Course Selling & Marketing

How to Build an Online Course Business with a Marketing Plan

6 min
Calendar on a notebook with a message that reads Make It Happen.

Running a profitable business requires good planning and execution. And, like every business that sells online courses, yours requires a solid marketing plan to help promote them.

With Black Friday and Christmas around the corner, we have prepared a guide to help you prepare a marketing plan for your online course business. A marketing plan will effectively guide you into growing your business and profits, while approaching course sales with confidence!

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a strategic document that details all the information you need to promote your course. It includes all the initiatives and the actions you plan to take to advertise your online course. This document helps to make sense of what happens with your course business and gain more control over it.

A marketing plan can be a page or several pages long, as long as it has every bit of information it needs to go on there. Also, it usually spans up to 1 year and it’s made-out of short and long-term plans and business objectives.

Why do you need one?

A marketing plan can help you do the following:

With all this in check, you will be in a better position to implement your marketing plan and target your audience in well-thought ways.

Now, adding these together requires going through the following steps:

Step 1: Understand your business – SWOT Analysis

This might sound odd, but you don’t know your business enough unless you set some priorities for it. Since you can’t do it all at once, start with getting to know what your business needs are.

A thorough SWOT analysis can help to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business and focus on those that require more attention.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Write these down in a table or a diagram and think about what might fit into each category.

While you are at it , it’s important to take into account possible obstacles and threats so that you plan how to overcome them and prepare a draft plan for these as well.

For example, consider the following:

Additionally, you can better understand your business by thinking about:

Understanding where you are and where you want to go, and getting to know where opportunities lie, will give you a clearer path towards success.

Step 2: Determine your market

What do you know about your customers? The information you have in hand can help you come up with a strategy that fits the needs of your customers. To do this, you will need to analyze your customer’s behavior.

This includes basic demographic information and other important data that helps you understand how they come to you and where they are spending most of their time online.

Most importantly though, you need to find out what is the main pain point and adjust your product to it. Your unique selling proposition should correspond to your products.
Find this by answering the following question:

“What does your course offer that your customers need?”

An excellent way to tackle this issue is to research your competitors. What are they saying? What are they missing that you offer?

Doing so can help you identify blind spots and come up with ways to ‘fill that void’ on which your target market seeks more answers.

This way you are making sure that your school stands out from the crowd!

Step 3: Set goals for your business

You need to come up with some marketing objectives while paying close attention to your marketing mix – product, price, place, and promotion. These are going to guide you to make informed decisions about how and where to advertise to reach your goals.

Be extra careful with setting objectives and avoid vague ideas. Instead, come up with realistic and specific KPIs (key performance indicators) that can be easily assessed and monitored. KPIs are perfect for measuring web traffic from social media, email, organic or referral and landing pages.

Marketing KPIs may look like these:

There are lots of ways to help you set out goals, and it’s up to you to decide which suits you best. Whichever method you choose, just make sure that you outline your strategy to get a clearer perspective on the outcome(s).

An alternative – yet very effective way to do this is in the following 4-fold:

Here’s how this looks like in reality:

Goal: Increase the number of followers on Facebook by 300 by the end of October 2019.

Current Number: 3,700

Action(s) required:

When you cut down this work into small pieces as we did in this example and separate each objective, you will find out that the process of accomplishing your goals becomes much easier.

Step 4: Gather your resources

What do you currently have in hand?
What can you come up with?
How much of it will you need?

Gathering your resources starts with asking these three basic questions.

Then it requires looking more into what type of marketing you want to use and what it can help you do.

Few examples

Email marketing: set out an email campaign and send out newsletters to create awareness about your course and inform your audience.
Content marketing: create content for blog spots, infographics, videos, ebooks relating to your course and share this to your audience.
Social media marketing: decide on the channels you want to share your course content e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.
Affiliate marketing: have people promoting your school and creating product reviews.
Offline marketing: try word of mouth, printed leaflets, SMS marketing or scheduling networking events.

P.S. Have you tried using LearnWorlds’ Affiliate Management?

Once you choose one or a combination of these, decide on a budget. How much are you willing to spend on your marketing efforts? Also, what are the actions that you are planning to take cost you? Do you have this amount of money? If not, what do you need to do to get it?

Some strategies are more expensive than others, e.g. Facebook Ads cost and affiliate partners need to get a percentage of your course sales.

However, there are other effortless and in-expensive ideas you can try out. So, before you try anything that is way out of your budget or requires you to take a huge risk, do check this list of marketing ideas we have already prepared for you.

Step 5: Measure your results

When you are setting up goals in step 3, you should also be thinking on how to measure the results. If your goal is to increase course sales, you can track those easily from the LearnWorlds’ Sales page.

If your goal is to increase web traffic you could use Google Analytics to track it.

And, if you want to increase course completions, you can use the gradebook feature to track certificates of completion both before and after your new actions.

Get Inspired

In the process of creating your marketing plan, there is much freedom on what you can do, but there are certain elements in it that remain the same no matter the type of business or industry.

If you are unsure of what it needs to go into a marketing plan or have never seen one, make sure to check a few examples first.

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Creating a marketing plan can seem like a hustle for many, but all successful edupreneurs will tell you that it is a necessary step to getting yourself – and your school, out there. What’s great about the process is that it doesn’t cost much, and might only need one or two hours of your time.

If you know your whereabouts and have a rough idea on what you need to do to get in touch with your audience, it won’t even take that long! Best of luck!

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Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Kyriaki is a Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team writing about marketing and e-learning, helping course creators on their journey to create, market, and sell their online courses. Equipped with a degree in Career Guidance, she has a strong background in education management and career success. In her free time, she gets crafty and musical.