MGI Tipster Volume 1, Issue 17

The Continuing Education Boom is Here. Is Your Association Ready to Cash In?

Run through this marketing checklist and guide to make sure your association is prepared to meet the growing demands for professional development and continuing education programs.

Finding ways to create non-dues revenue is a major challenge for many associations, particularly in the current economic environment. One area that is experiencing growth in 2009—and is expected to grow even more—is the demand for continuing education courses. As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, more people are signing up for professional development workshops and certification courses to stay current and valuable as a professional in their field.

If your association isn’t prepared to benefit from the demand in professional development, then you might want to take a few minutes to run through this marketing checklist:

  • Is your association’s education program part of your annual marketing strategyand not considered just a project? Does your association’s leadership understand the payback education programs can provide to the bottom line? A well run education program can:
    • Increase revenue
    • Improve member loyalty
    • Create new memberships
  • Does your association have an effective communication strategy for promoting courses and curriculum? You might want to consider the following:
    • On target-targeted delivery of course offerings can increase response dramatically. If you have multiple courses for different member types, offers and messaging should be customized per type.
    • Automate messaging to members and trade-related lists. Whether you offer a full annual schedule of courses or just a few, make sure your course offerings are sent out frequently, on time, and that the value of the course is clear.
    • Posting an annual calendar of courses on your website is a must. Members and non-members use online calendars in putting together their annual budgets. Keeping your online calendar up to date and easy to get to is vital to the success of your education program.
    • Use media channels that are measurable, quick to deploy, and support personalization—email, Web, and direct mail work well.
  • Do you survey your members and talk to them about the curriculum to make sure it is relevant and that topics are the most sought after? Start by asking members to list the top issues in their field, then follow up by asking them to rank a list of topics to see which ones are most relevant. Also, don’t forget to ask your audience if they know you offer professional development courses. You would be surprised how many associations just assume their entire community knows they offer such programs.
  • Does your association look beyond membership? Promoting professional development courses to other targeted audiences outside of your current membership will not only drive new course enrollments, but it will also create new connections to potential members.
  • Do course titles and descriptions solve a member’s problem? Course titles and descriptions should be about solving problems and then marketing that solution to a potential course participant. Try letting your marketing department write the course titles. You should try to accomplish the following three things in each course title and description:
    1. Identify a problem
    2. Show a solution
    3. Show how completing the course will result in a payoff for anyone who enrolls
  • Is your association good at handling inquiries about training and education? There is nothing more frustrating to a member/customer than not being able to get answers to questions in a timely fashion. Make certain interested individuals can get information and answers about education programs via phone, website, email, and mail.
  • Are you measuring the performance of your marketing? Start by testing and measuring the key pieces of an education campaign including lists, course offerings, and media performance, and then optimize accordingly. Once you have that down successfully, begin testing and measuring other variables like course titles, creative, and email subject lines.

I hope running through this checklist helps you market your educational program. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about Marketing General Inc.’s Education Marketing Solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a customized consultation specific to your association’s needs.

Jeff Boyle
Marketing General Inc.
Direct: 407.804.2705

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