Wouldn’t be great if your online course could just itself? While it’s nice to believe that a good course will “just sell itself,” this thought is both unrealistic and potentially discouraging, as it can cause course creators to believe that a lack of sales is a result of a flaw in their product rather than their marketing plan. To be frank, it doesn’t matter how great your course is if you don’t promote it to the right people, at the right time, the right way. Your information could be worth its weight in gold, but if you lack visibility, people aren’t going to know who you are or what you’re selling. If you do succeed in capturing the attention of your target audience, your concern then shifts to how to convert these people into paying customers. They’re on your site now…but then what? You know you need to keep your visitors engaged with valuable content and have them subscribe or buy your products…but how? And this isn’t even the end of it. Overwhelmed? Don’t be. I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you effectively market and sell your online course to your target audience.
Let’s say you’re teaching an online course on how to build a successful online business. Now, imagine your course attract hundreds of new customers, and you’re making thousands of dollars a month, WOW…that sound like a successful online course business, right? But what if I told you that only 8% of students actually finish the courses they buy? And of those that do end your course, most of them forget or don’t apply what they learned. ZERO results. NO outcomes. Would you still say your course is successful? Too often, course creators get lost in the numbers. They put all their energy into attracting new customers and generating income but fall short in understanding their needs and desires. They fail to engage, retain, and (most importantly) educate their students. And as a result, their course fails to produce value. Successful course creators are invested in the potential and performance of their students. They know that positive client experience is correlated to client value and course success. Here are five components every successful online course has in common. They Produce Student Outcomes. There’s a reason why your students are taking your course. They want to achieve an outcome. Failing to help your client achieve this outcome will result in them becoming dissatisfied with your course, leading to poor engagement and eventually, leave your course and never finish it. To counter this, you need to understand why your students are taking your online course and center your course material and resources around these desires. You also need to give them actionable tools to produce tangible, real-world results. For instance, at the end of each module, give them spreadsheets and cheat sheets – this will help me take action and do something with the recently learned knowledge. Tangible results allow your members to see in what way(s) your course is making an impact on their lives. Your members believe your course will give them a “transformation” that they could not have achieved otherwise. Depending on the topic of your course, your students’ desired transformations could be anything from learning how to code a website to make a successful career change. Be sure also to send your students updates on how they’re working towards their objective. One way would be to send them a bulleted summary of the topics they learned in the previous lessons and how it will help them in their lives (personally, professionally, etc.). Allowing members to see what they’re gaining from course WHILE they’re taking it and not just after, will help increase student completion and retention rates. If your student completes your course, applies the material to their life, and has a positive experience in doing so, then you’ve succeeded in making an impact. Also, you’ve also succeeded in gaining a valuable client. Satisfied customers will take additional courses from you, as well as recommend new customers to your site. Their Content is User and Mobile Friendly.
Let’s talk about churn. What’s referred to as “churn” is simply the rate in which you’re losing members over a designated period. To calculate your churn rate for the month, divide how many members you’ve lost within the month by how many members you had at the beginning of the month. If you want to find your yearly churn rate, use the same formula but with how many members you had at the beginning of the year and how many you’ve lost within the year instead. Keep in mind that even best-managed companies experience churn, so don’t be upset if your rate isn’t 0%. However, given that churn means you’re losing subscribers, you’ll want to have the lowest rate possible. Research shows that 53% of all causes of customer churn are due to these three leading causes: Poor Onboarding, Weak Relationship Building, and Poor Customer Service. As a membership site owner, it’s important you do everything you can to stay on top of membership attrition and do your part to minimize it. So, to help you conquer the top reasons why members leave, I’ve laid out 5 steps that you can add to your membership site today. Step #1: Member Onboarding Ever get a rush of adrenaline after making a purchase? Well, so you do your customers! Members are the most connected to your membership site immediately after joining. Seize this opportunity to practice member onboarding, which is the process of integrating your new customers into your site effectively. The sooner members are set up, the sooner they can consume your content.
