CEO and CTO at Lokalise, the translation management system.
Smart brands know how important it is to go the extra mile to provide value to their community. I’m deliberately saying “community” and not “customers” because closing more deals is not always the end goal.
If you commit to nurturing genuine relationships with people who matter, and if you ask for their feedback and try to understand how you can make their lives easier, you can bring more innovation into the world. Stick to this path, and you’ll notice that revenue growth comes naturally.
After collecting my thoughts and doing a retrospective of the past seven months, I can say that launching an online academy is one of the most underrated ways to increase your brand equity. Some renowned SaaS brands such as Miro, Intercom, HubSpot and Ahrefs have already tested the e-learning waters. My company, Lokalise, has just recently joined them. Today, I’ll be sharing what we’ve learned from launching Lokalise Academy so that you can evaluate the benefits of doing something similar for your business. (Full disclosure: Founders of Miro and Intercom are investors of Lokalise.)
1. Start by defining a goal.
Before shaping the curriculum for your first online course, you need to do two things. First, you need to define what goal you want to achieve with your online academy. Is it to introduce a new revenue stream (do you plan to charge for courses)? Is it to build authority and more trust in your product? Is it to reinforce a positive brand image and drive recognition by bringing in expert lecturers? Do you want to educate the audience about your product or provide more general knowledge?
Once you’ve defined your goal, you need to research what’s already out there. This will help you find a benchmark when it comes to typical course duration, formats, topics, amount of content, overall course organization, quality of production, workbooks and study materials. For us, the research phase also encouraged us to think outside the box.
2. Make sure it’s clear what your academy is about.
If you can’t summarize what your academy is about in a single sentence, you should go back to the drawing board. For us, it’s the following: “As an online learning platform, Lokalise Academy aims to become your go-to community for everything related to localization, internationalization, and growth.” Your summary should be similarly simple.
My advice is to allow the academy to be shaped by the learners themselves. Let it go into the world and give the people what they want. We think of our first course as a pilot project that anyone from the localization community can contribute to—either by sharing their experience as a learner or by taking the role of a direct contributor and partner.
3. Let your idea sit for a while.
Hofstadter’s law states that complex projects always take longer to complete than anticipated. Take this planning fallacy into account and give your team some buffer time when it comes to both the duration of the project and the estimated launch date.
Just like with all ideas that require the involvement of many people, your online academy will take time to mature. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that it will require reprioritization, replanning and coming up with creative workarounds. Ours was shelved until we felt it was ready.
In my opinion, when you’re doing something for the first time, you need to show some courage and be open to experimenting. It may not be perfect from the get-go, and that’s fine. You’re entering the e-learning domain, which isn’t a small step to take. Look forward to gathering feedback from enrolled students. Use the feedback to build future courses and always aim to become better.
4. Assemble your squad and divide ownership.
At Lokalise, we already had a learning management system (LMS) installed that we used for product onboarding. This made things a bit easier because we were aware of this platform’s features and technical limitations. When it comes to team resources, you need to have a project manager who will be responsible for ensuring things move forward, an e-learning expert, subject matter experts (i.e., lecturers), a brand designer and someone with a tech background who knows your LMS.
You also need to define communication channels and establish a single source of truth. For us, project communication was carried out through weekly calls, dedicated Slack channels, Asana boards and Google Drive folders. You should organize all data and assets (e.g., lecturer photos, bios, design collateral, transcripts and subtitles) clearly from the very beginning and make sure the right people have access to them. If you don’t take this seriously, it can get messy and hectic.
5. Promote your course and monitor progress.
Depending on the LMS that you’re using, course analytics may be more or less detailed. It’s good to have a dedicated person who will monitor how people interact with your curriculum. For instance, how much time do they spend watching the course? Where do they drop off? Do they read through the materials? Have they completed the quizzes? Along with asking for direct feedback, these insights will help you improve the learning experience.
Additionally, you should have a promotion plan in place. Leverage your network to spread the word. In our first course for localization managers, we managed to attract established experts who have rich academic backgrounds and proven track records in the localization industry. Once the academy was launched, we naturally reached out to everyone who contributed and let them know. They gladly shared the news.
Online courses represent a compelling format for comprehensively organizing knowledge, and many brands have not yet tapped into this potential. The reactions we’ve received so far, the word of mouth we’ve generated and the feedback we’ve gathered make me believe that e-learning is a great piece of the business puzzle when it comes to relationship-building and community growth.
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