How to Market Online Courses: 7+ Strategies to Reach Potential Students

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How to Marketing Online Courses: Top Strategies to Reach Potential Students

Do you want to learn how to market online courses so you can share your expertise and bring in revenue?

Online courses are an effective way to scale your business, but only if your target audience knows about your course. Marketing online courses isn’t always easy in a crowded marketplace.

However, if you find a successful strategy for marketing your online courses, they can be extremely lucrative.

According to a report by Global Market Insights Inc., the eLearning industry was worth $399.3 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2032!

Chart from Global Market Insights Inc showing huge projected growth in the elearning market between 2022 and 2032

While eLearning classes can be time-consuming to market, the payoff can be huge. Thankfully, OptinMonster is here to help!

As the best lead generation software on the market, our team knows a lot about capturing the attention of your target audience. I’m here to save you some trial and error by sharing our top tips for marketing a course, right on your own website.

In this article, you’ll learn the most effective strategies to promote your online courses, so you can reach the learners most interested in your topic. We’ll share in-depth suggestions for marketing your courses on your own website and also cover some broader content marketing tips.

Why You Need to Market Your Online Course

If you believe some of the hype you hear on the Internet, selling online courses is basically like printing money. You build the course once, then sell it an infinite number of times. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, that’s just a little too good to be true. Like any other product or service, your online course can’t sell itself. You have to do the work to sell a course just like any other offer you’re selling.

Because of the popular belief that online courses are an easy form of “passive” income, the online learning marketplace has gotten very crowded. So your course marketing strategy has to be solid if you want your course to become a reliable revenue generator.

Of course, the best digital marketing in the world can’t cover up a mediocre product. Your course content needs to deliver the results you promise and an enjoyable learning experience. Check out these tips on how to create a successful course.

But assuming you’ve got a solid online course ready to go, let’s start marketing it!

How Do You Sell an Online Course With No Audience?

To sell an online course when you have no existing audience, your best bet is simple: build one!

It’s highly unlikely that customers will just randomly find your course and decide to buy it.

For starters, getting your online course to the top of the search results for your niche takes a lot of effort. Boosting your search ranking is beyond the scope of this article, but here’s a guide to SEO (search engine optimization) ranking factors to help you get started.

Furthermore, most online course leads need to be nurtured before they buy. How do they know you’re qualified to teach what they want to learn? Will they get the same results that the glowing testimonials on your website promise? It takes time to build that trust before a customer is ready to buy your course.

Fortunately, there’s a simple and (nearly) free way to build an audience of qualified leads for your course: email marketing.

There are so many advantages of email marketing we can’t go into them all here. But for course creators, building an email list is great because:

  • Your list belongs to you. Social media and search engine algorithms are changing faster than ever, but you’ll always have access to your email subscribers.
  • Your leads are warm. By opting into your email list, subscribers show that they’re already interested in your niche and your specific perspective.
  • You can build trust. Google ads and social media posts come and go in seconds. But you can email your list every week with helpful content that shows your expertise and reliability.

To learn more, check out our beginner’s guide to email marketing.

Now, let’s look at some specific ideas for marketing online courses!

How to Market Online Courses on Your Website

For this article, we’re going to focus on how to market your course on your own website. There’s certainly a time and place for external promotion, which we’ll cover briefly at the end of the article. But your website is completely under your control, so we’ll start there.

1. Create a Lead Magnet

Lead magnets are one of the most effective strategies for building your email list.

With a lead magnet, you offer a special incentive, such as a free mini-course or tutorial, in exchange for the user’s email address.

When website visitors sign up for your lead magnet, they’ll get a preview of your expertise. Plus, they’ll have opted in for your email list, so you’ll be able to continue promoting your paid classes.

And it’s easy to offer a lead magnet for your online course with OptinMonster.How to market online courses with OptinMonster

OptinMonster is the best course marketing tool in the world. Our lead-generation software makes it easy to build a list full of warm leads for your online course.

With OptinMonster, you can show a course-specific lead magnet to your most interested visitors.

With our drag and drop builder, you can create eye-catching popups and other lead generation forms that are optimized to deliver the highest conversion rates. We’ll show you more examples of course marketing campaigns throughout this article.

Start Marketing Your Course With OptinMonster Now!

BONUS: Done-For-You Campaign Setup ($297 value) Our conversion experts will design 1 free campaign for you to get maximum results – absolutely FREE! Click here to get started →

So what are some lead magnets you can offer to build an audience for your online course?

Create a Free Email Course

You could take some of the material from your full course and turn it into a free email course.

