Accredible - Certificates and Badges

4 Tips to Showcase Value and Retain Members

A membership organization’s most valued benefits can vary widely depending on the organization and the individual member. One person might appreciate educational opportunities above all else; someone else might pay their dues solely for the organization’s advocacy work. Those two people probably are aware other benefits exist, but what exactly do they know about them?

Even members who take advantage of all available benefits might appreciate reminders and snapshots of what you offer and what you’re doing for them. If nothing else, it reminds them why membership to your organization is important and what they’re getting out of their dues. Regardless of precisely what your membership benefits are, clearly communicating your organization’s value to members is one of the most important tasks for member retention.

Embrace Surveys

One of the first steps in focusing your efforts is to assess what members actually value. Often times organizations assume they know what the most valued benefits are, but they never end up actually asking their members.

Surveys can delve into people’s wants and needs, and what they like and what they don’t. A well-devised survey can highlight a lot of valuable information. Sometimes these data points may reinforce your existing assumptions (which is good!). However, other times you may find that one benefit you thought was important is rarely used or even known by your member base.

Tools like Survey Monkey (we use them at Accredible for our own customer surveys) offer multiple ways to devise and distribute a wide number of surveys. They also have some great resources on how to write good survey or poll questions.

Remember when you’re writing your survey: Don’t forget to ask how your members want you to communicate with them. Do you send too many emails? Do they want to be engaged in ways you’re not currently reaching them?

Leverage Social Media

Your owned social media channels shouldn’t just be a place to promote events or your latest updates. It’s the perfect channel to remind your members (and potential members) the value provided in your membership. Your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and how often you post, depend on your industry and member base.

Some organizations have tech-savvy members who leverage all forms of social media. Others find their members on only one or two social networks (or none). Even use within a single social network can vary greatly among individuals. Some professionals use LinkedIn only as a career advancement and networking tool, whereas others check it daily to keep informed about news in their field.

Think about your members and ask yourself:

  1. Where are we posting now, and where should we be posting based on our members?
  2. What kind of content do we regularly post?
  3. What new types of content would our members find useful?

We find that some organizations tend to post too much about themselves, and not enough about their industry. Take stock of what content you usually post, and then set up a content calendar. Make sure you’re posting a good mix of:

  • Organization news and updates
  • Relevant industry news and resources
  • Membership benefit posts

Once you have a good grasp of where you’re posting and what type of content you’re using, make sure to understand how your members are interacting with your social media. Do your Facebook posts invite discussion, or do they just get “likes”? Do your members tag you on Twitter? Do you tag them and share their tweets and posts? Some organizations treat social media more like a news outlet, and others treat it more like interactive conversations. Ideally you want to strike a good balance between the two.

 

Highlight Education and Professional Development

This is most likely one of the main reasons you were able to attract members, so make sure to spend a significant amount of time ensuring these efforts are well marketed.

Sometimes, the annual convention is the member favorite. Does your convention marketing emphasize the most compelling parts of it enough? That could include the keynote speaker, the volunteer event, or the session on the topic everyone’s talking about.

For certifications and educational programs that your members complete, what do they get at the end of it? If it’s a brief webinar, they might not get anything that acknowledges their participation. If it’s a more extensive certification, they probably get a paper certificate or a digital one, which they can share easily on social media. When they do, their contacts see their accomplishment as well as your brand, which might increase your reach and your visibility. These credentials also help the member advance his or her career. Accredible’s digital certificates, for example, are easily accessible and verifiable by third parties, so the recipient doesn’t need to show a paper certificate, and potential employers can verify what they say they’ve accomplished.

Use Publications and Other Information

Many organizations use their flagship magazine, newsletters, email updates, or other vehicles to help their members stay up to date on developments in the industry, as well as to provide practical tips on how to do their jobs better. This is an often-overlooked value-add, and it can be a great way to continuously engage your members.

When there’s a buzzworthy article or piece in one of them, do you tell members about it, beyond your regular promotion of the publication? If there’s an article written by a particularly popular expert or on a hot topic, some organizations call it out on the home page or a special Facebook post. Members may be more likely to read and appreciate your publications if you pique their interest with some specifics.

Understanding Value Improves Retention

It’s important to remember that no matter how much value you pack into your membership, it goes to waste if your members don’t know about their benefits and if they can’t tangibly experience them.

