Incorporating a B2B offering into your business or transitioning to a B2B selling model can be a useful strategy to help you unlock the next level of success for your business.
In the last session of our “Level Up With Plus” series, we spoke with Paul Thomson and Simon Durant. They shared practical and tangible strategies to iterate and grow your B2B offering.
Paul Thomson is a Thinkific Expert who specializes in assisting companies looking to use online education to grow their business. In this article, he shares insights on how to plan and prepare your business to start selling B2B and Student Lifetime Value.
Whether you are an entrepreneur in B2C looking to transition to a B2B selling model or are a part of a larger business that is trying to incorporate online learning into your offerings, Paul’s tangible advice will provide you with practical B2B strategies to get started.
The B2B selling journey
Constantly selling is exhausting. If you are in the business of online course creation, it’s easy to get into the habit of constantly “selling” and trying to expand your audience. This takes a large amount of time, resources, and energy – especially when a lot of effort goes into selling a lower-priced course.
To get out of the selling cycle you want to establish a sales system that scales with your business. This will help create consistent conversions to support long-term growth and help build an aligned vision for all stakeholders involved.
Before you get started with building or iterating on your B2B offering, here are some common mistakes to avoid:
- Reinventing the wheel: Many times when people jump into online courses, they think that they have to start something new and reinvent the wheel from scratch. Remind yourself that you don’t have to start over – especially if you’ve already built a strong B2C business.
- Don’t “Ready, Fire, Aim”: Once you select a course topic, try to avoid waiting until after the launch of your course to consider where the course is going to fit into your larger business model.
- Don’t quit before the corner of success: An important thing to remember when entering the B2B market is to not give up – you’ll find yourself just one step away from success. One contract, one vendor, or one salesperson can be what makes your B2B offering a success.
The Lifetime Student Value Framework™
When entering the B2B market, it’s beneficial to have a strategy in place for how your students or clients are going to go engage with your company at every phase of the customer journey. Paul’s Lifetime Student Value Framework is a valuable tool to implement into your strategy to accomplish this.
This model is made up of 3 pillars: Systems, Sales, and Students. By focusing on these areas, companies are able to run and operate at scale while creating meaningful customer experiences.
It starts by creating great content that connects with your audience. Once you’ve brought them in, you’ll want to ensure you have the right systems in place to move students from one product to the next, like a stepping stone, once they have become a fan of your content. To do so, you want “systems on the front and backend that will identify and prompt students at just the right time,” says Paul, to “incentivize them to purchase the next product” by creating great student experiences.
This framework helps support your new students coming in and supports them in having transformational experiences so you can provide them with other products and services down the road.
The three strategies to grow in the B2B market
- Implement a customer success strategy
- Implement an additional offer to retain customers and reduce churn
- Use certifications, accreditations, and partnerships to accelerate growth and expand your reach in the B2B market
1. Implementing a Customer Success Strategy
Having built a successful business already, implementing a customer success strategy around your products and services can take your organization to the next level. Through online learning, you can support your customers by educating them on existing and new offers, improving retention, and activating them faster.
How “Echosec Systems” implemented a customer success strategy
Echosec Systems is a Web-based data discovery tool for threat intelligence. Their product was complex and they wanted to ensure their customers had a full understanding of its benefits and new updates.
In order to be able to help customers use their product more effectively and efficiently, as well as reduce the likelihood of their customers “bouncing” as a result of not being able to properly understand how to use their product, Echosec Systems leaned on the infrastructure that Thinkific Plus provides to be able to distribute their training to help their customers through the process of customer education.
To do so, Echosec Systems created a customer education academy that has grown to become an integral part of their new customer and employee onboarding process.
Good questions to consider when reflecting on implementing a customer success strategy are:
- How can you use online learning to complement your existing business?
- What purpose, role, or need could online learning solve in your business?
2. Implementing an additional value add to retain customers and reduce churn
You already have a way that you serve your customers. A service, product, or form of helping your clients, students, or customers. Implementing an additional value add is an effective way in which you can retain your customers and reduce churn. Educational content can be an effective way to provide that added value to your B2B customers and reduce the likelihood that they will leave your business.
How Lansa, a low-code development platform implemented the “additional value add”
At Lansa, the team was trying to solve a problem: even with a large amount of written documentation, there was a demand from their customers and potential customers for formal training about their product. Their customers and partners needed help learning how to use their platform.
