Education and Marketing – Why the Two Must Team for Success in eLearning

Association Marketing and Education Directors

Even in a small association there is generally someone responsible for marketing and another person in charge of education and professional development. This is generally a good thing and ensures expertise in a particular area, whether it is marketing your association’s conferences and membership or designing certification programs and managing your association’s learning management system (LMS). The problem is, when it comes time to market the association’s eLearning education or professional development in general, the lines get blurred, the message gets lost or marketing opportunities are missed entirely. Why? Because it’s not clear whose job it is to market the association’s eLearning education.

Should the association’s Marketing Director or Membership Manager market the association’s eLearning education offerings to the members? Or is it really the Education Director’s job to ensure the success of the eLearning programs and get enrollments? I asked my Twitter & LinkedIn followers and members of the Young Association Professionals Facebook group, and this is what they said:

“In my opinion it’s a joint responsibility. Also, I believe that the marketing team should be involved at some stage of the development and design of the eLearning products to provide input not just to get involved or be responsible for the marketing.” – Roberto Villalvazo, Knowledge and Learning at Inter American Development Bank.

“Marketing director with input as to audiences, benefits, key difference from competition other audiences, etc from education department.” – Scott Oser, Membership, Marketing and Sales Consultant at Scott Oser Associates.

“Marketing should be a coordinated activity within an association and include a team of all the content and service areas.” – Cecilia Sepp, Vice President and Client Operations Officer, Association Laboratory.

I am going to argue that it is the Marketing Director’s job to market all of the association’s offerings, including eLearning and it is the Education Director’s job to supply the Marketing Director with the appropriate descriptions, learning objectives and member benefits for the courses. What I am suggesting is that the two association staffers (or departments) must team for success in marketing the association’s eLearning education programs to members. Over the past 25 years we have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of education departments, some have found tremendous success with their education and professional development, and others have failed. All of the successful associations had these three things in common:

1. They understood their niche
2. They had a business plan for their eLearning
3. They actively marketed their eLearning

Ten years ago, even five years ago, it might have been enough to create a few eLearning courses or host a Webinar series and gain a lot of interest from your membership. Back then, eLearning was so new, no one really had a business plan for their programs and just the sheer act of creating online content was innovative and exciting. It has only been in the past several years that people like Jeff Cobb with Tagoras, have helped association’s realize that there is a huge opportunity for associations to get in the “education business.”

It’s time to take your association’s education and professional development to the next level. Like with any product or service you offer, you need to determine:

• The demand for what you’re selling
• Who your customers are
• Who your competition is
• The fair market value of your offering

This is the first step to a successful education and professional development program, and the first “team project” your education and marketing departments should work on together. If you’re already knee-deep in eLearning and you haven’t yet determined these basics, it’s time to!

Once you understand your niche and have created your business model, you need to develop a marketing plan specifically for eLearning. For creative ideas on how to market your eLearning on a budget, check out my previous blog post. The marketing plan will be carried out by the marketing department ultimately, but should be a collaborative effort between both the education and marketing departments. The marketing team brings expertise in the area of communication and promotion and the education department brings expertise in the content it creates and knows better than anyone, what the “product” is. When education and marketing team together, your association’s eLearning program becomes unstoppable.

Here is an example of how this team approach works at the Missouri Association of REALTORS®:

“I manage a content calendar for all digital communications. Staff, including the Director of Education, submits events to be included on the calendar. Marketing then coordinates promotions,” says Teah Hopper, Director of Digital Engagement at the Missouri REALTORS®.

Join us for more insights, stories of success and failures with association eLearning in our free Webinar, 6 Steps to Printing Money at Your Association with eLearning, presented by Tom Morrison, CEO at the Metal Treating Institute (MTI) and Jack McGrath, President and Creative Director at Digitec Interactive, October 15, 2013 2:00-3:00 PM EST.

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Amy Bassett

Marketing Director at Digitec Interactive

In her 5th year as Digitec's "resident cheerleader," Amy has made a habit of skipping around the office sharing her "sparkle" on a daily basis. Her outgoing personality and fascination with cake means she is always planning someone's birthday around the office. When she is not counting down to "cake time," Amy is busy meeting with folks at national conferences and sharing her love for eLearning. During her time as Director of Marketing at Digitec, Amy has authored numerous white papers, case studies and newsletters. Amy received a B.A. from Rollins College and an A.A. from Valencia College, where she studied marketing and economics.

Spirit animal: Otter (nurturing, playful, and easygoing)
Diet-breaker: Cake!
Comfort object: "Well-loved" teddy bear
Personal vice: Using "too many" quotes and exclamation marks!
Useless talent: Can break out of handcuffs
Unreasonable paranoia: Odd numbers
Wishes more people cared about: Proper grammar

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