If you make it easy for your members to keep connected with you and informed about everything from last week’s meetings on the Hill to next week’s networking event, they might have a deeper understanding of what they can get out of their membership and what you do for them every day. The best way to accomplish this is to:

  1. Survey your members to find out what benefits they value most and to gauge their general understanding of the entire list of benefits.
  2. Leverage social media outlets to foster two-way communication while also reminding members of their benefits.
  3. Highlight professional development and education, since this is most likely one of the main reasons your members joined.
  4. Use your publications or other outlets as ways to keep members engaged.

The better informed your members are on the benefits you offer, and the more they are engaged, the more likely they are to stick around as longtime members.

How associations can bridge the generation gap

Baby boomers make up the largest portion of many associations’ members. As they retire, associations aim to appeal to the millennials who are poised to take their place. The 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, a survey of associations by Marketing General Incorporated, found that 39 percent of the associations’ members were baby boomers, 29 percent were Generation X, and 17 percent were millennials (11 percent were Traditionalists born before 1946, and 4 percent were Generation Z).

Associations are finding ways to cater to younger members’ wants and needs. Generalizations about people who were born in the same couple of decades are just that—generalizations. But some qualities that are common in certain generations have proved helpful to organizations working to serve and support them.

For example, millennials are the first “digital natives”—they are used to using technology everywhere, for everything. Overall, they expect to be able to accomplish tasks online easily, and they expect quick responses and a high degree of interaction.

Format

For any association program, it’s probably impractical to design a separate version for each generation. But even if that were doable, one size does not fit all within a generation. So the better course may be to take into account the different generations’ tendencies and learning styles when designing, revising, or marketing an education or certification program—but not to build it just for millennials. You don’t want to frustrate everyone else.

Millennials often are visual learners, and “gamification” appeals to them. Incorporating elements of games into learning programs might make them more enjoyable to millennial members. Millennials tend to prefer content in short bursts. Building a progress bar into an online learning program might appeal to them as well as baby boomers, who often are more goal-oriented than their younger peers.

[bctt tweet=”Incorporating elements of games into learning programs might make them more enjoyable to millennial members. ” username=”accredible”]

All association members are likely to be familiar enough with technology to be able to use it for an online learning or certification program. But millennials have been using technology their entire lives, and boomers had to learn how. By choosing online features that are user-friendly and easy to navigate, associations can respond to members’ various levels of facility with technology.

 

Value

Association members value continuing education and certification because they validate and build their knowledge and skills, differentiate them from their peers, and give them professional recognition. These programs also might deepen their engagement with the association—a plus for both sides. In the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, continuing education was the second most important reason members joined.

[bctt tweet=”Association members value continuing education and certification because they validate and build their knowledge and skills, differentiate them from their peers, and give them professional recognition.” username=”accredible”]

In a study of higher learning institution staff who took online learning courses for their jobs, respondents of all generations said they were satisfied with their e-learning programs overall. But baby boomers showed the highest degree of dissatisfaction. This could be due to the format of the program, its content, or other reasons—but it points to the need to consider baby boomers’ experience.

People have different motivations and appreciate different forms of recognition. As a generalization, millennials want constant feedback, and boomers do not. Generation Xers are more self-directed and self-motivated than their peers. Baby boomers might expect more formal rewards and recognition, while Gen Xers and millennials might want it to be less formal but more easily shared with others. As heavy users of social media, millennials use social channels extensively to share their achievements, so they may be likely to appreciate a digital certificate that they can easily share and incorporate into their online portfolio or profile.

Of course, education and certification programs are built for numerous different purposes. Some are required of association members; others are optional. Associations trying to make their programs valuable—and communicate that value to members—would do well to consider different generations’ learning styles, motivations, and expectations.

 

How to Better Attract and Engage Millennial Members

Would you like to attract more millennials to join your association?

By the numbers, millennials eclipse previous generations. For every one person born in Generation X, there were two born in Generation Y. Millennials are quite literally everywhere, but they are also rather elusive when it comes to traditional marketing.

However, because millennials have considerable buying power (which will continue to grow over the next few decades), it’s important for your organization to attract and engage this generation.

Why now? After the age of 40, research shows that most consumers get locked into a routine. They don’t stray from the brands or organizations that they trust. If you want to forge a lifelong membership with millennials, they time to start is right now.

So, what can you do to grab a millennial? To better answer that question, let’s look at what defines the millennial generation.

What is a Millennial?

Depending on who you ask, Generation Y encompasses anyone born from the early ‘80s to the late ‘90s. At this point in history, millennials are between the ages of 21 to 35. Millennials are not just the future, they’re the present. They’ve come of age, they’re full-fledged adults, and they’re career-minded.

