Last updated on June 1st, 2022
Want to increase the course value for your online program?
BONUSES are an easy way to do this.
While every online course has them… most fail to live up to the hype.
Bonuses are not ✨ glitter-wrapped rocks.
Your online course bonuses have a JOB to do. In fact, they could do any one of 6 jobs.
Let me explain.
A bonus isn’t something you add to inflate the value of a course so you can slap on a random $$ number and claim that the value is 10xed magically.
A bonus isn’t a last-minute thought or a lint-covered “training” you’d recorded many moons ago.
A bonus is meant to be meaningful and intentional in order to have real, tangible value for your audience.
How Do You Identify Tangible Course Value for your Bonuses?
When deciding on your bonuses, this is the ONE question you need a clear answer to.
What is the JOB this bonus will do for my audience or offer?
Uncovering answers to THIS question is a huge part of what we do in our offer optimization sessions.
To help you answer the question, here are SIX jobs a bonus can do:
✅ Next Step: These bonuses are designed to help your audience take that all-important next step after finishing a particular module or lesson.
For instance, in Ready-to-Sell, we have next-step bonuses at the end of every module.
✅ Objection Demolition: The job of this bonus is to remove any objections your audience may have. Let’s say, you know time to complete the course is a legit objection. How about you include a bonus training from a time management expert to help your audience carve time out even when none exists?
✅ Value Add: You hire this bonus to add value to your existing content. This is a cool-to-have training bonus. It may not be the next step, but it makes the main dish (aka module) that you’re teaching meatier.
✅ Gap Filling: This is a great job for a bonus. If you have a program that you notice is missing certain elements, you can always add a bonus to fill the gap instead of re-recording the whole shebang.
✅ Fast-Track: When you include a fast-track bonus, it is a shortcut to the shortcut. That’s right. Your course is a shortcut for students. Your fast-track bonus is a shortcut to a step in your course.
Fast-track bonuses are great to include but exercise caution when offering them. A lot of students may take the fast track and skip crucial steps. You can choose to offer these selectively to more advanced students. Or include the caveat about who these are perfect for.
✅ Tangential or Cross-Skill Training Bonuses: These bonuses offer training in areas that are complementary or tangential to what you teach.
For instance, our brilliant client and epic eCommerce copywriter, Samar Owais, includes bonus trainings by guest experts on cold pitching, content repurposing, and more in her eCommerce Email Bootcamp program.
How do You Increase Course Value and Offer These Bonuses?
Glad you asked.
Here are THREE different ways to offer a bonus so you create urgency and desire while also giving tangible value to your audience:
- Module-specific Bonuses: This is what we offer (and teach!) in Ready-to-Sell. A module-specific bonus is one that builds on a module and helps your students take the next baby step, specific to that module. For instance, in our module on Opt-in Pages, one of the bonuses is my Non-Webinar Webinar Outline while another is 35 Opt-in Ideas.
- Launch-Only Bonuses: These are excellent if you’re using LIVE launches as your sales mechanism. Heather Eland of Astrology with Heather did this recently when she offered robust, well-designed workbooks for the live launch of her flagship program.
- Completion Bonus: Another strategy that we’ve used and recommended to clients is the completion bonus.
Next-step bonuses and cross-skill training bonuses lend themselves beautifully to this bonus style. You unlock this bonus after your students have completed a module or the course itself.
Ready-to-Sell has a cool Completion Bonus – Create Your Own Always-Ready-to-Sell System
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the usual “fast action bonus” or “mid-cart bonus” and it’s not that they aren’t effective or don’t work, it’s just that Mayank and I believe in NOT penalizing customers who like to take time to make a decision.
So, while we do have clients who offer these, we personally don’t endorse fast action bonuses or mid cart bonuses.
Well, now that you know how to choose a bonus and when to offer it, let’s talk about…
What to Actually Offer as a Bonus to Actually Increase Online Course Value
Just like an opt-in or course-specific content invite, you don’t have to always toe the trend when it comes to bonuses.
Here are 25 different ideas, complete with examples, to offer as a bonus depending on what job it’ll do. 👏🏼
⭐ Idea Number 1: Ebook 📓
An ebook bonus is an excellent way to establish your expertise and authority with your ideal client. A well-crafted ebook covering complex material positions you as a trusted resource and subject-matter expert. Not only does this help boost your credibility, but it can also help qualify and segment high-intent VIP clients and leads. PLUS… it’s not always the case, but people interested in downloading long-form white papers and ebooks are usually high-intent/most-aware prospects.
