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Selling and Merchandising Online Courses on Your Site: Best Practices for Increased Conversion

Barry Kelly
Sep 28, 2016 11:59:04 AM

Buying an online course is a big decision and never, ever an impulse buy at any price. Whether the learner is setting out to improve their understanding of a hobby or craft, or looking to develop their career, each and everyone who purchases an online course turns up with a preprogrammed list of immediate objections – yes objections.

Will I need to be online at a certain time? Will I need to travel for work next week? Is my computer up to muster? Am I ready for this level of commitment? What if I need to be on screen camera? Since online education is still a relatively unfamiliar experience for many people it’s critical that online learning providers ensure that they provide the right information to each prospect at every point of the buying journey so each and every objection is addressed. Put 10 people in a room and ask them what an online course is and you’ll get 10 different answers. You’ll hear webinar, PDF download, video, live chat and many other variations describing many varied perceptions.

Marketing an online learning product is typically a multi-touch effort where the marketer must strategically drip information to the prospect as they move along the buying path. It will typically take three, maybe even four, well-timed messages to get the sale.

Providing too much information early on may overwhelm the prospect, as will the omission of answers to critical buying criteria. Key buying information can be ranked by importance. At Thought Industries, we have unique insight into this process.

While analyzing buyer behavior, we've identified several key components that all successful online courses have in common. They include:

Course Title & Sub Title

Titles are critical, especially when you have a catalog of courses, scannability and search is key to discovery and conversion. You will want the title to be as specific and descriptive as possible. Avoid vague and generic descriptions such as “Cooking Skills or Business Analytics”, you will want to be more precise, “Critical Business Analytics for Ecommerce Professionals." Subtitles are also helpful for quickly reinforcing the title and the audience it’s directed towards. Title: “Critical Business Analytics for Ecommerce Professionals." Sub-Title: "Applying Key Optimizations to Increase Revenue and Improve Margins”.

Product Image

Step away from the stock photography. Have an experienced art director or designer create an image that inspires and fits well with your brand and the theme of the course.

CTA - Price, Preview & Gift

If you are selling a course you will want to display the price and buying options (gifting, bundling pricing, etc.) prominently and persistently. Offering a preview in exchange for an email address is also very important for allowing the prospect to take a closer look but also to utilize that email for drip follow up. Sticky navs or stationary right rails are a good approach to presenting this information. There are many ways to do this. The key is test, test, test.

Preview Video

The video is the first low-hurdle entry point for prospects. I would 100% encourage it. Prospects will want to know what the online experience is all about and what outcomes they can expect. They ultimately will want to be inspired, compelled and excited.

Instructor/ Author Bio (if Influential)

If the course author or instructor carries weight in the industry or is a celebrity, then absolutely make sure they are featured on the course marketing page.


Course Benefits (How it Works)

So remember again that you are selling experiences and outcomes. To reinforce this, you will want to allay any objections and outline the key benefits of the course in clearly articulated blocks. Here are a few examples:

  • Access, Anytime, Anywhere on Any Device
  • Interact with a Community of Like-Minded Learners
  • Access Tracking Tools, Downloadable Work Sheets and More
  • One-On-One Access to World-Class Instructors


Prospects want to know that people just like them took the course. They also want to hear how the course directly benefitted them and transformed their life or career. These can be quotes or videos, both work well.



Publish the table of contents or course outline so users can see what they are going to learn in more detail.


Additional Content (To Help Prospect)

If there is any other content such as videos you can extract from the course to help the prospect make a decision, by all means add it here. Providing a preview into the course is an important step for this content review too.


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