As an entrepreneur, having a marketing strategy for your online course or business is essential to your success. But creating one can seem overwhelming.

How do you decide what is the best marketing channel for your business? How do you know how to measure the success of your marketing efforts?

With the ever-changing digital landscape, you also need to frequently adjust your marketing strategy. What worked five years ago (or even one year ago!) is not guaranteed to produce the same result.

Whether you’ve already created your gameplan or are staring at a blank page wondering where to begin, we’re going to cover some helpful marketing strategies you can apply to your own business.

In this post, you’re going to learn 10 ways to market your online course or online business to increase sales and customer satisfaction. Let’s get to it…

10 Steps To Market Your Online Course

1. Content marketing

This first tactic is all about creating helpful content for your audience. This may be videos, blogs, or helpful resources and guides.

The aim of content marketing is to create targeted content for your particular audience and to generate awareness and engagement around your brand.

"The aim of content marketing is to create targeted content for your particular audience, to generate awareness and engagement around your brand. #contentmarketing"

Doing this well requires a strategy. Gone are the days where simply writing a few blog posts around your niche could get you ranked on the first page of Google.

Before you throw your hands up in despair at the thought of having to become a full-time content creation machine, know that being strategic in your content marketing decisions will take you a lot further than ‘creating content for content’s sake’.

The key here is to understand exactly who it is you’re trying to attract and what action you want them to take. Then, create custom content just for their unique needs.

Pro tip: If you haven’t already, taking the time to develop a marketing persona and outlining their key characteristics and pain points will help your content marketing efforts. 

According to Dragon 360 Search Marketing, “61% of consumers say that they are more likely to buy from a company that provides custom content.”

With millions of content pieces uploaded on the web each day, segmenting is your only way to stand out and build a loyal following around your content.  

We see the DigitalMarketer website do this well. As a hub of digital marketing education online, they’ve built out a number of custom content resources to help entrepreneurs succeed. On their website, they immediately invite visitors to self-select into one of three categories:

Then, visitors are sent to a resource page filled with links to helpful, curated content for their user profile:

While you may not have the same arsenal of resources developed for multiple personas, start with one and build from there. Not sure what type of content or channels to tackle first? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your ideal customer avatar?
  • What type of content do they like to consume?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • Who do they look to for answers to their problems?

Between writing blogs, helpful guides, or training courses, you want to tailor your content to address the unique challenges for your niche. For more details on how to optimize your blog content, check out this guide on how to use topic clusters to drive more traffic.

2. Social proof

If you’re not using social proof in your marketing, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to engage and convert your audience.

This may take the form of testimonials on your website, customer ratings on your online store, or simply logos of the partners or customers you work with. All of these are avenues for social proof marketing, signaling to your audience you are someone they can trust and respect.

Social proof is important to establish since it’s been proven to result in higher conversion rates across websites, sales pages, and landing pages.

Let’s look at some examples of the ways you can use social proof in your marketing strategy.

Logos from press or partners

Jonathan Levi is an entrepreneur who runs an academy of online courses on how to become a superlearner. To build instant credibility with his audience, he features press and partner logos prominently across many of his sales pages.

Customer reviews & testimonials is a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed with consulting. It leverages the power of customer testimonials by dedicating a page to customer testimonials and ratings in response to their online courses for consultants:

With over 3,000 student testimonials, site visitors can get an instant read on whether the training will provide the value they’re looking for.

Pro tip: Remember to ask your customers or students for reviews! If you run a coaching business, make this a part of your client workflow. By setting expectations up front that clients are expected to provide feedback on your program and results, it will be much easier to gather a collection of great testimonials to use.

Social proof tool

Scout IQ is a service that helps users find profitable books to sell on Amazon. The company uses Proof’s social proof notification software to display activity notifications on their sales page to new visitors. In this case, the tool is set up to show the number of users signing up for an account in real time:

This helps cultivate a FOMO effect (fear of missing out) and sense of urgency around your offering. You could use this social proof tool to demonstrate account sign-ups, recent activity, or live visitor counts.

As systems and marketing consultant Greg Hickman shares…

“Building trust and authority with new prospects requires trust. With Proof, we can demonstrate without question how many others have trusted us to help them in their business. That transparency has increased our conversion on every opt-in page we have.” – Greg Hickman, CEO

3. SEO

SEO warrants an entire post on itself, but it could not be left off the list as it’s such a key component in any effective marketing strategy.

If your goal is to drive inbound traffic to your site through search engines and get ranked on Google for certain keywords, gearing up on your SEO will be an important piece of your strategy.