Let’s say your audience wants to learn how they can strategically use systems to scale their business and get time back in their schedule, right? Your ebook bonus wouldn’t be a quick primer on systems and productivity.
Your ebook might have:
- A thorough overview of system stacks and a how-to of each one.
- Featured no-so common issues but critical things you should look out for.
- A methodical walk-through of how systems need to align with your SOPs
- An SOP best practices & audit prompt.
- A team training primer and when it’s best to seek white-glove assistance to get you up and running.
- Relatable case studies or examples of different ways people can use systems to help their business.
⭐ Idea Number 2: Companion Course 🧑🤝🧑
A companion course bonus can help skyrocket an online course’s value. This is “recommended additional learning material” you stack and offer before, during, or after your main offer.
It should complement the main offer with other learnings, resources, worksheets, and content, allowing you to go deeper into a subject area OR explore related areas and relevant topics.
A Graphic Designer who teaches non-designers (those who only have experience with drag and drop programs like Canva) how to use InDesign with an “essentials only” companion course which would be beginner-friendly.
The core objective is to get students comfortable in the InDesign space (with plenty of practice files and templates).
In this way, positioning a companion course as a primer can help shorten the learning curve (so they aren’t stuck in Module 1 weeks into the main course) and increase course completion.
⭐ Idea Number 3: Quick Wins Checklist ✔️
Your Quick Wins checklist acts as a top-level walk-through to guide your audience to reach a specific goal or create a specific (and achievable) deliverable.
It’s a simple step-by-step framework that provides an outline or roadmap to follow. And people succeed in reaching project completion with confidence and the certainty that they didn’t miss any important steps on the way.
If you help female founders find their authentic brand voice, you could use a Quick Wins checklist to act as a guide to creating a more value-aligned positioning statement.
Your quick list checklist could methodically outline the steps to achieve a more authentic elevator pitch. Your checklist could include:
- Select pieces of content that best reflect their personality.
- Highlight their power words.
- Prompts about their origin story.
- Prompts for their “WHY” motivations.
- A competitive USP assessment.
- Establishing core terms and values.
- And then, bring it all together using your framework to assemble their brand story arc that translates into a clearer brand
⭐ Idea Number 4: Plug-and-play templates 🔌📋
These are one of the most common types of content-based bonuses; usually positioned as an out-of-the-box easy solution for a specific problem. Templates should be intuitive and straightforward; requiring little to no additional how-to instruction. This should be reliable and easy to use for a specific deliverable or content asset.
If you’re an OBM, you could package & share the templates and canned emails you use for following up with clients and leads. You can have one set OR bundle several types of templates together. You could include:
- Your initial welcome message for new clients.
- Your project status email updates.
- Your go-to canned out-of-office responses or housekeeping notices.
- Your follow-up for warm leads that have gone cold.
- Your template for “tricky” client emails: scheduling issue, feedback required, payment overdue.
Remember delivery should be uncomplicated, like a shared Google Doc or PDF that’s rights protected (so they don’t overwrite your file).
⭐ Idea Number 5: Work-it out Workbooks 🏋🏽
A good, old-fashioned set of workbooks is the old-school mainstay of bonuses.
They are versatile and self-guided. A workbook requires the user’s own feedback often through exploration.
They often act as a “container” of collected learnings and insights. Workbooks can be stand-alone as a self-directed “ bonus workshop” or paired in tandem with a course or program.
Workbooks, quite often, are useful as a functional tool as well as a space that records your client’s reflections.
Let’s say, you’re a lifestyle nutritionist who serves former die-hard meat-eaters (newly turned vegetarian) who have NO idea how to cook vegetarian meals beyond pasta.
Your workbook could act like a 3-week transitional aid; helping people learn how to cook high-protein, iron-rich vegetarian meals. Your workbook would essentially serve as a record-keeping device. You could include:
- A series of sample menus that they can use to mix and match their own weekly meal plan.
- A protein tracker.
- Prompts for reflection (how they feel after eating a full vegetarian meal – still hungry, satisfied, overly-full?)
