The “product placement” secret of effective course marketing


Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and the creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.


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Online Courses

The “product placement” secret of effective course marketing

I'm sure you're well aware of the use of product placement to market things like fancy cars in James Bond films or Apple products in Ted Lasso.

But did you know that product placement actually goes back hundreds of years? Many people believe the very recognisable Bass beer bottles in Manet's “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” were an early example of artists being paid to include commercial products in their works to help with their sales.

Product placement has been around for an age because it works. And it's increased significantly in recent years because we've become rather blind to more overt forms of marketing.

We may go make a cup of tea when the ads come on during our favourite show (or fast forward through them on the DVR version), but when the good guys are all using Apple computers in the latest spy film it sinks unavoidably into our consciousness.

And using our own form of product placement is one of the best ways of getting across the messages I talked about in our last email that are needed before a potential customer will be ready to buy.

If you want to increase sales of a product through a movie, you don't make the plot of the movie about the product. That would be desperately uninteresting and far too blatant.

Instead you make the plot of the movie about something interesting and weave the product into the story.

James Bond needs to get somewhere fast, so he jumps into an Aston Martin. The product helps illustrate the story.

And it's the same with many of the marketing messages you want to get across about your course.

The “plot” of your marketing like emails, blog posts and videos should be about something your potential buyers are inherently interested in and would value – not about your product. But you weave your product in to illustrate that plot.

An example might make that a bit clearer:

Let's say you want to get across the message that your course teaching small businesses how to win corporate clients really does get results for them and is different to the traditional way they may have been taught sales.

That's an important message your potential customers need to hear to give them confidence to buy.

But if you tried sending an email that just overtly told them how great it was and sprinkled in a few testimonials, no one is going to pay much attention. They're going to do the email equivalent of making a cup of tea or fast-forwarding through the ads.

And certainly, no one is going to share a blog post or video that's just you making a sales pitch.

So instead, you need to make the “plot” (ie the topic) of your content more interesting and valuable. That means anything to do with a problem or challenge or goal or aspiration your potential client might have (in an area related to your course, obvs.)

In the case of your course on winning more corporate clients the problems might be getting leads, or keeping in touch with corporate contacts or navigating their way through a complex procurement process or dealing with corporate politics or negotiating a big deal or a whole host of things.

Once you've decided on your topic you weave in a “product placement” for the messages you want to get across.

So you might write an email about “How to negotiate your way to 20% more corporate sales”, or “How to reach real corporate decision makers”. Something that someone who wants to get more corporate sales would be interested in.

Now you need to share valuable content.

But rather than just sharing 5 tips about negotiation, or a new technique for getting through to decision-makers, illustrate it with a story that gets your sales message across.

So it might begin “I got an email from Sally recently with details of how she used the negotiation techniques taught in our Corporate Sales Mastery course to increase her average sale value by over 20%. Here are the 5 top tips she recommends…”.

Or perhaps “Did you know there's a reliable method for connecting with hard-to-reach corporate decision-makers without needing to cold call or send endless unanswered emails?

This is one of 5 powerful methods we teach in our Corporate Sales Mastery course. I've outlined the basics here to get you going but obviously there are more details and a sample script in the course itself…”

In both cases you go on to share valuable tips and ideas that will be of immediate benefit to your readers. But in passing you also mention that there's a lot more in your course should they buy it.

And obviously, the stories you use must be true. Real client feedback, not made up.

You can be more or less subtle in how you mention the course. The important thing is that they hear about it while getting value from your content.

So in other words, they won't mentally “fast forward” or “make a cup of tea”. They'll notice your message because it's embedded in something useful for them that they're voluntarily paying attention to.

You'll be able to get across those key messages they need to hear to get them ready to buy – while keeping them engaged and building credibility through your valuable content.

All by simply being a bit more thoughtful about how to structure and illustrate the useful ideas y0u share with them.

There's an art to it of course. And a few pitfalls to avoid if you want your message to have a real impact on sales. Those details are something I teach in my upcoming “valuable content that sells” course…

…only joking. There is no course :)

But you see what I mean. You can easily take any useful content and structure it to generate demand for your course with just a little thought and planning.

It's how you sell without being (overtly) salesy.

    Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie

    Ian Brodie is the best-selling author of Email Persuasion and the creator of Unsnooze Your Inbox - *the* guide to crafting engaging emails and newsletters that captivate your audience, build authority and generate more sales.