How to Promote Online Courses with Referrals

sales May 21, 2020

Want to promote your online course? Now's the perfect time to set up a referral system! In this post, we'll share how to promote online courses with referrals.

Millions of Americans were already pursuing an online education even before the Coronavirus pandemic began. Since then, many schools across the country have made the switch to online learning... and the demand for online courses of many different varieties has gone way up.

One of the best ways to sell online courses–even during a lockdown situation–is by creating a strong referral strategy. That is, getting other people to spread the word for you!

According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions and opinions from family and friends over traditional advertising from a business. Word-of-mouth advertising is simply gold when it comes to online courses, and this coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

Have you ever heard of a sales funnel? It’s more than just a buzzword that gets thrown around in the marketing world. It’s actually a critical tool for turning casual blog readers into online course students. Building your own referral strategy by using sales funnel techniques will turn people who might be interested in your course into customers.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few things you should put into place right now to create the ultimate referral strategy for your online courses...

Stay in Constant Communication

You’ve probably heard that communication is an important key in any relationship. That goes far beyond romantic relationships and friendships. It’s an important tool for those trying to promote a business or program too.

 The average person sees anywhere from 6,000-10,000 advertisements every single day. As a result, we’ve grown into a society that is able to “tune out” most advertisements, or differentiate between the ones we find meaningful from the ones that are little more than noise.

Now more than ever, consumers are craving connection and communication with companies and businesses. We're all stuck at home after all! Promoting more humanistic qualities and developing natural connections helps to accomplish the following things:

  • Makes your brand feel professional
  • Creates a relaxed, open space for communication
  • Gives consumers the green light to ask questions
  • Builds trust 

Effective communication is a must for customer service, and the same goes for online courses. Interacting with your readers and students will give you a better idea of what people are looking for, what you can do to help, and what changes you can implement to make your courses more useful.

Also, when you engage with people and show that you’re taking what they have to say seriously, they’re more likely to refer you to a friend or family member.

Maybe they don’t even need your particular service, but because you took their suggestions to heart and took time to listen, you’ve developed a relationship and rapport that they won’t forget! They’ll remember you when they know someone who wants to sign up for an online education program.

Promote Your Brand

At the end of the day, your online courses are underneath the umbrella of your brand. Your brand is how people perceive you, and many people will buy your courses simply because they like YOU.

While you might not think making passive income from home the definition of a brand, it is! You have to brand yourself and your course program to be successful and to get more people to join your program. Therefore, it’s important to understand your brand identity. 

Here's an exercise to get you thinking in terms of branding. Think of the most valuable brands in the world today, such as:

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • Facebook
  • Walmart

When you think of each of those brands, you can probably easily describe what their logos look like, right? You can probably also describe what each company does, and you might even think about an experience or two you’ve had with them.

Your brand identity (which includes the feelings people get with they think of you, as well as your logo, color scheme, typography, etc.), will help people to do the same with you and your online courses. It’s a way for consumers to recognize who you are and what you do, and it also gives you more consistency within your business. 

Consistency helps to build trust.

Trust helps to strengthen student relationships.

Student relationships lead to referrals.

Get the idea?

Building a brand for yourself can even connect you with others like affiliate marketers who can promote your services on their blog or website. This can introduce you to a whole new audience!

So, how can you create a brand identity for yourself from scratch? It’s as easy as focusing on three basic areas: 

  1. The words you use. People should understand your purpose clearly, and you should have a consistent tone and voice throughout everything you do, whether it’s a video, a newsletter, or a blog.
  2. Your look. Don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to designing the look for your brand. The companies listed above have great logos and color schemes, so think about what really reflects your message when deciding on a logo design. It should be something that’s easily recognizable that will go on your website, social media, and anything else with your name attached. But don't stop with the logo– your colors, fonts, and even your own personal style (down to clothing and hair!).
  3. Student experience. Your brand identity should also be reflected in the way you interact with those who sign up for your courses, as well as those who are potentially interested. This goes back to having a consistent voice, but it needs to carry over into your customer service and interactions with people on avenues like social media, live chats, and even in the courses themselves. 

Creating a brand identity can actually be a lot of fun. It gives you the opportunity to think about yourself as a business and determines how you want to portray yourself to others. So have fun with it!

Be Ready for Reviews

Even if you strive for perfection, the more popular your program becomes, the more likely it is that you’ll receive the occasional negative review. 

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” 

There will undoubtedly be people who have negative things to say, whether they are truly legitimate or not. That’s not the point. What really matters is how you handle those negative reviews. Other people will see the review and how you respond. That can make a big difference whether they’ll become a referrer themselves.

It can be tempting to defend yourself or even argue with the negative reviewer. That’s a normal reaction when you feel like someone is “attacking” your work. But, there are a few rules to keep in mind when it comes to responding to negative reviews. By following them, you can create a positive impression. You might turn the reviewer’s opinion around, but even if you don’t, others will see the professionalism of your response.

When you have to deal with a negative review about your program, use the following tips to handle it properly

  • Respond as quickly as possible
  • Offer a sincere apology
  • Be an active listener
  • Take responsibility
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Communicate how you will fix the issue

In some cases, it might be best to move a conversation away from the public eye like a forum, review board, or social media. You can offer to chat with the individual who left the review directly, whether via email or even on the phone. Taking the extra step to get personal with them can make a difference, and you will avoid any drama that others can see.

The most important thing to do when you’re dealing with a negative review is to be authentic. Consumers are smart, and they’ll know if you’re offering nothing more than a canned response or disinterested apology. Make an investment in your negative reviews and make sure people know you take them seriously.

Utilize Social Media

Social media is as relevant as ever, and it can be an incredibly effective way to market your programs and to get people talking about your brand. Social media allows for people to interact, leave comments, and even share your page/profile with others.  It’s the perfect referral platform to get people interested in what you’re offering.

Plus, people are interested in different products on social media, with 54% of consumers saying they use the social media platforms to research products and services. 

One of the best things about social media is that it allows the brand you’ve created to have more of a personalized voice. We’ve already talked about the importance of effective communication, and social media is a great place to make that happen.

There are several ways to interact and communicate with fans and followers on your social media platforms:

  • Make daily updates
  • Allow followers to go “behind the scenes”
  • Answer questions
  • Ask questions to encourage interaction
  • Publish the testimonies and positive reviews of past students

Social media is an effective way to build your referrals because people can recommend you with the simple click of a mouse or a tap on their phone. They can tag their friends, send your page, or even share a video or blog post you’ve done. When you have a strong social media presence, more people are likely to share what you’re bringing to the table. It’s a different way to look at referrals, but it’s just as relevant and important in today’s ever-changing world of technology.

Create a Referral Program for Your Course

One of the easiest things you can include in your referral strategy is to encourage those who have already gone through your program to refer your courses to others. If they had a positive experience and you make it easy for them to share it, they’re more likely to send their positive review to family, friends, or anyone who could benefit from your online courses. 

When you choose authenticity and you’re willing to make yourself into a brand, you can stay one step ahead of the competition and recruit more people naturally - through referrals. Remember, there’s no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. Help your online classes stand out from the thousands of advertisements people see each day, and you’ll soon start to see results from people who can’t get enough of what you’re doing and absolutely have to share it!


Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he's learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.

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