Designing An eLearning Budget

You’ve spent months, perhaps years even, curating content and working with subject matter experts to perfect your association’s new eLearning offerings, and it’s finally time to launch your course(s)! Congratulations!  Give yourself a round of applause, you deserve it.

Now, the really fun part begins – sharing the good news with your members and getting them excited about your association’s eLearning programs. Here are 5 creative ways to market your eLearning on a budget:


1. Make a game of it!

Who doesn’t like games? I know I do, and according to Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken, I am joined by more than 183 million gamers in the U.S. alone. With numbers like that, chances are your members would appreciate a gamified approach to marketing your eLearning too.

Tips for using gamification to market your eLearning – Create a contest of sorts; it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate and if you don’t have the budget, actual “prizes” are not even necessary. Simply reward members for completing desirable actions such as completing a course, retweeting a link to your course catalog, referring a friend, you get the idea! Rewards can include discounts on future courses, free merchandise from your association’s eStore, gift cards, or simply bragging rights. Mention those members who achieved the “high score” at your next meeting, on your website or on your association’s Facebook page. They’ll enjoy being recognized in front of their peers and you’ll have one more reason to promote your new eLearning.

For even more tips on using gamification to increase your sales, check out this article published just last month.


2. Share, pin, upload, and post.

Social media is your best bud when you have a limited marketing budget. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on expensive web banners and ads in industry newsletters, spend an hour each day sharing the word about your new eLearning offering on social networks.

In addition to the tips we shared in our recent Smarter Uses for Social Media blog post, here are a few more specific tips you can use to market your association’s eLearning.

Tips for Pinterest – Create a themed board related to your course topic. Include screencaps of your course; links to relevant articles on the topic, infographics, photos, etc. Encourage members to contribute to the board and repin it to their followers.

Tips for Facebook – Share a special offer with those who “Like” your page on Facebook. Simply create a discount code for your course in your AMS eCommerce shopping cart (or if you are using the shopping cart included with your LMS, ask your LMS administrator to create a discount code for you), then share the code on your Timeline. If you have a few dollars in your marketing budget, you should also consider promoting your post using Facebook Ads. With Facebook Ads you decide who sees your posts and how much you spend.

Tips for LinkedIn – If you haven’t already, create a “Company” for your association on LinkedIn. On your association’s company page you can include information about your course under the “Products” tab. Followers of your LinkedIn company page will be notified of new products and can even write recommendations for your course which is then shared with their LinkedIn connections in addition to everyone who views your page. How cool is that!?

Tips for Twitter – Create a hashtag especially for your eLearning program. Heck, create a hashtag for each of your courses if you want! Hashtags are a fast, free way to gain additional exposure for your tweets, help people search for specific content on Twitter, and can be used in your marketing promotions to drive traffic to your Twitter profile. Hashtags are now available on Vine and Facebook too, so be sure to utilize your hashtags across social networks to maximize exposure.


3. Give them a taste.

People love to see what they’re getting before they open their wallet. This is especially true when it comes to registering for an online course. eLearning is still relatively new and there maybe still be some skepticism on the part of your members.

“Is this online course really as good as the seminars I usually go to?” “What does the course look like?” “Are there nice visuals and audio so I can better understand the content?” “What if I have questions? Who will I ask?”

These are all relevant and valid concerns your members may have. Calm their fears; get them pumped about your course! Create a “mini course” and make it available to your members free of charge. Ideally you want this mini course to live within your association’s LMS, so you can track who has taken the course and set up an automated email campaign to encourage them to purchase the course. Another added bonus of sending your members to your LMS to take the mini course is that it acquaints them with your new eLearning portal and exposes them to all your course offerings via the built in course catalog!

Alright, so what exactly is a “mini course” and how does one create it quickly and without added cost? Simple, create an alternate version of your course that includes just a quick taste of your content. Depending on the format of your course, this could include: a few screens of content, a snippet of your video, or the first few pages of your eBook or online journal, you get the idea. For added effect, you can insert an introductory screen or video clip at the beginning or end of your mini course explaining the benefits of taking your new online course.  Either way, make it short and sweet! This is supposed to be a taste, not a feast. Keep it light and fun.


4. Partner up.

Remember you are not in this alone and you are not the only one who stands to benefit from your association’s success. You have plenty of stakeholders with a vested interest in your association’s eLearning program, even if you don’t realize it. Think industry partners, affiliate associations, grant funders, the course developer (if not a member of your staff), your LMS provider, etc. Each of these organizations has their own marketing channels in place that can help you spread the word about your new course(s), reach out to them and see how they can help.

Here are a few ideas you might consider asking for help with:

• Co-branded press releases (here is an example of a co-branded press release we just published with our client, ISTH)
• A mention in their newsletter or journal
• Retweeting, favoriting and sharing your posts/tweets/updates/videos on social media
• A web banner ad on their website linking to your course catalog


5. Leverage learner evaluations.

Recommendations for your course are very powerful! When I see that one of my friends has endorsed a product I am 5 times more likely to buy it. In my experience working with associations to market their eLearning, this rings true for their members too.

Most LMSs include a course evaluation or course survey feature which enables you to gather feedback from your members. Consider leveraging member feedback from course evaluations to market your course (always ask for permission first). You can include these testimonials on your association’s website, in the course description, in your course catalog, or wherever you see fit really.

Don’t have any course evaluations to draw from? Well that’s a problem! Just kidding. Why not cherry pick a few of your members to receive free access to the course in exchange for a testimonial? It’s a win-win for both of you.

Do you have any more creative tips for marketing your association’s eLearning programs? I’d love to hear them!

Want to continue the discussion?