Understand the Millennial Mindset

Many millennials cannot remember a time before the Internet. As a result, millennials are digital natives and globally minded. They live their lives “out loud” via social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Millennials are documentarians that spend their entire lives in front of screens. They don’t use paper, they use apps. They like to keep up with their social groups digitally as well as in person. To them, technology is not an intrusion into daily life, it’s a tool for experiencing life.

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Focus on What’s In It For Them

Here’s the number one question that every prospective millennial member wants to ask you: What will I gain by becoming a member of your association?

The answer to this question is two-part.

Part one: Start by explaining who you are as an association. What are your values? What guides your organization? Millennials are drawn to ideals, and want to join up with associations that share their same ideals.

It’s important to note that millennials are not monolithic in their social values. There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” answer here. What may attract one millennial may not attract another– but it is essential that you’re transparent with your values.

[bctt tweet=”There’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ when marketing to millennials.” username=”accredible”]

Part two: Explain why membership is beneficial. You can focus on the educational advantage of becoming a member, or how your association can help build their reputation so they can advance in their careers.

Prospective members should have at least two compelling reasons to join your association. They must approve of and agree with your values, and they must see a clear benefit for their own self-improvement.

Appeal to Their Social Values

In addition to your brand values, which are often inward facing, focus on what good you do for the community at large. How do you, as an association, give back? Are you linked up with charitable organizations? Do you donate time and resources to schools or community outreach programs?

Your association’s charitable engagement is important to millennials.

Although millennials are very “me”-focused, they’re also attracted to the concept of the greater good. They want to do good. They want to support companies and organizations that do good. This is a big reason why companies like TOMS, a shoe brand that donates one pair of shoes for each new purchase, are so popular amongst millennials.

A whooping 84% of millennials consider what the brand stands for before they make a purchase with that brand. Armed with the power of Internet search, they will also verify whether or not a brand is actually doing socially what it says. And, if not, millennials will take their business elsewhere.

Find the Job Angle

One of the biggest selling features for joining your association is the promise of ongoing education. Millennials are compelled by the opportunity to grow.

Millennials seek out opportunities to develop their careers. Just like the Gen Xers before them, millennials won’t be tied to one job for the rest of their lives. They aren’t motivated by the carrot dangling promise of a gold watch after 40 years of service.

Show how your association will help the prospective millennial member become better at their current job. Or show how you can equip them for their next job. If your association is more network-based vs. course-based, you can also discuss how networking has improved the lives and careers of your members.

Promise Growth and Constant Improvement

As mentioned above, millennials are motivated by the promise of growth and rewarding experiences. A study from Pew Research Center found that millennials will be the most educated generation in US history.

Because they love ongoing education, it’s important that you promise and provide constant enrichment. It’s the best way to motivate a millennial to join and stay engaged with your association. If you’re not enriching their lives, they won’t continue their membership.

Instead of offering a one-and-done type of arrangement, consider updating your certification with new material on an annual basis. This way, you’ll give your members a valid reason to stay connected to your association while providing ever-increasing value.

Get Mobile

Millennials live with quick access to their phones. Phones are always on, and millennials are always on them.

Be sure that your website and emails are mobile-friendly. If a millennial member visits your website, or reads an email off of their smartphone, they shouldn’t need to pinch-to-zoom. Your content should be easy to read, from even the smallest screens.

Also, do you have a strategy to reach your members through an app or SMS? If not, now’s the time to consider updating your outreach.

Offer Short-Term Subscriptions

The thought of a long-term, annual subscription will make the average millennial itch. They much prefer the idea of a month-to-month subscription plan.

If you only offer annual subscriptions, you could be alienating would-be millennials members. Give them the choice. Offer a monthly option, too. You can still offer an annual subscription at your regular rate, and increase the monthly subscription to a slightly higher rate.

Hire Millennials

If you truly want to attract millennials, hire millennials. Otherwise, in attempt to reach millennials will appear hollow and inauthentic. Why have millennial members if you don’t also have millennials in your staff? They will help you bridge the gap and create content and experiences that speak directly to millennials.

Also, hire a diverse group of individuals. Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in US history, with up to 43% identified as non-white. For this reason, millennials prefer associating with organizations that reflect ethnic diversity.

