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:
- Offer courses that will appeal to your members
- Make the online registration process easy to find and complete
- Invest in a secure online payment processor
- 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!