Fun fact: Experts estimate that the e-learning market will exceed $240 billion by 2023.
And it’s not a stand-alone industry filled exclusively with entrepreneurs building entire businesses around online courses. Developing educational and instructional material also opens up unique marketing avenues for business owners like you: the graphic artists, marketers, personal trainers, auto-detailers and “insert your industry here.”
Curious how you can leverage the e-learning market for your existing business and how it might benefit you moving forward? Keep reading!
More exposure, more income, more clients
Wander around online education platforms and you’ll find courses on Java from working website developers, piano lessons from music teachers and dog training classes from veterinarians. Essentially, you can create a course around nearly any information related to nearly any business type.
Yes, it’s a big project. But the benefits are worth it for many. Online courses:
Boost your credibility. Take the trust you’ve built with your base to the next level by moving beyond “just” providing a great product. Online courses let you show off your expertise all while delivering high-value content to your base.
Create new opportunities to upsell. Learning some of the basics of what you do or provide makes your base feel empowered. Once they’re comfortable with their new knowledge, they’ll have more appreciation for what you do and look to you for help when they’re ready to move beyond the 101 version.
Attract new clients. Thoughtful, useful online courses give your base even more reason to sing your praises and tell people all about your company. The more people who take your course, the more word-of-mouth referrals you’ll receive.
Create new revenue streams. Yes, putting together and marketing an online course will take time and money. But once it’s in place, you’ll be left with a (mostly) passive income stream that will only grow over time.
Developing and designing spectacular courses
As with any new marketing tactic, poorly designed courses will harm your business as substantially as well-designed courses will help it. Of course, there’s no sure-fire formula for success, especially across all industries. A social media marketer has a different type of information to organize and teach than a photographer.
But, there are some universal tips for planning and designing stellar courses.
Kick back, grab a note pad and settle in for a brainstorming session.
Make a list of pain points you’ve noticed in your customer base. Website designers: Are your clients constantly coming to you with minor WordPress problems? Accountants: Do you regularly get asked for the basics on retirement planning? Photographers: Are families routinely asking for tips on improving their personal snapshots of their kids?
Look over your list. Pinpoint the topics that you can comfortably explain and have the potential to interest a wide range of people.
Break these remaining ideas down into manageable concepts. This gives you have a better idea of what the finished course should cover. For example, if you’re considering creating a course on mastering snapshots, the concepts might include lighting, taking advantage of standard smartphone camera settings and basic photo editing.
Pick the topic you’re most comfortable with and run with it. You might want to create an entire course on a broader subject (like mastering snapshots); or, you might find that one concept deserves its own dedicated course (like basic photo editing).
Now that you have an idea, it’s time to map out the course.
Define the course goals. What should the student know or be able to do after they finish the program?
Lay out the course units based on the concepts you came up with while brainstorming. But, be open to adding new units and ideas as you dig deeper into the project. Think of learning as a building: Each block is a concept that, when stacked in the right way, creates a new structure (understanding).
Make lesson plans for each unit. Decide how you want to relay the information (videos, podcasts, articles, etc.), what types of activities you want the student to do to master the information (worksheets, projects or group discussions) and how you’ll evaluate progress (quizzes, tests and/or projects).
No matter the topic, keep these best practices in mind as you plan and design the course.
Make it engaging and entertaining. You don’t have the benefit of forced participation a la high school or college. The stereotypical dull, monotone professor and stacks of worksheets aren’t going to cut it.
Don’t be afraid to reuse some of your existing content for the courses. While you need to develop a lot of the content from scratch, especially the instructional portions, things like past blog posts, videos and infographics make for fantastic supplemental materials.
Make lessons short and manageable. Online courses are most enjoyable, and most beneficial, when the information is broken down into bitesize chunks.
Play with different types of media. Mixing up videos, charts, podcasts, slide shows and other teaching methods makes for an interesting course that appeals to lots of different types of learners.
Track student progress and adjust accordingly. Unless you have an absolute knack for teaching, you probably won’t hit it completely out of the park on your first go. Look at student progress throughout the course, find areas where people are routinely having difficulty and make the necessary changes.
Comprehensive tools for businesses
There are loads of educational platforms to choose from. But, not all of them are best for businesses. Platforms like Udemy are super popular, but don’t have the same branding features as business-friendly platforms like Teachable, Kajabi and Thinkific.
Teachable allows you to create custom, branded courses with intuitive community features to facilitate class discussions. And, it comes equipped with powerful editors that give you complete control over every aspect of the course’s design. Add in the ability to integrate marketing products like MailChimp and Infusionsoft, and Teachable is worth the starting price of $39/month.
Kajabi was designed with businesses in mind, offering full branding capabilities and plenty of built-in marketing features. It has most of the same customization options as its competitors. But, Kajabi places a heavier focus on marketing with robust analytics, email marketing programs and the ability to set up automated campaigns. The platform’s cheapest package is $103/month, but this all-in-one product lets you handle the entire project, from designing to promoting, in one place.
Thinkific strikes a good balance between the customization features of Teachable and the marketing options of Kajabi. And with a free starter plan, it’s a great choice if you’re unsure if online course development will work for you.
Dipping your toe into the e-learning market requires some studying of your own. Take your time, trust your expertise and discover the hidden benefit of becoming an educator: Teaching what you know deepens your personal understanding of the topic.
Biz.me is not affiliated with, nor endorsing, any product or influencer discussed or linked to in this post.