The Many Benefits of Selling Online Education to Corporate Members

The global corporate online training market is expected to grow by nearly 10% annually over the next five years. Who will the companies in your industry choose to educate their employees? Don’t let them align with a competitor. Become the preferred educational partner in your industry by selling online education to corporate members and customers.

We’ll show you how it’s done by other associations during a webinar on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 1 p.m. that we’re hosting with our friends at Talented Learning: How to Scale Online Learning: B2B Market Strategies for Associations. We’ll be joined by William Hold, Chief Development Officer at The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, who has run a profitable online education program for companies in the insurance industry.

Associations’ competitive edge in online learning

Everyone sees the revenue potential in providing online education to corporate customers. Colleges and universities are designing new programs in partnership with companies. Even MOOCs have caught on. Coursera signaled its shift in focus from individuals to corporations when they launched Coursera for Business in August 2016—“a powerful way to help leading companies around the world address the rapidly evolving training and development needs of their employees.”

With Coursera for Business, companies can design learning tracks from existing courses or chose a curated “course collection” on topics like digital transformation, data science, diversity & inclusion, and more—what sounds to me like a learning pathway. Forbes reports that “Coursera has about 500 corporate customers today, up from 30 last year, with bookings growth of 400 percent, compared to 70 percent growth among Coursera's paying users overall.”

HR and learning consultant Josh Bersin said, “Learning and development startups still face a loyalty challenge… It’s not an easy market with so much competition. But there’s a lot of niches. Coursera has to decide what they want to be known for.”

Your association is already known for providing high-quality education to the professionals in your industry. You have the advantage of both your reputation and your existing relationship with members. Your members and customers will remain loyal as long as you continue to deliver value.

selling online education to corporate members

Reasons to sell online education to corporate members (and customers)

Fulfilling your mission is as good a reason as any, but your association will benefit in other ways if you become the preferred educational partner of your corporate members and customers.

Deeper reach into companies

A perennial challenge for trade associations is extending their reach into member companies beyond the primary contact. As data privacy regulations, like GDPR, go into effect, marketing to employees will become even more challenging. But not if these employees have attended one of your courses thanks to their company purchasing online education in bulk from your association.

Even associations that offer individual memberships can benefit from this approach by partnering with companies that employ existing or prospective individual members. Employees will be exposed not only to your online courses but to other products and services as well as the benefits of membership.

Stronger relationships with companies

71 percent of CEOs believe their company's talent pool is more valuable than its products, branding, and customer relationships, according to an IBM study. You can help companies build their talent pool and retain employees by becoming their workforce training partner.

But this doesn’t have be a one-way relationship. Your association also will benefit from the company’s feedback on existing and future educational programs. You’ll hear about skills gaps and emerging needs.

Soft skills and leadership development

Many companies are realizing their employees don’t always have the soft skills needed to move forward (and up) in their career. Although these skills aren’t always part of a certification or licensing curriculum, they’re necessary for effective management and leadership. Why take a generic class in leadership, communication, negotiation, or conflict resolution when you can take one that’s designed by an association specifically for your profession or industry?

And, there’s a bonus for offering leadership development courses to companies: these programs also help you groom future association leaders.

Revenue growth

If you keep your corporate customers happy, you’ll enjoy increased recurring revenue in years to come. Your educational programs will be exposed to a larger audience—all of whom can spread their satisfaction with your programs through word-of-mouth marketing. When employees switch to new employers, they’ll take their loyalty to your programs with them.

selling online education to corporate members

How companies benefit from partnering with your association

In a recent benchmark study, corporate trainers identified the top five barriers to success:

  • Cost of set-up, development, and maintenance of training
  • Lack of skills among employees to manage their own learning
  • Reluctance by line managers to encourage new ways of learning
  • Lack of skills among Learning & Development staff to implement and manage technology-enabled learning
  • Unreliable technology infrastructure

With the exception of supervisor reluctance—a cultural issue—you can solve all these problems for them.

Relevant real world education

Your association is already a trusted source of information in your industry. Employers rely on you to keep up on and share news and developments. You have an industry-wide (and beyond) perspective whereas companies tend to look at things from inside the board room bubble.

The courses you offer are focused on the needs of your industry. They’re not trying to appeal to a wider audience, like many online training providers. They’re grounded in the “real world” where people practice their skills.

Education on demand

Employees have a choice: asynchronous in addition to synchronous learning. If they’re gearing up for a new position, they can start preparing right away. They don’t have to wait until a new semester starts. And, they can learn at any time, from any place, and on any device.

Influence on curriculum development

As educational “partners,” companies will have the ear of your association. They can provide feedback on existing programs as well as course, learning path, or digital badge development. They can ensure your online learning programs are useful and practical, i.e., they fill skills gaps and address pain points.

Lower training costs

Companies won’t have to invest in course development, instructional designers, or an LMS. They’ll even benefit from more savings if they’re moving away from on-site instruction—there’s no longer a need for printed training materials and instructors. They’ll no longer have to budget for expenses associated with employee traveling to training sites.

Higher standard of industry-focused education

When employees have a preferred education partner, they’re not left on their own to find somewhere to spend their allotted professional development budget. Without direction, they might choose generic management seminars of no value instead of spending their time (and employer’s money) on relevant, high-quality online education like yours.

Because your association understands the industry and the different job roles and skills required to stay competitive, you can provide a more relevant education—not a generic curriculum designed to appeal to a broad range of industries and professions.

Increased employee retention

Everyone appreciates an employer who invests in your professional development, but according to research, millennials value training and development more than any other job benefit, including cash bonuses and flexible working hours. Satisfied employees are less likely to leave employers, especially those who work with them on professional growth plans.

If you’d like to learn how associations are selling online learning programs in bulk to corporate members and customers, please join us on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 1 p.m. for How to Scale Online Learning: B2B Market Strategies for Associations.


professional development
trade associations
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