Train smarter not harder

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Written by Stuart Banbery on 26 February 2016

Owners, MD’s and Marketing Managers at training companies regularly tell me they are constantly under pressure to “do more with less” and having to come up with new and innovative ways to deliver training and grow their business.

Client budgets are being squeezed, saturation amongst training providers is high and operating costs continue to climb. Despite these challenging conditions, business change and growth still needs to occur – CEO’s are now looking to Directors and Managers to be the catalyst for this change.

Some of the best marketing activities I’ve seen executed by training providers haven’t cost a lot of money. Of course there is the labour involved, that certainly is a real cost. But, if you offer a great training service, have a strong team around you that are open to new ways of doing things – you’re halfway there.

Based on interactions with our portfolio of ambitious training company clients, we’ve identified the top 10 ways they are competing, developing and growing their business.

1. Plan, plan and then plan some more

To develop an effective and achievable marketing strategy you must immerse yourself in your business, sector and competitors. What are the key trends and drivers? What are your clients’ pains and needs? What are your competitors’ offerings and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Read as many independent sector reports as you can, identify the direction of travel for the industry and orientate your business accordingly.

2. So what’s so special and about you?

Spend time developing your unique business value proposition and market position. I can’t say enough about the importance of spending quality time crystallizing your business value proposition. Consider where you can achieve a competitive advantage over other training providers? What do you current customers value about you? Is there a gap in the market you can exploit and achieve a unique position?

3. Bad news travels faster than good

A large percentage of every training purchase is in some way influenced by a referral. Before people buy training they will talk to someone who has already experienced that training. This means that your customers need to be leaving your courses with a positive impression. Good customer communications, effective feedback and evaluation tools and a quick and simple booking process will help ensure your happy customers pass your name on to colleagues and peers.

4. Your current customers are your best customers

Focus on marketing to your current customers first. Every time you communicate with a customer, capture the information in a CRM system. As you build up a bank of customer data in your CRM solution, you can then interrogate this to identify new trends and identify cross-sell / up-sell opportunities. Your email client, linked to your CRM system, can then be used to target new customer segments. After a course, customers should have a very clear idea of what to take next, this may not be “right now”, but they need to know where they’re going next and why.

5. Teaching to the converted

What percentage of enquiries do you convert to sales? If you don’t know what that percentage is, I bet you’ll be surprised. This is where robust internal processes and training management software can deliver clear business visibility and intelligence. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not closing one in five sales calls, then there’s still some work to be done. If you were able to close 20 per cent of your incoming calls, how much would this increase your revenue? You might also be surprised at the answer to this.

6. Hello…is it leads you’re looking for?

In this day and age your website must offer a quick, simple and convenient way for your website visitors to book online. Leading training providers now hook up their website to their training management system, and the rest is taken care of. The customer books and pays using an online form, course confirmation is automatically emailed out, the CRM software is updated and finance is notified – all from within one solution. Optimise your website for Google by adding regular and original content and ensure your visitors can find the information they want with as few clicks as possible and place it behind a form so you can grab their details.

7. Spammer horror

Also, do a newsletter, this is a natural for a training company. Promote your upcoming course schedule with links to where prospects can book on your website. Showcase your success stories. Remember that for your prospects, the timing of the course is almost as important as the course itself.

8. Customer recommendation…the holy grail of advertising!

Like I mentioned earlier, almost no one buys training before they learn about how good the training is from a colleague. Grow your business by putting testimonials and positive quotes on your website, brochures and social media platforms. There’s a direct correlation between the number of testimonials a prospect reads and their likelihood to buy your training.

Document your success stories and get customer testimonials whenever you can. Use classroom spotlight stories on clients that have seen a significant, and hopefully measurable ROI. Make the documents warm and interesting, bring out the human element.

9. Believe in your #selfie

Position yourself as a thought-leader and trusted source of information. Use this position to drive people back to your website and blog posts, converting them and then nurturing them with further content based on the data you are building up in your CRM/Training Management Software. Move them through the sales funnel until they get in touch, or are ready for you to contact them. Don’t just broadcast, start conversations in these social spaces and build relationships with prospects. Build your followers and promote your original, informative and non-corporate sales content…remember, social media is about people!

10. Share and share alike

Remember, there’s a lot of training companies who are in the same boat that you are. Like you they provide great training, are a similar size and shape, and have similar resources. Call these people, get to know them, and share what you’ve learned. Nine times out of ten, if they’re not direct competition, they’ll share what they have learned too. One great idea that you can immediately apply to your business can be the difference between profit and loss. This is knowledge that you will rarely find in books.

Well, there you have it, 10 ideas that show how leading training providers are using simple marketing, sound business practice and modern training management software to grow and evolve their business.

Yes client budgets are being squeezed, yes L&D market saturation is high and yes the training landscape is changing, but despite these challenges those learning providers embracing new technologies and business change are thriving.

About the author 

Stuart Banbery is part of the marketing team at Training Management Software. He can be contacted via