rising. It’s not enough to build the perfect course anymore. You have to differentiate your offering clearly and attract the right audience to this offering. The more you set your course apart from the rest, the better a niche you can carve for yourself.
In this post, I’ll show you six ways you can differentiate your online course and get the attention and visibility you need to grow you business.
#1) Let Your Results Speak
The default market mechanism, in the case of increased competition, leads to declining price levels. The same is true for the eLearning industry, where online course creators brag about offering ‘cheap,’ and affordable courses.
However, knowledge and expertise is not a product that can be mass produced. Students are also not looking for the cheapest course online; what they truly want is learning and real results.
In order to differentiate yourself from other sellers, you must understand the reasons why people would want to take your course in the first place.
Focus on selling benefits, tangible results, and experience, rather than competing on the price or course content.
What results can people expect if they buy and implement your course? How will the knowledge acquired make people feel more fulfilled? What can you “promise” them?
Essentially, you’re trying to do one thing: Communicate your outcomes and transformations in a crystal clear way. It’s about how you will change people's life, not about how you look or what your course covers.
Note: What you communicate in your marketing campaigns and sales page will depend on what your audience is actively seeking. If they are looking to position themselves for a raise or promotion, you’ll want to highlight that.
#2) Go Above And Beyond For Your Students
As we mentioned in the previous point, your students are not only looking up to you for subject expertise only – but how your knowledge can improve/change their lives in a certain way.
In order to differentiate yourself from other online course creators, you need to go above and beyond to connect with your students. Cliché, but true! You have to do more for them than they expect. Go above and beyond to make sure their needs are met and that they're satisfied and that they achieve the transformation they desired and paid for.
A sure way to stand out is to create a unique learning environment. This approach works because modern students want more than just information, they want experiences. If you don't have an active community or design your course considering how people learn, you’ll have a hard time to stay engaged and buy more products.
Here are some things you can start doing:
- Build an active community: Just creating an awesome course, with great content and great graphics is no longer enough to retain your students or attract new ones, you have to build a thriving community where students feel supported and guided to accomplish their initial goal. This is vital in the context of learning, where an instructor has to encourage healthy discussion in order to boost understanding amongst students. Encouraging discussion threads, and even posing questions can help students relate, and familiarize themselves, with the course creator. Be it social media discussion, or asking members to like or up-vote different suggestions, community building can help your brand stand out by instilling a sense of loyalty among your students.
- Create micro-commitments: Create micro-modules, and each of these modules should have a specific set of learning objectives which defines the purpose of that experience and its outcome. Additionally, defining the takeaways at the end of each module can convey to the students exactly what they can expect – leaving no room for them to doubt the credibility or reliability of your course.
- Expose tangible deliverables: Make sure your course activities are exercises are designed to have a tangible deliverable, one that would likely be used in the real world and has significant relevance to student’s life.
- Build accountability: You can create accountability in your course by simple actions such as sending reminder emails before upcoming milestones or assignment submission deadlines. This accountability will motivate students to keep up with the coursework.
#3) Ascertain Your Unique, Selling Proposition (USP)
Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) should be well defined, and ingrained in your course, as it is the most crucial factor differentiating you from your competitors.
For this, there are specific questions that you need to ask yourself, such as:
- Why should anyone take your course?
- What does your course offer that not any other course does?
Many well-renowned online course creators, much like speakers and coaches, derive their USP from their personality. Take Seth Godin and Martha Stewart; they both have persona-driven brands.
Why? Because that is their USP. In turn, their brands reflect their personality, their passion for the field, and their individual views.
While your USP doesn’t have to be something out of the box, you have to ensure that it is something that remains true to who you are.
#4) Your USP Should Align with Your Audience
The core focus of your business should be your consumers, i.e., your course participants.
When determining what sets you apart – whether it’s your personality or how you have built a community – you must align your USP with the needs of your clients.
For instance, if your course revolves around baking, then opting for an aggressive and fiery personality (for example, Gary Vaynerchuk) is not going to be successful. Why? Because it does not align with your audience.
In other words, the one, main factor that differentiates you from your competitors should be aligned with what would benefit them the most – not what you think is right.
Also, take note: If you niche down, you have the opportunity to market how your course is different – and better - than your competition.
#5) Create An Engaging User Experience
The key to success for online courses is to focus on the students and make their learning process enjoyable and easy.
The eLearning boom has led to an abundance in the number of courses being created. Topics that were once considered niche subjects now feature tens, or even hundreds, of online courses. In such a competitive atmosphere, online course creators need to understand how adults learn best, and what type of format and structure increases course comprehension.
If your course is streamlined into easy, consumable components, not only will it improve comprehension, but also more students will complete the course, meaning more students will achieve the results they desire and paid for, therefore benefiting the online course creator (you!) through increased referrals, high satisfaction levels and great reviews on your site!
It is your role to present the right amount of information in an exciting way. Recording some videos, uploading them to a platform and calling it a day is not enough! From a tidy course layout to reduced content overload, to a frictionless navigation experience, every step can enhance the student experience.
In order to ensure a world-class student experience, you need to ensure that you dedicate enough time strategizing your course. It's not only about technology as many people use to think. There's not a technology solution you can throw at it and say, "Boom, boom, I'm done. I'm gonna have rabid success." I actually believe it’s 75% strategy, 25% technology. An unorganized and content-laden course is likely to confuse and frustrate students.
#6) Reward Your Students
Course completion is a special event that deserves to be celebrated – for many students, it might signal the beginning of a new journey or the opportunity to showcase their achievements to the world and get recognized. This is why a little touch of humility and acknowledgment can set you apart from other course creators they might have previously taken.
You can reward completion in the form of digital badges and certificates. These can be set up so that students receive the badge or certificate when they have finished the course.
Moreover, you can also use badges to shape user behavior during the course. For instance, issue a badge after achieving a certain level in a quiz, for completing certain course activities, or if you want your students to participate actively, reward the most active users. Not only will this make engaged students feel “seen,” but it will also encourage less active students to increase their engagement.
Such actions encourage students to take part in your ‘community,’ and foster an environment that promotes course completion, and engagement.
So what are you doing to differentiate your online course? What are some strategies you are using to stand out from your competition?