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As the head of TSIA’s Education Services (ES) research practice, I receive a lot of questions from our members about education subscription offers, from deciding on subscription pricing to what should be included. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about subscription offers, it’s that they come in all different shapes and sizes, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. However, based on TSIA’s Education Services research, I have identified four key elements of a successful education subscription offer.

4 Elements of a Successful Subscription Offer for Education Services

I’m going to start with a quote that I always like to say about subscriptions:

Subscriptions are like door knobs. Everybody has one and they all look different.

With that in mind, while education subscriptions can come in all shapes and sizes, they ultimately all have the same purpose—to deliver training that is easily consumed and readily accessible by customers and to provide a recurring revenue stream for education services organizations. Unfortunately, developing a subscription offer is not as simple as saying, “Gee, I think I’ll create a subscription offer today!” even though it may feel that way. After all, it seems like everyone has a subscription. Why can’t my education services organization have one too?

The fact is, your subscription offer will not be successful if you don’t have the right framework, or blueprint for operation and scalability in place. The Education Subscription Offer Framework, shown below, contains the elements that TSIA has defined for a successful education subscription offer.

elements of a successful education subscription offer  

(Click image to enlarge.)
TSIA’s Subscription Offer Framework consists of four parts: rapid content development, data analytics, customer success science, and adoption and outcome services.
Source: “Education Subscription Offers: Knock-Knock, Who’s There?

Let’s explore the four elements of TSIA’s Education Subscription Offer Framework.

#1. Rapid Content Development: Create New Content for Your Subscribers to Consume

The most critical element of a successful education subscription offer is the content. But, simply having the content isn’t enough; you need to have a plan to continually create new content and maintain existing content, on a regular basis. If you don’t have current and new, fresh content to offer, there’s no reason for your customers to renew their subscription.

If you think about it, it would be akin to having a magazine subscription that only sends you the same magazine in the mail every month. That’s not going to be interesting, and you’ll more than likely cancel your subscription! Providing new content for subscribers to consume and that they find valuable, creates a greater likelihood that they will renew their subscription.

#2. Data Analytics: Find Out How Your Subscribers Are Consuming Content

Once you have content, you’ll then need to understand your customers’ consumption patterns.  What learning assets are learners consuming? How frequently are they accessing content?  How long are they in the learning portal? Data analytics can be used to predict the likelihood of subscription renewal. This is called “consumption analytics”, which is a topic that TSIA’s vice president of analytics, Jeremy DalleTezze, specializes in. Here’s a quote from his blog post on the topic, “The Data Analytics Take on ‘Helping Will Sell, Selling Won’t Help’.

In order to optimize (customer adoption), you’ll need to track how well the customer is leveraging the purchased offerings. We refer to this as 'consumption analytics,' i.e. understanding how customers are consuming your products. Tracking an overall customer account health score, as well as adoption scores of each purchased offering, will enable you to proactively improve adoption. You’ll then be able to identify which customers of a certain profile and tenure are under-utilizing or getting the most of your platform.Jeremy DalleTezze, VP, Analytics, TSIA

Are your customers under-consuming or are they over-consuming? If they’re over-consuming, that’s great! I would actually argue that there’s no such thing as over-consuming, because that means that learners are deriving value from their subscription and are the most likely to keep coming back for more. However, if learners are under-consuming, the likelihood of subscription renewal diminishes. If you have a customer under-consuming content, you’ll need to understand why, which leads to the next element of a successful subscription offer: Customer Success Science.

#3. Customer Success Science: Make Sure Your Subscribers Are Receiving Value

After you’ve analyzed the consumption data, if a customer’s odds of renewing are iffy at the 6-month mark, you’ll want to get your Customer Success team involved. Customer success is about helping your customers achieve specific objectives and receive the most value from their technology/service purchase. Therefore, it’s critical for any company offering subscription-based offers to have a Customer Success function in place.

Customer churn, or attrition, is a killer for subscription-based business models, as subscriptions are based on selling products and/or services on a recurring basis, rather than receiving a large sum of money, up-front, for the product or service purchase. That’s why having a well-oiled Customer Success team that ensures customer health and satisfaction, and paves the way for subscription renewal, is critical for subscription success. And just as Customer Success has a role in the Education Services strategy, Education Services has a role in the Customer Success strategy. The two functions frequently go hand-in-hand in facilitating subscription renewal, as well as unlocking new cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

#4. Adoption and Outcome Services: Create Opportunities for Cross-Sell, Upsell, and Renewal

Adoption refers to how much and how well a customer is using your product or service and whether they’re achieving their desired outcomes. We’ve mentioned before that not all levels of customer adoption are the same. The goal is to make sure your subscription customers are effectively adopting their subscription: they’re consuming content on a regular basis, they’re receiving value from the content you’re providing, and they’re coming back for more.

When all four elements of the framework are working, it’s time to think about what else can be included in your subscription to help drive further consumption and adoption of other ES offers. For example, if your subscription primarily includes e-Learning, you could offer a discount to an instructor-led training course, thus leading learners to buy and consume other education offers. But, you’ll need content in order to do that, which brings us right back to the Content Development portion of TSIA’s Education Subscription Offer Framework.

As you can see, this wheel is continuous, and you need strong capabilities in each portion of the wheel. If you don’t have strong capabilities, the success of your subscription offer will be at risk.

Learn More About What Makes an Education Services Subscription Offer Successful

Be sure to watch my on-demand webinar, “Education Subscription Offers: Knock-Knock Who’s There?” where I cover the elements of this framework in detail. I also talk about what you should include in your education subscription offer. Should it consist only of e-Learning? Should it include a combination of e-Learning and a hands-on lab environment? Or perhaps it should have all that and more. Be sure to watch to find out!

If your Education Services organization needs help with subscription offers, subscription pricing, or advice on getting to where you need to be to keep ahead of industry trends, contact TSIA today. Membership in our Education Services research practice, which I lead, can provide your organization with the frameworks, best practices, and data-backed insight you need to succeed in a changing marketplace.

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Maria Manning-Chapman

About Author Maria Manning-Chapman

Maria Manning-Chapman, is the distinguished vice president of education services research for TSIA. She has more than 25 years of education experience in the high-technology industry. Maria is well versed in the dynamics of running an education services business and has held leadership positions in operations, virtual learning, business development, curriculum development, delivery, and partner management over the course of her career.

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