Many training centers, especially those that exist as part of a larger corporate entity, spend the majority of time and effort creating and delivering course materials. They exist in a world where training is a function of enforced compliance. Marketing consists of statements like “each employee must complete two classes annually” that are included in every performance appraisal. But honestly – spend a few minutes marketing training to your workforce can pay huge dividends. Good marketing can increase enrollment of voluntary programs, improve perception of training, and improve transfer of training.
Talk with your corporate marketing team; if possible, have a marketing professional assigned to support training marketing efforts with you. Consistency of branding with your corporate efforts is critical.
Create a Marketing Plan
Does your training center have a marketing plan? You should. Even if all of your training is done at no charge, just for employees, a marketing plan is essential. Marketers use a variety of skills and tools. Package design, placement, branding, advertising and image are all elements. Some basic questions can help you create a basic plan:
- What is our product? What exactly are we marketing?
- What is our market, our audience? What are the characteristics of these employees?
- What is the competition; that is – what can keep our product from being successful?
- Outline strategies to market the product to the audience.
- Define success.
Develop Training as a Brand
Your company probably expends significant effort developing it’s brand. Some brands become so synonymous with a product, all similar products become known by the brand (such as Kleenex, Band-Aid, Scotch tape). The concept of developing training as a brand is so important, the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability actually includes branding as an element of their accreditation of training programs. “The programme has its own identity, including logo, micro-website, apparel, colour schemes, etc.”
Your training should have it’s own identity and brand. Even if it’s a variation of your corporate brand, you will find that certain steps you take in defining and managing the brand assist in other areas. For example, defining the logo and style guide help provide a template for development. If your marketing group has a style guide, mirror their effort.
Having a clearly defined brand can be a valuable tool. For example, instructors that show up wearing embroidered button-down shirts or dress attire with matching lapel pins can send a strong image of professionalism.
Create Personal and Professional Value
“Whats in this for me?”
Even though it seems obvious, it’s a question that you need to answer. Today’s society places great value on time; people seem to have more things to do and less time to do them each passing year. When you ask someone to attend training you are asking for a chunk of that time. Even if personnel are attending as part of their normal work schedule, when they are in training – work is either accumulating, or someone is doing their job. Ensuring that your programs have value to students is a critical function of training. Communicating that value to potential students is an essential component of your marketing.
Recognizing the difference between personal and professional value is important, too. Take advantage of opportunities to market to both sides. Training in Six Sigma or PMP provide realistic gains for the company, but also benefits the student in the event they seek a promotion or other opportunities.
Incentives and Recognition
Two words: Food and Freebies. Students are acutely aware of the economy, so simple gestures like beverages and snacks are very important. Giveaways have taken on new life, as well – but avoid gimmicky corporate stuff. Useful or fun items get a lot of attention. Offer up prizes: a Playstation 3, a gift card of sufficient value to cover a meal for 2-4 people, a quality golf shirt or hat with your training brand. Giving away low-value gift cards from obscure places or trinkets from the corporate supply closet can have the opposite effect. A classic bad example: giving an engraved pewter business card holder to an employee who didn’t even have business cards. In contrast, how many people did you see complaining after each of Oprah’s “My favorite things…” episodes?
Recognition is an important element as well. Some ways to gain a lot of value, with minimal effort:
- Be sure each attendee gets an appropriate certificate.
- Take photos. E-mail a class photo to each participant with a “thank you” from the instructor or staff member.
- Post photos to your learning management system or corporate intranet site.
- A hand-written note from a member of senior management to an individual in the class, for a specific contribution.
Marketing doesn’t mean simply blasting the entire corporate address book with training e-mails mercilessly. Your communications should be an extension of your brand and the overall marketing plan. Your marketing plan can contain a simple calendar, outlining training-related communications.
Every e-mail sent by the training center should have value for the recipient. Target your e-mails to appropriate parties – such as registered students or students with expiring certifications. Use your learning management system’s capabilities to create highly personalized, targeted e-mails.
Use proper e-mail etiquette. Send messages at appropriate times. Allow individuals to opt-out of e-mails that aren’t specific to their individual training activity. E-mail should be sent using a common template from a person within the training department, not a “catchall” e-mail account.
Your training center’s web presence can be a source of information, engagement, and interaction with your student population. Your web page should make it easy for individuals to identify training of value and register. Even if approval is required by another party such as a manager or staff member, the student should be able to initiate the registration process. Solicit ideas for new course offerings directly from your web site.
Your web presence and learning management system should be fully integrated. The easier you make it for users to interact with the site, the more engaged they will become – whether it’s signing up for training, visiting the site for updated news and information, or completing a survey. As with your e-mail, your branding should carry through to your web presence.
You’ve Built It… Go Marketing
Creating a marketing plan for your training can pay huge dividends. Learners arrive more engaged, because they already know why the topic is of value. Consistency and support of your corporate branding efforts makes the training center appear more valuable in the “big picture” as well. Your learning management system has automated tools for marketing – using them helps improve your return on that investment. Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated – work with your corporate resources, create a simple plan, and execute it well.