So, you’re a successful course creator who has built a successful academy or school. Firstly, congratulations! It’s not easy, and you’ve clearly created content and a learning experience that resonates with your students and customers.
But you might be wondering, ‘how do I elevate my business to the next level?’
Depending on the size of their target addressable market (TAM), course creators can hit a wall with their B2C audience. Exploring business-to-business (B2B) early can help to navigate that wall before you hit it.
If your business is currently generating revenue from selling online learning products directly to consumers, you might be wondering: “how do I take my thriving B2C business and expand my reach, and hopefully my revenue?”
The good news is that your business is at a stage of its journey where you have already created a foundation on which to expand and reach a B2B audience. In this blog post you will learn simple steps you can take today to successfully evolve from selling courses business to consumer (B2C) and begin selling your courses in bulk to other businesses (B2B) and groups – making the “B2B leap.”
This post will be covering:
- The customer journey from B2C and growing to B2B
- The difference between B2C and B2B
- 10 actionable steps to help you get started
Whether you are diversifying your audience, shifting your current sales model, or exploring your growth options, transitioning to selling B2B is no easy feat. However, it is one of the ways that we’ve seen course creators grow their business from making thousands in revenue to millions!
Sounds daunting, right?
Just keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you are selling to one person or one million people, B2C or B2B, underneath it all, you’re always selling P2P: Person-to-Person.
Where are you on the Knowledge Commerce Customer Lifecycle?
Before we get into some of the actionable steps you can take to begin selling B2B, let’s take a minute to share the journey we’ve seen some of our customers successfully navigate. The journey starts with selling your first course to a lucky consumer, all the way up to licensing unique, white-labeled, Thinkific instances containing your content, to large universities and businesses across the globe (if you don’t believe it’s possible, ask our friends at Corporate Financial Institute.)
We call this journey ‘the Knowledge Commerce Customer Lifecycle Blueprint’ (a mouthful I know), and we’ve done our best to visualize it below.
As you can see, many course creators and solopreneurs start by selling B2C, and this is where the vast majority of Thinkific’s course creators find success. These course creators are actively creating content, building their audience and brand, and doing this primarily on their own. As their number of students increases, certain course creators will begin identifying opportunities to sell to groups of like-minded individuals or businesses and begin selling their courses in bulk – this is the B2B leap.
As course creators make the switch to B2B they require more functionality. At this point in the journey, we begin to see them using more advanced Thinkific features like unlimited course administrators, the ability to create groups to manage learning cohorts, incorporating live lessons, and taking advantage of customizations. We also find that as B2B course creators achieve more success, they can outgrow our standard support channels and seek more dedicated one-on-one support, which is where our amazing CSM team comes in.
And it doesn’t have to end there, we even see some course creators move into selling their courses to larger enterprise organizations.
Now, selling thousands of seats in one fell swoop sounds fantastic but it doesn’t happen overnight and comes with its own set of challenges. Advanced security becomes a priority for course creators, and as larger businesses require additional access and want their learners divided into cohorts, we see Course Creators creating independent Thinkific websites (or instances) for each of their larger clients.
I can hear a few people saying, ‘I didn’t know that was possible.’ Well, it is, and it can be a great way to provide immersive, white-labeled learning experiences to larger clients. The good news? Your success is our success. And the Thinkific Plus team is here to help you at every step of the way.
B2C vs. B2B: What’s the difference?
Ok, so we’ve covered the blueprint, and hopefully, the journey up the mountain is becoming a little more clear and a lot less hazy. Now, let’s take a look at some of the differences between the B2C vs. B2B business models and discover some of the areas you might have to adjust your current business. To break it down, we’ve worked with course creators to build a 10-step process to guide you along the way.
If you’re selling 5 seats in your course to a local business versus 5000 seats to a large enterprise, you’ll need to make operational adjustments for your B2B audience. You’ll need to consider a longer and higher-touch sales cycle, analytics capabilities, additional security features, customization requirements, and more administrative access during the learning experience than you would with an independent consumer.
But don’t worry, that’s where Thinkific Plus makes the process a whole lot easier. We’ve built Thinkific Plus with this specific use case in mind – we know there are additional functionalities and requirements needed for B2B selling and we also know how important the user experience is for your students too.
The beautiful thing about shifting from a B2C to a B2B audience is that a lot of the work has already been done. You’ve created valuable and informational content that resonates with students and the best part: it’s working! Leverage that as you begin to scale. At the end of the day, you are still impacting one individual learner who is looking for the same outcomes whether they purchased your course on their own or as part of their company. When it comes to transitioning to B2B, more often than not, it’s about scaling what you’re already good at and finding the right tool to make your business operations manageable.
