(When completed, this article is worth +0.21 points on Degreed.)
You aspire to create a course, or perhaps you’ve already done so. What’s next?
Where do the students come from?
How do you build a network of learners who will create a community around a piece of knowledge you’re attempting to share?
No one wants to take the time to build a course if no one will ever find it. So don’t do that.
Most of these strategies, though, are focused upon converting your online visitors of your blog or web site to an email list through digital content upgrades and, in time, to the paid courses you sell. If your content creation-sales funnel works, that may be all you need.
- What happens, though, if your funnel is failing to yield the kinds of quality leads that might allow you to build an audience?
- What if you’re concerned about an over-reliance on one marketing approach and wish to diversify, but aren’t exactly sure what to do next?
- What if your topic doesn’t lend itself very well to online instruction and you want to engage your prospective network of learners in person?
If you create an online course or, a course of any kind, for that matter, I recommend adopting as many face-to-face approaches as you feasibly can.
Now, I see you some of you shaking your head and offering up several excuses:
"It’s too much work”
“Why would I market my online course to an offline audience?”
“It doesn’t scale well.”
Trust me, I get it. There’s one of you and it makes far more sense to automate your marketing funnels for the millions of potential users online, rather than running around meeting a bunch of small groups face-to-face.
This makes a ton of sense, but I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate.
Here’s a hot take for you: You do not want the course you create to be massive.
You should strive to find ways to make your course feel small and personal for your students at every level of your interaction with them. To do that, you may need to reimagine all the places your course can go and how you can best cultivate a sense of community.
So, let’s take a moment and examine this idea more fully.
When I describe your course as “small” and “personal,” I don’t want to inhibit your success. Remember, the goal is for your course creation business to grow and, I assume, for many, that means widening your sphere of influence and generating income. I merely use that language as a guide post so you can create the experience necessary to connect with an audience who 1.) wants the information you’re sharing and 2.) possesses the potential to grow into a following long after your initial introduction with them ends.
I see online learning attempting to be more “human”, and face-to-face, classroom-based learning striving to connect students to the many tools and information online, while not ceding its greatest attribute: being personal. We’re nearing a convergence, where learning does not need to be defined as “online” or “face-to-face." It’ll all be one and the same.
So, if this is where we’re headed, we need to ensure your course has the capacity (and personality) to adapt to this merging landscape. Here’s how we’ll begin to think about that (and it’ll need much more time, space, and energy than one blog post will allow):
What learning spaces/schools/institutions/venues are in close geographical proximity to you? Pick your radius. Write them all down. Pay close attention to community colleges, extension programs, adult schools, and private niche-based learning businesses.
You are the epicenter. These local class providers are part of your network. And that’s exactly how you should see them - as a network. They are not disparate parts, nor are they fragmented. You have the ability to bring them together and make them work for you.
So, why the focus on local class providers? What are the advantages?
- Local class providers already possess a deep understanding of the communities they serve.
- They have powerful, deeply entrenched name brands you can tap into for your course marketing. Remember, many of these institutions have existed for decades and are supported heavily by the surrounding community.
- In turn, by offering your class with them, you will build credibility for yourself. Who would you rather take a class from, Sally Mendes or Sally Mendes, College Instructor? (If you’re thinking you’re not qualified to teach your class on a college or adult education campus, community education enrichment programs don’t typically have what are called 'minimum qualifications'. You already have a course - THAT’s the most important thing when proposing to teach it. There’s some nuance to it, so more on the mechanics of proposing your course in a future blog post.)
- Many providers already have existing turnkey promotion funnels that will require you to do little to no work. For instance, the continuing education program I managed would send up to 200,000 print catalogs per quarter, utilize a segmented email list of 40,000+ people, and promote courses throughout their respective social media channels. The instructor simply had to show up and teach a great class. If you're struggling with marketing or are on a tight budget, this kind of partnership can be extraordinarily helpful in getting you in touch with a real audience.
- You’ll have access to a venue to offer your class and the power to craft the learning experience.
- You can determine the workshop length, time, and purpose. Is a two-to-four hour starter seminar make sense given your schedule? How can you infuse your online course into the framework of the class before students ever meet you? If you see your course as a tool, there are numerous ways to get pedagogically creative in how you use it to teach AND distribute to students.
- The students WANT to be there. They’ve already paid to attend your course. They’re hungry for what you have to share. They’re individuals who want to connect with you. (Read this line again.)
- Local class providers will compensate you on either a hourly, per student, or percentage basis. Multiple revenue streams are a good thing!
- You will meet students who would’ve never found you online and can extend your relationship with them once your initial meeting with them ends. (The nature of any class you teach for an organization/business/institution should be for educational purposes only. It should NOT be to sell additional products. As always, there is a right way and wrong way - and anything you do should align with the standards of where you’re teaching at.)
- You can set your own tour schedule and network with your following by linking schools and class dates in an area you're visiting/living.
There are MANY more reasons we’ll delve into soon - and we’ll flesh out the ones I’ve listed even further. For now, though, take a moment and think about all the learning occurring around you. How can you tap into it?
Get small. Think local.