How To Sell Online Courses: 3 Crucial Cornerstones

topics Nov 12, 2020
 

In this guide, I share what I believe to be the 3 most crucial cornerstones of how to sell courses online.

You’ll learn my hard-earned lessons around how to create content, how to choose the right platform and how to market your courses most effectively.

I’ve used these principles to first build a steady income stream from online courses on the side—to quitting my job and go full time as a course creator.

After you’ve read this guide, you’ll know exactly how I work my way towards freedom, and you’ll have a bunch of concrete tips to apply to your own journey.

 

Cornerstone 1: Content

Content, good content. great content.

It’s the number 1 cornerstone of any course business. If you don’t already have a great course that delivers tons of value to your students, this is your main focus from now on. 

It’s so worth the time investment, when you look back years later.

So, how do you make great course content? 

First, your lessons have to be concrete

I use a 3-part concept, you can adopt to make your pwn course content super concrete.

 

Simple idea + context + step-by-step process. 

 

I got this method from Brendon Burchards book “Millionaire Messenger”,where he says that all lessons, all social posts, all content has to have these components. 

First, you present one simple idea that is easy to convert into the real world. An example could be

“Give your very best advice early on”.

That’s the idea. “Give your very best advice early on”.

Then, it’s time for some context that elaborates on why this idea is good - could be something like this; 

“It’s important to give your students a good impression of your course early on, because they’ll drop off otherwise."

Like a news-article, you don’t want to save the headline for the last sentence. No, you deliver your best points first and elaborate later.”


If the idea is WHAT, the context is WHY, then we have come to the HOW, which translates to process. It’s the step by step part, where you share the process of how you actually do this in the real world.

This step-by-step part could sound something like:

“Outline your entire course with all the info, you want to share. Then, pick out the 3 most precious and effective points and place them in your intro. Now, after you’ve welcomed the student, you jump directly to “what they will learn” and you quickly explain your 3 best points right then and there.”

See how this example had 1) a simple idea 2) some context on why I suggest this idea and 3) concrete guidance on how to do this. 

This is a super simple and effective way to make your course content much more concrete. 

Concrete courses that people can easily put to use sell

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My next point on great content is that it must be high-end.

Why? 

Because first impressions happen in milliseconds after your student hits that play button. 

If the video quality, sound quality or lighting is bad, the student thinks the content you are going to teach will also be bad. 

And, it’s hard on the student to endure a long course with low production quality. 

So, how do you make your production better? You use a good camera (a newer iPhone is fine) you sit yourself in front of a window with daylight in your face (or buy some soft boxes, and you buy a clip-on mic and clip it on to your clothes. 

Now, you’re thinking; “This is so basic.”

But:

I see a lot of course creators who can’t even check these 3 points off. 

Grainy footage, low light and bad sound will ruin even the most brilliant lesson. 

I’ve made a whole video about the 5 key elements of producing a strong video. Can recommend.

An extra point on producing high-end content is to OUTLINE your videos. Never hit record before you know what to say when.

NO!

I either script or outline all my videos. What’s the difference? 

Script is a word for word text that I narrate or learn by heart, one bite at a time. 

Outline is a series of bullets, so I can easily remember when to say what, stories I want to throw in - an outline of talking points.

Outlining works best for most people, when I watch other teachers online. Reading a script can come off as inauthentic and boring. 

Like in elementary school, when someone presented in front of the class and read from a piece of paper. Super boring, right?

So go for outlining your video in bullets and move quickly from point to point until you’ve said it all. 

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Moving on with how to create great content for your courses; Make it engaging!

Very easy to spice up your video with just a little bit of text coming in from the left to support one of your points. 

Or a bit of zoom here and there to underline a certain phrasing

Or, take it to the next level and create a bit of animation to alternate between.

First some talking head, then some animation, and back to the talking head, right?

This is made in Vyond, took a minute to do, and it’s super easy. 

I teach Vyond, so if you want to use animation in your videos, you just take my course and you’re ready to go.

Oh, and if you teach a specific tool, like I do, screen-recording is a must have. You know, a piece of software that records your screen while you show how something specific works. 

I recommend ScreenFlow, which is cheap, records in high definition and has some sweet features to make your colors better, add some texts here and there and visualize what keys and shortcuts you just used. 

I’ve made a super short and sweet course on that as well, 15 minute Fast-track course in ScreenFlow, and you’ll be ready to make your own tutorials.

