Your association invested a good deal of time and money into designing a new online learning program, and now you have to sell it. You can’t just wing it. You need the most compelling product descriptions possible to convince prospects that this is exactly the course or program they need.
First, you have to catch and hold their attention, and then help them make a good decision. After all, you’re asking them to invest their time and money into this program. You don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver, otherwise, you’ll lose their trust as well as any future business, and you may even lose your reputation to negative word-of-mouth.
But you can’t under-promise either, or you won’t sell the program. In the competitive lifelong learning marketplace, whoever has the best product description wins.
Do your product description homework
Before tackling the blank page, you need to do some prep work. Answer the following questions so you have talking points ready to go when you start writing the course or product description.
Who needs this program?
Have an imaginary or real person in mind because you’re going to write to them. What problems is this person struggling with—problems the program will solve? What challenges are they facing at work—challenges the program will help them overcome?
You must understand what would motivate this person to register for your program. What type of solution or transformation can you promise them?
How will the program help them?
Now it’s time to think about learning outcomes. You most likely already have these, but in case you don’t, think about the following:
• What will the learner (the person in your mind) be able to do after completing the program or course?
• What will they do better?
• What problems will they be able to solve?
• What challenges will they know how to overcome?
What’s the impact of these new skills and knowledge?
Explain to your imaginary person why this program is worth the investment of their precious time and hard-earned money.
• What additional value will they bring to their boss and business?
• What additional value will they bring to their clients, customers, patients, students, or members?
• How will their workday change?
• What effect will these new skills and knowledge have on their career?
• What effect will they have on their business?
What makes this program different?
Make the case as to why your ideal learner should choose this program and not a competitor’s program. However, if the marketplace will see your program as a commodity—if it’s just as good as any other program of its kind—then price may well be the determining purchasing factor.
But your program is not a commodity, right? What can you tell the person in your mind about your program so they know it’s special?
• What’s so unique about the learning experience?
• What makes the learning experience more enjoyable and effective?
• Whom will they meet?
• What resources will they walk away with?
• What support will they receive during and after the program?
Choose the program or course title
You probably have a working title you’ve been using during the design of this program or course. Now it’s time to decide whether to stick with that title or come up with something more compelling.
Maybe you don’t need anything more than a basic description of the course content. That choice depends on whether your audience will understand what the title signifies, and whether it makes them curious enough to click. It also depends on what your competitors are doing.
If you’re promoting a conference session or webinar, you do need to spend some time working on the title. The best titles:
• Pique interest and curiosity.
• Promise a solution or transformation.
• Demonstrate relevance.
• Convey a sense of urgency.
• Get specific.
If the title doesn’t do its job, the reader won’t click or won’t take the time to read further.
How to craft compelling product descriptions
Congratulations, we’re going to assume that your title convinced the prospect to read further. Now you have to make your case for how this particular program will solve their problem, improve their practice, advance their career, and so on.
The talking points you developed are the framework for the product description.
• What’s the program about?
• What problems will it solve?
• What goals will it help them achieve?
• What impact will it make?
• What’s so special about this program?
You want the reader to think, “Oh, they get it, that’s exactly what I’m struggling with.” And you want them to crave the solution you’re proposing, “Wow, I should check this out.”
A quick look at learning objectives
By listing learning objectives or learner outcomes separately, the product description can focus on program topics, differentiation factors, as well as benefit and impact statements that don’t fit in the objectives. If you need to learn more about learning objectives, Google is your friend, but here’s a quick overview.
Learning objectives describe what the learner will know or be able to do upon successful completion of the program. They must be both observable and measurable. These actionable outcomes are what the learner can expect to gain from the program.
Use action verbs to describe the learning objectives, for example:
• List, describe, recite, write
• Compile, create, plan, revise
• Analyze, design, select, utilize
• Apply, demonstrate, prepare, use
• Compute, discuss, explain, predict
• Assess, compare, rate, critique
Learning objectives are not a list of topics covered. They don’t refer to what the instructor will do, but on what the learner will be capable of doing after the program. Outcomes such as “understand” and “gain awareness” are not measurable and, therefore, shouldn’t be used in learning objectives.
Add necessary details to product descriptions
You’ve made it through the tough part. Now you have to answer all the other questions in the prospect’s mind—and the unasked questions too.
Whom is this program for? Specify the experience level as well as any other category, for example, specialty or job type.
Include information such as:
• Self-paced or instructor-led course
• Instructor information
• Course duration, if applicable
• Number of hours to complete
• Registration period, if applicable
• Member and non-member pricing
Once you’ve hooked the prospect with your compelling program description and learner objectives, let them know what they can expect. For example, provide a course syllabus or overview of modules/lessons. People are very averse to moving forward into the unknown. The more you can tell them about the experience, the more likely they’ll make the decision to register.
Purchase decisions are emotional and, increasingly, influenced by social factors. Testimonials are a social proof or validation that the benefits you promise are real. Ask for learner testimonials in program evaluations, or paraphrase testimonials from student comments and then get permission to use them.
Check your work
Now it’s time to copyedit your pride-and-joy product description. This is when you have to, as author Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings.” If a word or phrase doesn’t add value, remove it.
For example, remove filler and fluff words, like “In this program...” It’s a given that what you’re promising is “in this program.” Or, “Instructors will,” another given. Google “filler words” and you’ll find plenty of examples.
Use the active voice as much as possible instead of the passive voice. For example, replace a passive sentence like “Strategies to increase member retention will be reviewed” with an active sentence like “Learn strategies to increase member retention.”
Avoid using jargon or acronyms, especially in descriptions for entry-level programs.
Once you’ve published your new product description, it’s a good time, while you’re in the editing frame of mind, to review existing product descriptions. You’re more likely to spot places for improvement and come up with more effective copy now that you’ve had time away from them.