How To Sell An Online Course in 2021: A Virtual Summit & Challenges Could Save Your Online Course Business

February 17, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever created an online course that didn’t sell that well? If so, then you know the pain of going through the process of creating an online course for weeks, maybe even months, only for no one to care. 

First of all, you should never, ever create an online course before you have sold it in the first place. But how do you sell your course before actually creating it?

There are two very effective marketing strategies in the virtual event space that you can use to sell more of your online courses right now: 

Run a five-day challenge to pre-sell your online course 

Now let’s assume you are starting from scratch, with no audience and no email list. It’s all still doable, don’t worry. 

You would start off preparing to run a five-day challenge. (You can run those challenges later on again and again if you wanted to re-launch). 

All you need to do is prepare five topics for five days of live streaming. This is typically part of your “module one” of your course. Why? Because at the end of the challenge you would pitch your course, which would be the next logical step for your attendees to take. 

For example, my course is called “From Idea to Course.” It’s a full-stack online course that teaches people exactly how to turn an idea into a finished course, including all the and marketing strategies someone needs to go through in order to create a product that sells and is scalable. 

When I run my five-day challenge, I teach parts of module one, because that’s usually where everyone starts. It’s called “How to Get Your Course Idea Kick-Started” — because it all starts with one idea. 

I then hold a presentation every single day, hand out workbooks and ask the attendees to do some “homework” every day. This way they are engaged and have already started working on their online course by the time the five-day challenge is over. 

The next logical step then, once the challenge wraps up, is to upsell to the flagship program. The students have already invested five days with me, so why would they not want to finish what they started? 

And because you now have an email list of people who were interested in your challenge — and hopefully some who bought into your offer — you can then start to create your online course.

Related: The Complete Guide to SEO for Course Creators

Virtual summits

Now, let’s assume you already have a validated product in place. A great way to sell your online course is to run a virtual summit. Here are just some of the benefits

  • You can build your email list fast.
  • You are seen as an authority in your industry.
  • You expand your professional network.
  • You can serve a better experience to your audience by bringing in other experts.
  • Strategic partnerships become the norm.

Now preparing to run a virtual summit obviously requires much more time and many more resources than running a five-day challenge, which is the reason why I recommend starting off with challenges first before tackling a virtual summit. 

A seven-day virtual summit that has 30 speakers onboard will easily take you four months to plan and execute, provided you are doing everything by yourself. Therefore it makes much more sense to invest time into creating a huge event like this once you already have a validated online course in place. 

Not only will you be seen as an instant authority in your industry, but you yourself will also learn so many more things along the way about your industry. 

As you can not possibly know everything about anything, the virtual summit experience will be of much higher quality for your attendees if you bring on a healthy mix of speakers who all bring their expertise and unique perspective to the table. 

So what does this have to do with online courses? Well, there are a few different ways to monetize a virtual summit. One of the ways is to offer your online course as a product in the backend as an upsell. 

A very popular virtual summit model goes like this: Visitor signs up for free summit. Then, upsell to the all-access pass. Then, upsell to your online course. Finally, upsell to a high-level mastermind. 

Many summits don’t sell online courses or masterminds in the backend, and they only sell the all-access pass, which is fine.  The all-access pass is a bundle of all your expert talks. 

Because you have so many experts speaking on a virtual summit, nobody will be able to catch all of the sessions at once, take in all the information and then implement all the new knowledge, especially if the free recordings are only available to be watched for 24 hours. 

People like to purchase a bundle that allows them to watch the sessions in their own time, maybe even several times. 

So as you can see, virtual summits are also a great way to establish that “know, like and trust” factor, which is essential for you to establish if you want to sell more online courses. When will you run your first challenge or virtual summit? 

Related: The 3 Most Common Mistakes Online Course Creators Make

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