To sell online courses, you need two things. First and foremost, build a VALUE-PACKED and UNIQUE training. Afterwards, you need to be smart about using different channels to market your course.

After talking to a few course creators, we've created this article so that you can find all the information on how to sell training courses online in one place. From different sales strategies to more practical advice, it's all in here.

You'll also get full access to 8 cold email templates to promote your online course, reach out to hesitant buyers and push people down your sales funnel.

Here's a quick overview:

1) Understand the sales funnel. Master all 4 stages and learn how to move people towards conversions in a much more effective way.

2) Cold email templates. Get inspiration from the lemlist team to amplify your impact and increase conversions.

3) Other channels for selling courses online. Learn 7 more opportunities to market your online course.

4) Platforms to help you create, manage and sell your training. From all-in-one solutions to marketplaces and WordPress platforms.

Selling courses online: understanding your sales funnel

Before we get into the funnel talk, there's a super important point we all need to comprehend.

The world does NOT need another 💩course.

Plus, all the information is already free. It makes more sense to ask Google to answer questions for me. Approximately 10-20% of the content we'll see for any query will be pretty awesome.

Regardless, the courses that will keep winning people's trust (mine as well) and be profitable are those that provide MORE value than Google can.

That value is defined across two main benefits:

  • Sell your experience, something you worked on FOR A LONG TIME, where you have ACTUAL results (e.g. walk me through your FB ads, show me the funnel, audiences, the creative and the secret moves).
  • You give people their time back instead of searching for this on their own

To provide these two benefits, it takes time and it takes skill. At least in my mind, as a former course buyer.

First of all, you have to understand the funnel.

Now, out of all the funnel images, marketing models and extensive theory, this is the one that always clicked for me.

Stage 1 - Attention

It all starts with the attention. The most precious currency in the world of marketing.

Let's assume the following situation. I've decided to create a course. But, unfortunately for me, apart from my family, friends and a few colleagues, nobody knows who I am.

So for me to go out, claim I'm the email outreach or recruiting expert and try to sell you, it won't mean a thing, would it?

That's where the attention rises above the surface and all those blogs with headlines "Create a course and earn $$$ fast" drown to the bottom of the ocean.

People are completely unaware of my existence and what my skills are. They haven't come across my brand yet. And the golden rule for online courses I think is...

People don't buy from the people they don't know.

Luckily for me, there's a way to crack this. It's difficult, but not impossible.

You have to search for topics (or communities, groups, conferences, events etc.) that are popular. These are usually the topics that drive a high amount of searches as people enjoy consuming them.

The only trick is that they have ZERO purchase intent. In other words, you should NEVER EVER try to sell. You should either educate or entertain. That's how you get attention and how you make people aware that you or your brand exist.

To put it in practical terms, if I'm selling an email outreach course, I can for example document all my email outreach campaigns that got me good results in the past. Templates, explanations... everything! And then distribute it.

Or, if I'm a hotshot recruiter, I could create a video and explain how lemlist hired their Head of Growth. The story of how Guillaume and I met by the way.

After you read my outreach blog post or consume the video, you get exposed to me, my face and my brand.

Then you start to be aware of my existence. That's a good start. Now the objective is to maintain their attention with good content (a.k.a. giving value on a regular basis).

Stage 2 - Awareness

The second step begins when people become acknowledge who I am and what my brand represents.

If they've followed me on Instagram, became a YouTube subscriber, signed up for my email list or ended up in my retargeting funnel, they become aware.

This is where many people start selling. I think it's a mistake that will cost them their customers' attention.

Why?

They're not ready to buy yet. It doesn't mean some will, but the vast majority won't.

The way I see the awareness stage is through people who were cool to follow me or like my stuff. They are in the market for the solution, but have still not shown a firm interest to go all the way.

What I need to do is be grateful for their attention and leverage the fact that they now know my name when they see my video in their news feed.

But if I interrupt their YouTube playlist with an ad pushing them to buy my course, I genuinely think I'm giving away the upper hand.

Instead, I'm gonna play it smart and focus on more content. Only this time, get more personal.

For example, for the email outreach course, I could create a 5-email sequence of a specific strategy in detail and ask them if they want to receive it.

Or, if I'm a recruiter, I might try to interview 5 top HR managers and put those videos on YouTube. Then I can invite people to join my Facebook Recruiting Community for free and exclusive access.

In the backend, I'm extending my communication channels and providing more value. Hopefully, in both pieces of content I can find a spot or two where I could slowly start selling.

Stage 3 - Desire

Depending on the type of a course or business that you're running, you might have your desire stage broken down into Interest and Consideration. I've combined these, but always have a few nuances in mind:

  • people have landed on my "money" landing page (one I use to drive conversions)
  • they've signed up for my free trial
  • bought a discount or got a coupon
  • booked a call or a consult

Meaning, some will be more interested, the others less.

