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In part 1 of this 2-part series, we’ll look at the first couple of steps to set you on your journey towards successfully marketing your small course.

The small course market is currently booming, but it’s highly competitive with many course creators struggling to generate revenue consistently. Wouldn’t it be great if you were aware of the most successful strategies to market small courses? Utilising the benefits of marketing automation in this process is the most efficient way of generating consistent leads and course enrolments, and the most important step in this process is cultivating the ideal automated sales funnel.

If you don’t have an efficient sales funnel for your online course, it’s the equivalent of opening up a store in the middle of the Antarctic. You may be selling the best products at the best price, but if nobody knows how to get to you or why they should buy from you, then you’ll ultimately fail. On the other hand, if you do things the right way, you don’t have to be selling the best product (although, it’s always a good idea to strive towards this) or have the best price because an efficient sales funnel will ensure your brand stands out above the rest and that your conversions remain loyal and engaged.

Traditionally, incorporating a sales funnel into your marketing strategy would be a huge task involving dozens of hours of work, but automated marketing makes this process so much easier to set up and implement. Even better is the fact that after the initial steps have been completed, the system you’ve set up will basically run on autopilot, letting you get on with more important aspects of life while it draws in new enrolments for you! Here are a few simple steps to guide you in using marketing automation to market your small course:

Define the specific problems your target market is facing

There’s likely a specific cohort of people your course is going to appeal to. The trick is to figure out exactly what appeals to this cohort and what is going to grab their attention. Obviously, not knowing who this group is could be seriously detrimental to your success. If you’re able to identify what they need help with, as well as their challenges, questions, frustrations and likes, you’ll be more likely to create a course that suits them best and be able to market it to them like a champion. So, how do you figure out who your audience is and what they need? You can:

  • Research – Here, Google is your friend. Hit the Web and search high and low for topics related to your course. Look at what other marketers have done and whether they’ve had success. Check out forums and comments sections relating to your topics and see what questions or concerns pop up. Another great idea is to look into review sites for similar courses to determine what people liked the best or found most frustrating about similar courses.
  • Ask your potential audience – If you seriously want to see what makes your potential enrollees tick, why not ask them yourself? Jump on Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Twitter and other similar forums and social media platforms to ask something like “what would you like to see/hate to see included as part of this course?”. Don’t forget to engage those who answer and let them know how valuable their participation is.
  • Use automated marketing tools – Marketing automation not only gathers a huge amount of general user data to determine what the likes, habits and needs of your site visitors and customers are, but it also offers a number of ways to collect even more very specific data, such as engagement scoring via email campaigns, mobile communications and surveys to your existing and potential enrollees.

Offer an incentive to build your email subscriptions

The best way to weed out casual readers from potential enrollees is to get them to subscribe. It’s no secret in the marketing world that a person needs to be exposed 6 to 8 times to a course before deciding whether or not to enrol, so email is a great way of increasing these exposures, but how do you increase the chances of subscription? Offer an incentive, of course! Think of all the times you’ve subscribed to an email – sometimes it’s because you’re really interested in the brand, but I’m betting that the majority of times it’s because you’ve been offered free information, a percent off voucher or some other freebie, right? For those trying to sell small courses, a great ‘freebie’ to accompany your request to subscribe is free information about the course/s you’re selling (i.e., if you’re selling a short course on photography, for instance, you could say “subscribe and receive a free 14-page booklet entitled ‘Amazing tips for new photographers’”). It doesn’t need to be a booklet either – it could just as easily be a video, podcast, infographic, invitation to a presentation or other event or anything your imagination can come up with.

If you’re offering free info, ensure it solves a problem

If your incentive to subscribe is going to be free information, it’s a great idea to ensure it solves one of the problems your target audience may be having. This will provide value and earn trust by showing prospective enrollees that you’re an expert in your field and that you understand their needs. To use the same example as above, if you’re selling a photography short course, you could write an article about ‘the top 3 problems photographers face’ or similar and then specify that your course addresses these things in greater detail, among other things.

Make your welcome email count

When people start subscribing to your emails, you’ll want to ensure they don’t immediately regret the decision and unsubscribe when your autoresponder sends out the first email. Make your welcome email simple, relevant, friendly and personal. Thank the recipient for subscribing, introduce your brand or yourself and let them know they can contact you at any time with questions or comments. Don’t forget to include the link for your free resource and also add your site link and social media links for them to follow, as well as an unsubscribe link.

Create a follow-up email series

As mentioned previously, the simplicity of marketing automation means that you can create a campaign and then simply set it to run the annoying stuff itself. So, you can draft a number of emails inviting people to enrol in your course and these are sent out at whichever time interval you’d like (once every second day after a person subscribes, for instance). Obviously, emails should remind people why it’s a great idea to sign up for your course, but if you can sweeten the deal with every successive email, even better! To do this, you could perhaps offer a free trial (allow prospective enrollees to view some of your course content or have access for a certain time period) at some point, or include a little snippet of exclusive advice with each email. You could even base the emails around each lesson in your course, giving an overview of what they’ll learn or achieve by completing each lesson. Whatever you choose, don’t forget to monitor your inbox for questions or enquiries from your readers and apply accordingly.

Follow up with non-responders

Of course, you’re very unlikely to get a 100% enrolment rate, but to ensure you’re giving it your best shot, you should always follow-up with those who subscribe but don’t enrol after your email series. This is because some people need a little more prompting than others, while other people might not be at the right stage of life to enrol, due to finances or other things. A great way to follow-up is to send another series of emails, but this time, space them well apart (say, one email every two weeks). Reiterate what was said in the first series, but this time, add a section to each email asking politely why the reader hasn’t yet enrolled – something along the lines of ‘We noticed you haven’t enrolled yet. We’d love it if you could complete the below survey to let us know why’ and of course, include a quick survey or questionnaire/answer boxes in the email so they can let you know without having to go to a lot of effort. By doing this, you’re not only increasing the chances of late enrolments but also increasing your knowledge of why some people aren’t enrolling, which will allow you to hone your marketing skills to increase your ROI.

This is certainly not the only marketing method for short courses, but it is tried and proven and limited only by your imagination. We hope this article is helpful to those of you who are marketing a short course, but don’t forget, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact the friendly team at Swift Digital on 02 9929 7001 and we can help you formulate the perfect automated marketing plan that will increase your enrolments and help your brand stand out from the crowd!