One of the biggest challenges course creators face is increasing enrollments for their online courses.
Totally understandable, since most people who create an online course are experts on the topic that they teach, but not experts at marketing. Perhaps you can relate.
Because of this, we do our best to publish helpful articles and videos on our blog about different online course marketing strategies to help you increase your sales and enrollments. But we also recognize that many of the strategies we outline are not necessarily easy or quick to implement.
Giving you a marketing strategy that takes several days, or even weeks to implement is not the goal of this article. Instead, I’m going to show you how to get at least one new enrollment in your online course in the next 24 hours.
And the best part about this strategy is it’s free, anyone can do it, and it only takes a few minutes of work!
But before we jump into it, there is one small catch.
The type of enrollment I’m going to show you how to get is a free enrollment (not a paid sale, sorry).
What?!? But my course is worth a gazillion dollars! Why would I give my course away for free?! I want to make money!!
Hear me out…
The reality is, it is very rare for someone to go from not knowing anything about you or your course, to deciding to buy your course, without being guided through a carefully designed sales process of some kind. And a really good sales process (like the online course sale funnel outlined here) can take a few days of work to set up.
Instead, I’m going to show you how to get a free enrollment in your course quickly and easily, but that will potentially lead to multiple paid enrollments in the future.
Here’s how it works
One of the best strategies for increasing your online course sales is working with joint venture partners. Especially if you’ve already promoted your course to your audience (and you don’t want to keep bugging them about it), you have a small audience, or you have no audience at all to promote your course to.
For the record, your audience is the sum total of all the people that you have the ability to communicate with through various distribution channels (like your blog, email list or social media, for example).
A joint venture partner (aka an affiliate partner) is someone who promotes your course to their audience, usually in exchange for a percentage of sales generated by their efforts.
This means you don’t need an audience that already knows, likes and trusts you to get some course sales. You just need to find someone that is willing to promote you to an audience that knows, likes and trusts them.
Depending on the size of your joint venture’s audience, you could end up acquiring anywhere from a few dozen to few hundred customers from a single partnership. Pretty cool right?
But getting someone to promote your course to their audience is easier said than done. Most joint venture partners don’t want to risk losing the trust they’ve built with their audience by promoting a course that their audience isn’t interested in, or worse, that they buy and have a bad experience with.
For that reason, they’re going to want to take your course (or at least part of it) to make sure that it is a good fit for their audience before they agree to promote it.
That’s where giving them free access to your course comes into play.
By giving a potential joint venture partner free access to your course, you’re giving them to the chance to check out your product before asking them to recommend it to their audience. You’re also taking a step towards building a relationship with that person, by giving them something of value upfront for free.
Give now to receive later.
Okay, so now that we’ve got that cleared up, here are the 4 steps to give a potential joint venture partner free access to your course in the next 24 hours:
Step 1: Identify common search terms related to your course topic
Anyone who is searching for information about your course topic online is going to use certain search terms (aka keywords) to do so.
Knowing what those keywords are is a great first step to finding out what your target audience is seeing in their search results.
Let’s pretend you have an online course about wedding photography. In this case, your target audience (presumably wedding photographers) would probably search for “wedding photography tips” or something similar to find information about this topic.
When you type the keywords “wedding photography tips” into Google, it will automatically show you a drop down list of other similar search terms. This is Google telling you that people who search for “wedding photography tips” often search for the other terms on this list as well.
Make a list of at least 5-10 search terms that are related to your online course (or sub-topics of your online course). Once you have that list of search terms to work with, move on to the next step.
Step 2: Search for blogs about your course topic
To find articles (and therefore, blogs) about your course topic, you’re also going to use Google. This shouldn’t take long to do, since the majority of search results on Google tend to be articles on blogs anyway.
Start by entering your keywords into the search bar and then scan the search results to see which ones are articles.
