The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant change for businesses, mainly by shifting most, if not all, work towards online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This creates a new playing field for companies where a more authoritative online presence and brand story may give them a lasting edge over competitors.
In the consulting and agency world, the usual in-person, hands-on work has become limited to what can be performed from a home office. Consultants and creatives need to find more ways to distinguish their own brand from the rest. The services you provide should contribute even more value for clients starting to restructure their strategies around using online resources to augment traditional approaches.
Establishing Authority With an Online Course
To distinguish your consulting or agency brand, your should position it as a competent authority in an area of specialization. In the new year, creating an online course may be one of the best ways to refresh and differentiate a brand.
Online courses also offer a way to generate new sources of passive income for your business and help connect you to new and old customers in a meaningful way. By producing educational content, you can show clients that you have the skills and knowledge they need.
Growing Online Learning Market
The online learning market has been growing significantly since 2019, with a forecasted growth to about $300 billion in 2025. This is due to the rise in online classes from entrepreneurs and business leaders who saw the demand for more diverse skills in the workplace.
In 2020, the year marked by numerous lock downs and quarantines, we witnessed significant growth in popularity of online courses in most industries around the world. The highest growth occurred in health care, art and entertainment, personal development, business, and technology industries. In terms of geographical location, Australia has seen the biggest increase, followed by the UK, India, Canada, and the United States.
Utilizing Online Courses to Support Branding Goals
The content of your online courses can vary depending on your strategic goals for your brand. If you are interested in attracting more prospective clients, you can offer free courses to generate more leads. Your content, in this case, should be authentic, relevant and easily actionable for the target audience.
You can also add to your brand’s credibility by designing your content around your specific area of specialization. Positioning as a niche expert grows your following and distinguishes your brand story from others in the market.
Once you have enough people taking your course, scaling the overall business becomes easier. Traditional marketing outreach may engage a few prospects at a time, but an online course system gives you much wider reach, connecting and engaging with multiple clients and helping you have a more substantial impact.
Producing Useful, Relevant and Timely Content
If you’re ready to start creating an online course for your brand, you now have to think about where you’ll be hosting your class and what sort of content to develop. There are several leading software platforms to help you create and sell your online courses.
Your content will depend on your chosen area of specialization, but here are a few tips to help you keep it authentic, relevant and engaging for your audience:
- Be Empathetic. Connect with your audience by being vulnerable and acknowledging that things have changed dramatically for everyone (including you!). Communicate to them that you understand what they’re going through. You can do this by including more real content in your course videos or using a light, yet sympathetic, tone in your copy. An example of real content is a behind-the-scenes look at your work. Share with your audience how you’re getting the job done from your home, or tell them about your struggles with work and adapting to the new normal.
- Be Practical. Your course content should be both useful and relevant for your audience. You can take this a step further by making it more accessible and affordable as well. If you’re unwilling to provide your courses and services for free, a special introductory price is enough to convey your spirit and intentions. To be considered useful, the courses you offer must be practical and provide significant value for clients at whatever price you set.
- Be Altruistic. While you’re concerned with keeping your brand a cut above the competition, it’s also best to give support to others in your industry as well. Not only will your expertise help your clients but it could also help guide other consultancies and agencies struggling during these times. You don’t have to share every trick up your sleeve; settle on a common problem that most people have a hard time with, then share your insight or direct them to helpful tools and sites that can lead them to a possible answer.
- Be Inclusive. When you produce an online course, anyone who takes it becomes part of a class or a cohort of students. You’ve effectively created a community of people who could become advocates for your brand. These individuals will not only help promote your class but they may also provide you the feedback you need to keep it relevant. Facilitate connections across the community so they can continue to get value long after they’ve finished the course. One way to do this is by creating a membership system or an affinity group for them to join (it can even be a simple LinkedIn or Facebook group). There, you can post thought-provoking questions or allow the members to post their queries and opinions.
The consulting and agency sectors are undergoing a dramatic reinvention brought about by the disruptive changes of both the coronavirus pandemic and digital transformation. Building your brand’s authority by creating online courses is a strategy to both survive and thrive. Whether you work for a big firm or you freelance, you need a differentiated and authoritative brand story to win in today’s market. Don’t let a non-existent or weak brand story stand between you and your next customer. Remember, you only have six seconds to give them a reason to care, a reason to engage and a reason to buy. You can learn more about how to harness the power of the six-second story to build your brand by following me on Twitter, connecting with me on LinkedIn, subscribing to the TopRight blog, and buying copies of my latest books, Strategic Analytics and Marketing, Interrupted.