Marketing Your Online Courses: 3 Link Outreach Strategies

by | eCourse Growth Strategies

At Academy of Mine we help both big and small eCourse sellers market and sell their online courses. One of the benefits of managing both big and small members is that we have great “marketing hindsight” because we learn from our bigger members and share our findings with our smaller members. One area that we’re particularly interested in is the area of link outreach.

Often overzealous eCourse vendors that are just launching their first eLearning site will launch a link outreach campaign to help give their site a strong promotional push right out of the gates. They might try to get links through:

  • Blogger mentions
  • Facebook likes
  • Social shares
  • Press releases
  • Product reviews
  • Guest posting opportunities

APPROACH IS EVERYTHING: BE HELPFUL

The best thing about managing larger members’ sites (many of whom are actually much larger than our own company) is we get access to the players on the other side of the table: The popular bloggers, the thought-leaders and the digital trendsetters. These are the people that everyone want’s to build some type of digital relationship with.

These thought-leaders are also the same people that get overwhelmed with countless outreach emails each day. Because of this, they have to developed a keen eye capable of weeding out all of the outreach emails that come into their inbox each day. So now you’re probably thinking “but my eCourse really is great and I want them to talk about it”. Well that’s a great attitude to have… but your approach will determine how successful your outreach campaigns are.

YOU THINK OF THOUGHT LEADERS AS A DISTRIBUTION PLATFORM… THOUGHT LEADERS THINK A BIT MORE HIGHLY OF THEMSELVES

I can speak from experience (managing Academy of Mine’s email inbox on occasion) that the majority of outreach emails we receive often get deleted before they get opened. We simply get too many to even consider opening and most of us here have developed a highly trained eye to be able to identify low quality outreach campaigns (skim, delete, repeat).

Emails are quickly deleted when they scream “me me me”. These emails arrive when someone wants us to use our voice or strength in our niche to help spread the word about their product or service. Getting a thought-leader to talk about your eCourse is like getting someone with a megaphone to talk about you. So it’s never surprising for leaders in any niche to get these types of emails. In fact, it’s expected. The problem is that these emails are often so out of touch with the needs of the leaders in an industry that they might read something like:

“Dear [http://wwwacademyofmine.com/contact]. See attached press release and feel free to share with your audience. I think they would love to know about {product name}. Email me if you have any questions.”

Or maybe

“Hi academyofmine! Your blog posts about {topic} are great! Please share the following article from our blog with your readers. Thanks”

To me it’s shocking that such email outreach campaigns exist because I’m on the quality control side at Academy of Mine and I know how hard we work to ensure we provide in depth and helpful content to our blog readers. A post is worth a lot to us. It’s often the first touch-point someone has with our company. We don’t take the responsibility of good content lightly. So why would be published canned content or a press release?

So for those of you who are guilty of sending out emails like the ones above, here are some facts about companies like Academy of Mine who are thought leaders in our field:

WE BUILT OUR AUDIENCE ON TRUST

1. We have decent size audience (using techniques like this) because we’ve built that audience’s trust. We didn’t build that trust by spamming them or posting press releases. We built that audience by publishing content like you’re reading now. The second we stop respecting our readers’ desire for quality is the second they stop showing up to our site. So when you’re doing an outreach campaign, at a minimum, you need to be aware of this sensitive issue.

GETTING BUSY DOESN’T MEAN GETTING STUPID

2. We might be busy and overwhelmed with the amount of work we need to do but that doesn’t mean we’re desperate for content. Publishing content on a consistent basis is hard work no doubt. But quality bloggers and thought-leaders are never so busy that they will fill a content gap with a low quality piece of content.

For example, when we’re sitting around a board table during a busy period and someone brings up that we’ll be too busy this week to publish on Thursday and Friday, our marketing department isn’t excitingly waving their hands in the air saying “oh I know. We got an email from company X asking us to promote their product for them. We could just publish their canned press release they are distributing to 100 other blogs and free article sites on those days that we have nothing to publish from in-house content”. Just because bloggers and thought-leaders get busy… it doesn’t mean they get stupid. Again, you need to be sensitive to this reality.

