"How should I promote my training?" That is the main question I get asked when I talk to customers and one of the biggest pain points I am seeing in the customer education world.
Remember how we keep saying "you need to have a customer education strategy before you start building your training program". Same applies here. You need to have a marketing strategy to be able to promote your training program effectively.
You have developed and put your training out there for a reason, and when no one signs up to take it, it is pretty frustrating. Especially when the reason you have built it, is that customers asked for it in the first place. Well, the "build it and they'll come" mindset does not work for a couple of reasons:
- How would they come if they don't know it exists? You need to create awareness first. Hoping that people will stumble upon your training program and it will become an overnight blockbuster is wishful thinking. People are busy. Even if they need to learn how to use your software or how to use it better, they have other higher priorities. They often just don't think about it. You have to help them discover your learning.
- Why would they invest the time if they don't understand the value? In other words, what's in it for them? Learn to speak your learners' language, tell them what problems your training could solve for them and how it will help them do their job more efficiently. Do this well and your training just got into the evaluation and consideration stage of their buyer's journey.
Now that we established that you need some kind of a marketing strategy for you training program, let's put our marketer hats on and look at what are some attainable ideas you can put into practice immediately:
1. Reach out to your most loyal customers... your brand advocates
What better way to get a sense of the value your training program brings than hearing directly from your target audience? Start with a controlled experiment: make a list of your top 20 customers, include those who have repeatedly asked for training, and ask them to take your program. Picking up the phone may sound time-consuming but it is the most effective way because it makes this outreach very personal and they will be more likely to agree.
Taking the time to talk to them shows them that you care and it will help strengthen the relationship with them. Position your request as their benefit, show them you highly value their opinion, treat them as your most trusted advisers. Enlist your customer success team to help, if you have one, because they are always looking for something unique and exclusive to offer to customers as a token of appreciation. After all, there is a direct correlation between customer retention, product adoption and customer education so you need to make sure you get it right. An added bonus is that you may be able to get a nice testimonial out of this that you can later use to promote the value of your training program.
2. Weave in a traditional marketing campaign
Before you start planning your marketing campaign, make sure you have value propositions that connect to your target audience on emotional level. When crafting them, try to answer two key questions: "Why should I care about taking this training program?" and "What's in it for me?" In other words, what is the value to your prospective learners: professional growth, skill development, increase in productivity, cost efficiency, etc. I'll share more on how to write compelling value propositions in another post.
The next logical step is to plan a promotional campaign around your training program. Your marketing team is your new best friend, chat with them to hear their recommendations on which communication methods would work best for you: emails, webinars, blog posts, press release, social media posts, podcasts, etc. To create more awareness, you should leverage as many as possible, as long as they make sense for the audience you are trying to reach.
Email still rules
In the B2B world, the email is still one of the most effective channels for lead generation. Plan an email campaign that promotes an exclusive offer and put a sense of urgency around it (For example, "The first 50 students who enroll and complete their coursework will get one-year exclusive full access to any new training content we release." or "The first 10 students who enroll and complete their coursework will be featured in our newsletter"). The incentive should be something your learners value. If you are trying to promote to both existing customers and prospects, make sure you customize the message and the offering because "one size does not fit all". For customers, hand pick some courses relevant to their expertise level and offer them as a learning path. For prospects, promote courses that would teach them the fundamentals of your product and show the value.
Use webinars to put your learners in the spotlight
Run a webinar where you can invite as guest-speakers some of the customers that have already gone through the program. Focus your presentation on the outcomes and if possible, quantify the results, e.g. "productivity increased 15% as a result of this course because we learned how to automate this one task" or "we saved $1,500 a month because since I took the training, I can create the workflows myself and we don't need a consultant anymore". Your attendees will relate to that because your active users want to enhance their product knowledge, want to become even more efficient, and who doesn't like to save money?
Educational content marketing...you know how to do that
Leverage content marketing as a strategy because it will not only bring visibility to your training program, but also establish your company as an industry expert. After all, you have put the time and effort to pour your knowledge into a structured educational program with the sole purpose to make customers more knowledgeable and more independent. Write a blog post, create an eBook, publish a customer success story, include infographic to convey why providing high-quality training is critical for customer retention and product usage.
Pro tip: Don't just use your company content marketing channels to spread the word, find your industry influencers and reach out to them to see if they are willing to write about the success of your program or ask customers to share their experience going through your training program.
3. Explore some unconventional approaches
Establish a learner community that provides access to individuals enrolled in your training program. Name it something cool like "The inner circle" or "The expert guild" or "The elite squad" to instill a sense of exclusivity. Use it as a forum where learners can connect, share best practices, discuss ideas, ask questions. Start hosting a series of events that feature subject-matter experts in your industry. Make the access exclusive only to the community members and use this as a value proposition to drive people to your program.
Start your own training conference and establish it as the go-to-event for gaining knowledge and expertise in your industry. Plan and facilitate a big training event with live sessions where attendees get something extra compared to taking your training program online.
Incorporate gamification to keep learners active and immersed in your program. Share their progress on a leaderboard and have an annual award ceremony (even if it's virtual) where the most active learners get a trophy or a medal. Create your own "Learner Olympics" to encourage participation.
Don't be afraid to experiment: you cannot learn anything if you don't try anything
As a marketer, I love the challenge to think of different ways to influence the prospects' decision. When it comes to marketing, there is no perfect formula because there are so many variables in the equation:
- Did you reach out at the right day and the right time?
- Did your message resonate?
- Did you use the right communication channel?
- Did you put the right offering in front of the right audience?
- Is this the content format that appeals to your audience?
- Was your call-to-action clear?
One thing is for sure, you can't possibly foresee all the variables and expect to put out a communication that connects the same way with every single person you have reached out to. However, you can keep trying by experimenting with the subject line, the call to action, the format of content (blog vs. ebook vs. webinar vs. guide vs. video vs. infographic vs. presentation), the day and time to send out your communication and eventually, by trial and error, you will get to know your audience better and you will figure out the approach that works best for you.
Even the longest journey starts with the first step so as overwhelming as this may look, make the first step and keep walking. You will get there. I would love to hear about your journey.