Whether you already have some years in the online course business and are now wondering how to take the next step, OR you have a solid business where you’re looking to scale and ultimately dominate your market, this guide is for you.
In Client Engagement Academy we live, breathe, and create online courses. Using our data-driven and proven methodologies, we’ve helped dozens of clients scale fast and maximize their opportunities to get more customers, lower customer service costs, and increase the lifetime value of their customers. Now, I want to share some of this valuable advice with you!
I’ve divided this blog post into three easy-to-consume sections, to help you identify exactly what you need to optimize in your online course to maximize your profits and start creating your dream online business.
Building a world-class online course is only a small yet necessary part of the equation. Even if your content is very informative, practical, rewarding, and fantastic overall, it won’t sell itself. In the real world, you also need to market it. To make people click that purchase button, you’ll need to get a few things right.
The good news is that creating and selling a successful course is just a matter of following a proven process. If you do what we know works well, it’s only a matter of time until you have a solid, six, seven, or why not an eight-figure business.
1) Clearly communicate the TRANSFORMATION
If your course is missing this KEY aspect, I would be surprised if you’re making a decent amount of sales. Ultimately, your students are looking to buy a course for a reason: They want to solve a problem.
If they don’t clearly see how your offering will help them get a solution to it… I don’t think I need to explain what’ll happen.
A powerful transformation (where are you now and where will you be after you finish the course) provides direction, focus, and clear expectations. It motivates potential customers to not only purchase your course but also to complete it… because they desperately want the ideal outcome you are promising!
In your sales page and marketing efforts, make sure that you effectively communicate this message.
Ultimately, your students are looking to buy a course for a reason: They want to solve a problem.
2) What makes your course special?
In a sea of options, you need to make your course unique and different from what’s already there to help it stand out from the rest.
One of the main ways to make your course special is by sub-niching to a less competitive topic where there aren’t many courses. With this approach, it’s often easier to compete and connect deeply with a specific audience.
If you’re targeting a more popular and competitive topic that’s already been covered many times, you’ll need to explore creative options for delivering your content. It can be your level of expertise and a proprietary methodology only you teach, getting access to premium networking or community, or a combination of the two.
Get more ideas on how to differentiate your online course here.
3) Generate Trust
Students need to know they’re purchasing VALUE. If you’ve made the right promises and got the right message through, the last question they’ll have is:
Can your promises live up to their expectations?
Students want to be sure that your course will deliver results if they put in the work. To let them know that’s the case and to build trust, you should have a professionally looking website, and proof of your course’s results through testimonials. Add in digital badges to the mix, and you’ve got a very trustworthy recipe!
Promise a result and have testimonials to back it up - If you know your course can deliver the results as long as students put in the work, use that to motivate your students. Just make sure you have examples and powerful testimonials from past participants to back you up. Seeing past students achieve a result can push new students to put in the work so they can get similar results.
One of the main feelings that stop people from buying a course is the fear of wasting money.
As a course creator, it’s in your best interest to get rid of this feeling from customers. One of the best tactics to accomplish this is to offer a full or partial refund if the customer doesn’t reach a certain point in the course. (or if they aren’t satisfied)
In some cases, this tactic alone can multiply your sales by making it much easier for people to click that buy button.
Benefits of having a money-back guarantee:
- Less risk: A money-back guarantee completely eliminates the risk of wasting money, making purchase decisions easier to make. This is the most important benefit.
- More trust: The fact that money is on the line if quality doesn’t meet expectations tells prospects that you trust in the quality of your course.
- Makes you stand out: Would you rather get a course that you could regret purchasing or a course that, at worst, ends in a refund?
The next key element of creating a successful course is learning how to help your students complete it. Yes, you heard that right, completion rates matter! It’s not enough to just focus on selling your online course to thousands of people out there, if they are not completing them. Think about it, if they do not complete the course, they are not getting their desired outcomes, and if they do not achieve their goals, they probably won’t buy more from you or recommend you with their peers.
Besides, dropouts are more likely to negatively review your course, ask for refunds, and, as opposed to students who graduate, they usually don’t bring any additional income.
Graduates, on the other hand, often purchase more courses, recommend the course to others both online and through word of mouth, and ultimately result in a higher bottom-line.
You may feel that whether students complete your course or not is out of your control. And even though that’s often true, there’s a lot that you can do to reduce the number of dropouts and drastically increase your course’s success.
