Do more with less: Train smarter not harder (Part 1)
Owners, MD’s and marketing managers at training companies regularly tell me they are constantly under pressure to “do more with less”, 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. Add to this the implementation of some simple marketing tactics and your business will grow - maybe not as fast as you might want it to, but it will grow.
Adding sound marketing practices to an already solid product, effective sales approach and organised business infrastructure, can be like lighting the blue touch paper on Bonfire Night.
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. As the first in a two-part series, here are the first 5;
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.
Develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed) goals for your business. From this you can then develop a marketing strategy which will help you achieve your goals, and then marketing tactics which will help you achieve your strategy.
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?
It’s time consuming, but it’s your marketing foundation. Everything else you do will ultimately lead back to this - and will benefit if you get this right. When you finish this, you will be able to clearly and succinctly communicate the value of buying your product and why it’s clear that prospects should buy from you.
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. Consider, do your customers blog about their experiences? Are there independent websites that review courses?
Implementing effective training management software and robust processes can deliver a huge return on your time and investment. You should look at every new customer as a foothold into the company they work for and their network of colleagues.
4.Your current customers are your best customers
The cost of marketing to a current customer is much less expensive than the cost of obtaining a new customer. Some marketing researchers say that this number may be as high as twenty times the cost.
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 – with email reminders at regular intervals.
5.Teaching to the converted
Every phone call or email enquiry from a qualified prospect is like a golden nugget. Do you know the value of your incoming enquiries? Do you also know the marketing cost of generating these enquiries? If you’re selling traditional classroom-based training, the potential value of an enquiry can be very high, therefore it’s essential that you treat it with the importance it deserves.
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. Long story short, measuring, benchmarking and increasing the conversion of incoming enquiries can have an immediate and huge impact.
I hope you’ve found the first part of this series useful, the main takeaway here is that, with the right tools, software and strategy, there are a lot of things you can do to grow and change your training business for the better. So, work your way through this checklist and see which you are doing, could do, or can be doing better.
Look upon challenging conditions and increased competition as a driver for innovation and an opportunity for change, helping you and your team find new, and better ways to run and grow your training business.
Look out for Part 2 in April…
About the author
In the first three parts of a new set of mini-guides called TJ Essentials, Steve Macaulay and Sarah Cook take a look at change management.
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