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Brand Strategy for an Online Learning Platform

Brand Strategy for an Online Learning Platform

Starting an online learning platform is a lucrative opportunity and a humanist endeavour. Still, you’re not the only one with this idea; with tough competition, you need to establish yourself as a brand to keep doing it and make a profit.

Still, how do you brand your online learning platform?

Many guides talk about how a small business can do it, but a few pointers are specific to online educational institutions and e-courses. With that in mind, here are some tips you need to hear.

Create a brand identity

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It would help if you started by making a solid identity, like:

  • Defining your brand mission and values
  • Understand your target audience
  • Develop a brand personality

However, remember that to make your marketing more manageable and to be taken more seriously, you need to make this brand identity more learning-industry specific. 

How do you do this?

First, you need to establish your expertise and authority. Why do you think a scholarship at Harvard costs more than the one at your local university? Does anyone even questions this anymore? The key to this lies in the reputation of the educational institution whose authority no one doubts. Sure, no one expects you to establish yourself as high, but there are a few things you can do to ensure a better position:

  • Show your credentials
  • Focus on the personal brands of your teachers
  • Attract renowned guest lecturers (and boast about this)
  • Earn awards
  • Brag about the accomplishments of your most successful students

This latter part is crucial since you want to emphasise learner outcomes. It might also be a good idea to fund a survey about how well your learners are doing after they get your certificate. To get better (more marketable results), you could create an extended program that helps them out in the aftermath.

Another essential thing to understand is that you can define your reputation through social learning and collaborations. Create a strong community that will become a part of your brand and community. If you partner with another prestigious organisation, some of their reputations will likely rub off on your brand.

Define your target audience

There’s no branding strategy without defining your target audience. After all, the approach of your branding strategy will be decided relative to your audience.

You will start with market research. While doing so, you need to identify different segments of learners. We primarily discuss factors like demographics, preferences, and even psychographics. Now, while at it, you also want to conduct a brief competitor research. This will help you identify gaps, opportunities, and challenges. Remember, the segmentation of the market will decide your potential success, as well as your marketing budget.

Another thing you want to do is create a learner persona. Can you imagine a conversation without having an idea who the participants are? Of course not! In the first segment, we’ve established one participant – your brand. Now, we need to figure out who your brand is addressing. To send a compelling message as a learning platform, what you need to do is:

  • Figure out their preferred learning styles
  • Dig deeper into their intrinsic motivation
  • Learn about their educational background
  • Understand their goals
  • Face their biggest fears/challenges

Next, you must set your message and tone according to these finds. It’s like writing a subject line for your email – you need to send the right message in the first sentence. People on the internet are generally impatient and severely lacking in focus. You need to:

  • Introduce yourself in the proper manner
  • State your offer
  • Please give them a clear CTA

Understanding who you’re working with can help you give your audience a personalised learning experience. According to specialists behind Livestream Learning Studio, you should teach how students want to learn.

Lastly, different groups use different platforms. After market research, you’ll identify the proper channels for your message.

Create a strong USP

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The strongest appeal of an online learning platform is its:

  • Program
  • Curriculum
  • Accreditation

Sure, many people want something to put on their CVs. So, they’ll be in search of any course with the keyword they need in their title and try to figure out which of these courses is the cheapest. This is not your branding strategy. Instead, you’re going to focus on the quality.

First, you need to obtain accreditation and certification. Once you’ve got them, you must highlight them and prominently display these credentials. This will already catch the eye of potential learners. This is probably the first thing people look for when choosing suitable courses to attend.

Next, as we’ve already stated, boast about the personal qualifications of your instructors. Talk about their professional background and education, and even don’t shy away from showing off their expertise. Brief clips from the lectures uploaded online can give one a glimpse into what your course is all about. This level of immersion can drastically increase your interest in your lesson.

Most importantly, you want to incorporate real-world applications into the mix. Just tell people what kind of jobs they’ll be able to get with this knowledge or how this will benefit their career development. Don’t shy away from leveraging testimonials and success stories to emphasise this further. Ensure these are authentic since the audience has grown quite savvy at recognising marketing-speak.

Offer a free trial or a sample of a course. This will help them decide and show that you’re confident enough in your product. You’re running an educational institution, so research needs to be a natural part of the process.

Leverage influencer marketing

Why getting a random A-list celebrity can spark a massive interest in your brand is just a tiny part of the solution to your problem. You want to target qualified leads, and the only way to do so is to identify relevant micro-influencers among the appropriate people in your industry.

