Learn how to build a promotional campaign for your online courses and develop a new strategy for social media. We'll give you the 3 steps you need to take, along with free planning templates
This is a complete guide about digital promotion of online courses and online programs.
Today, you’ll learn all the strategies we gathered so far about promoting online courses.
Everything is summarized and compressed to save you time.
If you are looking for
Innovative promotion ideas
Effective promotion campaigns
We got you.
This guide is divided in a 3-3-3 approach:
There are 3 goals to reach, 3 steps to reach the goals, and 3 tasks to complete in each step.
We added every step and tool you’ll need to develop and improve your campaign strategy and better market your online courses.
1. Free Tools, adapted from well-known business strategies
2. All the steps to create a campaign strategy
3. Ideas, tips, and a compilation of field experts advice
Let’s look at the table of contents.
This part comes with the 3 tasks, and each comes with a Free Template that you can use to complete them. You can easily download the document and adapt it to your needs.
In this first part, we’ll help you analyze your competitors, your competitive advantage, the market and your target segments.
The second stage is where you’ll develop a plan based on your previous findings.
This is where you’ll decide and design the path you want to take regarding the communication for your company in step 3.
We’ll pick your brand’s tone of voice, channels you want to be in, the values you want to share with your customers, and define your key metrics.
The last step will be focused on developing ideas and strategies for your marketing campaign.
Now that we did the work and the research is completed, you are ready to define your next steps and take action.
This last step will involve strategy, planning, and action. You’ll find some easy-to-apply ideas, and tips, combined with market research on the top trends for 2021.
Before aligning your strategy, we’ll do a quick research to understand your competitors: who they are, what they do, how and where they do it.
Here’s the template.
What you’ll learn about your competitors in this section:
Competitor research is the only part that’s not included in the template, as there’s no “one size fits all” strategy. Each company has its own structure, and services differ every time. And there’s no better person to tell who the competitors are than you.
Tip: the best way to identify who your competitors are, is by running a search on Google for the educational market. Other platforms to help you are: Quora, Trustpilot, Facebook, LinkedIn.
Instead of spending hours running different analysis, we compiled everything for you. Every traditional competitor’s analysis that you already know all combined in one place. And all adapted for the education market.
Even if you have a strategy already in place, or previous research done on this, you’ll still find this section useful to re-evaluate.
Here are your 3 tasks:
Important note: We have included a line for you to add an analysis for your business and website too. However, we recommend doing this before and after this analysis is fully performed, as we’ll still be adding your tone of voice and other relevant information afterwards.
The first analysis is website performance, where you’ll address your competitors’ websites. This evaluation is performed in terms of: Home/Landing Page, Consistency in design & communication, and Navigation.
Website performance is the first part and the most important one. Most users spend around 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s content.
If you checked our last LinkedIn post, we shared some pretty crazy statistics about google searches on the key word “online courses”. We realized that your competitors aren’t just other companies, but the 5 billion results Google shows for that research.
Quick disclosure: Google organizes pages in the form of ranking. This rank is the order in which you see results when you look for certain keywords. Check the image below.
1. The Landing Page
The Landing Page is the first page your customer sees when entering your website. The goal is to tell a story with that homepage, while the user is scrolling. This is where your online course promotion starts.
Try setting up a Landing Page that has all the information the user needs to make their decision. And remember that most users won’t scroll down too much.
While you don’t have to be a designer, think about it from a user’s perspective:
Here’s an example of a clear and well-built landing page (from virtualbadge.io):
2. Consistency in Design and Communication
Think about the type of copy you are seeing and what message is it sending to customers. Design and copywriting should complement each other and speak the same language.
See how we used our design and copywriting to communicate our tone of voice:
The last part of the website analysis is a more technical one. Check how your competitors are structuring their websites. Is it easy to navigate and understand? Can you find the information you need easily?
Secret tip: Website structure is also important in terms of SEO (search engine optimization). Make sure that your website a well-built structure and that every link and webpage can be easily accessed from the homepage. Learn more about this here.
Pricing and Packages
Take note of your competitors’ price structure. Create an account and do a quick navigation from the options they have. Do they have free online courses, is it all paid courses, or do they offer a hybrid approach (freemium programs)? How many courses do they have, and in which format?
Check out their pricing, and more importantly, see if you can find a trend between competitors. This might tell you something about the market.
