So you’ve joined the ranks of experts by creating an online course. You’ve established an active presence on social media, your email list is growing, and maybe, you even have a newsletter. You are probably also considering podcasting, or starting a YouTube channel or a membership site to drive course sales.
Well, good for you! Those are all very effective techniques to connect with potential buyers.
But how about hitting the nail right on the head? Meaning, targeting the audience that actually wants to buy your course. People who haunt niche forums, social media groups, online communities, and marketplaces looking for knowledge you know your course can provide.
In this article, we will give you some out-of-the-box, unconventional ideas (effective AF mind you!) to interact with your niche audience and sell courses online. So, let’s dive right in!
1. Join and interact in niche-specific groups on social media
Did you know; over 1.4 billion people use Facebook Groups on a monthly basis to connect with people who share common interests?
On top of this, Facebook recently updated groups to help small businesses adapt to the pandemic.
Take an example of the fitness industry that plummeted rapidly when the pandemic took hold. However, with health as the foremost priority during these tough times, workouts shifted from gyms to living rooms.
People began spending heavily on health and fitness equipment, from cardio machines, treadmills to stationary bikes, yoga mats — basically any home-based fitness gear they could get their hands on. Retail companies even reported that revenue had more than doubled between March-October 2020.
As people were flocking to social media for fitness and lifestyle tips, Facebook groups served as enablers, connecting them to fitness experts and nutrition specialists.
Case in point — Billy and Nick Palladino-King, two brothers from San Francisco, CA who transformed their gym Tribe SF into a virtual training program using a Facebook Group. Now, they live-stream their classes or work out sessions using Facebook Live, allowing members to stay on top of fitness goals and participate in challenges with workout buddies.
Here’s another fitness group called FITTR where members post general queries and transformations, interact meaningfully with fellow members, and take away valuable information from instructors and experts.
So, say, you are a nature photography expert, and you’ve created a course about how beginners can get started in nature photography.
All you have to do is type “nature photography” in Facebook search, and take your pick from the many groups displayed in the results.
That’s the wonderful thing about social media groups. Regardless of your niche, background, area of interest, you can actually connect with like-minded individuals and become part of meaningful communities.
Go ahead and search for a group in your niche on Facebook. We bet you’ll find a dozen!
“Whatever you rock, there’s a Facebook Group for you” — Facebook’s words, not ours.
The same is the case with LinkedIn which has over 2 million active groups. Users can join groups relevant to their interests and indulge in meaningful discussions with members.
That’s your target audience right there!
Position yourself as an expert in front of these people and you’re golden. Since people are here to actually learn or make connections, high engagement and visibility is guaranteed. Thus, conversion rates are bound to be the highest of any other marketing campaign!
So, as it turns out, you don’t necessarily need complicated plugins or expensive marketing hacks to deliver your course. You can leverage Facebook and LinkedIn groups to skyrocket your course sales.
Here’s how you can go about this:
1. Reach out to the admins of these niche-specific groups. Group owners are usually looking for creative ways to keep members engaged and active. And, subject matter experts such as yourself have a lot to offer in this regard.
So, get in touch with them and explore a possibility of exposure. For instance, you can:Offer them your course on a discount or for free in exchange for promoting your course.
2. Speak with them about a possible opportunity for an #ad post in their group.
3. Run a group-wide contest amongst members. The winner would be eligible for a free course.
4. Ask to be part of a webinar they have scheduled for members.
5. Do a live workshop or Q/A event positioning yourself as an expert.
Remember to provide value to your audience because that’s the only way to build authority and trust.
And just in case you were wondering, here are a few tips to ensure you direct your efforts towards the right groups:
- Search the right keywords. Try several different keywords until you find the group you are looking for.
- Look for the number of members; it shouldn’t be too low or too high. Of course a higher number is attractive, but chances are, the admins aren’t going to be that flexible about promoting another person in their group. So, anywhere in the range of 500 to 5000 should do in the beginning.
- Look for an active group where at least 20 people make posts everyday.
- See if there are any collaborative opportunities to promote your course, or whether self-promotion is the only norm.
