Professional Association CE
Online professional continuing education (CE) providers have been struggling with a difficult challenge since the great recession started—the onslaught of free online CE. And the gauntlet was thrown down by none other than CE providers themselves.
ACLEA's 47th mid-year meeting is now taking place in San Francisco. ACLEA, the Association for Continuing Legal Education, is an international organization that serves CLE professionals by providing education and opportunities for networking. Read more »
Market segmentation is a key force underlying a growing and healthy economy. It provides new business opportunities through specialization. In a segmentation-less, one-size-fits-all world, Ford would be the only car manufacturer. People’s unique needs and desires create opportunities for new entrants with tailored offerings. Price, color, size, and a variety of other features can become the deciding factor for buyers with varying needs, tastes, and priorities. McDonald’s and Ruth’s Chris Steak House provide a classic example of consumers expressing similar needs in dissimilar ways. Both restaurants satisfy a basic need for food. Yet, Ruth’s Chris can charge much more for a meal than McDonald’s. Why? Because their customers place a high value on a fine dining experience and their spending reflects that.
Continuing Education (CE) is also a segmented market. It serves consumers with a basic requirement: earn CE credits. Like the dining example, no frills vendors can satisfy the basic need to earn credits with simple, self-paced reading assignments and a purchased test. But, many CE consumers are not satisfied with a barebones CE experience. They have defined a different set of priorities and requirements for their CE experience. For them, CE is not just about the credit. It is about the education. For those consumers of CE, the low-budget, all-you-can-eat approach simply won’t satisfy them. They have already invested considerable sums in their education and careers and are not about to skimp now. They expect to learn from highly qualified subject matter experts presenting material in an engaging, interactive environment. As with segmentation in any market, CE included, satisfying that need more precisely than anyone else results in a premium for the provider.
So, where does a CE consumer find the Ruth’s Chris of CE providers? Typically, it’s an association like a state bar or state medical association whose stated charter is the advancement of the profession. These organizations represent members that have well-defined, requirements that can direct and focus the content being developed. These organizations also have access to subject matter experts possessing both the expertise to develop this content and the skills to present it.
In addition to the quality of the courses, and their value as education not just credit, content from premium providers delivers additional value that consumers are happy to pay for. The knowledge that a credible organization, minding the interests of the profession, has vetted and approved the content provides even those primarily focused on earning credits with the motivation to invest more. Knowing that the content will actually provide the knowledge that the credit represents--because it has been appropriately reviewed, approved, and accredited--is a distinct advantage to CE consumers in every profession.
The bottom line for both beginning and veteran professional associations providing continuing education: don’t sell your programming short. You have invested in quality programming. There is no need to succumb to the pricing level of lower quality CE offerings. As the fine dining provider of CE, you don’t truly compete with them. Keep in mind the segment of the market that you serve and the value they place on the education (and its source), not just the credit. Then price your programs accordingly. After all, revenue from your CE programs will be reinvested for the benefit of your members. It is a win-win-win situation.
Or, how to fund member benefits through benefits and realize more benefits Read more »
The role of professional associations has evolved over the years, along with professions themselves, but the core mission hasn’t changed all that much.