If your site visitors include techies purchasing your irresistible toys, you have a stake in helping them enhance their wealth so they can buy more of your products. To increase cash flow into your business, consider setting up affiliate relationships with sites offering technical certification — they might be quite appreciative of referrals they can convert into clients!
And perhaps you’d like to subsidize the training of your own techies? If you do, you’ll get the benefit of their advanced skills and their loyalty (and offering a weekly keg party can’t hurt). They can add a marketing-slanted value by posting reviews of the courses they’ve taken.
This does two good things for your customer relationships. First, it establishes your site as a place that walks the walk. Second, it creates an environment of real people behind those pages, with real experiences that they’re willing to share with site visitors. Trust builds, dialogue begins, purchases follow.
Many of your site’s techie visitors probably work on web sites. With the recent shakeout, more of them are looking for jobs. They may even be realizing that they need to differentiate themselves as marketable commodities from the other failed-web-site orphans scavenging for jobs. Maybe professional certification would help?
No “maybe” about it!
Certified Internet Webmaster training comes in three tracks: designer, networking, and development. The CIW site offers good background information on the types of certification available and points potential trainees to approved providers of the training desired.
For web workers who want intensive training on specific skills, Online Learning distributes CD-ROM-based courses in tech writing, XML, style sheets, HTML, C, and server programming. As an added value, the courses include online instructor support. There’s a fee per course, but group rates and returning-student discounts are offered.
Element K charges reasonable fees for technical courses (some leading to certificates) in networking, Microsoft Windows. NT. and SMS, Macintosh, ASP, web development tools (Illustrator., FrameMaker., Photoshop., FrontPage., Director, Dreamweaver, Flash, Corel products, and others), Cold Fusion, Crystal Reports, DHTML, XML, C, C++, Java, Unix, Linux, Perl, Visual Basic., web database integration, SQL, NetWare, and Oracle.
The list seems to have expanded every time I visit the site. Distance learning and instructor-led classes are available, along with an online reference library for registered students.
A Web of Plenty
Barnes & Noble University offers free courses in a variety of “soft” subjects as well as introductory tech skills. It’s a good place for techies interested in developing web skills to get their feet (or fingers) wet. Barnes & Noble lets newbies figure out if this medium is really for them with introductory courses in web-page building, design, and management and graphic design concepts for the artistically challenged. If they like it, they can proceed to programming (basic and intermediate C++) and groove with graphics in Photoshop and animation in Macromedia Flash.
DigitalThink charges for its full-length courses, which lead to certification in C, C++, Java, and Microsoft, Adobe, Lotus, Oracle, Linux, and Unix products. If your site is B2B, your visitors might be interested in DigitalThink’s customized corporate programs and industry-focused programs for consulting, financial services, healthcare, and government. DigitalThink also lets visitors sample some courses for free: Java 2, Windows 2000, Excel 2000, Oracle 8, and Unix Network Administrator.
Kaplan College School of Information Technology offers Microsoft certification in solution developing, network engineering, and database administration. As a more general value, it hosts free access to informational articles on currently “hot” web technology topics. Of course, students must pay tuition, but financial aid is offered.
What Do Your Employees Think?
Now, use the people closest to you, your employees, to identify more sources of distance learning. Those who take the customer service calls and emails have the clearest picture of what kinds of courses your customers would appreciate. You can give your “courses we recommend” page a human face with pictures of the service reps who identified the needs or who have taken and recommend specific courses.
Have a “student lounge” where customers can post their opinions of courses they’ve taken. Be sure to monitor these comments and let your customers know you’ve heeded their advice on the best and worst.
The best customers are educated customers. They generate fewer “just work” customer service calls, and the trouble calls they do make are more helpful in improving your products and services. You might even negotiate a deal with some of your training-provider partners to offer a free course to a few select customers who have, say, given you the most useful suggestion for a new or improved product.
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