Agencies and Online Education: Q&A with Luke Summerfield, Savvy Panda

By | March 6, 2013
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This post is part of the Insider Series, which is designed to feature professionals in our industry, offer business insight and discover new paths in the agency world.

Luke SummerfieldLuke Summerfield (@SavvyLuke) is an inbound marketing specialist at Savvy Panda, a Joomla web design and inbound marketing company in Milwaukee. He has more than nine years of experience in the sales and marketing world.

In this Insider Series, he discuss the opportunities for agencies with online education, and details Savvy Panda’s move into this space with Master Inbound, an inbound marketing course for business owners.

Q&A with Luke Summerfield

How is online education a viable alternative revenue stream for agencies?

Marketing agencies are approached all the time by smaller, one to five person businesses that are extremely excited about the inbound marketing process, however, simply do not have the budget to support working with an agency. Currently most marketing agencies turn these types of leads away.

Offering an inbound marketing educational product allows the agency to convert these leads and increase revenue. Additionally, it will educate these small businesses in hopes that they will grow larger, and eventually become able to support an agency partner.

However, creating a complete inbound marketing educational course, including philosophy, methodology, SEO, social media, blogging, CRO, etc. is not an easy task and can take hundreds of hours to organize. This can be very hard for an agency to do while still managing the day-to-day client work.

What was the impetus behind creating Master Inbound, an online marketing training course for small businesses?

Our driving force behind developing the Master Inbound course was the unsatisfied feeling we felt when we had to turn down so many small business owners who were excited about inbound marketing, but simply couldn’t make it work financially. We are a small business and empathize with these individuals.

We created the course because we not only have the expert inbound marketing knowledge for the actual course materials, but we also have the web development skills in order to design a robust, user-friendly learning management system (LMS).

How has the program been received to date, and what lessons have you learned in the development and rollout?

To this point, Master Inbound has been met with huge excitement and anticipation for the program to get rolling. We have talked with many small business owners and marketers that are ecstatic about the inbound marketing process. They are eager to learn how it works and how everything works together. We have a good number of individuals “ready to sign up;” however, enrollment is limited for each course.

In addition, we have talked to many agencies that are excited to join our partner program so they can offer the Master Inbound course to those leads who don’t fit their target personas for agency work. It offers them a way to still convert those leads and produce additional revenue.

What are your future plans for Master Inbound?

Master Inbound is a constantly evolving animal. We plan on continually adding new and fresh content every single time the course launches. This is key to not only increase the depth of training we can offer our members, but also to keep on top of the latest skills, techniques and tools of the inbound marketing industry.

We will be offering an agency partner program right off the bat, and have discussed offering a white-label version to agencies in the future. This would allow an agency to offer the course with its full branding as if they were the developers of the course.

We are also interested in strategic partnerships. We would love to team up with other organizations to offer more content, new tools or additional support for the course.

What advice do you have for other agencies looking to offer education and workshops as a service?

My suggestion for other agencies looking to offer an educational product for clients is to start with a minimal viable product. This is a product that offers the minimum in functionality and value for your members.

From your minimal viable product you can adapt and change what you offer and how you offer it based on user feedback and the way people are consuming it.

Another good option is to host in-house inbound marketing workshops or ongoing courses. This is a great way to generate additional revenue and new leads, and show your expertise in the industry.

How do you see paid online education impacting traditional agency services and business models?

I do not think there will be any negative impact on the traditional agency. In contrast, I actually see educational courses being extremely positive for agencies that decide to leverage them in their product and service offerings.

Marketing agencies are typically hired for two reasons. First, they are brought on to develop and coach a client in a marketing strategy. In this case, educational courses could be leveraged as an up-sell to help educate clients to ensure successful implementation of strategies.

Secondly, an agency is hired because the client does not have the time to implement the ongoing campaigns of a marketing strategy. With the need of an agency to perform the actual implementation, the client will not have a need for educational courses.

The last way I see an educational course positively impacting agencies is that they can offer courses as products, and sell them to the leads who do not match the criteria of an agency client. Offering courses to smaller leads allows agencies to convert and develop a new revenue stream instead of simply turning them away.