Marketing ideas for small training providers that will increase your course bookings


There are some simple things you can do to bring more focus to your marketing, get more leads and in the end increase your course bookings. None of what follows is complicated and you don’t need to have a big budget. You do need time though - to spend on planning, research and writing.

Get a simple marketing plan

Creating a marketing plan isn’t difficult. There are lots of free templates on the web, but it ‘s actually pretty easy to come up with your own. You’re creating a document - do it in a table - that needs to include things like:

  1. Your target market. Include a description of your ideal customer.
  2. Your value proposition. Write down in two or three sentences exactly what is that you do that adds value for your customers.
  3. How you will reach new customers. What are primary and secondary sales channels?
  4. Budget. How much time and money will you spend across the different activities in your marketing plan?
  5. How you’ll measure progress.

The point of the plan is to get you and your team thinking in a structured way about the kind of customers you want and how you might find them.

Choose your sales channels wisely

Make a list of sales channels and then pick the two that you think are good fits for your business. How do you choose? One thing you can do is think about your competitors. How do they find new business? Maybe you pick the same sales channel, but you try to do it better.

Here are six sales channels to get you thinking:

  1. Online advertising (Google Adwords, Facebook etc)
  2. Print advertising (local, trade magazines etc)
  3. Resellers
  4. Telesales
  5. Direct email marketing
  6. Content & SEO

Choose two channels - a primary and a secondary. Split your time and budget 75-25 between the two. Be clear about how much time and budget you’re going to spend on each channel.

Identify opportunities for PR

Why not look at PR? It takes time to do it well, but unlike paid advertising it is free. There Are almost certainly opportunities near you for some local PR. You should think about things like:

  1. Writing a piece for a trade magazine.
  2. Providing some of your time for free for a local good cause and then writing about it.
  3. Writing a press release and then trying to persuade your local paper to publish it.
  4. Finding your way onto a local radio station to talk about your business.

PR is free but it takes time to do it well. You need to find out how to write a press release, find good photos and know who to contact.

You also need to find something to write about - look for the news in what you do. Is it a new office, an award, some work you’ve done with the community or an exciting new course offer? Most organisations - when they take the time to think about it - have got something they can turn into news and use for PR.

Look for inspiration in competitor websites

You can learn a lot by looking at competitor websites. Can three you find three websites from competitors that you think are more successful than you? You’re looking for ideas, you want to make a list of the interesting things your competitors are doing.

Here are 5 simple ideas from successful training company websites:

  1. A chat widget. It is easy to integrate and test a third party chart widget. You could run a trial over a limited period - count how often visitors respond and then convert into learners.
  2. Write a blog. Look at competitor websites - what kinds of things do people write about? Can you build an audience around free advice through the blog and then use the audience to generate more enrolments? Building an audience around a blog takes time and you need to be persistent. Aim for one shorter post every 2 weeks or a longer post every month.
  3. Streamline your course booking process. Use a system like Coursedate to publish courses and capture bookings online. You can integrate Coursedate with your website to give interested learners a more seamless course browsing and course booking experience.
  4. Offer some free elearning and link it to your website. Use the free elearning to capture email addresses. Build up a mailing list.
  5. Get smart about using reviews. Write positive stories about the experiences of the people who attend your courses. Make sure to include photos. Also, find out how to use correctly formatted metadata. This makes it easier to share your stories on social media.

Get passionate about social media

Choose one of the following and invest some time in making it work well:

  1. Instagram - younger adults and teenagers.
  2. Facebook - parents and grandparents of younger adults and teenagers.
  3. Twitter - hard, but not impossible to make it work.
  4. LinkedIn - business audience. Safe, but dull.

There are three important things to know when you start to use social media for business:

  1. Each social media platform has a different audience.
  2. People engage with other people on social media - they want a conversation. It can be hard to make that work at first, so find some good examples from other businesses (not necessarily training providers) and copy them.
  3. Keep doing it - little and often.

Conclusion

There’s a final point to be made about marketing plans. It's important to plan, be clear about goals and be persistent. Sometimes it takes time for things to work. It’s also important to know when something isn’t working and then be prepared to change it or stop it completely. There’s a good post here about how to find customers if you’re an online software business:

How to Get Your First 25 SaaS Customers

The author’s got a list of things he did to get his first 25 customers. The list is worth reading - most of it applies to any kind of business. One thing he says that is worth remembering - “You just have to hustle, try a bunch of things and see what works”.