The online program and course industry is huge - and is still gathering plenty of momentum. According to reports last year it was worth $200 billion, and the chances are that figure is even higher as you read this. Put simply, if you have a particular set of skills and knowledge, there is a market for your expertise. All over the world, there are people clamoring to find out information on almost every subject under the sun, and, most importantly, they are willing to dip into their pockets to access it.
If you are knowledgeable about direct sales, online marketing, or any other form of making money on the web, the big question today isn’t whether or not you should start a course. It’s this - why haven’t you started one already?!
Here are some hints and tips on how to get started in the world of selling online programs. Read on, take everything in, and put some of this advice into action - you never know where it might take you!
Here's one of my courses on SkillShare: How to Get Started as a Writer Without Clips
Don’t panic about the competition
A lot of experienced people are put off running online courses and programs, due to the massive amount of competition, but this is the last thing that should stop you. Yes, there might be a lot of rival courses in your field, but the very fact there are lots of them should tell you one important thing: that particular subject is popular!
The truth is that there will be a course or program on any subject you can possibly think of. And to be honest, if there are no other courses in that field, I would suggest you should think of another program idea; clearly, there isn’t much of a market for it. Never see competition as a barrier - it’s just sign of a healthy market you can access
The myth of making mistakes, lack of money and bad design
Here’s another cold truth: your first course will suck, as will your advertising efforts to promote it. But, guess what? Every mistake you make will be a learning experience. You will change your course over time, developing it to ensure people get the results they want. You will start tracking your advertising, emails, and sales funnels (more on which later) with more purpose, finding out what works - and what doesn’t.
As your course gets better, your budget will increase as a result - and you can raise your prices. It means you can start putting more money into your promotion and the design of your website, as well as the content of your course. We will take a look at some of the things you can do to make improvements a little later on. But essentially, everyone has to start from somewhere, and as long as your customers feel they are getting value, you will get results.
The importance of self-development
You can’t afford to stand still in business, and if you want your courses and programs to be successful, you need to stay at the top of your game. Ask any successful entrepreneur from any industry, and they will all tell you the same thing: a continuing education is a key to winning in business.
You might try an online Master of Business Administration course to run your team more efficiently. You could take an advanced course in your specialist subject, and then rework some of your new knowledge into your existing program - or launch an entirely new one instead. In every area of your business, from the day-to-day running through to the devising of new programs, there will always be someone who does it better than you. Learn from these people, and your courses, programs and business as a whole will be better off as a result.
Email, copy and sales funnels
While we are on the subject of learning, educating yourself about the power of email, compelling copy and sales funnels will be vital to the success of your product. It’s a huge range of subject matter that requires further reading, but your email list will be the lifeblood of your sales. You will need to think of ways to entice people to sign up to your list - offering free (but valuable) information in e-books is a traditional method, and even a well-run blog can attract sign ups.
Copywriting is also vital. Excellent, engaging, compelling copy can make your program; bad copy will break it. The words you use to advertise your course or program have to tap into the pain points of your ideal customer and motivate them to do something about it. You need to talk to your audience in their language, not yours, and focus every point on either being a solution, to removing barriers to purchase.
And finally, there are your sales funnels. This refers to how you capture people at every stage of the buying process, prove your value to them, and slowly nudge them down the funnel until they turn from dubious visitor to willing buyer. Again, sales funnels are a vast subject which will require more reading. But make no mistake about it - learning how to create effective sales funnels can have incredible impacts on your sales.
Of course, none of the online marketing tactics listed above will matter a jot if you aren’t putting it in front of the right people. It is critical to spend a long time researching your ideal customers so you can build up an accurate picture of them. Who are they? Are they male, female, or does it not matter? What companies do they work for - and in what position? Where do they hang out online, and in real life? What interests do they have outside of work?
Once you understand your customers, you can start finding out about their pain points. What is driving them mad, or making them worried? Then it’s a simple case of designing your program to equip your customers with the skills and knowledge they need to overcome their stumbling blocks. This will be your ‘value proposition,’ and it’s impossible to define if you don’t know who your ideal customer actually is.
OK, so the final handy hint is learning how to differentiate yourself from the competition. As we discussed at the beginning of the post, it doesn’t matter that your topic has been covered before - what is important is how you present it. It’s worth bearing in mind that people tend to learn in different ways, and if there is a gap in the market for, say, visual learners, it could give you a massive clue in the sort of direction you might take.
Your course could have a better design than your rivals, for example, making it easier for learners to navigate, explore, and answer questions. You might use proven gamification techniques in your program, too, instead of the same old textbook and answer sheet style employed by your competitors. Or, you could just provide a multi-platform course so that your customers can learn on any device they like, whether it’s a smartphone or a desktop.
As you can see, starting an online program might be a lot easier than you might think. And the sooner you get started, the better. It’s something you can refine over time, improve, and it will lead to you beginning to make a name for yourself. Yes, there is a lot of work involved, but if you believe in your program, it is possible to outsource to other companies to cover the areas in which you need the most help. Have I sold you on the world of infopreneurs yet?
Got questions? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!