As you build your membership site, it’s natural to begin thinking of ways to increase your profits and earn more every month. While that’s undoubtedly vital to scaling your business, don’t lose sight of another even more important goal: being able to build sustainable profitable growth. Unfortunately, so many membership site owners lose themselves in big picture plans—failing to organize their growth and blindly piling up expenses. I created a list of Dos and Don’ts to help you maximize your success. Do: Find Your Niche Deciding on the subject of your content is one of the most important decisions you can make. It may sound easy to just pick a subject that’s “hot” and “trendy,” but I promise you–teaching something you’re passionate about will only make your course more valuable. Once you have a subject in mind, take time to research the target market audience. The smaller and more specialized your niche is, the better. Most people don’t realize this, but a niche membership site is a great way to build a following full of loyal customers. A loyal following is a sure way to drive more referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations.
When you start building a business selling online courses, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing in myths. From doing big launches to dwelling on names to creating too many courses, there are plenty out there. Believing in myths can distract you from what really matters, causing you to focus your energy on the wrong things. As you make your way into the online course business, try to learn from the mistakes of others. In that spirit, I offer you my top picks of online course myths to ignore—and why: Myth #1: Your Course Name Is Everything Your course name isn’t a headline. Nor is it the sole thing that grabs your audience’s attention. Obsessing over the wrong things is a common mistake new course creators make. A lot of new creators debate their course names for hours, days, and even months. They dwell on this minor detail instead of putting their energy into developing their coursework and growing their audience Truth: The name of your course matters, but it shouldn’t keep you up at night. What really matters is your course “hook,” also known as the OUTCOME people will achieve if they purchase and implement the lessons in your course.
An alarming study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania showed that online courses have an average completion rate of 4%! That means as an online course creator, 96% of your customers are failing to see value in your courses. Failing to impact the majority of your clients is a recipe for disaster. Not only does this guarantee a low client retention rate, but it also means your chances of growing your client base are slim. After all, would you purchase additional courses from an instructor who didn’t deliver results the first time around? Would you then go on to recommend their courses to your colleagues, family, or friends?
More and more entrepreneurs are turning to membership websites, a business model which provides exclusive content to people who pay a monthly or yearly fee. Some entrepreneurs establish businesses which revolve around this model while others are using it to expand an already existing business. It’s not difficult to see why: early in 2018, Forbes reported that the subscription e-commerce market grew by more than 100 percent each year for the previous five years. Of course, membership sites make money for their owners but that’s not the full story. They generate passive income. Unlike other forms of income generation where you don’t make money unless you’re working, with membership sites, you can create content and then let it earn for you. Think about all the ebooks, online courses, podcasts and webinars that you see being advertised. Beyond the money, the best membership websites allow people or businesses to establish themselves as the experts in their chosen field. It also helps them to increase the buzz surrounding their business. Furthermore, membership websites help businesses to offer more value to their customers and create a loyal customer base.
