Selling an online program

Maximise your commercial potential

I’ve been involved in instructional design for over 20 years, selling both my own courses and those for others.

There are 3 critical elements you need to sell your course…

(Plus there’s a forth that will amplify your profit more than any other point, it does so in-directly more about that one later).

I’ll describe my personal experience with two VERY different courses (not sure they could be more different actually), and then explain that the three critical ingredients to successfully selling them are in-fact the same.

Then I’ll go on to explain each of them in a little more depth. Note if you have any questions not covered in this article there’s an option to book a quick 20 min call at the end if you want it.

My personal experience

I was recently asked, ‘what’s the most you’ve ever made from an online program. Little bit nosey don’t you think, but here it is…

Selling the Secret App Formula from stage – LA

The most I have personally made so far from any single sales or marketing event is a little over $66,000 USD. I achieved this by selling an iPhone app ideation program from stage, and if I remember correctly I achieved that from an event in Los Angeles.

I’ve seen others make a lot more than I have. I was relatively small-fry compared to some of the big hitters out there. 

Two different examples

More recently, and for a totally different business I was selling a get-over-divorce program – I want to emphasis that I was not the author, I was just the marketeer. We sold that program online.

It was a lot harder to sell online, than from stage. But after some time (a lot of time), and some experimentation (a lot of experimentation) I was able to grow that product, to be the No.1 in it’s niche.

These programs couldn’t be more different from each other, one was technical and ideation based, the other was on coaching and mental health after a traumatic life event, and was sold online.

But the critical ingredients to achieve the sale in both cases, and every other experience I’ve had was the same. So here goes…

Caption: Three critical steps to successfully selling your course

The 3 critical components to sell your program:

1: Audience

In both cases, the Audience was the most critical!

If you’re selling stockings, but put your message in-front of a male audience – you are simply not going to get any sales. I don’t care how good at sales, or how good your product is, if you put it your offering in-front of the wrong audience, no one is going to buy!

It’s obvious right. I mean I feel a bit silly even stating it. But in my experience this is rarely considered.

From I’ve observed (as well as personal mistakes in the past) it’s easy to get wrapped in our belief about the value of our products and services. However the best way to achieve an amazing customer experience is to make sure we do a good job of qualifying our audience to ensure there’s a good match between the customer and the product. Unless they are well aligned then they are not going to get the result they are looking for.

In a marketing situation, if you put your message (paid for, or otherwise) in-front of the wrong or bad audience you are not going to get the results you need.

2: Articulation

Then the next most critical is Articulation, or your ability to sell it.

Now that’s a big subject in itself. So I’ll only scratch the surface here –

Understanding your audience to the best of your ability (in step number 1) will help you to articulate your messaging.

You’ll want to express the pain or problem that you are solving. What the price of not solving that issue is for them. Why they should take action on it now. And why your solution is the right solution for them. Focus on the benefits, rather than the features as mush as you can.

If you are creating a landing page then this is a good format to follow;

  1. Express attention grabbing statement
  2. Articulate the issue / problem / pain point
  3. Express what that will continue to ‘cost them’ if they do not ‘fix it’
  4. Explain your proposed solution
  5. Show evidence / proof that it works (data, testimonials, case story, etc.)
  6. Remove any risk (or reduce as much as possible) – this might be a guarantee, or something similar

And lastly, the Asset itself, that is the program.

3: Asset

The course itself will of course need to be of a high quality. That should go without saying, but based on some that I’ve seen, it clearly does need to be said.

Investing some time, effort, and yes some money in creating a great product is generally worth the investment.

Remember you can’t be outstanding, without first standing out!

Simon K Williams

If you’re not wiling to invest in the creation of it, then why should someone else invest in your creation.

Take time and give consideration into the interactive elements of the course, these are the biggest factor in delivering a great experience to your users – so don’t give just a cursory thought to it, instead give it your full attention.

And now the secret ingredient

4: Additional service…

In both of the examples I gave we followed the program with a compelling additional service.

In the first example I sold a follow-up app development service. With the divorce coaching program we sold a luxury retreat in Thailand.

This is where the real profit is!

I would deeply recommend that you follow the course with an additional, larger, more expensive, and more enticing – And Next offering.

If you already have a higher core service available, then shape your course in a way that provides great value, but will also lead them to your other service/s.

The better you are able to achieve that, the more the life time value of that customer will be (LTV). Which means the more you can afford in finding that prospect in the first place (be that advertising or other channels).


So I’ve shown that even with two very different courses, the same critical ingredients are the same. Thus I highly recommend you consider these points for your own course.

I’ve also talked about how important it is where possible, to follow this course up with another product or service – this will have a significant commercial benefit for you.

If you still have any questions on this, then I recommend a quick Discovery Call below…

Discovery Call?

If you would like additional guidance I offer a 20 min discovery call that will help solve any questions or concerns that you may have. You can ask me anything. Common questions include;

  • What platform to use
  • How much to invest in the creation of my course
  • How much can I sell my course for
  • Likely Return On Investment
  • How to increase the sales point of my course
  • What content to include in my course, what I should leave out
  • Do I need to include video
  • or ask me something else
  • Book your Discovery Call Now below ⇣⇣⇣

PS: Remember to have a pen ready for the meeting so you don’t miss a thing

About the author

Simon K Williams

Entrepreneur, Author and Business-Architect. Working at the inter-section of design, technology & marketing.