What are micro-influencers?

While most people identify micro-influencers as anyone below 100,000 followers, the truth is that you can find a better interpretation. Try looking at people with authority within a niche with little appeal to the general public. While this sounds like a negative thing, the fact is that people want to be a part of the exclusive club.

When collaborating with influencers, make sure to create sponsored content. While this will increase your marketing spending significantly, it will also drastically amplify your reach. An influencer will take all of this one step further.

Influencer takeover is another fantastic opportunity to show how these things work from the inside. You can have a live review by having someone actively take your course. This way, they can showcase the UI and the procedure and entertain their viewership.

Remember that when the ball gets rolling, you’ll have a ton of UGC on your hand. Make sure that you use all of that content. The thing is that the content is not inexpensive to produce. Therefore, by using UGC, you’ll get to reap double-fold benefits. On the one hand, you’ll get more content for free, but at the same time, you’ll spark higher interest in this content.

Track the performance of this influencer marketing campaign and keep these records/invoices. All of this will play a part in your cost-per-conversion estimates later on.

Make your content more engaging.

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Now, the content of your courses is the most important thing about your learning platform. The quality of your content will decide the audience you’re able to attract. So, how do you make your content more engaging? Even more importantly, how do you incorporate this into your branding strategy?

  • Understand the needs of your learners: The first thing you need to understand is that the needs of your learners depend on their goals and current skill proficiency. For instance, if your learners are interested in a B2 language course, they don’t want you to start with colours and numbers 0-10.
  • Visually appealing content: The majority of learners are visual learners. This is because humans absorb visual messages 60,000 faster than text-based ones. In other words, you must ensure top-quality visual representation no matter what content you’re dealing with.
  • Offer formats for different learning styles: While visual learners represent most of your corpus, you shouldn’t ignore others. So, make sure you offer something to everyone. Don’t ignore tactile or kinesthetic learners either. Sure, this isn’t a medium you can deliver through the screen, but you can always provide exercises (homework) that will also engage these learning styles.
  • Improve your storytelling: The delivery of content is just as important. Therefore, make sure that you incorporate great storytelling into your process. Try to captivate your audience and immerse them in your words. This way, they’ll achieve superior results, and you’ll get higher learner satisfaction. This will translate into positive reviews and ratings.
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The most important thing to remember is that both the content and the delivery matter. A dry delivery will drown even the most relevant content. You can’t afford to choose or prioritise – you need them both.

Create a community

The learning environment is all about community. There’s always positive peer pressure and collaboration in these scenarios, but you also need to consider the importance of WOM. Still, how do you actively create a community for your online learning platform?

  • Organise group projects: The most straightforward approach is the one that you would often see in traditional learning environments – a group project and encouraged peer collaboration. This way, you’ll encourage learners to collaborate with their peers and partake in project assignments.
  • Networking opportunities: Alumni networks are one of the main reasons Ivy League universities are so popular. A chance of retroactive networking and preferential treatment in the highest instances is a huge bonus to a degree/certificate you’ve earned.
  • Virtual events: Creating opportunities is the best way to encourage learners to engage. Virtual events like panels, debates, webinars, and live sessions, in general, are one such opportunity. Remember that doing so gives your community a reason to get involved outside their regular motivators and objectives.
  • Challenges and games: Healthy competition will get your audience more involved than ever. People love competition, regardless of the potential reward, which is why you may want to introduce a scoring system (in some areas), leaderboards, and fun interactive activities. Just remember that these things are less fun for the people at the bottom of the list.
  • Social features: All it would take is for you to introduce a chat room or a blog with a comment section where your learners would feel free to interact among themselves. The thing is that these discussion forums and social features need to be set up, moderated, and then left to run semi-autonomously.

Overall, if you do the right job of creating the community, it will soon start living a life of its own.

Form partnerships

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Another great way to expand your reach as an online learning platform is to form partnerships with other institutions and professionals. This is so important for different reasons, as well. For instance, by forming alliances, you can also increase your credibility because people who already trust your partners may easily trust you. It’s like your partners vouch for you, as well. Still, how do you form these partnerships?

  • Find the right partners: What we said about your reputation getting intertwined with that of your partners is 100% true; however, it goes the other way around. As an educational institution, you can’t associate yourself with sites featuring inappropriate content or figures with controversial pasts. This is especially the case if some of your demographic involves young children.
  • Define partnership objectives: How do you know if the partnership is successful? You must first set some KPIs and point out things you want to achieve.
  • Offer mutual value proposition: No one is interested in forming partnerships to benefit your brand. Make sure to offer something in return. Show them what they’re getting from this arrangement, and you’ll have a much easier job convincing them to follow through.
  • Initiate the contact: Early on, you won’t be on the map, which means that even those who would find you an ideal partner would have difficulty finding you. So, it would help if you were the first to initiate the contact, and the best way to do this is to learn how to do better outreach.

