How to Build A Sales Funnel For Online Courses

sales funnel for online courses

Courses are easy to create if you have experience in the field, and if the information you have to share is valuable and worthwhile they can also be an incredibly lucrative product.. That being said, there has never been a time when online courses were more competitive than they are right now. And the level of competition keeps rising.

Being a successful online instructor requires more than just having a fantastic course. A strategic plan for attracting and engaging students for your course is key 

One of the most difficult pain points for online course creators is figuring out how to market their courses and make a profit. Given that advertising expenses are rising year after year, optimizing your sales funnel is one of the most important tasks to concentrate on when starting or growing an eLearning business.

Any marketing strategy for online courses involves the creation of what is known as a sales funnel, and without one, it is practically hard to enroll new students consistently.

We at Inflowlabs have a lot of experience working with course creators like you, and we can help you boost course enrollment and improve traffic to your e-learning website. In order to shed some light on the process, we have written this article..

Let’s start by discussing the fundamentals of building a sales funnel for online courses.

Challenges in Marketing an Online Course

Marketing an online course might be a challenging feat, but it is also important. It can be challenging to stand out and get noticed in today’s crowded online course market, where there is a wealth of information at our fingertips. The following are some typical difficulties you could experience when promoting your online course:

1. Competition:

Due to the constant emergence of new courses and instructors, the online education market is growing more and more saturated. It may be challenging to distinguish your course from the competition as a result.

2. Reaching Your Target Audience:

The most difficult part of marketing an online course is figuring out how to get in front of the people who will be most interested in it. This may require a combination of strategies, including social media marketing, email marketing, and content marketing.

3. Establishing Credibility:

Establishing yourself as an authority and winning over your audience’s trust can be challenging in the internet world. This is especially the case if you are a new instructor or if you are teaching a course in a cutting-edge or specialized field of study. To establish your reputation and prove your skills, you must put in a lot of effort.

4. Generating Buzz:

Creating buzz and interest in your course is another problem in online course marketing. This can entail developing compelling content, holding promotions and competitions, and encouraging individuals to spread the word about your course among their networks.

5. Retaining Students:

Once a student has registered for your course, it’s important to maintain their interest and be inspired to finish the material. This can be accomplished through consistent communication, assistance, and the provision of a high-quality learning experience.

6. Measuring Success:

Finally, it might be difficult to measure the effectiveness of your efforts when promoting an online course. Finding out what is working and what is not, and making the necessary adjustments, can be challenging.

Finally, promoting an online course demands a deliberate and strategic approach. Creators of online courses can successfully market their courses and attract a loyal student base by overcoming these obstacles.

What is A Sales Funnel For Online Courses?

A sales funnel is a marketing concept that depicts the path a customer takes when making a purchase of any kind. The analogy used in the concept is a funnel because many potential consumers don’t reach your product already convinced to purchase but instead start at the top of the sales process, where they are just becoming aware of your offering. These leads need to be nurtured in order to convert into sales. Even so, only a small percentage of these people end up purchasing a product. 

A sales funnel has several stages, commonly referred to as the top, middle, and bottom of funnel.

The top of the funnel is often the largest part of the funnel, where you’ll find the most amount of attention and where most of your customers will begin their journey. 

Customers that make purchases from you are then positioned at the bottom of the funnel. Whether or not your customers progress down the funnel depends on what happens in the center of the funnel.

More specifically, customers show a greater interest in the product as they move through each stage of the funnel. Prospects demonstrate a deeper commitment to the purchase goal as they progress through the funnel. 

Every business owner is aware of the pain that can result from even just missing a transaction. After weeks of presentations, demos, conversation, and charm, the prospect quits the sales funnel without completing a purchase. It happens. 

However, it happens less frequently if you have the proper sales funnel strategy and management. Many of the sales funnels used by small businesses resemble sieves because of the gaps that incomplete worksheets, sticky notes, missed appointments, and neglected follow-ups have left.

There is a more effective approach. The gaps in your sales funnel can be filled, by converting close calls into purchases if you have the right knowledge of how to build one.

Why Does Your Online Course Need a Sales Funnel?

Using a sales funnel for online courses can help you better understand how potential customers think and behave at various points during the buying process. With the help of this information, you can allocate funds to the most effective marketing initiatives and distribution methods, develop the most pertinent messaging at each stage, and convert more prospects into actual paying clients.

Lead generation is essential to your business as a course creator and is not something you can ignore. The only decision you need to make is whether you have the time and resources to waste on manual lead generating or investing in a fully automated lead generation system.

