by Ben Allen, Guest Contributor
As different industries become more advanced, the need for highly trained workers is increasing. That demand has inspired businesses and educational organizations to create a variety of courses to teach new skills and bring in additional revenue. But how do these new educators get the word out about their offerings and entice students to enroll?
The problem is connecting with people in search of worthwhile courses. In a world of information, it’s easy to get missed when offering occupational training. A 20-minute YouTube video isn’t a replacement for a specialized class taught by an industry professional, yet many think it is. The challenge with filling classes with students is connecting with them and proving the class is worth their time and money. Here are a few tips to properly market to people looking to improve themselves through online courses.
Understand Your Audience, Be The Right Solution
Before you do any marketing, you have to do research on your target markets. What type of information are people wanting from you? Are you targeting highly skilled professionals who are looking to expand their knowledge, or are you teaching entry level skills to new hires at businesses? What are their goals with continuing education? How much information do they typically already have?
A deciding factor for people when picking the right courses is how it will affect their career. You need to clearly describe the benefits of each class and why you are the best teacher. Explain what students should expect from taking this course, and what knowledge/skills they will have at the end. Failing to do this will give potential students no reason to sign up for your classes.
Have a Blog, Give Basic Information
Get a blog on your site. In the current world of digital marketing, a blog is quickly becoming a must-have. It’s a way to speak directly with your target audience and provide meaningful content that answers their questions.
Whether it’s just you behind the courses, or a team of instructors, blogging is your chance to show off your expertise. To both your readers and to search engines, you’ll be viewed as an expert in your subject with a well developed blog.
Your blog should be hyper focused on your subject matter, and help readers identify their skill and knowledge gaps, while still being helpful. You want to give away some information for free while still retaining the meat of the education for your classes. Little snippets and teasers can be enough to show potential students what they need to know, all the while you are the expert they should turn to for more information.
At the end of every article should be a call to action leading to a relevant course. That way, they get a taste of the information and you present them with the opportunity to continue that education.
What Makes You Special?
The days of “traditional” education are drawing to an end, both in limiting classes to specific locations, and the format that education comes in. As we progress through time, we’re able to adapt courses to the different needs of students.
Universities are noticing that it’s time to change how they educate and are disrupting the norm. Online classes give instructors the ability to address how students want to learn, and to cater their teaching styles to specific demographics. For example, one of ASU’s online degrees is utilizing games to teach environmental science. This gamification of course materials is great for engaging students and entertaining them while teaching them.
So what about your courses makes you different? Is there a specific teaching style your courses use to appeal to certain learning styles? Do your courses teach skills that nobody else has? Is there something special about your instructors? If there is something unique about your courses, go out of your way to advertise it.
People dislike listening to boring lectures and watching powerpoints hours on end, so if there is something you do to further engage students, share it. Explain how you teach differently and what effect that has had on previous students. Unique teaching styles should be a major selling point of your classes.
Instructor Q & A Sessions
Your instructors are experts in their chosen fields, and people value their opinions. Giving people the opportunity to pick their brains is a great way to get them, and your courses, exposure. As potential students ask questions, your instructor can educate and from there encourage them to take a course.
By giving people access to your instructors in a controlled environment, they build credibility and trust. People will want to learn more if they see them as leading experts, and will investigate taking a course from them.
You can have regular sessions like this through webinars, forums, or even Twitter. Make sure to associate the sessions with your business and explain what courses each instructor teaches. As answers are given out, have the instructor tell what courses people should take if they want more information about a specific skill or topic.
Give Free Beginner Classes
People are skeptical when it comes to paying for classes. Alongside Q & A sessions, let people see how skilled and valuable your instructors are with free beginner classes. These can be shortened courses that introduce topics and should help funnel students to appropriate paid courses.
Free courses can give people a risk free chance to test out your classes and see if they're right for them. It also gets them comfortable with your teaching styles and develops brand loyalty, since you are giving them something for free. Don’t "phone in" these classes as they can become a great source of business and can be a major deciding factor of whether students will continue learning from you.
Reviews, Social Proof, and Word of Mouth
Universities, professors, and major learning institutions all gain reputations and accreditation that help their standings with potential students. It’s things like these that encourage students to attend out of state colleges, get onto wait lists for highly desirable classes, and why certain degrees from specific schools are more valuable than others.
Businesses that offer online courses need that same type of reputation to attract students. Gaining reviews from students who have finished your classes is a valuable asset for this. Encourage people as they finish your courses to leave reviews, both on social media and third party review sites, and ask them to tell how the course has improved them.
You can utilize these reviews on landing pages for your classes to provide proof that the classes are valuable. This social proof helps build your credibility, very helpful when people are deciding whether to pay for your class.
Word of mouth is extremely valuable when trying to build a following. This means you need to transform previous customers/students into promoters of your products. Don’t forget about them after they’ve gone through your courses. Connect with them through social media and stay in touch. Occasionally, send them messages from instructors about things they’ve recently learned, helping your previous students stay at the front of their industries. Doing this will keep you top of mind and show you care for them, even though they are done with your classes. With all of that, they’ll be more likely to recommend your courses to friends and family.
Are you considering offering classes as part of your business? What type of obstacles or solutions are you finding when marketing your classes? Is there something you are doing to shake up the education world? Let me know in the comments below!
Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and marketer who focuses on staying on the cutting edge of technology and marketing. He also writes about small businesses, leadership, and occasionally geeks out. You can read more of his writing by following him on Twitter:@allen24ben.
IMAGE CREDIT: Steven S