Overall, teaming up with the right institutions and individuals may come to define your brand just as strongly as any intrinsic branding effort you make. Just step back to ask what each of these partners says about you.

Invest in continuous brand communication.

To promote your brand, you need to learn to communicate better. We’ve already discussed forming your brand message, but you must also be consistent. Like logos, your brand can evolve; however, you must perpetually abide by the same principles.

  • Create a consistent visual identity: We discussed how logos can evolve. Just look at some past examples, and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Also, when making a logo, stick to symbols that people see as representing your industry. Books, pens, and scrolls are just some of the examples.
  • Hire people for outreach: If you have a social media manager, you will have the same person interact with everyone via your social media profiles. This is how you achieve a higher level of branded message consistency. The same goes for your email marketing and other forms of outreach. The most crucial part is that you set some guidelines. People in these positions change, but you can onboard them correctly with policies.
  • Respond to feedback: Every feedback is valuable, even when you don’t like what it says, especially when you don’t like it. This way, you learn what others dislike about your brand and what you can change. More importantly, you can show that you’re a professional and a bigger person.
  • Keep it personal: While an educational institution should be formal when expressing themselves, in the age of chatbots, people want to know that there’s a person on the other end of the line. So, try to make your messaging a bit more personal.

You can’t change the way your brand communicates too often. This is why you must take your time to ensure you’ve picked the right brand tone and voice.

Personalise the learning journey.

One thing that your audience is worried about the most is the learning journey and how it will fit their preferences. You must be ready to personalise the learning journey from day one. There are a few ways you can get there.

  • Learner-centric approach: From the start, you must recognise that each learner is different. In traditional education, the curriculum is what it is, and it’s a learner’s job to adjust. Well, this is no longer the case. You must tailor your educational program and support services to address these differences.
  • Customise learning paths: When selecting courses, you must allow students to choose parts of their educational journey that benefit them most. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a generalist approach to knowledge, but giving people the freedom of choice will give them one more reason to pick you over your competitors.
  • Individual guidance: Assigning academic mentors is complex and even potentially expensive for you, but it’s something that not many platforms provide. Therefore, it’s easy for you to stand out as an organisation.
  • Excellent personalised feedback: Have you ever received precise feedback, one that, even though criticised, actually gave you some constructive criticism? Just improve how you give out this feedback, and your learner will advance much faster.
  • Real-world relevance: Every point in your lesson should be tracked directly to its real-world significance. This way, your learners will have an easier job being motivated about their learning subjects.

Remember that while everyone wants something different, everyone wants preferential treatment. Your students/clients wish you to go that extra mile. So, make sure that you give them more options, put more effort into their feedback, and hire more staff so that they can get more direct contact.

Put a stronger emphasis on user experience.

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Then, it would help if you remembered that you’re still a service and need to be concerned with the experiences of the users of your platforms. Sure, you can consider them students or learners, but to you, as an online business (not just an educational institution), they’re also users, and there are no two ways.

  • Intuitive UI: A learning platform is still a platform; you must keep it as intuitive as possible. You want to know exactly where to click next and how to navigate the site most effectively. Features must be simplistic and familiar so that they don’t take too much time and effort to learn.
  • Responsive and mobile-friendly design: Learning is not exclusive to desktop devices. You want your site to be as mobile-friendly and responsive as possible. To that end, you should hire veteran developers to help you out.
  • Personalisation and Customisation: When it comes to the UI, you should let your users customise it to their liking. They should have elaborate settings and a chance to adjust the platform to their needs. This way, they benefit from a more efficient setup, making your work easier.
  • Continuous feedback and improvement: Lastly, you should ask for suggestions regarding the UI and UX of your platform, not just make adjustments to your curriculum. This will help you improve the overall experience of your users.

In the end, you must understand that your platform is a product. Sometimes, the only sensible choice is to treat it as such.

Wrap up

You must take a holistic approach when branding your online learning platform. Since all the learning occurs online, you must ensure that your presence is technically sound and you’re great at sending your message. At the same time, you need to work on your course and ensure that it gives your audience exactly what they’re looking for. All of this is hard work but worth it in the end.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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