These are the two “macro” considerations you really need to think about before you ever do any outreach. Everyone who’s worth contacting will be concerned about quality and almost all of those people could use a bit of help (because they are busy people). Maybe they could use help with content, an idea, a collaboration, a lead… who knows. But you need to ask yourself “how can I respect your need for quality while making your life easier”? So remember… put yourself in their shoes.

Below we’ve posted 3 strategies to help you create better email outreach campaigns based on our personal experience and the experiences of the thought leaders whose sites are run through Academy of Mine.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH: MOST BLOGS ARE NOT PRESS RELEASE OR REVIEW SITES

So you’ve designed an amazing eCourse and you want people to know about it. It’s normal that you would look where your audience already is by doing some smart prospecting.

But once you know where they are (say on a blog for example) you need to know how to approach the owner of that blog. The worst approach is sending an email telling the blog owner to promote your eCourse. Why would they do that favor for a total stranger? Remember, that the rules of offline marketing exist in the world of online marketing.

For example, Imagine you’re standing in a room with other customers and business leaders in your niche. Everyone is going to have a different reasons for being there, different goals and different strategies for connecting with others in the room.

However, if you were someone in this room, one of the least impactful ways for you to approach anyone in that room would be to approach them, introduce yourself with a scripted introduction, and then hand them a flyer promoting your eCourse telling them to tell their friends and family. They’d likely politely accept your flyer only to throw it in the closest garbage can a few minutes later. So if this technique doesn’t work in the real world… what makes you think it would be a good technique to use in the online world?

Before you go up to someone you need to know who they are, what they want, what problems they have that you can solve and how you can make their life better or easier.

It usually involves a series of steps. Getting what you want often doesn’t happen during the first conversation. Therefore you need to manage each digital contact using a spreadsheet or some type of digital contact or Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). Academy of Mine eCourse sellers get access to a CRM that helps them handle the very complex world of navigating digital relationships. Here is a quick snapshot:

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 5.14.52 PM

crm

2. PROVE YOU’RE NOT A ROBOT

Next, before you send your outreach emails make sure that you prove you’re not a robot to the person you’re sending it to. Again, those of us accustomed to receiving dozens of “promote my stuff for me please” emails on a day to day basis have quick ways to look for subtle symbols that help us weed through the junk.

For example, if someone took the time to write “Hi everyone at Academy of Mine” vs. “Hi everyone at academyofmine” it would show us that they are likely not using a script to compose the introduction of the email. A human would need to write that email to put the spaces in the right place and capitalization on the right letters.

3. KNOW MY NAME BEFORE YOU ASK ME OUT. KNOW MY LAST NAME BEFORE YOU ASK TO MOVE IN WITH YOU

Lastly, before you contact thought-leaders asking them to help you…. help them first. The more useful they think you are, the more helpful you’ve been to them the more likely they will be to let a stranger into their inner-circle. Don’t approach thought-leaders asking for free advertising or publicity as a stranger. Get to know them first.

CONCLUSION

Leaders in any niche have to use various sorting strategies not because 99% of the emails they receive are poorly intentioned or the products are low quality. In fact, in our case, many of the products we’re asked to promote are amazing. But we need to delete 99% of emails because we don’t have the time to strategize ways to genuinely fit those products, services or ideas into our current system or content marketing strategy.

So don’t go out there and ask someone for free links or free publicity. Industry leaders have no incentive to give that type of support to a stranger. You weren’t creative enough to find anther way to spin it for them and they don’t have the time to do that type of strategy work for you. So the best option in that case is to delete your email. However, it doesn’t need to be that way. It’s just that the responsibility is on you to find creative ways to make your link outreach proposal irresistible bait.

Good luck!

 

 

Supercharge your
eLearning Business

Academy Of Mine is the top-rated LMS for Professional Development, Continuing Ed, Certifications and B2B training.

elearning-ppc