If you've ever searched for personal development or entrepreneurship or how to make money online chances are you've come across an online guru talking at you direct to camera and offering free webinars or training for their latest online course. All theses online gurus use similar marketing tactics and many of them are making millions and millions from promoting courses around get rich quick schemes and the latest fad like trading or crypto without being experts or actually offering any value.
Now I love online education and people should absolutely invest in themselves and I've learned a crazy amount from online courses. The issue is that lots of these fake gurus push poor course content by over-promising with aggressive marketing. Don't believe me? Here's Charlie Monger's opinion:
So let's look at how fake online gurus market their courses.
How Dark Gurus Make Millions From Online Courses (and you can too)
Marketing is what separates your average course creator from the top tier online gurus who are making millions and millions. If you can't market your course properly then you're not going to reach a large audience and you're not going to be able to impact as many learners or generate as much revenue as you could be.
Having published some hugely successful online courses myself one of my top tips is that it's really important that you treat your course like a product launch, because that's exactly what it is. In very practical terms you want to collect emails and collect customer testimonials:
Collect emails early and often
Your email list will become one of the most valuable assets in your business, because it will allow you to continuously market to leads. It will also allow you to upsell past customers with new courses later on.
Collect customer testimonials
Testimonials are vital for creating a sustainable growth engine, building trust and more. Always ask past customers for testimonials in written or video formats on their transformation. Then use these testimonials throughout your marketing material.
But you already know this so let's think like online gurus and break down their marketing tactics into some simple steps that you can use right now.
Step 1: Create Your Sales Page First
The mistake that most course creators make is that they create their online course first rather than first creating a landing page. If you create your landing page second it then tries to be a long convoluted explanation of what you're teaching and a sales page or landing page that just explains what your course is without explaining how and why it offers value and solves a problem for your learners isn't that effective.
When you create your landing page first you're actually forced to get curious and look at the needs and desires of the marketplace and your learners. Creating your course landing page first also helps you when developing your course content and kind of creates your course by itself. You can choose to create what you want or what is valuable to your audience. My video on How to Create an Online Course goes into detail about how to identify your niche and put your learners first.
It might surprise you, but you can actually sell your course before it's even finished. This is called pre-selling. Of course you need to actually finish the course to deliver on the promise you made to your learners, but pre-selling is a powerful strategy for a few reasons.
- Firstly , it helps you stress test your concept and ensure you have product market fit.
- Second. It allows you to tailor the content to learners as they go through the course, allowing you to create a better quality course.
- And thirdly, it helps with cashflow. This is a strategy that software companies have been using for decades called a beta release.
The goal of pre-selling your course is to get your course in the hands of learners early and get feedback and validate market demand faster. You can run this as early access and offer reduced pricing or lifetime access to incentivise people to join as you are building it. Using an open, transparent and ethical approach will also help to build rapport with your learners and help you develop a community around your course.
To give you an idea of how fake gurus use sales pages just check out these examples with long copy, videos and testimonials throughout all trying to move you to a webinar or to their product.
There are several platforms that you can use to build your sales page such as Shopify, Unbounce, ConvertKit, Clickfunnels and many more all of which have templates and drag and drop interfaces. Clickfunnels even got a bad rep as it was used by lots of online gurus and automates lots of your marketing and sales funnels. But before we get to marketing funnels let's first focus on your messaging and copy for your landing page and marketing materials to ensure you communicate the value of your course to your learners in the right way.
Step 2: Get Your Messaging Right
What's important is how you describe your course. Now that you have your landing page you need to ensure that it speaks to the learners in your niche. As a copywriting pro tip use the challenges, goals, and language that you gathered from speaking with your learners during your research phase when planning your course. This will make your leads feel like you're reading their mind.
Use reverse planning and think about the impact your learners want from your course. What is their end-state and how will they be transformed. For example if you are selling a course on how to play the guitar think about why someone might want to take that course and even better ask your learners so you can then write this in their own words and language. The reason might surprise you such as "I want to impress my friends and family" and so your sales page copy might lead with "Impress your friends and family and change your life by learning guitar" rather than just "take this course to learn guitar". People will often sign-up to things based on emotion and this concept of selling the dream is something employed pretty nefariously by fake online gurus who will often promise things like "financial freedom" for anyone taking their courses (with the small print stating that this isn't guaranteed and rarely happens).
Step 3: Paid Video Social Ads (PPC)
As we saw from Tai Lopez's In My Garage Video online gurus cut through the noise with videos that are promoted through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and pretty much anywhere that grab people's attention. Their messaging usually overpromises with things like generating passive income or graphs of their bank balance or them talking to camera while surrounded by wealth.
