Learning and development is becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace. With the austerity of the past few years, budgets have tightened and businesses have looked to jettison costs that they believe they can do without. When it comes to training, it’s tough to quantify its rate of return. Therefore, it’s often an area that gets the heave-ho in the budget meeting at the first sign of troubled financial waters.
Economic growth in recent months means that it looks increasingly like those waters are being left behind. But this doesn’t herald booming budgets, flippant spending and a golden age for L&D. Despite widespread fiscal improvements, the majority of companies are still working within the confines of economic austerity, which means that trainers still need to work hard to justify their worth, while competing against shrinking budgets and in-house alternatives.
So while the marketplace continues to evolve, trainers need to evolve too. The basics of your training material or the core concepts of the knowledge you impart might not change extensively, but you need to make sure that you as a business are adapting if you want to stay ahead and be successful.
With that in mind then and to put it bluntly – you need to sell yourself to the market. To help you do this, I’ve put together a few pointers surrounding the key elements that you need to focus on if you want to sell yourself and demonstrate your worth to any potential new business.
Who are you trying to reach?
First and foremost – think about whom you’re trying to reach. The more targeted your approach to business, the greater the likelihood of your success. Put together a top 25 companies or businesses that you want to work with and make sure that what you’re doing is focused on them. Where do they get their information? Shout about yourself in areas that are relevant to them. Where are they going to hear about you? You need to think about the platforms you can target – so, to name a few that could be the press, Google, social and networking events.
But it’s not just a case of making your voice heard. If you’re going to shout about yourself you need to back it up. In today’s world, people have the internet at their finger tips. Your website is going to be the first port of call for anyone looking to take up your services, therefore you need to ensure that your hub does the job of shouting about you. Ensure its well designed and contains the necessary information. Update it regularly. It also pays to have it SEO optimised, so that any potential new business is more likely to come across your website. Part of this might involve putting a content marketing plan in place – using key words and updating your onsite blog and news section to push it up the search results.
Database building and engagement
Think database – a wealth of industry contacts can work wonders. Take every opportunity you can to add to your database. It’s a good idea to have a data capture form on your website, encouraging people to keep in touch. Then keep in regular contact – send out updates of what’s going on, whether that be a newsletter or industry tips and key pointers to raise your profile and keep you fresh in their mind.
Talk to the press
Promote yourself to the right audience by featuring in relevant leading industry publications. If you’re involved in HR training for example then look to appear in relevant publications to get yourself noticed by the right people. You can either employ a PR agency to connect you with these media outlets if you have the budget, or alternatively you can try to approach them directly if you have relevant news.
It’s free, has a global reach and is a great way of raising your profile. In a professional capacity, LinkedIn is a great way of connecting with key decision makers. Similarly, following and interacting with central figures on Twitter will help to get you noticed.
Get on the speaker circuit
Secure speaker opportunities at relevant trade shows/events where possible. It’s a great way of connecting with the right people, as well as allowing you to showcase your communication and engagement skills. You’re effectively shouting about your ability while demonstrating it at the same time making it hugely advantageous.
Bring out a book
In this day and age, self-publishing a book is a relatively straightforward matter. As an experienced L&D practitioner, you should be proficient in putting together training modules. These modules can be used as the basis for an authoritative book on the subject of training. Before publication it’s a good idea to send it to your target companies (i.e. the top 25) and ask them for comment/opinion. If you approach them with something along the lines of ‘I see you as one of the industry leaders when it comes to…’ and then ask for their input, this approach will not only get you noticed, it will swell your target’s sense of import, which will be conducive to building a working relationship.
Consider adverts in strategic publications. While the majority of marketing is aimed at building your own authority and enhancing your profile, adverts can help to increase brand awareness with the added advantage of certainty. If you’ve paid for an advertisement, it’ll be there.
Finally then; look to use case studies. As mentioned previously, when it comes to training (like marketing itself), it’s hard to put a rate of return on the investment. If you’ve done good work in the past, make sure that any prospective employers/clients are aware of this and prominently display this on your website or in any marketing materials. Use case studies to good effect and communicate the benefits that your work can provide.
Good luck and great success.