A “Universal Strategy” for Course Entrepreneurs?

Chess Board - Strategy Selling Courses

Recently, I spent the day with a client’s board and various other stakeholders hashing out the strategy for their education business. This is an organization in a highly competitive learning market – lots of companies and individuals course entrepreneurs competing for business.

It was a situation where it would be easy to think that investing heavily in technology or producing the best possible courses would win the day. But, really, everyone in the market is pursuing this approach to the greatest extent possible. It is, as one astute board member put it, “table stakes” at this point.

There are, of course, some competitors in this market who will take the low price approach, but that wasn’t a strategy that made sense for my client (any more than it does for most education producers).

So, what to do? 

In the end, the strategy that made by far the most sense came down to two factors: providing great customer service and supporting the full “aspirational path” of the learner.

Let me offer a bit of explanation for both of these.

Customer service, in this case, means the usual: responding to inquiries on a timely basis and doing everything possible to revolve any issues quickly.

But it also means quite a bit more.

It means taking the time to really know and understand the customer (through conversations, surveys, analysis of data, etc.) and proactively offering recommendations and suggestions (through e-mails, targeted Webinars, social media, and – as possible – technological automation) to help the customer achieve her learning goals. Not just in one course, but in general. Which leads to the second factor … .

…supporting the aspirational path. Learners rarely want a “course.” They want to be able to do something they haven’t been able to do. Something that will make their lives better. A single course rarely achieves that. What vision can you offer the learner, and what path for achieving that vision? Offer the vision and the path, and you will keep them coming back. (This is, some readers may realize, a major theme in Leading the Learning Revolution.)

In short,

  • get and stay close to your learners;
  • make sure learners know the possibilities beyond a single course; and,
  • work to support those possibilities, whether with your own courses or with other resources you can recommend.

These may seem like obvious approaches, but no one in my client’s market is doing it well right now. And I suspect, based on a lot of experience, that no one is doing it well in most education markets. Including, most likely, yours.

Of course, this stuff isn’t easy. It will require this client to adopt a different mindset, use resources differently – or come up with new ones – and develop some new skills. The sad truth is that many organizations and individual course entrepreneurs don’t follow through when this kind of commitment is required.

And yet, if you are willing to do the work and persist at it, this is perhaps the closest approach I have found to a universal strategy. One that, simply because it is challenging enough to scare away those looking for fast and easy money, can win the day for most course entrepreneurs.

Food for thought. Submit a comment to let me know yours.


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