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If you’ve traditionally been a direct-to-consumer (B2C) business, you might not have considered the opportunities to include business-to-business (B2B) offerings into your company. There is a growing, untapped market for your business to create, publish, and sell online courses and programs to other companies.

In our recent Thinkific Plus webinar series called Level Up with Thinkific Plus, we heard from 5 fantastic guests about planning, positioning, and launching your first (or next) B2B course. Access the series on-demand by signing up for free here.

In this blog, we’ll be focusing on the incredible insights on planning your B2B online course from our first guest speaker from the series: Paul Thomson.

Meet Thinkific Expert, Paul Thomson

Paul is one of Thinkific’s amazing experts and business coaches. He helps companies and non-governmental organizations utilize remote online education to train their employees or members and grow their business and impact. He also works with entrepreneurs in B2B and B2C spaces to scale their business with online courses and programs without sacrificing their mission or goals.

What’s the difference between B2C and B2B?

Before we dive in, let’s clarify what we mean when we say B2B.

Business-to-business, or B2B, is when you sell a product or service to a company versus a consumer. This often means that the person purchasing the product or service is not the one actually using it and sales often happen in bulk. When you are selling directly to a consumer or the end-user, you are selling business-to-consumer, or B2C.

For example, let’s say you are a small business that sells online courses on dog grooming. If you were selling B2C, your customer could be a dog owner looking to groom their dog at home. The person purchasing the course is likely the same person taking the course. However, if you were selling B2B, your customer could be a local dog grooming store and your students could be employees of that store who are seeking additional training.

Discover how you can take the B2B leap and go from selling B2C to B2B in this article!

Getting your inspiration: Three B2B education models

If you’ve previously been a B2C business, the first step is to pivot your thinking and look for opportunities to sell in bulk. For example, if you sell fitness equipment to consumers and gyms, you could shift and create a course for fitness centers to effectively onboard new trainers and coaches who join their team.

When considering your course topic, it will likely fall into one of three education models:

  1. Lead nurturing: These are courses you offer to people before they are a customer or client of your business. These people are interested in you or what you have to offer but may not be ready to buy yet. They’re leads for your business. One of the goals of these courses is to build rapport with your leads by demonstrating your knowledge and credibility, so you are top of mind when they are ready to buy.
  2. Certification/accreditation models: These courses are more in-depth and offer a certificate or accreditation to participants upon completing the course. This method encourages participation and student engagement.
  3. Customer education: These courses can be pure education (like how to use your product or service) or linked with accreditation models. One example of this is Hootsuite, a social media management tool. Hootsuite built Hootsuite Academy, their social media accreditation service on Thinkific Plus. Through this customer education academy, Hootsuite customers are educated on the Hootsuite platform and have the opportunity to learn about social media strategies too.

Learn More: Discover how to unlock B2B course sales with the Bulk Sell App

Measuring the potential for success with the Lifetime Student Value


It’s far easier, a lot cheaper, and much more efficient to sell to people who’ve already purchased from you before than it is to find and convince new customers to enroll.Paul Thomson

During Paul’s session, he introduced the concept of Lifetime Student Value. This framework uses the perfect journey of sales, systems, and students, so your students keep coming back to you.

The journey starts where your students are now (and their problems or struggles) and ends in the future when they’ve learned everything they need to know. Along the way, there are stepping stones (like additional courses and offerings). As a business owner, your job is to lay out this experience and guide them through their learning journey with your online courses and offerings.

You can map your learning journey three ways:

  1. Tiered: This is common in certification models (i.e., beginner, intermediate, advanced certifications), where students go through the courses one after another, like a ladder, and can go as far “up” the program as they wish.
  2. Banquet: Offering smaller or micro-courses for your students to “cherry-pick” the type of courses they find valuable. Students can take any course they like whenever they need it.
  3. Chronological: A sequential order of courses where students complete them in chronological order (like workplace on-boarding).

Once you know your customers’ journey, it’s time to create the content and start attracting customers. Unlock your next level of success—click to learn how to plan, position, launch, and grow your online academy to sell B2B, fast.

Successful B2B course acquisition strategies

When thinking about B2B course sales remember this:

Your authority (real or perceived) + Your results = Your B2B Sales

In the B2B world, your job is to create and establish authority in what you do and mitigate any potential risk to your customers. With your online courses, you need to sell in a way that shows there is little to no risk to investing in your programs and demonstrate that if they follow your teachings, they can be successful in getting to their ideal future state.

Pro tip: When selling to B2C, focus your sales strategies on the individual’s transformation. When selling to B2B, focus on the individuals’ responsibilities within their organization and how your course will benefit both the individual and the business.

For example:

  • B2C sales: “This course will get you 6-pack abs.”
  • B2B sales: “This course will help you up-skill your nutrition, diet, and exercise knowledge so your team can better serve your clients.”

To build your authority and tap into the right audience, you need to be visible in the right circles and communities. This may include speaking at events, building an online presence, and networking. You need to be where your ideal customer businesses are hanging out – either digitally or in real life.

Building authority through content like interviews, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and more has been a proven strategy to get in front of your ideal audience long before the pandemic halted live events. It leverages your reader’s and interviewee’s audience to get in front of more people. It’s much easier than knocking on people’s doors to pitch your courses.

The fastest way to grow your authority, show people your results, and get in front of the right business owners, the people who are wanting to invest in you, is to interview others and publish content.Paul Thomson

Time to start planning your B2B course

If you are considering B2B sales, it might be time to expand the notion that you are solely a “course creator.” Think of yourself as a company creating transformation through online education. This changes your mindset of what is possible and is the first step to reaching higher value sales. With a B2B online course model, you have a more lucrative opportunity to increase your revenue and your impact in a shorter amount of time. 

Thinkific Plus is an all-in-one online education platform at scale, designed specifically for mid-size companies ready to scale. Engineered on the back of the Thinkific platform, Thinkific Plus offers a top-tier, white-glove solution for companies looking to drive their business forward without the hassle, long timelines, and clunkiness of legacy learning management systems (LMS). 

Book a call with our Solutions team and get started today.

Paul Thomson is a Thinkific Expert and a business coach for course creators. He helps clients at all levels to create and sell their online courses and programs, whether they’re just starting out or right up to 6, 7 & even 8-figure education business owners. Paul is responsible for over $2MM+ in online course sales for clients in their online course businesses. Check out Paul’s website and services here.

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