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Marketing Courses as Gifts: An Easy Way to Sell More Classes

Nic Lyons

December 21, 2021

Holidays and other special events like birthdays or anniversaries offer an opportunity for enrichment and education programs to sell courses as gifts. All you have to do is convince shoppers that your course will put a smile on the gift recipient’s face. It should be an easy sell.

Popular wisdom tells us that experiences are better than things, especially when it comes to receiving a gift. According to a Harris Poll, 63% of U.S. adults say they would prefer an experience gift over a material one. Meanwhile, more than half of U.S. shoppers believe giving experiences is easier than shopping for material gifts. 

So all you have to do is make sure that shoppers think of your courses when they think of experiential gifting. Bonus points if you can show them the value of taking the course with the recipient. It’s pretty easy to market courses as gifts, all you need are these marketing tactics aimed at gift-givers. 

1. Explicitly Mention That The Course Makes A Great Gift

This obvious advice is often ignored, but it can help you sell classes as gifts. Why? For the same reason that we include a call to action at the end of every marketing message—sometimes people don’t know what to do until you tell them. 

Retail stores know this and use it to their advantage. If you walk around any retail store during the holiday season, you’re likely to find a section or end cap decorated with holiday themes and displaying items packaged as gifts. Things like socks, small games, and novelty drinkware tend to end up in these areas. You might find these same products in other sections of the store, the only difference here is that they’re labeled as gifts. Sometimes that’s all it takes to help someone make a decision. 

You can put this into action by sending out an email blast that includes your top ten most giftable courses or by posting on social media with graphics and language describing why a particular course makes a great gift. That might be all it takes to convince shoppers to give your course instead of yet another novelty coffee mug. 

2. Create a Gift Guide to Position Courses as Gifts

Finding the right gift for everyone on your list can be stressful. Help make your courses the solution by creating a gift guide that tells shoppers exactly what to buy for whom. You can organize your guide by interest and age. Shoppers may be hoping to find a course for their 12-year-old niece who loves art or their 55-year-old mother who is looking for fun ways to socialize. On your website, create profiles for different people who would be interested in your courses, and then group options under these profiles. 

You can have some fun with this. Consider categories like, “For the fishing-obsessed dad who has everything,” or “Classes for creative kids with big ideas.” 

You can share the link to your guide via social media, through an email campaign, or by texting students who have bought from you in the past. Former and current students are most likely to buy courses as gifts because they already know how great your courses are. That means they’ll be more confident gifting them to friends, family, and coworkers. 

3. Adjust Your Messaging to Market Courses as Gifts

For even better results, you can customize your gift guide or other marketing communications with messaging that targets gift-givers. Remember that you’re no longer selling directly to the student. Instead, you’re trying to convince a friend or family member that someone else will love this course. It’s closer to the kind of language you might use when marketing kid’s classes to parents. 

Make sure your content refers to “your loved one” or “the student” instead of “you.” If you do use second-person language make sure it makes sense in context. Something like, “You’ll be the hero of the secret Santa gift exchange…” might be appropriate.

Don’t forget to include gift-themed imagery. Around the holiday season, you might have images of gift boxes, ornaments, lights, or trees, in your graphics. Other times of the year, look for images that evoke a sense of celebration.

4. Take Opportunities to Upsell Courses as Gifts

The perfect time to encourage people to gift a class to a friend is while they’re registering for themselves. After all, taking a class with someone special makes the whole experience more fun.

Include messaging on your sales pages that encourages them to sign up with friends. Explain the value of taking a class together — a shared experience, closer relationships, and a chance to spend quality time with someone. 

If they don’t jump on the opportunity right away, you can also follow up with students who have just completed a class. Try a message like this: “If you enjoyed this class, your friends will too. Gift this class to a friend.” 

5. Make Gifting Easy 

Make it as easy as possible for shoppers to buy classes as gifts. Offer gift certificates or gift cards. At a minimum, allow them to send a customized gift message via email. 

Offering group registrations can simplify the process for students who want to give the gift of taking a class together. Group registration means they don’t have to renter payment information and other details. 

Finally, consider offering discounts or coupon codes. A buy-one, get-one half-off offer or discounts for group registration can help encourage gifting. 

6. Package Your Course With a Physical Item

Yes, a lot of people believe that experiences are better than things. But people also love unwrapping presents. Some gift-givers may hesitate to give something that doesn’t feel substantial. Overcome this objection by providing a physical item that shoppers can give their loved one along with the course. This could be a printable certificate announcing the gift, a fancy box to hold a gift card or a course-related object. 

For example, if your course requires materials, you can package those materials with a certificate of enrollment. Swag from your organization is another great choice because it can do double duty. It makes a gift feel more substantial and it helps promote your classes at the same time. So consider adding water bottles, stocking caps, T-shirts, or other swag to your inventory. 

Market Courses As Gifts All Year Round

Most of us tend to think about marketing courses as gifts only during the holiday season. While that’s certainly a great time to make an extra effort, it’s not the only time people need to buy gifts. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations … any special occasion could be an opportunity to gift a course. So make sure you’re mentioning group discounts, gift cards, and courses that make great gifts throughout the year.


Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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