Stop Learning And BUY Something! How To Turn Trainees Into Customers (Part 1).
Everybody knows that your current customers are your best prospects. But how about the current participants in your training courses?
Are course participants customers or clients or what? And should you be cultivating them as a lucrative incremental revenue source -- or focusing 100% on trying to satisfy their learning needs.
Let's begin with a simple acid test of whether or not you should bother aggressively marketing to a given training population:
In our experience, if a given training audience was directed by their company to receive training, then you will have an extremely difficult time trying to persuade them to choose additional training on their own initiative -- even if their company is willing to pay. Looking at the flip side, individuals who have participated in a learning experience as a result of their own initiative are 5x more likely to respond to a follow up invitation than their conscripted peers.
Let's see how this plays out in some typical training scenarios.
A. Licensed Training
You make a living licensing course materials to the HR departments of large companies who are ultimately responsible for training delivery.
You fantasize: "If only we could get a list of the individuals who are trained with our materials, complete with contact information -- then we could promote directly to them and dramatically scale up our business."
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Don't bother. Most companies won't want to go to the trouble to capture and communicate the identities of individual learners, even if you bribe them or coerce them. They may also perceive such a request by you as a ploy to police usage. In our experience, you will do better promoting to rented lists of proven training buyers than trying to hitchhike on these "behind the fire wall" trainees who have almost certainly been shanghaied into a learning experience.
B. Single Company Seminars
Sometimes called "on-sites" or "exclusives", single company seminars are where you provide both the course materials and the instructor, while your customer is responsible for rounding up a classroom full of course participants.
You fantasize: "Wow, let's add on-site participants to our mailing list and promote our public seminars to them."
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Do see if there's a way your instructor can capture contact information for each on-site seminar attendee -- perhaps in conjunction with arranging to mail them their course completion certificate -- or collecting course evaluation feedback. But don't waste your money promoting to all of them. Instead, include some qualifying questions to determine the extent to which each individual is inclined to personally purchase information and training related offerings. For example:
C. Enterprise E-learning And TBT Subscriptions
You are a B2B e-learning provider focusing on selling complete learning solutions accessible across an entire enterprise via a simple Web browser. Typically these solutions capture a wealth of information about each individual learner, not only contact information, but also job roles, personal learning plans, course participation and test history. Even better, all of this rich data resides on your server.
You fantasize: "What an opportunity. All we have to do is to mine all of this data, and then we can direct upsell offers to individual participants specific to their learning history and job requirements."
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Whoa there! This thought is fraught with peril. To begin with, most HRD professionals want to bless and control all of the training everyone in their company participates in. So it's highly unlikely your client will agree to let you prospect among their employees -- especially using proprietary information they provided you with in confidence. Furthermore, even if you get permission at an enterprise level, many employees are not going to take kindly to being spammed. So you'll need to ask their permission, too. Finally, even though e-mail promotion is "free" your rewards are apt to be meager -- because 80% of all enterprise learning participants will have been directed to learn and so will never buy anything from you, even if their company pays for it. And those that do buy will nickel and dime you into a transaction intensive, costly B2C relationship.
In summary, if you are seeking incremental business from a current B2B e-learning customer, you are better off going for some sort of an upgrade at the enterprise level than trying to enter into a B2C relationship with their employees.
D. Public Seminar Attendees
You are a public seminar provider, promoting both to individual learners and to corporations who purchase course "vouchers" or "passports" so they can send a sizeable population of their employees at a reduced rate.
You fret: "We're spending a fortune mailing course promotion catalogues and brochures to our entire housefile of previous public course attendees. Is it worth sending promotion to previous attendees who were sent as opposed to deciding on their own to attend?"
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Generally it's worth promoting to all public course attendees, whether they personally decided to attend or were sent. That's because companies that send individuals to public courses are also usually supportive of individuals who want to attend on their own initiative. So, even if a given participant was coerced to attend by their company, there is a reasonable chance that promotion which is sent to them will be passed along to a co-worker who is more receptive.
If you want to test being more selective, then ask course attendees the qualifying questions in section B, above. This will help ensure that you direct the bulk of your promotion to the attendees that are the most inclined to act on it.
E. Executive Leadership Programs
You are a prestigious university or private think tank offering $7500+ residential leadership development experiences to high potential senior executives. You fantasize: "All of those highly placed big shots eating out of our hand. I'll bet with a little persuasion we can get them to return to campus every year."
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Don't assume that these senior executives will be more responsive to your follow on education promotions. Many participants in executive leadership programs are there as a result of company policy -- not any particular eagerness to learn. However, DO promote your organization's consulting services and your ability to bring customized education programs on site to address the needs of general employee populations. If you make only one sale, you could be looking at as much as $250,000 in incremental business -- maybe even more.
Stay tuned to Part 2 of "How To Turn Trainees Into Customers" in a future issue of Training Business E-Visory, where we'll discuss how to use your public course instructors to effectively sell on platform -- without diminishing the learning experience one iota!