How to Market Your Online Course with These 10 Extremely Actionable Tactics (That We’ve Used Ourselves)

Most lists that share marketing tactics for online courses give the most obvious ideas. Things like get on social media, build an email list, start a YouTube channel, or create a blog.

But let’s be real. You don’t need another list of basic ideas you already know.

Most lists also don’t give enough details. They share a bunch of vague tips and don’t explain how to actually execute on them. You have more questions after reading than answers:

  • What should I actually do on social media?
  • How do I get people to sign up to my email list?
  • What do I need to start a YouTube Channel?
  • What posts should I write for my blog?

When course creators see advice listed out as a bunch of ideas, they end up trying “a little bit of everything”. We’ve seen it ourselves after coaching hundreds of course creators.

That. Doesn’t. Work.

It’s like “dabbling” in language learning. You don’t learn a language by dabbling: Try Spanish one week, French the next, and Mandarin the following. There’s zero chance you’ll be able to hold a conversation in any of them.

Same with marketing your online course. You don’t do it successfully by dabbling. You do it by picking a couple of tactics and doubling down on them.

You need detail to double down.

So, in this post, we’re presenting a list of detailed, actionable tactics for marketing online courses that we (and our clients) have used successfully over the years.

Many of them are ideas you likely haven’t heard about yet — for example, consequence pricing, or viral thank-you pages. But for each, we’re giving you enough detail to take action.

Also, to help you understand where all of them sit in the entire universe of tactics you could use, we’ve grouped these 10 marketing tactics into three buckets you can use to promote your online course:

  1. Partnerships.
  2. Offers.
  3. Pricing.

The pricing section has tactics that will increase your purchase rate and overall revenue, while offers and partnerships will help grow your customer base. If you’re not sure where to start, start with partnerships. It’s one of the most underutilized and effective strategies for marketing an online course we’ve seen.

If you want help executing the ideas on this list as well as accountability to make sure you do, let us know. We’ve helped many course creators scale their businesses throughout the years. Book a free strategy session and we’ll do an in-depth audit of your current situation and talk through a detailed marketing plan to help you grow.

Partnership Tactics for Marketing Your Online Course

Whenever we work with course creators, partnerships are typically the first marketing strategy we teach. They may sound fancy, but execution is simple once you know how they work.

In a nutshell, partnerships are this: getting influencers or businesses in your niche (people who are already reaching your ideal customers) to put you in front of their audiences.

It has three steps:

  • Step 1: Identify your partners.
  • Step 2: Craft a unique angle that gives them a reason to feature you.
  • Step 3: Pitch your partners.

It’s like being the opening act for a popular band. You get introduced as someone worth following to people who already dig your style.

You vs an established company's eager customers

Two huge benefits of partnership marketing is:

  • Benefit 1: You don’t need a big audience to make partnerships work.
  • Benefit 2: Unlike Facebook ads or Google ads, you don’t need to spend any money.

That means almost anyone can execute this strategy, and we’ve coached dozens of course creators on these exact steps. You can learn the basics of execution, why it works, and more from our guide to partnership marketing.

But in this post, we’ll tackle four (out of many) partnership tactics that we teach to course creators and that you can use today to market your online course:

  1. Poster Child.
  2. Teaching Team-Ups.
  3. Guest Content.
  4. Offer Swaps.

Let’s jump in.

1. Poster Child

Every business or influencer wants to show the world that what they’re selling or teaching works. The best way to do that is to show social proof. So most businesses are dying to have more testimonials of people using their product or service to get awesome results.

This tactic calls for you to be that success story. Your job is to be the poster child for your potential partner.

Becoming a poster child isn’t hard. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Like all partnership tactics, first find a partner that’s reaching your target audience.
  • Step 2: Next, document all the benefits and results you get from their products or teachings.
  • Step 3: Finally, reach out and let them know about your success.

Bryan's tutorial convo on Lifehacker

When done right, that company or influencer will feature you in their marketing. They’ll use you in their advertising and put you in front of their audience. As a result, you’ll start getting new traffic you can market your online course to.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ List five businesses whose product or service has helped you in some way. They should have a similar audience to you. Do this in a Google Doc.