- Even an interactive “calculator” – to make sure they aren’t filling up on refined carbs to feel filled up.
- Spaces for them to collect wins and meal prep best practices.
⭐ Idea Number 6: Fast Learning Flashcards ⚡🃏
It’s like school all over again!
Flashcards as bonuses for online courses help with memory and subject retention. A well-designed deck of flashcards can accelerate the learning curve.
Ideally, a flashcard deck should be highly visual to represent key terms, definitions, and ideas so you can refer to them for a quick and accessible way to cement your learnings.
Used frequently in licensed industries that require testing to acquire a professional title or designation (legal, real estate, and even PMP fields), it can also be used in a variety of fields to gain deeper knowledge, explore a new topic area or help with creative flow and brainstorming.
If you are a print designer pivoting into UX design, it might be helpful to have a flashcard deck with common UX, CRO, and usability terms, so that you can broaden your general knowledge bank, grasp the lingo, and understand the issues web development teams face.
⭐ Idea Number 7: Audit or Critique 🧠 📑
An audit or critique bonus means you are offering to share your time, expertise and feedback – usually (but not limited to) for a content asset and deliverables.
The parameters of an audit should be clearly defined (like a 1:1 call w/ feedback) so people can manage their expectations of how this audit or critique will help them. AND then they can appreciate its full value.
If you’re a seasoned launch copywriter, you can provide them with critical feedback on their new offer for their upcoming launch or up the ante and combine a critique of their sales page messaging with an audit of their offer. You could:
- Do a copy critique of their services page.
- Provide a messaging audit of their top competitors to look for a positioning gap so your clients can be more strategic with their USP.
OR – you could offer a thorough audit of their services and help them craft a more compelling and irresistible offer for their target audience.
Want critiques from me for your copy? Jump on the Ready-to-Sell waitlist because complete copy critiques are a much-loved bonus in there!
⭐ Idea Number 8: Physical Books 📚
Publishing a ‘real-life’ book requires a significant investment of time & energy. But it also offers magnificent ROI as a long-term credibility booster. PLUS it is proof of your subject expertise.
Offering it as a bonus (with exclusive VIP content) acts as a sales tool while giving your customers something tangible increases customer delight and brand recall.
If you have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of HR and second-career transitions, you can gather your articles, professional advice, webinar material, and even long-form posts and curate that collection into a book.
A book is a BIG differentiating factor from ALL the other career specialists. Your book could outline:
- How to strategically plan the next career steps and create a usable 5-year plan.
- How to attract employers and customers without having to be on LinkedIn and/or job sites all day.
- How to tailor your posts and find the appropriate tags and hashtags.
- Demonstrate how your research methods can help people get their resumes to get seen by the right people.
- Share your in-depth knowledge of your chosen niche or industry.
⭐ Idea Number 9: Virtual Events 💻
Virtual events became the status quo event of 2020 and they are still going strong even after pandemic restrictions ease up due to their flexible nature.
They can be a robust VIP 3-day mastermind (full of digital swag!), an intense Bootcamp, or a lunchtime networking event with breakout rooms.
They can also include a hybrid event that most often includes streaming. Virtual events should be tailored and targeted to your audience and named appropriately to match the tone and goal of each event.
If you know that your average customer does not have the time or focus to entertain a marathon of webinars and guest speakers, you can host a Bootcamp-style virtual event that promises a specific outcome.
If you are a WordPress Specialist and your clients complain about not knowing how to navigate the backend of WP (but don’t want to spend hours combing through tutorials) you could host a short event that:
- Responds to the Top 5 biggest reported problems.
- Walk people through the settings and increase their tech comfort zone.
- Highlight the best light-weight (and error-free) WP themes.
- Bonus within a bonus: A curated list of best WP technical tutorials for further learning.
⭐ Idea Number 10: Physical Events 🎟️
Physical events offer a more personal way to get you in front of your audience.
They create more personal connections and networking opportunities.
They also generate energy and anticipation in a way that’s difficult to recreate online. But they require significantly more overhead.
Like virtual events, they can be flexible and range from a small luncheon, in-person training, or workshop all the way up to a super-size convention center tradeshow.
If you offer online art classes, a physical workshop provides an opportunity to know your students better, interact with their work in person and allows you to share techniques and materials that might be difficult to teach online (or have materials that are difficult for most people to obtain and know how to use).
