How Associations Can Better Compete in a Growing Training Market

How Associations Can Better Compete in a Growing Training Market by Omnipress

Demand for training and professional development is growing at a steady rate. This should be great news for associations, who have always been the top industry source for training and education. But the competition has also grown. And it’s coming from some non-traditional sources. To stay top-of-mind, associations need to increase their visibility in a crowded marketplace.

Projected Growth of the Training Market

The training and professional development market has experienced tremendous growth over the past several years. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

According to the global market research company Technavio, the U.S. Professional Development Market is projected to grow by $3.75 Billion between 2021 and 2026. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 7.83%.

What’s Driving the Increase in Training and Professional Development?

Several factors are driving increased demand for training:

  1. Need to upskill/re-skill workers
    Due to rapid industry changes, emergence of new industries, and labor shortages,87% of organizations say they have a skills gap problem. And according to the 2023 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, by 2027 job skills will change by 50%.
  1. Opportunity to increase employee engagement and retention
    93% of organizations are concerned about employee retention. These employers also recognize how important ongoing training and development is to employee engagement. 94% of employees claim they would remain with a company longer if it invested in their learning.
  1. Ongoing career and income growth is a necessity for Millennials and Gen Z
    Millennial and Gen Z employees face a tougher economic climate than their predecessors. Soaring inflation, interest rates, and housing costs, coupled with increased levels of student and other debt make it more difficult for them to achieve economic stability.In fact, according to Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, half of them are living paycheck to paycheck. Ongoing training and professional development is one way to grow their skills and salaries. In fact, 76^ of Gen Z believe that learning is key to a successful career. And 87% say that professional development and career growth are important to them.

Sources: McKinsey; LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report; Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey

This increase in demand is great news for associations, who offer training and professional development as a core part of their mission. But it also opens the door to other organizations who want to capitalize on the opportunity.

New Training Resources from a Variety of Sources

Education traditionally provided only by industry associations and professional societies is now offered by an ever-growing network of industry sources.

Association industry partners are developing free and paid educational resources like webinars, courses, whitepapers, videos, and blog articles to increase visibility and credibility with their prospective customers.

Tools and platforms that aren’t industry-specific, like LinkedIn’s new Learning Platform invest a significant amount in virtual training programs to increase traffic and engagement to their sites.

A flood of self-proclaimed professional development experts conduct webinars, virtual coaching, and mini-workshops to build their personal brand.

Even prestigious universities such as Harvard and Stanford have opened some of their courses to a wider online audience of working professionals.

Young Professionals Turning to Alternate Sources for Information and Education

Within the vast sea of training and education resources, how does any one organization stand out?

The first answer has always been to make sure your content is optimized for search engines like Google. That way, your content is served up to prospective participants at the very moment they are looking for resources.

Today, this is still an important strategy.  Google still holds 91% of the search engine market share.

But if you’re looking to attract young professionals to your professional development programs, you have to include other channels too.

So where is Gen Z turning for educational content?


  • 68% of Gen Zers say YouTube helped them improve or gain skills
  • 80% say YouTube helped them become more knowledgeable about a subject
  • YouTube content reaches more U.S. adults age 18-34 than any cable network
  • Among all demographics, YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine behind Google

TikTok and Instagram

  • 40% of Gen Z turns to TikTok or Instagram before Google for answers and resources
  • 50% turn to TikTok or Instagram instead of Google

For associations to remain competitive, it’s important to make your educational content as prominent as possible, in the places your members go for information and answers.

Three Steps to Increase the Visibility of Your Association’s Educational Content

1.      Optimize your existing content for search engines like Google and Bing

For many of us, search engines are where we start when we have a question or are searching for resources and solutions. What we see on the search results page are the websites and resources that the search engine thinks are most relevant. To ensure your content is included, you need to give the search engine necessary contextual clues.

Make sure a portion of your content can be viewed by anyone.
Even if your content is password-protected, include a robust description on your website before the visitor must enter their credentials to access the full content.

Know your target keywords and include them in this content.
Make sure you include the most relevant keywords in your descriptions and meta data on the page. This includes: page URL and title; alt text on images; headlines and sub-heads; and descriptions.

2.      Repackage your existing educational content into marketing content

While search engine optimization is important, it’s a passive activity where you wait until someone is searching for the right topic. It’s important to balance this with proactive marketing tactics.

Give prospective participants a taste of what to expect
Focus on a few of your most popular program topics. Turn them into micro-content to share with a wider audience for free, without sacrificing the value of the course. Use registration for the full course as your call to action.

Package this micro-content as many ways as possible
To increase the impact of your marketing, use multiple formats. Turn each topic into a blog article, video, podcast, infographic, quiz, self-assessment, or mini webinar. And of course, make sure to optimize this content for search engines.

3.      Distribute this content through multiple channels

To make a measurable impact, your content marketing program needs to achieve two things: reach and frequency. Which means sharing your content through as many channels as possible.

Continue to use your existing platforms
Start where you already communicate with members and participants. Whether that’s your website, through email, with the help of an industry partner network, or on social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Experiment with new platforms and formats
To attract new participants—especially young professionals—include some new platforms and formats.  If you already post videos on YouTube, play around with YouTube Shorts. See whether Instagram Posts, Stories, or Reels get more traction with your audience.  And experiment with TikTok if it’s appropriate for your industry. Optimize content performance by using relevant hashtags, tagging key industry influencers in your posts, and encouraging followers to share your content.

Associations were once the default resource for industry-leading training and professional development. But the market has become crowded with competitors giving participants more choices than ever. By optimizing for search, repackaging content, and embracing new platforms, associations can ensure they remain a top source of industry education for current and future members.

More Resources:

Learn more about Gen Z’s desire for professional development, and the sources they turn to during this 1-hour on-demand webinar: Spilling the Tea On Gen Z as Your Future Members & Employees

Get more search engine optimization tips from this on-demand webinar: How Associations Can Use SEO to Stay Competitive and Attract New Members