how to market your online course quietly, ethically and without sleazy sales tactics!

Have you heard of the contrepreneur formula used to market online courses? It’s a phrase coined by Mike Winnet who has recently exposed this formula on Youtube. I’ve also seen so much of this sleazy way of promoting online courses since I’ve launched my own ‘Brand Builder’ online course.

I always felt there was something a little ‘off’ and wrong with all these sleazy ways that people have been selling and marketing online courses to us and promoting to us so I wanted to explore what they are doing and why it feels unethical. And then hopefully, by understanding these tactics you can make sure you are promoting and selling your courses, products and services from a place of good and not through fear!

Don’t pressure market your online course 

When you’re running a business, you often have a few core fears – you don’t make enough sales, you’re not making enough money, you’re lacking freedom, you’re lacking confidence or you’re lacking some type of lifestyle change.

When someone resorts to sleazy sales and marketing techniques to convince us to buy their online course, they really buy into these core worries and struggles, and then they encourage us to buy from this place of fear. And for me, this feels really unethical. I believe we should be moving away from this and encouraging conscious consumerism. We should be creating things from the heart, that are going to help and support people, and through gently promoting and marketing our courses quietly, we can help support the right people. 

Prefer to listen or watch? I’ve recorded an audio talk-through and video version of this blog post below…

Don’t fake promise to market your online course

In business it is all too easy to forget that the answers often come from within and require our own hard work and dedication to uncover them. A lot of online course on the other hand have big promises of easy wins, you know the ones… you can sell 10 online courses a day and in 6 months you’ll be working an hour a day on your laptop in Bali after a beach yoga class and green juice!

They will tell you that you can achieve all this if you take their online course – which is full of unrealistic promises, because in business this would require so much more hard work than taking a 10 day course.

Often these promises and marketing tactics will again prey on our core fears and further make us feel bad and not good enough. I’ve felt myself sometimes wonder about these courses too, wobbling and questioning my approach to launching and promoting. But, I stopped and gave myself a talking to. I thought “Charlotte, you’ve never created an online course before so you can’t expect in a month to have like loads and loads of sales, it will take slow intentional and organic growth.”

However, it can be easy to fall into some of these sleazy online course sales and marketing tactics as it is the main way people seem to sell online, and often they produce fast results. If you become aware of the reasons behind these tactics used to promote online courses or products then hopefully you can avoid them, and choose methods to promote that sit well with your ethos. 

I use Thinkific to host my course as it feels a lot calmer and more relaxed than other course software hosting.

So now let’s explore a few common unethical online course sales and marketing techniques that are often used around promoting online courses…

Charm online course Pricing

The price will be something like 297 instead of 300, or 250. I personally avoid this time of pricing as I don’t want to make people think they’re paying 297, when it’s pretty much the same as £300.  


unrealistic online course discounts for you only

A second tactic is massive discounts. Usually after watching or attending a free online webinar you’ll be given a massive discount on the course. Perhaps the usual cost will be £/$1000, yet suddenly today, it’s available for £/$45 just for you, which again is doubtful. This course obviously it isn’t worth £/$1000, if they’re prepared to sell it for £/$45!


fomo online course time constraints

The next thing after this big discount is the Fear of Missing Out trick! They will prey on this innate human fear of not wanting to miss out and then you’ll have a really limited time to enrol in one of these courses. Perhaps you’ve got three days to make a decision or even worse one hour! You are in panic mode and don’t have time to dive a little deeper into what the course is all about and if the person delivering it has the expertise, teaching craft and knowledge to help you.


faked screenshots and vague online course experience

I often look at some of the online courses that these people have created, and they don’t really have much substance. I don’t see any real-world business experience and often the websites are vague or lack any credibility. I’ve wised up to a lot of these fake claims by further diving into their websites and social media and spending time exploring their offers.

It’s also very easy to manipulate data and provide fake screenshots of sales and testimonials. I’ve watched some of these free webinars that you get, and they show you  stripe payment after stripe payment showing big sales. Sometimes they are true but often when I see a complete lack of experience behind these sales and claims, I often question this immediate success that can so often be photoshopped!

These methods are all targeting those base level human fears I mentioned above. And of course, they work! That’s why people do them. But for me, they feel unethical because it’s manipulating people to buy from this place of fear and is a get rich, quick way of doing things focussing on numbers, sales as opposed to people and positive impact.

For my online branding course I’ve included testimonials that come from the heart and sound truthful and personal to each person who has taken my online course…

marketing showing realistic online course expectations


I’ve started to pay attention to the  people that I trust in business, and tuning out or avoiding those that I don’t. I’ve reflected that if I see people make these big promises, telling me I can have quick success then I start to question this, as there is no easy way up the mountain! 

I remind myself that building a brand and business is very similar to climbing a mountain. It takes determination, self belief and stamina. It will often be a slow and steady journey and you’ve got to keep going when times get tough and you feel like stopping because your legs are shaking or you’ve ran out of water! No one but you can get you to the top of that mountain. 

Taking the right online course, or working with someone on your business is like meeting that person on the way when you are lost and off path. They will help you get back on track and in the right direction, but you still have to walk yourself to the top.

being honest with the skills an online course will provide


Learning, expanding your knowledge and skills is one of the fun parts of running a business! But there are so many online courses out there now that it’s important to really think if you’re buying the course because you’re avoiding some of the hard work or if the course is actually going to help your business,  it’s something you need some advice or want to develop a new skill.

My range of online courses and mini workshops focus on helping people expand their branding knowledge, learn more on branding, create their own brand and see actionable and real improvements to their brand and businesses. I don’t promise crazy sales increases or prey on those core fears but am honest with what a person will get from my online brand courses.

how to market your online course ethically

A few ways to avoid the sleazy sales tactics…

  • Share your knowledge freely but not just for the sake of selling your course or products
  • Price your online course, product or service to reflect it’s value and offer discounts mindfully
  • Use your landing page to help people understand your course, product or service.  If it’s right for them and be open and honest in what it includes.
  • Create honest landing pages for your course through Authentic Copywriting
  • Let people make their own mind up, don’t pressure them into buying with timed offers so they panic buy
  • Be patient, it takes time for people to make a decision! In 6 months after connecting with you then they may finally be ready to take your course, buy your product or invest in your services.
  • If you’ve produced something of value that you are proud of then trust that the right people will come. If you aren’t an immediate success then share and make sure your course is visible but do this in a transparent way.
  • Don’t use your newsletter to just sell! I love connecting on my email newsletters however I only have a short line about my course as I know people aren’t reading them to be sold to! Instead I make sure I share valuable information and then provide opportunities to click through and learn more about my course.

A great way to start tune out from the noise and make sure you are producing, selling and conusuming mindfully and from a place of growth is to tune into your intuition. You can read how to tune into your intuition in business here.

I use Thinkific to host my course as it is efficient, minimal and encourages more mindful course marketing.

Free Branding Tips

join my newsletter for ethical branding advice

I share authentic branding advice and ethical business tips to help you grow your business sustainably, alongside notes from my wanderings in the wilderness. As a special welcome, you’ll get The Power of Authentic Branding Ebook when you join.