According to HolonIQ, the online education market is expected to reach $74 billion by 2025. Meanwhile, Verified Market Research predicts that the global personal development market would reach $51.6 million by 2028. If you are interested in launching your own course, having a marketing model will help you structure and assess your tactics and those of your competitors so you may communicate them to your internal shareholders.
Think of marketing models as a tried and tested checklist. Maybe you are new to the field or have a lot of experience in a very specific domain. Aside from providing a comprehensive view of your goals, models are a great tool to get insights into the marketing strategy of your competitors and gather some best practices. One of the most used marketing models is the AIDA model.
The AIDA model
Developed in 1898 by Elias St. Elmo Lewis, the AIDA model sequences the customer’s journey of awareness, interest, desire, and eventually, action. Due to its nature, it is also called a “response hierarchy model”. This model envisages a world where consumers move through each stage before going to the next one as a classical marketing funnel.
Looking at what your competitors are doing at each stage of the AIDA model is a great way to get insights into your own marketing strategy. But see how this model can be applied to marketing an online course. The idea is that you have a very clear understanding of the market, on who exactly your consumer is, what are their needs and pain points, and what are your unique selling points.
Here are some best practices in terms of marketing online courses using the AIDA model.
- Capturing attention. Initially, the assumption is that the consumer is completely ignorant about you. To grab their attention, you would need a marketing outreach strategy. You need to define your brand awareness campaign. So, for an online course, what would that look like?
To illustrate, The School of Life offers personal development courses for individuals under the following categories: self, love, work, and culture. As an outreach strategy, they have an amazing YouTube channel where they post once a week a video with content related to one of these categories. Their content is also built on what people are looking for such as howto articles and best practices lists, as well as searches like “find satisfying work” or “keep a relationship going”. Finally, they use effective content marketing to establish their leadership in the field and attract customers to their website.
- Generating interest. At this stage, you want your customers to find out more about the benefits of your product or service. Say that they have already seen your content on a social media platform and they have reached your website. This is a good moment to capture that interest in a subscription list.
As an example, The Gottman Institute offers the Marriage Minute newsletter for sending tools, articles, videos, exercises, and best practices for couples based on their ideology of a “research-based approach to relationships”. It also acts as a great tool for nurturing leads.
- Instilling desire. During this stage, you want your customers “to want” your product or service. How to do that for an online course? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy identifies six theories of desire which you choose to act on: action-based, pleasure-based, good-based, attention-based, learning-based, and holistic (functionalist and interpretationist).
An example of this would be Mindvalley‘s offering of free Masterclasses that are available only for a limited amount of time. Here, they share insights from their courses which, in turn, creates trust. The beauty of this resides in the fact that on the one hand, they nurture the leads with great content (attention-based), while on the other hand, they create some sort of scarcity such as time-limited discount (action-based).
- Triggering action. Finally, this is the stage wherein you aim to help consumers convert. This calls for an effective Call to Action (CTA), but how does that work for an online course? You should know exactly what your customer values, and at this point, use them to encourage them to engage with you.
Esther Perel uses this line on her website for her online course as a CTA: “Start your intimacy journey today”. For couples, starting a course is problematic because it requires them to admit that there is a problem. So having a CTA focusing on “starting a journey” taps into fear and addresses it. Moreover, Esther Perel’s short bio also helps the CTA as it reinforces her personal brand to her customers who consider this of high value. Reinforcing her personal brand at this point is a great tactic to encourage action.
Criticism of the model
One of the strongest criticisms of the model is that it does not reflect the actual reality; consumers might not have a linear journey and their decisions are not always rational. Another major drawback of the AIDA model is the lack of focus on the retention and referrals stage.
An alternative to AIDA is The Flying Wheel, a model developed by HubSpot which focuses its efforts on delighting the customer. Nevertheless, the model is a strong marketing framework that can help you guide your customers along their journey, structure your marketing efforts, and better understand your competitors.