Tips for Selling Online Courses to Your Association Members

Tips for Selling Online Courses to Your Association Members

A major driver for joining associations and becoming a member is the opportunity to further a skill or advance in a particular field. Depending on your association’s mission and offerings, you likely host in-person events with live speakers, or maybe even multi-day panels, all to provide ample networking and learning opportunities.

However, your regular plans were likely thrown in for a loop the past year. As we begin 2021, virtual events and online experiences have taken the reign. Included in this genre are e-learning and online courses.

Selling online courses to your association members is an effective way to provide engaging and educational experiences and opportunities. If your association is made up of professionals in a similar field, online courses can even be offered for official accreditation that members can present to their peers.

If you want to expand your own online learning opportunities for association members, this article is here to provide you with some guidance. Selling online courses is more than just pulling together educational materials and handing them off to your members. From the topics you offer to the ease of your registration process, we’ve compiled a couple of key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Offer courses that will appeal to your members
  2. Make the online registration process easy to find and complete
  3. Invest in a secure online payment processor
  4. Follow up with a course registration confirmation email

Providing members value through online courses is not only an effective recruitment tool but can also increase retention rates for your association. You just need to offer courses that appeal to your members and encourage registration. Let’s begin. 

1. Offer courses that will appeal to your members

This may seem obvious, as you wouldn’t offer online courses on the subject of business marketing to members of a professional medical association. However, there are additional steps you can take to ensure that the online courses in your catalog are driving genuine value for your members. The best way to do this is by analyzing your data. 

Your association management system should store key information that you collect from your members. This should include both personal information like names, contact details, job titles, and engagement metrics like what types of events they usually sign up for, and more. Make sure this information is easily accessible within your management solution.

This data can give you a clue into what online courses and events will garner the most registrations and meet the needs of your members. For instance:

  • Consider past courses or conference workshops that have been popular and pivot them to take place online
  • Make note of common job roles and levels and create online courses that target them

Along with looking at your existing data, you can also research similar associations in the same field and explore the online courses they offer.

Or, be more proactive and send out a survey to your entire member base. Ask them if they have a particular skill they want to develop or a course they want to take for accreditation. From there, you can begin planning how you can take this learning experience entirely online. Using live streaming software and other e-learning platforms will be your best bet. 

2. Make the online registration process easy to find and complete

Once you have a worthy catalog of online courses for your members, it’s time to start encouraging your members to register. No matter what, your online registration process should be easy to find and complete. 

Within your association’s website, have a dedicated space for your online courses built into your main navigation or include a prominent link on your homepage. Include calls-to-action within your event calendar or other association offerings. 

Send out an email to your members letting them know about the online learning opportunities. Ensure that you place a clearly displayed link to your registration page so that users know exactly how to sign up if they want to. From there, it’s critical that your online course registration process is as streamlined and convenient as possible. Often, a registration form that takes too long or asks too many questions can even be what causes the potential attendee to simply click away.

Creating an intuitive and quick sign up process is where a dependable online registration tool will come in handy. Let’s take some insight from this scenario featuring the Northwest Hydroelectric Association. They needed a solution that not only automates the registration process but also centralizes data for helpful reporting. After investing in a solution, they said “It frees up time from having to manually input every entry,” ultimately streamlining the sign up process and setting them up for increased registrations.

Make sure your own registration solution has the following capabilities:

  • Customization to ensure the form is branded to the association. This not only improves user experience but also helps build the relationship between the registrant and your association. 
  • Embedding options for your organization’s website. Sending users to a third-party site not only interrupts the registration process but can also confuse the registrant and even make them suspicious of legitimacy. 
  • Personalization to cater the registration process to each individual. Look for tools with conditional logic abilities that react to the registrant’s answers by changing the form and the questions. If a member marks that they’re interested in a follow-up course the form might change to include additional information regarding that. If they say they’re not interested, the form does not change at all. 
  • Integrated payment abilities. This way members can checkout during the registration process, meaning you don’t have to charge them with another tool or bill them later. We’ll talk more about your payment processor in the next section!

Along with the above capabilities, make sure that your signup page has all of the necessary information that attendees will need before they sign up for the opportunity. After all, online courses aren’t the traditional form of learning but have been rising in popularity due to its cost convenience and wide accessibility. If specific online software is required or the course you offer takes multiple sessions, these details should be prominently displayed before individuals register.

3. Invest in a secure online payment processor

The final step of the registration process for your online courses is payment. You don’t want to mar your member’s registration experience with an insecure and unsafe online payment process. One data breach can ruin your association’s reputation and make the selling of online courses (and acceptance of membership dues or event tickets) much more difficult in the future.

