Hundreds of similar companies have popped up in different verticals and second tier markets. A quick glance at an aggregated list of deals being offered across the country on any given day reveal mostly cyclical prospecting. Each companies respective sales force signing up to receive the deal of the day from their competitor, then using their own slightly differentiated pitch to approach the same vendor. One would assume they see them as an easier sale. Low hanging fruit having already been educated on the process involved in offering and managing a deal. This saturation is bad for most all involved. The small business owner being pitched 10 times a week feels like their unused or underutilized inventory is being poached by companies that offer little value outside an email list of what are typically perceived as discount hungry customers who often never return to purchase at full price. For the consumer, the deal voucher is quickly becoming as common as the billboards lining their most trafficked highway and being valued as such if not sometimes disregarded altogether.
I wrote about this trend recently in an guest post called Daily Deals are the Walking Dead.
The premise being that the ideal market evolution in this case is not in disregarding the deal voucher as a fad. The concept of the deal is as old as commerce itself and is going nowhere. The opportunity is in leveraging the deal voucher as a secondary motivator to a primary experience. To drive opt-in, not through the promise of a fire sale but through offering compelling experiences and presenting them to people in highly relevant ways. Interesting ways which require a minimal amount of effort on their part and use the discount simply as an additional motivation to get off the couch and add value to their own experiences. A passively participatory happening if you will. There are many different verticals you can approach to achieve this and we are excited about one of them with one of our newest ventures called WAAG. It takes the work out of networking.
The industry I will choose for the purposes of demonstrating my point is that of continuing adult education. Once thriving, this segment has undergone a transformation. One that I feel has left the real market behind. The failure of the large continuing education networks like The Learning Annex to capitalise on the advent of the internet as a social medium. One to be used to coordinate and share learning opportunities instead of just a technology platform, provides for a tremendous opportunity going forward. In ignoring what was once an offline but highly social learning experience, the top industry players have instead refocused their energy in large, high profile events, removing most of the social aspects from the equation. In an equally short sighted move, they are fully embracing technology to present classes online in direct competition with independent schools and instructors. This is a misjudgment as it relies on a one-to-many mentality for both marketing the events and the educating itself.
There are some fresh young faces in this space working to capture the market left behind and leverage increased sociability between people online, in an offline, fun and ultimately educational manner. Two of these companies stand out to me in Better Fly and Skill Share, based in Chicago and NYC respectively. Both of these companies, while slightly different in their approaches have taken the approach of creating a platform to match those seeking to learn new and interesting things with those who are motivated to teach the same. I am sure both of these companies will have success as there is such a huge void to fill but it is in that same motivation, both for the teachers and those who would be taught, that I feel the real opportunity is ready to be shaped and scaled.
One of the premises that I suspect these companies and others in this space are operating under is that the instructors, those setting up classes on the platform to be promoted, are motivated primarily by the ability to derive revenue from ticket sales to their classes. They list the event and the platform is leveraged to promote it, taking a nominal percentage of the sale price of each ticket In turn the instructors host the class and take the remainder as sales revenue.
It is this that I would argue is a misconception masking a larger, experience driven opportunity. With platform models, it is very rare that the seller, in this case, instructor, is making a living solely from the ticket sales of the classes they post. Instead, they are leveraging this medium, wisely, as a lead generation tool to promote different products and services or class packages. To develop relationships and monetise the same over time. This being the case, It is in the best interest of both the platform and the instructor to push as many people as possible to the hosted classes. There is indeed value in the aesthetics of the platform, processing of payments and hosting of profiles but not such that this would be a determining factor in where instructors choose to promote their classes. Simply put, it is all about putting butts in the seats.
To that end, on the consumer side, there is an even larger market to be targeted in those who are not typically active participants in ongoing education but would be interested, if properly motivated, in engaging offline in a fun and ultimately educational way. I feel a greater opportunity exists and the model I would employ would work similar to the following:
The Process Let’s call the platform for the purposes of demonstrating this: The Daily Learn
Passively Delivered: Opt-in by city with your email address. e.g, Groupon
Socially Integrated: Have attendees RSVP to learning events using Facebook, Twitter or Linked In Connect, thus showing who plans to attend as they purchase their tickets and sending a social gesture out to their own network simultaneously. (E.g, Jane is one smart cookie learning something new — link)
A Secondary Motivator: People are indeed motivated by the promise of a quality experience but in these times we live in, complete with 800 cable channels and the virtual world at your fingertips, it is increasingly difficult to get people out in the real world. You need an incentive. Something tangible. It is here that the ever more popular deal voucher comes back into the picture. Offer a relevant voucher as an incentive for buying a ticket, showing up and checking in (social gesture) at the learning event.
Say the class is on “How to Travel through Europe on a Budget”. Instead of selling tickets for $10 and having $7 of that go to the instructor, maybe filling one class every few months, sell tickets at $30 a piece, include a $100 gift card from an Expedia or alike, splitting the ticket price with voucher provider and filling classes as fast as they can be listed.
There are surely some teachers and other professionals who make a living from hosting these classes alone and there are plenty of places for them to continue what they are doing just as they are. This opportunity is in leveraging those who would monetise full classes in other ways, using the platform as a loss leader. A way to educate their prospects. Perfect both for small businesses and brands as well as those organisations looking to create awareness and drive donations.
Now get out there and build it or call me and we will do it together.
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