You could offer a maker’s workshop teaching attendees about photo transfers and printmaking.
The value here lies in the access to expensive tools and machines that the average person won’t have readily available at home. You provide the space and all the materials – all people have to do is show up and enjoy the experience!
⭐ Idea Number 11: Software or Tools 🧰
Using software or tools as a bonus could mean that you are offering an extended trial, an affiliate discount, a complimentary upgrade, or completely free access to your own proprietary software.
This can be a strategic value-add if the software, app, or tool you select is an obvious solution to a big pain point, promises to streamline their workflow, or has the bells and whistles they’ve been pining for.
You could offer your own app or proprietary software (your answer to an expensive competitor’s pricey alternative) or if you’re an OBM or Systems Specialist, you can offer select clients their first 3 months of Dubsado free with the purchase of your training bundle.
You could also offer a complimentary white-glove service to help them switch CRM systems so they don’t have to worry about taking the afternoon off to set everything up.
⭐Idea Number 12: Directory of Resources/References 📇
Compiling a comprehensive AND reliable directory of resources is a super valuable bonus because it shaves off hours of time that people waste looking for answers and reliable solutions.
The list and/or directory you provide should be helpful in filling a specific resource gap, up-to-date and vetted.
If you’re a social media manager, you can provide your clients with a compendium of everything clients need to manage their branding on their social platforms.
They can include links to online photo resizers, the best online design apps, a collection of the best free (and freemium tools), updated sizes for social graphics, and a curated guide for the best stock images and illustrations. You could even include:
- Your personal curation of the top design tools you regularly use for your projects.
- A resource list of other freelancers to help their clients with funnels, ads, and landing pages
- Include a brief description and other critical data of each resource (like a pro/con list) so you aren’t just dumping a mammoth link file into their laps.
⭐Idea Number 13: Discount on Services/Products 💲✂️
Discounts on services and products can be an effective way to remove anxiety about the sticker price, but it’s important to make sure the discount isn’t an ongoing promotion. You can offer time-based discounts for an upcoming launch, set a physical cap on people who can use or buy your services at that rate, OR send out a promo email sequence to a more engaged email segment with a special offer made just for them.
You are pivoting from content creator to consultant and you are eager for client feedback. You could offer a discount on your new Homepage Audit VIP intensive so you can test the waters to drum up interest…but you are only offering this discount to current customers OR for X amount of days.
- You could send out another discount to existing customers or very warm leads (because you value them oh so much)
- You could bundle a digital product (a Homepage Copy & Wireframe Template).
- You could promise a quick turnaround (so your bonus discount is not an afterthought that comes second to client work) and offer it only to the first 20 people – so they can be sure they are getting the attention they deserve.
⭐ Idea Number 14: WhatsApp or Voxer Support 💬
Offering WhatsApp or Voxer Support as a bonus allows you to provide more flexible support to those who can’t commit to a specific time for regular coaching calls. This type of bonus increases course value while being flexible and extremely appealing. It is also less intrusive to the more introverted among us. It feels like having a coach-on-demand that can help with support issues and/or provide additional accountability.
You can use Voxer Support as a bonus to your main offer, which is helpful because people often find they need their ideas to marinate longer and may not have those burning q’s ready for scheduled Q&A portions of coaching calls.
If you are a Funnel Strategist, you can offer half-day or full-day Voxer support as your clients need specific feedback as they work through their day. Or perhaps when they don’t feel comfortable sharing their questions or concerns in group settings.
You can treat it as an “Ask Me Anything” Strategy session where clients can rent your brain for a set time.
⭐ Idea Number 15: Private Podcast 🎙️
Using a private podcast as a bonus allows you to leverage VIP guests, premium content, niche or audience-specific topic series, and even ad-free streams to your clients.
It can encourage loyal listeners and help them not only appreciate the value-add but build a genuine rapport with your brand.
These exclusive members-only episodes are gated so these podcasts shouldn’t be shared elsewhere.
You can use Private Podcast to focus on exclusive high-value content episodes around topics that are highly relevant to your members.
If you’re a Visibility Coach, providing a private podcast can offer access to advice on topics that you don’t explore in-depth with the general public.