Tip: it’s also good to pair a pricing analysis with reviews. Google your competitors and see what users are saying about the relationship between cost and value.
1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you know and work with SEO, this will come easy for you. However, if you don’t, not to worry. The tasks we give to you are very simple to complete.
As we explained above, Google ranks your website according to a number of factors. Here, we’ll focus on keywords and content.
What to do:
You’ll find new keywords and get an idea if there’s a trend within all those websites.
This is a basic technique you can easily apply, and one that will seriously increase your odds of ranking higher.
2. Type of Content Shared
This quick analysis will tell you if there’s a trend in the content creation from your competitors, and if there’s anything that you need to pay attention to.
We highly recommend that you run a quick search on the keywords you want to rank for and examine all the results from the first page. Although we didn’t include this in the template, doing it will tell you how high your competitors are ranking.
Platforms Used & Frequency of Posts
All you have to do is examine your competitors’ social media networks, understand where they are present, which kind of posts they share and how frequent they do so.
To be creative with your strategy you don’t necessarily have to create new techniques, you just need to know what competitors are doing and build an even better experience for your customers. After all, you have the same target market, and the communication strategy is intended for the same customers.
This is a good indicator of the relationship customers have with your competitors.
Most online courses you see are advertised on social media. So, a good indicator of success of this strategy, is to see how people interact with the company online. Do they leave reviews, are they sharing anything about the course or the company?
This will be especially useful for planning your tone of voice and to gather some ideas as well.
We went through all the different steps you need to take to perform a complete competitors’ analysis for your online educational program.
Download the template and follow each step to have a full analysis at the end.
The next step is to understand how to use the information you gathered to build a competitive advantage.
To help you do it, we created an adaptation of the Lean Canvas Model, specifically for promoting online courses and digital programs.
The link for the free template is here.
Inside, you’ll find 5 different parts that will lead you to our final goal: your competitive advantage and how to leverage it.
Let’s have a look.
In this first step, you’ll list your customer segments (the ones that you already know of). If you haven’t performed any research on this, try to think about who your customers might be.
Your customers’ problems
This one might be slightly difficult, but try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Here are the factors that we already have:
Now, looking at the previous analysis we ran, which customer pain points can you identify?
How are you solving your customers’ issues?
After brainstorming about your customers’ issues, you need to find out 3 ways in which you think you can help them.
What do you think you are already doing well? Is there any space for improvement? Can you think of new ways to help your customers? – These are the questions you’ll need to answer.
Quick tip: write down (using pen and paper) your ideas and design a quick customer journey. Try to find the points of hesitation and pain points your customers go through when searching for online courses. Don’t be afraid to write. Write as many times as you need, and you’ll soon find the answers.
How are your competitors solving your customers’ issues?
Paring this question with our competitors’ research is a good option. You can re-read through everything you wrote and highlight the things you think they are doing well.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
This is what sets you apart from the competitors, all the reasons why customers should choose you and not them.
Focus on your customer and their journey. Think about what it takes for them to find you, the path they take, and the competitors and problems they face.
To do this, we divided the task into 2 parts: USP and Unfair Advantage.
The USP is the solution you have that’s your competitive advantage. Is it the price, the range of products, a hybrid approach, the documents you offer, the content? It can be one of these, or a combination of some.
Then, there’s the Unfair Advantage. This is what you have on your favour that is not possible to replicate or adapt. Even if you don’t have one, make a mission to find one. This will position your brand way higher when compared to other companies.
Write all ideas that you have, study your competitors once again, and get inspiration from different sources.
This will define your future in the market, take the time to do it.
The brand persona is the last of the 3 steps.
The template to build your brand persona can be found in the same document as the Lean Canvas one.
The brand persona is where you will define your segments’ characteristics and find out how to better approach them. The persona takes up a name, age, and other human characteristics, so you see your target customer more clearly. You’ll have to think about their problems, goals and other relevant traits that represent your customers fully.
Besides demographics, it’s important to think about:
Your targets’ personal goals – what do your customers want to achieve as personal goals? How can you play a part in helping them achieve that? Do they want to get promoted? Are they trying to acquire a new skill? Do they want to review knowledge already learned?
Their motivations – why does your segment prefer online courses over in-person lessons? Why are they looking for the courses in that field area? Is it tied to a personal goal?
Preferred Channel – where is your brand persona hanging out in their spare time (social media channels)?
