Why Associations Should Embrace Holistic Learning

Barry Kelly
Sep 17, 2015 9:22:00 AM

There are a number of ways that associations can leverage online learning. In fact, the 2014 Tagoras Association Learning + Technology report showed that the trend of online learning is growing rapidly within the industry. 

 

Their data shows that 88.7 percent of organizations provide some type of technology-based or technology-enabled learning. However, their findings also shows that most organizations appear to approach the use of technology for learning in an ad-hoc, informal way: “Less than a quarter of respondents have a formal, documented strategy for how technology will be used to enable or enhance learning.”

 

Imagine the potential when learning is leveraged more strategically?  Thought Industries believes that associations should approach learning in what we refer to as a “holistic learning strategy.”  An integrated approach to learning will deliver the most value and drive conversion, engagement, renewals and ultimately revenue.

 

In fact, data proves this. Tagoras’ findings also shows that having a strategy is associated with increased net revenue—69.7 percent of organizations with a strategy report technology has increased the net revenue of their educational offerings compared to only 45.5 percent of those without a strategy.

 

So what does that mean for you and your organization? In order for online learning to be a business driver, it must begin at the top of the funnel and be offered across the entire member experience. Here is an overview of what this looks like:

 

Early Stages: Member Acquisition

Online learning experiences are too often overlooked for membership acquisition. Using webinars, industry updates, introductory free skills courses, or research presentations in exchange for user information, email addresses, or other key registration data can help build highly-qualified new leads for your membership acquisition program.
 
For example, Lamaze International, a nonprofit organization using an evidence-based online learning approach, offers one free class to help engage new audience members and generate new interest.
 

Conversion: Offering Real Value 

Once you have acquired a new lead, online learning experiences can also be used to move a visitor or registrant to paid member. 
 

There are a number of ways to do this:

  1. Add a paywall inside the learning experience. In order for visitors or registrants to continue, they would have to purchase membership.
  2. Incorporate membership offers (one-time discounts etc.) at critical points.
  3. Bundle learning offers with membership, e.g. buy an online course and first year membership for $X.

 

Retention: Engaging Members 

After you onboard new members, keeping them engaged and educated is just as critical in the life cycle. Drip-education campaigns, industry expert webinars, and how-tos make up some very useful resources for your audience and provide quality engagement.
 
All too often, associations think of using learning for credentials alone (e.g., a certification or license), however, there are so many more opportunities that we’ve only touched upon. The potential for leveraging learning across the member experience and customer lifecycle is endless.

Here are some other examples of value-driven online learning tactics:
  1. Bundling Content

While education programs can be a direct source of revenue for some organizations, a number of additional non-direct revenue enhancement opportunities are also available as a byproduct of learning delivery. Bundling online and offline training or learning is one of the most obvious (e.g. annual conference attendance fee plus supplemental online courses). Two less used tactics include bundling additional products like books or reports and adding instructor or one-on-one coach access—both are effective in increasing the revenue per order.

  1. Build a 365-day Event Approach
Don’t allow all the hard work and great content of a one-day (or one-week) event get tossed aside when it ends. Instead, find ways to use it all year round. Not only can you leverage the content with new members, but it allows you to connect with existing members or those who couldn’t attend in person.
  1. Sponsored Learning

One key area, that’s also the most overlooked, is sponsored learning. Advertisers are seeing the benefits of content marketing, as traditional print and online display ads have become less effective. Allowing advertisers to sponsor courses or webinars offers them the benefits of higher engagement. There is also a lot of deep data that can be collected in the learning experience, survey data, engagement metrics and completions. While not an association, Essence magazine’s EmpowerU is a great example of engaging sponsors; this is a tactic that any association could easily get up and running. 

 

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