This tactic won’t only build your email list. It’ll also show your new subscribers that your emails provide real value, which will help your open rate.

Offer a Webinar

Another great lead magnet for online courses is a live webinar. Again, you can take some of the material from your course and present it at a specific time.

You could also teach a webinar on a related topic to stoke interest. For example, if you sell a personal finance course, your webinar could teach your audience how to do a quick budget audit. Some of those webinar participants may realize that they really need your help!

A webinar is also the perfect opportunity to promote your own products or services. For more, check out our article Webinar Marketing 101: How to Sell Anything With Webinars.

Write an PDF Guide or eBook

Of course, you can also offer a more traditional PDF download as your lead magnet.

Simply put together a checklist or cheat sheet based on your course material. If you have enough time, you could write a full ebook or other long-form content.

Because a PDF download is less interactive than an email course or webinar, make sure to follow up with an email autoresponder series introducing yourself and providing other helpful resources.

With OptinMonster, you can easily create a popup campaign to offer your lead magnet. And you can provide a link to your downloadable content after the user opts in. This video gives a quick tutorial:

2. Start a Waitlist

Another effective optin incentive is to promote a waitlist for a new or popular online course. This is an incredibly powerful way to generate leads that are most excited and ready to buy.

If your course is very popular and limited to a certain number of participants, promising early access can be enough motivation to get people to sign up.

If you’re launching a new course, consider offering early registration pricing to those on the waitlist. Again, this is a way to motivate the warmest leads to take action quickly. The sooner you can fill all the seats in your course or meet your sales goals, the less marketing work you have to do. So it may be worth offering a small price break to sell your course faster.

Waitlists and limited class sizes create a sense of urgency, which is one of the best ways to convince users to act.

To create even more urgency, OptinMonster makes it easy to add a countdown timer to your popups and floating bar campaigns. Simply drag a Countdown Timer block to your campaign in our drag and drop Campaign Builder.

3. Run a Presale

If you already have an audience for your email list, blog, or social media channels, consider running a presale.

A presale is similar to a waitlist in that you grant early access to your online course. The difference is that in a presale, customers actually purchase the course before it’s available to the public.

Some course creators use presales to gauge interest in the course before it launches, or even before they build the course itself. Creating an entire online course isn’t easy, so you want to make sure you’re creating something that your audience actually wants and is willing to pay for. Plus, the infusion of cash from a presale can help offset some of the production costs of creating the course.

Presales are great way to reduce your risk when creating a new online course.

You can easily collect presale payments on a WordPress site without setting up an entire shopping cart or Learning Management System (LMS).

Just use a plugin like WP Simple Pay. With WP Simple Pay, you can issue special presale coupon codes, customize payment confirmations, and even accept “Buy Now, Pay Later” orders.

Learn more about WP Simple Pay in our plugin review.

4. Conduct a Prelaunch Survey

A prelaunch survey is another smart way to test the market for your course before you start you go live. You can even use a prelaunch survey before you start building your course at all.

Keep your survey short and sweet. Start with a polite request to participate in your questionnaire using OptinMonster’s Yes/No feature:

Then ask a question about their needs, such as, “What’s your biggest challenge related to [YOUR TOPIC] right now?”

Once they answer, you can ask if they’d like to be notified when your online course launches.

It’s easy to create these conversational forms with WPForms, the best WordPress survey plugin you can find. And it’s just a few clicks to embed your WPForms survey in OptinMonster. That way, you still have access to all of OptinMonster’s best-in-class designs and targeting rules.

5. Persuade With Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people look to the actions of others before making decisions. Think of it as the positive version of peer pressure.

Social proof is also a powerful marketing strategy.

If a customer sees lots of people signing up for your course, they’re more likely to think that the course is valuable and sign up themselves.

The easiest way to display social proof on your website is with TrustPulse, the best social proof app available on WordPress and any other course platform you might use.

With TrustPulse, you can show a live feed of recent activity on your site, including course signups. This can persuade potential customers that your course is worth buying.

You can also use TrustPulse to build urgency. If you haven’t launched your class yet, you can show how many people have joined the waitlist or browsed your sales page.

For courses with limited availability, you can show how many people have signed up or joined the waitlist in a certain period of time. By showing that your course is popular and in demand, you remind your website visitors not to wait if they’re interested in buying.

More examples of social proof marketing include featuring testimonials from past students or positive reviews from 3rd-party sites.

6. Target Engaged Visitors

As tempting as it is to market your online course to anyone who will listen, you’ll get better results by targeting your course marketing only to the right visitors.

