E-learning businesses will fail without this

Nov 6, 2017 | Beginner Basics, Featured

The e-learning industry has exploded in recent years by enabling just about anyone to become an e-teacher. Think of it as the democratization of teaching – and an exciting new category of online business.

But while budding professors everywhere are jumping onto the e-learning bandwagon, many overlook one critical thing.

To avoid a failing grade for an e-learning business, instructors need more than just great online courses. They need great online marketing as well.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

E-learning hits the dining table

In the broadest sense, e-learning is just a way to learn that uses electronic methods to access educational curriculum outside of a physical classroom. It can be a course, a program or even an entire degree – delivered completely online.

While this approach to teaching and learning has been around for many years, what’s different now is that e-learning has expanded beyond the corporate and academic worlds to reach individuals, consumers, self-starters, entrepreneurs, small businesses and more.

The breadth of the Internet has made self-education possible for millions.

Low cost course creation has moved e-learning from the company training room to the dining room table.

And the expansion of e-learning into everyday lives has made it attractive as an online business pursuit.

Who can teach e-learning courses?

The advent of course platforms costing just a few dollars a month has made it easier and more affordable than ever to create professional-looking e-courses.

New learning management software with clever names like Teachable, Kajabi, LifterLMS, Udemy and others make it push-button simple to define a course, break it into lessons, list it for sale on an e-commerce web site, track student progress and more.

As a result, just about anyone can become an e-teacher today.

  • Entrepreneurs can start an online business based on selling e-learning courses.
  • Writers, graphic designers, videographers, photographers, website developers, programmers, consultants, interior designers and other freelancers can move from selling their time to selling online training.
  • In-person trainers (sales trainers, technology trainers, career coaches, business coaches, personal trainers, etc.) can use e-learning to repurpose what they already teach face-to-face.
  • Executives leaving the corporate world (on their own or otherwise) can offer e-learning courses based on their years of expertise and passion – the ultimate career pivot.
  • Anyone with deep knowledge and experience in a subject area can make a living teaching others.

The pot of gold in e-learning

It’s easy to see why so many people are excited by e-learning as a side hustle or even a main business:

There’s a lot of money to be made!

According to Global Market Insights, the e-learning market was estimated at over $150 billion in 2016 and is predicted to grow at over 5% annually from 2017 to 2024.

Research firm Research And Markets is even more optimistic. They expect the global market will grow at around 7% per year over the next decade to reach $325 billion by 2025.

Much of this value will still come from the traditional markets in corporations and academia.

But emerging e-learning segments are fueling a great deal of the market’s new growth and opportunity – especially for startups and small business.

For example, you might have seen stories of online business gurus such as Pat Flynn, Jeff Walker and Melyssa Griffin. These bright people have two things in common: they worked in industries other than e-learning, yet they stopped what they were doing and started selling e-learning courses a few years ago. Now they each run successful multi-million dollar enterprises.

And although it’s been around a bit longer than these upstarts, e-learning firm Lynda.com recently reached a market value of $1.5B with its acquisition by LinkedIn.

Finally, many of the new e-learning platform vendors underscore this growing value, boasting millions of students taking courses from thousands of teachers, earning those teachers upwards of $500M or more on some platforms!

E-learning starts with curriculum

So the money’s there for e-learning companies to tap. But to succeed as a business takes more than just building a course and offering it for sale.

A new e-learning business must clearly start with solid, high quality curriculum.

That means adeptly communicating the e-teacher’s knowledge and expertise in lessons that are both engaging and well structured.

If instructional design isn’t your strength, most online course platforms offer free or low-cost training (e-learning, of course) on this topic. There are also a wide variety of courses available on the subject from other e-teachers. And there are plenty of instructional design consultants that can help you turn your expertise into high quality curriculum.

Add content marketing to reach buyers

Beyond excellent curriculum, the most important factor for success in an e-learning business is marketing. And in today’s world, that means content marketing.

As John Nemo, CEO of LinkedIn Riches, said in a recent article about e-learning,

“The practice of content marketing (attracting your ideal customer or client by first sharing valuable free advice, information or tips online) is no longer optional. It’s required.”

Many e-learning business experts recommend starting to market even before your course is complete. This can help you build demand, gain feedback on your proposed course, take pre-sell orders, and more.

But sadly, marketing is more often a distant after-thought for many online training companies.

Learning platform vendors can compound this problem. In an effort to convince you to license their software they paint a simplified picture of drag-and-drop course creation ease that glosses over the need for a supporting marketing strategy and content creation.

You need a content marketing framework

Whether you market your course yourself or outsource this job to an agency, it’s best practice to use a guiding framework for your content strategy and tactics.

Your framework should help you focus and aim your marketing efforts at a tightly defined target audience. It should help you develop insightful personas of your ideal course buyers and map your content to the buyer’s journey as prospects consider purchasing your course.

Besides these strategic elements a framework can help drive the tactical execution of your content marketing efforts. Use the framework to reach more prospective students, convert them to course subscribers or buyers, and retain them as customers for ongoing course sales.

Content marketing is really just teaching

The skills of teaching and content marketing aren’t all that different, making them a good business match. If you think you have what it takes to be an e-teacher, you’d probably make a good content marketer as well.

The underlying principle of both disciplines is to be helpful, not pushy or sales-y. Use that philosophy and skill set to provide free advice in your marketing content, and paid advice in your courses.

Both take an organized mindset centered on your subject matter expertise. Use that skill to organize informative content for marketing and educational lessons for teaching.

Both teaching and marketing require thinking, planning and writing. There are different goals for each, but the skill set is the same.

Useful content for e-learning businesses

Your unique course subjects and your goals for an e-learning income will dictate much of your content marketing needs. Here are a few ideas that most e-teachers will need at some point.

  • A website with a blog to showcase your expertise, teaching style and thought leadership
  • Content such as info-graphics and curated articles for social media that can engage potential students in dialog
  • Lead magnets – such as ebooks, case studies and sample lessons – to help you build an email list
  • Email content to welcome new prospects, nurture prospects toward buying a course and support students as they take your course
  • A free course that provides enough insight to give students value, but leaves them wanting more (your paid course)
  • Testimonials from successful students

Your turn to teach me

Now it’s your turn.

Does this article inspire you become an e-teacher?

Were you already planning to teach an e-course? Do you already have a course online?

How are you going to market your course? Where do you need the most help with marketing?

Let me know your thoughts by commenting on this article. Did it give you some guidance you can use?

I’m here to help you get an A+ on your e-learning marketing success. Please let me know how I can assist you.

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