How to Create and Grow a Diverse Learning Product Strategy

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This is sponsored content from Barry Kelly, CEO, Thought Industries
Barry will be presenting the roundtable “Building and Scaling Online Learning Revenues” at BIMS on Friday, November 13th.

Many business information and media organizations are heavily invested in delivering learning and training programs in a variety of approaches. Whether it is in the form of in-person trainings, webinars or certifications, there are many learning business methods with a variety of monetization formats.

With the online learning market growing significantly year over year, there lies enormous opportunity to maximize the growth potential of this revenue stream. One of the best ways to drive growth is to diversify and expand current offerings to cover the full spectrum of available learning products.

Most companies will have varied starting points depending on how heavily they have invested in learning to date. In order to evaluate room for growth, there are three steps to consider:

  1. Outline all of the existing learning or information delivery products offered within an organization. Include in-person offerings such as trainings, events and conferences.
  2. Evaluate content offerings that could be transformed into learning products such as eBooks, research, or long format content. Subject matter experts can also be a source of content, know-how and industry experience.
  3. Evaluate the learning product options not included in a portfolio and explore the feasibility of these offerings including cost to create, market demand, pricing variables, etc.

As you work through the simple steps above, here is a high-level look at common learning product offerings as well as tips on how to elevate them to drive new revenue opportunities:

  • Content

Most media organizations are better staffed than ever to build profitable learning businesses. By leveraging editorial and subject matter expertise to transform content and existing learning assets, organizations can build new exciting high-margin learning products very efficiently.

There is always a great deal of rich content that can be repurposed. Training manuals, magazines,  books, articles and guides, can be transformed into webinars, self-paced courses, online video seminars and more. Even consider offering free content guides—these can drive registration and email capture.

Editorial teams, authors, and contributors, or “subject-matter or industry experts” are core to building a sustained learning business.  Most valuable are those established marketing and distribution channels required to promote and offer online learning to both existing and new audiences.

  • Events

According to the latest BIN report just released, events remain the largest overall revenue stream in the B2B media and information industry and were up 4.5 percent to $6.26 billion for the first six months of 2015. The report also showed that “while trade shows and exhibitions account for the biggest piece of the B2B events business, conferences, single sponsor events, award shows and increasingly international events are accounting for more revenue for B2B media and information companies.”

Consider the potential of turning these events into year-round learning experiences. Not only is this valuable for attendees, it’s even better for sponsors who also have the ability to reach the audience outside a compressed annual timeframe. For example, take all of the video from your event sessions and make them available post conference to attendees or as premium paid product (a la carte or for subscription) to all others.  Also leverage key speakers and experts in the creation of online courses.

  • Webinars

Webinars have by far been one of the most popular education delivery formats in the last number of years, and users have embraced this model proving they are willing to pay for high-quality information.  This trend will continue and can be monetized as a free experience for audience development, as a premium paid experience or sponsored.

A note on webinars, while in most cases the information and the subject matter expertise is top-notch, the delivery mechanisms can be clunky and fraught with technical hiccups. When engaging in this form of information delivery, choose a technical solution carefully. The only downside of webinars are scalability. Unless webinars are offered on-demand (which they should be), attendees need to turn up for a synchronous event that may only be ideally scheduled for one time-zone.

  • Sponsorship and ad-supported Learning

One key area, that’s also often overlooked, is sponsored learning. Advertisers are seeing the benefits of content marketing, as traditional print and online display ads have become less effective. Allowing advertisers to sponsor courses or webinars offers them the benefits of higher engagement. There is also a lot of deep data that can be collected in the learning experience, survey data, engagement metrics and completions.

  • Training and certifications

Training programs may already be a direct source of revenue for an organizations, but a number of additional non-direct revenue enhancement opportunities are also available as a byproduct of learning delivery. Bundling online and offline training or learning is one of the most obvious (e.g. annual conference attendance fee plus supplemental online courses). Two less used tactics include bundling additional products like books or reports and adding instructor or one-on-one coach access—both are effective in increasing the revenue per order.

Final Thoughts

The online learning industry is experiencing tremendous growth and many organizations are building successful high-margin businesses in consumer and professional learning.  There are many new opportunities to bolster growth by repurposing, repackaging and expanding on content and subject matter expertise that may already exist at your organization.  Get creative, listen to your audience and don’t forget to explore new ideas in your learning portfolio.  Whether it is offering in-person training online, expanding a webinar business to online courses, or leveraging event programming and repackaging in a way that a wider audience can experience, all are a short step away from monetization. Now’s the time to being the exploration.


About BIMS

BIMS is brought to you by The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the leading trade association for companies involved in the creation and delivery of business information, and InfoCommerce Group. The summit is a powerful combination of SIPA’s Marketing Conference, ABM’s Executive Forum and InfoCommerce Group’s DataContent Conference. For more information, visit