Our mission here is to deliver the right hook. We know these are hot leads that are interested to buy our course or are nearly there.

For those who have decided to buy, we need to make sure the buying process has as little friction as possible. Friction is the enemy right?

A dedicated landing page with all the necessary information and a smooth and secure checkout process should do the trick.

However, some people may have doubts...

  • the course might be too expensive for them
  • not sure whether it's worth it
  • can't decide between a few alternatives

Whatever the reason is, it's our job as marketers to show humility, listen and try to understand the barriers. If my course is worth $2,000 and you're a new kid on the block just starting, maybe we can make a deal.

If you're doubting the value, maybe I can send you a powerful use case story or give you a module for free.

I see the desire stage as a game of choices. I just have to figure out what's the next best alternative for you and work out the math part to make it profitable for me.

And then I can use all the discoveries from hesitant buyers to further optimize my money page and content.

Plus, all those communication channels I've developed in the past two stages will certainly give me a hand to convince you my course is the real thing.

Stage 4 - Client

Boom! People bought our course. Game over, right?

Wrong!

Obviously, we're talking about a stage where this group of people bought your course and are happily consuming.

At this point, an important distinction needs to be made. We gotta decide whether we wanna cash in on our chips and be happy we made a profitable course, or we wanna expand and do more.

It's like being a hip hop artist. You can make just one banger song. Or, you can try to make a few hit albums.

Both are equally fine! Whoever goes on judging or ridiculing someone on either of these, they can go straight to hell. You do you and decide what makes you happy.

I remember the first course I bought. It was Isaac Rudansky's Google Advertising for Beginners on Udemy. I discovered I'm not that much into courses as that's not me, but I did quite enjoy few of the modules.

The far more interesting thing, however, was the moves he was taking to build a business around it. Building a Facebook Community, the new courses, his YouTube, the show he created etc.

Why is this relevant?

Because if you decide to further develop your business, having paid clients opens up a tone of new questions for online course owners:

  • how to reach new markets
  • keeping the course updated and relevant
  • providing value to current and past customers
  • fostering great word-of-mouth to boost revenue
  • are there any upsells or upgrades possible
  • creating new courses
  • expanding the focus (on-site training, speaking gigs)
  • become a thought leader (investing in marketing and reaching new audiences)

Getting clients is one thing.

Having clients' love and diversifying revenue along the way is a whole other level. That's why you need to consider this as another stage of your funnel.

Using cold email outreach to sell online courses

Cold email outreach represents an excellent channel to generate and nurture your leads.

For each stage in your funnel, you can come up with clever email sequences to drive interest, push people further down and eventually close them.

I had a few interesting conversations with a few users that are selling courses. Some of these templates are modified versions of what they've used in the past or I've leveraged them in a bit different context. But all of them I think can bring fire to your world.

Let me know what you think.

Cold email template for the attention stage

For me, the best way to grab somebody's attention is to play the content card. Not only will you deliver something THEY can use without selling, but you will establish yourself as an expert in the field.

You'll help people learn a thing or two about you, but also get them in your Facebook Pixel (or as a follower on Social Media).

The template below you can easily adjust based on what type of content you are distributing. Nevertheless, you need to connect it with your course and your brand.

Important note: For those of you who haven't used lemlist before, the text and images you see in these templates are dynamic and they automatically change for every prospect. Super easy to set up of course.

Subject line: Need {{value}} inspiration

Hey {{firstName}},

I heard you were looking for {{valueContent}}. Don't need anything from you, but I do wanna send you something that you're gonna love.
Hope it brings you value.

See you,
{{signature}}

Webinar/Meetup invite for the attention and awareness stages

This one I'd be curious to test... or maybe a few variations of it.

Subject line: Let's hang out

Hi {{firstName}},

We're organizing a special and invite-only meetup for {{jobPosition}}. We'd be thrilled if you could join us.

- {{reason1}}
- {{reason2}}
- {{reason3}}

Only one thing you gotta do at this point.

Confirm your attendance here.

{{signature}}

Email template to book on-site training

In case you're considering doing training for a specific client or bigger companies.

Subject line: Are you making this mistake {{firstName}}?

Hi {{firstName}},

I recently did this research that really blew my mind. It led me to a fascinating discovery.

Most {{jobPosition}} are becoming increasingly vulnerable and suffer from the consequences of {{industryThreat}}.

{{idea}} is the road to growth for {{companyName}} in today's business environment. I've recorded a video for you in case you wanna learn more.
I'd be more than happy to hop on a call and answer any questions you might have.

Are you free some time tomorrow or day after?

Let me know,
{{signature}}

2-step email sequence for warm leads

Confident this can potentially be a good flow for those leads that are still not close to convert.

