Accredible - Certificates and Badges

The Top 6 Reasons to Launch a Certification Program at Your Association

Are you on the fence about whether or not to create a certification program for your organization? There is a good reason to pause. Developing, launching, and then maintaining a certification program is a huge responsibility. Required is an investment of time, money, and other resources. If you’re still in the consideration stage, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think of all that’s involved.

The purpose behind this post is to shift your focus. Instead of thinking about the amount of work that’s involved in planning a certification program, let’s discuss the major benefits you’ll get from developing such a program. If you’re on board, but other stakeholders aren’t, you can use the following compelling reasons to get their buy ins.

Without further ado, let’s discuss the benefits of developing and launching a certification program.

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1. Build Brand Awareness

Your certification program gives you the opportunity to reach more people than you would otherwise.

Think about it: Without a certification program, what will set your association apart from the others out there? It’s tempting to say that your customer service or your commitment to your members is what sets you apart. However, a prospective member won’t likely know about these benefits until they’ve joined your association. Instead, you’re likely to lure new members based on what you can do for them.

What better way to prove your value to that prospective member than promoting your certification program? You’ll reach people who may not know about your association at all, but are drawn to the promise that your certification program offers, i.e. “Learn X and Improve Your Career.” To the career-driven individual who’s aiming for that promotion, your certification program can provide them with the necessary skills to advance to more money, more knowledge, and more status.

Your certification program can also market itself. Here’s how:

Let’s say you run a pay per click ad campaign for your certification program. John sees your ad, signs up for and takes your course, and earns a certification. He now has a digital certificate (just like the secure ones we provide here at Accredible).

John shares his digital certificate on his LinkedIn profile to show proof of his new skills to prospective employers. Gladys, a prospective employer, sees John’s certificate on his LinkedIn profile and wants to learn more about your association. She reads about you and then decides that all of her employees should take your certification program.

In additional to his professional profile, John also proudly shares the digital certificate to his social circle on his personal social media updates. John’s friend Sally is really interested in learning the same skills. When she sees that John’s learned these skills from your association’s certification program, Sally signs up. It’s the circle of life.

To achieve greater awareness for your brand, nothing works quite as well as a marketable certification program.

2. Market Your Other Services

Once you have a certification program in place, you can use it as platform to promote your other services.

Let’s use another example. In this example, Mary takes your certification program but isn’t actually a member of your association. Throughout your program, you can extend invitations to Mary, asking her to join your association at a reduced fee. You can promote relevant services, such as your mentorship services, at the right time within your program. Even if Mary doesn’t join while taking your program, she’s still on your mailing list and you have other chances to compel her to join. You can send testimonials case studies of other members that are similar to Mary to help her see the extended value of your organization.

Eventually, Mary may join because you’ve built a relationship of value and trust with her. It starts with your certification program.

Some of your prospective members need to scratch an itch first before they can think about potentially joining your organization. Your certification program will address an immediate need while also providing additional opportunities to build a relationship with that prospective member.

[bctt tweet=”Your certification program can help you build relationships with prospective members. Here’s how:” username=”accredible”]

3. Engage Your Community

Have membership numbers started to dwindle? Churning members indicate that your association isn’t providing enough value.

A definite way to demonstrate value is to create your certification program. Not only will you provide those in your industry with the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge, you’ll reinvigorate your community of members.

If the motivation behind your certification program is to engage your current members, be sure to do this:

Before even developing your certification program, ask your current members what type of program they would be interested in. You can do this through quick surveys on your website or emailing the surveys to your members’ list. Let their answers guide you to creating and developing an in-demand program that will receive the highest amount of buy-in from your current members.

4. Fill a Need in Your Industry

If you spot an unaddressed need in your industry, why not be the answer? No one knows your industry better than you. You’re qualified because you have a passion for your industry and no one else has come up with a solution.

Many certification programs are driven by this simple scenario: Someone asks a question and no one has answered it yet. Or, in a variation to this scenario: Someone asks a question, some other association has answered it poorly.

That variation happens quite frequently. Perhaps you’re not the only association within your industry to offer a certification program. Even if there are other, similar programs out there, you can still create your own (better) program, and be assured that none of them will have your same perspective.

5. Create Another Stream of Income

One of biggest benefits you’ll gain from launching a certification program is financial. You can use your program to open up another stream of revenue.

However, revenue should never be the driving force. Why? Simply creating a program just to make money will ensure that you’ll cut corners to make the largest margin of profit. However, if you’re making a program to help your members and/ or elevate the industry, you’ll draw the right people to your program (i.e. the ones who won’t demand refunds or write negative reviews because they feel shortchanged).

You may opt to offer a free certification program for your association. That doesn’t mean you can’t monetize it. Perhaps you’ll use the free certification program as a way to advertise other premium courses, or to promote your membership services as discussed above.

6. Collect Testimonials and Case Stories

Testimonials can fuel the ongoing efforts to market your association, and your certification program can be the perfect environment to cultivate such testimonials.

Your certification program demonstrates your association’s value quite beautifully. People who take your course and benefit from it can now serve as ambassadors, not just for the program, but for your association at large. That’s because your association conceived, created, and administered the certification program, so the success of the program reflects your association.

After you’ve issued certifications, make it a point to ask for testimonials. Ask immediately upon course completion while your program is still top of mind. For example, send a congratulatory email and then ask for a review or testimonial of your course.

Related Resources

Before you go, be sure to check out these additional posts:

[content_upgrade cu_id=”218″]Don’t forget to download this list of 6 ideas for marketing your certification program.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

 

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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