Pricing for education products is all over the map. But pricing is too essential to leave to guesswork. In this session, we look at why you should eschew “downside pricing” (e.g., cost-based approaches) and embrace “upside pricing” that looks at the value you deliver to the buyers. We’ll also explore how your education products can be placed on a “value ramp” that lets you create pricing flexibility to benefit your customers, spares you the anxiety of trying to find the one “right” price, protects you from both over- and under-pricing, and provides a healthy margin.
Celisa Steele and Jeff Cobb, co-founders of Tagoras, and Jack McGrath, president and creative director at Digitec Interactive, will present this session devoted to demystifying pricing.
Note: This session is designed specifically for trade and professional associations.
Register today and mark your calendar for Thursday, March 6th at 1 pm.
Coming from the nonprofit sector, I’ve had it drilled into my head how important an organization’s mission and vision statements are. But what about it’s “learning promise”? Working in the eLearning industry got me thinking: With the growth in membership education offerings, I wonder how many of our partners have stopped to think about their association’s “learning promise”? How about you? Does your organization have a learning promise?
Think of your learning promise like a mission statement for your member’s education. If your goal is to ramp up the association’s educational offerings, then the first step is to determine the value your education offerings have to your members.
Here are the three steps you should take when drafting a learning promise:
Step 1. Who is important or what matters? (Cause)
First, think about the reason or cause your members utilize the education offerings. The cause is also known as “the why,” and will help you state your learning promise from the member’s perspective. Why do members need certain information to stay relevant in their field? Why do members want to succeed? What material is important?
Step 2. What are you doing? (Action)
What action are you taking to help members reach their scholastic goals? Are programs or pathways in place?
Step 3. What change can you see? (Impact)
In this step you have an opportunity to show the statistical impact of your programs. Gather the analytics and use this information to show non-members what they’re missing out on. Do members who participate in your courses earn higher salaries? Do they earn their certification faster? What impact are your courses making?
Here are some examples I came up with:
The Professional Association of Dive Instructors promises to teach safety and skills to educate and develop well informed scuba divers, resulting in 35% fewer scuba accidents each year!
The American Dental Society promises to advance the careers of its members through research, public programs, and online learning, making oral health education available to over 15,000 members anywhere and anytime.
Just a few reminders for your learning promise: keep it short, be sure it makes sense, is memorable and isn’t difficult to say. You want learners to understand what your organization provides. What would your learning promise be? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
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The following is a guest post from Moira Edwards, President and Consultant at Ellipsis Partners. She is knowledgeable in associations’ use of continuing education and strategic application of technology implementation.
When developing continuing education, you typically look to provide high value to your members while keeping costs as low as possible. You repurpose content in ways that get the most bang for the buck whether that is by recording webinars and making them available on demand, granting online access to conference materials, or using educational articles from your magazine as online learning resources.
But sometimes it’s worthwhile to focus significant resources on developing a very customized continuing education (CE) module. This might end up being an app for mobile devices, an online self-study module with quizzes and games built in, or an online course with significant resources invested such as broadcasting live video.
When are the times when such an investment of resources might be warranted? It depends on the demand for your product.
1. A prize piece of content.
If your association is known for a particular topic, this can be a key area to focus. Check your website’s Google Analytics and see which search terms are used most often by visitors to your site. This will help determine what members expect you to know and provide to them.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the guardian of the Code of Ethics for Nurses. A vast number of searches on Google and on the ANA’s website itself were for ‘ethics’ and ‘code of ethics.’ ANA had already developed a publication for nursing professionals and students on interpreting and applying the code of ethics. They then developed that into a customized CE module, which also came up in the search results along with the code of ethics itself.
2. A wide audience.
It can be good to showcase your content when a particular CE module can reach beyond just your actual membership, and is useful to those who are not yet in the profession or who serve your profession or industry.
