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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for December, 2009

Free Course = Revenue

Posted by Ellen on December 19, 2009

How can that be? How can offering something that will cost you money to create bring in revenue if you offer it for free? Wouldn’t you  have to charge something to recoup that investment?

Not necessarily.

Of course, folks like Jeff Cobb have been advocating free learning for some time(see especially his Mission to Learn blog on this topic if you haven’t been there yet), but this particular angle occurred to me while reading the October 2009 issue of T+D, covering the ASTD BEST Awards (I’m trying not to rant this year about not having association learning awards) (and, yes, I’m still catching up on reading. Takes awhile for magazines to get to me on the road).

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (DTT)’s US member firm, Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries developed a new hiring approach because it was experiencing attrition costs in excess of $8 million each year.

This made me think of associations on several levels.

Even though we know that gaining new members costs us more than retaining members, do we know the real cost — in dollars — of losing those members?

Unless the members you’re losing are “checkbook members” — paying dues only, without investing in any other activities, services, or products — you’re losing more than just dues.

Here’s an Example

Let’s say you’re a trade association and you lost 20 members last year. Since the membership is comprised of institutions rather than individuals, you lost an average of $500/institution in dues ($10,000).

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You also lost whatever those institutions and members pay for additional products, services, and programs. Leaving certification programs and revenue aside, you still offer an array of reports, educational events, and other things members purchase.

It all adds up. An online course here, a book there, two conference registrations. Even if all your lost members contributed each year was an additional $500, that’s still another $10,000 you’ve lost.

That’s $20,000 in revenue you now have to get back somehow!

And that’s on top of the expense you’ll have to put into attracting 20 new members to replace those you lost (marketing materials, mailing costs, etc. etc.).


Let’s say you could develop a tutorial or short alearning course that you would offer FREE (yes) to members only, and that course would cost you $1000 to build. And let’s say that the course is so on-target, so desirable, and so specific to your members that it alone could be one key reason your members continue to renew.

[You see where I’m going?]

Yes, you’ve nearly doubled your losses — or have you?

What did Deloitte LLP gain from their investment? They shaved nearly a full percentage point from the number of lost recruits from the previous year.

Doesn’t sound like much, but if even — in our case — one member is retained that would have been lost, you’ve covered the cost of the course you built. Every additional member retained is icing on the cake.

In this case, the free course to your members ended up costing nothing to build while increasing your revenue.

Tell me about a better investment than that and I’ll ante up.

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Whose Future Are You Using?

Posted by Ellen on December 14, 2009

According to the folks over at SIGNATURE i, there are at least four different ways to think about the future, and effective strategic planning relies on how you handle each of them.

Hmmm! I love this idea.

In their blog post, “Four Views to Improve Our Understanding of the Future,” they describe used, disowned, alternative, and preferred futures.

Though there’s a lot of value in stealing someone else’s future — successful organizations have a particular view of what’s coming that’s worked for them, after all — there are pitfalls to dropping into lock-step with an organization that might not be a good model. In other words, your path from good to great might not be the same as another organization’s path, especially if they’re moving toward a different vision than you are.

Has your current vision of the future meant re-prioritizing has left important goals behind? Maybe your association had kicked elearning around as a possibility some time ago, then buried it, only to dig it back up when travel budgets tanked.

How do *you* see the future? How does this vision of the future drive your strategy? 

Are you using your own future?

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Meta What?!?!!?

Posted by Ellen on December 13, 2009

Back in grad school, when discussion turned to “deconstructionism,” I mentally closed down. Something about that term turned me off, maybe because it sounded pretentious when people uttered it.

Here’s another one: metacognition. But the concept is simple, and — thanks to learning and development specialist Taruna Goel — easy to implement, all for the good of your association.

Metacognition is learning from learning, “perhaps more important than learning itself,” Goel writes. “Sounds strange but what it means is to allow learners to think about learning and therefore construct their own connections between what has been learnt in the past versus what is being learnt in the present. It is about being aware of your learning and taking control of the same.”

Because learners are in charge of how they are learning, they’re increasing their ability to access that learning in the future when they need it. We all know that unless someone can transfer what they learned into a real situation in which they can apply that learning, then it doesn’t matter how “effective” the training was.

Here’s an example. On an icey road your car starts to go into a spin. Intellectually, you recall that you’re supposed to turn your wheel a certain way. But in reality, you’re struggling to transfer that intellectual learning into a practical, physical action.

How do you structure a learning event to help transfer of learning? Goel provides specifics for pre-training, training event, and post-training activities that will make your job much easier!

Take a look at her blog  — skip the beginning, academic stuff (unless you’d like an excellent summary of various theories on learning transfer) and go right to the “Pre-training” subtitle toward the end of the post.

Follow her advice and you’ll not only deliver more effective learning events to your members, but you’ll be addressing any of those feedback comments that said, “It was hard to sit and listen for 90 minutes, even though I was interested in the topic.”

Transform your learning events from “Sit and Listen” to “Move and Interact.” Avoid the pitfalls of “sage on the stage” by putting your members — as learners — square in the center of the learning activity.

Doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, and Taruna Goel tells you how to do it.

What are you waiting for?

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Future Advice

Posted by Ellen on December 12, 2009

Does your association cultivate learning? Sure it does. Or at least, we all think our associations are creating the right environment for continued professional education and training.

But how well have you defined what you need to do and be in order to accomplish that?

[Groan, groan. Sounds like a lot of work, Ellen.]

Not to worry! The folks at SIGNATURE i have articulated a model that’s worthy of adaption. Take a look at their blog for nine clear goals you, too, can adopt and live by. All are important, but note especially #3 — something I’ve been preaching a long time! SIGNATURE i suggests giving your organization until 2020 to reach this ideal state.

What do you think? Is the vision reasonable? Which goals have you already attained? Which are harder than the others? Why?

Most importantly:
 — How will you know you have attained the goals?
 — What measures do you have — or will put — in place to verify your success or identify your weak spots?
 — How will you transform a list of goals into a workable, verifiable plan for implementation?

Seems to me that SIGNATURE i could go a step further with their model — or you could. Some time ago I wrote about the value of maturity models (click here for an elearning maturity model I created). Why not fashion a maturity model based on these nine goals so an association can determine whether it’s in an early, adolescent, or mature stage?

A maturity model would help an organization determine its baseline — its starting point. When you can look back to see where you started, you’ll know whether you made any progress at all and — if so, get an idea of how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go. Otherwise, how will you know when you get there?

Posted in aLearning Strategies, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning, Measuring Results | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Give Yourself the Gift of Education!

Posted by Ellen on December 11, 2009

If you could sign up for training on elearning that would explain what you needed to know, walk you through all of the key decisions you need to make to implement or change your elearning offerings, and leave you with a full elearning strategy, what would you pay for it?




How about getting all that in a comprehensive manual for just $35 — no, wait! It’s the holidays!!!

aLearning: A Trail Guide to Association eLearning is now available for 15% off the original price so you can give yourself a very affordable gift this year.

The print version is now $30 plus shipping and handling (please allow a few weeks for delivery), but the download version is immediately available for just $21!

You can’t beat this deal. Don’t wait — exit here to see more info on the book and see how to order.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Measuring Results | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »