Course Selling & Marketing

How to Create a Profitable Sales Funnel to Sell Online Courses

Androniki Koumadoraki Content Writer LearnWorlds
8 min

In digital marketing, a sales funnel is the visual representation of the process of converting a lead into a customer. It starts when the potential customer realizes they have a problem or desire and ends with them buying a product or service that (hopefully) meets their needs. In between, there are several stages they go through – hence the term customer journey that describes the process.

The sales funnel – often referred to as the purchase or marketing funnel – is visually represented by a graphic resembling an ice cream cone. But instead of fancy flavors, the cone is filled with the sales funnel stages.

👉 And here’s a quick look (or shall we better say a quick taste!):

Each funnel stage represents a different goal, from getting your online course known to your target audience to actually selling it.

As an online course creator, you must be aware of the various stages of the sales funnel and the best course of action required during each one.

Doing so will help you achieve the best possible results for each individual goal and effectively guide your potential customer to the “Buy button.”

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Read on to learn how to sell online courses with the tried-and-tested power of sales funnels!

What Does a Sales Funnel for Online Courses Look Like?

An online course sales funnel doesn’t differ from any other, as the sales process and buyer’s journey are more or less the same for every business.

👨‍🏫 Keep in mind that awareness is at the Top Of The Funnel (TOFU), discovery and consideration are in the Middle Of The Funnel (MOFU), and conversion is at the Bottom Of The Funnel (BOFU).

Naturally, the awareness stage is the most “crowded” one. But not everyone who becomes aware of your online academy or course will be interested enough to move on to the next stage, so as we move toward the bottom of the funnel, the crowd gets looser.

In many cases, the sales funnel includes loyalty, although typically, it’s an after-purchase stage.

Since customer satisfaction and loyalty are integral to the survival of any kind of business, we’re examining this stage as well.

How to Make Your Sales Funnel Profitable Every Step of the Way

A sales funnel provides a valuable roadmap for you. It helps you break down the customer journey into steps and plan initiatives and activities that best suit each stage.

Depending on your business goals, you might want to focus on a specific stage of the sales funnel – therefore, knowing what you need to do during each one will be of massive help.

For example, you might be happy with the number of leads you get but not with your social media following. This means you don’t need to invest in awareness activities at the moment but should instead focus on discovery.

Measuring the effectiveness of these activities will also help you identify any faux pas, improve your marketing strategy, and ultimately accomplish higher conversion rates.

Let’s go over them one by one:

1

Awareness

🎯 Primary goal: generate traffic

At this stage, you aim to bring traffic to your course sales page, so your target audience becomes aware of your online academy.

This is the broadest part of the sales funnel and usually requires more action steps than the other stages. While this stage attracts the most people, only a few will move further.

Step one in the awareness stage is to understand your potential customers’ demographics and pain points, so you can focus on the most suitable activities and create a tone of voice that resonates.

This way, you will manage to not only reach out to a lot of people but to reach out to the right people – those who are highly likely to sign up for your online course – and minimize lead losses as you move down to the sales funnel.

💡 Here are some effective lead-generation techniques and channels to focus on during the awareness stage:

Paid ads

Paid ads like YouTube ads or Facebook ads can help you bring traffic to your website relatively quickly. Of course, “paid” means you are taking the risk of spending money without getting anything back.

To maximize the effectiveness of your paid ads, you always need to think about who your audience is and where you’re more likely to reach them.

💁 For instance, if your courses cultivate professional skills, advertising on LinkedIn will bring in quality leads. But if they are more generic, like fitness classes or crafts, you will have better luck on Instagram or TikTok.

Our post How to Promote Your Online Courses With Google Ads will give you a good idea of paid ads best practices to help you get started.

Content marketing

Content marketing combined with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing will also effectively bring traffic to your website.

Although content immediately brings to mind written content, like blog posts and eBooks, remember that podcasts, webinars, and videos are also part of a content marketing strategy.

You don’t necessarily have to build your own blog or YouTube channel if you don’t have the time or resources. However, you can reach out to other course creators and professionals related to your course topic and see if you can be featured as a guest contributor to their own blogs, podcast series, etc.

Social media

Reaching out to your target audience via social media is another way to not just get your name out there but actually build your personal branding.

Apart from having your own social media profiles, join Facebook groups and other social media forums relevant to your niche to participate in online discussions and bring attention to your course.

Affiliate marketing

Bloggers and influencers can also spread the word about your online course. Affiliate marketing may take a cut out of your earnings, so this is definitely something to think about.

But, at the same time, affiliate marketing works wonderfully for both the awareness and consideration stage.

When affiliates promote your online course and cast a vote of trust for you, they assume responsibility toward their audience. This enhances your credibility and therefore your chances of selling your online course through them.

2

Discovery

🎯 Primary goal: Engage with the audience

Now that potential students have discovered your online academy or course, they want to learn more about it. Now, they start engaging with you more: they might sign up for your email list or follow you on social media.

It’s not time to try to sell directly yet. At this point, your main goal is to build trust.

💡 Focus on these activities:

Compelling course landing page

Create a focused landing page where you showcase the benefits of your course. For the learners, these benefits come in the form of learning objectives and certificates they can acquire.

Also, include FAQs to cover some common questions students may have, like if there’s a refund policy.

💁 Want to know more about what a high-converting landing page looks like? Read our in-depth post The Ultimate Course Landing Page Guide & Examples to learn all the tricks!

Free resources

Free resources and digital products, like eBooks and checklists, are also excellent lead magnets that can get you your first email subscribers.

Remember to include an opt-in form, so people can choose whether they want to receive regular communications from you.

Educational marketing is an excellent way to bring potential students value upfront and start building trust while indirectly promoting your online course.

Email marketing

Now is the time to initiate your email marketing strategy! Start an email sequence by sending a welcome email presenting yourself and the benefits of your course.

To optimize the process and save significant time, use an email automation tool to schedule your future emails for those who have expressed interest in receiving updates.

Social media

Social media, again, with a different spin. For the discovery stage, you should focus on engaging with your audience through your own social media communities.

Post highlights from your online course, share helpful advice relevant to the course topic, or start thought-provoking discussions.

3

Consideration

🎯 Primary goal: Generate inquiries

During the consideration (or evaluation) stage, potential buyers are very close to purchasing your course. The goal of customer acquisition is within reach if you play your cards right since anyone who has reached this stage of the sales funnel is one small step away from buying your eLearning course.

💡 Here’s what you can offer to motivate them further:

Free content

Allow prospects to test the waters with a free trial or free course. For instance, you can create a mini-course with free access for anyone who signs up for your online academy – signing up indicates they’re seriously considering you as an option.

Social proof

Include case studies and testimonials on your course landing page demonstrating how other students feel about your online course and how they have benefited from it.

Authentic reviews from real students add credibility even more than affiliate reviews do because people know that there’s little to no profit involved in this process.

Of course, you can motivate happy students to leave a review with a discount for future purchases.

Strong calls to action

Make sure to include powerful calls to action (CTAs) across all your communications to motivate the audience to take action, be it in your emails, landing pages, social media posts, or ads.

Whether that action is downloading an eBook or signing up for a course, it doesn’t matter; the recipe is the same – CTAs must be brief, precise, and contain action verbs, ideally in the first person.

Retargeting campaigns

Retargeting is about connecting with people you have already reached but didn’t convert or engage with you further.

💁 Examples of retargeting include sending your email subscribers another email with an offer to sign up or download an eBook, or, if you’ve invested in paid advertising, to display your ad once again.

4

Conversion

🎯 Primary goal: Secure sales

Now you need to focus on activities to ensure customers are satisfied with their purchase, i.e., they will engage with your online academy and learning as soon as possible!

Upsells

Create upsell opportunities with limited-time offers and discounts. Upselling is beneficial for both parties. Obviously, you will increase your profit on the spot.

By motivating the learners to sign up for another course or buy a digital downloadable, they also get to enjoy a more comprehensive learning experience and get more value out of your offerings.

Smooth checkout process

Surely, at some point in your life, you were one click away from buying the object of your desire. Or so you thought, until a page-long form asking all kinds of questions appeared and made you think, “I don’t have time for this.”

We’ve all been through unnecessarily complicated checkout processes. Some of us made it, but the less patient gave up.

To ensure this isn’t the case with prospective customers, make the checkout as frictionless as possible. Ask for necessary information only and minimize the steps they need to take to pay for the online course.

And after the sales…

Comes loyalty! Unfortunately, it is not unusual for aspiring learners to be stuck in enrollment status for months and eventually forget about your course altogether, or have a mediocre experience with little engagement and never buy another course from you again.

Therefore, although loyalty goes beyond the typical 4-stage sales funnel, you need to stay vigilant and take steps to create repeat customers, increase customer lifetime value, and have a sustainable, profitable online course business.

💡 We have a few ideas to keep evolving your business and keep the relationship with your learners fresh!

Why memberships? Membership sites provide the perfect space for course creators and their audiences to engage and build lasting relationships.

Once you’ve built a wider audience and if you can commit to creating new content and even live events regularly, don’t hesitate to experiment with this popular business model – it will take your business to the next level!

Ready to Kick Start Sales?

From the timid stage of awareness to the end goal of conversion, the sales funnel is crucial in helping you plan the customer journey and achieve the best possible results every step of the way.

Hopefully, this post has inspired you and given you some nice ideas to engage with your audience meaningfully until (and after!) they become paying customers. The most important thing is to offer prospective learners valuable content – and this can only happen if you take the time to build learner profiles and understand their language.

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Further reading you might find interesting:

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Androniki Koumadoraki Content Writer LearnWorlds
Androniki Koumadoraki

Androniki is a Content Writer at LearnWorlds sharing Instructional Design and marketing tips. With solid experience in B2B writing and technical translation, she is passionate about learning and spreading knowledge. She is also an aspiring yogi, a book nerd, and a talented transponster.