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How to Market an Online Course | Promote with NO BUDGET

Last updated: July 17, 2023

Congratulations on creating your online course! It’s an exciting milestone as you’re on your way to being part of the $210.1 billion global e-learning market. But now comes the next challenge: how do you market it effectively to get more students to purchase your course? Better yet, how do you market your online course with little to no budget?

Don’t worry, because whether you’re a seasoned course creator looking to save on marketing expenses or a first-timer eager to attract your very first students, we’ve got the strategies and tips you need. We will dive into effective marketing strategies both before and after your online course is published, so get ready to watch your student enrollment soar!

Here’s a quick list of things we’ll cover:

How to Market an Online Course BEFORE It’s Published

Marketing an online course before it’s published is a proactive approach to generate interest, build anticipation, and lay the groundwork for a successful launch. Here are some strategies on how to market online courses before their publication:

1. Define your target audience and your unique value proposition

how to market an online course

To effectively market your online course, it’s crucial to define your target audience and be able to demonstrate your unique value proposition to that specific niche. This will help you learn how to market and tailor your marketing messages to resonate with your potential students, stand out amongst your competitors, and attract more of the “right” students to your course.

Keep your target audience on top of your mind as you go through various marketing strategies listed in this article. To help you kickstart the process, here are a few examples of target audience or student personas for a Fitness and Nutrition Course:

Persona example 1: Active Adults – Busy professionals aged 30-45 who are seeking convenient fitness and nutrition solutions to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite their hectic schedules.

Persona example 2: New Moms – Postnatal women looking for safe and effective workout routines and nutritional guidance to regain their fitness and energy levels after childbirth.

Once you’ve established your target audience, research competing or existing online courses within your niche, and determine how you can offer a unique value proposition to make your course stand out. This could be things like additional topic coverage that your competitors may have missed, offering the course in different formats or languages, etc. Every course creator has specific teaching styles that appeal to different learners, so don’t be discouraged by the volume of competitors within your niche!

2. Create a compelling course title and description

Creating a compelling course title and description is crucial for effectively marketing your online course. These elements play a significant role in capturing the attention of potential students and encouraging them to enroll.

For the course title, you’ll just need to make sure it’s clear, concise, and keyword optimized. Do proper keyword research using tools like AHREF, SEMRush, Google Trends, or Google Keyword Planner. This will help your course rank when people search for online courses on search engines like Google. It may also help to use trigger words or words that evoke certain emotions such as: Best, Ultimate, Save, Convert, Guaranteed, etc.

Your course description should effectively communicate the value and benefits that students will gain by enrolling. Clearly state the skills, knowledge, or outcomes that students can expect to achieve through your course. Highlight any key features, resources, or bonuses that make your course valuable and desirable. Just like your course title, you should also find relevant keywords and incorporate them naturally into the paragraphs without keyword-bombing.

A well-crafted course title and description can establish credibility and trust with potential students. Use authoritative language, mention any relevant credentials or experience you have, and provide social proof such as testimonials or success stories. This helps potential students feel confident in your expertise and motivates them to enroll in your course.

3. Make your course sales page easily accessible on your website

Ensure that your course sales page is prominently displayed and easily accessible on your website without any confusing site navigation.

If you’ve done a great job with your course title and description, all you have to do now is to use that information and design a course sales page or course landing page that is visually appealing, compelling, and easy to navigate.

At this point, using the right online course platform is key, because you’ll need to be able to build a highly converting course sales page (and ideally, without having to have any technical skills). Thankfully platforms like Payhip are completely free and have comprehensive tutorials on how to build your course sales page AND sell your courses for free!


Join over 130,000 sellers who have launched their online businesses with Payhip

4. Offer course bundles (e.g., with an ebook)


Consider creating course bundles that include additional resources, such as ebooks, workbooks, or bonus modules. Bundling can increase the perceived value of your course and make it more enticing for potential students. It also provides an opportunity to cross-promote your other products or offerings.

Here’s a short tutorial on how to set up product bundles for your online courses.

5. Offer various payment options e.g. payment plans

To make your course more affordable and accessible to a wider audience, consider offering various payment options such as payment plans. Breaking down the cost into smaller installments can attract individuals who may not be able to afford the full payment upfront. This can significantly increase your conversion rate and boost sales.

If you’re already using Payhip to host and sell online courses, you can easily set up various payment options such as one-time fees, payment plans, subscriptions, and more.

6. Get early testimonials from a group of students

online course students

Before launching your course, offer a select group of individuals early access to it in exchange for their testimonials. Positive reviews from this group will help reassure potential students that your course offers the unique value proposition they’re seeking, making it easier to promote your online courses. Display these testimonials prominently on your sales page to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of your course.

Tip: You can create a 100% OFF coupon code to help distribute your courses to your early course testers.

7. Build an email list by offering free lead magnets

Create valuable lead magnets, such as ebooks, cheat sheets, or video tutorials, that align with the content of your course. Offer these lead magnets in exchange for your website visitors’ email addresses. Building an email list allows you to nurture relationships with potential students, share updates about your course, and market future offerings.

Course creator Melissa Bolton created a free quiz that is not only helpful for her audience, but also helped her grow her mailing list and expand offerings to her ideal clients.

You can use Payhip to automatically deliver lead magnets to your website visitors and also collect their emails at the same time. You’ll also be able to set a pay-what-you-want pricing in case some of your website visitors would love to leave a little tip in exchange for your helpful lead magnet.

8. Offer free previews

Free previews create curiosity and generate interest among potential students. Consider making your first few lessons free so you can give your prospective students a glimpse into your course’s content and teaching style, you can capture their attention and spark their desire to learn more. You can find more information on how to create free previews here.

