“Do I need a big audience to launch an online course?”
This is hands down the most common question that service providers have been considering swapping clients for courses.
And it’s a valid one, especially if you’re considering launching an online course with a tiny audience or non-existent email list (I mean, who has time to ‘grow an audience’ when you have a full roster of clients to contend with?)
Here’s my short answer:
Yes, you need PEOPLE to sell your course to.
But, is this the same as having a large, warm, engaged audience of people already on your email list?
No, not necessarily.
Let’s dive into what role ‘audience’ plays in the sales for your online course, and how to approach growth if you are starting with a tiny audience.
The Relationship Between Audience Growth and Course Sales
The reality is that in order to sell an online course – or to sell ANYTHING! – you need people to offer it to.
When it comes to online courses, these people are known as ‘leads’.
The number of leads you require depends on your conversion rate – aka the percentage of people that see your offer that end up buying. The average conversion rate for online courses is 1% – 3%, which means that for every 100 people that see your offer, 1 – 3 of them will buy.
So, in order to make sales, it’s critical to generate enough leads that 1% – 3% of them will buy.
Let’s breakdown the maths in more detail:
Let’s say your sales goal is $10,000 in sales, and your course price is $1000.
In order to reach your sales goal, you will need 10 course sales ($10,000 / $1000)
If your conversion rate is 1% (for easy maths), you will need 1000 leads in order to make 10 sales and reach your goal of $10,000.
Most Common Lead Generation Methods
Generating the number of leads required in order to sell your course involves ‘audience growth’.
There are two traditional ways to build your audience online – firstly, content marketing, and secondly, Facebook Ads.
Let’s break down the pros and cons of each.
1. Content Marketing
Content Marketing involves creating consistent, valuable content on a regular basis on topics related to the topic of your online course. For example, you could begin blogging, podcasting or start a Youtube channel.
Creating valuable content which serves your audience attracts people to you, and builds rapport, builds your authority and creates reciprocity so that when they require ‘next steps’, your course is the obvious choice.
There are two big benefits of content marketing.
Firstly, it generally builds in effectiveness over time. For example, blogging can have search engine optimisation benefits when created strategically, and over time your blog posts may start to rank highly when people search for similar topics. It will begin to deliver new audiences to you.
Secondly, audiences created using content marketing are usually warm because you have been delivering them valuable content over time, meaning higher conversion rates and more sales.
Win win, right?
Well, kind of.
The biggest downside of content marketing for anyone starting out with a tiny audience?
That it’s a long game.
If you start today, it can sometimes take months and years for your efforts to pay off.
Does it mean that it’s not worthwhile?
Of course not.
I still highly recommend content marketing as a way to build your brand and audience.
The problem, though? It’s not ideal when you need leads NOW in order to make sales.
So, where does that leave us if we need leads FAST?
That’s where Facebook Ads come into play!
2. Facebook Ads
Facebook Ads involves ‘fast tracking’ the time it takes to build an audience by paying for them!
The goal? To spend less money than you make, in order to make a profit from your spend.
Simple, yes. Easy? No, not always.
The biggest thing to remember when it comes to any form of paid advertising is that it will simply amplify what you’re already doing. If you don’t already have a solid course offer that converts, running Facebook ads won’t work either.
The other issue when it comes to Facebook Ads is that the conversion rates are generally lower than for leads generated through content marketing. Because leads are strangers when they come into your course funnel, they will generally not know you, like you or trust you enough to immediately buy from you in the same way that your warm audiences will.
For both of these reasons, I strongly recommend against investing in Facebook ads until your course is making enough profit using organic traffic sources for you to confidently invest that money back into ads, or before you have a strong, optimised sales offer.
The Best Lead Generation Method When You’re Starting With a Small Audience
So, where does that leave us when it comes to generating the required number of leads to reach your course sales goals? That’s where the Lead Generation System in my Launchpad program comes in!
Here’s how it works:
- Reduce the number of leads you require in order to reach your revenue goals:
By positioning your course for profit, and increasing your conversion rate, you can reach your revenue goals with fewer sales and fewer leads.
- Implement Fast Growth Lead Generation strategies first:
Once you have reduced the number of leads you require to grow, you will focus on fast growth strategies that DON’T involve content marketing or Facebook Ads FIRST. This will build up a pool of leads to generate your first sales while you wait for your content marketing initiatives to snowball and for your course sale profits to cover Facebook Ads.
This system is perfectly designed for service providers to get started fast, without needing to wait months and years to “build an audience” or wasting money on Facebook Ads before they’re ready or they can afford it.
In summary, it’s NOT necessary to have a big, warm audience to get started with creating, launching and scaling your online course.
It’s time to stop ‘waiting’, and get started!
Your future students are waiting!
For more information on the Lead Generation System and the Launchpad program which teaches service providers how to swap clients for courses by creating, launching, and scaling a flagship online course, head to steviesayssocial.com/launchpad.
Episode 101: Lessons From an $87,000USD Online Course Launch