How to Build an Engagement Machine with Learners and Prospects

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If you want to know about presenting lots of great content for your existing students while attracting new ones, listen up. This LMScast with Joshua Millage and Chris Badgett covers how to build an engagement machine with learners and prospects using your existing LMS platform.

An engagement machine is a system you create to keep in touch with your eLearning community. It also functions beyond marketing and sales to reach prospective students using smart internal organizational tools, and it all works through your existing LMS platform. The principles for engagement are essentially the same for both current and prospective students, but the strategies are different.

There are 6 steps to building an engagement machine, beginning at the concept of communication from one-to-many. Base content can be shared through multiple distribution channels to reach a broader audience. Sharing content this way establishes relationships and builds trust through familiarity.

Your next step is to tap into the power of communities. You already provide value for your community of current students, but you also want to reach related outside communities where prospective students can connect with you. This is not a marketing opportunity — your goal here is to contribute to other communities as an expert. Share information they can use, make it simple and accessible, and they will want to learn more from you.

Video is a powerful, scalable tool you should be using, because it is a major part of our lives and its influence is growing. Video relates at a human level that other mediums don’t, and it delivers superior knowledge transfer. Combining a video overview with in-depth text is even more effective.

Social media is a great way to locate and participate in communities where your future students are already seeking and sharing the kind of information you have to offer. You can also set up and manage your own groups and pages for your subject areas.

Email marketing allows you to present yourself clearly and directly while delivering value through writing, video, and other media. Plus, people who receive your newsletters and other content have already shown interest by signing up to receive your emails.

The 6th point is to occasionally step away from automated digital communication and make direct contacts through making phone calls, going to meetings with industry leaders, and simply spending time with people one-on-one. Never lose that human touch by relying 100% on mechanized tools and strategies when just 10% of your personal engagement can make a real connection.

The LifterLMS platform includes tools, options, and support for learning how to build an engagement machine with learners and prospects. Try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

Episode Transcript

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I am Joshua Millage, and I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. Today we’re talking about how to build an engagement machine with learners and prospects. Chris, what in the world is an engagement machine?

Chris: Well, it actually comes from a question that one of our customers at LifterLMS asked. They were just curious about how we were able to put out so much content and keep in touch and do all the things we do besides just marketing and selling our product. We actually stay really engaged with our customers and our prospective customers in community, other communities, and things like that. The question was like, “How in the heck do you do that? What’s the machine? What’s the system?