Welcome Feedback

Millennials believe in a feedback culture, and if they’re not telling you directly, they’re sharing it with their social circles on social media. To avoid finding potentially negative reviews of your association online, make it a priority to encourage direct feedback. This way, you can attempt to resolve conflicts or negative opinions before they go public.

Actively solicit comments and ways to improve your service. Ask through surveys on your website, emails, and social media. Above all, don’t simply listen, also act.

Over to You

What’s do you believe is the most important thing to consider when attracting millennials? Let us know in the comments below.

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How to Leverage Your Certification Program to Increase Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Have you created a certification program but now find yourself struggling to raise awareness of it?

Even if you have an excellent certification program, it won’t market itself. It requires an intentional and carefully planned marketing strategy. But what if you don’t know where to start?

Start with relationship-building. Word-of-mouth marketing is the best type of exposure you can hope for, and it all begins with relationships.

Next, focus on education. Equip your current students with the content and resources needed to share your information with others.

Let’s discuss how to create an intentional word-of-mouth marketing strategy for your certification program.

Make the Certification a Big Deal

The first step in relationship-building is to be a cheerleader.

When your students complete their certification program, celebrate with them. Applaud them for their efforts. Encourage your students to spread the good news with their social circles.

One of the benefits of Accredible is that social sharing is built-in. Graduates can share the good news on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and over 100 other social media sites. They can also proudly embed their certificate on their website and add it to their email signature.

This serves two purposes.

In addition to students sharing the good news, they’re also sharing your brand. You get exposure every time someone sees your student’s accomplishment.

Another way to celebrate your students (and gain social proof, which is another form of word of mouth) is to post about it yourself. Advertise how many people have taken your course on your website in a pop-up or banner. Include it in your social media or search engine ads. Interview a student and share it on your blog and social media posts.

Celebration can also be as simple as taking a photo of your newly certified students and posting it to your social channels. (Be sure to tag them in the photos for added exposure).

Everyone wins when you celebrate your students.

Stay in Contact With Your Students

You may only offer a one-time certification, but that doesn’t mean you have to end your relationship with your students. If you cultivate an ongoing relationship with your former students, you can build a successful referral network.

How can you continue to serve your former students? Continue to provide them with useful information that they’ll find valuable even after graduation. You can position yourself as an educational resource.

Blogging, email, and social media are all excellent ways to stay in contact with former students.

On your blog, you can create content about your industry, including expert insight. It can serve as a news resource as well as an educational guide.

With email, you can remind students to return to your blog whenever you upload a new post. You can also create content for subscribers-only, adding to the exclusivity of your blog.

On social media, you can stay top-of-mind while posting realtime updates about industry-related news. You can also interact with your students and answer questions.

Remember that your students signed up for your course because you’re an authority, so prove your authority.

Focus on Case Studies

[content_upgrade cu_id=”103″]Need help creating a case study? Here’s a list of resources.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Case studies are word-of-mouth marketing in package form.

Case studies, also known as expanded testimonials, will help you sell your certification program better than any glossy advertisement. Why? Case studies showcase real people who have actually succeeded with your certification program.

To create a successful case study, choose the students who represent your target audience. Seeing similar pain points and personas can be inspiring and influential for prospective customers.

If you have five different target personas, create five different case studies. Then, share them everywhere: on your website, on social media, to your email list, and on your social media and search engines ads.

In your case study, address the who, what, why, and how you helped.

When you share case studies in your marketing, be sure to link to an optimized landing page — one for each persona. Sending prospective customers to an optimized landing page is a gentle way to address common pain points and present your certification program as the unique answer to these problems.

Create Videos

When prospective students are first introduced to your program, you only have a few seconds to make a winning impression. Even if you create a compelling website, many prospective students will first find you through social media campaigns or direct referrals. Wouldn’t you like to control that impression?

One of the best ways to do that is to create a video that explains how you can help the prospective student succeed.

Videos are increasingly important for word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of relying on your students to come up with their own words when they tell others about your program, ask them to share your video.

A video is self-contained and instantly engaging. And because most of us are visual learners, videos are a great way to introduce yourself to others quickly. Within the first 10 seconds of a video, you can pull your audience in and provide all the necessary information to them in a visually appealing format.

And videos are very shareable. For example, Facebook makes it easy for your followers to share videos with their social circles. Post a video and then ask for shares. It’s really that easy.

Not sure what type of videos to add to your certification program? Take a cue from NQA Certification. NQA Certification created a video case study and uploaded it to YouTube.

