5 Reasons Online Courses Don’t Sell

Everyday, more associations are finding the world of online courses to be both a powerful and viable way of generating additional revenues. Yet, while the opportunity seems to present endless possibilities, there are still countless online courses that fail to sell. So the question is: why? What is it that separates the successful from all the rest?

Of course, there can be many different reasons and meaningful coincidences that account for one’s success as well as another’s failure, but there are some commonalities visible in most, if not all, of the struggling courses offered by associations. More importantly, knowing these specifics means that your association can (and should) take the necessary precautions to avoid them or, better yet, turn them into strengths rather than weaknesses.

Here are five reasons online courses don’t sell.

1. Subpar Content

It may seem obvious, but old or subpar content is a screaming alarm for potential low sales. That’s not to say that all your content has to be on the bleeding edge, but it does have to be comparable with your competitors at the very least. First of all, that means knowing who else is offering similar education content and what kind of content you’re up against. Next, your content needs to be a reflection of what your customer base wants and needs. If you don’t know that, ask them, get to know them, join their communities, and discover and address their primary needs.

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money to keep content updated, but it does take time, energy and commitment. Without that, outdated content gives the customer doubts about its accuracy. Even if the content is still valid, an older looking video, for example, will still trigger feelings of inadequacy. We are, after all, part of a customer base that is attracted to the new and shiny. So don’t shy away from giving your content a new paint job when it starts to fade.

2. Static and Unresponsive

The static or unresponsive course is part and parcel of subpar content but deserves its own category. We all make mistakes, even overlook certain things when creating something. Designing course content is no different, and it may be difficult or even impossible to avoid these mistakes. However, the inability to react to problems, mistakes, or suggestions for improvement is, and needs to be, avoidable. We are quickly moving into a world where personalization is king. Customers and students want content that is built for them and that understands them, and what better way to show that then with timely and accurate responsiveness.

This requires a line of communication with your customers, both during and after the sale. Know what they liked and what they didn’t, make changes based on suggestions and address the concerns that didn’t lead to changes. For the same reasons that old content is unwanted, static and unresponsive content is too. Be dynamic and you’ll be ahead of the game.

3. Underwhelming Website/Landing Page

Along with solid course content comes solid formatting and a solid webpage. Your association is setting itself up as a reputable source of information and snap judgements, for good or ill, are part of a customer’s decision process. Today, professionalism in a website doesn’t require dump trucks of money. Professionalism can be simple, accessible and easy to use. A professional website is not only easier to self-promote, it is more likely to be promoted by your customers. We want to be proud of where we take online courses, so give us a reason to boast, share and discuss your programs.

Professionalism also includes transparency. Our online-savvy eyes have been trained, whether we know it or not, to avoid the spammy, the scammy and the vague. Make sure your copy is straightforward and unambiguous. Be clear about what your course delivers and actually deliver it, no secrets and no doubt. Tricking people into buying something other than they paid for hurts only you in the end.

Another element here is eliminating the objection of a lack of payment options. An easy-to-navigate checkout and shopping cart is an absolute must because not being able to accept someone’s money is no longer an acceptable excuse. Have a versatile payment system and make payment processing a small step, not a hurdle.

4. Price is an Afterthought

Very often, associations generate a course price with little more thought than throwing darts at a dartboard. Accurately matching a price to a product requires knowing your competition and how you compare to them, knowing your customer base and what they’re willing to pay, and knowing what your market strategy is. This means that your association needs to decide if your courses are meant to drive revenues, drive visitors, or maybe something in between. Be honest with yourselves and decide on a price that your customers will perk up for. Also, don’t be afraid to test out pricing strategies. You can camouflage test pricing through promotions or even “new and improved” course content. See how people react, respond to the changes and base your final decisions on what arises from that discourse.

5. Lack of Marketing

Last but, of course, not least is the ever-damaging lack of marketing when it comes to selling online courses. In the digital world, digital marketing must play a role, however daunting it may at first appear. Stop imagining blasting out emails blind into the WebSphere and simply make yourself present in the world you want to occupy. Mastering many of the digital marketing channels requires you setting yourself and your association up as the source of information that your courses, similarly, represent. It is tempting to always be selling or promoting on these channels, but use them rather as a way to stay in contact with and to understand your clientele. Do this and brand recognition will follow.

Proper digital marketing requires personalization. Understand your customers, what they want and what stage they’re at, and separate them. Develop email marketing and social media campaigns, for instance, that deliver interesting points of view on issues of interest to your potential customers to get them listening to you. Send abandoned shopping cart reminders or ads to those who never completed their purchase. Try sending similar or complementary product promotions to those who did go all the way through with a purchase. Personalize the messages and let your customers know that you’re paying attention. Finally, don’t cut corners. Spend the time marketing in several channels, track the impact, and then decide where your time and money is best spent. No one is saying it’s easy, but it is necessary.


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