One of the “tools” we have found most useful in helping clients with their education businesses is the Value Ramp. As simple as it is, a meeting or two focused on it can often be one of the more eye-opening things an organization has done in years.
We’ve already provided a general overview of the Value Ramp, so be sure to read that first. Once you have, read on for tips on how to work with and optimize your Value Ramp.
Optimizing Your Value Ramp
There are typically two problems that become clear once an organization starts to look at its Value Ramp.
The first is that there are either few or no items at the low and high ends of the curve. The impact in the first case is to limit initial momentum. The impact in the second is to bring things to a screeching halt just as the prospective learner enters the highest priced, highest value areas of engagement.
The other problem is that there are often significant gaps along the curve. Like potholes on a highway, these gaps will slow down your educational engagement with members or even create the risk of losing them entirely.
Here are eight tips for filling out and managing your Value Ramp:
1. Make It A Conversation
First, involve multiple people across your organization in examining, discussing, and plotting out your Value Ramp. While it can be helpful to have an outside party facilitate the discussion, we’ve heard from plenty of organization that have used the tool effectively on their own. Just get the right people in the room for an hours, maybe over lunch. You may be surprised what an eye-opening experience it can be.
2. Set Them Free
Set free any lower value items (e.g.,, white papers, video clips, e-newsletters) you may currently have trapped in members-only areas of your Web site or other places that require logging in. You want them to help you attract prospective members and customers and demonstrate the value you can offer. As part of that effort, you also want search engines to be able to find them and index them.
3. Social + Learning = Value
Embrace social media as a way to create new value. Tweets, posts to LinkedIn and Facebook, blog posts – all of these and a variety of other social media tools represent possibilities for providing nuggets of value in the form of links to valuable knowledge assets (articles, video clips, etc.), brief how-tos and advice, examples, breaking news for which you have relevant educational offerings, etc.
Note: You don’t have to – indeed shouldn’t – use all of the major social media channels. Find the one or two where you can really provide some value and focus on those.
4. Re-Use It, Don’t Lose It
Use versioning and re-purposing to help smooth out any potholes along the curve. Large online courses can be broken down into smaller chunks. A podcast or Webinar can easily be transcribed, for example, and converted into articles or an attractive eBook. Similarly, video captured at a conference can be packaged up with a workbook and an assessment. Remember: everything is a production event!
5. Don’t Get Stuck in the Middle
Don’t get bogged down in the middle of the curve. Many organizations are obsessive about their low-to-moderate priced offerings like Webinars and seminars – the very areas where competition is likely to be highest and the possibilities for differentiation are lowest. The mental power used up here might be better applied to figuring out compelling offerings at the upper right of the curve.
6. Point the Way
Whenever possible, items on the curve should reference other items on the curve – ideally ones higher up. A blog post might reference a related online course. A Webinar might highlight your annual conference or opportunities for onsite training. This kind of cross-referencing requires a bit of coordination, but the effort is well worth it.
7. Focus on Return on Learning
In the upper right part of the curve, focus intensely on impact. What extra value can you provide that will transform educational experience into enduring returns for your learners and their organizations?
This could include pre- and/or post-education audits, assessments, or benchmarking. It may include consultative services or facilitated learning experiences within the learners’ organizations. It may involve access to roundtables, peer learning groups, or other special types of membership within your overall membership.
Again, having multiple people in your organization involved in the conversation will help ensure that you generate a range of ideas for high-value offerings.
8. Mind Your Ps
The difference in price for products at the bottom left of the Value Ramp and the top right is usually dramatic – and the difference in value should be dramatic as well. You have to be careful to manage how these differences are perceived, however, and this typically means some level of differentiation not only in price, but also in positioning, placement, and promotion.
In other words, the classic 4 Ps of marketing should not be applied in the same way to your free white papers as they are to your consultative on-site training services. Make sure prospects and customers fully appreciate the difference.
Keeping the Momentum Going
I noted at the beginning of this post that a discussion of the Value Ramp is often one of the most eye-opening things an organization has done in years. This is true simply because people in the organization have not stepped back to consider thoughtfully the relationships between their products.
Having done it once though, don’t let years pass before you do it again – set aside time at least once a year (more often in highly dynamic markets) for re-examining and adjusting your Value Ramp.