Business Model and Monetization Strategies for Learning Businesses

Thought Industries
March 14, 2017

Last week Talented Learning and Thought Industries joined forces to present a webinar, “Paving the Way to a Profitable Learning Business: 5 Successful Strategies.”
Talented Learning was represented by their CEO and Lead Analyst, John Leh. Talented Learning is a learning technology research and consulting organization helping buyers buy better by providing hourly guidance, vendor directory listings, blog posts, premium content and more. Thought Industries was represented by CEO and co-founder Barry Kelly.

During the webinar, the duo touched on the following topics:

  • Monetization
  • Business model
  • Content creation
  • Distribution
  • Technology

In this part of our two-part roundup, we are going to cover business model and monetization strategies.

Who attended

According to a poll at the start of the webinar, 47% of attendees reported that they are focused on selling online content to individuals and  61% are focused on selling online content organizations. There was some overlap, since 44% of attendees said they were focused on selling to both. “Thats a lot of organizational selling,” says Leh, “Which is interesting because that’s the challenging piece.”

Monetization strategies

Leh and Kelly wasted no time jumping right into monetization strategies. In order to ensure that your organization maximizes revenue, you must maximize your assets. Kelly shared what Thought Industries calls a stacked monetization model:

  • Sell direct: Organizations can generate revenue by selling courses for a single price, selling on-demand courses or selling time-based courses. Other direct selling channels include bundles, recurring subscriptions and physical products.
  • Bulk seat discounting: Once organizations see revenue coming in from direct-to-consumer sales, they might want to start selling to groups. They can offer “seats” within a course to another organization for a discounted price. For example, a wellness company might sell 10 “seats” to their mediation course to a financial company, then sell 15 “seats” to a publishing company.
  • Licensing: Many of the companies shopping for learning materials will want to use the content you created, but see it in a custom branded learning environment or dedicated virtual classroom. Licensing features allows your organization to create custom learning experiences (or customized learning portals) for those customers. To get here, your organization must first overcome the challenges around creating valuable learning content, the overcome distributing it, then get to scaling it.
  • Sponsored/ad-supported learning: This monetization channel is more on the consumer-learning side of things. You organization might work with partners in your industry to deliver information on a particular topic — a topic that is your area of expertise. To take advantage of this monetization strategy, your organization might also  create learning programs on behalf of advertisers in exchange for user data and engagement.

Leh sent a message of warning to sellers of learning content looking for technology platforms. “It’s easy to get confused today because it looks like everybody has the ability to add a shopping cart or a checkout to their LMS,” he said, “But, it’s more than that. It’s about being able to support those different streams of monetization simultaneously to get the most value — and to hedge against risk.”

Business model strategies

As an LMS selection consultant, Leh is constantly speaking with companies who are trying to sell content. “What content you choose to build and execute on is truly critical,” he said. When Leh offers advice, he always tries to slow them down and get them to do market research first in order to create a solid business model.
Leh and Kelly suggest asking the following questions when thinking about a business model:

  • Are you fulfilling the market opportunity?
  • Are you maximizing the market demand?
  • Are you staffed for growth?
  • Do you have the expertise in place?
  • Do you have the correct infrastructure?
  • Do you have scalable technology and management systems?
  • Can you diversify product offerings?
  • Are maximizing your assets?
  • How much is it going to cost and can you afford it?

To listen to the webinar, visit this page. In part two of our webinar recap, learn what Leh and Kelly had to say about learning content distribution, creation and scalability.

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