How To Make A Training Business Work Online
In light of recent world events, businesses across every sector have faced significant upheaval, and in many cases have been forced to make major changes to the way they operate.
Formerly sound business models have been unexpectedly thrown into disarray, and many industries have been scrambling to adapt to the ‘new normal’ - finding new ways to offer their services to customers who can now only be reached online.
For many training-based companies, this might appear to be a significant barrier to business. No longer can courses be held in brick-and-mortar locations, and gone (at least for the foreseeable future) are the days of visiting a client at their workplace to deliver training to their team.
Despite these difficulties, the fact remains that technology today offers opportunities for communication and connection that simply weren’t there fifteen or more years ago. If the coronavirus pandemic had happened in 1985 rather than 2020, the options available for embracing a ‘new normal’ would be rather different.
Today, almost everybody has an HD video camera on their smartphone, free video hosting is commonplace, and you can converse face-to-face with a customer on another continent faster than you could physically visit your nearest client.
In this article, we’ll look at some approaches for adapting a training business to work online - and how to take full advantage of the digital medium.
For many training companies, live video may be the most obvious replacement for normal, physical business.
Video streaming has a low barrier to entry, and in many cases can be conducted for free - the only things needed for the task are a web-enabled video camera (i.e. a webcam or smartphone) and a platform to stream on. This might be a conferencing platform such as Zoom or Google Meet, or a more public-facing stream such as Youtube Live or Instagram Live.
This approach can be particularly good in situations where group interaction is necessary, or of particular benefit to learners. By teaching face-to-face, participants in the course can complete more complex exercises and have their questions answered directly by the trainer.
However, live streaming may not suit the needs of every training business. For some, it may pose a technological or logistical issue, such as a poor connection or lack of suitable space. Some subjects meanwhile may need a different approach, particularly if course participants require hands-on experience as part of their learning.
In most cases, though, live streaming can be a very good alternative to a physical training course and fulfil most of the same functions - all without incurring massive costs in the process.
Pre-recorded training programs
While live streaming is a product of the Internet age, there is another option which has been around since the days of VHS - the pre-recorded training video series.
While it’s a well-established format, it’s by no means old hat. In 2020, customers are very comfortable with the idea of spending money on a digital download, whether that might be an eBook, the latest single from Dua Lipa, or indeed a set of instructional videos.
Unlike a live-streamed training session, which doesn’t need to have any particular level of production value, asking customers to pony up for a downloadable video course will likely bring some expectations of quality. It will be important to ensure that these videos are well-produced, with great image resolution, appropriate lighting, clear audio, and good editing.
Also unlike live streaming, however, the time spent creating these videos can continue to pay dividends in the future. Once you own a set of high-quality training videos, you can sell them again and again and continue to make money off them long after you recoup the cost of the production. And demand for training videos won’t necessarily disappear when lockdown ends - this type of course can be a prudent investment for the future, too.
Depending on the type of training you offer, you may find that it makes sense to consider a subscription-based approach. This is the model used by companies such as Masterclass (pictured above), who offer training courses presented by famous faces from a variety of different industries.
If your training company has a wide variety of courses covering many different areas - and it’s likely that your clients will have an ongoing need to access a broad selection of this content - a subscription-based model could be the way to go.
While this could be a huge task to set up, there are ways to do it on the cheap. One approach could be to use a Wordpress plugin like Memberful in combination with restricted access videos hosted by Vimeo, applying some premade services and a little lateral thinking.
The beauty of a subscription service is that it’s a form of passive income - once you’ve produced all the content, you can continue to collect subscription money just for the privilege of accessing material you already made.
Of course, adding new content from time to time is a good idea, too - it can keep customers subscribed for longer, and also encourage new signups.
Getting the word out
An online business won’t see much success without any customers, and marketing is key.
Some established training companies may already be comfortable in the worlds of social media, SEO and PPC advertising - but if not, these approaches are essential.
Lucky for you, we’ve written plenty of material in the past about how to get to grips with digital marketing essentials. Rather than repeating ourselves, we’ll share a few key links here to help you get up to speed quickly:
While we wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone, the training industry is fortunate that it can pivot into the digital realm and not suffer the disruption faced by pubs or salons.
By taking full advantage of modern technology and applying some nimble lateral thinking, many companies offering training courses will be able to switch gears and find new ways to make money doing what they do best - all without needing to meet clients in person.