You must have felt the frustration of having no sales as a course creator. Prospects only look and pass after you have spent time gathering your ideas and organizing them into a digital product (such as an online course), but they do not make a purchase.

The good news is that everyone experiences it. The positive thing is that when you use a suitable sales funnel to market your online course, it will happen to you less frequently.

Once you understand how to properly build up your sales funnel, you can automate the qualification and conversion of leads, streamlining your customer acquisition process and saving a ton of time.

How does that impact you personally?

You would be able to better plan your time and focus your efforts on other tasks. Like managing your business and creating new courses.

Parts of a Sales Funnel

Prospects move through several stages of your sales funnel from the time they first learn about your good or service to the time they buy it (or don’t). Although every prospect’s journey through your funnel will be unique, in the end, they will evaluate it based on how interested they are in what you have to offer. They’ll consider the issue they’re attempting to resolve and carry out a market study to confirm that your service is the ideal remedy.

The higher education sales funnel has four major stages which include Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. Some consider a fifth stage, Loyalty.

sales funnel parts

A sales funnel is used to represent the path of potential students because it shows how the number of students declines at each stage as some students shifts their attention to other things. The sales funnel for courses fosters potential students by making them aware of the courses that are offered, arousing audiences’ curiosity to learn more, which then results in a desire to sign up for your online course.

To have a better idea, let’s take a closer look at each stage of the sales funnel.


The “awareness” level, which is the initial step of the sales funnel, refers to the point at which customers first learn about your product, in this case, your course. They could learn about you from word of mouth, social media, or even paid advertisements.

The objective at this point is to catch the audience’s attention and stand out from the crowd.

How and why those customers proceed through the sales funnel depends on your sales and marketing skills. Because these leads have transitioned from awareness to interest, you should concentrate your efforts on them when they are in the middle and lower stages of the sales funnel.

A prospect learning about your business for the first time is an illustration of the awareness stage. Perhaps they read your blog, clicked on one of your adverts, found a link to your page on Google, or heard a coworker mention your course.


At this point, you start to nurture your audience. Keeping their attention is the main objective here, so more in-depth and captivating content will be provided.

Prospects will consider the problem they are attempting to solve and undertake competitive research to ensure that your offering is the best solution.


By proving that you are the solution to their problems, you can now acquire prospective students’ trust and establish your authority. Outlining their problem and offering a solution are the objectives here.

After knowing more about your course, prospective students will look into your pricing and packaging possibilities further. To encourage them to enroll at this point, sales websites, webinars, and phone calls are helpful.


Your course presentation takes place here. In order to convince them that your course is what they need, you must first address any concerns they may have and then clearly lay out the steps for making a purchase.

You offer an irresistible discount, causing people to make a purchase decision. After that, you adjust your marketing strategy to retain them. To ensure that you remain top-of-mind, you can create nurturing campaigns.

If all is successful, potential students will take action and enroll in your course, completing this stage fo the funnel.


Here, you have customers who will support you no matter what. They develop brand loyalty and continue to purchase your products.

This level of the sales funnel represents how a prospect becomes a devoted follower. By providing numerous up-sell and/or cross-sell possibilities and gathering social proof, the main objective of this strategy is to profit from the trust you’ve built.

A customer’s relationship with you doesn’t necessarily end just because you were successful in leading them from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel. Therefore, maintain that momentum after making a sale by maintaining your customer relationships.

To start, here are a few methods:

A Thank You Message: Thanking your clients will demonstrate your appreciation for their patronage. Email is the most popular method for doing this, but you can also put a message in sent packages. When a thank you includes a promotion (like 5% off your next order), it is even more effective at getting them to buy more.

Develop a Loyalty Program: Customers may become loyal to a brand as a result of loyalty programs. Customers are motivated to make additional purchases when they receive rewards for each transaction (points, discounts, etc).

Customer Surveys: Asking customers for feedback is a great method to demonstrate your interest in their views and perceptions. They no longer need to search your website for a way to communicate with you because it makes it easy for them to do so.

Building an Online Course Sales Funnel – Awareness Stage

The journey begins with raising awareness, attracting your student’s attention, and persuading them to study more with intriguing content, branding, and a distinct message.

Here, generating new leads and increasing site traffic are your key goals.

Without this, the rest of your funnel is essentially useless.

The good news is that you have a variety of options. Here are a few methods that you as a course creator could find helpful.

