eLearning Marketing Makeover: Refresh Your Approach to Reach More Learners

November 17, 2023
Paintbrush painting across surface
Are you struggling to market your learning content to reach more members and convert non-members? Aiming to provide more value to your learners while at the same time yearning to be more effective with your time, talent, and resources available to you? Don’t stress! We’ve got you covered!

There’s a famous saying: “If you build it, they will come...” But in a world where everyone is constantly bombarded with information, your association can’t solely rely on your amazing learning content to bring learners into the fold. You must market your eLearning programs to get the right eyes in front of your content...and keep them coming back for more! But how?

Two of Blue Sky eLearn’s experts, Cassie Garcia, Director of Marketing, and Dr. Kristen Wall, MA, EdD, Director of Learning & Development, recently unveiled their insights in a webinar that is available to watch on-demand. Dive into some of their strategies and tips below!

Refresh (or Re-Examine) Your Audience

Periodically evaluating your audience’s interests, needs, and preferences is imperative while planning your marketing strategies. New audience segments can emerge while existing ones decline, and regular evaluation allows you to identify those rising opportunities and shift focus when needed.

Consider is that the competitive landscape. Monitoring what your competitors are doing can open new avenues for you to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd. Take a look at what your competitors have been successful with, and adapt those strategies to fit your audience, your mission, and your organization’s tone.

Technology is another thing you must continually evaluate as your offerings expand and your members are looking for more learning opportunities. For example, twenty years ago we didn’t have social media to market ourselves and look at us now! Almost all of us are utilizing social media to promote our brand, services, company cultures, and more. Staying on top of these digital marketing innovations allows you to enhance your targeting and engagement.

One of the most important things to assess is data. Data provides insights into what is resonating with your audience. The results of the analyzing of your data, especially when it comes to data from your learning management system (LMS), should be informing updates to your segmentation and outreach.

(Re)Defining Your Audience

If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to refreshing your audience, or you haven’t had the time to define your segments and build personas, this is a great place to start.

Break down your marketing audiences in three ways: Target Market, Segmentation, and Personas.  

At the highest level, you have your target market. This is your total addressable market—folks with potential interest in your organization and your learning offerings. These are people of all levels of interest and experience, whether they are members or not.

A step below target market is segmentation. Segmentation divides your target market into subgroups based on common attributes like demographics and behaviors. Some examples of segments your association may encounter could be active members, prospective members, students, or even enterprise teams.

Finally, we get to personas—more specifically buyer personas. Buyer personas are detailed presentations of key marketing segments brought to life as fictional individuals. Developing association buyer personas allows you to have a deeper understanding of the characteristics, needs, motivations, and behaviors of your audience. This will make your life much easier when it comes to crafting marketing messaging. You’ll have the ability to tailor your strategies and messages to resonate with the personas you’ve developed.

Want to give this a try? Check out our template for creating association buyer personas.

Refresh Your Marketing Tactics

Member vs. Non-Member Marketing

Let’s begin by highlighting the differences between two common audience segments for member-based organizations: member and non-member. Many marketing strategies and tactics for these segments could potentially overlap, but it’s likely your messaging and positioning will need to be different for each audience because your objectives and goals differ for each.

To create marketing for members, you need to focus on ensuring that you’re keeping them engaged in your organization, coming back for more, and ultimately renewing their membership. You can also expand your non-dues revenue by selling additional learning content or programs to your members. You want to make sure your members are aware of all the amazing learning content that you’ve created!

For non-members, you want to create marketing that focuses on converting them to members and raising awareness of your organization with. Other segments or markets you may be marketing to are potential sponsors or partners—the messaging may be different for each segment, but your marketing should always demonstrate the value of you eLearning and answer the ultimate question: what’s in it for me (or WIIFM)?

Marketing Tactics for Associations: Enticing

How can you get folks curious about what you have to offer? How can you get them to take that next step to want to learn more? How can you boost your engagement with your marketing and get those clicks, likes, and subscribers? Let’s dive into some great ways to address all these pain points.

