7 Ideas Worth Stealing from For-Profit Professional Development Brands

This week, we’re looking at news in the for-profit professional development market. Why? Some of these companies might be your competition—it’s always good to know what they’re up to. But mostly we’re highlighting these stories because these for-profit practices could work for associations too.

7 ideas from for-profit professional development brands

#1: Connect professional development with increased earnings

Let’s start with Colibri Group, perhaps the bane of your association’s existence. Colibri Group “educates over one million professionals in careers like real estate, healthcare, financial services, teacher education, appraisal, and more.”

The Real Estate Agent Income Guide from one of their brands, Real Estate Express, shows the connection between professional development and earning power, even giving it a dollar amount. “Real estate professionals who invest in professional development opportunities annually earn more than $72,000 than those who don’t.” Imagine splashing that statistic around your marketing campaigns.

The report also shows income by niche/specialty, years of experience, and hours worked per week, along with other useful data about the profession. A report like this would be a terrific lead magnet—a piece of content that website visitors download in exchange for their email address. You build your list; they get valuable information.

a man reading a newspaper getting a good idea from a for-profit professional development brand

#2: Tap into the insight of educational advisory groups

Colibri stays on top of emerging trends by working closely with brokers and agents and incorporating what they learn into their programs. Most associations rely on committee members for this insight, but you should expand your network by hosting member advisory groups representing different market segments. Also, watch behavioral data, such as page visits, email clicks, and online community text, to see what topics rise to the top.

#3: Look for partners who can fill portfolio gaps

Colibri just announced a partnership with Buffini & Company, “the largest training and coaching company in North America.” With this partnership, Colibri can provide coaching and training for new and aspiring real estate agents—resources like career advice videos and an agent starter kit that will “bridge the gap between passing the exam and building a business in the critical first stages of a real estate career.”

On an acquisition roll, Colibri is expanding into new professional niches. They acquired Becker Professional Education, which offers CPA and CMA exam prep along with accounting professional development programs. Another acquisition is OnCourse Learning, which provides regulatory and compliance educational programs for the mortgage and financial sectors. One more: TeachNow and their teacher certification program—more on that one later.

If you don’t have the resources or capacity to expand your professional development programs, consider partnering with another non- or for-profit organization, or even edupreneurs—individuals who create and sell online courses.

#4: Offer cohort-based learning

We’ve written about cohort-based online courses before. They’re TeachNow’s specialty. Their program focuses on “real-world simulated teaching experiences”—learning by doing.

A new cohort of 10-15 participants starts every month. It takes nine months to complete the full program, with the final 12 weeks spent on a teaching practicum (teaching in a school and working with a mentor teacher). Their online program has both synchronous virtual classrooms and asynchronous collaborative activities, all monitored and evaluated by an instructor.

a woman reading something on her laptop getting a good idea from a for-profit professional development brand

#5: Feed people into your programs with learning pathways

We’re big fans of learning and career pathways. LinkedIn is too. Their LinkedIn Learning Pathfinder is a self-assessment tool that helps people discover appropriate LinkedIn Learning programs.

Honestly, it’s pretty basic. The tool asks you to pick one of eight options for what you’d like to achieve in the next six months, and then one of eleven options for which new skills would help you in your current role. It “generates a custom list of LinkedIn Learning courses based on what you want to achieve,” five programs, in my case.

The LinkedIn market includes practically every profession, so their program suggestions are not that extensive. In niche markets, associations could do much better with a self-assessment tool that recommended many more options.

#6: Reward a learner’s competency with digital badges

LinkedIn now offers digital badges you can display on your profile. Their Skill Assessment tests your knowledge and rewards a badge to validate your understanding. LinkedIn also recommends courses you can take to improve your skills in case you don’t pass the test the first time.

Associations could offer digital badges to people who have successfully completed courses—it makes little sense to offer them before. Many associations now offer stackable digital badges that learners receive on their way to earning a certificate.

#7: Supplement your offerings with coaching packages

The purchasing group affiliated with Biocom California, a life science association, announced a partnership with LeggUP, a professional coaching platform. Biocom members get a discount on the monthly fee for LeggUP's Talent Insurance program.

We’ve seen more instances of companies expanding employee access to professional coaching instead of offering it only to executives. LeggUp’s program includes individual assessments that measure productivity and wellbeing, coach-member matching technology, and six one-on-one coaching sessions per employee per year. Employers can track usage and ROI, review employee feedback, and identify areas of improvement.

You could supplement the licensing of your educational programs to corporate members with the services of industry-fluent coaches. Make it easy for companies to do business with you by offering everything they need to keep themselves in business. We'll be back in a few months with more for-profit inspired ideas.

online courses
learning pathways
Digital Badges
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