A Certification or Digital Badge Program Can Pay Dividends

Share |

When Bob Coleman needed a name for his now, two-plus, year-old training program, he chose Coleman Certified Training. "We've been in the [small business banking and loan] space for 20 years," he said at the time. "I struggled with [what to call it] but we are perceived as the experts in the space—people understand our brand. Do we want institute of professionals or Coleman certified? Let's try Coleman Certified Training."

The program has been very successful for Coleman. The latest class—Coleman's Certified SBA Express Loan Training—begins Sept. 6. Its landing page includes an image of the certificate that "student" receives in addition to a syllabus, testimonials and FAQs. At the end of the course, students may take a final exam. Those who score 90% or higher will receive a certification plaque. They may retake the exam if needed.

Certification—and a new trend, digital badges—can be a huge incentive for publishers to attract customers. Here are five more examples of groups having success: 

1. For her Copyrightlaws.com, Lesley Ellen Harris recently started to offer a Certificate in Canadian Copyright Law, and registrations are going well. See the fun video she put together to promote it. The certificate program goes from September to December, and she will be launching a similar one early in 2017 for U.S. Copyright Law.

2. The Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS), a for-profit group of BLR's HCPro division, offers a "Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) credential [that] provides a mark of distinction for this unique profession. Applicants who pass the certifying exam receive the designation."

ACDIS offers eLearning courses with certification training that can be done virtually. This has worked better than webcasts. "They see us as their thought leaders," said Elizabeth Petersen, executive vice president, health care, BLR. "It became apparent that we needed this certification. We went through a rigorous process; it cost about $20,000 to create [but made for an] easier upsell for other products." Petersen searched on Monster to see that employers in the field are requiring certification as part of the job.

3. APICS, the premier professional association for supply chain management, did so well with its certification program that it had to figure out other ways to engage the people who signed on. "The data drove us there," Jim Pavletich, CAE, vice president, membership and customer experience, told Associations Now.

"Our data was showing that people were coming into the organization to take advantage of the discounts for the certification products and services, and then once they earned it, they were, to some degree, at a certain percentage, stepping away from the organization," he said. "And what we tried to do is [determine] what can we do to stop the churn of the 13,000-plus members we're gaining each year but we were also losing as a result of attrition."

There is now a Plus membership package aimed at supporting certification goals. It includes all of the benefits of a basic Core package plus certification discounts on exams, courses, study materials, and courseware. "Again, we were asking the question, 'Are you interested in certification?' And what we were hearing was 70/30 [yes]," Pavletich said.

Since the July 20 launch, 500 members have joined at the Plus level and 280 at Core—a 64/36 split. "The purpose of the new member strategy wasn't to increase member revenue but to increase member engagement," he added.

4. The National Wood Flooring Association's NWFA University offers its members the opportunity to earn badges through their online courses. A badge is a digital representation of a learned skill, and contains content that can be shared on social channels. A combination of badges and hands-on training will lead to certifications. The University offers more than 50 online training courses and 31 hands-on training opportunities. 

5. The American Institute of CPAs provides a record of professionals' knowledge and skills via its digital badges. These contain a unique URL that can be shared electronically via social media, in an email signature, on a website and more. They write that "the digital badge also provides greater credibility and visually declares your commitment to quality. According to a recent LinkedIn study, profiles with certifications and badges receive six times the number of profile views."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
If not, you're missing out on daily strategies, tips, profiles and case studies that can build your audience and increase revenue. To sign up, please contact Nevena Jovanovic.

Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…