Why should you want to try and sell an online course on a mostly unknown topic?
You know anything less than popular will hardly get the attention of your target audience, especially if it requires that you create interest first, because your readers and subscribers might not even know that you offer exists!
But you do for a reason:
It's because when you bring your message out, you don't want only money – you want to bring something new to the niche, let it breathe some fresh air, get new ideas circulating.
And that's great! It can be your unique selling point, a one-of-a-kind USP that might turn you into the one who wrote the book, the blog or… the online course.
It only requires more work, because it's hard to convince people to follow anything on a topic that is hardly known or less than popular, let alone buy it.
But you'd be surprised at learning how many ways there are to make money with such an online course!
There's a strategy that I followed and I am following, and other people followed as well. With this post, I'm going to guide you from sparking interest in a non-popular topic or niche, to making money and generating traffic with your online course.
Just be prepared to put in some intense legwork.
A summary of this guide (quick link):
- Have a platform or an existing course to offer
- Generate interest with user surveys and polls
- Promote your special e-course launch on your channels
- Get buzz for the new idea
- Put all the how's and why's in writing on your sales page
- Sell your special e-course at a smaller price than your regular course or other products
- Collect testimonials!
- Make it a workshop before you upgrade to an online course
- Your online course toolbox
- Generating traffic to your blog
1. Have a Platform, or an Existing Course to Offer
The reality is that you can only sell an online course on a mostly unknown topic to an audience who already knows and trusts you!
You need that layer of trust to begin this new endeavor. Without that layer, any effort risks turning into a waste of time, money and resources, even if you offered to enroll in your course for free.
The very first step to sell your special online course is to start with the people who know and trust you – your subscribers, blog readers, engaged social followers, and current students (if you run other courses).
Here is some advice on how to go about it:
1. For Blog Readers
Blog readers are more likely to respond positively to introductory blog posts.
Start with your most trafficked post and add a paragraph with CTA about your new idea, directing them to a landing page where you explain your idea in detail and why you'd love to teach it to others.
You can even make an infographic or an ebook and offer it on the landing page.
Then you can write a new blog post introducing the idea to newbies, link it to the landing page where you explain what you want to teach your readers about it, and link this blog post from older posts that are closely related.
For example, I have blogs about SEO, marketing and freelance writing, so I can ‘link' these topics to character blogging (my little-known tiny niche). What I want to do is to get people who are already interested in blogging, SEO, marketing and writing to get curious about character blogging.
2. For Subscribers
All that works for readers is even truer for subscribers, as they are your loyal elite, the people who are most interested in your content, more than readers that come and go.
You could introduce them to your little-known niche with a “P.S.” at the end of your new emails, or you can introduce them to the topic with a series of emails, at the end of which you'll ask for feedback, such like: “Would you like to signup for an early bird course in (Topic Name)?”
This is exactly what I planned for my character blogging list.
3. For Social Followers
They already follow you for your news and content, they are interested in your ideas, so you can definitely request feedback with a new post or a live streaming session that you will link to some other content you already published.
Ask them about their interest in your unpopular niche: Are they curious? Would they like some free content about it? What if you offered a free trial of your online course for them to learn more?
You can create a Q&A and see what engagement you get.
4. With Current Students
Your students already know your value and your teaching skills, so they might get curious about your original idea for a new course.
Add a paragraph or two about it in the newsletter of your existing course, or give your students an extra lecture where you introduce your topic and some applications.
Highlight the connections between your current course, the new idea and the learning modules you want to build around it.
2. Generate Interest with User Surveys and Polls
You might want to ask for feedback in a more structured way.
Invite each category of trusting users shown in the previous point to participate in surveys about the new course.
Polls are better suited to get feedback from site visitors.
Your target audience doesn't know yet whether they'll be interested in what your course has to offer, or if that more obscure topic you seldom blog about is worth their time and money.
You have to tickle their curiosity with short and on-point surveys and easy-to-take polls that link to introductory content you already have on your site, and that your readers might have already read in the past.
You can even make a public survey or poll as a response to a video of yourself introducing the topic, that you might also want to help go viral with shareable buttons.
Here are a few things to ask in the survey to tickle your audience's curiosity:
- Would you be following me for this new project?
- How would you like to learn more about this new topic/practice/idea?
- Would you like some free content about it?
- Would you like to join any course that teaches you how to put it into practice?
- If you could create a project around this idea, what could it be? (This question helps to get input about possible applications)
For polls, make sure to:
1. Create a video or add a short paragraph explaining briefly what your idea is about, then ask a question about it. The question should follow directly from the video or text and it creates a first conversation with visitors.