This video can be embedded on blog posts, social media posts, landing pages, and promotional content. It can also be shared via email. In fact, YouTube itself is a great marketing channel. It’s the second largest search engine on the Internet (behind Google).

Turn your case study into a video. If you can’t do in-person interviews, Skype is also an option. Keep your videos short (10 minutes or less). You want videos that are bite-sized and that get to the point quickly.

Give Away Promotional Items

Have you considered creating promotional gifts for your graduates? Branded T-shirts, hats, pens, tote bags, and coffee mugs are more than just simple marketing gimmicks. Promotional gifts can also be used as an integral part of your referral marketing strategy.

Here are three things that promotional items do well:

  1.  Promotional products serve as a symbol of your appreciation and will generate positive sentiment for your business.
  2.  Promotional products provide continuous exposure for your business whenever in use.
  3.  In presenting such gifts, you get the opportunity to ask for a favor in return.

Number 3 is perhaps the most important for actively generating word-of-mouth referrals. When sending promotional gifts, also include a handwritten note.

On your note, thank them for taking part in your certification program and encourage them to spread the word. Don’t use vague language. Be specific. Depending on your industry, you may ask them to share their experience on a crowd-sourced review site like Yelp or spread the message on social media using a brand-owned hashtag.

Promotional gifts help to keep your business at the top of mind and can effortlessly generate leads long after your student has completed the course.

Final Thoughts

Always remember that when compared to slick promotional ads, simple one-sentence recommendations always win out. Don’t be afraid to simply ask for referrals.

[bctt tweet=”When compared to slick promotional ads, simple one sentence recommendations always win out.” username=”accredible”]

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How you can boost adoption by increasing certificate accessibility

This is the final article in our five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Accessibility is King

If you don’t have an online delivery mechanism, then this problem is more straightforward. How likely is it that your students will end up remembering where they placed their certificate if they needed to reference it? Chances are if it wasn’t thrown away, it’s sitting under a pile of papers or in a binder of other documents. Printed certificates may be a nice touch when they are received, but they are difficult to retrieve, the information is not easily shareable, and if I asked you to produce proof of your certification, you would have to travel home and find it. Digitally issuing credentials allows the recipient to share and verify this information much easier that traditional delivery methods.

If you are issuing some kind of digital certificate or badge, it’s imperative your members or students can quickly and easily access them online. Here are some best practices to follow:

1. Remove Sign In Walls or Accounts for Users

People don’t like having to create a new account every time they use a service. By forcing your users to create an account and sign in, you’re only adding barriers to them getting to and sharing their digital certificate. A login might be more secure for repeated visits, but there are other methods to increase security, and the burden of creating an account is often not viewed as worthwhile from the recipient’s perspective. Forcing them to sign in or create an account to simply verify someone is credible is an unnecessary barrier. Additionally, avoid long and complicated URLs for your certificates and badges.

2. Make it Easier for Third Party Verifiers

It is of significant importance that third party viewers (friends, professional colleagues, clients) and verifiers (recruiters, employers) can see the digital version of your student’s certificate or badge. Having these third parties request permission or create an account to see details of your course offering, and the marker of success is simply too much friction for a viewer to overcome to look at a certificate.

Conclusion

You spent a lot of time, energy, and money meticulously planning your program. Don’t let up at the finish line. You should put the same amount of thought into your Recipient Experience. By simply fine-tuning your process and focusing on shareability, timely delivery, verifiability, and ease of access, your program will reap the benefits. When implemented properly, a smooth Recipient Experience will differentiate you from your competition, yield higher post-program engagement, increase visibility, generate more referrals, reduce costs, and save your organization time. For your recipients, it’ll be a smoother, more delightful experience and maximize the value they get your of your program.

 

 

 

To recap:

  1. Shareable certificates and badges provide better brand exposure, increased engagement, and maximize student referrals.
  2. Timely delivery means that people are more likely to share their experience with others when they’re most excited.
  3. Verifiable credentials are the only credentials worth anything. When a third party can verify your students really earned their certificate, you provide real, tangible value while protecting the reputation of your brand.
  4. Easy accessibility is crucial to making it simple for individuals and third party verifiers to get to their digital credentials, so remove any unnecessary sign in screens.

This is the final article in our five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

Ensure value through trusted verification

This is part four of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Provide Clear and Reliable Verification

The person who completed your course spent a lot of time and energy to become certified or credible, and they did that for a reason. They want to be able to show other people – typically their peers, existing employer, or future employers – that they have legitimately learned something new. The only way your certificate is valid to them is if a third party can quickly and easily verify the credential is real. If it isn’t secure, then they can’t trust the credential, and that means they can’t trust your organization nor your members.

