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Should you employ a subscription model for your e-learning business?

If you are like me, the first thing that comes to mind when you read the word “subscription” is magazines. When I was in my teens, I checked my mailbox several times a day around the time glossy pages filled with not-so-good life advice were scheduled to arrive.

There is a lot more to be said about the subscription marketing model. The market for this has been steadily increasing in the past years and saw a somewhat expected boom during the pandemic when customers didn’t just like but needed products to be delivered regularly.

Just to give you a glimpse of how massive this is: over two-thirds of American consumers (69%) have multiple subscriptions, and 28% have at least four. And this is far from an American phenomenon, as half of Canadians have multiple subscriptions, with Germany, the U.K., and Austria just behind them.

Why employ a subscription model for your e-learning business?

First of all, because it is trending. Customers are not only used to subscriptions, they actively seek them and enjoy the feeling of being part of an exclusive group.

You don’t need to have all the content ready; it’s perfectly acceptable to design it as you go along, ask for feedback and build modules that give the audience what it wants.

Read more: What questions to ask learners when you need feedback on your online course

It does not even have to be the same type of content – you can have e-learning material one month and an e-book, a workshop, or a whitepaper the next – the key is high quality and obvious value to learners. It’s essential to demonstrate this value without a doubt as you build your initial client base.

The main benefit for your business is that you know (at least roughly) the revenue you can count on each month, and you can grow from an already steady foundation.

Working with others can help

Entrepreneurs are known for their tenacity in harnessing the great potential of communities – online and offline. And the greatest chance of drawing a crowd is with a diversified portfolio.

You can team up with other small business owners to offer complementary products or services. For example, in one month, you can deliver a course on well-being and achieving a good work-life balance. You can also have a partner to add a guided meditation workshop, a happiness journal template, or a physical product (a book, a candle, a tea mix, a stress-relief ball, etc.).

Get as creative as circumstances allow, and you’ll increase your visibility to a new audience, as will the entrepreneur you partner up with. Showing support for your peers can do wonders for your brand reputation.

Read more: How to choose the right co-instructor for an online course

You need a few pieces of content to get started

As mentioned before, the beauty of running a subscription business is that not all the products or services that will get to subscribers have to be ready as soon as they subscribe. You can make the initial sale with only one valuable, relevant and appealing product.

However, you will need to have a basic idea of what you will be sending out after that initial course, so make sure to create an outline and use it to entice people to subscribe.

Read more: Top 9 websites to validate your online course ideas

It is also important to follow-up on it and always be on schedule with what you commit to delivering. People are very sensitive about their time and expectations, especially when they have paid for something in advance, which shows a great deal of trust. Being well-organized and keeping your word well beyond that initial eye-catching moment is paramount.

Getting it off the ground will take some effort

I suppose this would fall into the "cons" category of starting a subscription-based business, but as it is with most good things, they take quite a bit of hard work. Getting enough subscribers to actually turn a profit will not happen overnight, and there’s a possibility of losing money at first.

You might even think about starting your list by giving away free content and later working on convincing people to opt for the subscription. Setting up your own subscriptions may be slow in the making, and you might have to deal both with sign-ups and cancellations.

Read more: Why you should consider offering an online course for free

It’s a good idea to have a retention funnel in place to try and reduce churn. Even if it isn’t the easiest business model to implement, all indications show that it is the future, and the sooner you learn its workings and get on board, the better it will be for your business.

Closing thoughts

Even if I have talked about starting a subscription-based business throughout this article, it doesn’t mean that you have to scratch everything you have been doing so far. If you have an established and well-functioning e-learning enterprise already, you can try this model for a portion of your products. Repackaging is always an excellent way to give products and services a new boost.

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