6 Tips for creating successful online courses for members

If you build it, they will come. Well, that’s not exactly true. Behind every successful online course an association offers is an equally successful marketing and implementation strategy. You have to not only build a course your members will love, you have to also make sure that the way you sell that course to your members is compelling. Here are six ideas to consider before you start crafting your courses!

1. Ask your members what courses they want 

It seems simple, but this is often a missed opportunity. Never assume you know what your members want―ask them. By sending a survey to your members to understand what is most appealing to them, you’re not only ensuring that you’re offering courses members are interested in, you’re also making members feel empowered in their relationship with your organization. When members feel like they can have a direct impact on what you offer, they’ll be more likely to participate. When you send your survey, make sure that you include an open text field to collect your members’ ideas on courses. There may be an amazing idea for a course offering that you haven’t yet considered. 

Given today’s challenges, it’s almost guaranteed that there are new, relevant courses that your members are craving right now. Perhaps they need help with a digital transition, maybe they need strategies for reaching their audience―whatever is most relevant to them right now will be revealed if you just ask what courses are most useful to them. 

2. Create testimonials for your courses

Let your members be your champions. Work with your members to create testimonials about each of the courses you offer. You can create simple videos, short success stories or even quick quotes to help validate the usefulness of your offering. It’s important that the type of testimonial you chose is something that your organization can easily maintain. Your testimonials can be shared on social media and should live on your website in a place that makes them accessible when your members are considering courses. 

3. Do a test run

Offering a short sample of your course before you design the full course gives you an opportunity to validate that the course will actually meet your members’ needs. By offering a sample of your course, your members will have the opportunity to give you feedback before you create the full, paid-for course. A free sample is also a great way to drive interest in the paid course. If members love the free version, just imagine how much they’ll love the full course you offer.  

4. Get feedback from your members 

Don’t expect to create a course once and walk away. A critical piece of a successful online course is that it’s iterative. By asking your member for feedback after a completed course, you can look for ways to continuously improve. Feedback can be asked in the form of short surveys after your course. You might also consider a more qualitative approach to feedback and schedule short interviews with a handful of course participants to have a conversation about what’s working and what can be improved. 

5. Use data to bundle your courses and offer discounts

Use your member engagement data to understand how you can cross-sell and bundle your online courses.  To do this effectively, you need to look not only at what courses your members purchase together, but also what emails and events they engage with before and after they buy those courses. This will help you understand what courses to offer in what groupings based on your members’ interests. 

To do this, you’ll need to make sure your member data is in a good place. Using a platform, like a Member Data Platform – that allows you to integrate many systems together while still maintaining one record of your member – will help you analyze data from different sources and see the full picture. Breaking down your data silos can impact your entire organization and your ability to make data-driven decisions. 

6. Use the right tools

Selecting the right tools is a must. Not only will your tool choice impact your members’ user experience while taking courses, but it will also impact the time it takes you to get a course up and running. Doing your due diligence in choosing a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Training Management System (TMS) will pay off in the long run. Go into meetings with potential vendors fully prepared by first identifying all of your needs from a platform; this is the best way to ensure the evaluation process is centred on your needs. 

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If you strategically design, market and improve your online courses, you can provide substantial value to your members. By taking feedback before, during and after courses, you can be sure that you’re offering a course your members actually want. As with everything else your organization does, putting the member first is core to ensuring success. 

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