- Go through recent posts to see if there are other competent experts who stand out.
2. Offer real value in niche forums/communities like Quora, Reddit, and StackExchange
Online courses are all about positioning yourself as an expert in a certain field.
If you run a blog on gardening, people will reach out to you for gardening tips, info on gardening supplies and tools, and so on.
If you are a beauty expert, your audience will look up to you for makeup hacks, skin care routines, brand suggestions.
Similarly, a computer programming expert can expect questions on technical topics like Java, C/C++/C#, HTML, etc.
The point being, with so many different niches out there, how do you find out where your audience hangs out?
Well, the top three niche forums/communities with the highest footfall are StackExchange, Quora, and Reddit.
Niche forums and communities are an excellent way to address pain points and plugin your course. They can help enhance engagement by up to 21%! They work in real-time, so interactions are almost instantly visible. This can help you gauge the kind of engagement different threads drive and direct your efforts accordingly.
But… which of the three should you go for?
While all three platforms are great for holding discussions and answering questions about a diverse range of topics, there are some niches which are more popular than others on each platform.
For example, if you have a computer programming question (that goes beyond troubleshooting issues) or a Physics or Mathematics question, StackExchange is clearly the place to be.
If you are looking for a more opinionated discussion where individual points of view are involved (and, greater diversity in topics of interest), Quora will serve you brilliantly.
As for Reddit, it is similar to Quora in terms of diversity. You could find a community on practically any topic. But since Reddit is anonymous, discussions are even more frank.
Bottom line is, there are tons of opportunities to provide real value with your answers on these forums and establish yourself as an expert. You can start with the one where you know interactions are always at an all-time high.
How to Sell on Quora
Quora is increasingly becoming the place to be for marketers, and why not? It currently has over 300 million unique monthly visitors!
Here’s a quick guide as to how you can leverage Quora to sell online courses.
- Start a Quora account
- Look for questions that fall in your niche of expertise
For instance, if your course is on gardening, you can start by typing “gardening courses” in the search bar. However, the more specific you get, the better your chances of finding your target demographic.
So, if your course is about organic vegetable gardening, look for questions specifically related to it.
3. Follow questions or spaces that are related to your online course
This way, Quora will notify you when relevant questions are posted and you can quickly respond to them.
4. Provide real value in your answers
Curate your answers methodically; 90% of it should comprise valuable information. Remember, the key is to provide real value to readers. This will attract upvotes and boost visibility.
The remaining 10% can be dedicated to organically pitching your course. Include a link to your course in your answer.
Repeat the exercise everyday (10 to 20 minutes at max) and watch your course sales increase.
How to Sell on StackExchange
StackExchange has over 531k users, and it is said to be the most accurate and concise of all platforms when it comes to answering questions. Which means the platform encourages more informative and fact-based answers as opposed to open-ended, opinion-based responses.
Selling an online course with StackExchange is similar to Quora.
Here’s how StackExchange works:
- Set up a StackExchange account
- Find your niche community
There are currently 176 communities on StackExchange. Examples include Maths, Physics, user experience, Stack Overflow, Skeptics, and so on.
Let’s say your course deals with online learning, you would need to visit: academia.stackexchange.com/
3. Use tags for finding niche-specific questions
Type “online learning” in tags.
This would display “questions related to taking courses over the internet or other electronic distance-based coursework.”
4. Offer real value through your answers
Again, keep answers more focused on the subject and less on pitching your course. Establishing authority should be your priority.
How to Sell on Reddit
Reddit hosts over 430 million active users on a monthly basis and 52 million users on a daily basis.
There are niche-specific subreddits where you can post your response for others to comment on. Discussions can be about anything — Interested in AIs and video games? Go to r/civAIgames! Want to learn about Syria’s affairs? Go to r/syriancivilwar!
For online educators especially, Reddit is an amazing platform to market their courses. Here’s how you can sell online courses using Reddit:
- Set up a Reddit account
- Set up your feed
Join all niche-specific subreddits and communities. For example, if your course is about social media marketing, search “social media marketing courses” on Reddit.