On-site and off-site SEO are the two main components to consider. If you’re new to SEO, focus on getting your on-page elements right first. This means optimizing elements like:

  • Page titles and descriptions
  • Use of H1, H2, and H3 tags
  • Setting intentional image ALT text
  • Optimizing your text-based content (such as blogs and web copy) with relevant keywords
  • Internal linking structure
  • Technical SEO like site speed and structure

Sprout Social is an example of a homepage optimized well for SEO:

The keywords used in the SERP description and on the home page are consistent, and H1 and H2 tags are used effectively. They also have clear calls to action on the page, providing visitors different ways to engage with their brand and lowering bounce rates from the page.

Once you’ve tackled your on-site SEO, turning to off-site SEO is a great next step. For more details on how to increase your site’s SEO for free, check out this article.

Pro tip: Remember, SEO is an investment, and requires ongoing maintenance – it’s not a set it and forget it strategy. Having a consultant conduct an SEO audit may help identify opportunities for your biggest SEO wins and reduce the overwhelm for non-technical marketers!

4. Social media

The key to using social media effectively is to have a strategy.

It can be tempting to look at the success of the Gary Vee’s of the world, and try to emulate their social media strategy – pumping out content at high speed, across every channel possible.

In actual fact, this is a surefire way to fail before you even get started.

Rather than trying to cast the net wide from the get-go, pick your audience avatar, define your goals, choose a channel, and decide on a posting schedule.

If you focus on cultivating community and engagement, and show up consistently, you’ll start to build a loyal following. Then, you can branch out and invest resources into populating other channels once you’ve mastered your area.

Let’s say you’re a life coach who provides helpful tips on productivity and career growth for millennials. LinkedIn or Instagram may be your best bet, and the platforms you want to focus on engaging the most. While having a Facebook page or group will help establish your credibility, it’s not where you’ll spend the majority of your time.

XayLi Barclay knows the power of niching down on social media channels well. She is a video strategist for online businesses, and primarily engages her fans and gets followers on Instagram and YouTube. Investing time in the channels where she is both the most skilled and her audience is hanging out helps XayLi tap into a sweet spot for her social media marketing strategy.

Pro tip: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to be everywhere at once. This will spread you too thin, and leave you with lack-luster results overall. Instead, identify what channel resonates with your target audience. Who are they? What social channels do they frequent most often? What influencers do they follow?

5. Podcast

Podcasts are another great way to market your online course or business.

Not only are they an inexpensive way to get your name out there, but they also position you as an expert in your field.

Podcasts effectively leverage the social proof principle discussed earlier: if a podcast host is taking the time to interview you, you must have something worthwhile to say!

There are thousands of podcasts out there, all with hosts looking for content to populate their channels. Chances are, there is someone looking for exactly what you have to say.

Dana Malstaff, Founder of Boss Mom used podcasts as a key part of her marketing strategy to build her brand into a six-figure business in less than a year.

Dana offers training and mentorship to moms running online businesses. To increase her visibility in the space, she set a goal to get featured on top podcasts as an expert. With repeated efforts to get featured on other people’s channels, she grew her own community into the thousands and is now a requested speaker at Social Media Marketing World.

She’s since launched her own podcast, which helps open up new opportunities for content swaps with other podcast hosts.

Pro tip: Podcasts can be a great vehicle to get the word out about your brand, and position you as an expert in your field. Plus, they’re a great way to network with big names in your niche.

6. Online group discussions

This strategy carries on the theme of capitalizing on existing communities to increase your brand awareness.

By engaging in relevant conversations in groups like Quora, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other online forums, you can tap into a wealth of market insights.

Search for groups within your niche that contain your target audience, and monitor the conversation. This is a great strategy to get outside your existing community, identify common questions and shared challenges, and position yourself as an expert in the areas you want to be known for.

As a question and answer site, Quora is great for discovering the most asked questions around a particular topic:

Searching in LinkedIn groups for your core keywords is a great way to discover existing communities and professionals wanting to network around a certain niche.  

7. Partner and influencer marketing

Leveraging partners is a great way to multiply your marketing efforts.

If done right, you can cultivate a tribe of professionals who have mutual goals, and a vested interest in your success.

But how do you set up an effective partnership? And what are the best ways to partner?

"Between guest blogs, presentations, or social campaigns, there are infinite ways to partner with an influencer. They key is to get clear on your mutual marketing goals and build a joint plan from there."

With the rise of social media, it’s never been easier to identify potential partners and conduct outreach to explore partnership opportunities.

