Digital Marketing Course Comparison – Circus Street

Which digital marketing course should you chose?

One of the most common questions asked of OMCP is “Which Digital Marketing Courses are right for me?” In this short series, we interview the leaders of five digital marketing course providers to learn the differences.

Richard Townsend, CEO of Circus Street was kind enough to sit with us and share what the industry can expect from his company and training courses; now and in the future.

Listen to the interview below, on iTunes or on Google Play

Michael:
All right. Welcome back to the OMCP studio and with us today is Richard Townsend, CEO and cofounder of Circus Street. I’m your host, Michael Stebbins and today we’ll be discussing digital marketing training and some of the differences you should be aware of. Richard, welcome.

Richard:
Hello!

Richard Townsend, CEO and Co-Founder of Circus Street

Michael:
I’m glad you’re with us today. So, Circus Street has been a good success story in digital marketing training. You and your co founder started this—how long ago?

Richard:
It was about eight or nine years ago. We started building a pilot about nine years ago and then we launched that pilot eight years ago.

What drove you to get into the business of training?

Richard:
Essentially, we saw an opportunity within the marketplace, so we could see from my experience working in digital marketing and in marketing generally, that there was very low levels of understanding about what appeared to be a growing subject. We could see that it was much larger than most companies thought it would be in terms of the levels of knowledge required in the businesses that we were going to work with. And we knew that technology had to be part of the answer to that problem.

Michael:
Were you providing services prior to that and just educating your customer and it grew out of that?

Richard:
So essentially I was a digital marketer working in an agency. I was head of digital for a company called Starcom Mediavest with part of the Publicis group in the UK. And my brother was working in an online learning business, but his background had been more in the mobile networks in the mobile industry, but it happened to end up as an MD for a learning business who had a mobile product. I’d started to do some consultancy and part of that was sitting in rooms with senior folk and discussing digital, which became sort of the basis of the training program because it was clear that many of them had very low levels of knowledge around the subject, technology in general, how technology was impacting on marketing and then digital marketing. And so we could then see that there was this emerging opportunity, but that what we needed to do was solve a problem that existed within learning from an online learning perspective, which was most online learning that we’d seen in most of our learners had seen at that point, wasn’t very good.

…the thing that we know makes a big difference is if we’re able to demonstrate behavioral change.

Michael:
Just in the last few years I can think of two companies, at least, that have been recognized for training practice success and they were customers of Circus Street. How do you measure the success of your courses and programs?

How do you measure the success of your courses and programs?

Richard:
There’s a number of ways really. I mean, the companies that work with us, they will often use our pre and post testing. We test people on the way into lessons and then once they’ve finished the lesson and obviously that gives them a knowledge uplift. We measure completion, so completion is a key stat for us because it shows how much people engaged in the learning. We ask a number of questions around the satisfaction of learning through our product. We use questionnaires towards the end of the lessons on a randomized sample, which gives us a kind of like a net promoter score figure. We also rate every lesson. We ask learners to rate every lesson, again through a randomized sample, but the big one for us really, because we work a lot with companies and large organizations, the thing that we know makes a big difference is if we’re able to demonstrate behavioral change.

There are a number of behaviors, particularly around the subjects that we’re teaching that we need to change. So raising the floor, raising the ceiling, increasing performance in specific areas. So things like we want to invest more in digital channels and a bit less in TV type thing, or get the proportion right, driving innovation, breaking down silos. You know, lots of the organizations that we have they have silos and the future for them is that digital is something that works across the organization. Then, the other thing is attracting and retaining talent. What we do is we demonstrate that we can do those things and we measure those things.

Michael:
And I remember Bayer and I think it was Mediacom underscored those benefits as well as we got a chance to look into their usage. Richard, you mentioned that bigger companies and corporations often are the ones using your product. Who is the ideal customer for the courses from Circus Street?

Who is the ideal customer for the courses from Circus Street?

Richard:
The ideal customer is usually a very large organization with large international marketing teams because the problem that we’re solving is that digital is a fast moving subject. It affects a lot of people across a lot of borders. It’s a difficult problem for most large organizations to solve. And so that’s the problem that we’re solving. So often we’re talking about multiple thousands of people in marketing. It can be used for much smaller companies, but our sort of top 50-75 customers are the ones that represent the vast majority of our revenue.

What’s in your courses that others don’t have?

Michael:
Early on, Richard, you chose a very engaging interactive format for your video lessons. I remember seeing that years and years ago. What else will participants find in your courses that they’re very unlikely to find in other courses?

Richard:
Yeah, I think that is the key thing really. There’s a famous futurologist called Marshall McLuhan (and they find that he’s more quotable than he is readable if I’m honest), but he was the guy that came up with the phrase, “The medium is the message.” And another phrase that struck a chord with us was, “Those people who think that education and entertainment are different industries know little about either.”