Objections/ Problems – what objections do they pose when shopping for online courses? Are they looking for something specific? Are they sceptic about digital courses?
All of this will translate into a real-like person that has motives, objections and goals as your customers have. The goal is to see the brand persona as a combination of this and decide the best approach to make them a customer.
Now that we have a complete analysis on competitors, let’s align your Value, Mission and Vision.
Even if you had previous statements, these 3 pillars should be reviewed occasionally. You can start by re-reading your previous analysis, and specially your Brand Persona analysis.
We will now define your purpose and the message you want to convey with your business, considering your target market and their interests too.
If you set up different personas for different target markets, write down what all of them have in common. You will use that to define your mission, vision and values.
The mission and vision will be your identity card: the purpose of your business and your future goals. Then, comes the values: what you believe in and what your work ethics are.
Decide where you want to take your business and what is going to be your plan for the future.
Brainstorm about where you see your brand in the future:
Vision statements are brief and intend to answer these two questions in a concise way. Once again, it’s important that your customers feel connected to it when they read it.
Before writing your mission, answer the following questions:
To answer those questions, here are some factors to consider:
With a growing number of online courses, how am I providing a program that solves the customers’ pain points any better? How will I convey all of this in a short message that resonates with my customers?
Your mission is what you will do to complete your vision statement and achieve your goals.
Remember to communicate your mission in the same language your customers speak, to make sure that the message goes across as you see it yourself.
Talking about the values of your company is thinking about what you stand for. This is your written code of behavior.
With which values do you lead your actions? What is your work ethics, and how does that connect to your target market?
Consider your Brand Persona and try to align your brand’s values with your persona’s values too.
After deciding the 3 pillars of your brand, write them down and write a document with your statement. This will be your first draft that you can review later in our last step.
Before deciding the Digital Platforms to use, let’s have a look at some statistics:
Let’s analyze these two first.
As we talked before, ranking on Google’s first page is a tough accomplishment for the short run.
The world of Digital Online Courses and Programs is a very competitive one, especially since last year. Everyone is heavily relying on these courses to complete their education or to improve their skills.
If you pair this information with the percentages below, we can see that the potential for advertising on social media. Although Google Ads will always be a good strategy, as users look for Online Courses and reviews in there, you can start by focusing on social media and then on Google Ads.
So, let’s consider that to start off. You’ll be focused on some of the social networks: Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Above you see the most visited websites as of January 2021. And the keyword here is really: websites.
All of them, except Google, are social media platforms. And still, these are the most visited websites in the world.
(Instagram is not shown due to the small number compared to the others, but its share is similar to Twitter.)
This tells us that focusing on social media is the right way to go. Although competition is high, there are some social media platforms that are still not fully explored by companies. Amongst them are TikTok and YouTube. Both in video format, and a good way to stand out from the crowd. In fact, 90% of the use of internet worldwide (from people aged 16 and 64) come from watching videos. Even though most of this content is in the form of entertainment, this helps us define our strategy.
You are selling online courses, I.e., knowledge. And what better way to sell knowledge by sharing videos in the most used platforms?
Here are the statistics for TikTok and YouTube:
These are the monthly active users on YouTube and TikTok. We see here that TikTok is still growing. However, if planned out, you can use it to advertise your online courses. We’ll discuss different strategies for these platforms in the next chapter.
Meanwhile, let’s have another look at the growth of Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn as advertising platforms.
There was an increase of around 12% in Facebook’s audience last year. The type of posts that get the highest engagement are photos. And the USA is the second country with the highest advertising reach.
Here are some statistics of its worldwide audience:
For Instagram, there was an average increase of around 5.4% each quarter in advertising reach. USA shares the first place with India, in terms of country with the highest advertising reach. And here’s the average age of their audience, worldwide:
Another target audience that has been growing a lot, is the one with ages between 13 and 17 years old. The average advertising reach of this audience has been increasing by an average of 59% every year.
For LinkedIn, audience reach normally increases by 810 000 on a quarterly basis, on average. USA is in first place again, being the country with the highest advertising reach. In terms of audience, here are the numbers:
To use social media, each platform should have a unique communication strategy. The content you share in one shouldn’t be the same you share in another. Some of your clients may be following you on all the different platforms, and seeing your content multiplied across social media will become boring. So, let’s start by planning first.