You could create a playlist of episodes that:
- Layout a how-to framework for pitching high-authority media outlets
- Feature your top clients, thought leaders, and personalities in their space.
- Discuss the importance of authentic body language, and how to start your guest speaking as a key step in your visibility journey.
- Stories on how to become an in-demand guest expert.
⭐ Idea Number 16: Done-for-you-support 💪🏾
Sometimes a bonus means giving your clients a completed product or providing support to give people much-needed hours back. Done-for-you-support should have set parameters describing the support scope, which should be focused on manageable deliverables – like creating a mini brand-story book using one of your templates, offering a quick copy polish, or something more robust like a 30-day content calendar based on your client’s top 3 performing posts.
Even if your service is more intangible, like a Productivity Consultant, you help solopreneur using Done-for-you-support, to help your clients find margin in their day with a:
- A review of their most common problems and creating a time-management roadmap
- In-depth recommendations for your best system stacks and zaps to streamline your processes based on their responses in a questionnaire or survey.
- A proposed weekly business development schedule (based on your client’s availability and main goals)
- Recommendations on how to streamline processes and analyze the services that are time hogs (so your clients can evaluate if they really are profitable.)
⭐ Idea Number 17: Expert Interview Library 🗣️
For professional development nerds, this one is like all your Christmases at once!
An Expert Interview Library should offer curated access to the best of the best webinars, interviews, and training.
It’s especially valuable if these replays are from a training session they missed or an in-person event they didn’t have access to.
The bonus is not only accessibility BUT also that’s it all organized in one place. so your clients can either binge-watch or check out at their leisure.
If you are a copywriter or digital marketer you could feature a compilation of highly sought out mentors and thought leaders who spoke at in-person or private events. Compiled into one library, it gives your content longevity and provides your clients with insight and advice that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
- You could create “playlists” so your clients are engaging with the right content and expert sessions
- The expert interview library could include tags and have a search function
- You could include captions, transcripts, and slides featured in any of the expert interviews replays
⭐Idea Number 18: How-to training 👩🏽🏫
A tailored-to-your audience “How-to training” can give your clients a more practical and step-by-step approach to accomplishing a specific outcome.
It can be a behind-the-scenes walk-through (complete with meaty tips along the way) or a methodical over-the-shoulder tutorial.
The bonus with this bonus (meta, much?!) is the confidence your clients gain that comes with additional training. This also means that they can continue to learn and engage with you and your brand more readily.
A Document/Curriculum Designer can create a How-To video that shows course creators and their teams the basics of how to create worksheets and additional exercises for their course modules. You can:
- Show people the setup; how to format their workspace, organize files, and links and ensure quality exports.
- You can share a worksheet template you use and provide the exact process you use from rough layout to polished perfection.
- Provide how-to tips like setting up hotkey shortcuts to speed up repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
⭐Idea Number 19: Group coaching 🧭
Group coaching is incredibly valuable to prospects and clients already familiar with your brand and are looking for access to you but don’t need VIP support.
It can create a collaborative rapport and foster a healthy community. It’s also a relatively easy add-on bonus to an existing program or you can position it as a one-off event, a series with a focused theme, or an open-mic Q&A.
Want copy coaching and critiques from me? Make sure you’re on the Ready-to-Sell waitlist.
You can offer a group coaching call as an add-on to your current course cohort Or use it to introduce a new but related topic that is relevant to your clients.
If you sell digital products and templates to service providers, you can offer a group coaching call to offer advice on how they too can:
- Bundle, the package can productize their current service offers.
- Invite people to share how they market their digital products to warm and cold audiences.
- Offer feedback on their product description or checkout page.
- Share your exact process.
⭐Idea Number 20: Co-working sessions 👩🏽💼👩🏼💼👨🏽💼
Co-working sessions can help people show up and counter distraction and procrastination but it also allows you to strategically (non-invasively) situate yourself into their schedule.
It’s a value-add for people who need structured focus time and consistent but not necessarily engaging or demanding accountability. There may be a brief discussion at the start of the session followed by a focused (usually silent) work sprint.
If you know your clients work from home and have a busy family life, you can offer co-working sessions at a time convenient for them – either when the kids go to school OR 5 AM early morning Pomodoros for early risers who want to get a chunk done before the day starts.