Circus Street lessons are educational and entertaining

Richard:
It’s been a guiding principle of ours since we set up the company. It’s funny because I just got a quote today from a learner that came in, was originally at Proctor and Gamble, but has moved to one of our other clients, and I won’t mention the other [training] company that they’re referring to in this quote, but it’ll give you an idea of what people get from using Circus Street that they don’t get from other products. They said, “To be super transparent. About a year, year and a half ago, we had two digital training programs deployed. One was Circus Street, the other was [XXX]. Circus Street blows it away. Most of my team was on the pilot and it was very painful to get dedicate time to and get through [the other course]. Kudos to you guys. It’s much more engaging. You track a lot better versus competitive programs that we’ve had previously. You can quote it. You can record it.” They said, “XXX was a very painful experience, [but] I did it because I was required to. But Circus Street I do because I learn.”

When we were designing the product, we always thought of three separate disciplines…technology, the visual arts and education.

I think that’s the thing. When we were designing the product, we always thought of three separate disciplines. So technology, the visual arts and education and most companies that develop online learning tend to come from a background of one of those things. If you’re an educator, you probably don’t know a huge amount about developing, engaging content or technology. If you’re a technology provider, you’re normally an LMS and those things are usually a box or a clever box to deliver somebody else’s content. And if you’re great at content, you’re normally a production company. With Circus Street, it’s the synthesizing of those three disciplines into a learner experience that we measure. That means that what people find is that they learn things that are really relevant. They’re easy to apply, that make a difference to their job, but they have a fun time while they’re doing it and it’s engaging and it’s pleasurable. And that’s just really important.

Who in the industry do you think is doing training right?

Michael:
Richard, you mentioned that education and entertainment are tied to each other beyond Circus Street. Who in the industry do you think is doing training right?

Richard:
It’s an interesting one because in the corporate world, I think that we’re really just started to see companies take this on. There aren’t too many businesses within the corporate world that we tend to follow. We actually follow businesses, learning companies and products that are in sort of different sectors and different areas. One that I really like and the team really likes is a company called Duo Lingo. I don’t know if you know Duo Lingo. It’s a learning app that teaches languages.

…if you use interactivity and gamification in the right way, you can deliver a really effective and efficient learning experience.

They’re right up there to deliver an effective learning platform because it’s a very efficient learning experience and they’ve just cracked the ability to deliver knowledge and learning almost exclusively through an interactive experience. With our lessons, many of our lessons are combination of content and interactivity, which works really well, but those other areas where if you use interactivity and gamification in the right way, you can deliver a really effective and efficient learning experience. That’s something that we’re going to be concentrating on more as we go forward.

Thoughts on Industry Certification:

Michael:
What are your thoughts on an industry certification standard like OMCP for digital marketing?

Richard:
I think essentially it’s vital because you’re able to offer a stamp of quality that helps to create consistency of things like language and terminology, which is really important so that people recognize in an area like digital that there is a consistent language that can be used across organizations. I mentioned before that we’re trying to do things like break down silos. Language is really important for that. They also act as a motivation for the learner. Just because like any other qualification having a widely recognized sample of approval is useful and tradable for the learner. It’s a very important part of the industry and we look to work with organizations like the OMCP wherever, whenever we can.

The Future of Training and Digital Marketing

Four pillars of Circus Street
1. Inspiring
2. Relevant and applied
3. Accessible
4. Mobile
–Richard Townsend, CEO Circus Street

Michael:
Well, congratulations by the way, on the approval of the courses. It was a delight to go through them and to ensure that they cover the subset of digital marketing that’s covered by the standard. Going back to some of the methodologies for conveying information, Richard, for you and the company, what’s next? What’s the future of training and digital marketing?

Richard:
And for us, we have four pillars really that we focus on, which are about that keep us on track in terms of our a product strategy. One is inspiring. So being inspiring, which is about being visually impactful from engaging and surprising. Two is relevant and applied. It’s being current, easy to apply and effective. Three is accessible. It needs to fit into people’s lives. People’s lives have never been busier and more complex, certainly in a work setting. Many organizations are still not prioritizing learning in the way that they should and will need to. We have to make learning that will fit into people’s very busy, complex lives and then easy to use. A big focus for us is simple and elegant interfaces combined with easily discoverable content. They’re the areas and I suppose for us, the way that that will work is in the next year we’ll be focusing on micro learning.

We’ll be launching our spotlight lessons soon. Our main lessons will be rebranded as features. We’re kind of playing on the film industry a little bit, which will enable staff with a lot of fun with messaging and branding. But spotlight lessons are up to 10 minutes long. There’s no pre and post testing. They’ll work really well designed very specifically for mobile gamification. We’re going to be launching shorter interactive lessons, inspired by the Duo Lingo type experience. And then mobile. We just redesigned our lesson player and we will be doing a full redesign of the mobile app, which will be coming out next year, which is user centered design, which will basically enhance the learner experience. They’re the areas that we see now. It’s about making learning more enjoyable, more accessible, more inspiring.

