Right now, Facebook and Google own 25% of global ad spend. It’s a duopoly.

As even more advertising dollars continue to be poured into these two companies, the demand for real estate goes up… ad prices are only going to continue to increase.

Can you win the bidding war?

Or a better question might be: Is it worth trying?

Although advertising is THE “go to” way for increasing traffic to online products, it’s definitely not the only thing that works. Sometimes, it’s not even the best choice for your business.

Here are some non-advertising ways to increase your online course revenue without breaking the bank or playing the “Facebook ads roulette” game.

1. Go Live on Facebook

How to spend less on advertising

If you really want your fans to pay attention to you on Facebook, take a break from copywriting “conversational” ads.

Facebook has made it increasingly clear that video is core to their platform’s future. (source)

As a strategic part of their platform, Facebook also rewards Live videos with more visibility and opportunities for interaction.

But apart from Facebook itself, video gives you the chance to be more visible. More personal.

It gives you the chance to share with your own words how your online courses can (and will) change the lives of your clients.

Why it works:

Facebook still loves live video more than any other type of content. This gives you an edge, since (a) you don’t need to pay to be seen, and (b) video helps you connect with your audience on a more personal level.

Being personal helps with trust-building.

It’s a strategy that people like Jasmine Star and Jennifer Allwood at The Magic Brush have taken ownership of and mastered.

how to spend less on advertising

If you’ve been doing some Lives, it might be worth your time to increase them.

If you haven’t jumped on this opportunity yet, you’re already behind.

Confused about how to actually start a Live video? Hubspot has a nice guide here: How to Use Facebook Live: The Ultimate Guide

2. Convert Website Visitors into Subscribers with The Login Optin™ Strategy

Ok, time to audit!

As your business continues to grow and expand in different directions, your content, too, starts looking a bit scattered. This in itself causes a bit of problems when you’re looking for ways to increase online sales without having to increase your ad spend.

The basic purpose of putting content on your site is two-fold:

  • Deliver an incredible amount of value to the visitor
  • Point strategically toward your (paid) online course offerings

Unfortunately, some businesses end up getting cluttered with opt-in white papers, mini eBooks, and who knows what else.

It’s almost as if they’re afraid of really investing in something that will start converting their visitors into leads into paying customers.

If you’re selling online courses, you should be using The Login Optin™ Strategy

This strategy uses a free course as a lead magnet, and is designed to get your subscribers excited about the paid courses you’re selling.

With this strategy, you’re also able to increase the amount of value your new subscribers receive from the moment they first sign up.

We’re not the only ones in love with this strategy – it appears with slight variations throughout the online course and membership industry.

Digital Marketer uses a variation called The Splinter Method with great success.

Not familiar with this online course strategy? Learn more here: The Login Optin™ Strategy

3. Increase Your Customer Retention Rate

Are you offering recurring subscriptions… and tearing your hair out trying to get people to stick around for the long haul?

The solution for “more revenue” doesn’t always lie in getting more customers. Sometimes the most profitable path is to keep the customers you already have.

How big of a difference can this make for your revenue?

Economists at the Harvard Business Review estimate that:

Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

Easier said than done, I know…

But scaling your profit margin is a long-term game that’s worth the effort.

Click here to schedule a live demo

Learn how to use your own online course content to increase customer retention rates:
15 Powerful Gamification Best Practices You Can Implement To Reduce Member Cancellations

4. Enroll Students to Help You Promote Your Online Courses

how to spend less on advertising

If your online courses are wildly effective, you have a huge area of untapped potential:

Incentivize existing happy students and members to help you spread the word.

You can do this in two main ways:

  1. Through an official affiliate program
  2. By offering special bonuses and prizes (or a membership discount) for bringing in X new members

Affiliate programs continue to be a perennial favorite, despite the fact that they come with their own set of difficulties. Go into this venture with a solid strategy to avoid common pitfalls.

Or, you can tweak the traditional affiliate model and simply offer bonuses and incentives that correlate to your online courses.

Bonus prizes and incentives can be a great tool for getting existing students (or membership subscribers, if you’re using that model) excited about bringing in their friends and sticking around to get some prizes.

5. Build Your Business for the Long Term with SEO

Membership site SEO is a waste of time… but an updated strategy for your main site is definitely in order.

