AvidLearn, which all this month has offered free online seminars for companies and individuals, will serve in September as an online interactive channel for companies looking to directly market their products or services, among other functions.
The online seminar provider will enable companies to plaster banner advertisements and polling questions throughout the online seminar and collect, with the customer's permission, more in-depth information at the end of the 90-minute training session.
The company, which itself plans to launch integrated direct mail and e-mail marketing campaigns to increase traffic to its Web site — www.avidlearn.com — and expand its membership, will continue to offer customers low-cost online seminars from which sponsors can obtain key marketing information.
“[Customers] will have invested more than an hour of their time [on the seminar],” said Ed DuCoin, founder and CEO of AvidLearn, Cherry Hill, NJ, “and they will have given us permission to share certain information with the sponsor.
“It's a very soft approach to a sale,” he continued, “but we can get some real depths of information.”
DuCoin anticipates that, though not yet tested, AvidLearn's cost-per-sale will be “exceptionally competitive.”
“[Customers] will have not only invested their time but will have shared so much information that we would really get to know what their hot points are,” he said.
The online seminars, which are free until Aug. 8, will cost anywhere from $20 to several thousand dollars, depending on customization, DuCoin said. AvidLearn's main product is the Personal Development Series, which works as a package deal. For instance, 10 employees would take 10 seminars over a six-month period for approximately $4,900. The package would include a customized Web page and customized core selection for a company's employees, in addition to one-to-one interaction with experts, he said.
“You probably couldn't send one employee cross-country for a three-day seminar and back for $4,900,” DuCoin said.
Online seminar users can directly communicate with other students as well, DuCoin said. AvidLearn schedules chat sessions in which students can have constant dialogue, he said, and the company provides private message boards that are exclusive to a particular class.
Conversely, AvidLearn's competitors have yet to provide that type of interaction, DuCoin said. In fact, competing firms only resell other training products on their Web sites, he said.
Furthermore, many of the competing companies, such as Headlight.com and Learn2.com, offer similar products and information on each other's Web sites, DuCoin said.
“They're just selling CD-ROM-based training,” he said, “whereas we're taking that expert that people don't have the time or money to go see and putting them right on your desktop.”
That same interaction and customization makes AvidLearn's online seminars an attractive marketing channel for companies looking to directly reach certain customers, DuCoin said. MindEdge, Woburn, MA, an online marketplace for higher education, for example, recently formed a partnership with AvidLearn and provides some of the content for its online seminars. MindEdge offers customers and students the online resources to research, among other things, higher education courses, degrees and programs.
Kevin J. Berk, director of business development at MindEdge, said AvidLearn's online training seminars serve as an effective marketing platform for MindEdge because of the similarities in the target audience.
“If [customers] are taking an online seminar, they're clearly interested in learning,” he said. “It's just a natural progression to go to a seminar and then purchase a course or a program or a CD related to that subject.
“It's a very hot lead,” he continued.
Berk said there is great potential in marketing to online seminar users because the market is more likely to use education resources via the Internet. Online seminar users are, he said, more “Internet-savvy.”
“If we were to just market to people that took online seminars,” Berk said, “our sell-through rate would probably be in the 60 [percent] or 70 percent range, up from about 10 percent.”