⭐ Idea Number 21: Accountability Pods 📈
Accountability pods are best for those who find that being self-disciplined all the time works against them and do better with engagement and public accountability.
You can provide accountability guidelines (i.e. check-in frequency) and accountability pods can meet on different channels or through regular zoom calls.
Accountability works best with a group of motivated people who are interested in getting to know members better and sharing their ideas.
If your main offer is to help people revamp & optimize their LinkedIn Profile, accountability pods can be useful for making sure people don’t lose momentum as well as for sharing wins (and losses!) along the way.
Your accountability group could:
- Engage in each other’s posts, leaving thoughtful comments and questions.
- Review each other’s LinkedIn Profile summary.
- Work on the same set timeline to ensure they all stay on track towards similar goals.
⭐Idea Number 22: Study groups 👩🏽🎓
When a topic is particularly complex and/or the content and data set are overwhelming or novel, study groups provide support in a (usually) informal environment that allows people to pose questions, brainstorm, and get feedback.
Study groups often need a moderator when questions don’t get resolved and people need more clarity.
If your students are new to your niche or are pivoting from a lateral industry, study groups can act as a safety net from the stress of trying to figure everything out on their own. It can reduce the # of help requests you have to contend with.
A consultant and coach who helps long-time corporate employees grow and scale freelance side hustle can use a study group to help the transition.
The study group can:
- Help students stay on track with realistic business development milestones and walk through the material together.
- Give them an opportunity to troubleshoot and problem-solve with the group.
- Act as a go-to resource for best practices and even, technical issues like platform algorithms.
- Provide helpful prompts and guidance throughout their journey.
⭐ Idea Number 23: Gift Cards 💳
Gift cards add tangible course value. They’re pretty straightforward to include but it also requires that you have solid relationships and/or market research about your audience, their location, and preferences.
You offer a gift card so they can treat themselves and celebrate a win on you. The amount you offer should be a nominal gesture in good taste (we aren’t buying loyalty here).
You can tailor the gift card to specific clients as part of your onboarding or off-boarding process, so you know the gift card you purchase will be purchased with their interests and preferences in mind.
Or, if you don’t offer 1:1 service and help general admin VAs upskill to become Pinterest Specialists, depending on their location, you could give each VA a Starbucks gift card to say thanks.
⭐Idea Number 24: Collaborative Bonus 🤝🏽
Partner with another course creator to offer complimentary training to your students.
Not only does this provide more value and offer a more robust and comprehensive learning experience, but it’s also particularly helpful if you can collaborate with another course creator with expertise outside of your specialization or niche.
That way they can provide additional instruction muscle outside of your wheelhouse so your students benefit. At the same time, you can also help translate how your students can apply the extra knowledge to their business.
You are an infant sleep consultant but you also want someone to weigh in about more sleep disruption issues and warning signs parents should be on the lookout for. Signs that require medical intervention – not sleep assistance.
You could collaborate with a pediatrician who also has an online course sharing their sleep assistance for older children and sleep aids that are safe for babies and younger toddlers.
They could weigh on:
- When the issue is not simply temperament-related and medical assistance should be sought.
- When sleep training is not appropriate.
- Up-to-date studies on how babies should sleep and the use of sleep aids.
- The impact of sleep deprivation on long-term child development.
⭐Idea Number 25: 1:1 Call ☎️
1:1 Calls are popular bonuses and should really leverage your specific strengths and your unique differentiator.
Those who know about your brand and your experience covet these 1:1 calls. They want direct support and focused feedback so they don’t want to share you on a group call.
You run a Mindful Meditation Parenting program for those with children who are high-need and suffer from anxiety.
A 1:1 call allows parents to share their stories and their unique situations. You can understand the context of where they are coming from, their experiences, and their burning questions for you.
You could offer parents an in-depth intake form so the debrief process is shorter and you have longer to untangle their problem and come up with a more bespoke set of recommendations.
There are SO many ways to include bonuses that bring the heat to your program and help increase online course value with ease.
Bonuses can be an integral part of a well-crafted offer. Don’t treat them like an afterthought.
Make your bonuses as intentional as your course and you’ll see the impact a well-placed bonus can have on your overall sales.
Got questions about offering bonuses? Drop them in the comments.
Or schedule a 2:1 Profitably Yours offer optimization call here and let us help you not only create better bonuses but also optimize your offer as well!