Identify Your Target Audience

Your target audience is the first step. You must have a solid understanding of the people your course is designed to help. Determine the issues, problems, pain spots, and frustrations that your target audience is facing after you’ve determined who they are. For instance, if someone wants to learn a new language, they may ask specific queries like “best method to learn french” or “best apps for learning french””

Figure out what problems your target audience is facing

Find the best blogs, forums, and books about the topic of your course by starting with a Google search. Join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups, read the most popular ones, and look for ratings on Amazon and Quora. Pay heed to the inquiries made in public. You will have additional ideas about what you can provide in your online course and to whom after reading these insights.

Send an email with a brief survey to your subscriber list or social media followers, if you already have a following. On a Facebook or LinkedIn Group, create polls and gather responses/votes. Ask about any particular worries or difficulties they may be experiencing. You’ll be shocked at how many folks are eager to share when asked.

Identify The Channels And Places Where You Can Reach Your Target Audience

Finding the target audience is essential for all creators of online courses before putting their courses up for sale. Designing and framing the class structure will be challenging if they can’t identify their target audience. 

Some creators of online courses might market their products to unfiltered audiences while selling their courses online. They aim to incorporate as many students as they can to increase the audience rating, but doing so could backfire because some students might become disinterested and abandon the course.

Instead of selling online courses to anybody and everyone, you might filter the market to identify the target demographic and work toward their course completion. Finding the audience, concept, and courseware that would work best for a course is not a particularly difficult task for course creators.

Here are some tips on how to choose the proper target market:

1. Create Your Ideal Customer by Defining Your Buyer Persona

The buyer persona serves as a depiction of your ideal customers. Making a buyer persona will help you visualize and identify your target market. The fundamental details regarding your buyer persona should be noted, as follows: Age, gender, education, occupation, salary, marital status, number of children, and geographic location are all factors.

You can also define the following characteristics to provide a more detailed description of your buyer persona: wants and desires, values, fears, ambitions, obstacles, and daily activities. You can use all of this information to create the most effective marketing message and choose the ideal times and locations to deliver it to your target market.

Once you get to know your audience better, you will notice how simple it will be to sell your course. 

2. Perform  Market Research 

You will be able to identify the generation that your buyer persona belongs to once you have defined it. If you want a deeper understanding of your audience, seek market research on this generation and observe what they buy, the groups they belong to, the websites they visit, who their influencers are, and so on.

You will find insights that will guide you on where to target your audience online. Since you will be aware of the topics to cover and the best ways to engage your audience, you can also build your content strategy on this knowledge.

Finding decent market research studies can be challenging at times, but taking the time to look for one is worthwhile.

3. Make Use of Your Blog Analytics

If you already have a site and following and are just looking to expand your offering with your online course, you can also use your website to gather information. You may use Google Analytics to find out information about your visitors, such as their age and gender, how long they stayed on your site, etc. Again, you may make adjustments to your marketing plan and your targeting techniques using this information.

4. Gather Feedback From Your Audience

You can use your own established communication channels to gather important data. Make a survey and ask your visitors and followers to respond. You might entice them with a slight discount on your subsequent course or by providing them with access to free course materials to download. Remember to write concise and straightforward survey questions.

Your survey can be published on your site, shared on social media, and sent out via email. The findings of your survey will be personal, small-market data that you can utilize to pinpoint your target market.

Extra Tip:

You can work with influencers after you evaluate your audience and discover who they follow in terms of influence. You can ask them to give their thoughts on your course or invite them to be guest bloggers. This will drive more visitors to your website and give you a new way to connect with your target market.

Content Marketing Strategy

Experienced marketers understand that the foundation of a promotion campaign that drives sales and raises brand awareness equally is a strong content marketing strategy. Online courses also need the same set of marketing strategies and actions to be successful because the digital era is here and has affected every aspect of our lives, including education.

However, unlike other things, the success of online courses is determined by the number of students enrolled rather than by sales or subscriptions. Given that these learning possibilities are digital and have an online presence, a thorough but targeted content marketing strategy is needed to propel these online learning platforms toward success and expansion.

Let’s now examine some of the strategies that can be applied to online courses.

1. Create Articles/Blog Posts

Once you have determined who your ideal student is, what they are looking for and the best channels to reach the,, you must utilize SEO to increase organic traffic to your website. This way you can increase awareness about your course among your target pool of potential students. The data that you’ve gathered beforehand, along with detailed SEO research will help you select the best keywords to get your course ranking the best.

One of the best strategies is to write relevant articles that grab readers’ attention and offer value right away. It not only develops into an organic means to bring in new visitors and leads, but it also serves as the foundation for building authority.

