If you are selling online training courses, it’s often challenging to select the right price point. Pricing varies considerably based on many factors, including industry, use case, and the expertise of the instructor. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple formula to follow to figure out the right price.

In this article, we look at considerations for pricing self-paced online courses. Here are 4 questions to run through as you develop your eLearning content.

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1. How does the online course fit in your overall business goals?

In our experience, there are 3 different business goals for offering online training. Each goal has different implications on pricing.

  • Revenue: Training companies and subject matter experts offer training as the primary driver of their business. Their pricing objective is to maximize revenue.
  • Enablement: Product and service companies use training as a way to onboard new customers, build an ecosystem of certified users, and enable sales and distribution channels. The value gained from an online course in this scenario may be measured by customer renewals or support cost savings. Unlike the revenue-based strategy, the pricing objective for this strategy is often to break even on the training component. The course might be free or carry a retail price. If a company decides to charge for a course, the course could still be discounted as a sales tactic.
  • Lead generation: The course is intended to increase overall awareness of the company and is most often given away for free.

2. How are alternatives to your course priced?

Your potential customers have alternatives to taking your online course. It is best to understand your positioning against the alternatives in order to price appropriately. Generally speaking, there are 3 benchmarks to consider.

  • Competitors: Research what types of courses your competitors are offering. This is an indicator of what your customers are willing to pay. Take note of potential differences in course length, instructional delivery method, and quality of training materials, as you may want to make adjustments to the price based on these factors.
  • Instructor-Led Training (ILT): If you offer instructor-led training as virtual or classroom options, the price point for self-paced training is usually lower than ILT. In some cases you may be able to price a self-paced online course at the same rate of the ILT version, if the course is essentially the same. More often than not though, we’ve seen that self-paced training is typically 50-90% the price of its ILT counterpart.
  • Other Formats: Your course may already be available as a DVD, eBook, or CD. In these cases, you can often price at the same amount as the other formats. Even though you aren’t incurring the physical cost of the item, your customers will receive the same value from the content, just in a different (and often preferred) format.

3. What are your cost considerations?

When investing in an online course, it’s important to assess the potential revenue opportunity against course development costs. Creating a course involves upfront instructional design and content creation, and ongoing technology infrastructure costs. For continuing education, it can also be a costly process for a course to be approved by a regulatory licensure board.

You’ll want the course to justify the investment by whichever metrics make the most sense for your organization. For further information on this topic, register for our online course: Success Metrics for Online Training.

4. What is your willingness to test different prices?

If you are willing to test different prices, we recommend pricing high and using promotional codes for different groups until you find the sweet spot which best suits your goals. One common way to do this is to slowly release the course to your email newsletter list, while A/B testing different promotion codes (and price points). It may take some time to gather enough results, but the data will help you make a more informed decision about how to price your course.

Another reason to price on the high side is if you plan to work with affiliates like Amazon Local (disclosure: my former employer), Groupon, or industry-specific distribution partners. Many of these partners require a 50% discount or more in order to promote the course.


Conclusion

Pricing your online course can be a challenging task. We hope the 4 questions described above will help you determine your pricing strategy. We’ve learned that pricing an online course is much more of an art than a science, but addressing these questions can help guide you to the right outcome.