$0 Budget for Advertising: How to Market Your Online Course Without Paid Ads

We see it often… Course creators get their courses to the finish line, then the marketing uncertainty sets in…

“How do I find the right people?”
“Which approach would resonate best with my audience?”
“How do I know what to say in my landing page, emails, and webinars?”

With so many strategies out there, it’s hard to tell what will produce the best results!

What we do know as universal marketing truth, is that a deep connection with your ideal audience is essential. When you have the right messaging in place, it’s much easier for your audience to experience an a-ha moment around what you have to offer.

The problem is… how do you know what the right messaging is when you’re first getting started?

There are a couple of options here. You could start with paid advertising and test different approaches, but that can quickly become expensive. Instead, let’s start with a FREE option that requires little to no investment (other than your time, of course) and generates results out the chute.

So How Do We Create a Connection?

First, let’s dive into what a connection with your audience actually looks and feels like.

In order for your audience to feel a connection with you and move to the next step, they need to understand WHY they need to solve this problem. When your audience understands why it is important, how this problem is solved, and your steps for solving it, they’re able to feel that connection and envision themselves achieving the end result through working with you.

If your marketing experience leaves your audience feeling like your offer doesn’t have anything to do with them or it isn’t important, you’ve missed the mark. Something about the way you’re presenting your offer and communicating with them isn’t clicking. This can often look like no one is engaging with your content or they are engaging but are not taking the next step to join your program. We find that it is usually because your marketing isn’t deep enough or specific enough.

The key to creating that “meant to be” feeling, is to meet your audience where they are right now, then paint the picture of the journey you will take together to achieve the result. When you do this successfully, it makes it easy for your audience to say, “YES!”

After reviewing thousands of online courses, we noticed that many course creators fail to identify the deep pain points or beliefs their audiences hold.

Understanding your audience’s journey in a deep way is important to nailing the connection between you and your ideal client. When your ideal client feels uncertainty or doesn’t think you “get it” (or them), it doesn’t matter what you do from this point.

You could have the most beautiful images for your ads, you could be at the top of every Google search imaginable, you could have millions of dollars to spend within your marketing budget… but if it doesn’t land with your audience, you won’t see the results you want.

Understanding your audience’s beliefs before you market is the foundation for a good marketing strategy.

The Free Marketing Strategy That Sets the Right Foundation for Future Growth

We frequently work with folks in our community who have their offer ready for action, but they are having a hard time (a) getting the launch to produce the results they want, or (b) figuring out the approach they want to take in their marketing.

The following steps are a great way to deepen your understanding of your audience and understand the unique questions and beliefs they really have. Once you have this deepened understanding, you can then craft a marketing approach that resonates with your audience and leaves them thinking, “Wow, they really get me!”

Step 1: Find your “hot Leads”

The first part of this process is to list out people or organizations that you would categorize as your ideal audience. The more you know about each lead, the better, as you’ll want to personalize your initial connection to these leads.

Best practices for finding your “hot leads”:

  1. Go through your list of past clients (from working one-on-one or even in other programs you may have offered). Is there anyone you’ve worked with previously that might be a good fit for your new, upcoming offer?
  2. Harness the power of LinkedIn. Look at those you are connected with on LinkedIn, and determine if their credentials or experiences are aligned with the audience you have in mind for your offer.
  3. Explore your connections. Social media influencers in your market, groups you’re a part of, LinkedIn connections, in-person groups, and social media connections are all amazing places to find possible ideal clients through those you’re connected with.

Step 2: Create and send an invite email

Next, you will want to reach out personally to invite your ideal client to connect with you for a Discovery Call. You can create a general template to use for this outreach; however, you will want to individualize the introduction and closing of each email so that there is more of a personal connection.

Best practices for creating and sending your invite email:

  1. Create a calendar link that you can include in your email for easy scheduling. Calendly is our favorite tool for this (and, it’s free!).
  2. Draft the email body that will encourage your ideal client to schedule a call with you. This should focus on helping them explore deeper into the result you’re offering through your offer.
  3. Personalize each email with an achievement/accolade you admire about that person or something that you have a mutual connection around. You can even ask prompting questions that make a response easier for your ideal client.
  4. Follow-up! If you don’t receive a calendar booking or response from that first outreach, that’s okay. Follow-ups are always appreciated for those who might have been super busy during your initial outreach.

Step 3: lead your discovery sessions

Your Discovery Sessions are where the magic happens. In these calls, you will want to go deeper into their questions, vision, and their gap. Really pay attention to the questions they’re asking, and what is holding them back from achieving this end result (i.e. your offer) on their own.

Best practices for leading your discovery sessions:

  1. Initially, get them to talk about why they signed up for the call. What questions did they bring to the table? What is their vision?
  2. You will want to establish what their gap is. Where are they currently (what beliefs do they have?) and what is in the way of getting them to where they want to be?
  3. Talk about the possible outcomes of achieving this end result. Seeing what’s possible will get your ideal client super excited about the process of bridging that gap.
  4. Be very clear about next steps. What will you send them? What do they need to do to register for your offer, and what will happen as soon as they are registered?

It sounds simple enough, right? This approach has amazing benefits for both you and your ideal clients, because they feel like they’re being heard, and you gain a much deeper understanding of what they really need.

Once you start to notice a pattern of the gap and the beliefs that your audience is bringing to the table, the clarity on how to automate this into a streamlined marketing strategy will be super clear. You can then translate those beliefs and what you’ve learned into ads, emails, landing pages, and webinars.

Your Next Step

So take action, and start making a list of those potential leads. Once you’ve done this, the clarity on what your outreach should look like will become more clear.

The best part about this strategy is once you have cash-flow coming in from leading these Discovery Sessions, you’ll be able to re-invest the profits into paid advertising or next-level marketing support as you grow your business.

So get out there and start connecting! The world is waiting to see what you have to offer.

For deeper support on this specific strategy, building your online course, and creating your own streamlined marketing strategy, our Create 6-Figure Courses Virtual Bootcamp is a great next step. As a bonus, you’ll receive templates for these very strategies mentioned here, including your email outreach and what to say in your Discovery Calls.

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