The Top 10 Strategies to Market Training to Your Workforce

The Top 10 Strategies to Market Training to Your Workforce
As a training manager in this new age of training, you've probably found it necessary to hone your marketing skills. Marketing and training aren't new to each other. The top training departments in the largest corporations in the world view marketing as an essential ingredient in their training success.

Knowing how important marketing is, you might wonder what marketing activities you should focus on. In other words, what marketing works for training? Fortunately, there are some tried and true methods that I've watched work over and over again.

1.Get the endorsement of each level of management.
This may not sound like marketing, but it's the best possible way to 'sell' your classes. Getting management buy-in means that you've convinced your company's leaders to endorse your program, actively promote it and possibly even make it a requirement.

2.Create a strong presence on the company intranet.
Putting a course catalogue on their intranet is usually the first thing a training department does to market their courses. These days, if it's not on the web, it's too hard to find. Also, most people like to see it in print on the web before they actually talk to a live person or take any sort of action.

3. Make it easy to sign up.
A widely known truth in marketing and sales is that customers will buy more if you make it easier for them to make a purchase. It's that simple. It can be very frustrating for consumers to deal with organizations that make it more difficult than it should be. The problem is that the seller is thinking from their perspective, not the perspective of their buyer. Step out of your shoes for a moment and into your customer's ways of thinking. This can sometimes be pretty challenging, but you'll quickly see where you can make improvements that your customers will notice.

4.Send regular emails.
Nobody likes spam. But there's no question that email can generate the biggest bang for your buck. However, it's important to consider the following:
- Every email needs to add value: You have to make it clear what's in it for them and provide information that's perceived as valuable. Otherwise, they'll call it spam. eNewsletters work well for this.
- Send the right message to the right person: Although it's tempting to send mass emails to everyone in your company, it's more important that you send the right message to the right person. If you're offering IT training, send it only to the IT department.
- Make it easy to opt out: In each email, give a way to opt out. If you do this, it nearly always satisfies people who might have otherwise complained about your email.
- Plan at least six months in advance: Put together a simple schedule that contains the content of each email, who you're sending it to and when it will be sent. This increases the chance that your emails will actually get done, and that they'll be sent on a consistent basis.

5.Publish an eNewsletter.
It's an email, but it's not as easy to produce as most emails. eNewsletters are usually very effective, and are generally perceived as valuable communications by most people. The problem is that they take a lot of time to produce and are hard to publish consistently. Here are some tips to guarantee your first eNewsletter won't be your last.
- Don't be over ambitious: The eNewsletter highway is paved with eNewsletters that were produced once and never heard from again. Start with a quarterly newsletter, which is realistic. If it works well, you can always move to bi-monthly.
- Get help from training suppliers: Your training suppliers have a vested interest in making you successful. Good suppliers have the tools, articles, and expertise to produce and distribute your Newsletter.
- Do it yourself: Newsletters are not difficult if you're doing them yourself. The hard part is getting others to write articles and deliver them on time. If you can't manage the eNewsletter yourself, make sure that the person you put in charge has a vested interest in its success and is willing to commit the time it takes.

6.Broadcast webinars.
Although webinars and seminars are similar in nature, they are very different in who and how many they attract, and how they're managed. Webinars tend to get lots of registrations and appeal to people in remote offices and those who are extremely busy. These are people who might never attend a seminar but would sign up for a webinar. Webinars are usually less expensive to put on and require less work on your part, but be prepared for the gotchas, which you need to be ready for.

7.Hold lunch-and-learns.
As a training person, using seminars for marketing is a natural extension of your expertise. The added benefit of a seminar is that it's an opportunity to showcase what you do, which gives your customers tangible proof that you know what you're doing.

8.Don't pass up free exposure.
There are lots of unique communications channels in your company that will help get your message out. Examples are bulletin boards, intranets, newsletters, company events, and vendor fairs. Sometimes, you just have to ask to be included and you'll get some valuable free exposure.

9.Use incentives, rewards, promotions, and recognition.
For this one, I've heard objections like, "We're not going to pay our people to attend training". This is a mental hurdle, and getting past it will open up new worlds of opportunity for designing marketing programs to fill up your classes.

10.Communicate - What's In It For Me.
This seems obvious enough, but it requires putting yourself in the customer's shoes and continuing to think the way they do. To do this, you need ongoing communication with your workforce and lots of openness and empathy towards their comments and suggestions. Once you know what they want, focus your marketing message around it. For instance, if certification is a hot button for your IT folks, then your communications should focus on it and talk about how your courses will help get them certified.