In the case of ANA, in addition to the code of ethics, the association was known for several other key publications which were core to the nursing profession. They developed three customized CE modules which had dedicated templates, were custom coded, and had quizzes and instructional elements throughout the pages. Together, this ‘Foundations of Nursing’ package serves as very useful teaching aids to nursing students who cover these foundational publications in nursing school. ANA sold bulk access to the modules to nursing schools for use in their curriculum to help extend its’ audience.
3. A specific skill set.
As the association for a particular industry or profession, you know the skills your members must have to do their jobs well.
The Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP) recently posted on an ASAE discussion group that they had just developed a 9-module online training course covering the basics of risk pools. Given that they are one of the few associations with the knowledge of the skill set needed and the ability to provide online training in those skills, they had an opportunity to develop this broad custom package.
Deciding what format you will develop the CE in is another area to investigate, and may ultimately come down to cost for your association. You might have an idea of what a self-study online module might look like, or a live video, but what about a mobile app?
To see an example of a mobile learning app, try downloading Duolingo, a free app for learning foreign languages. The entire learning experience is like playing a language game, using sound, typing and quizzes. Duolingo is a good demonstration of how you might develop an app for something that requires hands-on demonstration of skills for your learners.
For a self-study module, have a look at this example from Digitec Interactive, which shows how text, graphics, quizzes, and games can be integrated in an online self-paced module.
Live video can make your online courses much more interactive and personal. One provider is Telenect and you can see some samples on their website.
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You’re getting ready to launch a brand new online course or webinar series for your members and there’s just one last thing to do – decide how much you will charge for it. Should you charge at all? Maybe you should charge non-members one price and offer a discounted price to members. How do you decide what is a fair price for your association’s eLearning? Here are a few important things to keep in mind when valuing membership education.
The first consideration you should make when pricing your association’s online learning is how much value it offers your members. We all understand that highly relevant, well-produced learning has a higher perceived value to your members than very generic, poorly produced content that offers little expert knowledge on a topic. When content is interactive and audience specific, it helps drive the perceived value to learners and can yield a higher return for the association. To improve the perceived value of your learning, focus on creating quality courses that help your members solve a problem. Whether they need to learn a new skill or earn continuing education credits, your courses should help them meet their goals in an aesthetically pleasing, interactive way that appeals to their learning style.
A lot of associations make the mistake of assuming that online courses are somehow less valuable to their membership than instructor-led experiences and thus underprice them. The truth is, eLearning is just as valuable, if not more so to your members than traditional place-based training. It’s all in how you promote the product to your members, no matter the method of delivery. Focus on the convenience to your members, who can participate in education opportunities from the comfort of their home or office, without the hassle of traveling or added expense of missing work or paying for gas. Additionally, self-paced eLearning, recorded webinars or recorded conference sessions offer even more convenience, enabling learners to access the content on their schedule and to pause, resume or restart the content at will. Never assume that these added conveniences don’t add value to your course; they do, and it is wise to remind your members of that when it comes time to market your course.
The next factor to consider is how much competition exists for the type of education you plan to offer. Look to see if another association, university or training provider offers a similar course. If there are few alternatives for the course you’re offering, your association has an advantage and can generally charge a higher premium for the content. However, if there are many free or lower cost alternatives to the course you’re offering, the value will be greatly diminished. The basics of supply and demand are certainly true in the education business. If there is an abundant supply of similar courses and/or limited demand, you will be forced to lower the price of your eLearning to compete with other offerings.
If you determine there are competitors in your space, you will want to research their offerings, their pricing model and who they’re targeting. Is their course more general than yours? Does it offer the same number of continuing education credits as yours? Is the course offered in an online format? Can anyone take their course, or is it restricted to students or members? Use the answers to all of these questions to help you determine the value of your offering compared to those of your competitors.
