In fact, it’s been around for awhile, but not something most companies or organizations think of as a marketing tool…
Eleven years ago, I was on a team tasked with developing a series of online courses based on the company’s in-house experts. They were about to launch the program in an externally-facing learning platform with the idea that this would become a free resource to end users over time. The key to the courses is they focused on theories and best practices in the specific industry and would be free to anyone who registered via an online form that asked the user for basic information.
Offering the expertise of the company seemed like a radical idea at the time, and offering it for free seemed even worse!
But we pressed on and launched the program. One year later, we’d achieved thousands of new names and users in the site, 6 major industry associations had endorsed or promoted it within their membership, and we had helped to identify 3,000 new business opportunities!
Eleven years later, as the evolution of the program continued, more association recognition, global sustainability awards, strategic corporate relationships, and translation into 14 languages helped us achieve 1 Million courses taken and 600,000+ registered users!
So here’s what we learned over time:
1. The Thirst for knowledge is strong:
Despite the level of education or experience, professionals are continually seeking new ways to learn and grow, and to have a “hands on” experience that is relevant to their jobs.
2. Gaps in learning are everywhere:
All countries, all levels of an organization, and in all company sizes. Some countries can’t get access to formal learning, or don’t have the resources, so the free online access leveled the playing field for many for the first time.
3. Talent and skill in practical form is needed ongoing:
And isn’t always found in formal education---users come for career advancement, promotion, to remain competitive, to keep up with their staff, to learn where the industry is moving and learn the most current theories and practices in their industry.
4. People naturally look to organisations with high levels of expertise and knowledge:
If your company or organization is a well known brand, this is a great way to leverage relationships. If you’re brand isn’t known as well, this is how you can build it!
5. The program is offered free of charge:
This may not work for all companies, but consider that you can gain greater value in offering some portion of your knowledge for free before charging. The greater upside was based on trusted relationship building and developing an educated consumer base.
Explore how you can utilize the in-house knowledge or expertise of your organization and reach audience in a uniquely different way. The brand that wins the deal in a comparative analysis is the brand that made the effort to share their expertise and gain a trusted relationship long before the buying stage. You want to be that brand.