Here are some examples of how to set up partner marketing with another company or influencer:

Guest blogging

Guest blogging is a powerful tactic that can increase the amount of traffic to your site. The strategy is helpful in creating permanent digital trails leading back to your webpages. Not only is this good for SEO, but it also builds your credibility in your field.

In case you’re in doubt about the impact that guest posting can have on your site, read up on Bryan Harris’s experiment with guest blogging. Harris, the Founder of VideoFruit wrote a guest post on Noah Kagan’s blog (the Founder of Sumo), and saw a 600% percent increase in unique page views to his site.

Customer stories

This may not be an obvious form of influencer marketing for some, but customers are often an underutilized form of partner marketing – what better person to advocate on your behalf than the end user themselves!

Ontraport is a CRM and marketing automation software that uses stories at the forefront of their marketing strategy.

By charting each customer’s unique journey including their backstory, particular challenges, solutions, and success, Ontraport leverages its customers as chief influencers for their brand.

Affiliate marketing

Creating an affiliate marketing program can be a helpful tool to diversify your partner marketing strategy. Whereas a webinar or blog swap may not include paid placement, affiliate marketing involves paying a commission to those promoting your product or service.

Executing an affiliate marketing strategy will take time and requires clear alignment between your merchant and their target audience, but can amount to big exposure and sales when done well.

8. Build your email list

Once you build up awareness and start to attract new visitors to your site, you need a way to capture all that site traffic so you can continue to engage your viewers. Making it a priority to build your email list from day one is an important piece of any marketing strategy.

In order to capture emails, you need to provide something valuable enough for the visitor to give you permission to contact them. This is where the content you developed in tactic one comes in handy.

Offering free resources like guides, checklists, or training are all examples of lead magnets that are effective at capturing email addresses. If you’ve had great traction with a blog post or a free video you’ve posted, consider spinning out a more detailed and actionable guide on the topic to capture email addresses.

You can even use your homepage a lead magnet, if done right.

Charisma on Command does this well. The site is run by two coaches who provide training on achieving influence and charisma in different social settings. Front and center on their home page, they offer a guide that walks through how to make a good first impression:

Since this is a key question for their target audience and the subject of the majority of their training, they’ve made this free resource the main call to action on their homepage.

With over two million YouTube subscribers, they also use this content as a way to capture emails from their most-watched videos. A link in their video descriptions leads to a sales page where visitors can watch a video training that goes through the same four steps:

Using Proof’s notification tool on this sales page also helps create a sense of urgency around submitting their email address in exchange for the free training.

Of course, you could use landing pages, event registrations, or special promotions as a way to drive email sign-ups. It’s really up to you! Just make sure to have a clear call to action on each page you are driving traffic to.

9. Email Marketing Strategy

Once you have a system to collect email addresses, the next step is to start a conversation with your new contacts.

You need an email marketing strategy to help you convert those subscribers into buyers.

What are the essential elements of email marketing? For best results, you’ll want a way to segment your contacts. Depending on what email provider you choose, you have the opportunity to tag people as they come into your system, grouping them by interest, demographics, campaign, or activity.

This is the secret sauce of email marketing: sending relevant, helpful, and timely content curated for your audience.

Remember how DigitalMarketer segmented their opt-in page by presenting content in three user groups (see tactic 1, content marketing)?

Depending on what option you choose, you put into a certain stream and are sent unique content.

Here’s an example of the welcome email sent after opting into the “For Marketers” stream:

Setting expectations in your welcome email helps set the tone for your subscribers, letting them know how often they can expect to hear from you, and the type of content they can expect to receive.

10. Paid traffic

Paid traffic is a powerful marketing tactic. But it’s last on the list because it comes with a caveat. Before you throw a bunch of money into ads to market your online course or business, you want to make sure you’ve done a few things first.

Validated offering.

Have enough customers been through your online course or used your services to provide feedback on your offering? It’s wise to make sure your course content resonates with your audience and have made any necessary tweaks before investing in attracting more customers.

Established online presence.

You want to make sure you have quality assets and resources to point people to. Because what happens when you bring in a bunch of cold traffic but have no compelling offer or content to further convert them?

Developing free content and adding social proof onto your site are great foundational pieces to have in place before investing in any ads.

Now that you have examples of ten ways to market your online course or business, try implementing something new you learned. Remember, the sooner you start, the sooner you can test the effectiveness of your strategies.

Have you tried one or more of these strategies to promote your business? Let us know which works best for you in the comments below!

If you’re new to courses and not sure where to get started, check out Thinkific’s helpful guide to creating your first online course.