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How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

Selling an online course to a small audience

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“I don’t have a large enough audience to create and sell an online course!” This is a statement I hear far too often that stops creatives right in their tracks. So I thought I’d share what I’d do if I had to start from scratch. Here’s how to sell an online course when you have a small audience.

Christina Galbato | How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

Let’s imagine for a moment that I have a small audience of 500 followers on Instagram. I haven’t hit the 1000 follower mark yet, and I want to start creating my first online course.

This is an exact step-by-step process of what I’d do in order to get started with creating and selling my online course. Starting with…

1 – Poll Your Small Audience on Which Topics They Are Most Interested In

The first step of the process is to poll your audience on which topics they’d like to learn more about. You can do this on Instagram stories, or send a quick email to your email list if you have one. Ask them what they’d like to learn more about as it pertains to your niche. This will help you narrow down on possible course topics.

You can also get more specific about their specific problems and the solutions they want when it comes to these course topics. Even though you might not have 1000 followers, the information and direct feedback are highly valuable. 

So don’t get discouraged if you only get 5 responses. You can always post another round of story polls. Just be sure to log down this information and take note of any new audience members who have shared their thoughts.

2 – Brainstorm Possible Online Course Topics

Now it’s time to start brainstorming possible course topics for your very first online course. Here’s where you’ll use the information you’ve gathered from your polls. Remember to keep in mind what you’re currently getting paid to do. This is a clear indicator that someone is willing to pay good money for the transformation you provide.

Do you help someone achieve a certain goal? For example, if I were a personal trainer at a gym, I’d think about what my clients pay me to help them achieve. Maybe it’s weight loss, maybe it’s finding fun workouts to stay consistent with.

Have you achieved something that someone else wants to achieve? For instance, if you’re really great at nail art and people constantly ask you how you do what you do, that could be a great place to start.

Make a running list of possible online course topics. And starting with what you already are paid to do is the best way to find a course topic you know someone will pay for.

Brainstorming course topics | How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

3 – Start Creating Content Around Your Online Course Topics

Next, you’ll want to start creating content consistently about your possible online course topic or topics. Generally speaking, you’d want to focus on two or three possible topics instead of spreading yourself across ten different ideas.

The smaller the number of topics, the easier it will be to vet your audience’s interest in the topics. You’ll start to notice which topics get the most engagement when you’ve created content around them consistently enough.

This is also why you don’t want to create content around many possible course topics. It’ll be harder to track your analytics when you have many different options.

4 – Create a Freebie (Lead Magnet) About That Topic

Now that you have valuable insight into what your audience is most interested in – go ahead and create a freebie about that topic. A freebie, also known as a lead magnet, should focus on a very specific area within the overarching topic.

For example, let’s say your audience wants to know how to DIY salon-quality nails, your freebie can address cuticle care. It can also be about the best home products for DIY salon-quality nails. This is something you can add to your polls in step #1 as well.

Once you’ve decided on the subtopic that your freebie will focus on, you can then select the best format to deliver that freebie. Going off the DIY nail topic, cuticle care could be a webinar. Since it requires a lot more parts and even video tutorials, a webinar could be a great way to share that information. In comparison, the best home products for salon-quality nails could easily be a PDF guide.

No matter what form your freebie takes, you want to make sure that the information in there can help your audience achieve a win, big or small.

Creating a freebie | How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

5 – Continue Nurturing Your Small Audience on Social Media and Your Email List

One thing you should know is that as you’re creating your freebie, you want to continue nurturing your audience. Don’t let small numbers distract you from continuously nurturing them and keeping them engaged.

I know how easy it is to get discouraged, especially when your audience is small and you’re getting a handful of responses. But nurturing through your social media account, as well as your email list (where people who sign up for your freebie are), will keep their attention on your upcoming online course.

Not to mention, continuous, consistent content on social media can always grow your audience. This will also increase the number of warmer leads who sign up for your freebie and end up on your email list.

6 – Host a Handful of Market Research Calls on Your Online Course Topic

Polling your audience and monitoring your comments and DMs is a great way to tap into what your audience might be interested in. But if you have the ability to hop on a handful of market research calls, take it.

Even if you hop on the phone with just three people, you have the opportunity to talk to them directly about the topic of your course, what their struggles are, and what solutions they’ve tried in the past.

Market research calls can give you very valuable information that can go a long way in the launch of your first online course.

Market research calls for online course | How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

7 – Analyze Your Data and Start Creating Your Very First Online Course

After creating consistent content, polling your audience, sharing your freebie, and even hosting market research calls – it’s time to analyze all that data. This will steer you in the right direction as you create and prepare for the launch of your online course.

For example, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your audience’s specific needs when it comes to creating your online course. You’ll know what the best materials are to aid their learning. On top of that, you’ll know finer details such as their ideal lesson lengths, the best price point for your course, and other details you gather from your market research and other data.

8 – Map Out Your Course Curriculum 

Mapping out your course curriculum is an important part of creating your online course. This is essential if you want to provide an undeniable transformation for your students. To start doing this, you want to clearly define your students’ point A and point B. 

In other words, you want to know where your students are before they take your course, and where they will be at the end of the course. Once you have those clearly defined points mapped out, you can start filling in the gaps in between. This will ensure that they take the best steps possible to get where they want to go.

Use the data you’ve collected from your market research calls and polls to inform your lesson planning.

Mapping out your course curriculum | How to Sell an Online Course When You Have a Small Audience

9 – Have a Cohesive Launch Plan for Your Online Course

Once you’re done creating your online course (or when you’re almost done), you need to come up with a strategic and cohesive launch plan. This is so that you can roll out constant buzz around your online course to your existing audience.

When it comes to selling your online course, you need to constantly talk about it in order to promote it effectively. This means being incredibly strategic with your launch plan, preparing a schedule, and creating all the assets necessary for it.

You’ll also plan for an official launch date. So be sure to keep yourself accountable to the day your course goes live.

Something to be very careful about while creating your launch plan is to steer clear of huge mistakes that can affect the performance of your launch. Far too often, I’ve seen course creators of all sizes host unsuccessful launches because they haven’t done the following:

  • Have a clearly defined open cart period
  • Didn’t dedicate enough time to warm up their audience
  • Not conducting market research
  • Not hosting a launch event, like a webinar or challenge

These mistakes can derail the performance of your course launch, regardless of audience size. This is why I cover them extensively in The Online Course Bootcamp, so you know exactly how to avoid these pitfalls and guarantee a successful and profitable course launch.

10 – Collect Social Proof From Your Happy Students 

Finally, as your students go through your course, be sure to collect testimonials and words of praise along the way. This will help you increase the impact of your next launch. It’ll also be much easier the next time around since you have social proof of your course helping your students.

Collecting social proof for your online course

Bonus: Consider Investing in Paid Ads 

If you want to increase the number of your audience prior to your launch, consider taking out paid ads. Although this isn’t a necessary step, it can certainly give you a boost by increasing the number of leads you have.

Selling Your Online Course to a Small Engaged Audience

Here’s the bottom line: if you can’t sell to 100 people, you can’t sell to 100,000. This means that audience size is irrelevant when it comes to creating and selling your online course.

Having been in the online course industry for a few years, I’ve seen creators with over 100k followers struggle to sell their online courses or digital products. But I’ve also seen creators with a way smaller following (in the 1000s) consistently hit 5 to 6-figure launches.

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Frequent flyer, NYC-based serial entrepreneur, online educator, mama to a Bernedoodle pup, and lover of long baths.

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