Ask a member if lifelong learning is essential for future success and they’ll most likely say, “Yes.” But talking about it and doing it are two different things. It’s smart and prudent to continue building skills and knowledge but somehow life gets in the way. Learning subscriptions can help members stay accountable to their good intentions.
Subscriptions are a part of life now for many of us. We lease, rent, use, and subscribe to products as a service, for example, Netflix, Spotify, meal kits, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save, and curated monthly subscription boxes like Stitchfix. At work, many of you use software as a service (SaaS), for example, your AMS, CRM, LMS, and Office 365.
You think nothing of seeing monthly subscription fees for these services on your credit card statement. And even if you haven’t logged in to your online yoga class subscription in several months, you’ll probably keep it going. Good intentions help bankroll the subscription economy.
Benefits of learning subscriptions for members, employers, and associations
Why would members and non-members be interested in paying for a learning subscription? Because many employers won’t pay for membership, but they will pay for professional development. It’s easier to pay for education in small monthly charges than one expensive registration. If they regularly use their subscription, they could even end up saving money.
Members do have good intentions. A learning subscription provides many options for fitting education into their busy lives. They can participate in programs from any location and at any time. It won’t cost them any extra to retake a program or review difficult content if that’s what they need to fully understand and retain information.
A learning subscription keeps them accountable. They won’t want to throw money away, so hopefully, after a while, learning becomes a habit.
Employers who purchase a learning subscription for their staff can recommend or assign programs to employees, and track their progress. Their investment ensures employees are increasing their skills and knowledge, and maintaining their certifications or licenses.
A learning subscription can help employees who are new to the profession get up to speed. Employers save on training travel costs, plus a recurring fee is easier to budget. Best of all, a learning subscription gives an employer the advantage when hiring. In a competitive market, people want (and sometimes expect) educational opportunities.
Associations enjoy the recurring revenue stream that learning subscriptions provide. Learning subscriptions also increase program participation, strengthen relationships, and build loyalty. They help associations fulfill their mission of educating professionals and moving their industry or profession forward.
Deciding what to include in a learning subscription
Your association can’t rely on good intentions if you decide to offer a learning subscription. You must differentiate your learning programs from competitors since a subscription requires loyalty, and you must provide value that meets or exceeds subscriber expectations.
You must offer so many programs that a member couldn’t possibly take them all in one year. Programs should meet the needs of learners in all career stages.
Advanced Solutions International has a yearly learning subscription for more than 1,000 hours of instructor-led training classes on iMIS, plus online class material and recordings. LinkedIn Learning offers both monthly and annual subscriptions. Their marketing brags about their frequently updated content.
Typically, learning subscriptions include some combination of:
• Webinars and webinar recordings
• Instructor-led online courses
• Self-paced online programs and courses
• Conference and workshop recordings
You could also include access to a library of articles, reports and publications.
To differentiate your subscription from the competition, consider offering individuals a quarterly session with an advisor or counselor who makes recommendations and helps them design a personal learning plan.
Pricing learning subscriptions
With recurring revenue, you don’t want to price the subscription too low or you’ll have recurring regret for the length of the agreement. Subscription consultants—yes, there’s such a thing—recommend having three subscription tiers: good, better, and best. Here’s an example of this approach:
• Good: self-paced online programs and library access.
• Better: everything in the Good tier plus webinars and recordings, and 101-level instructor-led online courses.
• Best: everything in the Better tier plus courses of all levels, and one virtual conference.
For company subscriptions, each tier typically provides more employee “seats.”
Offer monthly and yearly subscriptions, and provide a discount when subscribers pay up front for a year. Require auto-renewal by credit card or ACH for monthly subscribers.
Naturally, you should offer member and non-member pricing.
Give subscribers the flexibility to make changes to their subscription, either upgrading or downgrading. You could even give subscribers a discount on their certification application and/or renewal fees, or waive fees altogether.
Consider providing a trial learning subscription to non-members when they join your association, and, if they successfully complete a course during the trial period, they get a discount on their subscription, conference registration, or next year’s membership dues.
Reducing subscription churn
Subscriber retention is as important as acquisition, just as it is with membership. When subscribers pay on a monthly basis, retention is a year-round effort.
Have a procedure for spotting at-risk subscribers—those who are not taking advantage of your programs. Reach out to them to see if you can get them into the learning groove by making recommendations based on their career goals and needs.
If a subscriber doesn’t renew, have a standard procedure in place that assigns someone to check in with them and find out what happened.
Help employers get the most out of their subscription. Encourage them to include a program orientation in their onboarding process so employees know what you offer. Consider recording an orientation video tour yourself.
Send out quarterly newsletters for individual and company subscribers. In the newsletter, share information on what’s new, what’s popular, and tips for getting the most out of a subscription. Collect and share testimonials too. Remember, to reduce churn, you can’t stop marketing to subscribers.
Keep learning content fresh. Make sure it continues to meet evolving needs so there’s always something to keep them coming back. You may even want to consider high-quality third-party content or partnerships with other educational content providers.
The most successful subscription box companies continue to surprise and delight their subscribers. Surprise yours with the gift of a recently published book. If they’re attending your annual conference, give them an upgrade, or invite them to a VIP session or special reception. Send out an occasional curated newsletter with recommended reading based on their interests.
Make this message known in your membership and in your industry: if you’re serious about advancing in your career or becoming an industry-leading employer, you must invest in a learning subscription.