3 Affordable Ways To Know If Your Online Course Will Boost ROI

You might have a good idea for an online course, but you may be worried if your online course is worth the investment. You are not alone. 

I work with many course creators, and worrying about ROI is a widespread and natural concern.

Luckily there are affordable ways to get to know if your online course is likely to give you a return on investment or not.

In this article, I will share 3 proven, affordable ways you can try out for yourself before deciding if now is a good time to create your online course. 

I have tested this approach recommended by marketing strategists with my clients and in my online course production with great success. If it works for other people, it can also work for you.

Making an online course is like making a movie

Making an online course is like making a movie. First, you come up with a good idea. Then you pitch and test the idea to see if there is any interest. Then you write the script and make the movie. And finally, you need to distribute and sell the movie. All phases are equally important in creating a blockbuster.

I want my clients’ online courses to be successful. And I have found that the first important step besides getting the idea for the course is validating if there is any real client interest in the course topic. This initial research is an important phase in creating an online course that many course creators skip. They go straight to the production and then afterward wonder why their online course is not selling.

Based on this experience, I recommend thorough market, competitor, and client research as an essential part of the professionally supported course production journey. 

Testing the course idea

This article focuses on the initial phase of testing the course idea. If the result of your testing shows an interested audience, you will know that there are people who want to buy your course. My purpose with the rest of this article is to give you some practical steps that you can use to test the interest of your course idea within your potential audience.

Researching this article, I came across a quote about movie-making that inspired me to illustrate the process of testing the course idea. 

“Filmmaking is to me very similar to being in a café somewhere in Paris and looking at the people walking by.” – Claire Denis.

An online course doesn’t take place in one geographical location like Paris or New York. The audience for your online course is not physically walking by a café to be watched by you. 

Instead, the audience to an online course is on the internet. Finding ways to observe people online is essential when testing the idea for your online course.

Enter The Matrix

Imagine you are Neo following the white rabbit to enter The Matrix to do your research.

We all leave a bunch of virtual traces on the worldwide web. It is now easier than ever to test your course idea and find what you are looking for about your audience without even leaving your desk. 

What I have found helpful for my clients is to create a questionnaire to test the course idea. Most experts have a pretty good idea for a relevant course topic based on their professional experience. However, collecting answers from a survey often give a different angle and unexpected insights that are useful for the rest of the course development process.  

Client Survey

Relevant questions to put into a survey and send out to “ideal clients” within your network are: 

  1. What do you struggle with most when it comes to (your course topic) in your business.
  2. Can you tell me more about this issue? How is this problem getting in the way of your life? How does it make you feel?
  3. What have you tried so far to solve (your course topic) the needs of your business? How well did it work?
  4. Why is it important for you to solve (your course topic) for your business right now? Why now? 
  5. If you took a course on (your course topic), what would you like to walk away with by the end of it?

Try sending out a survey like this. When you analyze the responses, they will give you ideas and keywords you can test further.

When you have the responses from your survey, specific keywords will present themselves. Examples of keywords can be gaining confidence, getting more business, generate leads.

Based on the specific answers related to your course topic, you will have a list of keywords that you can test. Testing these keywords will show you if these keywords are common and appear in many searches or not. The keyword search will also show you related keywords that you can use instead.

I have found recommended among marketing experts that the keywords you use in the headline of your course should have an average of at least 10.000 searches per month and a minimum of $1 cost per click.

There are free versions you can use for your keyword search. I used wordtracker.com for my latest keyword testing. And I have to say that I was surprised by some of my findings. Furthermore, the results lead me to change the scope of my next online course to match the real needs of my audience.

Finally, the third affordable way to test if your online course will boost ROI is to do a simple google search on your course idea. 

If the Google search shows that companies spend money on ads, you will know there is a market for your course. Also, if your google search indicates that there are other online courses on the topic, there is an audience.

This search will also give you an idea of who your competitors are. Competitor research will give you an idea about price points and how you want to differentiate yourself. 

A virtual “Sherlock Holmes”

Summing up, a key point in testing if your online course is likely to give you a return on investment is to think of yourself as a virtual “Sherlock Holmes.” As you enter the matrix, look at the trends with your imaginary magnifying glass. Ask questions like Sherlock Holmes, and you will find both expected and unexpected answers and tendencies. Find what the data says to support your hunch about your relevant course topic. And finally, embrace the competition. If there are competitors who already have online courses about your topic, this means that there is a market. And that means that there is ROI available to you as well. 

In short, the 3 affordable ways to know if your online course will boost ROI are:

1.     Ask your audience: Do a survey and do interviews to determine what your ideal clients struggle with. 

  • What are the main challenges for your clients?
  • What results and solutions are they looking for?

2.     SEO keyword research: You can use wordtracker.com or other free keyword search tools.

  • Recommended min 10.000 average searches per month
  • Min of $1 cost per click 

3.     Google search: Type in your course topic and see what comes up. Remember, competition is a good thing. It means that there is a market for your course.

  • Ads on the topic
  • Courses available
  • Videos

Based on the results of your research, you will know if you have a course topic that is likely to resonate with a greater audience.

Once you have validated that you actually have a potentially excellent course topic, another area to consider is your market position. If you have followers on social media, you already have access to an audience to market your online course once it is ready for launch.

If you don’t have that many followers on social media yet, that might be a good place to start. The key to building an audience on social media is to provide value through your content and engage in conversations as you develop your network. Helping you build your visibility and your credibility. And if you keep at it consistently, it will lead to profitability.

If you need help growing your audience, you can sign up for this course on How To Write Great Copy


About Sophie Higgins, MA, MBA, MBC: I help experts create meaningful online courses with real impact. I am bringing out your unique wisdom into a well-crafted, empowering learning experience. 


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