Here are the results that came up when I searched for wedding photography tips:
Another thing you can do is narrow your search results by adding some specific parameters to your search, like this:
Google search: [your keywords] inurl:/blog/
Adding “inurl:/blog/” after your keywords will filter the search results so that only webpages with the word blog in the URL will appear.
Here are the results that came up when I did this for wedding photography tips:
Keep in mind that not all articles have the word blog in their URL, so it’s good to try both approaches just to be safe.
I recommend scanning the first few pages of Google search results for every keyword search that you do. Depending on the popularity of your topic, it shouldn’t take long to compile a list of dozens of blogs that your target audience reads.
Another way to find articles about your course topic is to use a tool called BuzzSumo.
When you enter your keywords into BuzzSumo, it will scan the internet for content that contains those keywords, and display that content in order of how many social shares it has received (or any other criteria you choose using the “Sort by:” tab). You can also narrow your search to specific types of content (articles, videos, infographics, etc.) if you want to.
Here’s what I found when I searched for wedding photography tips using BuzzSumo:
Once you’ve compiled a list of blogs (I recommend at least 10 to start with), move on to Step 3.
We created a free tracking sheet that you can use to keep track of all the blogs you find during this step. To get the tracking sheet, just tell us where to send it:
Step 3: Qualify each blog before you contact them
Before you start contacting the blogs on your list, it’s important to qualify them first. Here are two things I recommend checking before you contact the owner of a blog:
1. Make sure they don’t sell a competing course
Before you offer to give someone free access to your course, check to make sure they aren’t in direct competition with you.
Look for a products/services/courses page on their website, and see if you can find any courses that are for sale. Most bloggers don’t have their own online courses (at least not yet!), but it doesn’t hurt to check.
In the unlikely event that they have a course that is in direct competition with yours, you might not want to give them free access to yours. Use your best judgment.
If they have a course that is complementary to yours, this can actually be a good thing. This means that they are already selling a course to their audience, and they probably already have customers.
If it makes sense for their audience to take your course before or after they take the other one, a joint venture could be a great option for both of you.
2. Gauge the size of their audience
Knowing the approximate size of a blog’s audience is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it gives you a good idea of how likely and how soon you can expect to hear back from the owner.
If you reach out to the owners of very popular blogs, don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back from them right away (or at all). They probably get a lot of emails on a daily basis.
In most cases, you’ll get a quicker response from blogs with smaller audiences. But remember, all blogs start off small. Building a relationship with the owner of a blog before they get big is not necessarily a bad idea.
The size of a blog’s audience is also a good indicator of how many course sales you could expect to receive if they promote your course to their audience. All else being equal, the bigger their audience, the more sales and exposure you can expect from a joint venture.
Here are 2 quick ways to gauge the size of a blog’s audience:
Install the Alexa toolbar on your web browser. With one click, the Alexa toolbar will give you the ranking of the specific website you are visiting. The lower the number, the higher the amount of visitors that website receives on a daily basis.
For example, Facebook has a global Alexa rank of #3. This means that Facebook is the third most visited website in the entire world (according to Alexa).
This method isn’t perfect, since Alexa’s get its data from people who have the Alexa toolbar installed on their web browsers, but it’s still a pretty good indicator of how popular any particular website or blog is.
Social media followers
Another good indication of how popular a blog is the number of followers they have across their social media channels.
Look for the links to their social media pages (they are usually placed near the top menu, bottom menu, or in the sidebar). Take a few seconds to click on these links to check how many fans/followers they have on each platform. Add them all up to get their total follower count.
Of course, what constitutes a big or a small audience is completely subjective and up to you to decide.
For example, you might say that:
- Less than 1,000 followers = Small audience (S)
- 1,000 – 5,000 followers = Medium audience (M)
- More than 5,000 followers = Large audience (L)
We added a column labelled “Audience Size” to our blog tracking sheet specifically for this reason.
