Managing the production and distribution of educational content is a challenging task. Handling decisions about print runs, online content, and mobile versions, as well as managing content revisions, involves a dizzying amount of data and time. A single-vendor approach can save money, streamline processes, and free up staff time for more meaningful work.
Sharon is the director of continuing education for a small national association. Self-study CE materials are provided to members as printed manuals. Her current process for handling order fulfillment is a clunky one—she uses a single print vendor for production, but houses inventory at her office and uses internal staff (usually Sharon herself) to pack and ship orders.
A whiteboard on her office wall lists dozens of ideas for new educational opportunities and class offerings, but she never has time to work on them. “Other duties as assigned” tasks require her to spend time getting the certification manuals packed and shipped.
Developing a new branding strategy for the board will have to wait until tomorrow, as will figuring out how many binders to order for an upcoming seminar, which reminds her: she should count inventory. She senses it’s getting low.
A colleague, one of the lobbyists, told Sharon her office looks like a warehouse. It’s true, but Sharon saves money by managing inventory and shipping herself. “Not everyone has a budget like yours,” she said to her friend.
Besides, being truly “hands-on” means she controls how member expectations are met. Maybe next week,Sharon will have time to map out the new classes. Still, she has to wonder: Is there a better way?
Sharon is back to doing her real job.
The association decided to switch to one vendor for production, inventory, and fulfillment needs. Sharon was overjoyed, and she wasn’t the only one to feel the impact of their new solution.
- Timely production and content. Because continuing education materials are now printed on-demand, members have the most up-to-date content in hand.Sharon doesn’t have to worry about running short or having leftover inventory.
- Offsite inventory. A new print-on-demand model and some micro-inventory of popular titles are all handled and stored at her new vendor, leaving Sharon’s office looking more like, well, an office. Besides being more aesthetically pleasing, this change makes it easier to focus. Fulfillment tasks are no longer literally staring her in the face.
- Time Management –Sharon’s day is busy enough without having to spend time and energy on fulfillment issues. Her new vendor works with these issues every day and knows how to solve any problems she’d have along the way.
- Market relevance. The most recent member survey revealed a preference for blended learning programs. Their new vendor showed them how other associations do it, and now they’re developing a pilot program.
- Business intelligence. Sharon has the data and reports she needs to project revenue and expenses. She feels confident about production, pricing, and budgeting decisions because her vendor partner helps her understand the technology, processes, and costs.
Developing and implementing her ideas for additional classes, enhanced educational opportunities, and a new webinar series are all in the works. As it turns out, she didn’t even need a large budget to get started—she just needed the right partner.
Epilogue: A Single-Vendor Solution Can Work for You
Sharon has exchanged the stress and hassle of managing inventory and fulfillment on her own for a single-vendor solution. Now she can easily monitor production, ordering, and shipping, and have access to data and reports through one portal.
Best of all, Sharon can focus on the work that moves their associations forward. She meets with her new vendor partner on a regular basis to discuss steps she can take to meet her strategic objectives and make her processes more cost-effective and user-friendly. With guidance from a partner who understands association programs and processes, Sharon is making better decisions and providing her members a better learning experience.