  • Teasers: This tactic can be a huge driving factor in generating excitement about your eLearning offerings. One way to do this is to preview some of your eLearning courses in a dedicated webinar to drum up interest and give your audience a taste of what’s to come. Here’s another fun one: create teaser videos that showcase the content clips and highlight the key benefits and share those on your other marketing channels like your website, social media, or email campaigns.
  • Promotions: Leverage influencers and thought leaders to preview and endorse your eLearning programs—their advocacy really matters to your members, and this will get them to pay attention. Another way to promote your organization and expand the reach of your eLearning offerings is to partner with an influencer. You could do this by collaborating on a webinar, writing a guest blog post for your website or a partner’s website, etc.!
  • Referrals: Social proof is powerful! We all listen to our friends, family, and coworkers when we want recommendations for anything from new restaurants to pet supplies—and you can do the same thing with your association marketing! Leverage the testimony and experiences of your biggest fans to help you market your eLearning courses.

    For members, you could even go a step further and create a reward system – provide referral codes and reward members for sharing programs with non-members to help you expand your reach and keep your members incentivized to keep sharing.
  • Customization: Personalization and customization of marketing is another powerful tool that is fueled by the ‘WIIFM’ mentality. The more you can individualize marketing to reach the segmented groups that are most likely to benefit from specific programs, the more your messaging will resonate.

    Try using retargeting ads via Google or social media platforms. The goal with these retargeting ads is that they reach learners who visit your website, visit your LMS, but might not convert to take that action you want them to take (i.e., download an eBook or sign up for an upcoming webinar). In essence, you are following them around a little bit, reminding them of that time they spent on your website!

    The most important thing to remember if you set up retargeting ads for your LMS (or even a page on your website dedicated to your programs) is that folks who land there are looking for educational content, so make sure your ad content reflects that!
Marketing Tactics for Associations: Incentivizing

This is where you can get really creative! First, it’s important to have an LMS designed for associations that can support flexible pricing options. We’ll dive into that more in a bit, but first let’s take a look at some tactics.

  • Freemium: The freemium model is when you create a limited free version that is a gateway to premium access. For example, two out of your five courses are free, and you must pay to access the remaining three courses and earn your certificate. Even if this tactic doesn’t convert non-members into members, you’re still getting their information and can continue to market to them until they do convert.
  • Try Before You Buy: This tactic is used to position an offering as a way to sample member-exclusive benefits before joining your organization. This drums up interest and allows your non-members to see what they’re missing out on and encourages them to sign up for membership.
  • Special Pricing and Urgency: Creating special pricing offers by segment is another effective tactic you can use. For example, you have a segment of new members, and they get one course for free or at a discount.

    We are all more likely to buy something if we think that time is running out, or if there is a limited quantity of something. Create urgency with limited time offers or seasonal discounts. This encourages learners to "act now" and can significantly boost revenue and engagement in a shorter time frame.
  • Bundles: Try bundling or packaging your learning products within your LMS. There are countless sales and marketing benefits associated with bundling. Bundled products have higher perceived value, encourage higher spending, and simplify the purchasing decision. Bundling your offerings also increases engagement, facilitates cross-selling, and appeals to broader audiences. Learners are exposed to more content than they might have been if they had simply purchased one course, not the bundle.
Put Tactics to The Test

We’ve put together a free resource for you to help you begin your eLearning Marketing journey. Our eBook, eLearning Marketing Guide for Associations, goes much
more in-depth on everything we’ve touched on in this post, plus even more eLearning marketing tactics to try and an in-depth guide to creating a marketing strategy. Download our free eBook today!

