Marketing is an integral part of any successful learning business—it is after all, one of the five domains in our Learning Business Maturity Model™. But it’s particularly important to understand digital marketing and how to generate and convert Web traffic into sales.
If you aren’t familiar with the Traffic and Conversion Summit, it happens to be the largest marketing event in North America, and what Forbes magazine describes as “everything you need to know about boosting your conversions and making your mark in your vertical”. Luckily for you, Jeff recently attended so in this episode, he and Celisa are revealing 5 key marketing takeaways from the informative Summit.
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[01:56] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Celisa and Jeff share some marketing takeaways from the Traffic and Conversion Summit (put on by Digital Marketer) that Jeff recently attended.
Inc. magazine calls it “the largest and best marketing event you have never heard of”. It’s a big, vibrant, growing event that’s very focused on actionable content for digital marketers. We’ve talked a lot about the natural connection and the value loop that exist between marketing and education, and marketing is one of the five domains in our Learning Business Maturity Model so clearly, we see marketing as essential for a successful learning business. But the reason this traffic and conversion event is so valuable is because you really can’t succeed as a learning business these days without understanding digital marketing and how to generate Web traffic and convert that traffic into sales.
5 Key Takeaways
1. Relationships, not transactions
As you might expect from the name of the event, Traffic and Conversion is all about attracting people to your business and converting them into customers. This year, though, the big buzz was around terms like “customer journey” and “conversational marketing” – in other words, moving beyond “one and done” and building an actual relationship with your customers.
This really isn’t new (Jeff covered it in Leading the Learning Revolution in 2013 and it wasn’t new then), but it has grown dramatically in importance as the battle for customer attention has escalated. Transactions are still important – you have to convert prospects into customers to make money – but if that’s all you do, you are going to have a really hard time actually growing your business.
This idea of relationships, not transactions, is absolutely in line with what we often talk about—that learning is a process, not individual events. We’ve talked before about the Value Ramp™ (see 8 Tips for Optimizing Your Value Ramp™ and The Value Ramp: An Overview to learn more) and thinking in terms of thisis one great way to focus on building a longer-term relationship with your learners. If you have a valid value ramp, then you are likely thinking in terms of relationships
We also recommend checking out Digital Marketer’s Value Journey worksheet. And we’ll note that is part of great series of articles from Digital Marketer under the title of, The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing. Even if you don’t play a marketing role for your learning business and don’t think of yourself as a marketer, this is a really valuable resource simply for getting yourself up to speed on a topic that is really important to the success of your learning business.
2. Movements, not moments
This insight relates to the first one and it’s also a concept at the heart of this podcast: leading learning. So learning not just as an event, but a process—and learning not just a moment, but potentially a movement. We want to help those who want to lead learning, not those who just provide a product or service or are just trying to churn as many enrollments or as much revenue as they can, but actually providing some vision, providing a compelling “why” that customers can relate to. Part of how you build strong relationships with customers is providing something compelling for the relationship to be about. As Digital Marketer CEO Ryan Deiss was talking about at Traffic and Conversion, he feels that being able to position yourself as a trusted authority is a critical part of creating a movement. This, again, is not new territory, but it has become more critical than ever and Deiss offered five useful pointers in this area:
- Speed – Partly this means for you to be fast – to not get bogged down in planning, to not overproduce. Get viable ideas and offerings our there now. But it also means making it fast for your customers by getting to the most essential, the most impactful stuff quickly.
- Specificity– Specific answers to specific questions. We often think we have to keep producing content, courses, etc. and try to answer every conceivable question, but that’s rarely the case. If you are paying attention, there are a limited set of questions that people keep asking again and again – different people, same questions; or, somewhat surprising, even the same people who keep asking the same questions. Figure out what those questions are and keep answering them in different ways, being as specific as possible about what people need to do.