You can simply type “Reddit + [Keywords]” on Google to uncover relevant subreddits.
3. Start lurking and contributing
Participate in discussions wherever you can, comment on questions that focus on your target audience, and upvote other users’ answers.
4. Share exclusive content for your target audience
While simply repurposing your course content as an answer sounds less tedious, what you also need to do is add a splash of wit and authenticity to your responses. After all, readers appreciate critical and original thoughts. This is the only way to position yourself as an expert and build trust.
5. Be consistent in providing value
Stay active on your subreddits. Go through your feed everyday. Redditors will be looking for value more than anything else so, dedicate the majority of your time to contributing. Self promotion should be kept to a minimum.
3. Advertise on websites in your niche and tap into their audiences
While Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and YouTube Ads are great options for paid advertising, you can actually look for websites in your niche and redirect their audience to your course. The advantage of advertising on niche websites is that it puts you in front of relevant people without having to spend a lot of time and effort.
An effective way to connect with publishers is through an online marketplace like BuySellAds where advertisers (i.e., you) benefit from targeted visitors and publishers are able to monetize traffic.
The process is pretty straightforward:
- Look for relevant sites in your niche and choose one on which you wish to advertise.
- Once you’ve studied their statistics and explore advertising options, submit your ad.
Pretty simple, right? But don’t stop here…
- Measure the performance of the campaign to see if it was indeed effective in driving traffic and improving ROI.
- Once tested, get in touch directly with the websites through which you witnessed maximum conversions, and arrive at a more pocket-friendly arrangement with them.
Publisher-direct advertising is touted for its transparency with respect to costs, and greater click-through rates due to a higher degree of relevance.
This kind of advertising has been leveraged by the likes of Atomist, a software automation company that relied on native and podcast advertising to target developers via BuySellAds and eventually generated a 14% increase in qualified leads.
Storyblocks is another noteworthy company that reaches designers through publishers like Dribble, FutureInsights, etc. As a result, their campaigns are known to have 6.4 times higher click-through rates when compared to industry standards.
4. Join online marketplaces like Groupon and AppSumo, and run offers on your course
Another rather clever course marketing strategy is to leverage online marketing places like Groupon and AppSumo to incentivise course sales.
Take a look at this accounting and bookkeeping course listed on Groupon. Limited offers such as these create a sense of urgency among buyers, encouraging them to seal the deal before time runs out. Neat, isn’t it?
Selling courses on Groupon is quite simple:
- Signup for a merchant account.
- Create your Groupon deal.
- Measure results via Groupon Merchant Center.
Spread the word about your course before the campaign goes live. Also, remember to be prepared with answers to customer queries.
AppSumo is another such platform where course creators can sell their online learning products. A daily-deal marketplace which is designed for entrepreneurs to sell digital goods and services, it lets you showcase your product on the site, and help it reach millions of users. To get started, all you have to do fill out an application.
Here’s an interesting photography course for beginners to give you an idea of how AppSumo works.
5. Capture emails wherever possible and grow your list
While the four tactics above talk about attracting audience for your latest course, how about prepping for the courses you create in the future? Are you going to start from scratch? Hell no!
Capitalizing on the afore-mentioned tactics to market your course shouldn’t stop you from growing your email list. Every forum, community, and group is a channel to generate leads that convert into customers in the future. Here’s how you can go about it:
- You can use a webinar tool to capture emails.
- While posting answers to questions on forums, leverage lead magnets like discounts, welcome offers, or free gifts to incentivize subscriptions.
- Contests are a great way to get signups.
Basically, make sure to encourage your audience to sign up for your courses every opportunity you get.
The goal here is to create a dedicated base of subscribers with who you can stay in direct touch through emails. Any updates on new launches, features, or offers can be communicated to them directly, thereby, translating into more sales.
So, there you go! Five witty strategies that require little to no marketing budget on your end. Just simple, dedicated, consistent effort towards building a long-lasting relationship with your would-be customers. Start implementing these one by one and see your course sales shoot up like never before.