Depending on what organic channels you have at your disposal, acquisition can be your biggest marketing expense. But it doesn’t have to be. Learn how you can drive more growth by using these cost effective techniques.
At the top of the marketing funnel, your organization should focus on acquiring the email addresses of current and potential customers. These email lists are your “captive audience” and can be used to educate about your new product. It is also important to use social networks and search engines for paid audience acquisition.
Below are two ways to consider your acquisition effort -- free channels and paid channels -- from Michael Daecher, CMO at ArtistWorks Inc.
You probably have low-cost (or free) acquisition marketing channels at your disposal right now. These are the channels that most closely represent your brand, and speak directly to your current customers. These channels include:
Content marketing: If you have trusted, authoritative content specialists within your organization, they should be creating free content covering the topics in your paid courses (without giving away the ‘special sauce’), interviewing instructors, and giving their seal of authenticity to your efforts. Your online content should be optimized for search (SEO), so the search engines know you’re an authority on the topic. And each piece (across platforms) should contain a prominent Call-to-Actions (CTA) to learn more about the related course. Pro tip: Offering a handful of free classes (shorter and less feature-rich content) is a proven way to acquire leads with the intent to learn and the ability to pay.
Distribution: Your content efforts should be coordinated across platforms (print, online, in-person), to amplify the effect. Don’t underestimate the power of a magazine cover, for instance. Sharing content via your company email, social channels, and homepage promotion will drive qualified traffic to your new content, and helps it thrive in the social and search spaces.
Website traffic: Your website can be a powerful tool at your disposal. Not only can you promote the content related to your paid courses on high traffic areas of your site, but you can use tools like remnant banner inventory to acquire email addresses as well.
Event tie-ins: If you have in-person events, feature your online course instructors teaching a related topic, perhaps a ‘beginner’ version of your online course. Then offer introductory discounts for attendees to continue their in-person instruction online.
Influencers: You probably know the bloggers, social pages, or other online “influencers” who can help support you online courses by either taking a free class and reviewing it, or covering it from an authentic perspective. These can be powerful channels to drive customers to your online learning.
If you have a marketing budget, you can use paid channels to amplify the effect of the organic channels listed above. These paid channels will help you increase the number of people you reach who look like your target customers. These channels include:
Partner distribution: Leverage your partners to reach their audience with paid ads, such as dedicated emails or social posts. You can also offer ‘barter’ deals, and swap promotions via you own channels.
Social ads: Facebook offers a sophisticated marketing a platform to target interests related to your products, as well as global reach.
Pay-per-click (PPC): Online search is a powerful indicator of intent. Use PPC to ensure your ads are at the top of related searches. Pro tip: If you’ve never invested in paid media before, be sure to work with someone who understands how to manage, optimize, and clearly communicate your paid media ROI. Facebook, Google, and other PPC channels will spend your money, but they leave it to you to interpret the results.
Affiliates: Depending on your product, you can use an affiliate network like ShareASale, or find bloggers who are willing to review and write about your online courses. With bloggers, there may be an opportunity for barter deals to save money.
Outdoor, TV, radio: If you have a mass market product, and the budget to spare, these channels can be a very effective way to build brand awareness. However, these channels are also very hard to track ROI.
These “top of the funnel” marketing tips can help you target the right audience and acquire the appropriate customers. In the next part of this tip from Daecher, read about “mid funnel” and “lower funnel” marketing considerations.
Foundational Elements of an Online Learning Marketing Strategy
Building a successful online learning business requires a fully integrated content, product, and marketing strategy. Unlike traditional print marketing, online marketing generates an enormous amount of data. This can be overwhelming, but the right data can help decision-making and performance measurement. Leveraging this data, in conjunction with an integrated marketing strategy, will help you identify the customers who are most interested in paying for your product.
Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Thought Industries is one of the world’s fastest-growing online learning companies, and is helping everyone from small businesses to Fortune 500’s change how they build, deploy and grow profitable and scalable online learning businesses. Today, more than 100+ customers and brands are using the Thought Industries’ Learning Business Platform to transform the way they reach, teach, and engage audiences.