Too many coaches are putting their soul into creating the perfect course. The majority have even witnessed some form of success selling them, but only a savvy handful have scaled their online coaching business to the heights that their profit-loving hearts desire.
So, where are the others going wrong? Should they retool and redesign their courses? Perhaps recalibrate their marketing efforts?
Well, no. The reason why your course isn’t as wildly successful as that big, reputed brand’s, is because you simply don’t command the high degree of brand authority that they do. That sounds harsh but is true nonetheless.
The real question is, with the jillion courses and coaching programs available in the market today, what are you doing as a brand to stand out and make customers pick you?
For the uninitiated, brand authority represents your company’s perceived dominance in your niche; it signifies the extent to which you are seen as an industry leader or expert and inspires trust, loyalty, and admiration.
So, whatever fancy, whizzbang course marketing strategies you are leveraging to scale your course, they can wait. The only way to future-proof your brand and set it up for long-term success is by establishing authority.
Just as well, we have 7 tried-and-tested strategies that can help course sellers build online authority. Ready? Let’s get started!
1. Take a stand
Did you know that nearly 54% of customers trust brands that are committed to social values?
In the eyes of today’s well-informed customers, merely delivering a satisfactory and affordable solution isn’t enough. They actively seek out socially responsible brands committed to making the world a better place to live in.
The Body Shop’s “no animal testing” policy, for instance, resonates perfectly with the 21st-century purpose-driven buyer.
Toms is another highly remarkable shoe brand that promises to donate a pair of shoes to communities in need every time a customer buys a pair.
You see, taking a stand lets your customers know that you’re more than just the profits you make. And by doing so, you can reap the rewards of strong perceived authority and reputation.
In fact, if your target audience comprises millennials (who constitute the largest percentage of consumers today), being linked to a social cause could greatly benefit your course sales. The demographic is deeply passionate about giving back to society, and brands that share their compelling vision for social change are self-admittedly their top priority.
According to a study by Haas School of Business at Berkeley, “more than 9-in-10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.”
So, as coaches, you should look long and hard at what environmental or social causes align best with your brand values and target audiences and consider associating with them to win public favour.
You can cater to women empowerment, education, employment, etc. — causes that naturally align with their brand vision. For example, Coaching for Cause offers sustainability courses for businesses and charities to help make their services more environment-friendly. They offer a value-driven Eco Membership where 20% of its profits are donated to a charity chosen by its members.
Online coaches can also consider using their platforms to draw attention to health or environmental crises and help raise funds for donations. Case in point, the pandemic where every major and minor brand did their bit to provide monetary assistance to the COVID-afflicted.
2. Speak target-specific, user-focused language
It’s natural for customers to want to feel secure about where and how they spend their money, right? Yes, you might eventually deliver what you promised them, but how do you address their initial hesitancy and assure them that their money is well-spent?
Regardless of their product offerings, services, and marketing strategies, authoritative brands have one thing in common: their messaging is crystal clear and razor-sharp.
They tell customers what they are paying for, what they should expect, the course’s duration, and so on.
Let’s say you are offering a solution on time management, and your sales copy reads, “Can’t manage time?”
That could practically be addressing anyone, right? Possibly even a sprinter hoping to complete a 100m race in 20 seconds. But is that who you are targeting? No! Clearly, you aren’t generating any high-quality leads this way.
On the other hand, consider this:
“Are you a working professional that struggles with managing their schedule on a day-to-day basis?”
Now that paints an accurate picture. Your reader is probably over there envisioning their back pain and thinking, “I have a ton of procrastinated work to attend to tomorrow. Maybe this could help me.”
In making your content authoritative, a lot comes down to how you present it. Your customers want you to be focused and straightforward and to do that. You need accurate insight into your target audience. We call it a customer persona.
For example, frustrated, overworked, and overwhelmed customers are more likely to pay for your services than casual, indifferent customers who aren’t as plagued by the problem you’ve set out to resolve.
When you know precisely who your prospects are, you can communicate with them by using language that targets their burning problem explicitly and provides a solution for it.
That’s how successful brands end up standing apart every time.
Neil Patel practically nails it! Take a look at how specific the title of his YouTube tutorial on increasing blog traffic is: “How to Generate 10k visitors from a Brand New Blog in Under 6 Months?”
