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4 Ways to Make Your Online Course Stand Out

Competing with tons of online courses out there? Here’s how to make your course stand out.

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BY Danny Iny - 05 Dec 2017

4 Ways to Make Your Online Course Stand Out

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As more entrepreneurs grab the opportunity to expand their impact and income through online courses, it's more challenging to stand out, especially in a crowded online course marketplace.

Not only do you have to deliver a stellar course, you also have to be a maverick at marketing it.

That's exactly what my friend, Jonathan Goodman, is doing with the Online Trainer Academy, the first-ever certification course for fitness trainers wanting to expand their services online.

It's hard enough that fitness is a crowded industry. But Jon also has to compete with fitness institutions--many of them well-entrenched in the consciousness of trainers.

Here are 4 ways that Jon has been making his course stand out:

1. Competing on results, not price

When there are many competitors, some people default to competing on price. People will buy the cheapest option, won't they?

But Jon disagrees.

"People don't want cheap. They want easy," he says. "They want the confidence that whatever they're buying isn't crap. So you're not just selling a program or course. You're selling the confidence that they can actually achieve what you're promising."

2. Being better, if not the best

Even though Jon's been selling the Online Trainers Academy successfully, he didn't rest on his laurels. He kept making it better than ever. That included consulting a senior instructional designer at Yale University and a distance course design expert to evaluate the course and make suggestions for improvement.

They identified little tweaks that helped improve student experience and success in the course. And it was also helpful for marketing. "Not a lot of course creators can say that instructional and course experts signed off on their courses, but I can. It was very, very powerful in our previous launch," Jon shares.

3. Focusing on student success

A lot of online course creators sell their courses, deliver the lessons and think they're done. To stand out, Jon focuses on helping his students actually succeed after they enroll. And that begins with ensuring that they consume the course.

Even though he offers a self-paced course, if students haven't completed certain milestones within an amount of time, they get "gentle nudges" by email. As Jon says, "life always gets in the way and it's important to let people know that you're still there for them, you believe in them."

4. Getting physical

Although his course is delivered online, it also has a physical component. Students get a textbook and workbook mailed to them, no matter where they are in the world (Jon has students in 75 countries).

They also receive other surprises in the mail, as a way to encourage them to complete the course. For example, two to three weeks after they enroll, they get a notepad to write their three daily priorities. Another few weeks down the road, they get a branded water bottle--something all fitness trainers use frequently.

Aside from motivating students to move through the course, these gifts also result in plenty of free marketing for Jon. "When somebody gets something beautiful in the mail, the first thing they do is post it on social media," he says.

These initiatives are more complicated, more time-consuming, and more expensive than creating the usual online course. For example, Jon's company will spend half a million dollars in printing and shipping in 2018.

But going the extra mile has resulted in free advertising, happier students, and fewer refunds. "I did the financial analysis," Jon said, " and spending the large amounts of money on physical fulfillment made me $264,939.82 because of our really low refund rate (~2.9%) compared to a commonly-accepted industry average. This is in addition to a 36.1% completion rate, which, considering most online courses hover around 5%, is pretty darn good."

If it were easy, everyone else would be doing it, so do what your competitors are shying away from. That's the way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.