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Next bullet on my outline says FAST-PACED. Also SUPER important to keep a good momentum in your lessons. 

Too many online teachers spread their info too thin. The density is simply too low. 

Speed things up, say what you need to say, 

then move on. Scriptwriting will help you with this. 

(I’m sorry, but I actually have a course on this as well. I didn’t mean to stuff this video with promotions for my own courses, but I truly think they are helpful.)

So now I’ve mentioned it - it’s called Strong Scripts, and it’s great for improving both the structure and content of your videos. 

Good. 

Last, but not least, a way to up your course content is to end every lesson with a few questions or lessons. 

Skillshare is a course platform, and they make courses themselves too. The lessons in their Originals, as they call them, often end with a number of concrete exercises like “Sketch out a mind-map around your dream job”, if that’s what the lesson was about. 

Brendon Burchard ends his book chapters with questions instead - half-finished sentences actually, like: The people I want to serve struggle with… or “What makes me stand out from other online teachers is...”

Ending your course lessons with some concrete exercises or questions makes the student stop for a while, think about what just happened in the lessons and actually work with it. 

Instead of just bing-watching the whole course in one go.

Let me just try that now, with a concrete exercise: Revisit the points, I’ve made so far, about how to make better course content. To each point, write out 1 or 2 ways you can improve your lessons.

(Just pause the video, do the exercise and continue this video afterwards).

1 Crucial corner-stone down, 2 to go. 

Moving on from content, Next one up is; choice of platform. 

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Chapter 2: Platform

I use Kajabi. Plain simple. But in deciding what to use, I spent a lot of time reading reviews, signing up for free trials and watching thin Youtube videos blatantly affiliated with the platforms they recommended.

Now, I’m going to give you the no-BS, straight up reasoning behind why I chose Kajabi, where I came from before that and what caused the switch. 

A great platform, to me, is a platform that requires little to no maintenance. That doesn’t get in the way of the real work. 

We’re here to create and sell courses—not to deal with the technicalities behind delivering them.

First, I used a very simple platform that I got a good deal on through AppSumo, $79 for a life-time subscription. 

Sounds good, right?

I set up my courses, did all the redirection and custom domain stuff, created landing pages, pointed my Youtube videos over there and everything else that’s needed in selling courses from your own domain.

Only to switch a half year later. 

Why?

Because the cheap platform never instilled a sense of solidity and trust in me. I never experienced a full month without technical issues. 

Emails from students that couldn’t find the “buy” button on mobile. Broken sales pages. Blurry course videos. Just overall bad user experiences for both me and my students. 

So, after spending all this time setting things up, being angry with the platform providers, writing back and forth and apologizing to my students, I decided to step it up a notch. 

In researching the “next level platforms” I found out that they were all pretty similar in what they had to offer. 

For a long time, I thought I just needed a new place to host my videos and receive payments. 

But this Kajabi-thing appeared to be an all-in-one platform. 

The others were great at hosting courses, yes, but here was a platform that hosted courses, and hosted your website, and took care of payments, and took care of your automated emails and gave you an analytics overview. 

At a cost, of course, but if I think of the time, energy and tears spent on fixing a cheaper platform, I was very ready to put my money on the table. 

Right now, the cost of hosting my stuff on Kajabi takes up a significant part of my total monthly revenue.

But that’s fine. I believe that a solid platform is crucial to BUILDING your business. So I don’t recommend waiting until you have everything figured out, and then make the switch.

No, it takes money to make money, and now I use a top-of-the-shelf piece of software that I can trust. Then, I can spend my time on creating videos like these that lead people to my website. 

Here, Kajabi takes care of hosting landing pages, offering people free downloads, signing them up for my newsletter, delivering those emails, showing them my courses, hosting those courses, taking care of payments, analytics and everything else. 

What a relief to be able to trust your “bottom of the funnel” so your only job is to create excitement around what you have to offer. Right?

That’s why I chose to go from the cheapest to the most expensive option. 

I wish I had started out with Kajabi. And I know it costs a bit, but if you sell your courses at just 50-100 dollars, you only need to sell a couple to make it pay for itself. 

If you are playing the long game, you hope to bet on the right horse from day one, because the switching costs are just too high. 

If Kajabi is too expensive at $199/month, I found the best alternatives to be Podia at $79/month and Teachable at $99/month, for the plans I would need.

Now, we’ve talked about 2 out of 3 crucial cornerstones, first was content, second was platform, and third is.. MARKETING.