2. Make the poll useful to build the course, because you want it to tell you what people really want to know about this topic and the problems they might have, doubts, and any wrong opinions about it that you can correct.
3. Promote The E-Course Launch on Your Channels
Promotion must be handled with care because you are promoting a niche or a topic that probably doesn't ring an immediate bell with your audience, so you have to lay the foundations of that knowledge first.
And you must do that on both the promotional content and the landing page.
Offer a short introductory video on your subject, a taste of what your final course will look like! In this video, use your teaching skills and soft persuasion to get directly to the watcher's mind, and be very clear about the benefits that your new idea will bring to those who are already interested in anything that you've been writing or teaching about to date.
You need this laying ground to launch your new course about such a little-known or unpopular niche.
Let's see what types of channels you can leverage:
Any communities you are part of, like forums and Facebook Groups, are good places to start.
I'm a member of the MyBlogU community and there I created a brainstorming project to ask people what they would like to see in a course on character blogging for business, a concept I already introduced to the community:
As you can see from the example, promotion on communities where you are already known takes on the shape of a conversation.
You can also offer blog posts or free content (e.g. short ebooks) to the community to learn more about your idea, and how the course will take this idea and shape it into teachable units, and what people can expect to learn from your modules.
You already know what the community is about so you have to link their needs to your niche and the course you are building.
Community building is a very powerful.
I think every online entrepreneur should have one community around him. It could be a Whatsapp group, Facebook Group, Email List (with 90% open & response rate), a discussion forum or anything.
– Pardeep Goyal, 7 learnings after running paid newsletter for 9 months
2. Your List
Etsy seller Maayan Naveh made her first $100 from a list of 8 people before proceeding to launch her online course on How to leverage Etsy SEO to grow your shop on autopilot. Naveh sold her course to a list of 170 people and made $500 in her first launch.
You want to get your list to learn about your idea first, and you can do so with a series of emails warming your subscribers up about the idea and how useful it can be to them. Then you can promote your course along with any incentives such as early bird privileges and discount codes to get subscribers to act.
You may also create a webinar with a Q&A at the end and invite your subscribers to join it.
Your end goal is to have subscribers already interested in your course when you first launch, who will likely enroll whether it's a free course or a course for a fee.
3. Your Blog
Promoting your course on your blog is the easy peasy part of the whole ‘niche awareness campaign' you are involved with.
This special non-popular niche you are building an online course on is something you most likely already covered in your blog, so you might want to link any promotional post you write now to this older content and start teaching right there, on your blog!
Like you would create a series of emails for your subscribers, here you can create a series of blog posts that end with an alluring CTA on the lines of “Enroll in my new course to continue learning!”.
4. You Friends' Blogs
Tell your friends about your new idea and ask them to let you guest post on their blog to introduce your little-known niche to their audience and invite them to enroll when you launch the course.
A friend might be more keen on allowing you to be a little more promotional in a guest post, but be prepared to make this guest post a really useful and information-packed gem. Don't abuse your friends' kindness!
5. Existing Courses
Create one or two lessons to cover introductory topics for the new course. You can add these lectures as an extra module in your current teaching, or automatically enroll all your students to an introductory mini-course as an appetizer for the one you're going to launch.
Highlight the benefits your students will get by joining the course upon launch, and how it can effectively integrate their current learning.
4. Get Buzz for the New Course
Your existing channels are only the beginning of your promotional efforts.
You have to expand if you want to reach a wider audience, get more enrollments and land more sales. You need some buzz for your idea!
The good news is that once you've done a good job on your existing channels, you will have built a layer of authority that will help you get other opportunities more easily.
Let's see which ones you can leverage right away:
You can get interviewed with the help of HARO, SourceBottle and MyBlogU. You can use these platforms for free.
Respond to media queries about some related topic and use the opportunity to introduce the new idea. For example, if a blogger is looking for out-of-the-box blogging ideas, I can tell them about my business character blogging project and the course I'm making to teach others how to character blog for money.
No guarantee your idea will be used, but it's always worth trying!
2. Guest Posts
Coverage on highly trafficked blogs will likely get more people interested or at least curious about your course.
Search for blogs in niches that are closely related to yours or at least in the niche of your blog, and use the persuasive power of email outreach to pitch them a blog post about the subject of your course.
It's important to have at least one or two pieces of content or free lessons available as samples for the guest blog's readers to get an idea of what your niche is about.