☐ Next, write the results you achieved thanks to each company or influencer.

☐ Finally, find the person at that business who has the power to feature you (usually someone in marketing). Email them a short message sharing your results.

Want to learn more? Then read this post we wrote that deep dives further into the poster child formula.

2. Guest Content

Did you know that a constant demand for content is a huge pain point for your potential partners?

Many people that we’ve coached have trouble understanding this. That’s because they don’t have big enough audiences that want a steady output of quality content yet. But believe us — producing free content on a regular basis takes its toll.

You can help potential partners by offering to fill in a content gap. Share your expertise through content they deliver to their audience, such as a guest post or podcast interview.

Hosted by Pat Flynn: How to Create Your Life Vision Plan with Michael Hyatt
Michael Hyatt used this tactic to get a guest spot on Pat Flynn’s own podcast.

If you’re worried that no one is going to feature you because you’re not famous, stop. It’s not true. We’ve helped dozens of coaches execute this partnership strategy by finding a content gap. The key to getting a Yes from a partner in your industry is:

  1. Don’t chase the Oprahs of your industry right away. Start with people who have smaller audiences, but not so small that they’re irrelevant (like someone with 20 Twitter followers).
  2. Focus on finding their content gap. Really research what they’ve read/said/shown and what their audience is already asking about in comments or forums and where you can add value. Influencers want more opportunities to help their audience. This is a huge pain point for them.
  3. Write a short email that shows you’re not a random weirdo on the internet. Your message must include a clear statement of why your idea will benefit them as well as a simple ask. Read more about this kind of email here.

Finally, one of the most effective guest content tactics you can try is a guest email. It probably gets about one-tenth the fanfare of guest blogging. But from our own experience, we’ve found guest emailing is 10x as powerful. It also takes way less time to write than a guest blog.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Find eight places that speak to the same audience as you. Pick two bloggers, two YouTubers, and two podcasters. Choose influencers whose content you genuinely like. Also pick two admins from online communities you’re part of (think Facebook Groups or Reddit).

☐ Come up with three ideas for filling a content gap. Find out what their audience wants to know by researching comments and discussion threads.

☐ Find those influencers’ contact information and reach out to them with your pitch. You can use a tool like hunter.io to find their email.

3. Teaching Team-Ups

Instead of guest content, another similar tactic you can try to fill a content gap is a teaching team-up. You can conduct these teaching sessions over live webinar platforms such as Zoom or social media platforms such as their Facebook page.

Remember, one of the biggest challenges your potential partners face is their audience’s demand for valuable information. They don’t always have ideas to deliver this. You can help them by teaching something that their audience truly wants to learn.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Step 1: First, prepare your lesson. Again, it should cover a topic that your partner’s audience cares about. But it also needs to be something in your area of expertise or course topic.
  • Step 2: Next, ask your partner to promote registration for the free lesson to their list.
  • Step 3: Finally, teach your lesson. Then at the end of it, pitch everyone that attended about your online course.

Finding something worth teaching to your partner’s audience might seem hard. But it’s easy to do when you know where to find inspiration.

Look at the discussion threads on your partner’s social media posts, blog articles, or YouTube videos. Note any frequently asked questions from their audience. Always narrow your choices to topics where you have clear expertise.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Find five fellow course creators who create content that you admire. Choose targets who’ve created courses that complement, not compete, with your course.

☐ Outline curriculums for three kinds of lessons you can teach their audiences. Your ideas need to cover subjects their audiences want to learn. You can use a service such as Slideshare to present your lesson.

☐ Find the contact information of those five course creators and send them your pitch. You can use a tool like hunter.io to find their email.

4. Offer Swaps

This is a third way of filling a content gap for an influencer or partner in your industry: You both agree to create special offers to give each other’s audiences.