Such eye-catching, user-oriented content designs do away with the wrong crowds and attract the right prospects with the exact pain points you have a solution for.
3. Get published on high-authority websites
It goes without saying that your brand needs a compelling, authoritative online presence if you hope to position yourself as an expert.
So, begin with creating a content strategy focused on your audience’s real interests and will help generate appreciable organic traffic. Thereafter, research high-volume search keywords in your industry to incorporate into full-length articles, value-driven video content titles, or any content format you prefer.
Once you’ve produced the content, it’s time to start sharing.
Whether your website or other high-authority websites like Medium, you need to provide numerous contact points for your audience to become familiar with your brand. The more they see your content, be it blog posts, infographics, or videos, the more they’ll recognize you and regard you as a trusted source. Now, when you plugin your course, they’ll be sure to check it out.
Remember, the key is to provide value, not generate volume. Your posts should provide answers to questions they are asking and address their pain points. Only then can you leverage the full potential of content marketing and position yourself as an expert.
For instance, here is a value-driven piece on audience segmentation by Kajabi.
Next, you can target social media platforms. But first, become an active and valued member of every popular community, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. Why? You need to build relationships before promoting your course, or people have no reason to pay attention to you. The idea is to position yourself as a thought leader who they should turn to for answers.
So, listen to relevant conversations on social media, niche forums, and groups, and contribute to them. Be sure to share, retweet, and link your colleagues’ and peers’ content generously.
Another thing to keep in mind is your key demographic. For example:
- If you are targeting Millennials, you should ideally market your content on Facebook and Instagram, whereas,
- For Gen Z, the preferred social media platforms are Snapchat and Instagram.
- Gen X and Baby Boomers are found on Facebook.
4. Demonstrate insightful knowledge of your industry
A highly underrated strategy to position yourself as an authority is to demonstrate a sound knowledge of your niche.
But how do you ensure that your audience perceives you as an authoritative figure? By offering unique insights, personal opinions, and in-depth analysis on niche-specific subjects.
Whether through on-site content, guest blogs, discussion forums, videos on their YouTube channel or webinars. Package your contributions with facts, experiences, and data research to demonstrate you know what you are talking about.
As it happens, the status of authority is assigned to coaches who are looked upon as thought leaders in their industry. They read voraciously, attend industry-relevant conferences, indulge in new interests, listen to podcasts, etc., to stay educated and on top of industry trends. Not to mention, they have a ton of experience on their backs.
Naturally, they are considered experts of the highest order. And these are people who the general public turns to for guidance.
For example, you would trust Sabyasachi to give you the best fashion advice or the Dalai Lama to transform your life with his teachings on compassion and peace.
That’s the level of brand authority you should aspire to.
Another effective way of demonstrating thought leadership is to showcase that you harbour a continued interest in revealing new insights.
You can do so by conducting original research, surveys, polls and publishing reports and studies that can be cited by your peers. This does not just get you online coverage (signalling to Google that you’re an authority) but also earns you high-quality leads!
Check out this fitness coach’s thoughtful efforts to gather valuable insights to address the challenges struggling athletes face in India:
5. Deliver unforgettable experiences in everything you do
Going by what Professor Aaron Barth outlined in his TEDx talk, a boring online course is one where coaches are “talking at people, giving people some stuff to read, and then giving them a test.”
It is not enough that you simply provide value and your learners absorb information passively. You should be willing to go above and beyond to provide a memorable takeaway, so it keeps them coming back for more.
Authority is built through consistently delivering meaningful and resounding experiences. If you want your customer to invest in your courses, you will have to invest in them. At least, that’s what elementary principles of psychology dictate.
Where other coaches might just educate from a one-sided point of view, you should design your learning experiences focusing on student satisfaction.
Spur them into action; interact, engage, share, put skills into practice — involve customers in experiences that they will remember long after they’ve consumed your courses.
