“First prize is Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize's a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired,” or so goes the famous line by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.
While we don’t condone the tactics portrayed in the movie, we understand the pressure of making a sale, especially after you’ve put time and effort into building out a course. We also know the joy of closing a deal, the satisfaction of seeing your product out there, people enjoying it and money flowing into your bank account. Beautiful.
We want that for you.
Which is why we’re going to discuss the 21 most effective ways make your first sale. We’ve seen a lot of posts out there on these topics with broad general advice like “make friends on Twitter” and “start a blog.” They might as well say “Invent Facebook.”
Rather than give you the same run-of-the-mill advice, we’re sharing the actionable steps that work and stories from our community. We're giving you the things you can do right this moment to transform your course content into a revenue-generating machine.
1. POST ON DEAL WEBSITES
An easy way to put your course in front of interested buyers is to list it on a deals website. A deals website is basically a marketplace giving deals on products. It takes very little time for you to list your course and you’re immediately tapping into an existing audience that’s ready to buy.
You can also find deals websites that are specific to your industry to further target your audience.
Here is a list of deal websites. Choose from this or research more that fit your audience. Sign up to create an account and list your product!
It can also be smart to bundle multiple courses or services and sell them at a discount.
- SlickDeals (you need an account in good standing, but if you can generate this, the forum has great traffic)
2. POST ON PRODUCT HUNT
Product Hunt curates the best new tech products and serves as a marketplace for product-loving enthusiasts, which means they’re perfect for your course. They differ from discount websites because you can sell your course at full-price.
Actually listing your course takes very little time and the return-on-investment is high.
Simply set up an account and list your product. Contributing to the community by commenting on other products can be beneficial to you and you can use TIP #11 to learn how to hack their upvote systems.
While giveaways seem scammy, they work. You’re literally giving away things for free...well, not entirely. For people to enter your giveaway, you need their email address. This is what makes giveaways so powerful, they help to quickly grow your email list while generating goodwill and stirring social chatter.
To set up your giveaway, use Use KingSumo Giveaway. It quickly generates a page that looks like this:
Remember to choose a prize that attracts the right people, or your target audience. The prize you pick should be general enough to attract a large audience, but unattractive to people who aren’t in your target market. Your copy should also target your audience in this same way.
Also remember to seed your giveaway, or promote it. Do this through:
- Your own social media platforms
- Other influencers platforms, if possible
- Include prizes created by people who will promote the giveaway
4. LEVERAGE LINKEDIN
While constant notifications can be annoying on LinkedIn, it’s very easy to amass a large number of connections of vaguely related business professionals who have more spending power than your average Facebooker.
With this in mind, there are a few ways that you can tap your audience here to make your first sale.
- Email Your Connections: Click on this link that makes it incredibly simple to export all of your connections email addresses to one list. You can then easily email them with your course offer. This is especially effective if your course has a business focus.
- Post in Groups: LinkedIn hosts numerous interest groups aka already segmented markets ;-) Join groups and post your offering. However, make sure that you’re respectful of the community and that your post is in line with the group’s culture. See the GIF below for a tutorial.
5. HOST A WEBINAR
A webinar is basically a free live training. It’s extremely beneficial to an audience, but also puts you in direct contact with engaged potential customers. We find them to be total win-wins because you’re adding incredible value to listeners and only selling to an audience that’s interested. No spam about it.
- Think of a topic your students are struggling with or a topic area they’re extremely interested in.
- Create a registration page with Leadpages.
- Drive traffic to your registration page by listing the webinar on social or email your list and other lists about it.
- Host the webinar: Easier said than done, we know. You’ll want to create a presentation. For that, check out this post on great presentations, and this download of free slides.
- Make an offer at the end: Your offer should be composed of high-value assets such as your course plus additional resources, trainings or tools.
This is a common method used by a few of our own successful Teachable instructors.
We asked our Teachable Tribe how they made their first course sale.
6. TARGET THOSE WHO ARE ASKING FOR A SOLUTION
A very simple way to generate a sale is to look for someone specifically who has the problem your course solves and to respond to their expressed complaint with a solution (your course) to their problem.
- Community forums: Check out areas where your audience hangs out online and respond to comments. If you went through Profitable Course Idea, you might already have a few comments listed and tracked. Example: the subreddit /r/socialskills has a comment where someone says they don’t know how to dance and want to change it. This is a natural place to respond genuinely with a link to your course.
