By Stephen Spruce
Founder & CEO
Are you looking for creative ways to expand your mission and create financial stability for your board?
If you are, you certainly aren’t alone. This past year has demonstrated how boards with single sources of revenue are vulnerable. Fortunately, you can create opportunities with registered programs to build a candidate pipeline, and with it, to create financial stability.
You are already familiar with registered programs, but I’d like to define them for our purposes here. When I use the term “registered program,” I mean a course of study, generally provided by an academic institution, that prepares students to sit for your certification exam and, upon passing, to succeed as professionals in the field. A certification board accredits a program, making it a registered program.
No matter your existing relationship, building a good relationship with your registered programs can benefit your board and its mission.
I’m sure you’ve seen a variety of registered programs in the industry. Some are degree programs, while others are more loosely structured. Similarly, some boards have formal relationships with registered programs and others are less deliberate. No matter your existing relationship, building a good relationship with your registered programs can benefit your board and its mission.
Defining the New ‘Business of Certification’
For many years we have used a definition of “the Business of Certification” that describes the administrative, legal and regulatory process involved in creating and running a certification board. I’d like to modify that definition to include the notion of operating as if it were a for-profit business.
I realize that you are a not-for-profit organization. You’re not out to create huge profits, but increasing your revenue doesn’t mean you have to ignore your mission. More income could allow you to weather a bad economy or provide more value to your industry. Consider what programs and services could you offer if you had the money to pay for them.
We’ll talk in future blogs about how to increase revenue leveraging other B2B relationships. First, we’d like to discuss how to build your candidate pipeline.
Creating a Candidate Pipeline
So how can your registered programs produce a candidate pipeline?
Think about the academic institutions providing these programs. They have to recruit students interested in becoming a professional in a given industry. So how would a for-profit sales team approach the process?
They would begin by asking questions like: Where will future customers come from? How can I reach them? What will attract them? What incentives do they need? How can I help them decide on my product or service? How can I help them master the material and become certified?
These questions outline a sales process that attracts students with marketing, helps them track their academic progress and then converts them from students to candidates. This process is your candidate pipeline, and it is a powerful tool.
Candidate Pipeline – Marketing
The first recruiting question program directors ask is how to get potential students to notice their programs. Then they think about how to encourage interest and drive enrollment in the program.
Registered programs are your partners. If they do well, you do well. Their students are your future candidates. You can help programs recruit with two tools you already have – accreditation and web exposure.
Students are more likely to choose an accredited program because it is less of a risk; they have confidence the program will provide a good education. It also carries a certain prestige to complete a high-quality program. Accreditation status is a key marketing differentiator and helps set a program apart from the competition.
You also have the ability to promote registered programs on your website by including them in your directories. Your website is probably a key resource for students trying to decide on their education. This type of listing can provide registered programs the visibility they need.
Candidate Pipeline – Tracking Student Achievement
Not every student who enrolls in an academic program will stay in the program. The ones who do, however, are on a track to become candidates for certification. They can become your customers. Wouldn’t your job be easier if you had information about those students as early as possible?
As students move deeper into profession competencies, you could help them by providing a repository for their academic achievements. Some programs require activity logs or internship reports. You can hold that information for registered programs. Students would know their academic activity is aligned with the knowledge and requirements for certification, and the programs would not have to work as hard to provide student progress. You and the registered program would meet in the middle to share data about courses taken and progress made.
What this information gives you is a look into the future. You can watch student progress individually and their behavior as a cohort. You can see potential candidates before they actually become candidates, and if student numbers increase or decrease dramatically, you can prepare. The business intelligence you create can inform your industry about radical shifts in student interest in time to plan and act.
Connecting future candidates with the profession helps the candidates, the registered programs, the certification board and the profession as a whole.
It also gives you time to introduce yourself to students and help them with their certification prep needs. Connecting future candidates with the profession helps the candidates, the registered programs, the certification board and the profession as a whole.
Candidate Pipeline – Conversion from Students to Candidates
If you can watch the flow of students through your pipeline, you’ll know when students are ready to sit for the certification exam. Moving them from students to candidates is your next challenge.
If students have attended a registered program and you share information with that program, you already know the student is qualified to apply for certification. Students would not have to spend time compiling transcripts or submitting courses. Your staff wouldn’t have to check program credentials or verify and validate course qualifications. You could green light students with relative ease, making their lives easier. More students sitting for exams means more revenue to your board.
Do you currently offer practice exams? Working with the registered program to offer a practice exam could be a bonus for students.
Some registered programs use the certification exam as the final exam for the course of study. Every student has a chance to take the exam while they’re still in school. Of course, those that don’t pass have additional chances to sit for the exam.
How Can You Afford to Build a Registered Program Pipeline?
Building a pipeline may seem like an added expense on top of your day-to-day needs. The good news? A registered program can pay for itself. Appropriately priced fees for registered program applications and renewals can cover the administrative overhead. Charging for advertising and preferred listings can provide the funds to market the program and reach out to students.
Don’t forget technology. Make sure you have a system that is designed to manage all facets of the Business of Certification. With new capabilities, you can create new revenue streams to help you pay for the technology.
In coming weeks, we’ll talk about other components of the Business of Certification that can give you access to new income. We’ll also share stories from our customers.