Make sure that you invest in a dependable and integrated payment tool, ensuring that course signups get finalized and that everyone’s data is protected. Your payment tool should

  • Be PCI Compliant. According to iATS Payments, “The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) was created by major credit card companies to set high technical standards to safeguard customer information. PCI Compliance is mandatory for all merchants, regardless of size.”
  • Automate payment invoices breaking down the transaction and registration. 
  • Offer payment plans and auto-billing to ease costs. This is especially important in tough times like these.
  • Provide comprehensive payment reporting using a centralized system that both registration coordinators and accountants can access

To jump-start your online course registration offer discounts or early-bird signups to your most active association members. Some tools can even automatically trigger and apply discounts depending on the applicant. 

Consider creating different discount codes for member tiers. Taking insight from this Fonteva article, segment your members based on different discounts, like who took previous online courses or who has been a member for the longest.

4. Follow up with a course registration confirmation email

As the online course registration wraps up and payment is completed, it’s time to send out a course registration confirmation email. 

Registration confirmation emails have a couple of key uses. For one thing, they prevent confusion down the line about whether the registration was accepted. This verifies to the registrant that they have successfully signed up and that their payment is received.

This type of email also opens up a communication channel between your association and online course takers. If there are any questions that attendees need answered, members can simply hit reply or use preferred contact details provided in the email. 

This is also the place to relay all pertinent course information and target actions in the email. For instance, if a particular form needs to be completed before the course, make sure you have a bright button indicating that. Or, if the course requires a Zoom profile, the email should make this the focus action. If there are any urgent deadlines or other dates make sure to bold them so that readers don’t accidentally gloss over it.

If you are having some trouble figuring out exactly what to say in your online course registration emails, Regpack has a handy guide along with three templates. Use the templates as inspiration and then tweak them to fit your association’s exact needs. 


Selling courses to your association members is a socially distant and safe way to provide an engaging experience and exciting learning opportunities. From making sure you offer the right courses to streamlining the registration process, the above tips and strategies will help you take your own member engagement to the next level in this new year. Good luck!

Strengthening Member Engagement: Tips From an HR Consultant

Strengthening Member Engagement: Tips From an HR Consultant

Why do members join associations? For the professional value they provide. As an association leader yourself, you already know that this value often revolves around the experiences you offer, the people members will meet, and the abundance of opportunities you provide. These engagement methods aren’t just used to recruit new members, but are also essential elements needed to actively retain those members.

However, as time goes on, the same old engagement tactics won’t hold out. Whether more engaging alternatives are popping up or you’ve simply run out of fresh ideas, it’s worth it to explore how you can strengthen your association member engagement strategy. 

We at Astron Solutions are not association leaders ourselves, but we are experts in HR consulting. Not only do we have an array of association clients, but some of our staff have also held leadership roles themselves in associations, like President or VP of Finance. One of our main areas of expertise is internal employee engagement and productivity. The same best practices used to engage staff internally can and should teach you a thing or two about boosting external engagement with your members.

As we begin this new year, refreshing and revitalizing your member engagement strategies might be just what you need to ensure success for 2021. After all, no one could have predicted the impact of last year, and it’s likely that your own association needs an engagement boost. Here are our top tips from an HR consultant:

  1. Invest in a comprehensive management solution
  2. Communicate consistently and valuably 
  3. Offer ample learning opportunities
  4. Provide tools for members to engage with each other 

With most large in-person gatherings and face-to-face meetings on pause, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of digital tools and online platforms for member engagement. That’s why our first tip will be investing in a key management solution. Read on to learn more.

1. Invest in a comprehensive management solution

If you haven’t invested in a management solution for your association, then right now is a great time to start. With many of your member engagements now happening virtually (thanks, 2020), having a comprehensive management solution is even more crucial, especially if you want your members to have the tools they need to engage with your offerings and each other. It’s also incredibly useful to track all of those key engagements, which your software can do. 

For internal HR leaders, the solution we turn to will likely be some sort of talent or performance management software. For associations, membership management tools will be your best bet. Depending on the opportunities your association offers, try to look for membership solutions that can integrate with or also have event management capabilities.

Here are some of the top features your own solution should have:

  • Member database. Every piece of data and information you have on your members should live in your member database, also known as a constituent relationship management (CRM) system. Not only does this help keep your association organized, but you can use these data points to personalize member communication and build more meaningful relationships. Make sure to actively track engagement (like event attendance, online activity, etc.) as it’s essential if you want to strategically improve over time.
  • Online member profiles. Along with the data in your member database, provide a public member directory for members to browse through online. Encourage users to add photos so that your members can get familiar with one another even if they can only do it virtually. Members should be able to self-edit their profiles to avoid inaccuracies.
  • Email marketing and communication. In order to actively engage your members, you’re going to need a way to talk to them. With most of your interactions confined to the digital space, a management system with highly capable email and communication tools is key. We touch more on this in the next section. 
  • Event planning and management. As mentioned briefly before, finding an association management solution with event planning capabilities is key. For one thing, your association is already likely hosting a number of events, whether they’re smaller meetings, larger conferences, or a virtual experience. With your event tools integrated into your core management system, you have the ability to easily create event pages and streamline the registration process. Then, all of that data can be centralized in your member database to further help you engage your members. 