- Twitter: Twitter hashtags can be used as more than just jokes. If your course teaches someone CSS, search a related hashtag and look for people having issues learning this language and respond with a link.
7. INTERVIEW AN EXPERT
When you interview someone for your course, they can become a great resource to help you promote it. Whoever you interview should be somewhat of an influencer, either they have a large email list, a social following or they know the people you want to get in touch with.
If you have someone like this already in your course, you can ask your interviewee to promote your course to their audience when it’s live.
If you’re still creating content, find influencers and potential interviewees. Klout or Social Rank can help you identify people like this. Reach out to them with a cold pitch and ask them to do an interview with you.
If you’ve created content, simply look back on any interview you’ve done and ASK.
8. TAP YOUR PERSONAL NETWORK
Rather than focusing on generating an audience of people you don’t know, think about who you do know. Are you in any meetups, clubs, sports teams, volunteer organization or other communities, let them know about your product.
Focus in on how you organize with that group. Is it through Facebook or email? Word-of-mouth or flyers? Center your efforts where the conversation is already taking place.
9. AFFILIATES & PARTNERSHIPS
The best way to make your first sale: have someone else make it for you. Partnership marketing is working with someone else to jointly promote each other's work.
What this could mean, is featuring someone’s product in your course and in return they tweet about your launch. It could mean interviewing an influencer on your podcast and having that person email their subscriber list about your content. It could simply be mentioning a big name in your blog post in return for a Tweet. This is partnership marketing.
An affiliate is an on-going partnership. Both are great tools for expanding your audience, gaining publicity and earning social proof.
Find the right partner by looking for someone who has a following, produces good content and could potentially work with you. Then, it’s time for the email pitch. You can include stats about your properties to show how your partner would gain publicity by working with you.
Reddit has a huge community of over 100 million. These people are already online, technologically forward, and many are active and continuous learners. Posting your course in a related subreddit is quick, low ROI and can be beneficial to this online community.
As such, this can be a great place to advertise your course, but it can also be terrible. YOU MUST find the right subreddit that is open to sales pitches.
Cameron Mattis who I work with here at Teachable is also a moderator of the NYU subreddit and has gotten several links to the front page of Reddit. He says…
"The first step to successfully growing your audience on Reddit is to find subreddits that are actually relevant to what you teach. Run a school on cooking? The cooking, grilling, and steak subreddits would be a good place to start.
When posting links, follow these rules: Links to your own sites should never be more than half of the posts you make, should always be there to help other people as part of the discussion, and should only be made after you’ve spent some time contributing without linking to yourself."
11. HACK THE UPVOTE SYSTEM
Numerous online communities give their audience the ability to upvote someone, be it a post, a product or comment. Doing so will draw attention to that post. To help gain attention for your product, you can post it to a community and then use one of our favorite tricks to get it to the top of the pile. This also adds social proof to your offering and community coverage.
Originally done by Scot Smith on Reddit, you can incentivize people to upvote your post using an upvote snowball. Here’s a detailed post on how Scot set it up.
In brief: If you’re selling your product on Reddit, you can use Zapier to send an automated email to anyone who enrolls from that community. This email could say something like “I’m offering you a discounted bonus course if you go back and upvote my post”. This gets people moving to upvote your post and the cycle snowballs. Once your post is upvoted, more people will see it, meaning they enroll and upvote themselves. Hence, the #upvotesnowball (click to tweet).
Remember, this could work on Reddit, Product Hunt, Facebook, anywhere there is an upvote option.
12. SEND AN EMAIL
One of the easiest ways to make a sale is through email where you can discuss the value of your course and link to your online properties. This is a very direct method of selling your course and is predictable.
We’ve found that 2% of people buy from an email offering. If your list is 1,000 people, 20 people may buy and if your course is priced at $100, that’s $2,000. Very simple.
Use Mailchimp to quickly email a large list of people. You can grow your own list through many different methods, but this post outlines a few. However, you don’t have to email just your own list. Think of other people you know who would be willing to email their audience for you and ask.
So did Terri Armenta of Forensic Training Unlimited Online Academy.
13. POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s 2015, so chances are, you’ve already got a few social media handles set up. As a quick way to add marginal exposure to your offering, post about it with a link to buy your product. The benefit is that you’re also building your social media following while making sales and driving up social proof.