Before using Thinkific Plus, the team at Lansa was using a time-mentorship model to instruct new customers on how to use their product and share best practices. This took up a large amount of time and resources – especially as they started to scale the program.
In order to resolve this issue, they launched “Learn Lansa” with Thinkific Plus. The Lansa team turned their FAQ, Help Docs and Customer Support Resources into online courses to be able to support their B2B customers and reduced churn in the process.
Good questions to consider when reflecting on the practice of using an “additional offer” to reduce churn in your business are:
- Why are my customers currently leaving or outgrowing my business?
- What course could I create in my business to alleviate that
3. Using certifications, accreditations, and partnerships to accelerate growth and expand reach in the B2B market
Even if your business is already growing, it is always beneficial to expand your reach and accelerate growth beyond the current services you are providing for your customers, students, or clients through the use of certifications, accreditations, and partner programs.
How IntelyCare accelerated growth and expanded reach beyond current business offerings through certification and accreditation
IntelyCare is a company that supports healthcare facilities through staffing software that ensures there’s the right number of nurses, at the right time, in the right spot. When COVID-19 emerged in 2020, they recognized the problem of a lack of training for nurses on how to treat COVID-19. To address this knowledge gap, they built out a training and certification program using Thinkific Plus. With social sharing, their impact quickly grew to reach and train over 500,000 nursing staff in COVID-19 care.
The team at IntelyCare built an offer that was complementary to their business and was able to teach half a million people in a quick and efficient manner. They also used certificates and leveraged social media as important forms of supporting the takeoff of the course.
Key Learning: Incorporating certifications and accreditations in your offering is an effective way for you to accelerate the growth of your business in the B2B Market. People want to learn something new, and they want to have evidence that they have completed their knowledge and retained new information for employment purposes, as well as for compliance purposes. A certificate is a tangible way for you to provide your customers and students with an opportunity to demonstrate the experience, safety, and compliance they have gained from your courses.
How Keap accelerated growth and expanded reach beyond current business offerings through partnerships
Keap is a combined CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, and analytics platform. While widely used, due to the complexity of their platform, the team at Keap needed a way to equip their partners with knowledge to work with their customers in order to help them implement their platform across all of their use cases.
Since the Keap partners were responsible for helping their customers implement their platform into their business, they implemented a partner onboarding program using Thinkific Plus.
Key learning: Because Keap already had a successful platform, they accelerated their growth by reaching into new markets and attempted to fit into new audiences they did not have access to by relying on their partners to be able to advocate for them, and implement their platform on their behalf through Partnerships.
Good questions to consider when reflecting on the practice of using certifications, accreditations, and partnerships to accelerate growth and expand your reach in the B2B market are:
- Which B2B acceleration path would work best for my business right now?
- Would my business benefit from Certificates and Accreditations, or Partnerships?
What it’s like to iterate and grow a B2B offering at scale: Notes from the trenches with Simon Dunant
In the second part of the Level Up with Plus session, we chatted with Simon Dunant, Director of Online Learning at Engaging Networks. Simon is an avid user of Thinkific Plus with a strong background in online education and 25 years of experience in the technology industry. Simon has led the network of online learning academies at Engaging Networks, the leading SaaS platform for non-profit marketing and fundraising, managing the creation, curation, and implementation of customer education and partner certification of clients and agency partners across the globe.
Simon also runs Engaging Network’s Staff Academy, helping deliver compliance and security training to employees. He has over 10 years of B2B and B2C experience: training, mentoring, and coaching through in-person, online, and on-demand content at leading global companies and conferences.
If you’re looking to implement strategies to grow and iterate your B2B offering, Simon offers some tips from the perspective of someone who has gone through the experience over the past 4 years in online training both as a consultant and as an employee responsible for online training delivery, building Engaging Network’s customer education program from the ground up and migrating to Thinkific Plus in 2021.
How online education can fit into the company vision
When Simon first joined Engaging Networks, the company was keen to dive into online education for customers and partners. Initially, the company’s vision was to provide scalable online customer education that transformed their clients into expert users of their software to help improve retention rates, attract new clients, and reduce employee onboarding time as they scaled the business.
