Technology continually creates new opportunities for your association’s educational programs, but it also lowers the barrier to entry for competitors to enter and disrupt your market. Think of all the organizations that now offer professional development to your members—how many of them existed even ten years ago? To stay top of mind (and top of market), you need to leverage your eLearning differentiator—your iconic advantage.
You can learn more about the “iconic advantage” approach to marketing straight from the inventor of the concept, Soon Yu, at the NiUG Discovery Conference next week (October 2-4) in Arlington, Virginia. Soon Yu is the opening keynote and conference emcee at #NiUG17—follow that hashtag on Twitter to read soundbites from the conference. Since WBT is a Strategic Partner of the NiUG Discovery Conference, we hope to see you there.
Once we made our way to Soon Yu’s website, we learned more about iconic advantage and saw how it can elevate the awareness and success of an association’s online learning programs.
Unlock your association’s iconic advantage
Soon Yu says the best way to ensure your organization keeps its competitive edge is by playing to your strengths and leveraging your market momentum. Focus on your iconic advantage: “a strategy that builds real differentiation based on meaningful product benefits.”
An iconic advantage helps your association build deeper member and customer loyalty and allows you to expand your online learning offerings. These three steps will help you unlock the iconic value and advantage of your online learning programs:
- Create noticing power—be distinctive.
- Enhance staying power—be relevant.
- Drive scaling power—be universally recognized.
Create noticing power—be distinctive
To capture and hold the attention of your target audience, your association’s eLearning brand must stand out from your competitors. Start by identifying what differentiates the eLearning experience your association provides from the experience offered by your competitors.
Talk to students about the different aspects of their experience: instructors, curriculum, materials, delivery formats, learning community, LMS features, and, most importantly, impact. Identify the pivotal moments in their eLearning experience—ones not shared by competing programs.
Your marketing efforts must focus on the ‘signature’ elements of your online programs—your differentiator and strength—something that can’t be commoditized. Your eLearning differentiator separates your online courses from the courses offered by other organizations. It’s not the information you provide—that’s a commodity—but the experience students can’t get elsewhere.
Your eLearning differentiator—or iconic advantage—is something that makes an emotional and professional impact on your students. It helps your association stand out in the marketplace. After talking to past students, you may want to explore whether any of these characteristics apply to your online learning programs. For example, do your eLearning programs:
- Fit into and enhance a busy professional’s lifestyle?
- Help students develop lasting relationships within a learning community?
- Result in salary increases, better jobs, new business ventures, and new products/services?
- End up being so enjoyable (even fun) that students keep coming back for more?
- Transform lives by helping students develop new habits?
- Help students develop the skills they’ll need in the future?
Enhance staying power—be relevant
To protect and sustain your iconic advantage, your eLearning programs must not lose what makes them so remarkable. You want to provide assurance to your audience that what makes your online courses so effective and popular is still part of your recipe—your iconic advantage is still strong.
However, your programs must evolve with the times if you wish to remain relevant and offer the best learning experience possible to your audience. That doesn’t mean changing for change’s sake. You have to find a balance between old and new by taking advantage of innovation to make what you’re good at even better—a more cost-effective approach that involves less risk and, therefore, results in a lower failure rate.
Continually deepen your understanding of your audience and their changing needs, interests, and preferences. Ensure your online learning programs remain lifestyle-friendly. For example, if students find themselves with an idle ten minutes, they can take out their phone and get coursework done.
Be your audience’s indispensable resource for need-to-know information. By staying on top of industry news and trending topics, you’ll attract eyeballs to your educational content. In TopClass, you can use the news widget on the dashboard to highlight and share curated articles on trending topics. Or, use the email feature within your LMS to notify members about relevant and timely online courses.
Talk to your LMS vendor about functionality you may not be using to its full potential. Find out about upcoming releases so you can anticipate how to leverage new functionality for your programs.
Drive scaling power—be recognized
Staying power is only possible if you have scaling power. Keep leveraging and improving your iconic advantage—and never become complacent.
Promoting your iconic advantage is not an isolated one-department effort. How your audience perceives your eLearning programs is influenced by their perceptions of the association in general. Does your association’s brand as portrayed in its website, social media, marketing campaigns, publications, and events align with the iconic advantage your department has unlocked?
Never stop reminding your audience about your eLearning programs and your differentiator. In the “Related Content” sections on your website pages, digital and print articles, and newsletter items, feature online learning programs. Incentivize instructors and students to publicly share their enthusiasm for online courses.
After in-person events like conferences, let attendees know how they can continue their conference learning experience by participating in eLearning programs. Or, follow the example of NiUG. Thanks to the IMIS/TopClass integration, they offer recorded sessions at different price points to conference attendees, members, and non-members—a great way to expose their audience to the courses in their NiUG Learning Center.
If you’re attending the NiUG Discovery Conference, don’t miss Mike Bourassa’s session on Monday at 4:45 p.m. Mike will demonstrate our secure, off-the-shelf, two-way integration bridge between TopClass LMS and iMIS. Calling it “iconic” might seem like a stretch, but it’s certainly an advantage for iMIS clients like NiUG.