10 Course Selling Myths That Cost You Money

Looking to start selling courses online? If so, you need to watch out for these 10 myths that many creators fall into.

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Kelli Pease

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When it comes to online courses, it’s a seller’s market. That said, with more and more content and educational material competing for their attention and money, online learners are becoming more discerning about what courses they’re enrolling in.

That makes sense: after all, if you have ten different courses you’re interested in, you’re always going to go toward the one that covers precisely what you want to know. That’s a double-edged sword for sellers. On one hand, it means you have an opportunity to build a course precisely targeted at your desired market. On the other, it means that a lot of potential customers might ignore your course because you didn’t do a good enough job specifying what you were covering.

Those potential mistakes — along with countless others — can make selling a course difficult.

Here are some of the common pitfalls and selling myths to avoid, especially if you’re just getting started or considering whether to create an online course.

Common Online Course Selling Myths

Successful online sales plans typically involve some testing and trial and error in order to find the right formula. However, some selling mistakes can be downright expensive and difficult to recover from, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.

From inadvertently turning prospects away from your course (no matter how good it is) to failing to reach your target audience, here are some of the most common roadblocks, myths, and misconceptions around selling a course online.

1. If You Build It, They Will Come

With over 4.5 billion active users as of April 2020 (just over half of the world’s population), there’s no question that the internet is the world’s ultimate marketplace. In many ways the internet has made selling products and services easier than at any other time in history due to the ease, global reach, and convenience afforded by online sales.

That said, launching an online course and hoping that people will find it and buy it on their own can be a recipe for losing money and missing out on both short and long-term sales prospects. While you don’t need a sales team or massive pre-existing audience (more on that in a bit) to create and launch an online course, failing to plan for success is planning to fail, as the old saying goes.

Creating a few user personas for your ideal student is a great place to start. It allows you to gather targeted information that you’ll need to successfully market your online course to your customers, without getting too bogged down and stuck on the details in the beginning.

You don’t need a focus group or reams of data to create targeted user personas. It can be as simple as asking a few general questions:

  • Who is your ideal student?
  • Why are they buying your online course?
  • Where do they live?
  • What languages do they speak?
  • Where do they work?
  • How tech savvy are they?
  • How do they search for the information they need and the products they buy?
  • Are they interested in professional enrichment or personal fulfillment?

Getting to know your ideal customer will make it easier to find them and get them interested in buying your courses.

2. The Myth of “Passive” Revenue and Sales

There’s no question that online learning is a booming business, and you don’t have to be a university or a large training group or certification organization to create profitable online courses that generate steady revenue and a return on your investment.

Everyone from individuals to institutions of all sizes earn significant income from online courses. It’s true that once your course has launched and starts selling, it can generate ongoing profits well into the future — and that over time, that income stream will continue to grow as you add new courses into the mix.

However, the term “passive” income or sales can be a little misleading because it gives the impression that once you’ve completed and launched your course, the sales will just flow in with little to no further effort on your part.

From updates and revisions to your lessons and content to customer service and ongoing marketing, think of the launch as the beginning of your journey, not the end. Sure, you don’t have to continuously monitor your courses — but you should be keeping an eye on them. Maintaining them thoroughly while also staying on top of user feedback will ensure continued success.

3. Your Course Has to Be Finished “or Perfect” Before You Can Start Selling It

In order for your course to sell and offer value to your students, it will obviously have to contain useful information in a professional format. But many individuals and organizations wait too long to launch a course — or worse, put off creating one at all because the task seems too daunting or they get paralyzed by the need for perfection.

The longer you wait, the less money you’ll make, and the greater the possibility that your customers will find what they need from one of your competitors. You don’t have to wait for the course to be “perfect” — or even finished — before you can start marketing and selling it.

The sooner you start promoting and selling your new course, the more money you can make, even while the course is still in production. Pre-sales are a standard industry practice, and they have the added benefit of creating buzz and helping you to build your email list as you go.