- Absolutes– Stop qualifying: accuracy does not equal authority. In so many instances, people just want to be told what to do. Even if they appreciate that there are nuances, exceptions, etc. This can be tough advice to follow, but we have to remember that there are very rarely final answers to anything. Find a perspective that is likely to be useful to most people, most of the time, state it clearly, and stand by it. For example, there are five domains of maturity in the Learning Business Maturity Model and it’s easy to quibble that there are really 4 or 6, or that the five we have named aren’t the best five. But taking clear action on those five will dramatically improve the results of any learning business.
- Core beliefs– Make your “why” crystal clear. Our core belief is that that your learning business should consistently and positively change the world you serve and the people in it. We believe that because we recognize how critically important lifelong learning has become and how important learning businesses are serving the need for lifelong learning.
- Rites and rituals– People who are part of a movement always have things they do together that seem a little weird to the outside world. You can see this in every major world religion, but it’s also true within companies and brands.
3. Technical mastery matters
One of the key reasons to attend Traffic and Conversion is to learn about the tools and techniques the experts are using in areas like digital advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and content marketing. What hit home more than ever before is just how sophisticated each of these areas has become and – more importantly – how much of an edge the people who do them well can gain. If you aren’t already up against competitors who know how to use these tools and techniques well, you will be. And regardless of your competition, you need to know how to use them if you want to effectively be able to reach and connect with your audience. That doesn’t mean you need to learn how to use them, but you do need to find people who can. One critical point is that these are tools and techniques – like SEO and advertising. But they are just that: tools and techniques. They aren’t strategy, and they won’t magically make your business successful if you aren’t already offering great products and services. Still, it’s harder than ever to succeed without them.
Sponsor: Blue Sky eLearn
[20:58] – Technical mastery, of course, is not just about your marketing tools. Learning businesses need to be leveraging learning technologies to create the types of experiences learners expect these days. To do that, we recommend checking out our sponsor for this quarter, Blue Sky eLearn.
Blue Sky eLearn is the creator of the Path Learning Management System, an award-winning cloud-based learning solution that allows organizations to easily deliver, track, and monetize valuable education and event content online. Blue Sky also provides webinar and webcast services, helping you maximize your content and create deeper engagement with your audience across the world.
4. Bet on what’s working
It’s easy to get obsessed with creating new content, adding more courses, chasing after the latest trendy learning format. But ask yourself, what’s actually working right now? In most cases, increasing your investment in that is the surest way to grow your business. Unless you have completely tapped out your market, there are still plenty of people who have not participated in your most popular offerings. And whatever approach you took to those offerings will most likely work when creating new offerings, even for your current customers. All too often, we think we need to produce more and more, and faster and faster. But we don’t pay enough attention to our Google analytics to see what’s really popular on the site, what’s been selling, who has been buying – and then reinvesting in that. So, don’t forget to look at your data and then use it to bet on what’s actually working.
Sponsor: Authentic Learning Labs
Authentic Learning Labs is an education company seeking to bring complementary tech and services to empower publishers and L&D organizations to help elevate their programs. The company leverages technology like AI, Data Analytics, and advanced embeddable, API-based services to complement existing initiatives, offering capabilities that are typically out of reach for resource-stretched groups or growing programs needing to scale.
5. Length does not equal value
This is a sort of “meta” takeaway from the event. All of the sessions were 45 minutes in length and, for the most part, it was amazing how much useful, actionable content was packed into those 45 minutes. This observation probably hit home because a participant in a session at our recent virtual conference (Learning • Technology • Design™) asked how much the session leader had to reduce registration fees when he shortened the length of his organizations workshop. As much as we may think we believe quantity does not equal quality, there is a persistent belief in the learning business that price and length of content should correlate, which implies that longer equals higher value. But it’s simply just not true. In fact, the opposite is often true. Most learning businesses simply haven’t made enough effort to expose their learners to high impact, short content and price it for what it’s worth. And this is something we should all challenge ourselves to do—so look at how we can deliver that impact in as short a time as possible.
[26:27] – Summary of key points.
[28:36] – Wrap-Up
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[30:49] – Sign off