The Business of Scaling a Knowledge Brand

In the second part of this series we start to delve much deeper into the business of scaling a knowledge brand. What strategies should you have in place to bring other trainers into the business and grow the brand horizontally? What tools do you need to build a successful community, and what channels should you be using to market your licensed events?

Today we’re focusing on the business model. Discussing how to create a licensed trainer business model, certification models and charging for events.

Developing a licensed trainer program has been a hugely successful for scaling on a global level for many knowledge brands. Our friends at Management 3.0, Collaboration Superpowers and Lean Change Management have all built strong global brands through the pursuit of a licensed trainer program.

Setting up a licensed trainer program consists of two main tasks:

  • Create a certification program to become a licensed trainer
  • Create a payment model to charge for licensed trainer events

Creating the program

So far, your workshop attendees have had the privilege of learning from you. Your personal brand and reputation are what have sold workshop places to date. But you can’t be everywhere, all of the time. And as you grow, you will be doing more key notes, writing more articles, and so the business of teaching your workshops needs to be delegated to others.

A certification program will accredit other trainers to impart your knowledge, there are several steps to take the attendee to licensed facilitator status. Different levels of certification may require less or all of the these steps. And trainees will pay per micro module, or a fixed fee for the whole program.

For example as licensed facilitator working under your brand would need to qualify all steps before they are accredited. A trainer using certain elements of your branded content in their workshops, might only need to cover some of the steps, 1 and 3 for example.

  1. Attend training sessions by the knowledge brand

  2. Undertake a facilitator training program, this could be online for attendees outside of your region. A great example of how this works can be found at Bikablo. Other examples can be found at Holacracy Practitioners program and the Lego Serious Play Master Trainers Association.

  3. Pass a certification exam. Check out Sharon Bowman’s Certification Course.

  4. Demonstrate the expertise learned in front of licensed trainers and facilitators. This type of peer approval can be demonstrated at Scrum.org and LeSS.

  5. Become an approved and certified trainer

Of course all models have their positive and negative aspects. If you make the certification process less stringent, you may find the quality of your workshops dropping. The way to get around this is to offer a workshop ratings system, where workshops and trainers are rated by the attendees. If you want to offer different levels of accreditation — as you’re starting to develop the model, and be completely transparent, then your workshop calendar and trainer profile should show not only ratings, but also their accreditation. Using Workshop Butler will give you all of this functionality integration for your website.

The alternative is to take every trainer and facilitator through the same stringent process to ensure that they are trained to the highest level. This might include peer reviews, co-facilitation of classes when they start out, and a strict certification process. This model will certainly improve the quality of training by every individual, but still doesn’t guarantee excellence.

The only way to ensure consistent quality training is to develop a very strong brand, with fresh and unique content. Integrating a review system also works well, as trainers are motivated to get workshops booked, and the lower the rating, the less likely they are to achieve a steady level of workshop bookings. This could also lead to them losing their accreditation.

There are profit benefits to you requiring every trainer to pass the full accreditation program, as they will have to pay for the full program, rather than purchasing modules. The downside is that whilst you are launching the model, you will need to run/oversee every program, wherever it maybe in the world.

Over time, once you have built a team of highly rated facilitators, you will be able to create a subcommunity of the most highly skilled to run training programs for you, and for which you’ll also receive a fee.

Tips to ensure you are scaling in a qualitative rather than quantitative manner:

  1. Integrate a transparent ratings system into your workshop website

  2. Curate and develop fresh content together with your most skilled facilitators. Run regular workshops with them to ensure your brand stays current.

  3. Set rules on license revoking — based on bad evaluations, feedback and non-payment of licenses and event income

  4. Overtime create a subcommunity of trainers who can teach other trainers, leaving you time to developing the brand in other ways

  5. Set yourself objective and concentrate on launching one region at a time, so that you can organise co-facilitated workshops and trainers get to know each other and work well together

Setting your license fee

As well as growing the brand outside of your reach. You also want to introduce a licensed trainer/facilitator program to grow your revenue. Setting the license fee isn’t complicated, and there are lots of examples out there, which you can adapt to suit your business model.

Annual license fee: This will give the trainer the right to run accredited workshops, access to the brand community, licensed course materials and of course their workshops promoted through the main brand website. It’s the most popular and easily managed solution.

Other licensing fee options include:

  • A subscription service that enables a trainer to sign up to different levels. A good example of this is Conteneo
  • A pay-as-you-go model. The trainer pays to have the right to run a set amount of workshops each year, similar to the Lean Kanban University. The downside for the trainer is that they will need to run and make successful a specific number of workshops, or the license fee works out very expensive.

Licensed event prices

Once you have accredited trainers you will need to have a licensed event price for them to be able to market their workshops and work out their profit margin.

The two traditional options are:

  • Charging a fixed cost per event
  • Charging the trainer per attendee in each workshop

If a facilitator needs to pay you per attendee then your workshops should be offering attendee certificates to encourage them to book, pay and actually turn up on the day!

Developing your revenue streams

We have discussed the gamification model in previous articles. This can be an extra source of income for your knowledge brand. The games, tools and apps you create as part of your content, should be made available to purchase by both trainers and workshop attendees.

Good examples of this include Management30 who have several games that can be purchased such as Delegation Poker cards, Moving Motivators and the Meddlers Game. And Collaboration Superpowers who have the super funky Supercards for when your remote meetings are going according to plan!

If you develop games and tools that you can sell through your facilitators and workshops, you’ll need to start thinking about a shopping and logistics platform for purchase and delivery. Shopify and Magento are too good examples of integrating an ecommerce into your website.

There you have our guide to launching a licensed trainer and facilitator program for your knowledge brand. From where your horizontal scaling begins.

In the next article we’re focused on tracking your trainers and their events and how to ensure that they are fulfilling their license requirements.