4. A Lower Price Will Equal More Sales

Pricing is always a sticking point for many entrepreneurs. Even in the best of economic times, it’s tempting to think that highly discounted or bargain basement pricing will attract more customers and generate a bigger profit in the long run as a result. This thinking can be counterintuitive for a number of reasons.

On a basic level, your pricing should reflect the time and resources that went into creating it. Remember that you’re offering your students knowledge and information that is valuable to them, and people are willing to pay a fair price for an online course, especially when it comes to improving their health and wellness, or learning a new skill that can improve their career prospects and skill set.

Pricing it too low or offering heavy discounts in order to attract more customers can backfire because it can also diminish the course’s perceived value. Being priced too low is one of the main ways that online courses lose money. You don’t want to overcharge or make it too expensive for your target market, but you don’t want to discount yourself out of making a real profit either.

5. You Need a Large Community or Built in Audience Prior to Selling Your Course

This is another myth that can sideline a good online course before it’s had a chance to unleash its brilliance on the world. On the one hand, having a strong email list and network of qualified leads can only help you when launching your course — but not having one isn’t a dealbreaker.

Waiting until you’ve built a massive email list or expanded your existing network will cause unnecessary delays and divert your attention and energy from creating the course. The longer you wait, the more money you’re leaving on the table. Putting off launching (or creating) your course until your marketing and sales plan is “perfect” will interfere with your moment and keep you from earning money.

You can work on your course content and your audience building and outreach efforts simultaneously. However, if you can’t, move ahead with the course creation first. (This is assuming that you’ve done background research and have established that the market for your content exists. Once the course is ready, you can tap in any time.)

6. It’s All Been Done Before

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.” - Mark Twain

There may already be a million courses and online certification programs for every topic under the sun, but no two courses and the information they contain are packaged in quite the same way. Even with billions of free and paid courses that already exist online, there’s always room for improvement, especially when the quality of online courses ranges so dramatically.

You want to know and understand your market and whether your course will have an impact, but existing competition and a crowded market isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re concerned about market saturation, study your competitors to see how your course differs and to determine your unique selling proposition, which will help you sell your course when you’re ready.

Never forget that many folks taking a course online are looking for something specific: they might want a particular edge that only you can provide. Find your niche, and make sure to take advantage of what unique knowledge you have.

7. You Need a Catalog of Online Courses to Be Profitable

Even if you plan to create a series of online courses in the future, you don’t have to have more than one course in production in order to start selling and making a profit. In fact, launching one course at a time can be an asset as you study and build your market share, experiment with pricing, and generate the brand awareness that will help you sell more courses and products in the future.

Every brand is different, but if you’re just starting out with a single online course to sell, think quality over quantity. It usually makes more sense to offer one high quality course at a time than a string of mediocre ones.

8. Online Courses Lack Accreditation

Online learning has become standard practice in academia and business, and a good online course can carry as much clout and prestige as on campus learning.

Our course creation platform allows you to offer your students custom certificates for your online courses, as well as certification programs. We also facilitate continuing education credentials for online courses and programs designed to offer continuing education credits.

9. Online Courses Are Less Engaging Than in Person Learning

It might seem counterintuitive, but the opposite is actually true. Online learning tools and platforms offer students and instructors more opportunities to engage with greater flexibility.

Our platform allows you to create and sell multimedia online courses that incorporate video, audio, and text, as well as support for multiple languages so that you can offer your students a truly global experience.

10. You Need a Large Technology Budget and/or Expertise to Create and Sell Your Online Courses

The good news is that even if you’re not sure how or where to get started, you don’t have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel to launch and sell your courses online. You certainly don’t need technical expertise or a background in computer science or e-commerce.

The right online course creation software can hold your hand through the whole process.

You don’t even need a tech team to create and manage your online courses. Our full feature learning management system has all the tools you need to launch and sell your online courses within a responsive and user-friendly platform - no coding or advanced tech skills required! Our e-commerce tools make it possible for you to start selling and earning money from your online course right away.

Request a demo to learn more and test the features of the Inspire360 learning management system and our certification management system.