It’s worth it to invest in a comprehensive association management system whenever possible, instead of piecing together separate tools as your organization grows. With an integrated solution, you can pull all of your data together to create in-depth and meaningful reports. These help you and your team visualize past data and ensure that you’re always moving forward and improving. 

2. Communicate consistently and valuably 

One of the key ways to recruit members is to meaningfully communicate with high-quality prospects. This means sending content that aligns with their values, preferences, and so on. When a member joins your association, that doesn’t mean your communication with them should stop. In fact, as soon as they officially become a member, this should be the start to a long lasting and two-way communication channel. 

As an association leader, your role is to offer exciting and valuable opportunities and content, while your members’ jobs are to engage back and ask questions or offer feedback when prompted.

However, it isn’t enough just to send a couple of emails per month. The average email open rate is only around 15-25%, so taking steps to optimize your communication strategy is worth it. One essential strategy that many growing organizations often neglect is email segmentation.

According to DNL OmniMedia, segmentation is “the act of organizing the [contacts] in your database into groups— segments— based on their shared characteristics.” This could range from how long members have been active, what skills they have, and any other relevant qualifiers. This will depend on your unique association and the data points you value. 

Then, you’ll create targeted communication content for each segment and use your membership management solution to send emails out to the relevant recipients. This way, each of your members is getting outreach content specifically tailored for them. 

Creating targeted communication content is a must for developing more engaging relationships with members. If you want to take this to the next level, consider data automation to personalize your email communications. In fact, the Aberdeen group found that personalized email messages can improve click-through rates by as much as 14% and conversions by 10%.

In order to automate data personalization, it’s crucial that your membership database and email tool are integrated and work together seamlessly. Your tools should pull the relevant data points from your CRM and populate it into email communications. Implement these personal data points:

  • Name
  • Role
  • Event status
  • Past accomplishments

These little tidbits of personal information ensure that members know that the email they get is made for them. After all, no one enjoys receiving and scrolling through hundreds of spam emails that don’t even pertain to them. Set up the expectation early on that each email you send to members is actively valuable and targeted for them.

3. Offer ample learning opportunities

Many times, members join associations to further their career or expand on a certain skill. That’s why professional associations are so popular. This means that one of the most engaging ways you can continue building your relationships with members is to offer ample learning opportunities.

Because of the nature of current circumstances, your learning courses have likely pivoted to online. But don’t fret, as this approach actually opens up many more new opportunities than you might think. For instance, you can pre-record content instead of having to staff a live presenter, or ask an experienced staff member to step in for each session. 

Offering online learning also enables you to expand the number of people who can experience it. Members (or non-members) can sign up and participate in the course no matter where they are, and no matter what time it is.

To get a better sense of the types of learning opportunities your members would most likely be interested in, consider the following:

  • Take a look at your membership database and make note of common goals
  • Review what other professional associations are teaching and offering to their members
  • Research the industry and jot down different skills for different levels
  • Take a look at public e-learning online platforms and select a few that you think might benefit your members
  • Create and send a survey to your members asking them to rank their top choices for new educational content

Partnering with an e-learning content development company might also be a tactic to explore. If you’re thinking of taking your association learning to the next level, this article explains how custom e-learning development can help. 

4. Provide opportunities for members to engage with each other 

Along with the engagement opportunities you offer to your members, consider how you can encourage members to engage with each other. After all, a huge draw to becoming a part of an association is meeting others in your sector and taking advantage of networking opportunities.

Traditionally, your association likely hosted live events that brought your members together with professional speakers or a multi-day conference with a variety of different panels. However, due to the nature of current social distancing guidelines, we might not be able to host these types of gatherings until later in 2021. So, what other opportunities can you provide members to ensure they engage with each other in the meantime and going forward?

  • Dedicated online member portal where members can explore other profiles, get familiar with the other members, access discussion boards, and more.
  • Virtual association events where members can take advantage of live streaming tools and other online solutions to engage with others entirely online.
  • Association member committees made up of some of your most active members. Invite prospects to be a part of the committee, let them know of the role requirements, and encourage them to chat and discuss topics via text, audio, or video.

Ensuring that your members are engaging with each other is crucial for your recruitment and retention strategies. The same goes for employers trying to increase employee productivity. Without the ability to talk and interact with other team members, it’s harder for employees to feel a sense of belonging and loyalty to the organization. 


As an HR consultant, we are faced with numerous challenges when it comes to engaging employees and other constituents. Recruitment and retention are critically important for any organization that relies on people power, but it must all be backed up with solid engagement strategies. 

These tips are sure to help you with your own members and how you engage with them. Throughout it all, a solid foundation with a comprehensive management solution will be your best long-term bet. Start the new year with confidence and start strengthening your member engagement!