Fancy designs, watermarks, and foil or wax seals used to be enough to keep forged certificates a rare occurrence. With the rise of tools like Photoshop, the barrier to faking credentials is extremely low. And if you think people don’t often lie about credentials, you’re very wrong.

Digital issuing of credentials offers some relief to these problems. Now most providers of digital certificates or badges boast bank-level encryption, so in order to produce a fake, the perpetrator would need to hack into highly secure servers to manipulate data or issue fraudulent credentials.

There are three key best practices to ensure credential verification goes smoothly.

1. Make sure all the information and data is correct and up to date.

This seems minor, but misspelled recipient or organization names immediately make people suspicious (rightly so) about certificates. That’s one of the main benefits of issuing digital certificates – the ability to immediately edit information if needed. Additionally, make sure that you clearly define dates for certificate expiration (if they do expire) and if needed, revoke certificates if someone is no longer certified.

 

 

2. Make sure the organization hosting the credential is secure

Many digital credential platforms have great security, just make sure that your certificates are securely hosted and will be available for years to come. For example, credentials we host at Accredible are securely hosted with bank-level encryption for at least 10 years (and the blockchain makes them un-hackable). At a quick glance of the certificate, a third party should know a digital certificate is up to date and valid.

3. Leverage new security technology whenever possible

There are new advancements in security and encryption technology happening all the time. Most recent advancements have allowed companies to start issuing various types of certificates and credentials via the blockchain. In short, it’s an un-hackable method of issuing credentials that a third party can verify with confidence in one click. Stay on top of these advancements to ensure your organization is safe from the myriad of hacking attempts.


This is part four of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part five here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

How to maximize member engagement with timely delivery

This is part three of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Strive for Timely Delivery

The most effective way to create a lasting good impression of your program is to reward participants immediately upon completion with recognition of their achievement. This does two things:

  1. It provides a more seamless experience of your program and organization
  2. It maximizes the likelihood that he or she will share their achievement with others

You want to reward people when they’re still excited and when the accomplishment is still fresh in their minds. Most paper certificates won’t get into the hands of the recipients for 4-6 weeks after completion, and that’s assuming it’s not lost or damaged in transit and there are no spelling or printing errors. By that time, individuals have either completely forgotten about the program, or have “moved on” and aren’t nearly as excited to share their achievement.

Here are some things you can do to ensure timely delivery of your certificates or badges.

1. Cut down on the time it takes to receive their certificate

This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how long it takes some organizations to get a certificate or badge in the hands (or inbox) of their members. There is an inverse relationship between the amount of time that passes and the likelihood of someone sharing or recommending the course to another individual, which means lower word-of-mouth marketing and fewer program referrals.

Steps for identifying where to improve:

  1. Sit down and map out, in detail, the process your organization goes through from the time you know who has completed your course until the time a certificate is sent out. These can be things like, downloading a spreadsheet of exam results, scanning sheets of attendees from a seminar, or emailing a printer.
  2. Identify the longest time gaps within that process and rank them from longest to shortest.
  3. For the longest steps, see if there are small adjustments you can make to cut down on delivery time.
  4. Try and see if there are ways to automate a process or completely remove a step by implementing tools or software.

2. Consider switching away from paper

There is a case to be made for physical, paper certificates. High quality, printed certificates can invoke a feeling of quality and value, however, you will pay a premium in both the time and money it takes to go with paper. For higher stakes credentials where these cost of these certificates is baked in, the cost is not a typically a major factor because it’s already covered. For most programs, especially free online courses, eating $10 or more per person to print and mail a certificate (that may never be displayed or worse, thrown away) can be prohibitive. Irregardless of price, there’s no escaping the time it takes to print, package, and ship the certificates

3. Adopt digital certificates or badges

The best option for issuing in a timely manner is through digital certificates or digital badges. Both provide a way to quickly, and sometimes instantly, issue a certificate of achievement in a way that’s an order of magnitude cheaper than paper certificates (and as you’ll read, has significantly greater value). Some organizations decide to issue digital certificates and badges instead of paper, and others issue them as an additional bonus. It’s up to you to determine how much value is coming from your paper certificates. Consider surveying a representative sample of your members or students asking what they did with their paper certificate, or if they would be likely to adopt digital.