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Chapter 3: Marketing

I’ve been in the entrepreneurial game for 10 years now, and I see MARKETING as the common denominator across all the different projects, I’ve been involved with. 

Marketing is just such an important part of the puzzle for all kinds of products, services and businesses. 

So, how to create the marketing that “sells courses online”?

Create a solid course, host it on a solid platform, and FOCUS ON DISTRIBUTION FROM THERE. 

I’ve made this mistake myself; spending way too much time on perfecting my courses. 

The course content has to be solid, YES, but then you have to switch gear into distribution mode; and spread the word about your awesome course.

How?

Here are some things that have worked well for me!

Ever-green videos; I’ve tried to focus on making videos that are ever-green or ever relevant. 

My approach is to use keyword research tools like Twinwords Ideas and Keywords everywhere to find out 1) what phrasings people use around the topics I teach and 2) how the search volumes around those keyphrases are. 

This video, for example, is my attempt at creating a great piece of content that will eventually rank for the search phrase; Sell courses online.

That’s how people write it in Google, and the volume is big enough to make it worth the time and effort to create this video. 

You can do the same. 

Spend some time on finding out how people search for your topics, and what the search volumes are. 

Often, I get NEW content ideas from this research, so it’s more an eye-opener than something that feels limiting. 

A schedule could be to research and write your outline on Mondays, shoot and edit on Tuesdays, then upload and distribute the video on Wednesdays. 

Going for ever-green topics will send people to your website and courses for many years to come — if you do it right.

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Second point around how to make great marketing around your courses is to make it AUTHENTIC

See, I try to be myself here. Hope you can feel that. I’m just a guy with a camera and a message I want to share with you. No acting, no lies, no manipulation. 

Besides that being unethical, it also doesn’t work. 

Why?

Because we humans are very smart and quick to see through the faking. Unconsciously, we evaluate the trustworthiness of other people in a matter of seconds. 

So, it’s simply not worth it to try to fake it. Time for a cheesy quote: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

A very practical tip on how to appear more like yourself is to not READ from a script. I know I promote script-writing, but if it limits you in being loose and natural on camera, you should go for OUTLINING instead. 

Outline the points you want to cover, and then formulate the sentences as you would naturally. 

Like, if the bullet says: “Tell story about Dad”, then you just go with the story and tell it as you would to a friend. 

It might take a few takes, but you just edit those out. 

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Last point about good marketing for selling video courses is.. to use video. 

What? Yes, when you sell a series of videos as a course, it makes great sense to use the format of video to also promote that course. 

Don’t write blog posts. Don’t podcast. Don’t present on stages. Save that for later - right now, you should focus your attention on the beautiful format of video. 

Weave in parts of your course, as you give free advice on topics that relate to your course. 

Show the audience how you look, what you sound like and essentially, who you are.

If you’re not a video pro, (I know I’m not), then start out with simple video editing software like iMovie or ScreenFlow. 

You don’t have to do much before you post your marketing videos; get rid of the silent parts, maybe add in some pictures and video clips and you're done. 

Oh, and the vanity around being on camera goes away after a while. Just post. Get into the habit of producing and publishing content. No one cares as much as you do.

Another reason why you should focus on video over other formats is that video is the most RICH format. 

There’s something called Media Richness Theory, and this theory lists different medias and their effectiveness at delivering a message. 

Face-to-face is of course the most real and impactful way to communicate, where unaddressed documents are the least effective.

Somewhere up high, close to the most effective face-to-face relation is; video. 

Video closely resembles a real face to face relation. You see the person, the eyes, the mimic, there’s sound, it’s very real in a way. 

Use that to your advantage—the fact that the medium itself is strong, no matter what you manage to say on camera.

Of course it works best if you say something meaningful. 

But just get into the video game, and utilise video in your marketing to sell your online courses. 

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There you have it, what I believe to be the 3 most crucial cornerstones in how to sell online courses; great, easy-to-apply content, a rock-solid platform and evergreen video content.

I hope you took away a few tips you can use to succeed even more with your own project. 

If you want to learn more about any aspect of what I’ve been talking about, I have listed relevant courses and links to all the references, I’ve mentioned - down in the description. 

And thanks for being a subscriber of this channel. If you’re thinking “But I’m not a subscriber of your channel”, then you’re at least thinking about it now. Subscribe. (credit to Trevor Noah.)

Thanks for reading along, 

Hope to see you again soon, 

Take care.

 

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