Leverage Your LMS

Your LMS is the primary hub for your eLearning offerings. It’s the platform that hosts and delivers your content. When thinking about your LMS, think of it as a marketing asset. To effectively market your eLearning your LMS must do the following:

  • Provide a seamless, easy to navigate and understand experience for your learners.
  • Reduce barriers to access. It must make it easy for learners to access the content that they want and need.
  • Make your life easier with admin tools that streamline your workflow.
  • Enable data-backed decisions. It must be able to provide you with the information you need to help make data driven decisions.
LMS Learner Experience: Branding

Marketing is very visual, and as marketers, we’re giving people those visual cues to help them connect the dots between marketing assets. It’s critical that your LMS site reflects your organization’s branding—this makes it easy for learners to understand where they are, why they are there, and what to do. A few things that you can do to make sure your LMS is optimized to market your programs are:

  • Customize your site to closely align with your organization’s website and brand. Use your logo, colors, naming conventions, messaging, and even button styles across both your website and LMS site.
  • Check to see if your platform has the option to customize the domain and system emails to reflect your organization’s name to make the entire process a cohesive, seamless experience.
  • Ensure the navigation of your LMS site is similar in flow to your website. Make sure you are linking effectively between the two sites to make it easy get from one to the other.
  • Prominently feature marketing from your learning programs on your website, your AMS, social media, and other channels so that it becomes the language of your organization.
LMS Learner Experience: Content Organization

The way that you break down your offerings is a vital part of your marketing strategy. The goal should be reducing the barriers to access for your learners. Make it easy for learners to understand what you have to offer by categorizing your learning products by use case or even your marketing segments. As we touched on earlier, bundling will help organize, simplify, and enhance your learning products' perceived value. Lastly, the value and purpose of your program should be clear to your learners. Consider adding value proposition language throughout your LMS to address specific demographics.

LMS Admin Experience

The last piece of the puzzle is making sure you’re using features in your LMS that not only help make your life easier, but also make your learner’s lives easier.

Using reporting and analytics tools in your LMS is one of the best ways to get insights into your learners. You can gather the data from learners to refine your marketing strategy.

Finally, make sure you’re using an LMS with built in tools to make your job easier – like AI! Here at Blue Sky eLearn, we’re integrating AI into our platform in some exciting ways. Most recently adding AI-Powered Assessment Questions that make it easier for admins to create relevant assessments in literally a fraction of the time. (Sound like something you’d benefit from? Reach out to us today to get a demo of this awesome feature!)

Whether you're new to marketing eLearning or want to take your skills to the next level, this blog paired with our free resources will give you the tools you need to begin your journey. Want to take a deeper dive? Watch the recording of our webinar, eLearning Marketing Makeover: Refresh Your Approach to Reach More Learners. If you want to master the art of eLearning marketing, attract more learners, and get real results...this is one webinar you won't want to miss!
About the Authors

Cassie Garcia, Director of Marketing at Blue Sky eLearn

Cassie brings nearly a decade of B2B marketing experience to her role as Director of Marketing at Blue Sky eLearn. With a background in Communication Design, Cassie has led high-performing marketing teams to creatively engage audiences and drive measurable results for companies of all sizes.

At Blue Sky eLearn, she oversees marketing strategy and content creation that supports the company's mission of expanding access to online education. Cassie is also dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to effectively promote their learning programs through marketing best practices and strategic insights for the Path LMS platform.

When she’s not in the marketing-zone, Cassie enjoys catching Portland Trail Blazer games, gardening, and cooking.

Dr. Kristen Wall, MD, EdD, Director of Learning and Development at Blue Sky eLearn

Dr. Kristen Wall, MA, EdD is the Director of Learning and Development at Blue Sky eLearn. Holding a master's and doctorate in Adult Learning, Kristen specializes in bringing effective assessment strategies and qualitative research to enrich the learning programs of Blue Sky eLearn clients.

Starting as a junior high teacher, Kristen's journey led her to higher education, where she empowered countless online adult learners for over 15 years. Her passion for faculty development flourished, providing engaging learning opportunities for over 800 adjunct faculty members teaching 2,600 courses annually.

In 2018, Kristen embraced a new adventure as a consultant, and destiny led her to Blue Sky eLearn, where she now thrives as the Director of Learning and Development. She’s worked with associations in a diverse group of industries, from medicine and healthcare to insurance and state government.

Beyond her professional pursuits, she finds joy in hiking, travel, and detective novels.

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