Joshua: Right. Yeah. I think we have really mechanized our internal side of LifterLMS, or the marketing behind LifterLMS, using smart tools and using internal organizational tools. You’ve written a post about this and I want to make sure that anyone who’s listening to podcast can get a link to to that post. If anyone’s who’s listening wants that link to read kind of the extended version of what we’re going to talk about today, you can text us the word “engage” and then the number 1 to 33444. That’s just the word “engage,” number 1 to 33444. We will send a link to this blog post because I think it’s a pretty amazing step-by-step, really, on what we do.
Chris, let’s start from the top and kind of walk through this together. How does someone start to create an engagement machine?
Chris: Well, I think the first thing to realize is it’s not so different from engaging with your customers or your learners in your LifterLMS powered community, or whatever your learning platform is, as it is to engage with prospective customers. They operate under the same principles. The strategies are a little different, though. There are 6 key areas to focus on.
The very first one of those is just getting the mindset of communicating one to many. I’m sure you’re aware of that, but if you really think about it, the opportunity for you to do one in many communications is everywhere. I’m not saying you should never have a one-on-one conversation. I’m just saying that you’ve got to leverage these tools that are out there. This podcast you’re listening to right now is an example of one to many communication.
Joshua: Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting because it does a couple of things. One of them is that it really helps build a relationship where people know I can trust you. We all know people do business with people they know I can trust. They know us because the podcast. They like us because of our personalities, or dislike us. Polarization is okay, too. They trust us because of the information that we’re giving away for free.
I can’t tell you how many times, Chris, I’ve picked up the phone with a prospective custom client who wants to build a really robust, big, massive LMS, or someone who’s going through a done for you services that goes, “Well, Josh, I love the fact that your mom was a first grade teacher.” It kind of weirds me out at times because, like, how do they know this about me? I’m sharing all of this through this medium of video and podcasting.
I think one of the things that we do really well is we repurpose one session, so this is one recording session, to 2 distribution channels, the iTunes/Stitcher podcasting channel and then YouTube, which you’ve, I would say, pretty much perfected the process of how to use YouTube to leverage really targeted, quality leads. Yeah, I think that people need to really start to push into this content creation distribution machine.
Chris: Yeah. Another thing that follows past that, this is my number 2 tip, is to leverage the power of community. Now, the community you’re involved with with your learners is very different from where you go find perspective learners or get engaged in communities elsewhere. To talk about the learning community, a simple example is a Facebook group. Essentially the ultimate goal is to have, get into a position where other people are talking about your core sort of specific lesson or their challenges with each other, and not just you.
The conversations … I think viral is the wrong word to use here, but conversations kind of go. It’s not all just dependent on you. This is one of the ways that the disruption is happening in education. People are kind of learning and evolving with instruction, but also on their own in context of the community. That’s what that looks like for a learner.
For a prospect, that’s you going out, getting involved in other communities, other forums, other live events where you’re networking and adding value. Not just pitching your product all the time. Those are the basics of leveraging community.
Joshua: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think that it’s important to kind of think through who’s a linchpin in my industry and how I can add value to them, not ask them to promote something, but really kind of push into their community with value, with your expert knowledge.
I want to say something about that, that expert knowledge, because I think a lot of people get hung up on that. They don’t want to … They know that leveraging the power of community’s important, so they find a linchpin, which you can do by even … Linkedin is really good at this because you can go to Linkedin and find a group owner who has 100 some thousand user, or members. You can connect with him and add value to their group and get a lot of benefit there.
I think becoming an expert doesn’t mean that you have to know it all, but you have to kind of break a complex concept down into digestible chunks, like you’ve done in this blog post, or you … I think interviewing actually is really powerful. Interviewing other experts in the field makes you, makes the perception of you, level up. If I’m sitting … I did this with the Infusioncast podcast as I interviewed people like Brad Martineau and other people who are out in the commnity who are known as the experts. By interviewing them, some of their expertise kind of was pushed over to me. Well, if Josh is interviewing him, he must be good, too.
At the time when I started Infusioncast, I didn’t even know how to open up the app correctly. It wasn’t my cup of tea. Don’t get hung up on how to become an expert or how to add value. Really focus on breaking … I think the easiest thing is breaking concepts down for beginner users by connecting with people and having them explain it. Synthesizing, creating blog posts, creating podcasts, interviews, and so forth. The key here is just moving quickly and executing, and getting things out to the world.
Chris: That’s awesome, man. You’ve always been really good about that. It’s definitely leading by example and just get going. If you read the blog post, you’ll see I keep saying, “Just commit. Just do it. Start small.” That’s the key, is to just keep going and start. Take one step.
Joshua: One step, yeah.
Chris: My next tip, number 3, is to leverage the power of, I say video marketing, but I’m really just saying online video. This podcast you’re listening to right now, it’s also going to go on YouTube. Video marketing is super scalable. I want to start by just giving you a statistic about video marketing. Before I give you this really important statistic, I want you to know that I’ve been obsessed with video for a long time. As many of you know, I spent almost a decade of my life in Alaska riding sled dogs and running a business around that, and managing a business around that.
Before that, I was really into video. I had like, video cameras, I had big VHS camera, I had the little tape things that I used to record climbing trips and things like that. I have a lot of great old footage. I’ve always been really into video. I can’t explain it. Over time, it’s evolved into just what it is today and online video. Video is so powerful. Even if you’re a baby boomer generation, you are probably watching a video on TV in the living room of the news and you had like, 5 channels or something. Video is a big part of our lives.
Now, here’s a statistic from Cisco, the corporation, and one of their studies. By 2019, online video will be responsible for 4/5 of global internet traffic.
Joshua: Wow.
