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Education Sales: 3 Factors That Limit Them

Education Sales_ 3 Factors That Limit Them

Recently I listened to the Leading Learning podcast, 3 Factors That Limit Sales of Education. When working with our association clients, we sometimes come across those that are struggling to sell educational programs or launch new initiatives. Here is what I learned from the podcast: 

1. You have a market, but no audience

Having a market is not the same thing as having an audience. Your market is a broad group of people you can reasonably expect to be interested in what you have to offer. The audience is the subset of your market who actually do care about what you are offering. You’ve made a connection with these people and you can count on them to buy your new offering and spread the word. Your audience can help you define your market. 

Very often these people are persuaded by proxy – you want your audience to act as referrals and provide testimonials to help you expand. You then need to make sure that you really convert these people to be long-time audience members. You need to consistently show up in ways that are useful, not just salesy. Create blogs, videos, social media interactions, and more. 

The takeaway here is that it takes time and effort to build an audience – but it is so valuable because once you have these audience members it is harder for others to steal them away. 

As an association, you typically have a builtin audience – your members! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bigger market out there for you to tap into. Non-members for one. You also need to make sure your new offerings are attractive to your members and that they are buying in. There is a lot of competition out there, whether they are a member of your organization or not, and it’s important to keep that in mind. 

2. You don’t have a brand 

Yes, your audience will most often buy-in to your new offerings. However, if you do not have a strong brand it will be hard to continue expanding into the market – even with your audience referring them. Make sure you are providing the market offerings they need to continue attracting a larger audience. 

Having a strong brand will help you with pricing as well. People are more likely to spend more money if they are familiar with your brand, which allows you to continue to grow. 

Again, as an association you most likely have a pretty strong brand already (unless you are just starting out). However, that doesn’t always mean you are the leader in the industry. By developing content, offerings, and relationships that position you are a leader will ensure a strong brand that should attract an ever-growing audience. 

3. You sell information, not impact 

The reputation of the presenter or teacher is one of the most important factors when someone is deciding to make a purchase. Another important factor is the kind of results a learner will get from the offering they are purchasing. If there are not demonstrable results, your audience may be less likely to buy. 

Much of what is positioned as education is actually just information. Information is expected to be free because somewhere out there, that information probably is available for free. One example of this is webinars. People expect most webinars to be informational, not educational, therefore they expect them to be free. There are always exceptions to this, and we have plenty of clients who provide continuing education webinars for their audience, which is typically much easier to sell than a webinar with no actual continuing education credits associated with them. 

In order to maintain a strong brand and be a leader in your industry, you must continue to impact your audience. Experiment with your webinar offerings and pricing (or giving more away for free). Providing items as a member benefit will only increase the value your audience perceives from your organization. 


Whether you are creating your first learning program or your fiftieth, there are probably some steps you can take to improve the effectiveness and impact. 

Be more thoughtful and intentional with your design. Pilot new offerings to gain feedback and build connections with your audience. This allows you to better understand the people to seek to serve.  

Is there anything that has worked for you when selling education? Comment below! 

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