Odds are your company has developed some great training that would be valued by other organizations, but how do you sell it? Creating great training and selling it are two very different things. To be successful, you will require sales and marketing expertise, time, and money - perhaps more than you think. However, please read on because building an ecommerce training business can be enormously rewarding both fiscally and personally.
Based on two decades working with learning and development organizations of all sizes, below are five secrets to selling your training that apply to ecommerce rookies and veterans alike in training companies, corporations, the public sector and academia.
Secret #1: Selling Training Is an eCommerce Business - Treat It That Way!
Selling your training to voluntary learners via an LMS is a much more difficult mission than forcing employees to consume mandatory training. You don't just build the content and hope buyers will come. You need to understand the marketplace, target your audience, and develop a plan to continually attract new learners and retain current learners.
Voluntary learners can buy content from countless sources, but you want them to buy from you. Why should they? Is your training content more engaging, better designed or more cost-effective than the competition? It is critical to identify your handful of unique differentiators and promote them broadly and continually in the search for new learners.
How will customers find you? You need to build social networks on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Write thought leadership blogs, articles and white papers that include your unique keywords so you attract users searching the web. Advertise on Google and pay per click on strategic keywords.
Secret #2: Know the Difference Between B2C and B2B eCommerce Requirements
Here's a run-through of the different requirements for these two eCommerce practices.
B2C = Business to Consumer = Selling your training content to individuals
Selling your content to individuals is more akin to Amazon, eBay or Best Buy than running a corporate learning department and its Learning Management System (LMS). Like a good ecommerce site, you need to let users browse the content, see comments and ratings before logging in, place content in a shopping cart and have a secure checkout through payment gateways like Authorize.Net or PayPal.
To entice potential learners to buy you need to think through several promotions such as discounts, package pricing, timed access to content, content recommendations, top content lists and other marketing tools.
B2B = Business to Business = Selling your training content to organizations for their employees to consume
Selling your content to organizations may happen inside or outside the LMS, though learners consume content inside the LMS. For example, if you sell continuing medical education to physicians, your business model could be to sell in bulk to hospitals with employee physicians vs. to the physicians directly.
Therefore, the LMS would need to support hospital client-specific "domains" populated with content purchased and the ability to create learner accounts. Hospital administrators would assign content to their physicians, identify due dates, manage email or text notifications, and report on physician training progress and completions.
The B2B LMS would also need to support bulk content purchases, vouchers, debit accounts, credit accounts, purchase orders and electronic checks to facilitate new and renewal purchases at the organization level.
Secret #3: Experiment with Packaging and Pricing
There is more than one way to price content, and there is no one correct way. The best ecommerce training organizations continually experiment with their pricing strategies, measure what works, revise, and improve.
For example, if you always sell course by course, consider offering a bundle of courses for a discounted price, or sell a whole library of content for a flat annual fee.
The key here is to experiment. A few more popular tactics in pricing and packaging are:
- Freemium. The "freemium" model of pricing is where you continually offer free courses and certificates of completion to any online learner and then try to sell them premium for-a-fee content.
- Free trial. Give free access to some or all of your catalog, and by doing so, your prospects can try out the training and start paying in 14 or 30 days automatically if they find value.
- Free assessments. Offer free skill assessments for a specific role or career path - all accountants, for example - and provide a detailed report and training recommendation plan.
Secret #4: Learn Your eCommerce Ecosystem
The ecommerce LMS is not an island. It needs to be tied to your organization's broader technology ecosystem to share business data about learners, content and business process workflow. If your organization already supports an ecommerce payment gateway, ERP or association management system (AMS), look into integrating the systems with the LMS.
Use a marketing automation tool or customer relationship management (CRM) solution to send marketing email campaigns, provide promotional discounts and measure your effectiveness. These systems will help you design your email so it's received and opened and provide you detailed progress reports on every email or campaign.
If you plan to sell training globally, remember that outside the U.S. many countries and jurisdictions tax the sale of training content. Integrating with your organization's financial systems or third-party global tax management systems is a much easier path than requiring your LMS provider or administrator to do it all.
Secret #5: LMS Reports + Business Reports = Measurable Business Case
When you are selling training, proving and constantly improving the business case is paramount. The best way to prove your business case is to demonstrate value. Your customers will want to see value for their purchase, and a great way to do that is through reporting.
LMS reporting includes progress and completion data that is sortable by individual, group, organization or any other demographic. Master the report writer and figure out how you can use it to show your customers your training is helping their business.
One approach that works well is to walk customers through key available training progress reports. Be sure to inquire about how the training is helping their business, what's working well, and what could be improved. By showing interest in their business, you're moving from vendor to advisor, and that may result in opportunities to sell more training in the future.
Combine the LMS data with the business reports from the CRM system that typically contain information on emails sent and opened, links clicked, LMS pages visited, and purchases made. These reports will help you determine what are your best marketing and sales activities.
You can even layer on Google Analytics to tell you where people are coming from, on what devices, in what languages, and where they are going when they leave your site. If you're relying on search and your website as a major pillar in your marketing, understanding the behavior of your site's visitors is very important.
Sell Training Content with the Right Selling Strategy
Selling content is a lot closer to selling books online than managing an internal L&D LMS. It takes a number of business skills to be successful. Success is measured not only by the traditional change in learner behavior, but also the fiscal performance of each piece of content and the business as a whole.
You need to learn, plan, prioritize, measure, improve, repeat and be patient. As Steve Jobs said, "If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time."
Interested in learning more? Saba customers sell millions of dollars of learning content every year using Saba's extended enterprise learning and collaboration capabilities.