How to Market Online Courses AFTER Publishing

Once your online course is published, it’s time to kickstart your marketing efforts to maximize its reach and attract students. Here are some strategies to effectively market your online course after it’s published:

1. Harness the power of content marketing – promote on your blog

start a blog

If you have an established blog, leverage the power of content marketing to promote your online course. Write informative blog posts related to the topic of your course and include calls-to-action that direct readers to your course sales page. Utilize guest blogging opportunities on relevant websites to expand your reach.

2. Leverage social media

Your social media profiles are like the superheroes of your personal brand – they have the power to make you shine like a true expert in your course topic. Here are a few important things you’ll need to do with your social media for the purpose of promoting online:

  • Optimize your social media bios and include relevant keywords
  • Include a link to your website or course sales page
  • Respond to all your comments to encourage more engagement with prospective students (or as many as humanly possible). This also shows them that you’re dedicated to being present for their journey!
  • Create high quality content and teasers for your course, including offering helpful tips and how-to guides
  • Be everywhere! Take advantage of various social media platforms from Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin, Pinterest, and more

3. Launch an affiliate program

Implement an affiliate program where you partner with individuals or influencers in your niche who can promote your course to their audience. Offer them a commission for each referral sale they generate. This can significantly amplify your reach and drive more enrollments.

Here are a few types of affiliate partners that you may want to consider: online course review blogs, thought leads in your field who have established credibility and a significant online presence, professional organizations or communities related to your course topic, etc.

You can learn how to launch your own affiliate program for free in this guide.

4. Collaborate with other creators or influencers in your niche

Identify other creators or influencers in your industry who complement your course. Collaborate with them on joint projects, webinars, or guest appearances on each other’s platforms. By sharing ideas and content, you’ll not only expand your target audience but also boost your course’s visibility. This initiative will work perfectly with the affiliate program strategy mentioned above.

5. Offer early access discount

By offering an early access discount, you create a sense of exclusivity as well as incentivize early commitment from potential students. It encourages them to make a purchasing decision sooner rather than later, as they recognize the financial benefit of securing the course at a lower cost. It also generates excitement and a fear of missing out (FOMO), driving them to enroll quickly.

This strategy works well for course creators who are launching their online courses for the very first time. Launching your course with an early access discount can generate initial momentum and traction. As early enrollees complete the course and share their positive customer experience, it creates a buzz and social proof that can attract more students to join. Early access participants who benefit from the discount are more likely to become loyal advocates for your course.

6. Email marketing

email marketing to promote online course

Once you’ve assembled your mighty email list (remember tip #7 above), it’s time to unleash the power of email automation and nurture those leads until they’re ready to convert. Choose your trusty email automation tool, whether it’s the familiar Mailchimp, the reliable AWeber, or the unstoppable Active Campaign. With these tools at your disposal, you can create strategic email sequences that engage, educate, and guide your leads along the path to enrollment. It’s time to automate like a pro and let your emails do the heavy lifting, turning interested prospects into eager students with every well-crafted message.

Remember to send regular newsletters, exclusive content, and updates about your course to keep your audience engaged. Personalize your emails and include compelling calls-to-action to drive conversions.

7. Host a free webinar or live event

Another strategy that you can try for marketing online courses is to host a free webinar or live event is a fantastic way to promote your online course and create buzz among your target audience. Engage people by discussing valuable content and giving a sneak-peek of what’s on offer. By doing this, you’ll showcase your unique value proposition and get potential students excited. Use digital marketing tools, such as podcasts and social media, to spread the word and attract even more attendees to your event.

8. Start a Facebook group or an online membership community

start a facebook group

Create a Facebook group or an online membership community where students can connect, share insights, and support each other. By creating a Facebook group centered around your course topic, you can gather a community of like-minded individuals who are specifically interested in that subject. This provides a focused audience that is more likely to be interested in your course and engage with your promotional content.

A Facebook group also allows you to engage directly with potential students and build meaningful relationships. You can answer their questions, provide valuable insights, and establish yourself as an authority in your field. By fostering a sense of community and offering support, you create a positive impression and develop trust, making it more likely for members to consider enrolling in your course.

You can also achieve similar objectives by launching a membership site as well. We recommend checking out our guide on how you can create a gated membership site using Payhip for free. Over time as your membership community grows, it’ll also be a major source of recurring revenue for your business.

9. Market your main course by offering a free mini-course

Develop a condensed version or a free mini-course that provides a glimpse into the content and value of your full online course. This acts as a teaser, allowing potential students to experience your teaching style and understand the benefits of enrolling in the complete course.

This strategy has worked well for Bridget Teyler who offers a free mini birth class to not only provide a preview of her more comprehensive birth class, but also to build her email list to nurture her prospective students.

Final Thoughts – Which Strategies Will You Implement to Market Your Courses Online?

Gone are the days of simply launching a course and hoping for the best. To truly make your online courses shine and bring in the sales you desire, you need a well-crafted online course marketing plan that speaks to your audience and drives results. The marketing world can be overwhelming with its plethora of strategies and tactics. But fret not! You don’t have to follow every page of the marketing book. Start small, dip your toes into one or two strategies, monitor the performance, and continue experimenting until you find strategies that work well for your particular course.

If you’re keen to learn more about selling online courses, we highly recommend reading our ultimate guide on how to sell online courses which provides comprehensive step-by-step guide that you can easily follow.

Using the right online course platform could also make or break your online course success. Platforms like Payhip are built to help you create and grow a successful online course business. Sign up for a free Payhip account today to get started!


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