If you’ve been using the same SEO strategy for the past couple years, it’s probably time to do an audit, diagnose where you can grow, and implement a more mature strategy to boost organic traffic.

Whether it means doing the tweaking yourself or adding a pro to your team depends on what your current method is.

Most businesses start with an “immature” strategy that’s both straightforward and basically effective:

  • Keyword Research > Find hot keywords in your niche
  • Optimize your blog posts for these keywords > include a CTA to your sales page

But a matured SEO strategy will consider the client’s quirks and pain points first (an important shift).
The research process will look more like this:

  • Research what your clients are asking for in groups, etc.
  • Discover the user intent behind each question
  • Write posts that address the user intent
  • Use keyword research to make sure you’ve included the right language and terminology in your posts
  • Funnel to the “next step” in their journey

In other words:

A mature SEO strategy understands that keywords don’t tell the whole story.

how to spend less on advertising

Thinking outside of organic traffic numbers alone for your content writing is something Rand Fishkin’s been trying to drive home for the past two years (at least):

[F]or my conversion page, I may try and target the same keywords or a slightly more commercial variation on the search terms I’m targeting with my more informational style content versus entertainment social style content.

Then, conversion page might be separate, depending on how I’m structuring things and what the intent of searchers is.

My click-bait piece may be not very keyword focused at all. I might write that headline and say, “I don’t care about the keywords at all. I don’t need to rank here. I’m trying to go viral on social media. I’m trying to achieve my click-bait goals.

My goal is to drive traffic, get some links, get some topical authority around this subject matter, and later hopefully rank with this page or maybe even this page in search engines.”

That’s a viable goal as well.

(Read his full article here.)

6. Get Published on Other Websites

Facebook is not the only website that people visit (although it’s certainly one of the most popular hubs)… Guest posting is a perennially effective way to reach new audiences (without the ad spend, yo!).

how to spend less on advertisingGranted, the days are over when you could just write a guest post (or republish on Medium) and be done with it.
Do your research to find out which third-party sites are worth reaching out to. Make every word count and follow SEO best practices for posting cross-domain content.

If you haven’t yet, cultivate relationships with other authorities so that your pitches are more likely to be accepted.

7. Joint Ventures

how to spend less on advertising

Speaking of those relationships…

Joint ventures continue to be a powerful means of connecting with new clients while simultaneously building peer-to-peer relationships.

Think outside the box here and amp up the value for your joint venture partner.

If you have a membership site, for example, you can bring someone in to offer a training course (or you might do a training in theirs!).

Or, if you’re both selling single-purchase online courses, you might do a basic promo with a discount for their audience… or even set up a special affiliate program for them to take advantage of.

(I could keep thinking up ideas for this all day!)

The point is that no man or woman is an island. Especially not when you’re in business online.

8. Cross-Sells and Upsells

Earlier I mentioned the fact that there’s probably a lot of un-utilized content on your site that’s not pulling its own weight.

As you go through that audit, always think about what the next step is for your online course students.

how to spend less on advertising

Where do you want them to go next? What’s the next “point of value” for your leads and customers to experience?

Is it a live event? A higher priced small group offering? A high end 1-1 offering? Another course?

Dive into your stats about repeat vs. first time buyers to identify trends.

Then, make sure you’re using basic online sales principles like order bumps, 1-click upsells, and abandoned cart followup.

Curious to see how an order bump or 1-click upsell works? Here’s how it looks using our AccessAlly plugin:

9. Email More Often

If you’re only emailing your list once a week (or God forbid, every month!), but you’re spending a ton on ads… why not communicate with the people who have already raised their hands via email more?

Some of us err on the side of uneducated caution, and try to stay overtly polite by emailing weekly and staying hush the rest of the time.

You know where that strategy gets you?

To the point where you have a giant email list of sleeping subscribers who don’t exactly remember what you stand for.

Wake them up.

Consider starting a new sequence that emails multiple times per week, or even daily. It’s not about blasting your list with irrelevant crap. It’s about building and strengthening that relationship, reconnecting them with your mission, and opening up a conversation.

In the end, your business is all about the relationships you’re forming with subscribers and clients alike. The more you can connect with them on a very real level, the more sales you can make.

Without spending an extra dime on ad money.

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