While any backlinks to your blog or course landing page will most likely end up in the bio field, you can create awareness in the post and link that awareness to your name.
3. Promotional Posts
Some blogs allow promotional posts if relevant to the conversation. Also, you can leverage content-based communities like Linkedin Pulse, Kingged and Medium by Twitter.
These are highly trafficked places that are likely to get eyes on your post, especially if your non-popular niche is somehow related to the Internet marketing or lifestyle niches.
Three years ago, I took an e-course on sales page writing at FreelanceWritersDen.com and my sales page had to be a practice for the e-course linked to the blog I've been working (BizCharacterBlogging.com).
Since there's pretty much no market for character blogging for business, and some of what's online about it were my own writing, the course instructor told me I had to create interest first.
What I did was starting to work on my blog, write about character blogging on Kingged and introduce the topic in chats and talks I was in, to see if anybody would be interested in character blogging.
So far I managed to build a small community around my character blogging blog and I already spread some word about the course I'm building for those who are starting to get interested.
4. Group Promotion
Many Facebook groups for blogger growth allow co-promotion. Unless it's a group that you founded or you have special privileges to post promo content, you have to wait for weekly or monthly threads to promote a specific blog post or landing page.
When you catch the opportunity, write a blog post about your course and the ideas you want to teach, leave a link in the thread and ask the community to come and comment or share it.
You might get some of the group members interested and potentially reach their networks.
5. Twitter Chats
You can create a Twitter chat about your idea and the course you want to launch to get people interested from Twitter.
Hashtags are essential on Twitter, so you will want to leverage some of the most popular tags in closely related niches as well as create branded hashtags for your special niche and the course.
Another way is to use MyBlogU to request a dedicated Twitter chat at #vcbuzz (ViralContentBee.com) for your special niche (I got invited to share my business character blogging expertise!).
6. Press Releases
You can generate further buzz with a press release, that you can write yourself or hire a freelance writer to write it for you.
There are PR distribution websites where you can publish your press release for free, such as PRLog.org and PR.com, or you can choose paid solutions like PRNewswire.com and PRWeb.com.
Previously mentioned Maayan Naveh made use of many free blog traffic methods:
I did a lot of ask me anything about SEO sessions in free, no-promo facebook groups, a lot of what you call today tap-on-the-shoulder marketing, where I had my Facebook profile optimized (branded graphics How and CTA to get on my list) and I would post or answer questions related to my topic in free groups so that when people would hover over my name, they'd get curious and sign up for my list.
I also used Facebook Ads to target some lookalike audiences and grow my list.
Before she could successfully launch her girl empowerment digital course at Life Evolutions, Melody Pourmoradi created buzz for her idea writing guest posts and working with brands:
I did a great deal of blogging for HuffPost, Thrive Global and many local publications talking about the importance of girls empowerment.
I have also worked with various brands as an influencer for spreading the message of girls empowerment by partnering with women who can teach and spread the GiRLiFE vision. Lastly, I have created a Facebook group all about girls empowerment where I share as much valuable content as I can while creating buzz for the e-course.
5. Put All the Why's and How's in Writing On Your Sales Page
Your sales page exists for one and one reason only:
To sell your course.
But if you want to explain why and how this course is beneficial to your audience, you must explain in as much detail as possible the practical benefits for taking this course and how the course will be taught.
While this is true for any online course sales page, you want to go even more in detail for non-popular or unknown niches: You have to show how passionate you are about your idea, show how it works, bring in testimonials from beta students and users, case studies (if the idea already helped you achieve something, bring in the numbers!) and all the goodies that can convince a reader to signup for the course and pay the fee (if any).
You can learn a lot from course sales pages from AWAIOnline.com:
While your sales page is not there to teach, you have to show suspicious prospective students that your unknown or non-popular niche rocks and can change their life, and it isn't less valuable only because nobody talks about it.
It would be a good idea to bring in all the most relevant blog posts and other content you produced and add it to different areas of your sales page.
People need to see this content before they enroll.
A sales page is always multi-layered:
- The first part is for those who need less information to be persuaded to signup
- The middle ground is for those who want a little more perspective before they shell out money
- A third layer is for those who need even more information, and you'll want to add extra content exactly for this group of people.
Show your vision on your sales page.
Success is a matter of being genuinely involved in your own project, as Melody Pourmoradi says:
I really believe that the magic ingredient to my success was that I have passionately shared this message authentically and from a truly heart-centered space. When you are fully aligned with your vision, it's not about selling – it's more about genuinely sharing what your program is all about. People can't help but be attracted to your product when they feel the energy with which it is being shared.
