The pitfalls of selling content online – five questions that training companies should ask

by Viv Cole on July 30, 2015

Imagine you are running a training company that has successfully carved out a niche. You’re selling lots of training courses and it’s only capacity that is stopping you from selling more. One day you realise that you could increase reach, lock out competitors and reduce cost of sales if you put some of the training online. What could possibly go wrong? Here are five questions that I find many training companies in this situation have failed to ask.

1. Who is the buyer?

In corporate L&D, someone¬†identifies learning needs shared by a segment of their audience and commissions learning accordingly i.e. they buy learning on behalf of the learners. Are you targeting the buyer or the learners? As there is so much free learning content on internet (e.g. YouTube), learners are generally not in the habit of ‘putting their credit card in the slot’ when they want to learn something new.

2. What is your channel to market?

Assuming that your online learning will be launched from your website, how will you get people to visit it? Where does your target market congregate? To coin a new proverb: “An advert at the watering hole is worth 100 in the bush”. You can expect minimal traffic unless you have an effective plan for marketing your content that includes email, social media and search marketing. If you are selling via a partner/reseller, how will you make that work?

3. How will you balance target audience size against relevance of your content?

The training course that you are converting has been designed with a specific context and content. Make the context wider and it could potentially attract a larger audience, make it too wide and the content will seem too generic and not relevant to anyone. How wide do you focus?

4. How does this online learning relate to rest of your training portfolio?

Your online learning needs to be a targeted at an under-serviced segment of the market, otherwise it risks cannibalising your existing training sales. Even if there is minimal overlap, the markets will probably expect consistency of branding and values across all your offerings. If the quality is too low you risk undermining your core business. Overdo the quality and you may never earn enough to recoup your cost of investment.

5. Have you considered certification?

On the assumption that consumers will not readily pay for their own learning, would certification make your offer more persuasive? Becoming accredited does not have to involve the full Ofqual process (or partnering with an Ofqual registered accrediting body), Open Badges could represent an agile way to add value to your offer.

There is one more fundamental question to ask. If you want to know what that is, contact me.

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