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ATD Blog

Winning Talent Development Firms Develop What They Offer

Thursday, December 22, 2022

You’ve figured out where you fit in the industry’s competitive landscape, decided what you really want and need, determined your purpose, created a business plan and structure, and put together a strategic plan. Now there’s one more step to laying down the foundation for your business. It’s time to develop your offerings. It’s common to take this step first. Why? Most people entering or growing a business in the TD industry come to it with what they consider their intellectual property that they will offer.

But what exactly is an offering? How do you define it for yourself, and more importantly for your prospective clients?

Most would argue that an offering in the L&D industry is largely comprised of the intellectual capital, or content. But in today’s world, where information is broadly available and easy to copy, this conception of an offering gets dicey.

Today’s success drivers, and therefore potential differentiators, are not likely to just rely on their content, but rather on their instructional integrity and delivery systems. How well the content transfers to learning and application, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency with which it’s delivered to its end users, are equally important. This is especially true in today’s hyper-technological world. So competitive offerings must meet the standards of all three of these drivers to be successful. In other words, content is no longer king.

Furthermore, the definition of an offering is complicated by whether it manifests in off-the-shelf products or programs, consulting services, or a combination of these two very different business models. One is not necessarily better than the other, but they impact the ways in which you organize your business from both an operational and marketing perspective. Your offerings affect financial management, inventory management, the selling process, scaling, personal skills required, and how costs are calculated. These are all important elements to think through as you’re developing your offering.


And this development process is complex unto itself. It’s an amalgam of art, science, and business.

Mixing these three in just the right amounts can determine your likelihood of success or failure. You must start the process with the expected outcomes of the offerings. Then you need to figure out how you can design your content to provide them, all within the context of varying internal and external factors: the vertical industry and specific organization with which you are involved, the job and role category you are targeting, the economic landscape, and even current world events among others.


To adequately cover these variables, consider the 9M criteria: meaningful, motivational, memorable, magical, measurable, mobile, micro, and mandated, resulting in mastery.

While this is a lot to chew on, broaching most of these criteria will help you best position and sell your offerings.
What are you doing to ensure that your offerings are both broad and deep enough to meet the varying demands of the marketplace? How are you establishing the quality of your offerings? Thinking through the 9Ms will help you develop, position, and sell the best offerings possible.

About the Author

Steve Cohen is founder and principal of the Strategic Leadership Collaborative, a private consulting practice focused on business strategy and development. A 40+ year veteran of the talent development industry, largely on the supplier side, he has demonstrated a proven track record for building equity by growing top and bottom-line performance for eight different consulting enterprises in the education and training industry he has either founded and/or led. He has been called on to consult with numerous firms needing strategic planning guidance, business coaching, and board advisory services.

His first book, The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm, was published by ATD in 2017. His recent follow-up, 12 Winning Strategies for Building a Talent Development Firm is now available on Amazon.

He can be reached at: 952.942.7291 or [email protected]

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