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The Ultimate Guide: How to Market an Online Course

Updated: Jun 3

Whether brainstorming your big course idea or getting ready to launch, you want to market and promote your online course the right way. You’re ready to share your value, build your community, and uncover that passive-income hidden treasure all the other course creators talk about.

But where do you start? In this ultimate guide, we'll break down how to market an online course from start to finish.

How to Market An Online Course: The 5 Phases

There are 3 main methods of how to market an online course: Social media marketing, email marketing, and good ‘ol fashioned networking & collaboration. You can focus on one, two, or all of the above. We’ll do the latter.

Marketing your online course starts long before launch day. You need to gather the right audience, prime them for your offer, and build excitement for your course so that when launch day comes around, your participants are ready with their money in hand. In fact? They’ll have been counting down the days for when they can sign up!

Let's learn how to market an online course like this, together. We'll break down the process into 5 core phases:

Phase 1: Target Your Course Participants.

Client taking notes while taking an online course on a computer

You’re the shepherd of your biz. It's your job to corral your audience together and turn them into a community. To do this, you need to get in front of your ideal clients and build trust before you sell them anything.

When learning how to market an online course, remember to utilize your strengths. Don’t try to force yourself to use Instagram just because all the other ‘cool coaches’ are doing it. Know your audience. Know where they’re at. Know where they’re looking for answers.

A startup business coach might get half their sign-ups from LinkedIn, while a life coach targeting stay-at-home moms gets them all from Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest. Align yourself with your strengths and your audience.

Course Marketing Action Plan - Phase 1:

Social Media Marketing
  • Start posting consistently before promoting your online course on social media. Be consistent in how often you post and the topics you post about.

  • Claim your niche. The smaller your niche, the easier it is to become the leader of it. Once you feel like a broken record, your audience is just starting to gain clarity on what you have to offer.

  • Create a targeted social media ad campaign to drive traffic to your profile. You don’t have to spend much, but customizing your ad target audience to align with your ideal course participants can help ensure you're heading in the right direction.

Email Marketing
  • Grow your email list! This is Marketing for Coaches: 101. Your email list is your one-way ticket straight to your dream clients’ inboxes.

  • Create a freebie that attracts your ideal course participant. Give them a reason to join your email list. (Pro tip: Use the first module of your online course as a freebie!)

Networking & Collaboration
  • Get your name out there. Start commenting on posts of creators, coaches, and businesses with similar target audiences.

  • Leave value in your comments — think of your comments like "mini business cards" you leave in a trail behind you.

Phase 2: Prime Your Audience.

Woman smiling at a computer while recording content for an online course

From here, start priming and preparing your audience to accept your course. Talk about the importance of the principles taught in your course in your content marketing.

For example, let’s say you want to create an online course about "How to Start Your Own Photography Business." Get your audience excited by sharing the opportunity of joining the videography business:

  • Share stats and insights on the industry growth.

  • Reveal how much you can make as a photographer, the opportunities you’ll have, and the lifestyle you can create.

That’s the real kicker in learning how to market an online course: Sell the lifestyle of a successful course participant.

If a participant followed every step in your online course, what would their life be like? If you're marketing a course on overcoming stress, show up in relief and relaxation. If you're marketing a course on becoming a morning person, show up as a morning person!

Sell the end result, not just the product.

Course Marketing Action Plan - Phase 2:

Social Media Marketing
  • Use Instagram Stories to sell the lifestyle and the “behind the scenes." Instagram Stories are great marketing for coaches.

  • Highlight the importance and opportunity of the concepts behind your course in your posts. Again, we’re not selling the course yet — we’re selling the idea of the course.

  • Host a webinar or online event to give them a 'sneak peek' of your value.

  • How to Market an Online Course Pro Tip: Earn your audience's trust by replying to as many comments and DMs as possible. Show that you’re a real person who cares, and make that connection. Eventually, they’ll start looking forward to your content.

Email Marketing
  • Target your audience’s core challenges. What do they want to overcome? What is their goal? Help them begin the journey toward overcoming challenges and reaching their goals by sharing similar content in your email newsletters.

  • Establish trust and value here. Get them to enjoy opening your emails.

Networking & Collaboration
  • Reach out to creators with similar audiences as you and collaborate!

  • Offer to appear on their podcast, guest blog, or create content together. Get in front of each other’s audience! If you're a guest on a podcast, don’t be afraid to let the audience know where to follow you (and that you have an exciting online course coming up!).

Phase 3: Soft Launch.

3 men at a table recording marketing content

You’ve corralled your community and prepared them for what’s to come. Now? It’s time to (soft) launch!

Let your audience know you’ve got something big coming for them. Build hype around your course. Share how excited you are and how much blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into it.

