applesFUSION (tm)
Helping education companies teach better and sell more.


Training Business E-Visory

Subscribe for Free!

Training Business E-Visory's 3,000 subscribers include more than 400 training company owners and CEOs.

Shouldn't you join them? It's free!


Advertising In The Training Trade Magazines: 10 Do's and Don'ts.

Trade magazine advertising may or may not deserve a place in your training business marketing mix. But you'll never know unless you can come up with an effective ad in the first place.

So here are some do's and don'ts to improve your odds.


  1. Do measure every ad insertion you run. If your goal is to generate qualified sales leads, then measure the cost per lead compared with other lead generating options like direct mail, trade shows and Web banner advertising. As a rule of thumb, you can justify trade advertising if a lead costs you no more than 2x what a direct mail lead costs -- because you are reaching an expanded market universe. On the other hand, if your trade ads consistently pull poorly, don't continue to advertise based on warm and fuzzy hopes that you are increasing "awareness" or "mindshare" (unless you are able to measure this and equate it to increased business). You are just kidding yourself -- and padding the pockets of your friendly ad salesperson.

  2. Do test different audience appeals. Single out three or four powerful benefits your product or service has to offer the training community, and come up with a strong "promise" headline and supporting ad copy behind each one. Then test each promise ad in consecutive trade magazine issues to determine which benefit to throw the weight of your budget behind. If you have a limited budget, test in small space or in the classifieds section (being certain each ad is the same size and in approximately the same position). Don't try a full page ad until you know what works best.

    Of course you can also test various promotion appeals through focus group research simulations. But if you're mainly concerned about the "whats" your audience is interested in -- and less concerned about the "whys" -- then an ad promise test can be both cheaper and more reliable.

  3. Do consider offering a premium. No, not coffee cups or tee shirts. Offer a premium that provides an unselfish service to the training audience you are trying to cater to -- while implicitly witnessing to your expertise. For instance, if you are selling supervisory training you might want to offer a self-scoring supervisory needs assessment. If you are selling course authoring software, you might want to offer a research report on what leading companies are spending to develop an hour of technology-based training. If you do go with a premium, don't bury it at the bottom of the ad as an afterthought -- sell it in the headline.

  4. Do take off the gloves and compare yourself to your competition. Especially when you're in a mature, highly competitive niche -- like training management software, NT certification or customer service. Don't waste space pontificating about commonplace features and benefits. Speak to how you're unique in a way that's important to your training audience -- and prove it.

    If you're not certain how best to competitively differentiate yourself, drop everything and make this your No. 1 priority. You don't want your salespeople as a loss for words when a prospect says "And why should we choose YOU?"

    Finally, don't just think of comparative advertising in terms of knocking the competition. It's also a highly effective way to go if you have an esoteric training offering (e.g. "Hypnotic Suggestion Skills") and are looking to position it in the context of a more established training category, say, sales training.

  5. Do understand the needs of your training audience, and speak to them in your ad. Human resource professionals crave trainee appreciation, management recognition, bang for the buck and a career-enhancing reputation for innovation. They want to bless and control all of the training everyone in their company participates in and contribute to every important corporate initiative. They seek opportunities to demonstrate their own expertise and contribute in a personal way to the learning design and learning experience. They don't want to be the victim of a technology dead end or a flunky for a vendor-centric solution.

    Unfortunately, most ad writers haven't a clue what's on the mind of training professionals -- and the ads they create show it. Be sure your creative people are thoroughly briefed. Better yet, invite some of your training professional customers to your next advertising briefing session, and ask them to share what's on their minds.

  6. Do consider "bandwagon" advertising if you have the opportunity. No training professional worth their salt wants to be left behind as their peers climb on board an exciting new training breakthrough. Just be sure your "breakthrough" claims are supported by facts, not hyperbole. Years ago we ran a sales training ad that went like this" "In just six months, 247 of the Fortune 500 have switched to our new scientific system of selling. Shouldn't you find out WHY?" We were inundated by 1000s of responses.

  7. Do consider product or service testimonials. Especially if you can get your client(s) to witness to a product performance attribute that's of crucial concern to the rest of the training professional community. Yes, it helps if your client is a blue chip with a reputation for innovation and best-in-class practices. However, don't just name-drop or reference a boring, client-unique or industry-specific case study that no prospect organization will identify with.


  1. Don't bother with "people count" advertising or other bleeding heart, holy crusade approaches. It's called preaching to the choir. Training professionals may be altruistic (face it, we all are or we wouldn't be in this business!) but they're reading training trade magazines to become more productive and successful -- not to feel good.

  2. Don't direct top messages like "New learning system improves return on equity by up to 26%" to a training trade magazine audience. HR executives don't have ROE on their goal sheets -- CEOs do. (By the way, when the training magazines say they reach 1000s of CEOs, they're talking about you -- not the CEOs of your blue chip clients.) This doesn't mean you shouldn't make a bottom-line case for your training offerings. Just that you should tailor your message to the bottom line concerns of training professionals, e.g. "Now certify your entire IT organization in NT for less than $1500 per employee."

    By the way, if you feel you have a killer top message to communicate to top executives, try small space advertising in the "Wall Street Journal." It doesn't cost any more than a big splashy ad in one of the training trade books. Plus you will also reach a lot of big picture HR execs.

  3. Don't scrub a powerful trade ad campaign while it's still contributing. Keep in mind, even if you advertise 12 months straight in every issue of every training trade magazine, your typical busy prospect may only have seen your ad once or twice. More great advertising is replaced because the advertiser lost interest than because of market fatigue. Another good reason to let a good campaign ride is to better amortize your initial creative effort. You don't want to spend more money developing your ads than placing them!

Let me wind up with some good news and some not-so-good news.

The good news is that over the past five or ten years the leading training trade magazines have evolved into highly respectable reads. Diligent research. Penetrating reporting. Authoritative how-to features.

The not-so-good news is that most training trade advertising still leaves a lot to be desired. In preparing this article, I went through the most recent issue of the four leading industry trade magazines and clipped out every full page ad -- some 43 ads in all -- grading each ad from A+ to F. The report card: 7 A+ to B, 6 B- to C, and 30 C- to F.

How did your ad do? Check out the above 10 do's and don'ts and see what you think.

^ TOP of page


FUSION dot 31 Atkinson Lane dotSudbury, MA 01776
PH: (978) 460-1539