We’ve seen it again and again - making some small but strategic changes turns decently successful courses into courses that are killing it!
Here're some key actions you can take to boost online course completion rates:
1) Motivate your students by giving them choices
It takes effort, time, and discipline to complete a course from beginning to end. Yet, students do it all the time.
They do it because they have motivation. But sometimes life gets in the way, people forget, don’t have time or they simply lose interest in the course.
Have you asked yourself if there’s something you can do to motivate your students to complete the course and achieve their desired goals?
Your students’ motivation is, to a large extent, dependent on how you structure your content. This is what we call the Dual Client Pathway Algorithm – In short, it means we let students learn at their own pace with automated student accountability. If a student wants to follow a recommended pace of, say, one module per week, they can – and they will receive automated emails along the way that encourage them to stay on track. If they want to consume the course by completing one module a day or an hour, they can do that, too! And they will receive just the right number of automated emails based on our algorithm to guide them on their journey.
2) Application of content
To keep motivation levels high, making your students feel like they are progressing, and getting quick results is key. To do that, give them opportunities to apply the material they learn right away.
One way to do this is by quizzing students. For instance, you could add progress check-ins at the start of each lesson to give students that necessary push to move forward. If they can see how far they've come, they'll want to continue. Quizzes create benchmarks to verify students are retaining and understanding information and applying it appropriately. They encourage practice and help students apply their newly acquired knowledge. They help you PROVE to them that they’re learning and growing.
3) Encourage participation to increase completion rates
Participation directly affects students’ engagement and motivation. It’s one of the tools in the arsenal that you should use to help students complete your course.
Research shows that active learning has a significant impact on student success learning outcomes. That’s because we, humans, are wired to learn actively.
Other than being more effective than passive learning, there’s another benefit that’s just as important: It increases student satisfaction, and provides a better learning experience.
In today’s competitive course marketplace, having a course that nails this is key, especially in the more competitive niches. Without participation, I’m sorry, but it’s going to be hard to compete with other options that have vibrant communities that bring a lot of referrals, repeat students, incredible testimonials, and an overall better learning experience.
More participation and interaction in online courses lead to better learning outcomes. Specifically, more participation in an online course leads to higher student satisfaction, higher levels of perceived learning, and higher levels of actual learning. High participation in discussion is also key to business success.
Providing information alone is not enough for success in online education businesses. In order to carve out a profitable corner of the market, distinctive courses that create vibrant communities of learners with dialogue, conversation, and discussion are necessary to get repeat students, fantastic testimonials, expanding referrals, and increasing revenues.
Tips to increase participation:
- Create an online community: Online courses can feel lonely at times. By creating a community, you increase participation and engagement, instill a feeling of belonging - and consequently - the probability of student success.
- Gamify the experience: Turn content into fun challenges. You can also create a friendly competition by creating a point system and creating a public leader board. Gamification takes the pressure off of tests, which can help member confidence. After all, it makes everything into a game!
- Provide feedback: Feedback clears students’ doubts, creates human connection, and makes the learning experience more enjoyable and productive.
4) Use Digital Badges and Certificates
One of my favorite ways to motivate people to take action, enjoy the experience and get to the finish line are digital badges and certificates. Certification recognizes students for reaching specified levels of mastery to either practice or to teach others in certain subjects and bringing credibility to the course.
Learn all about using digital badges in your online courses here.
5) Decrease Friction
Did you know one of the biggest drivers of poor completion rates is complex navigation on a course? Devoid of a clear understanding of what the next step should be, students are left stranded and often resort to abandoning the course entirely.
Customers nowadays are more impatient than ever. They want everything now, and they want things to be easy. Having a poor interface that’s hard to navigate is one of the easiest ways to lose them. Not only is navigating with friction annoying, but it’s also a clear sign of low-quality or lack of professionalism.
Learning Friction is anything that slows your user down and stands in the way of your student getting that perfect learning outcome. It could be within the course’s content, it could be the technology platform, or even something as simple as the navigation of your site.
Have you noticed that your students get stuck at certain points in your course? In these points, there’s likely a lot of friction that’s preventing them from gliding through. Your goal is to minimize these friction points and maximize learning time. When you have that focus, that's when you're going to see the exponential ROI increases in your business.