That's why your sales page shouldn't focus on selling only, but on creating a connection with alike minds and answering as many of their questions as possible.
Once they feel fully aligned with your vision, they will enroll in your course to learn from you, their proof-verified newly found authority on that little-known but loved niche.
6. Sell Your Special Course at a Smaller Price than Your Regular Course or Other Products
Because this idea is so new, people might not be very keen on spending a lot of money on it or fear to be scammed, so there are various options you can take into consideration:
- Offer a risk-free 30-day trial of the course that doesn't require a credit card
- Sell the course at a smaller price for the first 6 months to a year from launch
- Offer a good discount (at least 15%) to anyone who joins the course after taking action (become a subscriber, comment on any number of posts, etc.)
You could also mix things up: If a regular course of yours sells at $150, you might sell this one at $70 for the first year after launch. Or you could make the first 2-3 months a free trial and then apply the full price, that however you might still want to keep at a lower price than your regular courses.
These formats will help lower their inner shields and defeat mistrust.
You could apply any these options to all prospective students or only to a small group of interested people and ask them to help you with testimonials and real cases.
7. Collect Testimonials
Ask for full testimonials complete with names, photos and links, because you want to build trust on that proof.
When you have the early bird or free trial version of your course ready, encourage and collect testimonials from the students who are trying out your course for the first time: This feedback will turn out very useful to make the sales page more effective as well as your blog posts and any free content you use to make a sale.
Get as much proof as you can that your little-known subject and your teaching work!
BONUS: Make It a Workshop Before Upgrading It to a Full Course
Since this is a new idea, people might not be very sold on words and case studies: They might want to try things themselves to see if they work!
A workshop is more hands-on than a regular online course, and people can immediately put what they learn into practice. In her post on how to monetize your site by creating your first online workshop, Lori Soard explains that people love to act on what they learn, so when you approach your audience with something less than popular, you'll want to earn their favor with something actionable they can put to use right away!
It's a good alternative to offering the material as a course on the first launch. You can later upgrade the workshop to a full regular course that also includes a workshop, but starting with a workshop might work better.
Make this a one-week workshop that teaches people by example. For me, the workshop I'm working on is on teaching people how to setup a character blog and plan a character's blog posts for money.
Your Online Course Toolbox
Once you have the plan set up for your special course, it's time to create the learning modules and look for the platforms that will allow you to distribute it to your students.
1. Put Your Special Course Together
Pick a piece of paper or grab your digital drawing tool and begin to map out the way you want to present the material to your students.
Ask yourself questions that help you create a definite structure for the course.
The next step is to write the course modules and order them according to plan. You can let Lori Soard guides you through the basics of online course writing in 12 steps.
2. Host It for Free/Paid or Run It Yourself
You can either self-host your online course or host it on course-specific platforms.
In the post I mentioned in the previous point, Lori suggests 4 platforms to host your course: Udemy, Moodle, Teachable and WizIQ.
These platforms are great and intuitive to use, so refer to Lori's post to get started.
Here I'm going to add Google Classroom, a platform by Google allows you to create a virtual classroom for free. You can upload assignments, videos, study materials and ask questions to the class. All you need is a Google account to create a learning platform for free.
Along with Moodle, there are other two good softwares to self-host your course:
3. Use Live Streaming
Facebook Live gives you the option to create live streaming sessions that you can use with your students in groups you created just for your course or on the course Page.
However, that's not the only option you have to add live streaming to your course offering:
With live streaming you give your course some of the benefits of a face to face learning environment, which can give an extra boost of motivation to your students.
Generating Traffic for Your Blog
Your online course is going to keep people involved with your unique topic for a few weeks or months, but what about your blog?
Most likely, you have written at least a few times about this non-popular topic, but chances are your posts didn't receive the attention you hoped for.
Well, now you can use your online course to drive more traffic to those blog posts (and to your blog overall):
To Sum it Up
Being original may require more legwork than running with popular topics, and you may have to rely less on organic keywords if there's little to no demand for your unique course on such a new or unknown topic, but this is not an adventure for the brave — it's entirely doable.
Leverage your current readers, subscribers, social followers and active syndication platforms to help spread the word and create awareness and interest in your topic, and in your online course.
Allow people to give it a try for free, let them experiment with the unknown that you are offering. It might become known tomorrow.
As long as you believe in your project and in what you want to teach, you can find success no matter what the naysayers preach.