Based on our findings, on your target market, and your previous competitors’ analysis, try answering the following questions:
When you’re finished writing all the answers, you’ll have a clear idea of how to manage your time to achieve good results.
Here are the steps you can take to start off:
It’s important to remember that growing in social media is a long-run goal. If you don’t see results right away, understand that it’s normal and the key is to always reassess what you’ve done so far and try different strategies.
Our last task in this step is to build your marketing strategy. Essentially, here’s where you’ll define your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), Objectives and Activities (Cracking the Sales Management Code, 2019):
We have a template ready for you to use here.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Setting up your KPIs is the first step and the most important one to take before going ahead. This is where you’ll decide your long-term goals.
While setting up goals is an exciting step for any business, it’s important to remember that these goals must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bounded. Setting your goals with this in mind, will make it easier to track your progress and measure your growth.
KPIs differ depending on the industry in question. In this case, here's examples of relevant KPIs you can use:
These are just 5 examples, however, there many more that you can include, depending on what you want to track.
After these being set up, it’s time to build your objectives.
The objectives will be what you plan to do to achieve your KPIs. These are more focused than your KPIs. Essentially, these represent more concrete ways to achieve your main results. Ideally, you should set Objectives for every KPI. Let’s have a look:
Lastly, you need to define which actions to take to achieve your objectives, that will directly influence your Results. These are the most specific ones:
The idea is to interlink all your activities, objectives and results with each other. This way, you can build a chain of measurable and achievable results. Not only are you setting up exact things to do, but you’ll also be able to see what went wrong if a KPI was not achieved.
We talked about TikTok and YouTube as being great platforms to develop top-notch content. Both bring an opportunity to reach more people, or even discover another hidden segment.
YouTube is a fairly simple social media to use. You can easily upload a video and track your views, engagement, or even choose to run Ads for your online program. While having YouTube as part of your strategy is great, it’s still a highly competitive medium. Planning your content will be key.
Here are some of the actions you can take to make sure that you’ll successful that we took from Brian Dean:
Why not create a free course for every topic you have on your program? This way, users will get quality content from you, you’ll build brand awareness, and they will be intrigued by your digital program. This is something that LinkedIn does very well. You can even award them a Digital Badge or Certificate by the end.
Now, focusing on TikTok.
TikTok is still a growing platform, with a lot of space to explore. Its algorithm is one of the best that exists on social media, and one that benefits the user and the creator. The reason being that TikTok is based on presenting videos without you having to follow someone first.
To keep this short, here’s what we want you to try on TikTok:
For Instagram and Facebook, you must keep in mind that these are purely entertainment platforms. People come here when they are bored, to take a break from work or other obligations and just think about something else.
So, here’s what you can do:
LinkedIn is the professional platform. If you decide to go ahead with LinkedIn, here’s a few ideas you can try out:
Lastly, we have one suggestion for you that can be used in all of these platforms: Digital Badges.
Digital Badges and Digital Certificates will always be a part of your courses. So why not extend its use and use them in your advantage.
This is a way of generating content, that is actually created by your own customers. It's authentic and it comes from a personal and real experience that other prospects usually relate to. By offering Virtual Badges, you are encouraging your clients to proudly share their accomplishments.
In the end, you’ll get free word-of-mouth marketing, even more exposure, and above all, a chance to build brand authority and awareness.
You can learn more about it here.
We have spoken about some important strategies throughout this Guide. However, we know that Digital Marketing can be a scary world for someone who isn’t fully familiar with it.
Here’s what we recommend to get you started:
The digital marketing course will help you tip your toes into the Digital world and give you some context. We recommend to do this prior to trying any SEO analyzing platform, as it will make you more comfortable to take that step.
Finally, you reached the last step.
Here’s where you’ll start to take action. Now that you have everything else aligned and defined, you’re ready to start doing the job. We built a template to help you plan and define your first steps.
Here is the template.
You can use it to draft your strategy and plan your campaign. This is a great place to start if you are still looking for ideas and topics.
In there, you’ll find a calendar for the different content pieces you’ll create, and a space to write down all details you need about them.
We went through the 3 goals, 3 steps and 3 tasks you need to complete to build a promotional marketing campaign for your online courses.
Run your analysis and start drafting your strategy. By the end, you’ll have a complete strategy to put in place.
For easiness of use, we’ll link the free templates below:
Founder and COO
Jun 16, 2021
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