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“Would you like fries with that?” Or 4 tips on cross-selling your online courses

Would you like fries with that?

That is probably one of the most spoken questions in fast food restaurants all over the modern world.

For over seven decades McDonald’s has been serving up hamburgers to hungry customers all over the world. They have come to serve 68 million customers a day, in 119 countries across more than 35,000 franchises. The multi-national company was able to scale its business by asking the simple question at the start of this paragraph.

Seven words that have not only done wonders for the growth of sales in the franchises but have become an iconic catch phrase in its own right. This technique has brought the fast food chain a sizable increase in profit and the customers are actually offended if they are not asked about additions to their menus.

Cross-selling your online courses

While the offering of fries may be the image of cross-selling in traditional commercial venues, the concept applies very well to online sales.

Cross-selling in a nutshell means offering adjacent products or services to customers to try and get additional spend out of them.

It’s crucial, however, that what is offered is highly relevant to the customer and that the request is made at the right time – otherwise it will prove boring or, even worse, annoying to the potential buyer who will abandon the cart altogether. People may respond well to being asked if they want a candy bar or a pack of gum at a gas station but will be a lot more reluctant if they are offered a lawn mower – regardless of the size of the discount.

Here are four tips on how to do online cross-selling right:

It has to make sense

Cross-selling is all about starting from the product or service the customer has decided to buy and offering another that relates or compliments it. If, for example, the chosen product is a smartphone, then a case, headsets or software that goes with it are choices that make sense and it’s reasonable to assume that at least one will be accepted.

When it comes to online courses, you may or may not have several on the same subject but it’s important that whatever you choose to promote is clearly connected to what’s already in the cart. If, for instance, the client chose to enroll in a module about effective project management, there is a good chance they will be excited about one on the subject of budget administration and control. Building a persona of your target audience will prove a big help in this as well.

Read more: How to build an audience for your online course

Timing is crucial

If the cross-sell pitch comes too early in the buying process, it can jeopardize the entire transaction. If it’s too late, it obviously won't be successful. The ideal window of opportunity is while the customer is clearly interested in a product but has not yet clicked on the checkout button. Once the payment option is in, there is no turning back.

Keeping in mind that the essential thing is to make sure that at least the original sale goes through, presenting a complementary product should look like a reasonable suggestion at a moment when the customer is already convinced to make the purchase.

Good sales consultants know when to jump in by studying client behavior and asking the right questions in order to uncover the real needs and propose the appropriate solution for them. Online, this can be achieved with the use of smart analytics.

Make an offer that can’t be refused

People enjoy the feeling they get when they know they have got a great deal. It’s what drives most of the buying behavior, online as well as in physical stores. Having products and services suggested in bundles with attractive discounts is a great way of ensuring better numbers when it comes to customers and revenue.

If you are offering a rather limited variety (for example only one or a few online courses), you can still employ cross selling by offering some discounts – on the spot or for a later purchase if more than one user enrolls in the same module. If those who are already convinced to buy invite their friends or colleagues, you’ll enlarge your client base, reach more people and drive more sales.

The key, as with everything having to do with online marketing, is to be creative and think outside the box.

INDIE Brochure: Sell online courses using INDIE marketing tools

Rely on social proof

Robert Cialdini’s third principle of influence states that people rely on social cues from others on how to think, feel, and act in many situations. And not just any people, but peers. People they believe are similar to them.

The phrase „people who bought this also purchased...” is also a popular one on ecommerce sites precisely because marketers know that if a suggestion seems to come from somebody that the client feels some resemblance to instead of appearing to be generated by the site itself, it has a far greater chance of being accepted.

It’s best if the suggestion is also backed up by some real customer reviews for credibility. The genuine (positive) opinion of peers will prove more powerful than any skillfully constructed advertising so it is wise to get as much feed-back from customers as possible, visible on the site.

Read more: 6 Awesome tips to get more customer reviews for your online course [INFOGRAPHIC]

All in all

Cross selling your online courses has the potential to boost your business and expand your customer base. The key is to keep it as genuine as possible, deliver what you promise and make sure the suggestions are legitimate and relevant.

INDIE White Paper: How to build a great site for selling online courses