Recently online education has become more popular mostly because of the quarantine measures. Almost all the institutions, connected with education in a certain way, have to make their business online to stay afloat. The businessmen, who have to stop their business, are looking for other profitable areas and are interested in founding their own online schools. How to realize it, to keep clients and to work with us in such difficult times? The leading Russian expert in the field of online education and the co-owner of two successful online schools and the largest network of channels on the Yandex.Zen media platform, Nikita Sychev, answered the questions.
-Well, Nikita, let’s do this in order. What does a successful online school consist of?
First, let’s look at important concepts in online education. A successful online school includes two key areas: the first is marketing and sales; the second is the learning product itself.
The first area, the marketing and sales, include your funnel: traffic sources, landing page, your tripwire, your email distribution, your webinar or a series of webinars, working with comments on the webinar, sales team and closing funnel. The product, as a rule, consists of the platform, on which your course is realized (I want to note that video distribution is pretty old and is hardly used), your content, your teaching staff, the technical support team, the team of methodologists, the student performance assessment system, and so on.
As you see there are a lot of components and each of them should work smoothly and without failures, as in a clockwork mechanism. It must be understood that now a successful online school is a serious business with high standards. It is very important to follow trends, to analyze the work of competitors and to adopt new tools. Now I have my own developments for almost every component.
-Nikita, can you tell some useful things from your impressive experience to the owners of online schools or those experts who just think about opening them?
I can tell you about some golden rules to follow in marketing and production, which help me to realize my educational projects successfully. The main thing is digital tuning of your model. And it should be started from the analytics with an analyst.
Unfortunately, now almost no one uses such an important tool as end-to-end analytics. Now online schools become extremely popular, at the same time some businessmen promote their business as best they can. The problem remains because there are few experts in this field in Russia. But I advise to find and hire such an expert. Let me warn you right away, the services of such a specialist are not cheap, but as a result, you will clearly understand all your ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment), including the profitability of advertising campaigns and the feasibility of investing in marketing. Exactly this specialist will sort out the payback, profitability and evaluate the return on investment in your project. He will also help you understand the ROI (return on investment), the indicators that demonstrate the profitability or loss of your investment as a percentage.
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-Nikita, can you give the example of how you have done this and how it looks like?
Of course. The integration of the analytics in the Yandex.Zen project was done in steps:
Google Tag Manager helped us to configure all the necessary variables, triggers, and tags to pass the Client ID parameter (unique user ID – 1 device = 1 client id) first to Google Analytics, then to the CRM system (in our case, GetCourse). The Client ID allowed us to link data. Moreover, we enabled tracking of all the events.
With the help of Google Analytics we set up getting Client ID and importing expenses from Owox BI.
Google Sheets helped us to prepare the tables that we currently maintain in manual mode, but thanks to Power BI, our work with the tables has been reduced to copy-pasting.
I combined GetCourse, VPS server, and MySQL on the principle of common tasks. We set up getting the Client ID together with the user’s data, so we were able to link the data with Google Analytics. We also configured the main processes of transferring data to our MySQL database. On the server we configured getting GET requests from GetCourse to MySQL. We also prepared tables where our data would be stored.
Owox BI helped us to set up the collection of expenses from advertising cabinets in Google Analytics.
The final stage was Power BI. Here, after the work we had already done, we were able to implement Microsoft Power BI. Next, we connected to all the sources that we needed MySQL+Google Analytics+Google Sheets. And we processed the received Databases in Power Query, brought them to a working state. In addition, we created relationships and configured all the necessary measures, parameters, and directories using the DAX language.
Thus now we have a single mechanism that allows us to output the indicators we need. Here are 1/20 graphs that have been formed since the system is implemented:
-Nikita, is it really important to have a professional sales department now?
Organizing a sales department in the online school is really hard. I advise you not to do it yourself, if you don’t want to lose a lot of money and nerves. It is much better to hire professional specialists, who create sales departments with cases, specifically from the field of online education, as there are many specific points here. You can be sure in a high quality of professional skills of such a specialist in two ways. The first one is the appropriate experience of sales of online schools. The second one is the availability of recommendations and cases. When I check my workers, I always ask for the contacts of the managers whose cases have been provided. And then I personally communicate with at least ten of them. It allows to avoid merging the budget and to be sure of a high-quality result.
-Great! Perhaps something else? You have mentioned that there is a special way of the selection of sales managers?
Yes, there is one interesting peculiarity, which I have noticed. Very often professional sales managers sale worse than your trainee, who has finished the course and got good results. Even during the conversation he can say to a client: “I have finished the course successfully, now I am ready to help you pass my way”. These words increase the degree of customers’ loyalty and do not cause such rejection like during the talk with a typical sales manager.
-What is your attitude to affiliate programmes?
Many people underestimate affiliate programmes among the graduates. Judging by my experience, they can generate up to 30% of revenue. Here I can share two best practices.
Firstly, I highly recommend using the partner program Module on your training platform (by the way, the presence of this module is an important criterion when choosing a platform).
Secondly, it is important to make the department of the affiliate programme separate. If your school is not very big, it would be better to hire a person, who would be responsible for this department.
-Thank you, this is really interesting. Let’s now move on to the specifics of creating school content, no wonder they say that a quality product sells itself!
I can share a couple of my practices, which are very useful for optimizing the learning process. First, let’s start with the question that most owners of online training projects are concerned about: why does the indicator of those who follow the programme up to the end fluctuates below 10%?
One of the most important keys is the lack of professionally implemented training methods. Have you ever wondered why there are professional counselors in universities, but there are no such specialists in online education? Many course creators underestimate the importance of such an expert in their systems. Another reason is the lack of the method itself, a method that allows the student to complete the entire program with minimal obstacles. I strongly advise you to introduce such a specialist of any offline educational business to your staff and work out a training program from A to Z. You will be surprised how much the profitability of the educational cycle will increase and the load on curators and teachers will fall. You yourself will be very proud of such a project.
-By the way, what can you advise about the selection of the teaching staff?
We should begin with the fact that mostly online programmes are built around the expert. It can be a professor of nuclear physics or an expert in carpet embroidery, who possesses not only knowledge and experience, but also charisma and he must be a good conversationalist in an emotional way. But sooner or later there will be a question of falling in the quality of training due to the limited time of the expert. He cannot answer the whole volume of the students’ questions, and at the same time, he must constantly improve the quality of his knowledge and maintain its relevance. Many schools were closed due to a catastrophic drop in the quality of education, when the experts did not have time to teach and to develop in their professional field. To solve this problem I assign two people to each student – a supervisor and a tutor, if it is necessary. The senior expert passes the techniques on to the teachers, who in turn pass them on to the curators. In this way, the senior expert gets his hands free and in addition to personal training, he develops the product, the content of the training programme.
-What additional moments should be considered during the launching of online schools?
The owner of an online school should understand and implement into practice smart economy. In particular you should set up a rule on staff motivation in your online school – payment is based on performance, but you should leave a minimum fixed payment. Motivation mechanisms should also be applied to clients. Gamification of the educational process, which is gaining popularity every month, can consist of a carrot-and-stick. For a positive result, the characters get points, and if they miss or do not complete tasks, they can also use the techniques of playoff game. Make learning at your school an adventure, as an example, divide the participants into teams, and you will see how gamification works in online education.
Nikita, thank you for such an interesting talk. I think your knowledge will help many people to create really interesting and profitable projects even in the conditions of crisis.
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