The goals of Engaging Networks’ online learning platform were:
- To educate clients about their product and deliver best practices for their clients in a digital context
- To train clients in the use of their platform and tools to allow them to utilize their product effectively and achieve their organizational goals
One of the key challenges for Engaging Networks was to be able to produce and deliver courses quickly due to their fast-paced product cycle and the ongoing product feature releases every 6 to 8 weeks. It was imperative for the company to be able to build and update courses in alignment with product feature releases to be able to educate their customers on how to utilize them and ensure that courses were providing value to the business.
The benefits of an online academy
When it came to reducing onboarding times for Engaging Networks, starting an academy resulted in a reduced workload for account managers and support teams. With an online academy, much of the repetitive training process that Support teams go through when onboarding clients can be eliminated with the implementation of self-paced courses, and allow account managers and Support teams to spend more 1-1 time with their clients.
Building a partner network through accreditation and certification programs
Engaging Networks built a community of marketing agencies and nonprofits interested in working together to help implement their platform. They built a partner network through the implementation of an online agency academy that was able to accredit and certify them.
The key benefits of accreditation and partnerships:
- Accredited partners can be instrumental in helping implement a platform, product, or service, and train clients on its use.
- Accredited partners can help their clients deliver their projects, as well as refer new customers into a business.
Accredited partners were able to transform Engaging Networks’ partner program. Previous to the implementation of an agency academy, there was no standard way to ensure the quality of the partners the company was delivering to their clients, and they were unsure of what their clients’ customer experience was going to be like.
Engaging Networks saw an opportunity to train their partners, accredit and verify them, and build stronger relationships with them. This allowed them to build a strong partner network through agencies that they knew worked with their tools, and were knowledgeable about their frameworks. They were confident that accredited partners now knew their platform inside out because they had received certifications through their online academy training.
Taking your course from concept to training, quickly
When working with a larger business, sometimes you may have a short time frame to develop a course around a new product or service feature. With Thinkific Plus, Simon advises taking advantage of the bulk importer in order to create several course modules at once, bulk upload videos, and create lessons in a list form.
When using Thinkific to build your courses, you are able to film all of your videos at once, upload them, and build a course from start to finish with a tight deadline. This allows you to spend more time on the creation of the content that is going to be in your course while ensuring that it is going to deliver and meet the goals you have outlined.
It is helpful to avoid spending too much time on administering, hosting, and tweaking the platform rather than working on delivering your knowledge through content. The Thinkific platform helps facilitate this process.
Transitioning from B2C to B2B
When working with a B2C audience, courses can often be centered around one topic. As a course creator, you have more independence and different stakeholders to answer to. On the B2B side, it is important to consider that if you are providing any kind of training delivery to another business, there is going to be a wider number of people and departments to answer to. Therefore, you have to think like the business you are working with, or within. Whether you are an outside consultant or an internal one, working in a B2B context will likely involve larger training operations, a larger amount of courses and training topics, and may involve compliance requirements.
Key differences between B2C and B2B
- You will have a wider variety of stakeholders: When working with a business, you will have a wide variety of internal stakeholders you will need to engage with and have conversations with. You may need to speak to the customer success managers in the company, the marketing team, the customer support team, sales engineers, and sales teams to gather insights on how to best deliver training to clients.
- You may have to expand your inventory of courses: When you are sitting down to plan a course, you may have to get into a different mindset on how you will train a group of people on one topic. B2B will also have a larger course inventory, and you may end up finding that once the business you are working with sees the value in a training course, they will want to expand their inventory of courses and training available to multiple users like clients, partners, employees, and other audiences.
Tips for B2B content management
- Use a project management software to manage course content: In a B2B context, you may have to constantly update your content and courses to stay up to date with a businesses’ changing needs. It’s beneficial to use project management software such as Asana and Trello to track your courses and their content as well as changes that have been made over time, and need to be made in the future.
- Make an effort to work with the businesses’ internal teams: When building a B2B course, it’s essential to have an understanding of the businesses’ onboarding, customer retention practices, partnership programs, and customer education modes. Speaking to subject matter experts in the business who have specialized knowledge will help you gain insights for the training and courses you are building. Getting their “buy-in” and asking them for their insights to include into your training will be a big asset as you build your offering.
Choosing an LMS that can scale and grow with you
With Engaging Network’s previous LMS, there was more administrative work that needed to be completed in order to build courses. Using Thinkific Plus as their new learning management system, Simon has been able to free up around 30% of his time to put back into content creation.
