Using your course content to sell more training
I know what you’re thinking - give away our course content for free? Don’t worry, that’s not what I’m suggesting. What I am suggesting is using elements of your course material to produce content marketing collateral, then sharing and tracking this using your training management software to meet specific strategic aims.
The important thing here is that the content you share must add value to the individual, company or market that you are targeting…and in order to do that, you must first understand their challenges and objectives.
Successful content creation and promotion will allow you to leverage a number of key marketing/ business development benefits. You will raise your brand awareness and profile, position yourself as a thought-leader and build trust, build a community of followers, generate traffic and leads….and ultimately, will sell more training.
You will be collecting prospect information using online forms, so a powerful digital marketing platform will be central to the success of your campaign. The latest training management software now has integrated digital marketing, CRM, reporting and social media tracking modules, so you can quickly and easily start to build a picture of your customers based on what they download, what they view on your website and what they share in social spaces – essential for your lead nurturing campaigns.
This valuable information can then be passed on to your sales team and used by them to convert leads to new customers. But always be mindful that people are giving you their personal information, so store this securely and comply with all current data protection laws.
Who to target
In order for you to be seen as a valued resource to prospects, enticing them to subscribe to your blog or follow you on Twitter etc, your content must help them look good or perform great in their role. Simply, think of the content that you produce as the tools to empower them to do this.
Next, you need to consider which specific people your content is for, these are usually those with decision-making influence or authority to purchase training, the delegates that will be receiving the training, or the delegates line Manager.
Construct a fictional profile of your targets, give them a name, an age, identify their goals and challenges and how you can help them meet these. If you can, validate these profile with existing customers in similar roles. This will help focus your content creation and is an important step, it will make it clear who you want to attract and convert with your marketing.
If one profile has most influence or the final say, start with them and target them first. This is your best chance of achieving a quick-win and if successful will also result in your name and content cascading down to line managers and potential learners beneath.
Produce content that your targets will want to share (via email client, training management software, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) will extend the reach of your content and help spread your message organically. So think what they will find truly helpful and will make them “look good” when sharing
The people controlling the purse strings
Key decision makers and influencers (directors, CEO’s, owners etc) will assess your brand, the characteristics it embodies and your previous success stories – remember, people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.
However first they must recognise that the need for a learning interventions exists. Usually this takes the form of owners and directors noticing a worrying trend in the KPI’s that they track in their end-of-month reports.
Most companies will firstly try and resolve the problem internally, using resources that they currently have. Inevitably this does not solve the problem and they will begin to look externally for expert help - this is where you must ensure that your marketing content exists in the places they will be looking (Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, forums).
Your content must educate and inform those searching for a solution to how they can take effective action. Do this well and the prospect will often make contact and ask for more information – or at the very least visit your website. This then begs the question, does your website have strong calls to action and lead generation mechanisms (forms, gated content, downloads, lead intelligence software etc)?
By tracking a prospects movements and downloads on your website you will soon build a picture of their needs and interests. When you pass this information to your sales team, they can then make a much more informed telephone call. The latest integrated training management software and Marketing automation software will do this for you.
If you can clearly demonstrate a clear line of sight between your training and a tangible ROI for their business, this then shifts their thinking from simply staff training to value-added, performance-based training. This is essential if you don’t want to be viewed simply as a commodity product, but a long-term partner and extension to their business.
So, where to start?
The beauty of this marketing approach is that it is completely scalable and applicable to any niche dynamics. Start off small with monthly blogs, emails, daily social updates and fewer but high quality pieces of “hero” content (ebooks, how to guides, independent research, infographics etc), and gradually turn the dial up with additional activity and content. But don’t forget to track what works well, where and why.
It will need to be a team effort to launch and sustain the campaign, the more people you can get involved with producing content to easier it will be. Although marketing should ultimately be responsible for proofing, design work and messaging. Plan it like a project, give people tasks and deadlines for final versions – a PM tool can be helpful here.
Hold regular content planning meetings and develop an editorial schedule for your blogging. Knowing what you are writing about and to who each week will make things easier. Have a think about which pieces of content will work best for your audience and how these will be promoted. Use the information on your persona’s challenges and goals and map your content to this. Think about where does your curriculum line up to this and how can you use it?
Give wider members of your team a presence on social media, encourage them to build a community, join in with conversations and debates and share their knowledge along with your content, this will extend its reach. This is where validating the information you have on your personas and where they exist online will be crucial.
The devil is in the detail. “Close the loop” on your marketing tactics by capturing and analysing your key metrics all the way from planning and execution, through to enquiry and sale. Track any trends and use this to make continual refinements to your campaigns.
Making the move from traditional push/advertisement-based marketing is a big step and can be somewhat unnerving to more traditional marketing departments in training companies. However, if you can master the art of sharing content deemed to be of considerable value by your target market, the ROI can be huge.
You already have the curriculum content ready, if you can develop an effective strategy and put in place a robust marketing process that everyone buys into – you’re pretty much there. Anyway, sharing content is what you do for a living as a training company.
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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