Stats Blitz:

Michael:
Richard, this is the part where we do a stats blitz. We ask you some numbers and ask that you can share the ones that you’re allowed to. First one, how many participants in the digital marketing courses over the last three years?

Richard:
Over the last three years, I don’t have that stat to hand. In the last seven years, we’ve done between 100-150 thousand learners. The vast majority of those, certainly over half of those, will have been the last three years. Just because the nature of how quickly our businesses is growing and the number of courses that are being used.

Michael:
And of those, how many graduates? How many made it to the very end?

Richard:
Well, we have a very high percentage of completion. The majority of those people will have graduated.

Michael:
Yes. I remember Bayer had a incredibly high completion rate as well. And that’s one of the things that made them stand out.

If we were to measure… Somebody’s coming into the program to learn digital marketing, how many hours of training or an interaction should they expect to have available to them?

Richard:
By the end of this year it’s going to be somewhere in the region of 100 hours of content broken up by our main fee to lessons and then, our micro lessons. Then, within the platform itself, there are other areas of learning like case studies, expert videos and all of those things combined. It’s about 100 hours of content.

Michael:
Founder’s choice, what’s the statistic that you’d like to share that we didn’t ask for?

Our average completion is 85%.

Richard:
We touched on it a second ago, but completion for us is something that we’re like really proud of. So, our average completion rate and completion for us is if someone has been given an allocation of lessons, they’ve completed all of those lessons. Our average completion is 85%. One of our largest clients, a large FMCG company, which I won’t name, they gave the curriculum to five and a half thousand marketers in 110 countries, 23 lessons on average each and they achieved a 99% completion rate. I think they’re the closest they ever got prior to that in terms of completion was about 30-35%, so it’s kind of a game-changing stat for us.

Michael:
I’d say so. If you had to decide the ratio of credit to give to that, obviously a big portion of that goes to he engagement value of the courses in the material, but some of it I think goes to the learning development team and in the group behind that, who I know you partner with closely, how would you distribute the credit?

Richard:
Absolutely. I think that’s the right word. It’s a partnership. Within Circus Street, we also have a very large team of people that their job is to help the learning team to ensure that the learning from Circus Street is being engaged with at scale across borders. We have an entire team that’s just focused on doing that and they’re almost like an extension of the learning team, but absolutely the good thing for us is that we’re often dealing with global learning teams and global HR teams and we’ve often engaged very senior stakeholders at sea level. All of those people together, we’ll make sure that the learning is being received in the right way, is keeping given the right level of importance and that they will drive through completion as well. It’s a true partnership really. I suppose it’s 50-50 if you were to look at it that way.

More than now with Circus Street, is that if they do all the things like create a communication plan, drive it through, encourage learners to learn, they know that the learners won’t be disappointed. That’s our side of the bargain is we will produce something, we’ll make something, we make something that they know they can be confident, they can drive across their entire organization and it will work.

Advice for learners

Michael:
A company new to this, they haven’t done training before, they’re considering some solutions. What advice would you have for the people making that decision?

Richard:
I mean, obviously, one of the things you have to get right is you have to ensure that the thing that you’re teaching people is the right stuff. Right? You know, and working with people like the OMCP, enables us to demonstrate that, but also, you’ve just got to look at our client base. We’re teaching marketing to Nike, Adidas, Lego, Unilever, Mars, Heineken, Microsoft, et cetera. We work with the world’s largest brands and more often than not, we are their single digital training provider from an online perspective. They will be able to see that working with somebody like Circus Street, that you’re teaching the right things.

Whether it’s us or somebody else, the really establishing that you’re teaching the marketing and digital marketing that’s at the forefront of what’s happening is really important. But ultimately, as we said a few times already, it’s really important to choose something that learners are going to engage with and they’re going to enjoy. If people don’t enjoy learning, they don’t get a huge amount out of it. We’ve all been at school and we’ve all been in a classroom with a teacher that hasn’t inspired us and we’ve all been in a classroom with a teacher that has inspired us and we know the difference. Our job is to be that inspiring teacher and that’s what you should be looking for if you’re choosing a learning provider.

Michael:
Richard, what’s the best way that somebody looking for this training can engage with Circus Street?

Richard:
The easiest way is to go through to our website, www.circusstreet.com and it’s quite easy to find our contact details from there. Send us an email, give us a ring and we’ll be more than happy to help you with whatever your requirements are.

Michael:
Well, a big thank you to you, Richard Townsend of Circus Street joining us today. You can check out Circus Street and their courses at circusstreet.com. We’ll make sure that URL is in the notes there. Richard, thank you for joining us today.

Richard:
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Michael.

Michael:
I’m your host Michael Stebbins and you’ve been listening to the OMCP Online Marketing Best Practices podcast with a special session just for digital marketing training. OMCP maintains the certification standards for the online marketing industry in cooperation with the industry leaders just like Richard and Circus Street. We’ll look forward to seeing you in the next OMCP podcast.

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