Whether your association is new to offering online professional development programs or has been offering programs for a while, when done correctly, it can open the door to a profitable revenue stream. Successful programs also contribute directly to new member recruitment, member retention and the overall sustainability of the association. The key is to keep strategies for maximizing attendance an important part of program planning and implementation.
We share below six ways to help maximize attendance and revenue with online learning programs.
1. Turn a successful webinar into a series or workshop.
A webinar that drew a large audience supports the need for additional content related to the topic. If your association has hosted such a webinar, consider expanding on the topic through a series or workshop (either virtual or hybrid).
An example of a webinar that would fit into this category is a “How-To” webinar that provides a broad picture of how to accomplish something.
Expand on the “How-To” webinar by offering a series or workshop that looks deeper into the nitty-gritty and provides more structured learning. Another example is a webinar that provides a broad overview of a program or project. Expand on this by creating a series of trainings using an expert panel or guest speakers who specialize in the topic to provide more defined instruction on the project.
For associations with a large membership, conduct a focus group or survey members to identify key topics of interest.
2. Turn employees and clients into program advocates.
Employees and clients have their own circles of influence, and if you have communicated the value of your programs sufficiently, they will be able to identify ideal prospects from within their circles. In the post, How Nokia Turns Employees Into Brand Ambassadors, you’ll see the key is getting employees in the loop and keeping them informed. The same tactics can be used for clients. Find ways to reach clients and employees on several levels.
3. Leverage online training modules in existing and new marketing campaigns.
High quality training modules can be used with storytelling across digital channels. When programs feature a well-known instructor or guest speaker, share engaging speaker stories through blog posts, social media, and video interviews. Pitch an exclusive story to industry reporters, as well as media familiar with the speaker, or in their local community. Compelling local stories can gain global online reach.
4. Widen marketing plan timelines to allow for speaker positioning.
A valuable training will draw the right audience, but the value of the training can be further increased when there is a recognizable presenter or instructor. For this reason, the marketing plan should allow ample time to promote the high quality of the instructor(s). Even when the instructor is not very well-known, widening the marketing window will allow time to showcase the instructor’s expertise through blog posts, interviews, Op Ed articles, and media interviews with local and industry media sources.
5. Watch the calendar and the clock for program scheduling.
While offering a recording of a training is important for attendance, the most engaging trainings happen in real time. The marketing plan should communicate the added value attendees receive by attending in person. When scheduling the program, ensure the date(s) and times of trainings do not conflict with other industry events and choose times that attendees prefer. This requires conducting an in-depth audience assessment or research through audience focus groups or surveys.
6. Build a reputation for high quality events.
Word of mouth marketing and repeat attendance are the most valuable returns for any marketing strategy. To grow this audience, the marketing plan should be supporting a program that offers exceptional content and value to attendees. Keep in mind that it’s the association’s job to maintain communications with people who have attended past webinars and invite them to attend future webinars and programs, as well as invite them to share about the webinars with colleagues.
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