You can demonstrate your expertise, qualifications, and experience through articles and blog posts, and you can even introduce certain topics from your online course. Frequently, people in your target audience will find you through Google searches for answers to their questions.

If you can assist them with a specific issue they were having, this will increase their perception of your authority.

It’s undoubtedly one of the simplest and most economical ways to raise awareness, but the drawback is usually time. An article requires effort and time to plan, write, and promote, and it takes time for it to rank on search engines.

However, it becomes simpler with the aid of a reliable content marketing agency. Outsourcing SEO and content writing will allow you to keep high standards of quality, publish a consistent stream of optimized content and free up your time and resources.

2. Use Social Media

social media - sales funnel for online courses

Social media is incredibly important in today’s society, whether you like it or not. There’s a good chance that you can connect with your ideal students through at least one of these platforms.

Consider the difficulties your audience faces, their queries, and elements of your course(s) that offer quick fixes for those issues.

The key to a successful social media strategy is choosing the right platform, being persistent, and continuously testing ideas. 

3. Create Video Course Trailers

Videos have demonstrated their effectiveness as a digital marketing strategy. They can improve the number of enrollments if employed following your content strategy. Create and market course trailer videos that you can use as video ads to reach your target audience on the platforms they frequent.

4. Networking And Connections

Some individuals and businesses have already created a platform, regardless of the industry you specialize in or the kind of course you create. Their target market is similar to yours. Simply by adding value that compliments what they have to offer, you can reach more of the “right” people.

Reaching out to others in your industry, who are not your direct competitors, and who have a comparable audience such as social media influencers, or recognized thought leaders may be one way to do this.

When used properly, a content marketing strategy can strengthen your sales funnel for online courses and start producing results. 

Strategies For The Second and Third Stage Of Your Sales Funnel

Here are some additional actions that will boost your sales funnel:

Build An Email List

An email list is a collection of email addresses that have been willingly submitted to you based on the value you’ve provided in some way, and to whom you have permission to send emails.

After getting leads using the aforementioned methods, you must get in touch with them to close them.

Selling to those who have already expressed interest in your course or you through email is much simpler than selling to strangers.

Your marketing efforts will have a big impact on how big your email list becomes. The objective is to increase your subscriber base, foster trust, and eventually upsell your course to them.

First of all, you should be aware that just because your course is attractive doesn’t mean that people will automatically give you their email addresses.

To get their email address, you need to give them something that they currently want. It is known as a “value exchange.”

By providing something worthwhile and enticing, you are able to get the email address you require to create your sales funnel and eventually sell your course.

Create a Lead Magnet For Your Online Course

A wonderful strategy to attract customers, expand your email list, and eventually increase revenue is through lead magnets. You’re one step closer to attracting paying students to your online course by understanding the ideal lead magnets.

Even if someone is interested in what you have to say, they might not be ready to immediately commit to paying for a course. In the marketing language, these prospective customers are referred to as leads since they are interested in learning more about you before making a purchase.

You need something to grab their interest in order to get student leads and begin the process of persuading them to become your paying students.

It is quite easy to use. In exchange for a valuable product you produce for your audience—such as an ebook, a template, a worksheet, etc.—they provide you with their email addresses.

An online course is by far the best lead magnet you can develop to attract students to your courses. Yes, a free course on the same topic is the best way to attract students to a course on that topic.

You can design a free course that you’ll offer in return for the student’s email and the opportunity to establish a long-lasting relationship.

It might be a good idea to create your long-form course while already planning how you’re going to use it as a lead magnet. For instance, you may divide it into several parts and use the first one as your lead magnet.

After that, you should add a conclusion video to your lead magnet course that discusses all the other, more advanced topics that are still remaining to learn.

Ensure that the beginning of your free course contains the material that is most appealing and well-produced and not the end.

Webinar Funnel

Webinars are an excellent approach to raising awareness of your course. You can reach more people by doing a webinar. 

Webinars are also a fantastic approach to getting leads. You can give useful information during a webinar that will aid prospective students in determining whether or not your course is appropriate for them.

Your enrollment numbers can drastically increase if you learn how to convert prospects utilizing webinars. The key to getting people to sign up for your webinar is to deliver the correct pitch. Tell prospective students about the enjoyable aspects of your course and how it will benefit them.

A webinar should aid in the student’s comprehension of the course content. Highlight the topics that will be taught in this course and how it differs from others.