By optimizing your course for excellent user experience, you are essentially providing learners with a chance to save time, complete your course, and get the outcomes they desire.
Upgrade and Upsell
Do you define success by selling more course to new students every month? I’ve got news for you: you’re leaving thousands of dollars on the table!
You need to start focusing on your biggest asset: YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS. Increasing revenue from existing customers is much more feasible, easy, and inexpensive than acquiring new customers. The chances of selling to an existing customer are 60 – 70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% (Marketing Metrics).
Not only are they familiar with your business, but they have also bought your course before! They know what to expect from you, and that is why you don’t have to ‘sell’ your credibility. This makes it easier for them to convert again – or buy other courses from you.
Here’s what you can do to make existing customers purchase more of your products:
1) Focus on behavioral change
This one is big for both completion and upselling.
A lot of online course creators fail to focus on an essential aspect of creating online courses: Behavioral change.
Courses are not just about helping students to acquire new information. They’re also about assisting students in implementing that information.
Is your course effectively changing your students’ behavior? Or is it just spitting out information like a technical book?
Information that doesn’t change behavior, and that isn’t applied in real life, is next to useless.
Why do they test students in school? Why are they required to do activities and participate?
Because of behavioral change. If it didn’t matter, students would be given a recording of the topics that they need to learn, and that would be it. But there’s clearly a big focus on participation and implementation of what’s learned.
Here’s a tip: Provide opportunities to apply actively and implement the learned material at the end of each module. Give students little victories along the way of achieving the goal of the course. This allows you to teach students from beginning to end while showing them more effectively they’re making progress - which results in more satisfaction, motivation, and better learning outcomes.
2) Keep them coming back with a learning path
Completing a course should only be a small part of the whole picture. The entire learning experience shouldn’t be limited to a single course.
One of my favorite methodologies that I always work with my clients is the Client Ascension Model. The Client whaaaat? you might be wondering? Well, it’s easy! It’s all about defining a clear learning path in front of your students. The first course is just one step of that path. After they complete it, have another course ready for them to further increase their knowledge.
Let’s say, for example, that your main course teaches the basics of how to create effective Facebook Ads.
Once students complete the course, you could present a course about mastering Facebook Ad Targeting.
After that, you could create another course on everything you need to know to measure social ROI on Facebook Ads.
3) Nurture your students and turn them into brand advocates
The secret to increasing course completion and upselling relies on nurturing existing students and turning them into brand advocates, which is something more than generating a repeat client—it’s having someone actively promoting your brand. Think about it, when students trust you and your brand, they will be happy to refer you to others, include positive reviews on your site and share the love on social media.
Nurture your students by giving them feedback and rewarding them on their progress. Identify people who buy more of your courses, or bring in referrals, and offer them priority support, discounts, and special offers.
Nurturing can be done through automated email messages. Create context-specific automated emails that provide aid to their questions and challenges and that recognize their accomplishments.
Your nurturing goal is to make each student feel like he or she is being cared for throughout the course. If your students feel alone and poorly supported, they will most likely not finish the course and miss all the great opportunities to learn and achieve their desired outcomes!
If you humanize your brand and they feel connected to it, expect customer loyalty to go through the roof.
4) Offer industry-relevant certificates they can proudly share with the world
A reward system of industry-relevant certificates and digital badges can be extremely effective at increasing the success of your course.
I decided to include this tip in the “upgrade” section of this article, but the truth is that it could have been included anywhere else. Digital badges motivate people to purchase your course, complete it , and buy more of your products.
Why you need to implement digital badges:
- Powerful motivating force: Digital badges are clear objectives that take your course’s rewards from abstract to tangible. Tangible objectives are more motivating. Add in the benefit of being able to showcase their knowledge, and you have an incredibly motivating strategy.
- Marketing: Digital badges increase your course’s exposure. Whenever they are shared and shown, they automagically advertise your brand.
- Enhances your’s and your course’s reputation: People tend to have more trust in courses with digital badges. They’re a sign that you took your time to make a high-quality course that promises results.
And with all that done, you’re on your way towards building a course that gets customers through the whole tunnel. This is exactly what you need to strive to scale your course, maximize your profits, and even go as far as dominating your market.
Take a look at the best courses out there, and watch how they all seemingly have all of what’s mentioned in this post.
Is your course missing anything? How many clients do you think that’s losing you?