Meet Jane. Jane graduates from college at age 22. She’s a smart woman who did well in school, so after a brief stint working, she goes on to get a masters degree. She finishes that degree at age 25. It’s time to head out into the world of work and career. Jane is pretty much done with her formal higher education.
Of course, these days, as a citizen of the United States, Jane can expect to live about another 52 years. Her husband Dick (You didn’t think I’d pass on “Dick and Jane,” did you?), who she met in grad school and who is also 25, can expect to live for another 50 years. (See how countries compare in life expectancy.)
All during this time, of course, the world will continue to change at the breathtaking pace that has become the norm over the past few decades. For both personal and professional reasons, Dick and Jane are really going to need to stay on top of their learning game.
That, dear readers, is a challenge for Dick and Jane – but an opportunity for you.
Right now, the market for lifelong learning is fragmented at best. It’s dotted with trade and professional associations, college and university extension programs, free online courses of every type and quality level imaginable, infoproduct pitches from self-appointed “gurus,” and a flood of videos, tweets, posts, and likes. For people like Dick and Jane, the new learning landscape is chock full of choices and it’s often quite confusing.
Dick and Jane need leaders. Preferably leaders who can stick with them for the long haul. Lifelong learning is, after all, life long.
I see three key opportunities:
1. Training and education (direct product approach)
Create educational products and experiences and sell them. This has always been an opportunity, of course, but the learning revolution has leveled the playing field. Now anyone with the right combination of expertise and effort can get in the game in a big way. Try one of the options for publishing and selling your courses online that I highlighted in a recent post. Sign on for a program like Teaching Sells. But don’t just publish a course: build a “platform” – a place and presence that people will return to again and again for your insights and expertise.
2. Thought leadership (brand building approach)
I’d argue that even if you are not in the training and education business, you might want to consider adding a direct product line like I have described above. After all, you already have an audience for your products or services, and that audience almost certainly has educational needs that you could address as part of your overall value proposition. Whether or not you go down this path, though, you should leverage teaching as a form of thought leadership and brand building. This doesn’t mean you have to stand up in front of a classroom. Blog, whether on your own site or as a guest blogger. Deliver Webinars. “Curate” content and send it out over Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or another channel of your choice. People – your customers, your learners – increasingly rely on trusted voices to light their paths through the other 50 years.
3. Educational content marketing (lead generation approach)
Go one step further than thought leadership and one step shy of direct products and you are in the land of educational content marketing. Your aim here is to use educational content – videos, blog posts, podcasts, white papers, brief tutorials – as a way to demonstrate the tremendous value you can deliver. They key is that you actually do provide value through this content, and you make it clear that your paid offerings – whether than means a training program, consulting, or really whatever type of product or service you offer – are more than worth whatever you charge for them. Basically, this is a strategy for attracting people to your Accelerant Curve, leading the down the curve, and converting them.
Really, every business ought to be leveraging the opportunities 2 and 3 above, regardless of whether you consider yourself to be in the education business. If you aren’t, you aren’t thinking strategically about how to engage and serve your market – all those Dick and Jane’s – over the long haul. I’d argue that many businesses could be taking advantage of opportunity 1 more than they realize.
Naturally, I write about all of this in much deeper detail in Leading the Learning Revolution (now available for pre-order) and I’ll be continuing to write about it here on the blog and in my e-mail updates. Stay tuned, and let me know your thoughts.