Ever played Candy Crush? Pokémon GO? Monopoly? You’re not alone! People of all ages, genders, and cultures are absorbed in these games for hours––even days. According to The 2018 Gamification of Work Survey, over 50% of people reported they gamed “casually,” while 27% reported playing “moderately to fairly often.” That means there’s over 75% of members, you’re failing to engage using gamification on your learning platform. You don’t need to be a techie to implement games into your coursework. In fact, technology is only a small part of it. The majority of gamification is rooted in psychology and strategy. But in order to understand how to add gamification to your online courses or membership sites, you first need to understand what it is. What is Gamification? Gamification is the application of games in typical non-gaming activities, such as learning, to promote user engagement and loyalty. Nick Pelling coined the term “gamification” in 2002, but it wasn’t until years later that big-name businesses began implementing it on their platforms. Let’s take Yelp for instance. Yelp is a crowdsourcing review platform for local businesses that rewards its most interactive members with “Elite” status. Users who achieve this badge not only get to display it on their profiles, but they also get invited to special elites only events. By doing this, the platform is rewarding positive app behavior and motivating other users to achieve the same status. Here, Yelp uses the two pieces of gamification: game mechanics and game dynamics. So, let’s tap into what these pieces are. Game Mechanics: Game mechanics are the elements that inspire your students to progress in their coursework. They are the rules that players need to follow, as well as the rules the game itself follows. Some tried and tested game mechanics are: Points – Often numerical values, points are collected to measure student success and achievement. Points can be earned various ways on your e-learning platform, such as by watching lectures or sharing and creating something useful to other students, e.g. a study guide. Badges – Badges are usually awarded after a certain amount of achievements. For example, you can award a student with a badge for completing a lesson or for checking in three days in a row. As mentioned earlier, apps like Yelp often employ badges to keep consumers coming back. Levels – Levels help users gauge their progress. Let’s say students need to earn 10 points to reach a new level. By using this game mechanic, students will be even more motivated to engage with their coursework because they want to receive points in order to “level up.” Challenges – Everyone likes a challenge. The feeling of overcoming and achieving is empowering for students. Create learning missions alongside rewards as an incentive for students. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy; it doesn’t even need to be monetary. A reward can be something as simple as a special badge or a certificate. Leaderboards – Leaderboards keep track of desirable behaviors. Showing leaders in each category will give students markers to aspire to. Public leaderboards will also encourage competition and participation among students. Game Dynamics: Once you decide what mechanics to use, the next step is to grasp a clear understanding of game dynamics, i.e. the elements that satisfy universal human desires. Some game dynamics are: Rewards – Rewards encourage “good” user behavior by giving positive actions value. Status – Everyone likes to have bragging rights. Status is a great motivator because people want to distinguish themselves or gain recognition from others. Achievements – Completing milestones feel great! Small victories help students gain confidence in lessons, keeping them working towards higher goals. Competition – Who doesn’t like a little bit of competition every now and then? Users will gain satisfaction from comparing their performances to others, as well as the desire to achieve more. Self-expression – People love to express themselves, so make sure your learning platform gives them the opportunity to do it! Self-expression can come in the form of an avatar, a biography, or personal challenges. Overall, game mechanics and dynamics appeal to human desires, encouraging students to stay active and continue taking your courses. People are motivated by rewards and feel gratified by their achievements. Gamification Produces Better Learning Experiences The truth is, increasing user participation in an online course or membership site is no easy task. When we are confronted with “boring” tasks, we often tend to procrastinate on them or to perform them half-heartedly. Gamification works because it activates the brain’s pleasure circuits––making students want to stay engaged with the material. Game incentives, such as rewards or points, provide users with immediate gratification, inspiring them to continue to achieve. Gamification also reinforces desired behaviors and outcomes from consumers. In addition, the use of game methods gives students immediate feedback, enabling them to identify their strengths and weakness. Lastly, Gamification creates healthy competition amongst students through badges and leaderboards, constructing a community in the process. After all, why do people like play games in the first place? It’s simple psychology, really. Everyone likes to win. Conclusion: Does gamification really help keep your students/members engaged? We’ll just let the statistics speak for this one. A report by the 2006 Summit on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists showed that without gamification learners only recalled 10% of what they read and 20% of what they heard. When visuals were added, memory recall tripled to 30%. When an action was accompanied with an explanation, memory retention grew to 50%. When gamification methods were used to complement coursework, retention skyrocketed to nearly 90%.
Innovation in educational technology and the shift to a digital world has necessitated huge changes from instructors, coaches, business owners, and entrepreneurs alike—they’ve had to make drastic alterations to not only the way they instruct, but to their entire business models, and at a much faster rate than predicted. Investment in Educational Technologies Continues to Increase
So, you are excited…you have finished developing your online course! Kudos! Now the real work starts! Just because you have finished building it, the money does not automatically start rolling in; you have to do the work. “More work?” you ask. “I just spent all that time developing the course!” But, how are you going to make an income from the course? People don’t even know it exists. Now is the time to plan the marketing of your course. Laying out a well-thought-out plan on the front end will increase the likelihood of building a profitable online course.