That doesn’t mean every module in your course should be imbued with whistles and bells to make it seem appealing. All you need to do is include well-arranged, thoughtful elements in your teaching pedagogy to engage and build lasting relationships with customers. Here’s how you can do this:
- Incorporate more storytelling into your lectures; include real-life experiences, case studies, inquisitive scenarios to engage your students,
- Organise interactive Zoom sessions to hold regular QnAs or doubt resolution sessions. You can also nudge students to organise their Zoom meetings to review study material, collaborate on assignments, or practice for tests,
- Have interactive elements in your course like clickable quizzes, games, dynamic presentations,
- Organise meetups and social gatherings to provide a sense of community,
- Give away freebies that go beyond a PDF or free lessons (like useful merch).
Don’t overestimate your learners’ willingness to learn or assume that they will remain focused from start to finish. It’s your responsibility to facilitate engagement, and in the process, separate yourself from your competitors who are doing the bare minimum.
In this manner, the value you provide will translate to trust and continue to attract their loyalty to your brand even after they’ve completed the course.
6. Offer one-on-one paid solutions specific to use cases
Would you be more willing to buy a course on interior design from someone who has merely learned interior design or someone who also practices the craft in the real world?
Similarly, when buying a swimming course, wouldn’t you feel more inclined to go with an instructor proficient at swimming?
Sure, testimonials and word-of-mouth reviews are excellent at providing proof of expertise, but the best way to position yourself as an authority is to offer your customers individualized services beyond your course.
You might have come across prospective customers plagued with problems that are unlikely to be addressed by your flagship course. This is especially common among doctors, orthodontists, lawyers, psychologists, and financial advisors whose courses and ongoing services are usually high-priced and attract clients seeking case-specific assistance.
As a result, they include paid consultations in their business models, giving customers a chance to review their services while demonstrating expertise.
Check out this interior design course built in 1:1 sessions for students to receive focused attention or exclusive feedback on a specific application or project.
Even fitness experts often adopt this strategy when dealing with customers with specific pain points. For instance, an overly obese woman with diabetes and blood pressure looking to reduce weight. Or someone with a disability wanting to achieve fitness goals.
Providing an option to avail of user-specific solutions can help retain such customers. What’s more, the massive, impressive portfolio you end up creating by doing so only boosts your brand authority. Simply put:
- You become the go-to guy for people with problems in your niche.
- A price tag on this service elevates your brand value and makes customers think that a course isn’t the only item on your portfolio.
7. Utilize collaborative marketing to create positive brand associations
Are you aware of the saying, “show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are?” It holds even in marketing.
Collaborating with authoritative brands gets you in front of a new audience. When you associate with other industry names that command respect and authority, you stand to reap the benefits of their reputation.
But how do you find out which brands you should collaborate with? It’s simple, ask yourself:
- Do your objectives and values naturally align with theirs?
- Will the pairing make sense to both brands’ customers?
- Is there an overlap in the demographics your brands share?
- Is there a tangible benefit for both brands (think marketing goal)?
Basically, you need someone who shares the same audience but sells a course or product different from yours. For example, if you sell an arts and crafts course, you could partner with brands that sell arts material or stationary.
Or, if you sell a psychology course, you can collaborate with a fellow psychology professor who doesn’t specifically teach the same subject as you but is knowledgeable of your niche.
Once you’ve pinpointed who you wish to collaborate with, reach out to them and propose your collaborative strategy. There’s little chance that they’ll turn down an opportunity to tap into a new market.
So, all that is left now for you is to put your heads together and leverage your combined creativity to come up with a campaign your audience will dig!
You can go ahead with a content marketing campaign or leverage referral programs or affiliate marketing to mutually benefit each other.
The goal is to borrow the impact of reputed brands in your niche and assign leadership status to your brand by providing value to an already established audience. What’s more, you will end up securing a bunch of quality leads that have an excellent potential to convert.
Pro tip: Speaking of collaborations, targeting influencers is your best bet to access authority and high-quality leads. Influencer recommendations are seen as social proof and can be excellent drivers, of course, sales.
Ah, brand authority is such a simple concept and is often overlooked in online course creation circles.
Online coaches who invest in brand authority are the ones who are regarded with respect and remembered. It’s the students are loyal to and buy from over and over. Why? Authority helps you win the trust and admiration of your customers.
More often than not, it is what separates weak brands from strong brands.
So, if you are working on positioning yourself as an expert, we say keep at it. With time, you will cement your coaching brand within your niche and, inevitably, in the hearts and minds of your students.