How To Create An Influencer Marketing Strategy to Sell Online Courses (Ultimate Guide)

Originally published on the Thinkific blog on November 26, 2018.

Want to get industry experts and online influencers to promote your online course to their audience? Learn how to find, reach out to, and collaborate with influencers in this ultimate guide to creating an influencer marketing strategy for your online course business.


When you hear the term influencer marketing, what comes to mind?

If your first thought is an Instagrammer, YouTuber, or even a Kardashian, you’re not alone.

While these have their place in the world of influencer marketing, the truth is that there is so much more to the term. In fact, as an online course creator, implementing an influencer marketing strategy is a powerful method for unlocking exponential growth in your reach and revenue.

If you have an online course and are looking for new ways to boost brand awareness, attract a more qualified audience, and increase sales, read on. In this complete guide to influencer marketing, we’re going to walk you through how to determine whether influencer marketing is right for you, the steps for creating an influencer marketing strategy, and how you can leverage collaborations with influencers to sell more online courses.

What is influencer marketing?

While the term influencer marketing may be relatively new to the marketing scene, the premise behind it is not novel at all.

Since the golden age of advertising, the idea of leveraging influence to impact purchasing power has been in full swing. For decades, businesses have sought out opportunities to work with influential public icons, from fashion to the silver screen.

Fast forward to today, and technology has fundamentally shifted the way businesses connect with customers. The advent of social media has changed the dynamics of who has influence, and how it is perceived. A survey by Nielson shows that trust in online advertising has plummeted in recent years, and recommendations from friends or peers are becoming increasingly valuable.

“WHILE ADVERTISERS HAVE STARTED TO FOLLOW CONSUMERS ONLINE, ABOUT A THIRD OF ONLINE ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS DON’T WORK—THEY DON’T GENERATE AWARENESS OR DRIVE ANY LIFT IN PURCHASE INTENT. AS CONSUMERS ARE IN CONTROL OF HOW THEY CONSUME CONTENT AND INTERACT WITH BRANDS MORE THAN EVER, UNDERSTANDING AD RESONANCE ACROSS SCREENS IS THE ONLY WAY TO SUCCESSFULLY DRIVE MEMORABILITY AND BRAND LIFT TODAY.” – RANDALL BEARD, PRESIDENT, NIELSEN EXPANDED VERTICALS.

In short, many of us have turned on our ad blockers and default to other sources to discover solutions. As digital conversations continue outside your control as a business owner, brand equity is increasingly in the hands of the masses. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge.

So how can you capitalize on these trends to grow your online course business?

By forming authentic relationships with the individuals who are shaping the conversations and perceptions about your business and industry. This is the crux of an effective influencer marketing strategy. For the purpose of this article, here’s how we’ll define an influencer:

“An influencer is any person or group of people who possess a greater than average potential to influence opinions or behaviour, due to attributions such as frequency of communication, personal persuasiveness, or size and centrality to a social network.” – WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association).

Following this logic, an influencer marketing strategy is defined as any marketing activities done with the purpose of identifying, engaging and nurturing relationships with people who are trusted influencers for your target customer. As you will see, this may include a mix of PR efforts, sales, and content marketing wrapped into a cohesive program.

You can probably get a sense of the benefits associated with using an influencer marketing strategy. Through leveraging this method, you can tap into a highly engaged and curated audience, and build alliances with influencers who are actively looking for ways to add value to their community. Your end goal with influencer marketing is to cultivate a lasting relationship that allows you to connect with their ecosystem in a meaningful way.

6 Steps to a Successful Influencer Marketing Strategy

Ready to learn how to build an influencer marketing strategy? We’re going to share insights from online course creators who have used influencer marketing, as well as industry experts who create these strategies for others.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  1. Setting your goals

  2. Defining your audience

  3. Finding the right influencers

  4. Engaging and reaching out to influencers

  5. Structuring your activities and tactics to implement

  6. Measuring success

Lastly, we’ll look at some mistakes to avoid when building your strategy. Let’s get to it!

1. Set Clear Goals For Your Influencer Marketing Strategy

The first step in building an influencer marketing strategy is to set clear goals. Any activities you plan should be connected to your overall business and marketing objectives. Not only will this help you measure the success of your efforts, but it will also help facilitate a smooth process for collaborating with influencers down the road.

In general, there are three types of goals you can target using an influencer marketing strategy. Here’s how to think about what metrics to track in each:

1. Increase brand awareness and trust: In this bucket, you’ll want to monitor engagement metrics like social shares, hashtags mentions, likes, and comments.

2. Increase traffic from a new target market: Keep an eye on page views, acquisition channels, and customer demographics from your in opt-in forms.

3. Generate leads and acquire more customers: You can track this through conversions and sales. Getting perfect attribution here can be a challenge, but it can be done using tools such as custom UTM links or specific landing pages tied to each influencer.

To apply this to your online course business, let’s look at a hypothetical example:

Meet Cheryl Smith, our fictional online course creator who has a course on personal branding. With some initial sales and a growing community online, Cheryl wants to give influencer marketing a shot to boost her status as a thought leader in the space, and ultimately attract more premium customers.

Using an OKR goal setting framework, here’s what Cheryl’s goals might look like:

Influencer Marketing Goals.png

While it’s fine to have multiple objectives, keep in mind that meeting a goal of raising brand awareness will require different influencer marketing tactics than if your goal is to generate leads. Begin with your end in mind and you’ll be well positioned to get the most out of your influencer marketing strategy.

To read the full post, head to the Thinkific blog!

BlogNoah Asanias