Students who participate in webinars have the chance to ask questions about the course. By the end of the webinar, they will have received answers to all of their questions, which will assist them in making their final decision.

The steps in a basic webinar funnel are as follows:

You receive traffic from a source such as an email marketing or social media. Prospects can participate in the virtual event after signing up. They confirm their enrolment in your course on the registration page you direct them to.

The funnel technique aids in qualifying your leads. Students who are really interested in your courses will reach the final stage of your webinar funnel.

Tripwire Funnel

To turn leads into paying students, course creators can employ a fairly straightforward and powerful marketing technique called a tripwire funnel.

This strategy enables customers to “opt-in” with a little purchase, a subscription, or a free download in the hopes that they will later make more significant purchases from you.

A tripwire funnel can be used in a variety of ways, but here is a brief explanation of how it operates:

You create and advertise a free product, often known as your lead magnet.

A customer selects your offer and clicks to opt-in.

They are then redirected to your opt-in page, where they may read more information about the lead magnet and subscribe with their email to obtain it.

They are then directed to a tripwire page after providing their email. This is where you advertise your low-cost offer, which should be a one-time, limited deal associated with your free lead magnet. This offer should ideally come with special pricing and a ton of perks to make the bargain more enticing.

The consumer either completes the transaction and is then taken to a thank you page with extra confirmation information or they choose to forego your tripwire and only sign up for the initial lead magnet. (However, this is still a positive thing since you now have their email address).

A tripwire funnel is a highly efficient, budget-friendly marketing strategy that can help your business expand on autopilot. It’s the ideal answer for marketing an online course.

Email Soap Opera Sequence

Using email marketing, reach out to your leads by sharing informative and interesting information.

A form of email marketing series called a “soap opera sequence” is intended to keep your subscribers on the edge of their seats, just like an actual soap opera would.

The sequence is usually in the following order:

  • Set the stage
  • Create the drama
  • Introduce an epiphany 
  • Showcase the hidden benefits
  • Create a sense of urgency

The idea is that each email in the series builds on the one before it, contributing to the narrative you’re telling and progressively heightening the sense of anticipation until you reach the point where your subscribers take action and convert.

Let’s examine each of the steps in more detail.

Set The Stage

Setting the stage in the context of your email series involves introducing your subscribers to the problem that your course will help them solve.

Make sure they can identify with the story and recognize the seriousness of the situation. This is what will draw them in and compel them to read all the way through.

You should have created suspense by the end of this email, and your subscribers should be thinking, “This is me. I have to know how to solve this problem.”

Create the Drama

It’s time to heighten the drama now that you have your subscribers’ attention.

Share a crisis point in your email that your readers can relate to in order to pique their interest in finding a solution.

Here is your opportunity to illustrate the potential outcomes of their inaction.

Introduce an Epiphany

This is the part of your email soap opera where you finally reveal the answer to the issue you’ve been building up. This is also your chance to start teasing the advantages of taking your course, in addition to offering the solution.

To make your writing interesting and credible, don’t forget to add the steps that you took to arrive at your epiphany. Overall, you should try to convey a sense of relief by saying that while the effort was challenging, it was all worthwhile when you found the answer.

Showcase the Hidden Benefits

There is always more to learn, despite the fact that your subscribers may believe they already know the answer. You must highlight the hidden advantages of taking action in this area of your email, as well as how it can change their lives in ways they could never have imagined.

This is your chance to show off the excellent results your course can produce and pique the interest of your subscribers to enroll.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency and persuading your subscribers to act right away are the main goals of the final email in your series.

To instill a sense of fear of missing out on something, you need to call your readers’ attention to factors like scarcity or time constraints.

This will encourage the members of your audience who have been on the fence to act now if they want to see the same fantastic results that you have.

You don’t have to conclude your soap opera right here. Sharing more soap opera-style storylines, case studies, and result-driven material will help you keep your subscribers interested after they’ve enrolled in your course.

Building A Sales Funnel For Online Courses

You can see that a sales funnel is a combination of brand interaction that, over time, will drive potential leads to become paying students.

This implies that, whether you realize it or not, every single piece of content you publish, even something as straightforward as a tweet or email, contributes to your course sales.

It is essential to give your funnel severe consideration and to lay up a detailed implementation plan.

Additionally, you may experiment with various strategies, modify your sales funnel, and track the outcomes. Expecting your first sales funnel to be flawless right away is unrealistic; nonetheless, what is measured is improved.

You can also improve your content strategy and, as a result, your online course sales funnel by working with content marketing strategy experts.

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