Now you don't need to create a video that uses some of these dark marketing tactics that mislead people but you do need to create a video that speaks to your learners and helps them to solve their problems. These paid videos are designed to hook people in and connect with learners at an emotional level using the messaging you have collected during your research. Things like testimonials work great here too to show impact and convey that anyone can get similar results if they complete the course. Again please make sure that these are genuine as fake testimonials or exaggerated outcomes mislead people and aren't ethical.
Step 4: Offer Value For Free
After hooking your learner you then want to offer up some value for free. This might be a free ebook, webinar or live event. Offering valuable training or content for free helps to build trust with your audience and gives your learners an idea of your teaching style and whether your course meets their needs.
Webinars are really effective way to attract leads. They're low cost and with their high conversion rates, they're low risk and high reward. You see, webinars can be incredibly effective with the average conversion rate hovering around 20%.
But what content should you put in your webinars. Well online gurus will ask their listeners to switch off social media so they focus on the webinar and will use cognitive biases to make them sound more relatable to their audience. Explaining their backstory and how they started off "just like you" before transforming their lives. They will also use customer testimonials to explain how easy it is to transform your life and they'll also qualify you by saying the course is only for people who put in the effort to remove any blame from themselves if the course doesn't actually change their life.
Now you don't need to go this far but explaining who you are and who the course is designed for is a great place to start. Be transparent and explain why you are creating this course and you can also use some actual testimonials from people you know have been through your early mini-course or MVP. You can even deliver some course content for free. Actual, practical content is the most helpful rather than the less helpful filler content pushed by online gurus.
So after you spend the first 80% of your webinar, delivering free value, you can ask some questions of your audience. Firstly, "did you find this valuable?" and secondly "do you want to learn something else?"
This is where you start selling your main course or one-to-one consulting. If the webinar attendees act now or in the next set number of days, they'll gain access to a special promotional price. Using the cognitive bias of urgency can really help to drive conversions and towards your landing page to sign-up to your course. Here are some other ways you can offer value and collect learner emails while building trust.
Email Courses and Mini-Courses
We touched on mini-courses in my video on how to structure your online course. As a quick reminder these are short courses usually focused around a sub-section of your main course and they're a great way to generate leads.
Make sure that when someone signs up for your mini course, they're also entered in an email drip campaign that sells them your main course, offering discounts to increase conversion rates. Tools like Convertkit are great for this and can help you to connect with your learners through a regular newsletter.
Become a Guest on a Podcast
Nowadays everyone has a podcast or vodcast and being a guest on podcasts in your niche can be a great way to increase your authority and reach new customers. Directly reaching out to podcasts often works well as podcast hosts need regular content. Create an interesting bio and offer value or to educate around part of your course for free.
SEO and Content Marketing
Search engine optimization is a vital component of any marketing strategy increasing your ability to be discovered. When done correctly, creating educational content can significantly increase your authority on a subject and also create a healthy pipeline of leads. Content marketing can be done through YouTube and social media by building an audience around your free content or on your website with helpful free e-books and blog posts. My top tip here is to be consistent with what you are posting and when you are posting. Try not to overwhelm your audience and opt for new content once or twice a week. For SEO tools like SEMRush or Ubersuggest can help you to identify keywords in your niche and your content can then optimise around these keywords. Ghost is a great tool and one that I use for blogging which does a lot of the heavy lifting for you if you are a creator looking to start a blog for content marketing around your online course.
To summarise this process you are taking your learners or customers through a sales funnel with paid ads hooking them and getting them interested enough to then offer up their email in exchange for something they find valuable and which is free. Once that email is captured software like ConvertKit can nurture prospective customers using email sequences and your landing page can move people from your webinars to your course sign-up page and into your course just like online gurus do.
How To Avoid Being An Online Guru
A lot of first time course creators might struggle with the idea that they won't be seen as credible due to this big segment of gurus out there.
So many world-class credible people are so hesitant to create a course because of some of the online gurus. Gurus with ads saying "make a million dollars in thirty days" kind of discredits the learning industry a little bit and puts off some great course creators.
To me, if you're creating a course, you have to convey trust whether you're selling a physical product or digital product. Having genuine testimonials is a great place to start as is having a transparent outline of your course curriculum including modules and lessons included.
Other things that drive trust in a course are things like a money back guarantee kind of policy and using software like Proof that conveys social proof by displaying a popup that shows that someone just bought the course.
Most importantly avoid over-promising and under-delivering. While you should start with your landing or sales page understanding who your ideal learner is and getting honest feedback to ensure your course is as good as possible and offer value as described in any marketing is the main difference to being an online guru.
YouTube channels like Coffeezilla give a deeper look at fake gurus or dark gurus or whatever you want to call them if you're interested. Online education is amazing and investing in your own development and skills is absolutely vital and, hell, I even agree with Tai Lopez that knowledge is the best thing you can invest in. But if you're creating a course start with your learner first and be obsessed with offering value.