An infographic explaining the marketing funnel from top to bottom.

To sell courses online without a sales funnel is like throwing a party without inviting any guests. No one will ever show up. It may be the most exciting party in town, but unless you ‘sell’ the fun, chances are your party will flop.

A sales funnel is a strategic approach to guiding potential customers through the process of discovering and purchasing your course. Using a sales funnel for an online course, you understand the buyer’s journey and create measures to nurture them every step of the way with the intention of an eventual sale.

Let’s explore the marketing funnel for online courses in-depth and see how you can implement an effective sales funnel to make your online course successful.

Marketing Funnel for Online Courses

1. Top Of The Funnel (TOFU)

The top of the funnel, or TOFU, marks the initial stage in the customer journey, where potential customers first become aware of a problem and you as a solution provider. During this stage, while marketing your online course, it is crucial to identify the pain points and key problems of your target audience and offer valuable resources that address these issues free of charge.

TOFU marketing strategies

Infographic image of top of the funnel marketing strategies
  • Paid ads - Targeting your intended audience through paid advertising is a powerful strategy to attract them to your website. Advanced ad platforms also help in segmentation and target specific people based on the persona you describe.
  • Social media - Capitalize on the massive user base on social media to build your audience and direct them to your website. You can use one of the two ways to bring organic traffic

    • Build your own audience by engaging with people every day and providing value with your content.
    • Take advantage of the existing communities to participate and interact with your future audience.

Post continuously on Social Media. The algorithms detect the consistency and reward you with greater reach and visibility.

- Harshad Bhagwat, Knowledge Entrepreneur. 

  • SEO - If you are selling online courses from your own website, Search Engine Optimised blog articles can be a powerful tool for driving sustainable, organic traffic to your website through search engines. Value-packed and informative articles that address specific problems and offer solutions are also a great way to establish trust and credibility with your audience and make visitors aware of the problem and the solution.
    However, be aware that although SEO is probably one of the best ways to bring in sustained traffic, they take a long time. If you are starting early, it’s wiser to look into more immediate sources of traffic.
  • Alliance with Influencers - Influencers have an already existing and engaged audience that trusts their opinions and recommendations. By getting into a mutually beneficial agreement with influencers within your industry, you attract an audience who are interested in your topic and niche.
  • PR - A slightly advanced marketing tactic is Public Relations. You can reach a wide range of potential customers by leveraging the vast audience of media networks that have built their authority over time. 
    Creating industry reports or content with a unique angle that catches the attention of publications can help you attract a huge volume of traffic in a short period.

Metrics to track

  • Number of visits - Track the number of people coming to your website. It is also helpful to track the footfall of new visitors.
  • Engagement - A helpful factor to look for in Social Media and blogs, engagement can determine if people find the content valuable. This can also be used as a proxy for trust.
  • Follower growth - The more followers, the wider the net you cast for the ultimate conversion to your online course.

2. Middle Of The Funnel (MOFU)

This is the stage where you convert your website visitors into leads. To do this, you offer your targeted audience a helpful resource (such as an ebook or webinar series complimenting your previous free content) in exchange for their contact information, typically their email address. Creating an email list is critical to directly targeting potential customers and converting them into buyers.

MOFU Marketing Strategies

Infographic image of middle of the funnel marketing strategies
  • Ebooks - Create an E-book on a topic that your audience will value. This includes guides, checklists, cheat sheets, workbooks, etc. Ebooks act as lead magnets to attract potential customers.
  • Webinars - Webinars allow you to connect with your audience directly and understand their pain points. Addressing these effectively help build trust and credibility.
  • Survey Results - Survey results provide strategic and reliable information to your audience. They also show you as an industry expert and a thought leader in the space.
  • Access to private communities - A private community is like your neighborhood. By bringing your audience into the community, you establish a strong and continuous relationship with them.

Metrics to track

  • Email list Growth - Track the number of leads on your email list to gauge potential conversion opportunities.
  • Email open rate - Use the open rate as an indicator of how engaged and interested your leads are in your content.

You may find someone opening your emails frequently. They are high-intent leads with the potential of conversion down the road

- Harshad Bhagwat

  • Visitor-to-lead conversion rate - Measure the rate at which website visitors are converting into leads. This can help you gauge the effectiveness of your free content in attracting and converting potential customers.

3. Bottom Of The Funnel (BOFU)

This is the final stage of the buyer's journey when leads have a high intent to purchase and are on the brink of conversion. Your only goal now is to nurture them and implement strategies to convert the leads into paying customers.

BOFU Marketing Strategies

Infographic image of bottom of the funnel marketing strategies
  • Discounts - Make the offer irresistible by offering a discount, making them feel they are getting more at a relatively lower cost.
  • Bundling - Another great way to get the customer to convert is by offering two or multiple products at the cost of one. Bundling creates a sense of value and increases the chances of conversion.
  • Scarcity - Make the offer more compelling by keeping a ‘limited time offer’. This creates a sense of urgency and taps into the psychology of fear of missing out.
  • Testimonials and social proof - Showcase customer testimonials and social proof to build trust and credibility and increase conversions.
  • Upselling - Upselling is a strategy where you offer an additional product shortly after the first purchase. This helps in increasing the average revenue per customer.

Metrics to track

  • Conversion rate - Conversion rates showcase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts in leading potential customers to the bottom of the funnel. Keep a strict vigil on this metric to implement changes to your strategy.
  • Total revenue - This is revenue from all your sales over a specific period. You should keep a track of this periodically to refine your strategy accordingly.
  • Customer Acquisition - You must know how many customers you acquire on a weekly and monthly basis. Use this information to develop targeted reselling and retention strategies.
  • Customer retention rate - Track the rate at which customers return to make another purchase. It helps you understand how well your engagement and marketing strategies are working.

Next Steps

If Content is the King, Marketing is the crown that makes it shine. To ensure the success of your online course, it's essential to leave nothing to chance and to create a robust online course funnel.

Harshad Bhagwat, A scientist turned Knowledge entrepreneur, spoke with Hanuj Tilwani, CEO & Co-founder, of Miho, and discussed the key strategies he implements in his sales funnel. He also emphasized how it is not only your content, but it’s you and your brand that will ultimately set you apart.

Check out the podcast here.