Not all social media is created equal. Think about who your target audience is and focus on the social media they’re using. Always include a picture, these posts are shared more often and engaged with. If your course is very visual, make sure to post on Instagram and Pinterest.
Our designer, Allison Haag, recommends a few websites with advice on using social media:
14. ANNOUNCE TO YOUR COMMUNITY
As you create your course, you've probably also created an online forum for the students within it. This community might be on Facebook, Slack or Google Hangouts. When you launch your course, you can very easily ignite this audience by posting your course online.
As you generate an interested audience, invite them to an online forum. Manage your time by answering community questions when the community is first built. Your first members, once informed, will help newer members as the community grows.
If you're building a community on Slack, check out my post here.
When you launch your course, you don't have to simply sell your course. Offer discounts, bundles and ask for feedback to provide unparalleled value. Nikki Samaniego, who teaches people how to pass English exams, talks about how she did it:
15. SPEAK AT AN EVENT
If you’re teaching a course on something you have credentials in, see if there’s a conference or an event that you could speak at to promote your course. You might already have friends in the industry that would extend an invite. Speaking at an event also helps you grow your personal network and (if you do it right) your social media and LinkedIn profiles, two other mediums for selling your product.
16. INDUSTRY MAILING LIST
Another quick way to make a sale is to have your product included in an industry newsletter. Maybe you receive a newsletter about public relations products each week. These newsletters are always looking for new content and the creators tend to be accessible. Reach out and ask if they would include you.
- Research appropriate industry newsletters
- Email the person who creates them
- Link them to your sales page and include any significant metrics (ex. I have 10 years of experience in client relations)
In the digital age, there’s nothing like meeting in person to make a sale. Forget door-to-door, using MeetUp to find interested groups is a great way to put yourself and your product in front of people with a personal touch.
Simply use Meetup to search for an audience interested in your course. Join the group, contribute, and mention your product when the time is right.
18. LINK TO YOUR COURSE IN YOUR SIGNATURES
This is a very simple very quick way to generate a marginal amount of traffic to your online course. Make sure you add your course to all of your online bios on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.. A few hundred emails a week, a few dozen Twitter views a day. It can’t hurt!
19. GIVE AWAY A SAMPLE
Much like sending a physical sample of a product to an influencer to test and Tweet about, you could consider letting an influencer test your course. The hope is that they will like your course and be willing to help promote it to their audience, or at least give a positive testimonial that you can include.
Once you target the people to send to, find their email by using tips mentioned here. Explain why you chose the person and offer your course for free if they’d be willing to promote it to their list.
20. CREATE CONTENT ABOUT IT
We’re not going to tell you to start writing a blog to promote your course. It’s a good method for top-funnel lead generation, but it takes a lot of time, effort and readers are far away from purchasing your product.
Rather, if you have one customer success story, a story behind why you created a course, or a technical tip that made it easier, write a 800-1,000 word article from this angle and include a CTA to your course. You can also craft videos or podcasts if you prefer this method to writing.
Once your content is created, pitch it to interested outlets. Here are a few places that are self-publishing (ideal for written content):
- LinkedIn Pulse
- Reddit. This is an authentic way to mention your course within a subreddit
- Trade outlets: If my course is on cake decorating, I might send my story to Food52, Delish, Eater, The Daily Meal and then smaller cake decorating blogs.
You can also leverage content you've already created. If you have a popular YouTube channel, add a link to your course. If your blog has great UVPMs (unique visitors per month), spend time talking about your course. Sue Anderson, who teaches Working Writer, Happy Writer, seeded her course in a book she published. Very cool.
21. MIX & MATCH
Remember, you can use more than one of these and mix and match methods to generate momentum and chatter around your launch and first sale.
While we believe these 19 methods are the most actionable, easy and result-oriented, there are hundreds of other ways to make a sale. Here is a list of a few articles you should check out:
- Kissmetrics: Your First Online Sale
- Supadupa: 10 Sure Wins To Make Your First Online Sale
- Matt Smith (Author of Early to Rise)
- Quicksprout: 9 Ways to Make Your First Online Sale from Your Blog
- Clickbank (talking about SEO): How To Make Your First Sale as an Affiliate Marketer
Tell me in the discussion board, is there another way you’ve made a sale? Anything you want to immediately try, or something you read here that worked? I want to hear.
Until then, “A-B-C, always be closing.” Over and out!