The point of doing this exercise is not to exclude blogs that have small audiences. It is simply to gauge how much exposure your course will likely receive if that blog owner agrees to promote it to their audience.
In fact, you should probably start off by contacting the blogs with the smaller audiences, and work your way up to the blogs with the larger audiences. Stepping stones.
Once you’ve done this research for each of the blogs on your list, it’s time to move on to Step 4.
Step 4: Contact the blog owner & offer them free access to your course
If a blog passes your qualification process, it’s time to contact its owner and offer them free access to your course.
Remember, the goal of this step is to get them to check out your course. That’s it.
You’re not trying to get them to promote your course (at least not yet). That conversation can come later, after they’ve looked at your course. This is important. You don’t want to come across as pushy, needy, or insincere when you contact them. Invite them to check out your course without any condition or expectation that they will promote it to their audience.
Offering someone free access to your course on the condition that they promote it is like offering to take someone out for dinner on the condition that they marry you. It doesn’t work like that.
If they end up liking your course and they decide to recommend it to their audience, great. That’s when a discussion about setting up a joint venture can happen.
And even if they decide not to recommend your course to their audience, don’t feel bad. There are still benefits to giving someone free access to your course:
- You can use their feedback to help you improve your course for future students
- If they give you a positive testimonial, you can use that in your marketing and on your course sales page
- You can make a new friend! (nothing wrong with making new friends, right?)
Make sense? Great, let’s move on.
How to contact a blog owner
There are 2 main ways you can contact the owner of a blog:
1. Use the contact form on their website
Send them a message using the contact form on their website (usually on their Contact Page). Make sure you include your email address so they know where to send their response
2. Send them an email
Many blog owners will display their preferred email address on the contact page of their website. In that case, you can simply email them directly.
If you can’t find someone’s email address listed on their website, you can use a tool called Hunter to reveal the email addresses associated with that specific website/blog. Look for an email address that contains the first name of the owner of the blog.
For example, if you know the owner of www.weddingphototips.com is John Smith, and you see email@example.com on the list, that’s probably the correct email address. This is completely hypothetical, of course. Please don’t email John =)
If you can’t find a contact form or an email address to use, then go ahead and send them a message on social media instead.
What to say when you contact a blog owner
What you say when you reach out to someone for the first time is very important. You only get one chance to make a first impression!
Here are the main points you should include in your message:
- Introduce yourself and what you do
- Offer a sincere compliment about their blog
- Tell them you have an online course about the same topic
- Offer them free access to your course
- That if (and only if!) they like your course, that they consider recommending it to their audience at some point in the future
To make this step even easier for you, I’ve created an email pitch template that you can use to reach out to blog owners. If you want the template, just tell us where to send it:
You’re less than 24 hours away from your next course enrollment
Well, there you go!
A simple 4 step plan to get your next online course enrollment in 24 hours or less.
Of course, I can’t guarantee that everyone you contact will respond to you or accept your invitation to enroll in your course immediately. What I can say is that the more people you contact, the better your chances will be.
What I recommend doing is reaching out to at least 10 blog owners immediately. Expect to hear back from half of them within a day or so, and from that, expect 1-2 of them to enroll in your course.
10 Contacts –> 5 Responses –> 1-2 Enrollments
If you use the email pitch template I created, your success rate should be higher, but I want to set a reasonable expectation.
Also, never take it personally if someone doesn’t want to take your course.
There are a thousand different reasons why someone will decline your invitation to enroll in your course. Not having enough time is a common one. Whatever the reason, thank them for getting back to you, ask if there is anything you can do to help them, then move on to the next one.
On that note, I’d like to leave you with an important mantra that I was first introduced to when I worked in sales:
Okay, you’re all set. Now get out there and get some new enrollments in your course!
Then come back and tell me about your results in the comment section below:
Tyler Basu is the Content Marketing Manager at Thinkific. In addition to creating content to help Thinkific’s community create and sell online courses, he is also an author, online course creator, and podcast host.
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