How? By using visitor behavior on your website as a way to understand their intent.

For example, let’s say you’re a blogger. If someone reads several of your posts from a single category, chances are they want to learn more about that topic. If you have a course on that subject, that would be a perfect offer for that visitor.

You can use OptinMonster’s advanced display rules to target the most engaged visitors. Here are some display rules you can use to find visitors who might be ready to buy your course:

  • Time on page or Time on site: Visitors who spend a long time reading your content are prime candidates for your course.
  • Pages viewed: If a visitor is clicking around on multiple pages, they might be looking for more detail on a topic that’s covered in your course.
  • WordPress post category: Market your course on the most relevant content pages.
  • Has seen or Has converted: If they’ve opted into another campaign related to your course topic, they’re probably interested in learning more about your course.

OptinMonster lets you combine and connect display rules in an almost infinite number of ways.

7. Build a Course Sales Page

Finally, we recommend building a landing page dedicated to selling your online course.

This gives you a specific place to drive targeted traffic. You’ll be able to share direct links to your course landing page in your emails, social media posts, and more.

With a dedicated page, you’ll also have plenty of space to explain the benefits of your course. You can present, in detail, how your class can solve the pain points of your potential students.

Here are the top 6 things you need to include on your course sales page:

  • The name of your online course
  • The problem your course solves for them
  • What participants will be able to do by the time they finish your course
  • How their life will be better and different after your course
  • A strong value proposition (why is your course worth more than the price?)
  • Price, meeting times, and other logistics

For more detail, we’ve written a full guide on how to write a sales page that converts.

You can use SeedProd to build your course sales page. SeedProd is the best landing page builder out there. Just like OptinMonster, it has an intuitive drag and drop builder, so your landing page can be ready in minutes, not hours.

drag and drop blocks in seedprod

Bonus Tips: Marketing Online Courses on Other Platforms

We recommend building your own audience first, but you can complement that by promoting your online course on external websites as well.

As promised, here are a few ways to market online courses on platforms other than your own site:

  • Social media marketing: Your social media channels can be the quickest way to build an audience for your course marketing plan. Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) are obvious choices. You should also consider platforms such as TikTok and Linkedin, depending on your target audience
  • Affiliate marketing: Pay a small commission to affiliates who promote your course for you using affiliate codes and links. This strategy is especially effective when past customers of your online course become affiliates. Read our complete guide to affiliate marketing to learn more.
  • Guest blogging: Build brand awareness and SEO backlinks by writing content for influential blogs or publications in your niche. Your guest posts establish your expertise and help you reach new audiences.  Check out the ultimate guide to guest blogging for more details.
  • Podcast guesting: Reach a bigger audience and gain credibility by appearing on relevant podcasts that your audience listens to. Share a link to your course or even a special coupon code just for podcast listeners.
  • Video Content: If you have a good following on your YouTube channel, use it! Create videos that give a preview of your course, so potential students can see what they’re signing up for first-hand.
  • Referral marketing/rewards programs: Set up a system where existing students receive incentives for getting their friends and family to take one of your courses. For instance, if someone buys your course through their referral link, your student gets a nice discount on their next course.
  • Conference/summit appearances: Offer to teach an abridged version or preview of your course as a workshop presenter or speaker. Make sure to ask about the conference’s self-promotion policies.
  • Online forums: Participate in popular forums such Quora and Reddit, regularly discussing your course topic with others. Then you’ll have the opportunity to suggest your course when relevant. Just make sure your participation extends beyond online course marketing. To be successful, you’ll need to become a trusted member of the forum communities.
  • Paid Ads: If you have the budget for it,  Google Ads and Facebook ads offer precise targeting, so you reach people who have shown interest in your course topic.

Website Optimization = More Students for Your Online Course

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business, or established brand, these strategies will help you understand how to market your online courses. When you optimize your website for course promotion, all of your traffic-driving marketing efforts will also contribute to your classes’ success.

If your online course is ready to go, then start promoting it today with OptinMonster!

With our software, you can create any of these campaign types to promote your course throughout your site:

  • Lightbox popups
  • Floating bars
  • Inline forms
  • Slide-in scroll boxes
  • Gamified Coupon-Wheel Campaigns
  • Sidebar forms

You’ll also be able to carefully control when and how your campaigns display, so you reach the right people at the right time.

Get Started With OptinMonster Today!
A successful online course can be a valuable revenue stream for your business. But like any other product or service, it won’t sell itself. Now you know how to market online courses at low or no cost.

And if you want to learn more about online courses and digital marketing, check out these resources:

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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