Can you increase undue revenue with e-learning subscriptions?

The American Planning Association has learned from the rise of subscription services like Netflix and Disney+ to transform its pay-per-view online learning platform into a subscription model. The change not only increased revenue, but also made revenue more predictable, said Elizabeth Lang, APA’s director of communications and marketing, who spoke last week at the Marketing, Membership & ASAE communications.

“We didn’t hit our numbers with the pay-per-view model,” Lang said. “With our subscription service, we exceeded our budget and revenue goals for the first year, and are only eight months away from launch.”

Lang spoke alongside Michelle Markelz, Editor-in-Chief and Digital Marketer at GLC, in the “Making Non-Dues Revenue Predictable: Marketing Subscription E-learning” session.

APA had not originally planned to offer a subscription service, believing that it would have predictable income based on individually priced sessions that people would purchase as certification renewal deadlines approached.

“We were based on the idea that every two years people would finally take their courses or register their courses and that would lead to a lot of sales,” Lang said. “It was much less consistent and predictable than a subscription.”

Start with a pilot

With the individual course sales model not working, APA decided to pilot the subscription model. “When we did the a la carte model, we went home, we built it, we perfected it, we went all out, and then it didn’t work,” Lang said. “So we did more testing with that, riding it and testing it.”

For the pilot, APA offered six months of access to all content from an upcoming online conference.

“We were hoping that we wouldn’t continue to give all sessions under your registration,” Lang said. “The question was, would it work? Would people want to do that? Well, over 90 percent of people [who registered for the conference] bought this.

With this success in mind, APA decided to expand its offerings and expand the subscription service to include all of its courses. They hired Markelz to help them. First, she asked staff to review their favorite subscription services and figure out what they liked most about them. Next, she recommended thinking about what APA wanted users to get from its subscription service.

“We wanted to try and capture in words what that user experience would be like,” Markelz said. “Are people going to feel like it’s very exclusive and luxurious? Are they going to feel like it’s open to everyone? Will they feel like it’s something that helps them take control of their careers? »

When APA pondered these questions, they found answers that guided how they developed the service. “They wanted this product to feel like a necessity, not just a nice-to-have,” Markelz said. “They wanted people to feel like learning wasn’t just a checkbox to maintain certification, but something you do to support your career and advance your professional development.”

Sell ​​subscriptions

APA added all of its a la carte courses to the subscription service, which it dubbed Passport. Users can still purchase courses separately, and a few do.

“There’s a design thinking session,” Lang said. “The price of this is actually more than a one-year subscription and people are buying it. So there are just people who aren’t quite ready to subscribe.

The subscription model also has bonus selling points for subscribers.

“If they pick a class and they’re halfway through it, or even 15 minutes, and they decide, ‘That’s not what I was thinking’ or ‘I’m not really into it’, they don’t don’t feel like I’ve sunk the money and I have to keep going,” Markelz said. “They can find something else. Also, with the subscription, there was only one time they had to ask for funding approval from their organization, as opposed to “Every time I need credit, I have to go ask for money”.

Although the APA’s subscription program has been popular, Lang notes that some members have expressed frustration that they now have to pay to get a replay of a lecture online.

Lang said it’s important to make distinctions and emphasize what people get. For example, APA allows online conference attendees to get the replay for the rest of the month, but if they want extended access, it’s through Passport. “It’s about finding creative ways to tell people what they’re getting, why it’s really good for them, what else they’re getting, and why it’s worth it,” Lang said.

(Designer/DigitalVision Vectors)