Marketing & PR Outside the Box

Online courses to build brand loyalty and increase profits

Online courses are becoming more popular as an alternative to traditional college education.  Just google “online course” and you’ll get list after list of websites offering courses.  These courses offer training on specific  training and skills without requiring extra course work or high tuition, all this plus the ability to take the course at your own pace and when it’s convenient adds up to more, more people turning to certificate training through online courses.

How can companies leverage online courses?

Let’s say your business is a B2B (Business to Business) company and your customers are making consistent mistakes that are costing your company time and money.  How could you address this problem?  You could address the issue with each customer but that is time consuming and only works if 1) the customer is willing to learn, and 2) as long as the person you trained is in that position.  The better way is to develop an online training course that your customers can take voluntarily  and requires a one time effort from your company.

What would an online course involve?

  1. Identify what your pain points are that are caused by your customers.  
  2. Identify how the customer can fix the issue.
  3. Identify how fixing this issue can benefit the customer.
  4. Decide on the scope of your course, if pain points are not similar consider developing separate courses for each pain point.
  5. Decide how you’re going to host your course, self hosted or on a pre-established platform.
  6. Develop a course outline.
  7. Write a script for your course broken down by section.  Make sure to have small sections to give the learner small victories as a mental boost.
  8. Produce a high quality (audio and video) course with on screen presenters and on screen demonstrations.
  9. Create workbooks and guides for learners to print off and reference.
  10. Upload your course and accompanying documentation to your chosen online course platform.
  11. Start promoting your course to your customers and potential customers.

Self hosting vs. Pre-establish platforms

You may be tempted to self host your course to maintain full control of your product, and I get that, I’m a Linux guy and self host things.  But the approach has its downsides.  When you self host you have to pay for server space, maintenance, customer data management, advertising, and take the time to build up your course search rankings.

Using a pre-established online course provider on the other hand not only takes care of all the issues with self hosting for you, but will have the benefit of having already done the search engine optimization to help bring your course to more people quicker.  There is also the benefit of internal searching, your course will be listed in the search result relevant to your industry by the hosting platform anytime someone looks for it.

Platform

When I was self employed I was part of an online nurse tutoring course, we decided to self host the course and it failed miserably.  We poured money into this course, we made sure everything was clear and user friendly, the onboarding process was easy, our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was optimized, and we ran Facebook and Google ads constantly.  We had a retired MSN RN nursing instructor producing the videos, we had reviews stating our content was higher quality than our competitors, and yet we couldn’t get students.  We just couldn’t get on the market and get credibility before the money ran out.

The above is why I advocate for using a third party hosting platform, we could have saved a lot of time and money and leveraged the credibility of the platform to build our course’s credibility.  I’ve taken several online courses from different providers and by far the best one I’ve used is Coursera.  Not only is the onboarding easy, but they work with universities and companies to produce courses that can be as broad or specific as needed.  They also work with LinkedIn to provide a profile badge that you can add to your certifications profile on LinkedIn that will let the learner advertise their accomplishments.

There are a lot of online course platforms, but my recommendation is Coursera. I would like to make it clear at the time of writing I am not an affiliate for Coursera, I am just a paying customer.

Benefits for your company

Now you have to ask yourself, what is the benefit my company can gain from offering an online course?  Are you paying your staff overtime to fix customer caused issues?  Are you looking to hire more staff to fix those issues?  How much could you save if just 50% of your customers fixed these issues?  How much do these issues delay your company from providing your product and service to your customers?

If you can get just 50% of your customers to fix the issues that are slowing you down and costing you money you will have happier customers, more loyal customers, and higher profits.  And the best part is outside of occasional updates, an online course is a one time expense.

Cost

The estimated average cost of a basic corporate marketing campaign is between $10,00 and $40,000.  The estimated cost to create a well produced online course is between $10,000 and $15,00.  Marketing campaigns only work when money is put into them.  Online courses on popular providers such as Coursera are known as “evergreen” meaning they keep working even after the marketing campaign has stopped.  Online courses will continue to show up in course listings and search results even after the creator has stopped marketing them.

Cost to customer

Coursera allows for free courses and I would recommend offering this course for free.  By offering the course for free a barrier to entry will be eliminated when even a $10 a month charge would be enough to make some turn away.  The purpose of this course should not be to make money directly but indirectly.  By offering the course for free your company would be increasing brand loyalty thereby increasing customer retention and ongoing profit.

Using human psychology to increase brand loyalty

Providing this course would also play on human psychology.  By going through a course provided by your company, customers are more likely to return to your company because they are trained to use your system.   By offering the course through a service like Coursera participants can also have a verified certificate on their LinkedIn profile.  This will add to brand loyalty since they are publicly announcing they were trained by your company.

Another benefit would be by having a company branded verified certificate on a shipper’s profile it would act as free advertising.  When other potential customers in the person’s network see the certificate they will be more likely to take the course themselves.

Conclusion

By offering a free, well structured and produced course to shippers your company can not only increase brand loyalty and profits, but potentially reduce the amount of workforce needed in the future to fix an increasing amount of orders which would have the benefit of increasing profits.  Online courses are becoming more popular within the workforce.  Companies can capitalize on this trend and create an evergreen marketing platform that will increase loyalty and profits with little to no ongoing cost.

For a continuation of this idea please see my later post titled Training away common problems to reduce costs to see how companies can expand this idea internally.

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