10 Steps to Taking the B2B Leap:
Ok, so you’ve identified that you are ready to diversify and shift your audience, but where do you begin? Check out these 10 steps to help get you started:
1. Capitalize on organic demand
One of the easiest places to start when exploring B2B selling is capitalizing on the audience that might already exist for you. Maybe there are already businesses looking to buy your courses in bulk but simply can’t because it hasn’t been set up. Why not set up a bulk purchase option on your site and see who buys more than one seat? You might be surprised to find that organic demand already exists.
Pro Tip: Audit your current student list and see if there are multiple emails with the same domain name. This could indicate that a company has purchased more than one seat for its employees.
2. Become an explorer
It’s time to do some exploration:
- Who are your students?
- What is their demographic?
- Where do they work?
- How do they access information?
- Do you have multiple students from the same employer?
Dig a bit deeper by conducting qualitative research. Set up interviews with your happiest students and ask questions to understand what motivated them to purchase your course, what keeps them engaged in the learning process, and learn how they heard about you. Ask them if they can introduce you to their Learning and Development or HR department for further research.
Based on your findings, create a profile of your ideal student and where they work. This will help you identify who your B2B target audience is.
3. Talk to your audience
Now that you’ve identified who your ideal student is, connect with relevant employees at those businesses to understand how you can effectively position your courses and provide value. Do you need to alter your content in some way? How do they access the course? Do they offer online courses to their students? What is the value proposition that would resonate most?
Pro tips: Offer complimentary course access to gain traction in return for a case study or a discount on future courses.
4. Position your B2B brand offering
Now that you have an understanding of your target companies and how you can provide value to them, create your B2B offering and position it using what you’ve learned in step 3. Create a new landing page for this product that speaks to your B2B customer. Focus on your value proposition and use that as your call to action.
Pro tip: Include customer stories or testimonials for social proof on your landing page. This will establish credibility for your courses among your new B2B customers.
5. Develop your Pricing Strategy
Be creative with your B2B pricing strategy. How can you increase course content to expand the average order value? Is there a way you can incentivize businesses to buy more seats up front? Can you bundle several courses together that work well for a specific business type or user persona? Does a membership model or a licensing fee model make more sense for your audience?
6. Generate demand
Start generating demand with your existing customer base. Could your happiest, most successful customers introduce you to their employers?
Begin building out a marketing list of businesses you think could gain value from their employees taking your courses. Consider what marketing tactics would work best for your B2B audience. If you’re bold, reach out to some LinkedIn contacts at businesses you think would be a good fit.
Pro tip: Be sure to differentiate your paying customer (B2B target audience) vs. your end-user (your students). How you market to your paying customer will likely be different than how you reach your end-user.
7. Ask for feedback and deliver on customer success
As you start to generate B2B sales, now is the time to start providing an incredible customer experience. Ask for feedback consistently. Survey your B2B customers to determine if they are getting value from the course and if there are ways you can improve the overall experience – both for the client and the student. Use this information to iterate on your course design and business operations. If there is a common theme or issue, can you remedy it, publish a helpful article, or troubleshoot to reduce this issue?
8. Land and expand
Happy customers will often buy more from you. So, incentivize them to do so! Offer discounts for purchasing more courses or providing feedback, ask them what additional courses they’d like to see or where you can expand your content. Learn how to retain them as loyal customers. Keep communication channels with your customers open and use their feedback to guide your next steps
9. Enterprise expansion
Now that you have some happy, loyal B2B customers consistently buying in bulk, what’s next? Think big! Can you move upmarket? If a business has purchased 20 seats from you in the past, is there a business that would buy 2000? Work with your successful customers to write case studies and reviews. Engage with larger businesses and offer a fully branded experience so they can lease your content on an immersive, branded site of their own.
10. Keep testing!
Rule #1, never stop iterating. Online education is changing all the time and the needs of your customers change just as quickly. Adapting to the market and your audience is critical. Find a platform that enables continuous changes and interactions on the fly (like Thinkific Plus.) Don’t get stuck with a stagnant LMS that lacks the agility to implement ongoing change and can’t scale alongside you.
Good luck as you embark on your B2B journey! Check out this free course to get started with B2B selling today:
This article was originally published in May of 2021 and was updated in March 2023.