Choosing an online learning platform that is intuitive, scalable, and allows you to build courses with ease allows you more flexibility to grow the customer base you serve, as well as have separate sites or learning environments for your students. Previous to joining Thinkific Plus, Engaging Networks had one large Academy that served clients, partners, and several stakeholders. With Thinkific Plus, they have been able to build several different academies to serve their stakeholders and focus specifically on tailoring each learning experience to them.
Another benefit of Thinkific Plus in a B2B context is that through the implementation of different learning environments, you and several other stakeholders of the business are able to track the progress of clients, partners, and employees separately in their learning journey.
For instance: An HR manager is able to log in to the platform and receive updates about the progress of employees going through the onboarding process. Likewise, a Customer Success Manager can log into the platform’s learning environment for customer education, and keep track of the learning progress of the businesses’ customers.
Internal visibility, and having separate access to information is always something that is important to keep in mind to ensure that you are not compromising any privacy policies internally in the business. During the Level Up session, Simon demonstrated how Engaging Networks was able to build different academies for each of their key stakeholders using separate learning environments on THinkific Plus. Watch the replay to see how they did it!
Considerations For launching your first B2B course
- Attempt to solve a business’s largest need: As you build your first B2B offering, a key thing to keep in mind is to have your first-course address the largest need for the target business you are working with. For example: If the business you are looking to market your course to is currently struggling with employee onboarding, start there.
- Ask for feedback: Asking for feedback from your students and clients can be one of the best ways that you can improve your future courses and continue to improve your B2B offerings. Remember that launching your first course will always induce some nervousness. Try to mitigate this nervousness by doing the best job you can for your first course, continuously asking for feedback from students, and implementing it for the next iteration. This will allow you to keep improving your course offerings with each launch.
- Make use of surveys, focus groups, and client check-ins: It is helpful to use surveys, focus groups, and communities to collect feedback. To keep in touch with your clients and their needs, it also helps to implement a survey for your clients every 6 months to ask questions about their experience with your courses and how you can better support them with content.
Keeping Track Of Reporting Early On:
As you build and launch your first B2B offering, make sure that you are receiving data from your learners. Use reporting tools on your online learning platform to keep track of your student’s progress, how they are engaging with the content in your courses, and notice if there is any room for improvement.
Key metrics that you can pay attention to are:
- Number of registered students
- Course Enrolments
- Number of courses started
- Number of completed courses
- Completion Rate
- Student’s last login
Noticing patterns in your reports and metrics can help you gather insights into the way that your content is performing with students and know when it’s time to make adjustments. When using the Thinkific platform, you can download the reporting data every week so that you are able to stay on top of this knowledge, and build a database of metrics.
How To Keep The Learning Journey In Mind
- Make suggestions on what to learn next
A valuable way to grow and iterate your B2B offering as you expand your course offerings is to provide your learners with guidance on what they should learn next. In your course progress and completion pages, you are able to make suggestions on what courses your students should enroll in next to expand their knowledge on a specific topic.
- Get creative with the Thinkific App Store
Another way to keep students engaged and involved in the education journey is to explore the Thinkific App Store. There are a large number of apps that allow you to diversify the learning experience for your students and extend it beyond video, text, presentation, and quiz courses.
- Incorporate micro-learning to keep students engaged
In a B2B context, incorporating micro-learning can help you keep students engaged. Try to aim to keep each video that you include in your courses at a maximum of 15 minutes in length and each course at a maximum of 2 hours. This will allow your students to follow through on their learning journey with more engagement and will keep your student completion rates at a higher percentage.
- Apply real-world case studies
Providing your students with case studies and examples of the topics they have just learned at the end of your course allows them to put their learnings into perspective and see how what they just learned applies in a real-world scenario.
Key Takeaways For Building Your Online Learning Education Strategy
- Build the course. Prove to potential clients that there is value in what you offer and that your course can support their business needs.
- Ensure your course solves a problem that the potential client is currently facing Set some KPIs for the course, and outline a problem that you are trying to solve in order to prove the value and success of your course.
- Ask for feedback and continue to improve and iterate your B2B offering once it’s out in the world
- Start thinking bigger, and create other potential course offerings and learning opportunities for the business, expanding your own growth as a course creator as a result.
- Try your best to make the process collaborative with your client and make a habit of keeping close track of reporting
Learn how to effectively scale up your business through the power of B2B sales in this free course: