We live in a global marketplace. Global. We seek to enrich our end users with engaging course content, solid LMSs that are easy to use, navigate and meet our needs. We are extremely interested in SAAS based solutions, but we have expectations that align to the entire LMS industry.
I must admit I am still in a daze on some shocking data, I saw in the last few weeks (on a side note: the new and updated version of my LMS/LCMS directory will be available for download this upcoming Thursday)
- 30% vendors offer at least one type of social media – from my latest LMS directory
- 20% offer a trial – from my latest LMS directory
- Dozens of LMS vendors, had typos on their web pages, zero screens of the system, links that went nowhere and two kicked up my Firewall warning of possible privacy collection and one had a Trojan Horse (I use a hardcore firewall and A/V)
- One vendor asked if you wanted to learn more about their product and sent you to their help desk to notify them of errors or issues with their system (hmm, not likely to buy one from these guys)
- Over 90% of LMS vendors had their sites available only in English; so the potential customer could not view it in any other language
- Many made it nearly impossible to find their social media to follow, friend or check out their social bookmarks
- A high percentile pitched “demo” as a trial, but you had to register – so hello phone call and at least an e-mail (even if you ask not to e-mail)
Social Media & Social Learning – LMS Style
A surprisingly number of vendors who offer some form of social learning, whether it is the minimum – a FB like page, micro-blog, even some form of app sharing or collaborative tool, do not have any social media on their site. None. Zippo.
No social networking sites, no social bookmark sites, no app sharing sites, no video sharing, nothing. Let’s think about this. Why would I want to do business with you, when you are not even using any form of social media? If your company isn’t using it, then how do you know its capabilities, its potential, even where it is going?
This is saying – let me show you these cars, then the owner of car company, turns around and is getting on their horse. You say, “have you ever driven a car”? They respond no, but I’ve seen them, so I know what they look like.
The other day, a report came out and found that the most influential consumers and buyers use Twitter. Something to think about, when you try to explain to your potential customers why your micro blogging tool is wonderful, but your own company doesn’t even use it or some other micro-blog site.
Helloooo? I’m calling from …
You are on the Internet. It is worldwide – global. Your potential customers therefore, may not be just within your country or where you have a sales office; they are everywhere. Yet, LMS vendors pick on of the paths below
- Provide only their local phone number
They may list their local number and then whatever sales offices they have throughout the world and their local numbers. Great. But, if I am not in any of those locations, what am I supposed to do?
- Offer a toll free number, but only for that specific country – again, this is seen widely – so if you are in the United States, the toll free line is for the United States; if you are in the U.K., then they list a U.K. toll free number or multiple countries toll free numbers
- Some have the Skype capability – VOIP; so after installing the add-on in your browser – which they all offer, you could call them via Skype and even change the country code; rather than having to figure out on your own what is the country code; sure you may have to pay for the call if it is international – but you could use VOIP and not your phone
How to solve this problem?
- Setup Skype capability, which means you download the free program and install it on your computers, then you identify on your web site and identify your Skype identity (mine is diego.studiocity) – so people can connect; when they ask to connect you say yes
- Next, you have your people on Skype, so if a call comes through they can answer it, it is 100% free – as long as the other party – potential customer or current customer anywhere in the world, has Skype
- What is great about Skype is you can purchase for about $60 a year a phone number, so people who do not have Skype can still call and you can answer; so sales calls would not be interrupted
- You can also forward your Skype calls, so when people call that phone number it automatically goes to your mobile, so your people on the road can respond
- If you have a Gmail account, you can sign up for free to use Google Voice. So, if you do not want to go the Skype route, you have your Gmail account open, the Voice add-on – instant dl and install; people can text you if they have Gmail or call you via Voice
- In this approach, you can still have the duality of lines available
Demo vs Trial
Based on my updated LMS directory of 241 vendors, 20% offered a trial.
This means that you have no opportunity to fully go into the product you may be purchasing and really test it out, take it for a spin, add courses, try everything they say it does and then circle back.
Rather, you are expected to see their “demo” and then based on paper based literature, maybe your RFP (if you did one), make your selection and purchase. Please tell me, what other big expenditure would you allow this to happen? And yet, every day it happens to a potential customer.
Would you buy a car, without a test drive? Would you purchase a house or condo, without going in, looking around and seeing if things work? Would you buy a boat, without seeing if the engine works or if it does what they claim it does? Of course not. So, why allow it to happen with your potential LMS vendor.
If I am those 20%, I am ecstatic. The market is saturated with vendors, there are a lot of potential customers and I recognize that they want to take a deep look into my solution, try and test it out. I know that there is an increased likelihood that the customer may purchase my product.
Do not be fooled by the word “demo” that you see on a vendor web site – to go and view; or to call them to schedule a “demo”. Nearly 100% of time, it is a product demonstration. It is not a trial.
You will see a few options in the “demo” format
- A pre-recorded webinar – to view the product – there will be a person narrating; sometimes they will tell you a little bit about themselves before showing the product
- Scheduled webinar. Be forewarned, that in the industry as a whole, these types of webinars or walkthroughs (sometimes listed as such), you are with other potential customers. You will know if it is with other folks, if they offer a set schedule for these “demos” – so every Tuesday at 3 p.m., Wednesday at 1 p.m,, etc. – this is often a red flag, that other people may be on the call
- You have to register or fill out some “I’m interested” form to schedule a demo; typically this means you are alone on the call – the downside, the salesperson will constantly pummel you with questions, so you end up missing a part of the demo (especially if you have to be elsewhere at a certain time) or you end up missing parts of the demo, because the salesperson or whomever, has scheduled other webinars, etc. within relative proximity, and they speed through
Ways to eliminate this
- Tell them in the form, that you only want to be contacted by e-mail and if they call you, you are not interested (Some will still call you)
- When they contact you via e-mail, explain exactly and clearly what you want – maybe you want to see specific features or you want to see the whole product, but..
- Explain to them that you want to hold off answering any questions, until you see the entire product demonstration or the parts of interest, and if you want to move forward, you will follow up with them
- In the e-mail, provide briefly your company, your needs, and what you are seeking in a product (i.e. you want e-comm, etc.)- or why you are interested – that’s it; the goal is to see the product
Language of their Web Site
We are global yet, a great majority of LMS vendors’ web sites are in English. Only English. In the U.K., you may see additional country flags (often used) to designate that by clicking the flag, the site will translate into the potential customer’s native language.
A few LMS vendor sites default to English, but offer a few other languages written in the language, so the potential customer will know that the page can be translated.
I’m sorry, but why are you telling me you offer multilingual capabilities in your system, when you are ignorant of the fact, that not everybody in the world reads English or wants to?
They actually like to read in their own language. If you have the capability to offer multilingual capabilities in your LMS, clearly you can offer the same type of service on your web site.
One of the most worrisome trend that I have seen, which is growing. It appears in the SAAS model with some small dog LMS vendors. They charge you to host your courses the ones you create in an offline authoring tool and then upload, materials, files, etc. on their server.
If you want to upload video files, audio files, documents, whatever into your LMS, for your learners to use, share, etc., – it is part of the storage fee. It is atrocious and sickening.
They will spin a nice price point for you, and then say “oh, we offer storage” or and for “storage” you will receive 500mb or 2GB or whatever (many have tiered pricing based on amount of megabytes or GB you need) and identify the fee.
I get it. They want to make additional money and fees and see this as a revenue opportunity. Rather then try to gouge your customers for “storage” fees, why not just increase your mark-up on your SAAS LMS/LCMS and include unlimited storage – i.e. free?
Any vendor who tells you this is how everyone is doing it, is wrong. Thankfully, there are plenty of small dogs that are not doing this – charging for the privilege of you having your courses you uploaded or files or materials or whatever sit in their SAAS LMS, and pay storage fees for it.
I hope this trend ends quickly. If you are considering a vendor who does follow this methodology – think twice. Personally, I wouldn’t buy their product – no matter how great is the deal. It just isn’t worth it.
We no longer use a rotary phone, stay in our regional area, communicate only to those around us, and pay for services that are offered for free elsewhere.
We can surf the internet, find other vendors.
Your market share is not endless.
Are you listening?
Great Points! As an LMS vendor it’s tempting to generate as much data about the person/ company interested in your product. Especially if they want a trial. But we’ve found it better to let them sign-up for a full trial LMS community with only their email. We give them 30 days and then check back if they want to continue but that’s it.
The pricing argument is valid. Although we’re seeing customers wanting pricing based on just bandwidth and storage, not per seat.
* “Unlimited users” appearing with more LMS/LCMS vendors – slow growth, but it is growing
* Buckets/Packages of seats has always existed in the industry – remains the most popular approach in the industry, for those interested about LMS seats, you may find the articles under my menu “Must Reads”
* I surmise that some people who find great benefit of paying for storage over a pay per user, in the LMS/LCMS market, are probably unaware of the above two bullet points
Thank you though for your comments!
Craig — Great post! Just linked to it from the aLearning Blog. This should be required reading for all vendors and their potential customers. Thanks for sharing what you’ve observed in your research!
Thank you Ellen.
Super useful article (and I’m a vendor!). I like people who actually care about e-learning not becoming just another pile of buzzwords.
Keep on us, and don’t let up.
Fantastic article – the lack of a hands-off demo option is not only true of LMS vendors – it’s common across all software industries. I wonder what your readers think of a model based on contact hours. This would be a SaaS LMS with a small monthly or annual base fee and a cost based on hours delivered. Video and other temporal media would be charged per learner, and assessments would have a fixed rate. Hopefully this would tie the cost to a metric that means something to a learning organization as opposed to gigabytes or seats.
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