Recently we’ve been working with a partner to help them plan the marketing strategy for their new suite of online courses. They’ve got a great brand and reputation, years of experience in business development, a new fantastic product and had some strong ideas on how they wanted to approach things.

By using the RACE framework as a backdrop, this gave us a systematic process to review the planned activity and give it a real structure moving forwards. It also helped identify some potential blind spots, and highlighted current areas of real strength that could be capitalised on.

So what is the RACE framework?

RACE is a mnemonic for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage. It was devised by the teams at Smart Insights for marketers to plan and manage their activities in a more structured way.

The Smart Insights site has a heap of detail behind the framework and how it can be used, so rather than paraphrase, we’ve simply applied it to the context of marketing online courses here.


Reach involves building brand awareness externally, in areas outside of your control (but not influence). So, for example, paid advertising, or guest blog posts on industry sites to raise your profile, and drive traffic to your site. If you’re considering launching your own online courses, some questions to ask may be:

  • Where do my target audience ‘hang out’? What do they read/watch/listen to? What content can I provide that’d give real value to this audience?
  • What are the search terms my target audience are using, and what paid advertising options are there to capture this? What are my competition doing, and what ROI do I need to work towards to make this worthwhile?


To quote Smart Insights, the Act stage is all about “encouraging interactions on websites and in social media to generate leads”.

For many of our partners, who are often beginning to complement their instructor-led training with an online or blended offering, this is a big deal. And that’s particularly the case for those aiming to sell to a B2C audience now, as well as their traditional B2B markets.

Generating leads is what feeds the sales machine, and making your site ‘sweat’ is key to future success.

Some questions to think about:

  • What tools or insights can I provide that’ll engage my site visitors? Can I provide them with a preview of my course content? What can I reward them with in return for providing me with their details?
  • What content am I currently publishing on my site – does it grab people’s attention and increase engagement with our brand?
  • How I can measure the above? How am I monitoring the ROI on my efforts? (Metrics are key across all of your marketing efforts by the way…)


Now you’ve got eyeballs on your brand and products, and are actively engaging your audience, it’s time to clinch the sale.

  • What promotions can I run to increase conversion? What low-cost learning products can I add to increase the value of my course package (PDF resources and toolkits work well here)
  • Is my pricing competitive? What price do my competitors sell at, and what value for money do they provide?
  • How user-friendly is the purchase journey through my site or staff? What barriers are there that could put somebody off (get some friends to try it and feedback)?


An often overlooked and undervalued area. In our experience, those that focus on one-hit sales often miss out on a wealth of opportunities, particularly when you have a great product.

This is all about using marketing activities to encourage repeat purchases, empowering your customers to share their stories and success with you (what has your course help them overcome/achieve? – make sure it’s easy for them to tell their world), and confirming your credibility in what you do.

  • How are you engaging with your course students after purchase? How can this be automated?
  • How many of your customers complete their training with you, and ultimately achieve their desired goals when they started? How much are you actively encouraging these conversations?
  • Do you provide your students with a certificate, or do they build an online portfolio? How can you help them share their achievements and work with their peers (your next customers…)?

We hope this has given you some food for thought. If you use a different framework to help you devise your marketing activities please let us know, we’d love to hear more!

If you have online or blended course offering, and are struggling to make the most of it, we can help. Alternatively, if you offer instructor-led training courses, are looking to make the digital leap, we can guide you through this. Simply get in touch for a completely free and friendly initial consultation.


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