What is brand awareness, and do you need it for your online course?
How well does your target audience know your online course, and how can you help it become more recognizable? It’s not a new question, and certainly not one limited to online education. In fact, helping consumers become aware of your course—which is to say, your brand—is one of the most essential marketing challenges many educators face. After all, how can you convince someone to sign up for your course if they don’t even know it exists?
Fortunately, you’re not the first company to ask this question. And that means many organizations before you have devoted significant time and attention to the question of raising their brand awareness. Here are just a few ways you can increase yours.
1. Have a brand.
Because there are so many more pressing issues demanding your attention early on in the online course development process, it’s understandable if you’ve put branding off. While many entrepreneurs enjoy developing their brand, it’s also usually less urgent than, say, having a course to sell. (And well it should be!)
But as a result, many of these same entrepreneurs get so far along that they never develop a brand at all. Then they wonder why they’re struggling to sell courses.
Branding isn’t the only thing your online course needs in this situation, but it sure helps. A good brand helps set you apart from your competition. Without one, any potential learner who stumbles on your course is just as likely to forget you after they leave your site. And with nothing to make you particularly memorable, they have no chance to build an emotional connection.
So that’s tip number one: have a brand. Decide who you are and how you want to present yourself to the world. Then, get yourself out there.
2. Embrace content marketing.
Content marketing is essential for educators if they want to develop a strong brand. If the goal is to help your learners know who you are, then you need to show them your content. Write blogs. Create infographics. Start a podcast.
Your voice and your knowledge are what matter here. And the more coherent you are in expressing your course, the stronger will be the impression you leave behind. You want your audience to sit up and notice you, right? Then you’d better have something to say.
3. Build a strong social media presence.
When it comes to content, social media is your megaphone. It’s a low cost, low pressure way to insert your business into the newsfeeds of anyone who follows your channel online, and it helps keep your brand in front of anyone who happened to subscribe to you at some point.
Having a social media presence also makes it easier to run a successful advertising campaign. When you post blogs, videos, or infographics to your channel, you can use your advertising budget to boost those posts, reaching audiences based on whatever demographic parameters you decide. It’s a fantastic way to reach more people, but that’s not the only way to use paid advertising.
4. Invest in paid advertising.
Social media advertising is a huge industry, but so are AdWords, placement ads, and remarking ads. You’re probably familiar with Google AdWords from running online searches. These are the paid results that appear above your organic (i.e.: non-paid) results, or to the side of the results page.
Meanwhile, placement ads appear on specific websites. Much like AdWords, you can bid to have your ads displayed on certain websites, but only pay if someone actually clicks on an ad.
Remarketing ads are in the same family of ads, but they only appear to users who have already visited your site. Once the visitor leaves the site, your ads will begin appearing on other web pages they visit, as a reminder of who you are and why they went to your site in the first place.
5. Grow your SEO.
Of course, if you don’t want to pay for advertising, you can always put in the elbow grease to rank high in the search results. Any time your website and its content can feature prominently on Google is a triumph for your brand. Even if searchers don’t click on it right away, your name will be in their minds.
6. Show up to conferences and industry events.
Just because you run an online course doesn’t mean you have to hole up inside and never meet learners face-to-face. In fact, attending conferences and events is a great way to meet potential learners and grow your brand awareness. Even better, apply to speak at events and share details about your course. This will raise your credibility in the industry and give you something to share on your website. You may even attract links from other conference attendees.
7. Sponsor an industry-related event.
Can’t make a conference? Why not sponsor one? Or find a charity event related to your course material and sponsor that instead. Sponsorships not only get your name out there, they also establish good will in the community—a real win-win.
8. Create a referral program.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Encourage your learners to share your course with their friends. With a few well-placed prompts, you can remind them to share your blog posts on social media, or even mail them to friends and family members. Give them a code to share, and offer a discount on your online course for whoever signs up using your code.
A strong brand will help learners remember and identify with your course.
Remember: to sell your online course, you first need people to know it exists. Once you’ve done that, you can go about the far more nuanced work of describing your course and convincing them to sign up. Doing so will be a far easier task if they have a strong sense for your brand and can identify with your teaching style and the content you put forward.