 

4. Streamline or automate the delivery mechanism

There are plenty of ways to automate this process by using tools like Zapier, or by selecting LMSs that have built in integrations to platforms like Accredible. Regardless of how, the timely delivery of your certificate or badge is an immediate reward your recipient will receive at the height of their excitement in completing the course. The short period between the completion time and certificate issuing also means they are exponentially more likely to share their achievement. Not only is this better for the program, but it can save your employee’s hours of time.

There are many ways you can increase your technical automation ranging from low-er-tech to complex.

Leverage plugins – Many training programs or courses rely on an LMS (Learning Management System – software that makes it easy to create and deliver online courses) to handle enrolment and access to learning materials. Being able to deliver this content online, at any time, is an enormous time-saver, and you are able to automate tasks like course completion notifications. Often, LMS software will have other plugins that will allow you to handle other pieces of your workflow, like feedback surveys, or issuing digital certificates. This is a great way to handle all of your workflow in one place.

Explore workflow apps – If no specific solution exists for your desired automation, try IFTTT (If This, Then That) or Zapier – tools that work like glue between two pieces of software. They work with existing software like Google Drive, Dropbox, and some LMS or CRM systems to automate repetitive tasks like adding an email attachment (report of exam grades) to a shared folder, or automatically saving things in a spreadsheet (students who have completed a course to a mailing list). Maybe you would collect the results once a week before mailing completion certificates because you didn’t want to waste time collecting them every day. You could automate that process and have the results as soon as the happen.

Consider custom integrations – If you have a complex certification system, have lots of data in a lot of places, or you just have a unique technical integration, look for platforms with an available API (an accessible language for your course software to communicate with) to leverage.


This is part three of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part four here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

Tips for increasing word of mouth program referrals

This is part two of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Enable Social Sharing

There is a lot of competition in the online learning, certification, executive education, and training spaces. Whether you’re providing a free online course to learn a skill like social media marketing or whether you’re issuing a prestigious professional certification, praise from happy students is the gold standard for referrals. Given the overlap between many personal and professionals makes this praise an excellent source for new certificate-seekers. Word of mouth and individual referrals have a much lower cost of acquisition when compared to paid advertising or paid lead generation. In short, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to download and share their certificate, as this can be an effective and inexpensive lead generation tool for your organization.

There are a number of ways individuals share their achievements. Most common are:

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the largest professional social network, and for many, their one place to showcase professional achievements. Most certifications and course completions will get posted to LinkedIn if you provide the right share link. It’s important to note that new changes to LinkedIn have made it more difficult to share with one click. This means you need to make the process as seamless as possible, and provide detailed instructions on how to add achievements to a profile.

2. Twitter

We’ve noticed Twitter, although for many considered a more personal social network, is one of the most popular places for people to share their achievement. The key is to make sure you make it easy to do with two clicks, and it shouldn’t take them more than a few seconds. The first click should bring up the Twitter posting form, and the second click should be to Tweet the message. Yes, some people will want to tweak what’s written, but it is up to you to make sure the default message is clear, concise, and ready to go to eliminate as much friction as possible.

3. Embed Options: Website and Email Signatures

Many professionals have personal websites where they showcase their resumes, CVs, or other skillsets and domain knowledge. Being able to easily embed the digital certificate on their website, or link to it in their email signature, is hugely important. Professional email signatures get lots of visibility by colleagues and clients, and this is free visibility for your organization to exactly the people who you should want seeing your certification. In contrast to places like Twitter or Facebook where old posts are buried quickly, a personal website has a much longer lifespan, continuing to show your certification. Again, it’s important to make sure that your embedded code or link follows good best practices:

  1. Make sure the URL is permanent. The last thing you want to do is provide a URL that ends up being broken or taken down.
  2. Ensure the certificate is mobile friendly. Now more than half of internet traffic occurs from mobile devices, so you want to make sure your design looks good even when it’s on a phone or tablet.
  3. Know that your online certificates are compatible with all major browsers. Since a lot of people are doing their work-related browsing from work devices, it’s not uncommon for them to be using older or more dated versions of web browsers. Just because your certificate looks good on the latest version of Chrome doesn’t mean it will look good on a two year old version of Internet Explorer.

4. Facebook

It’s not as common for people to post work-related items to Facebook as it is LinkedIn, or even Twitter, but considering over 2 billion people are now on Facebook, it’s good to provide the functionality. Much like Twitter, you want to make sure that the default share message is ready to go with the proper organization names, URLs, and other information.