There’s no limit to the kinds of offers you can swap with your potential partners. Here are a few examples:

  1. Trade lead magnets you’ve both made and share to each other’s lists.
  2. Promote past webinars you’ve each hosted.
  3. Create special discounts for your courses to send to both audiences.
  4. Swap and give away a module of each other’s courses.

Share to each other's lists of lead magnets > Swap and Give away a module of each other's courses > Special Discounts for your courses > Promote Past Webinars

Always make sure to have a call to action to capture or convert new course leads. Send them to landing pages where they must sign up to your list in exchange for the offer. Or, direct them straight to a course sales page where they can buy your online course.

Feeling stuck for ideas? We’ll talk more about offers in the next bucket of tactics.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Find five fellow course creators who also sell courses you like. Choose ones who’ve made courses that complement, not compete with your course.

☐ Write down four potential offer ideas based on the examples we shared earlier.

☐ Find the contact information of those course creators and send your offer swap idea. You can use a tool like hunter.io to find their email.

Using Offers to Market Your Online Course

The offers category has tactics that do two things:

  1. Use simple offers to get more people to share your pages and thus get more traffic to your site.
  2. Convert more traffic into subscribers that you can later launch your course to.

There are four offers that have been really effective for us and our clients that we’ll cover here. The first two help get more traffic, and the next two help convert more traffic to subscribers:

  1. Viral Thank You Pages (more traffic).
  2. Contests (more traffic).
  3. Exit Intent Offers (more subscribers).
  4. Welcome Offers (more qualified subscribers).

5. Viral Thank You

Most course creators who build email lists send new subscribers to a generic thank-you page. What they don’t realize is that they miss an opportunity to get free, warm traffic at that exact step.

Anyone who lands on those thank-you pages is very interested in what you do. Why wouldn’t they be? They just gave you permission to send them regular updates.

That’s why the thank-you page is the perfect place to ask someone to spread the word about your business. All you need to do is give them an incentive in exchange for doing so.

Here’s how to make a viral thank-you page that works:

  • Step 1: Identify three opt-in forms on your site that cause the most sign-ups to your list.
  • Step 2: Use GoViral, a free tool we’ve made, to design your thank-you page.
  • Step 3: On your thank-you page, offer a bonus to new subscribers.
  • Step 4: Create a pre-written social post that new subscribers must share in order to access your bonus resource.
"Awesome! Want to go VIP and get two bonuses? (1) The Writer's Manifesto (2) My #1 Writing Tool"
Writer Jeff Goins created this viral thank-you page that has gotten 7,439 people to tweet about him since implementing this strategy.

In our experience, we’ve seen that up to 40% of new subscribers are happy to share a social media post in exchange for an offer. That leads to warm referral traffic for you and your online course business.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Note the three opt-in forms on your website that generate the most sign-ups to your list.

☐ Design your new thank-you page for those forms with our tool, GoViral.

☐ Come up with three ideas for bonuses you can offer on your new thank-you page.

☐ Write and share three social posts about your online course that your thank-you page can promote.

6. Contests

Contests have a similar psychology for your visitors as a viral thank you. But instead of getting a small piece of content in exchange for sharing, they share to get a chance to win something much bigger.

You offer an awesome prize (like LeadPages for a decade, shown below). People get to enter in exchange for sharing. People get more entries (more chances to win) if they share more.

To create an effective contest, there are three main concepts to keep in mind:

  1. Your prize has to have shock value and be highly desired by your audience. Make it good.
  2. You have to promote your giveaway to your audience.
  3. You have to incentivize your audience to promote your giveaway for you.
A preview of the contest to win 10 years of free LeadPages!
Above is a contest we ran a couple years ago.

LeadPages is a tool we’ve talked about many times on this blog. A few years ago, someone inspired us to run a contest that gave away a free 10-year subscription.

A week after launching, sign ups to our list went through the roof. The results? A little more than 2,000 people entered the contest and subscribed to our list.

This is just one example of running a contest that leverages the power of your audience. There are many others. If you’d like to learn more, you can read this article about how we did it.

Take action today! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Pick your prize. Remember, it needs to be something that wow’s your audience.

☐ Write a draft for one post that promotes your giveaway to your social media channels.

☐ Write a draft for the email you’ll send to promote your contest to your list.

7. Exit Intent Offer

Exit intent offers work. They’ve worked years ago, and they still work today.

And they’re way less pushy than all kinds of pop-ups and sliders that interrupt readers as they’re reading.

Instead, with an exit intent pop-up, you let visitors browse your website with no interruptions. Then, as they’re about to leave your page, give them an offer related to the reason they were on your site in the first place. In exchange, you’ll ask them for their email address.

When creating your exit-intent offer, follow these four rules:

  1. Never use a timer and interrupt someone with your offer.
  2. Never use this for a first-time visitor.
  3. Never show this to someone who’s already subscribed to your list.
  4. Always test for a good user experience.
Brian Dean of Backlinko's Ad
Brian Dean of Backlinko offers this free guide as one of his exit-intent offers.

In our experience, creating and implementing a site-wide, exit-intent offer can increase your leads from website visitors by 25% (to 45%). Those are extra leads you can sell your online course to.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Create a lead magnet for your exit offer.

☐ Pick the software you’ll use to deliver your exit offer. We recommend RightMessage, but you can also use Sumo or OptinMonster.

☐ Set up and test your exit offer on your website.

8. Welcome Offer

A welcome offer is a paid but low-priced offer that’s available to anyone new to your list.

Why would you sell a low-priced product? There are four main reasons:

  1. It rewards new subscribers with an exclusive offer they won’t find anywhere else.
  2. It encourages them to take action. A low-price product gives someone an opportunity to immediately start solving the problem they joined your list for.
  3. It warms up new members of your list to the idea that you sell things and gets them to see you as selling high-quality, valuable products.
  4. It introduces new subscribers to the benefits of your online course content.

Most course sellers make welcome sequences that don’t do this. Instead, their email marketing  sends subscribers down a sales funnel that leads straight to a pitch for their big ticket item. That’s a lot to ask of someone who’s just discovered you. And as a result, new subscribers won’t convert as well.

We teach course creators the opposite. We tell them to design a sequence that gives new subscribers educational and value-driven emails. Then at the end, the sequence includes an offer that’s related to their course.

Lead Magnet Delivery > Welcome > Solve their Problem > Bonus Resource > Intro Offer > Case Study or Success Story > Offer Reminder

The offer you choose should be small, but compelling enough to serve as an intro to your bigger ticket item (AKA your online course).

Aside from being small, your welcome offer should be a no-brainer price and designed to give new subscribers a quick win. For example, your welcome offer might be a module from your course that you spin off as a standalone product.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

☐ Pick one module from your online course to be your welcome offer.

☐ Write two emails for your sequence. First draft the email delivering a lead magnet. Then draft your welcome email. It should introduce people to who you are.

☐ Write two more emails. Draft an email solving a big problem for your audience. Then draft an email offering a bonus resource related to the problem you solved in the last message.

☐ Write another two emails. Draft an email that pitches your welcome offer. Then draft an email detailing a success story related to the welcome offer.

☐ Draft your last email, which will serve as a last call. It should let them know the offer is expiring.

Pricing Tactics for Marketing Your Online Course

So partnerships and offers help:

  • Get more traffic to your site.
  • Convert more traffic into subscribers.
  • Qualify those subscribers and warm them up to you selling your course.

Conversely, these pricing tactics impact sales of your online course. And in our experience, it’s one of the fastest and most impactful levers in affecting online course sales.

Changing a single number in the price of your course is one way you can improve the marketing efforts of your online course. In this section, we’ll cover two nuanced pricing tactics you can try:

  1. Consequence Pricing.
  2. Product Bundling.

Avoid these tactics if you’ve just started selling your online course. Only tinker with price after you have some sales under your belt. Until then, try using the other tactics we’ve covered so far in this article.

Need a second set of eyes to review how you’re pricing your products? You can book a free strategy session where we’ll do an in-depth audit of your current situation and talk through a detailed marketing plan to help you grow.

9. Consequence Pricing

Want to know the absolute best way to market your online course?

Create more successful students.

Why?

Because successful students become ambassadors for your course. They can speak to others about how their lives have changed as a result of what you teach. Again, fewer marketing strategies are more powerful than word of mouth.

They’re also more likely to buy more products from you in the future. It’s easier to sell to someone who’s already bought something from you than to someone who hasn’t.

But creating more successful users isn’t easy. Many times, most of your students buy your course only to let it sit on the shelf. Sad to say this, but it’s true.

But there is a tactic you can use that can help you produce more successful students. It’s called consequence pricing. The basic idea is this: Offer a resource to students that will prepare and motivate them to finish your flagship course. Motivate students to complete the work for that resource first by creating a negative outcome if they don’t.

Here’s an example you can pattern your own execution after:

A few years ago, we offered a free mini-course called “Decide Already” to our email list. But to get free access, subscribers had to pick one consequence payment ($10, $50, or $100) if they didn’t finish it.

The results were eye-opening. The students who participated were 15x more likely to buy our flagship course.

Student Success Rate: No Consequence vs. Monetary Consequence

Why? The course, Decide Already, helped them get through the process of getting 100 subscribers. Once they knew that they could do it, they were far more likely to purchase (and succeed with) our flagship course at the time: “Get 10,000 Subscribers”.

Take action now! Here’s your to-do-list:

  • Choose the mini-course you’ll offer to your list for free. This can be a totally new but short course you create. Or, to keep things simple, pick a module from the course you want to sell.
  • Set up your $0 product with eCommerce software you use. If you don’t have one, you can try a service like SamCart to do this.
  • Integrate the product with your learning management system.
  • Create a success form on Google Docs and include a link to that in the lesson of your course.
  • Draft the email you’ll send announcing the free course to your list.
  • Create your consequence pricing products: $10, $50, and $100 in the eCommerce platform you use.

Need a little bit more info? Read this post to understand why consequence pricing works and how we implemented it.

10. Product Bundle

It can be scary to tinker around with the price of your course. But there is one tactic you can use that has limited risk.

Product bundling: packaging your online course with another popular product that your potential students really want.

Let’s say you’re a tennis coach and you’ve created two different mini courses. One focuses on the fundamentals of serving, the other on the fundamentals of baseline play.

You’ve priced both at $100. But you’ve noticed that the monthly sales of your mini-course on serving outpace the monthly sales of your course on baseline play.

To increase your revenue, you could combine both courses together into a package that you sell at $175.

Course A ($100) vs. Course B ($100) vs. Course Combo ($175)

You can try this tactic by yourself. But you can also get creative and pair up with a partner. Try teaming up with a fellow course creator and bundle your courses together to expand your reach. Create an exclusive offer that includes both for a special price. Then, promote your bundle to each other’s audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about product bundling, then read this other blog post we wrote.

Take action today! Here’s your to-do-list:

  • Find a product that your audience would want that you don’t have.
  • Find a potential partner who offers that product.
  • Draft an email that asks that partner if they’d want to package their product with your course. Include that you’d market this packaged deal to each other’s audiences.

Start Marketing Your Online Course with These Tactics Today

You’re all set! Instead of combing through a list of obvious ideas, we’ve given you one that has a few innovative tactics you can try.

To recap, here are the marketing tactics we covered:

  • Partnerships (Increase traffic)
  1. Offer Swaps
  2. Teaching Team-Ups
  3. Guest Content
  4. Poster Child
  • Offers (Increase traffic or subscribers)
  1. Contest Giveaways
  2. Exit Intent Offers
  3. Welcome Offers
  4. Viral Thank-You Pages
  • Pricing (Increase sales or revenue)
  1. Consequence Pricing
  2. Product Bundling

You also have the key details you need for execution, too. No more wondering what you have to do next.We suggest you pick one strategy to start, and execute it. Then reach out to us with the results —  we’d love to learn how it went.

If you want help executing, book a free strategy session with us today.