Subject line: Exclusive invite for {{firstName}}

Hey {{firstName}},

I have super exciting news for you... 😍

Since you've expressed interest in the {{courseName}}, I thought it was only fair to give you a sneak peek into the training before you buy anything.

That's right. I'm giving you free access to it. No commitment or cc needed.

Claim your free spot here.

Speak soon,
{{signature}}

Afterwards, you send the follow-up.

Subject line: There's more waiting for you ❤

Hey {{firstName}},

Have you had a chance to take a peek into the {{courseName}}?

If you haven't, I got you, just proceed here.

But if you did, let's quickly skim through what's next. Since both you and I are probably insanely busy, I shot a quick video for you to explain it quickly.
Or click here to see the video.

Take care,

{{signature}}

In the video, it will be a good idea to explain the difference between the free trial and a full plan, as well as to remind them about key value props your course brings to the table.

Template 1 for the interest stage for hesitant buyers

A payment plan might be an interesting tactic to boost sales, particularly if your price is a bit steep.

Subject line: Is pricing an issue {{firstName}}?

Hi {{firstName}},

I understand... my course is expensive!

Plus, you missed out on my legendary discount back in June... it can get frustrating.

But because you've stuck around and followed my stuff on Social, I want to send you a special offer that I don't advertise to the public.
To make things a bit interesting, consider this as a one-time offer.

It won't last forever and will expire soon.

X month payment plan at $$$/month.

I think this is fair.

Click here to sign up to {{courseName}} and claim your custom-made deal.

Let me know,

{{signature}}

Template 2 for the interest stage for hesitant buyers

Always a solid idea to test the free trial option...

Subject line: little surprise for you {{firstName}}

Hi {{firstName}},

I feel like you're having last-minute hesitations about buying {{trainingName}}.
As promised, got a little surprise for you {{firstName}}. I've decided to give you one module from the training for free... so that you can see it's the real thing.

Here's a quick overview of what members get + your free module.

- {{module1}} Yours for free. ;)
- {{module2}}
- {{module3}}
- {{module4}}
- {{module5}}

Click here to claim it.

See you on the other side,
{{signature}}

Template 3 for the interest stage for hesitant buyers

In case you'd be up to test closing enrollments.

Last call {{firstName}}... closing soon 🔓

Hey {{firstName}},

Gotta say, {{trainingName}} received such a great response from you guys, that we need to close the doors.

My goal is to provide every attendant with as much value as I can. So decided to turn the attention to connecting with all of you 1 on 1.

This is the last call for {{trainingName}}.

Here's a quick course overview if you're still having doubts.

- {{reason1}}
- {{reason2}}
- {{reason3}}

Plus, I'm adding more and more content every day.

The clock's ticking. Get in while you still can.

[Sign up link]

See you on the other side,
{{signature}}

How do you create all these templates and personalize them in the same way? You sign up for a free trial and lemlist and follow the video you'll get seconds after. :)

Start your free trial

More channels to sell training courses online

Besides cold email outreach, there are many more ways to leverage if your ambition is to sell an online training.

I won't go into course marketplaces and different platforms just yet, but we will talk about it in two minutes.

First, let's go through some other marketing opportunities to sell online courses.

Content, Social Media & SEO

I'm a big believer in content. Always was, always will be. Considering the fact organic means "free traffic", I share the belief we should all have Content & SEO as our long-term strategy.

It goes without saying that with course marketplaces such as Udemy, it's becoming increasingly difficult to rank for competitive keywords, but there's still enough room to break through.

Invest in good content. Find what type and format suit your style best, spread it out across channels and patiently publish it on an ongoing basis. Spend time to understand SEO and get backlinks. You don't need a PhD in it, you just gotta go through Google and gain a few required skills.

Social Media networks and their importance... well, you all know everything about that, don't you? :)

Extended payment plans

We briefly touched on this, but I feel it's worth to mention it again.

I think this is a big deal if we're talking about expensive courses. Nobody wants to get $2,000 out of their own pocket, nor does anyone want two installments to the tune of a grand.

Especially if you take into consideration different demographics and locations we all come from.

That's precisely the reason I'm a big believer in fair deals for passionate fans, youngsters and honest folks looking to educate themselves.

Do you have cheap bastards out there? You bet. Are there greedy people looking to take advantage of these things? For sure.

But I still believe in empathy and gestures out of good will, as well as the fact that fair installments will boost sales of online courses (depending on the original price).

Course enrollments and dripping hacks

Opening and closing enrollments at a certain time, and using pressure limits to spike sales represents an A/B test I'd look at. I read an article about a guy who stated that 75% of his course sales came in the last 24h before he closed the enrollment.