Another common mistake associations make when pricing their eLearning is not understanding or measuring their profit margin. Profit margin is the difference between what it costs to produce and deliver your course and what you’re able to sell it for. Ideally, you should determine your desired profit margin before you even begin creating your course. If you know you need to achieve a profit margin of 30% or greater to satisfy your Board and build a case for doing more eLearning in the future, you should keep that number in mind as you determine your budget for the course production and the price you intend to charge for it. Your goal should be to work within a reasonable budget that enables you to charge a fair price for the course while achieving your desired profit margin. You can achieve this by staying in budget on your project and finding ways to add value to your course, enabling you to charge more for it.
Sales volume & selling price
Part of the equation when calculating your profit margin is the volume of course sales you anticipate making. To forecast your volume of sales, first determine the potential size of your market by evaluating your membership and any non-members who would benefit from your course. The sum of both groups represents your potential market; however, it’s important to be realistic about the number of people who will be willing and able to purchase your course. You might decide that a conservative estimate is that 10% of your potential market will purchase and participate in your course.
So, if 10% were to purchase your course, what would you need to charge for your course to cover the production and delivery costs and achieve a 30% profit margin? Let’s say your association has 10,000 members and you estimate another 500 nonmembers would benefit from your online course. If 10% purchased your course, your sales volume would be 1050. If the total cost to produce and deliver the course were $30,000, you would need to price your course at $40.95 or higher to achieve your 30% profit goal. We arrived at this number by calculating our selling price using this formula:
P = C x 1.43325 / V
Where P is the selling price for the course, C is the cost to produce and deliver the course ($30,000), and V is the volume of courses we expect to sell (1,050). 1.43325 is the mark-up factor used to achieve a 30% margin.
$40.95 = 30,000 x 1.43325 / 1050
Think you could convince a larger percentage of your potential market to value your course at say, $29.95? Let’s see what your sales volume would need to be at this price to achieve your goal of 30% profit margin. We’ll use this formula to calculate the sales volume needed at the new price:
V = C x 1.43325 / P
Where V is the sales volume, C is the cost to produce and deliver the course ($30,000), and P is the course selling price ($29.95).
1,436 = 30,000 x 1.43325 / $29.95
So, you would need to sell an additional 386 courses or 3.68% more at the lower selling price to achieve the same profit margin.
No matter how you decide to price your online learning, remember it is always easier to lower the price if sales aren’t what you thought they’d be than it is to raise prices later. Leave some flexibility in your course price to allow for occasional special offers, discount codes and member-only pricing
Average price for association eLearning
It goes without saying that eLearning prices vary tremendously from one association or course title to another. So, what is the average price per content hour for association eLearning? According to the Association Learning + Technology: State of the Sector report from Tagoras, the average price per eLearning content hour in the association sector is $56.79, while courses that offer continuing education credits average $73.97 per credit hour.
Correctly pricing your association’s eLearning is critical to your program’s success and an area many associations struggle with. In the coming weeks we will be teaming with the folks at Tagoras to bring you even more information and tips for valuing your association’s eLearning.
Join us March 6, 2014 at 1:00PM EST for a free webinar, How to Price Education Products, presented by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele from Tagoras and Jack McGrath from Digitec Interactive.
We will also be publishing several additional posts on the topic in the coming months; subscribe to the Association eLearning blog so you never miss these informative posts.
Coming up on the Association eLearning Blog:
Pricing Your Education: Where is the Sweet Spot
How to Compete with Free eLearning
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For many of us, education and learning are a passion. There’s a joy in mastering new things and continuing to stay current in our careers. For us, learning is what Maslow described as “self-actualization” and that’s the only motivation we need to continue to learn. But that’s not the case for everyone. Many association members or potential members face economic or family situations that make continuing their education critical for them to find a better life.
As association professionals, we need to provide the learning that can serve these basic needs. So, in this post, I’d like to offer five tips that can help drive traffic to your association eLearning, and keep those learners coming back for more.
Quick personal story: I’ve taught as an adjunct faculty member since 1991. Typically, my classes are made up of non-traditional learners, returning to college. Many of them are English as a Second Language (ESOL) students or single mothers, juggling career and family to make it back to school.
