Whether you deliver training in health, agriculture, wine, fashion or pretty much any industry at all… if you have been delivering face to face, at some stage you may want to scale.
Intuitively, I am sure we all know the best way to scale face to face delivery is to move online and sell 24/7/365, but how do you do it and where do you start?
This article presents a TEN STEP GUIDE to scaling your F2F training business online… to make this more real, let’s step through a scenario:
Company A has been delivering training, workshops and consulting services for over ten years, and has a wealth of knowledge amongst the coaching team, hundreds of presentations and Word docs (somewhere on the ethernet!) and a website that’s starting to look dated.
Established and known as the leaders in Training X throughout Australia, it’s time to scale but the current model requires travel, accommodation, bookings and a whole array of staff overheads. The solution? Move the training online and scale globally. But how?
STEP 1 Preparation
The first question is do you have the right team to do this? You may decide to hire an elearning instructional designer, at bare minimum, or the skillset may exist internally. Either way, you need someone ready to use or launch a learning management platform and publish online learning, whether it will be 100% self-service or a blend of video training software and online resources.
Bring all the existing documents into an orderly state, ready to be updated, edited and published for the online learning experience.
It’s probably time to upgrade your public-facing website, so consider whether you want to manually process payments or move these online, either building your own Ecommerce solution (eg Woocommerce on WordPress) or license a SAAS product like Shopify. Either way, if you don’t have one already (or it’s also getting dated), you’ll need to ensure your learning management software (the face of your online institute!) is up to the task. If your LMS has ecommerce built-in, then great! If not, look for integrations, which might mean your selections are listed on the Zapier platform or similar.
Now, I’m sure you agree the idea of ‘build it and they will come’ just doesn’t work well – so, make sure you make all decisions working closely with the marketing team, starting with the target market and then designing for your audience.
Finally, there are sure to be things you miss along the way – we’re all human – so prepare for some testing. It might be about working with a client who trusts you and is happy to learn about some upcoming changes and/or someone in-house. Whatever it is, test, test, test! Better for you to feel the pain than wait for your end users to tell you in silence. On that note, prepare for iterative feedback cycles and updates…
STEP 2 Design MVP
What is the minimum online or blended training offering you could go to market with, ideally so you can pivot easily based on feedback? Perhaps pick your most required product in your category – think compliance – and build around that. Once you’ve got your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) right, you can extend from there.
So, STEP 2 is all about designing (1) Your website (2) Payments system (3) Elearning content and (4) Go to market strategy with (5) a testing process in place ready to improve through iteration.
Here are some options you might consider:
Website: WordPress is a great and popular CMS (Content Management System) with many plugins available, but you could consider licensing a SAAS (Software as a Service) like Shopify, which has templates, plugins and Ecommerce as core to its offering
Payments: Stripe Checkout can be a great way to accept credit card payments easily, so too Paypal; however, SAAS like Recurly can be a more in-depth way to manage recurring revenue, with analytics and easier tools for buyers to manage their account.
Elearning: SCORM-builders like Articulate Storyline or EXElearning can be a quick way to build courses that are transferable from LMS to LMS. However, you may equally decide to use built-in course building software available on the LMS itself, as available at Coursebox.
Market: Rather than ‘building it and they will come’, it’s always best practice to start with the end learner/buyer in mind – what is their age, expectations as to key learning outcomes? Write any assessments first – then teach to that.
Testing: Test, test, test! Find a friend or someone who is happy to be a free tester and make sure you involve them in a round or two of user acceptance testing.
STEP 3 Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
To test your market and product, we recommend building a small course on your chosen platform and roll this out to a small test market first. This can reduce your risk and make it easier to pivot your offering at the beginning.
Your selection of Learning Management System is crucial. It should be flexible, agile and built for the modern age, with key features to watch out for including:
Social: we’re all used to communicating easily, so why not while learning – people learn better together so make sure your LMS has community and micro communities (channels and groups) built-in, to avoid feelings of isolation.
Course builder: select an LMS with easy to manage course building tools and cohort enrolments by channel.
Mobile Apps: with the ‘need it now’ generation in full swing, ensure your LMS is not just mobile friendly but has mobile apps for collaborative, on-demand learning.
Certificates and badges: everyone loves receiving these! Better yet, create pathways with mini credentials using prerequisites…
Your first course: be sure to make your course not just accurate and crafted by subject matter experts (SMEs) but interactive and fun. Here are some great tips for your first course, which you can use every time:
Interactivity: Incorporate video (ideally face to camera where possible) where you can, especially in the welcome and summary activities. Try to vary pages and provide more than just text/image – for example, you might embed a Google slideshow, a series of videos, a gallery or even an interactive SCORM module:
SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model: https://scorm.com/scorm-explained/
Modularity: Chunk large courses into smaller modules and order using prerequisites. Break each module into sections, ideally in 5-7 parts:
Introduction – explain the learning outcomes
Activity page 1
Assessment: you may include multiple choice quizzes or knowledge check points, with uploads for grading, if required
Summary – note the learning outcomes received
Live video: Just like face to face workshops, incorporating any live video training can be complicated as you’ll need calendar management. If you can keep your course 100% self-driven, go for it. However, if you believe it’s crucial, then incorporate calendar events with software like Zoom, Hangouts or even Facebook live.
Certificates: Everyone loves completion certificates, so enable this feature where suitable – if you are authorised to provide CPD points or other accreditation, make sure your LMS has customisable designs.
STEP 4 Marketing Prep
Before launching, be sure to prepare your marketing plan. It’s a great idea to have a regular content and SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy:
Content: You will need to either hire or write regular posts on social media (Linkedin and Facebook are good places to start), not to mention on your website blog, and perhaps longer articles as ‘trip wires’ that can help build your reputation as an expert worth buying from. Don’t forget to add call to action buttons at the end of any such item.
SEO: Select key words that people search for that might make potential buyers read your content and (hopefully) convert!
Mail: You can use something like Hubspot (Customer Relationship Manager) CRM or Mailchimp to send out emails to potential buyers – build up an audience with newsletters to get your content out.
STEP 5 User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
Be sure to test your solution, end to end – from purchase, to invoicing and receipt emails through to LMS invitations and course completion certificates.
STEP 6 MVP (Soft) Launch
Before going hard on the market, start soft to iron out any bugs and user experience (UX) issues early.
STEP 7 Test Funnel
Use Funneltytics or something similar to design and plan your marketing funnel, execute on it and then review. Depending on your target market, it may also suit to build up a learning hub and community on your LMS and then retarget existing buyers and users within, too.
STEP 8 Launch
Once you’re satisfied all is working and your test users are happy, with your accounting system fully integrated… launch!
TIP: If your LMS is listed on Zapier, you can integrate easily with accounting software like Xero.
STEP 9 Market
Finally, it’s time to release to your market – be sure to implement a regular content strategy and use any advertising dollars carefully, regularly measuring return on investment (ROI).
STEP 10 Analyse & Reiterate
That’s it! You’re ready to scale your training business using your online learning community. Now, all should be in place, so roll out more Elearning modules and/or blended learning experiences and then focus on continually activating and engaging your growing learning community.