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What training execs need to know about marketing campaigns

I was sorry to miss the #chat2lrn Twitter chat last Thursday morning because they featured a topic that OnFulfillment feels very passionately about, although perhaps in a slightly different way than the chat presented. The topic was "What Can Marketing Teach L&D?"

In particular, Holly McDonald, the author of the blog post announcing this chat topic, noted that one of her concerns is "Attendance at internal workshops is sliding or we are not getting the people signing up that we thought." Of course, as the main audience was primarily instructional designers, the focus of the chat was primarily on how course development can become more compelling by borrowing ideas from marketing. And while this was the focus, I'd argue that for some Learning folks, the ones who must not just create courses, but sell them to customers and partners for a profit, understanding more about marketing is critical.

training for saleSteve Friar, OnFulfillment's CEO, and I have been chatting for a while about writing a series of guest posts around marketing for Education Services based on some of my experiences in doing just that, and this topic provided the perfect catalyst to start.

OnFulfillment has many Education Services clients, mostly in high tech, who use the company for training materials management and fulfillment. With this service, OnFulfillment's value proposition is that they cut costs, thus helping increase training margins. Saving on physical materials delivery and also moving to less expensive options, such as secure, online document delivery for courseware, are key for any training organization.

But having a profitable training business isn't just about managing operations and growing margins. Training executives are also obviously concerned with driving more revenue from training by increasing fill rates, driving more sales of onsite training courses, and moving more students to higher margin on-demand and virtual training courses.

Per TSIA's Education Services practice, both "Growing margins by reducing delivery expense" and "Establishing a dedicated education services sales force" are top business issues for Education Services teams. So, both managing costs and growing sales are priorities. Seems pretty clear. But I would argue that a dedicated sales force won't have any leads to sell to without a dedicated marketing team and a systematic marketing program behind them.

But sometimes, training teams simply don't know where to start to market their course offerings more effectively. Why? 

  • lack of marketing experience with members of their internal L&D team
  • no resources to spare to manage marketing
  • few resources from corporate marketing because services revenue is  perceived as not as high a priority as software license revenue

So, what to do? Yes, as Holly pointed out in her post, content marketing is part of the solution. By the way, content marketing isn't new. Good marketers, particularly in B2B, have been providing content for years. What is new is that we have new mediums to create content. For example, 10+ years ago, we might have created a seminar or white paper that was promoted via email and direct mail. Today, we can add in newer content media such as webinars, podcasts, slide share, videos, and ebooks that are now promoted not only via email and direct mail, but also via all of the available social media sites - LinkedIn, Youtube, SlideShare, Twitter, Google+, etc. Some ideas for content for helping prospects buy training might be:

  • Snippets of actual training courses, perhaps a single module out of an on-demand course
  • Tips & tricks from instructors
  • Instructor bios/interviews
  • Student testimonial videos
  • ROI calculator or spreadsheet helping justify the cost of training vs. the cost of hiring outside consultants to the job
  • Case study of successful implementation project, one that wouldn't have been successful without trained staff
  • Stats, perhaps presented in an infographic format, outlining the likelihood of success of projects that budgeted for training vs. those that did not

In addition to content, the other key element is automating delivery of that content based on when and how your customer needs the information to make a buying decision, or what is known as "lead nurturing." For example, a software company that offers education services to customers, would typically have a Course 1, Course 2 and Certification testing. They have an awesome opportunity to move a customer along by targeting him with relevant content triggered by key customer life cycle points (e.g., new software purchase, new software release/upgrade, new functionality released, annual renewal, new hire/new support contact in CRM, etc.). For example, sending a series of Welcome emails to new software license customers might be one type of lead nurturing.  This type of email series outlining the training available may seem like an obvious marketing campaign that every Education Services team should have in place. But, in many cases, this doesn't happen because the 'Welcome' is sent by a different group, such as corporate marketing or customer support, without including training input or information.

A second type of nurturing would be based on prior purchase of training. For example, if a student just completed Course 1, you could design a nurturing campaign that does something like the following:

  • Day 1 - you send an immediate email thanking student and asking him to complete a survey (collecting quotes and other great content for future marketing via the survey!)
  • Week 1 - student gets an email invitation to join a LinkedIn group or some other type of online community exclusively for those who've taken a class, allowing classmates to keep in touch with one another and to have exclusive access to ask the instructor questions
  • Week 2 - student gets a mailed personal thank you note from the instructor, with a coupon containing a discount code for a colleague to sign up for the same course
  • Week 4 - student gets a "personal" email from the instructor touching base, highlighting a few relevant Q&A items that have been submitted by students and answered
  • Week 8 - student gets email with a bit more advanced content that the student might find helpful since he's been using the software for 2 months and a list of upcoming Course 2 options
  • Week 12 - invitation for Course 2 with discount code (sending both an email and direct mail postcard or letter is great here)

This is a pretty simple example, but you could also incorporate SMS (text messaging) if students have given their permission, include telemarketing if appropriate, and you could also include various branches of the 'nurture flow' based on student behavior (e.g., if student clicked on reg link but didn't sign up, send a second message 1 week later, etc).

Sadly, many of Education Services teams don't have the experience, resources, or marketing automation system access or know-how to create and manage these types of campaigns, and therefore, they leave money on the table. Look for upcoming posts with more "how to" details on the steps it takes to enable 'content marketing' and 'lead nurturing' marketing programs like the one outlined above.

And now for the shameless plug - OnFulfillment offers integrated marketing campaign services like those outlined above. OnFulfillment's marketing automation platform lets you create integrated email, direct mail and text messaging campaigns, with sophisticated functionality including personalized URLs (PURLS), SMS options and QR codes. We'd love to chat about your current plans for marketing Education Services. Contact us to find out how we can help.

Today we are featuring a guest post by Jennifer Melwani. Jennifer is a marketing consultant who provides demand generation services to high tech companies. She recently completed a consulting project with the Education Services team of a large enterprise software company.

Topics: Print On Demand Direct Mail Courseware Marketing Asset Management