I’ve been tempted to stop teaching over the years, because of increased demands from my ‘real job.’ But when I think about stopping, I remember hearing from one of my students – a single mother, who at the time, told me that if I didn’t offer this required course online, she would not be able to attend college at all. This could be the case for your members, who see eLearning as their best option. So, here are some tips to better attract your association’s learners and keep their interest.
1. Offer mandatory training, online – many associations are seeing annual meeting attendance drop. With more demands on our time, learners will be attracted to educational offerings, if you provide online options. The instruction could be delivered through recorded webinars, self-paced learning or a blend of these, just as long as there is flexibility. And if you create a great experience, as well, they’ll return again and again.
2. Be relevant to their careers – I’ve often worked with subject-matter-experts (SMEs) who are inclined to want to tell the learner everything they know. But if you can help SMEs tailor and focus the eLearning content to only those topics that the learner really needs or wants to know, satisfaction rates will increase and so will your numbers.
3. Shorter, more flexible content – You may be tempted to simply take a video of your conference sessions and deliver those through the web just to get learning online. But even with better bandwidth, sitting through an hour long, non-interactive session will not work well online. If you want to leverage existing content, make sure to edit it down to shorter topics that learners can complete more quickly. This will enable them to start a module, stop, and continue later without losing the context. This more concise approach may also enable you to reuse the content in other courses.
4. Keep it social. According to research, 70% of what we learn, we learn from our peers. Just because you begin offering eLearning doesn’t mean that you need to take the instructor or other students out of the equation. Consider assigning an instructor to the course to answer questions and moderate discussion forums, that way, learners can reflect, share and interact with one another.
5. Keep them engaged. Member engagement is so critical to associations, so make sure that this focus doesn’t end when eLearning course registration begins. Often, the learning management system (LMS) will enable an instructor or administrator to send out alerts and messages to registered students. If a learner starts to fall behind, a triggered message can make all the difference in lowering attrition rates and increasing satisfaction. Even if these are automated responses, maintain that connection to you learners… and they’ll reward you for it by recommending your courses and purchasing more.
How are you marketing your eLearning? And how does your eLearning keep members coming back?
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Unless you want everything to blend together, you don’t put white furnishings in a white room. Likewise, if your learners can’t see your content clearly, they can’t learn from it. To keep your work in visual ship-shape, remember:
● Warm colors naturally “pop,” while cool colors tend to fade into the background. As a result, you only need to use a little of a warm color like red or yellow for it to be effective. You have to use more of a cool color for it to make an impact. If you’re using warm and cool colors together, use more of the cool color.
● Black and dark grey are generally good colors for body text. You can use other colors but make sure there’s enough contrast between the content and the background that nothing gets lost. Pairings like dark green and brown are not easy to read.
● Do not forget to consider colorblind learners. Use symbols or other visual clues like underlines or highlights, vary the contrast and brightness of design elements, and avoid using combinations that are especially difficult for the color blind to distinguish such as red with green or blue with purple. You can learn more, check out links to colorblindness simulators, and take a basic color blindness test here.
A room doused in red triggers feelings of danger, if you’re from a Western country. In China, however, red is the color of happiness and the same room could be regarded as pleasant. In many cases, colors do not “mean” the same thing in one culture as they do in another. Here are a few cultural considerations to keep in mind:
● Blue is the most universally liked color.
● Yellow is a harsh color for people’s eyes. It is disliked in multiple cultures, sometimes very strongly, when it is used as the main color on a screen.
● Be mindful of your use of black and white. Although black tends to conjure up images of funerals in Western minds, white plays that same role in a number of Eastern cultures (notably Hindu and Chinese).
● Take a look at this multi-cultural color wheel to see what different colors mean in ten different cultures.
