By Stephen Spruce
Founder & CEO
I’d like to talk about the role education providers play in the certification renewal process and how improved relationships with them can help increase retention and generate significant additional revenue.
In a previous post, I suggested that certification boards could operate like for-profit businesses without jeopardizing their missions or non-profit status, and called it the new “Business of Certification.” I highlighted registered programs in my argument, but they are just the first business unit I’d like to explore.
To illustrate what I mean, I’d like to introduce the concept of “channel partners” as a way to help boards retain certificants through the renewal process by creating new relationships with education providers.
What Is a Channel Partner?
The term “channel partner” comes from the world of technology. According to Wikipedia, “a channel partner is a company that partners with a manufacturer or producer to market and sell the manufacturer’s products, services, or technologies.”
Although the term began in the technology world, businesses of all types have borrowed the concept. Let me give you an example: Let’s say you’re a major hotel chain. If travelers book directly with you, you get to engage with them directly, but you only interact with those travelers who go to your site. If, on the other hand, you partner with travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz or the airlines, you reach significantly more customers. You may have to share with the travel sites, but you reach so many more people, it’s worthwhile. The travel sites are the hotel’s channel partners, and the relationship brings substantial revenue to the hotel.
Education providers are your best channel partners.
Who Are Your Best Channel Partners?
Education providers are your best channel partners. They are already in your ecosystem, and you share common goals. You both want certificants to renew their credentials throughout their careers. You both want to ensure that continuing education courses help keep certificants current in the field. And you both want to provide education that is useful to certificants. By working together, you can positively influence the certification process, as well as help overcome barriers to renewal.
Why Do Professionals Fail to Renew Certification?
At a summit in 2018, The Institute for Credentialing Excellence identified several environmental issues that affect both initial credentialing and renewals. Among the threats, they noted a resistance to maintenance of certification. Other impediments to recertification include career changes, a lack of demonstrable ROI, and frustration with the continuing education process.
Overcoming these objections to renewal won’t happen overnight, but you can empower education providers as your advocates and champions by providing materials to:
- Promote your certification;
- Educate professionals on the importance of continuing education;
- Explain the benefits of renewing certification.
… education providers are marketing to your certificants regularly throughout the renewal process.
Education providers are in touch with professionals in a way that you aren’t. You are the keeper of the standards, but education providers are marketing to your certificants regularly throughout the renewal process. They can help you explain the importance of keeping up to date with advances in the profession.
How Can You Work With Education Providers?
The relationship between the certification board and education providers is a mutually beneficial one. You share many of the same goals, and you have several key points of interaction. By working together, you can make the renewal process easier.
- Help Develop & Review Content – Work with education providers to ensure they offer the right kinds of content to meet renewal requirements. With your help, a single provider might be able to offer all the courses needed for renewal. For example, I know a board that has added an ethics requirement to recertification, and education providers had to develop new courses to meet this objective.
- Fill in the Gaps – Work with education providers to identify and fill gaps in content, location, access, and format. Make it easy to earn the credits needed to renew.
- Identify Hot Topics – Work with education providers to identify the emerging topics that drive the profession. This may involve scientific advances or additions to professional knowledge and expertise.
- Provide a Recognized Brand – If you approve education partners, give them a brand, logo, or seal that highlights the partnership. It will help providers distinguish themselves, as well as draw certificants to approved content.
- Simplify Record Keeping – Provide a platform to make it easier for providers to upload course rosters and participation. Currently, the reporting onus is on the certificant, an inefficient system that is error prone, may require reviewing content and may be subject to audits. What would happen if the board could keep track of the credits earned based on data supplied by the education programs? Courses recorded by the education programs would be automatically verified, making it easier for the certificant, reducing the obstacles and resistances to renewals.
How Can You Afford to Turn Education Providers Into Partners?
Much of what I’ve suggested here is relatively easy to create, but would require attention from staff members and some technology upgrades. Fortunately, I believe boards can develop revenue from building these relationships. Here’s how:
- Create a program for education providers with qualifying applications and renewals. You can review and approve providers on the whole or with each course’s content. Put a time limit on their approval and require them to renew. You can establish application and renewal fees based on criteria such as size of the provider or number and types of courses offered.
- Marketing is the key to filling seats, so education providers are interested in designations that give them status as a preferred provider. Offer premium listings in your online and printed directories for a fee or as part of their approval.
- Offer approved providers the opportunity to advertise on your website, in newsletters, or in other outbound communications.
With the new revenue you’ll generate, you can pay the administrative costs of an approval process and make sure your technology is flexible enough to handle new requirements. 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 additional new income. We’ll also share stories from our customers.