 

5. Other Social Networks

The truth is various professional industries end up having their own unique sets of social networks. When you’re providing sharing options, only supporting LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter won’t suffice. Make sure to use a sharing widget that can offer a wider variety of sharing options depending on who the end user is. For example, a graphic designer may want to post his certificate to a different location that a teacher.

6. Print

Print is dead! Long live print! Sure, for many organizations the need for printed certificates is no longer a given. However, some organizations still want (or need, for compliance reasons) to provide physical copies, and that’s important to remember. When you’re choosing a digital issuing service, make sure you choose one that has the options for creating high-resolution designs that can be printed professionally or from home.

Wherever you encourage sharing, make sure to always give detailed, step-by-step instructions. Take time and put effort into crafting well thought out default messages to make sharing as frictionless as possible. Don’t forget to show your support for your recipients by liking, commenting, or sharing their posts. It’s a great way to show you care and it goes a long way in building rapport.


This is part two of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part three here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

The Recipient Experience: An in-depth guide for differentiating your program and delighting your members.

This is part one of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Introduction

You’ve probably read best practices guides on how to launch, streamline, or revitalize your certification, elearning, or online training program. For the most part, these guides cover the same important topics… Who are you marketing your program to and what do they stand to gain from it? How will you structure your content and what will you cover? How will you create, distribute, grade, and update the content for your program?

These are all great questions, and their importance can’t be overstated. However there’s one topic almost every best practices guide leaves out – it’s what we call the Recipient Experience. That is the way someone who has signed up for your program feels as they the complete the last step and receive their certificate or badge. Whether or not they feel a sense of accomplishment and pride has a lot to do with the effort you put into conveying the importance and prestige of your program.

The Recipient Experience

Individuals invest non-trivial amounts of time (ranging from hours to years) preparing for some programs. Often times they also spend significant amounts of money (sometimes into the thousands) working towards finishing a program. It all culminates in one single moment when he or she finds out if all the hard work paid off. Take a moment and ask yourself what that experience looks and feels like for those enrolled in your program. Would you be excited to find out you passed? Would you be likely to share your achievement with others? Would you feel like it was worth it?

We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations with online training or certification programs, and if you’re like most of them, this wasn’t even considered after delivering the course content. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the most crucial moments of the entire process, and it’s one of the easiest ways to differentiate your program and maximize your return on investment.

The idea of investing time into the recipient experience is neither novel nor new. When students graduate from college or university, they and their families take part in an entire ceremony dedicated to completing their degree. Students dress in formal gowns, line up, and then get their name called and experience a moment in the limelight as they walk cross the stage to receive a diploma. Granted, your program might not cost thousands of dollars or take years to achieve, but that doesn’t mean the moment isn’t just as crucial. It’s the culmination of an effort, an experience, and it deserves the same amount of attention you put into crafting the program itself.

You should have one simple goal in this scenario: to delight your recipient and provide them with a way to share their success. What are your students receiving right now? An automated email that tells them their course “has been completed”? Perhaps they get sent a piece of paper in the mail 4-6 weeks long after they have completed the program, and they’ve forgotten they were supposed to receive a certificate, and their name has a typo. Imagine spending weeknights after working a full day – for months – on your course work, only to receive a canned response or an unattractive paper certificate. You are not going to forward this email to anyone. You aren’t going to hang your certificate on a wall. You are going to be less likely to become a promoter for the organization you did your training with. You are less likely to share your accomplishment with similar individuals in person or over social media.

It’s not a delightful experience and it doesn’t provide any ROI for your program.

This guide is going to focus on what we call the Recipient Experience. The culmination of your program where an individual gets to enjoy the moment when his or her hard work pays off and they receive their certificate or badge. From our experience working with a wide variety of organizations over the years, this is far and away the most overlooked part of their process. You know more about the training and demands of your industry than anyone else, but we can share what we focus on – the Recipient Experience.

This guide will provide you with best practices in establishing a strong Recipient Experience along with practical things you and your organization can do to successfully implement it.

If you are limited by budget, human resources, or just plain, old time, don’t worry – most organizations are in the same boat. The good news is that implementing a great Recipient Experience is not as difficult nor time consuming as you think it is, and there are lots of things you can do to incrementally improve your processes without spending a lot of time or money.

There are four core tenets of the Recipient Experience: Shareability, Timely Delivery, Verifiability, and Ease of Access.


This is part one of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part two here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.