Most lawyers would probably throw a fit if you painted their office bright orange. Why? It isn’t an appropriate color for their profession. Similarly, the colors you choose for an eLearning project should complement the subject matter. Here are some quick tips on picking a scheme that works for your project:
● Red, blue, and yellow are an appealing color combination for children. That said, they’re probably not the best design choice for eLearning intended for adults.
● If you have a style guide or company colors to work with, use them to your advantage. Depending on the project, they may be all you can work with, which removes the decision making from your hands. If you have some latitude, consider using lighter tints and darker shades of those base colors as part of your palette.
● Does the project have a prominently featured image? Use the eye dropper tool in programs like Paint or Photoshop to pull colors from the image itself and apply them to the project.
There are a number of great sources available to further expand your palette of color and design know-how. My personal favorite is The Non-Designer’s Design Book 3rd edition, by Robin Williams (not the actor, although this one has a great sense of humor too). 131 Tips on Graphics and Animations for eLearning is more field specific to eLearning. And for anyone who wants more interactivity in their color learning, check out this great color tool. It teaches the ropes of making effective color schemes and tests your understanding with nifty color mixing, matching, and identifying activities. What trials or triumphs have you had working with color? Leave a comment and let me know.
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Not many people enjoy reading data, but if you think about how it can affect your association’s online learning for the better, you might relish it. A major lesson I learned from a conference session at this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting was the idea that data should be connected, not just collected. That really stuck with me and led me to dig deeper into how connecting eLearning data from members to the product and membership services can benefit your association.
1) Big Data
It’s a buzz word that people love to throw around but rarely understand. Ready to find out what it really means? Simply stated, big data is used to describe data that is too complex to store and analyze. With the growth of technology, many online learning platforms are now able to analyze big data. With advanced reporting and tracking now available, we can gather more information than ever about how learners receive and respond to course offerings. Some data our partners often find interesting are how long learners spend in a course, which courses showed the greatest learning gains, how active the members are in the online portal, and which discussions are most popular. The administrator of your association’s online learning system is probably familiar with how to run these types of reports, but they may not yet know how to connect the data to “measures that matter.” If analyzed properly, reports from your association LMS can tell you more than who completed which course, such as the time of day members learn best or which courses are generally purchased together and might benefit from being bundled.
2) Data Trends
Data trends are easy to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for, meaning you should never be looking for a trend when you collect the data; make those connections after you have all of the information. According to CIO.com, “The new cornucopia of public and private data is providing a new opportunity to mash up multiple big data sets to gain new insights beyond what a single big data set allows. ‘The highest value of big data is coming from combining big data sets together,’ says Ron Bodkin, CEO and founder of Think Big.” Reports from your association LMS can provide data trends that convey what is and isn’t working for members. Is there a correlation between how much time your members spend in a course and how well they score on an assessment or rate the course? If we take the time to analyze and seek out trends in our data, sometimes the most valuable information is right in front of us, we’re just not seeing it.
3) Data Costs
Debbie King of DSK Solutions developed an exercise to determine indirect and opportunity costs associated with wasting time on activities that do not add value to an association. To begin, Debbie suggests association executives ask their staff to write down their daily activities on post-it-notes. Next, Debbie instructs participants to consider the following questions:
The idea is to evaluate all of the activities staffers carry out each day and decide which add value to the association and which are a waste of time and should be stopped.
By completing this exercise and utilizing Debbie’s tool, you can prioritize activities within your association and uncover the indirect and opportunity costs that may be inhibiting your association’s growth.
You could also apply this same exercise to your association’s education offerings. With the big data and data trends in hand, you could determine which courses offer the most value to your membership, which take the most time to produce and manage, and which ones you might want to offer more of.
While data driven decision making is not something new, the technology that pulls certain data is. Be sure you know what types of data are important to your association. With the technology to analyze and report certain data, the key is figuring out how to connect your member data to products and eServices. For more information on data management and the questions you should be asking, I suggest this blog post by Effective Data Management.
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