Chris: The statistic for the US are even more impressive, coming in at 85%. What that means is people are hungry for video. YouTube is exploding. When people are creating courses with LifterLMS or they’re just trying to teach online, getting video in your lessons, in my opinion, is critical. It’s not mandatory depending upon what you’re teaching, but if you can get video in there, it is proven that people are hungry for video. Video’s highly scalable when you leverage a platform like YouTube. You set it once and you forget it.
I’ve got videos that I put up years ago that have tens of thousands of views. The amount of hours spent on that video are longer than my human life will be. The amazing scale of video just continually blows me away.
Joshua: Right. I think it’s the closest thing to … It’s the silver bullet in a way to scaling the human touch. I had a conversation last night with a friend. We were talking about my academic research I did in grad school around knowledge transfer. I said, “You know, the thing that we’re up against here is that there’s nothing that can transfer knowledge than someone sitting down with someone else side by side walking through something.”
A great example of this in my life has been in the last 6 months I really picked up a lot of paid advertising techniques, and I’ve done so really rapidly. The way I’ve done that is I know that how knowledge transfer works. Instead of reading a bunch of blog posts and watching a bunch of videos, I went and sat down next to experts and said, “Show me,” and they did. I learned 6 months … What took them 6 months, I learned in 30 minutes because I was able to get in pla-
It’s hard to replicate that online, but the best way to do it is video. Then there’s things that kind of go down out of that. I think the best actually, in my mind and I haven’t done research but I’d love to study this, I think video and a blog post is going to be like, a crazy one-two punch. You can give a synopsis really quick and hit the 80-20, the 20% that get the 80 results in the video. Then, you can go in-depth with writing.
You’re going to not only have engagement from the learner, but you’re also going to have SEO. It’s going to help your marketing, too, because you’re kind of doing dual content. I think that video is absolutely crucial. It is incredible, the scalability. Some of the videos that I’ve done in the past have, you know, close to hundreds of thousands of views at this point. Well, over 100,000 views some of the older ones I’ve done. That blows my mind. Think about how long it would take to talk to 100,000 people. It’s bizarre. It’s pretty cool. Now, the 4th point you have here is leveraging social media. How does someone do this?
Chris: Well, I think it’s just important to first realize that social media isn’t a fad. It’s not going away. Social media marketing, it used to be hot, like 4 years ago. The point is is it works. People use it. You could take the video we just talked about, you can put it onto Facebook, you can put on Twitter. Just like we talked about community, you could build community, private Facebook group, for your learning community if you wanted to. On Twitter, you can create lists of people that are kind of in the industry with you or your learners or whatever, and you can engage there.
The important thing about social media is that people are there anyways, so why not enter the conversation where they’re at doing their multitasking, checking in on things? When you keep everything on your site, if you’re building a learning community, you might be missing just an opportunity to further connect with somebody. Also, on the marketing side, to attract new people into your system. Why not leverage social media to help get the word out, to share content on? Also, if you want to experiment with paid advertising or things like that.
It’s just a channel where a lot of people spend a lot of time. I see so many people just walking around glued to the phone. Often I look over the shoulder and it’s like, Facebook. Why not enter the conversation?
Joshua: Right, right. The next one you have, which is one of my personal favorites, is leveraging email marketing. I think email marketing is just … It’s the crème de la crème when it comes to marketing, digital marketing, in my opinion. How does someone do that well?
Chris: Well, just like social media, email marketing, newsletters, these things aren’t going away. They just need to be done well and you need to be awesome to get somebody to actually open your email and not just unsubscribe or mark you as spam. You need to have a message. The other amazing thing about email or writing is that it clarifies your thinking. You can like, say whatever and ramble on, but if you’re going to write a email and you got somebody’s attention for like … You’re just a moment away from getting deleted. You need to speak in a very clear, concise, value-adding way. Using email is like, critical in a learning environment for reinforce learning, onboarding your customers to make sure that they’re doing the right things, that they know all the resources that are available to use.
When you purchase LifterLMS, you’ll notice we have a post purchase email sequence that goes out that’s designed to help people answer the frequently asked questions and guide them to the support they may need if they want help. Also, just for attracting people to your loading management system and your online course platform. You really need to build an email list. It’s critical.
You need to build a lead magnet. When you check out the post, you’ll see what we mean by lead magnet. It just means something that gives people a reason to sign up to your email list. If you don’t build that email list, you might be building something on the moon because you need to be able to get the word out.
Joshua: yeah, absolutely. I think that that’s such a good point. We’ve got a lot of other things here to talk about in the post and I want to be conscious of peoples’ times. I want to also encourage them to read the full post on their own, which, again, just text us the word “engage” and the number 1 to 33444. We’ll send you a link to it. How many words is it, Chris? Like, 2,000 words or something crazy.
Chris: I think it’s close to 4,000.
Joshua: Oh my gosh.
Chris: There’s actually a video at the end, that you just mentioned combining a blog post and a video. There’s a video at the end of the post that has a synopsis of the key points.
Joshua: That’s really cool. That’s really cool. Well, I’m going to let people head over there to read all of that. Now, what’s kind of the closing thought here? Why is this so important in your mind?
Chris: It’s so important just because I see a lot of people just burn out, which actually ties into another point in the blog post, which is to do things that don’t scale. Which just means pick up the phone and call a learner, see how they’re doing. Reach out, go to a meeting with your industry leaders. Do something that’s not all automated and autopilot and making money while you sleep or whatever. Just actually be a human being and do some one-on-one with your prospects and your learners and stuff like that. That’s really important if you care about engagement.
We’re big believers in scaling the human touch, but through automation and things like that, but be a real human, too. The goal is not to turn into a full blown machine. Yeah, that would be my tip for you. Do things that don’t scale, but the point of this post is to avoid burn out by not doing too much of things that don’t scale, which is what most people do. They spend all their time doing things that don’t scale. You don’t want to eliminate that completely, just bring it down to about 10% of your workday.
Joshua: That’s a great point. All right, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us and we will see you in the next episode.

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