People will be passionate about what you’re passionate about.

Then? Soft launch it! Announce the launch of your online course. Don’t open the doors just yet. Choose a specific date and time to open enrollment. Announce the who, what, where, when, and why of your course:

  • Who it’s for

  • What it is

  • Where they can sign up when it opens for enrollment

  • When it opens for enrollment

  • Why they should mark their calendars

The time frame is up to you. Some might give themselves a week or two to spread the word, while others might build the hype up for a month! Gauge your audience’s interest. You don’t want to wait too long to lose their excitement, but a bit of anticipation will give you time to get the word out and pique interest.

Course Marketing Action Plan - Phase 3:

Social Media Marketing
  • Announce your online course on all platforms!

  • Create multiple posts, provide much information in your Stories, and get the word out.

  • Show up each day, building hype for your course.

  • Record videos explaining it to build trust and connect with your audience.

  • Screenshot any positive replies or comments you receive, and share them with your audience to build social proof.

  • How to Market an Online Course Pro Tip: If you write your course landing page copy first, converting it into multiple social media posts and captions will be easy. Be sure to link the landing page to your posts and Stories (and include a countdown!)

Email Marketing
  • Send a few emails letting them know the BIG news is coming soon.

  • Then, announce it!

  • Create an email campaign announcing the who, what, where, when, and why. Reiterate the “hard launch” date and time in your emails, and link your landing page to the emails.

Networking & Collaboration
  • Keep commenting, engaging, and replying to your audience!

  • Bring up your course naturally in conversations, when possible.

Phase 4: Hard Launch.

Woman smiling while recording online course content on a computer

It’s launch time, baby! It’s time to open those doors and ring in the sales.

You’ve built up anticipation better than Black Friday. Now, it’s time to let your audience taste the delicious value you’ve been working hard to make behind the scenes.

When it’s time to launch, make an announcement on all platforms: Social media accounts, your email list, and even in person. Text all your friends and let them know the good news!

Show up in the energy you want your participants to experience. It’s not desperation — it’s passion and dedication. Keep hyping up your launch, sharing positive feedback, and screenshotting/sharing any sign-up notifications (don’t be afraid to create a little FOMO!).

Course Marketing Action Plan - Phase 4:

Social Media Marketing
  • After announcing your launch, create multiple posts to continue promoting your launch.

  • Make it easy for your audience to sign up: Ensure your landing page is accessible in your 'link in bio,' link it to your LinkedIn, Threads, Facebook, and Pinterest posts, and add a link sticker to your Stories whenever possible.

  • Don’t be afraid to be sales-y. You have value, and you can’t wait for others to enjoy it! If people unfollow, let them. If they're your target audience, they’ll soak it all in!

Email Marketing
  • Send out an email announcing your launch! Show up in that same energy.

  • Make it easy for them to sign up from the emails.

Networking & Collaboration
  • Let your friends, family, and network know about your course!

Phase 5: Create a Sense of Urgency.

Professional businesswoman talking on a computer at a desk

So... Now what?

First of all: Do not launch and 'ghost.' Keep the sign-ups rolling in by continuing to market your course, creating a sense of urgency, and incentivizing your audience to join.

How can you get more people to sign up for your course? There are a few ways you can do this:

  1. Create an early-bird discount.

  2. Put a deadline on your course.

Set a time frame for participants to get the course at a discounted price — an "early-bird" discount. (i.e., anyone who joins in the first week of launching gets it at a 30% lower price. It goes up from there!)

Or, set a firm deadline for enrollment. Reopen the doors every once in a while, adding content, bonuses, or discounts to incentivize new sign-ups.

If you have a big audience, # 2 can work. If you have a smaller audience, go for # 1. This will help you bring in that passive income you want.

Course Marketing Action Plan - Phase 5:

Social Media & Email Marketing
  • Advertise your early-bird pricing during your soft launch and the beginning of your hard launch.

  • Set a date for when the enrollment or discount ends. People procrastinate — this will give them an extra push!

  • If anyone tries to enroll after the deadline, don’t be afraid to reopen the doors or extend the discount another 24 hours (because you’re the best!).

  • How to Market an Online Course Pro Tip: You can also incentivize your offer by throwing in other freebies instead: 15% off your next (or previous) course, a free coaching session for the first 10 people who sign-up, bonuses for the early birds, and so on.

Networking & Collaboration
  • Consider offering an affiliate discount code for other creators, coaches, or businesses in your niche! It’s a win-win.

Create & Market Your Online Course Today.

Now, this is a process. You wanted to create an online course, so you didn't have to trade all your time for money.

That's where we come in. Whether you need:

We're here to help. With over 300+ online courses and 1,000+ marketing copywriting projects written, we can help you turn your online course idea into an online course success.

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