Of course, you'd have to live up to your word and not just pretend to close it. Although I do believe there's room to play with "you're in luck, I'm opening another 5h for you {{firstName}}" kind of emails, for credibility reasons be careful how you play it out.

As buyers, we have this inexplicable need to procrastinate on decisions, so these limits and time pressures can come pretty handy.

Second tactic I'd be enthusiastic to test is spreading out modules instead of releasing them all at once. Take new Peaky Blinders season 5 for instance. Although I love Netflix for pushing out all episodes at once, it's a better idea to give me one episode a week.

That way, I don't need to delay writing this article or sleep less. :P

All joking aside, it might be worth to investigate if too many modules are overwhelming for students.

Instead, we can spread them out. Announce the new module will be released next Monday to awake excitement in students.

Webinars

Depending on the size of your audience, webinars might be an interesting channel to consider. Even if you're just starting out, there's no reason why you can't fill all the seats with potential buyers.

I saw a few people pre-recording their webinars, taking it to perfection in the post-production stage and then using the live webinar time to communicate with the audience on chat.

Whatever direction you take, the only thing that matters is to bring value. Keep in mind that marketers have ruined webinars a long time ago. Don't ruin your reputation by having a lot of people show up and then serve them with a sales offer and zero value.

Events, meetups, workshops

If you go back to our funnel talk from earlier, people don't buy from the people they don't know. Therefore, to drive much-needed attention first, roaming around conference halls and meetups might very well be a smart tactic to leverage.

Get to know people. Start conversations. Provide valuable advice. Organize small events around connected topics. Give a keynote. Focus on building relationships and positioning yourself as a thought leader. Don't be aggressive in sales. My game here would be to just put my face out there, connect with everyone and aim to have them to do the talking for me one day.

Create or join communities

Groups and communities are a pretty saturated marketing tactic right now. There are so many groups out there, especially around popular topics. Public groups, closed and secret communities, Facebook, Slack, Telegram, other chat apps etc.

Whatever course you end up creating, I'm pretty sure you can discover a vibrant community for it to join, and focus on meeting as many people and providing as much value as you possibly can.

Alternatively, you can create your own community as well. Many course instructors start building this, adding all their students gradually. The key is to differentiate and make your community unique.

Influencer outreach

Out of all marketing strategies, I'm super convinced this one can be pure gold. Especially if we're talking about conquering attention and awareness funnel stages.

If I'm selling an email outreach course, I can go about segmenting out all well-known salespeople, outreach practitioners and growth experts with proven track records. What's stopping me to record a podcast, an interview, add a joint module in my course or host a Q/A session for my audience.

Influencers are not just on Instagram. They're on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, owners of big Facebook Groups, have built huge email lists etc. The goal is not only to provide value, but to also reach their followers... or in other words, expand your audience. Have them follow your profiles or enter your remarketing funnel.

Add people to your funnel by creating amazing stuff... and by striking win-win deals with these influencers. ;)

Platforms to create, manage and sell courses

The icing on the cake for this article... I've spent some quality time with hanging on Google and researching the best platforms that will help you create and manage online courses.

These are some of the promising ones I've stumbled upon, divided into building platforms, marketplaces and WordPress solutions.

Thinkific - This is a powerful, all-in-one platform makes it easy to share your knowledge, grow your audience, and scale the business you already love. Whether you’re educating 10 students or 10 million, feel confident that you’ve got the easiest technology and best support in the business.

Pricing

LearnWorlds - Create and sell online courses, all-in-one. Get a fully professional, social, engaging and interactive online school. Don't just sell online courses, sell learning experiences.

Pricing

Teachable - Let Teachable do the heavy lifting so you can focus on what matters - creating courses with our user-friendly interface.

Pricing


Podia - Sell online courses, memberships, and digital downloads. No technical headaches, zero transaction fees, and unlimited everything.

Pricing


DigitalChalk - A complete LMS solution for creating, marketing, and selling courses online.

Pricing

Zippy Courses - This is an all-in-one tool for teaching & selling your online course. Built by course creators for course creators.

Pricing


Pathwright - An online app for making courses, lessons and communities.

Pricing

Learndash - The #1 choice of Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses on WordPress.

Pricing

AccessAlly - A powerful, flexible customer-getting and retaining system that grows with your business, and that pays for itself. For WordPress users.

Pricing

Udemy - Create an online video course and earn money by teaching people around the world.

Become an instructor

Skillshare - Film your Skillshare class from home and publish immediately with their easy class upload tool.

Become an instructor

Bottom line

As you can see, there's more than one way to market your online course and make profit. The important thing to remember is to test different things.

Try to see what's working for you and what isn't. Make sure to connect with your audience and understand what are the barriers that are stopping them to buy from you. And of course, create and keep updating your awesome course.