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Don't Sell Your Course Descriptions Short.

I don't want to be a pain. But chances are your course descriptions are too damn short!

Why is that?

Because you're underestimating the job a proper course description has to do.

Selling training is about overcoming inertia. It's about coaxing fat and happy cube dwellers out of their comfort zone and getting them to trek across town, maybe across the country to your training site. It's about convincing get-ahead career jockeys that learning new skills is worth missing that high visibility strategy meeting. It's about overcoming the dread that Rocco,the office bully, will chortle "Where's Mary today -- at training again? You'd think she'd be able to do her job by now." It's about persuading cocky know-it-alls that they really don't know it all -- and die hard workaholics that they really aren't too busy to sharpen their skills.

All of which is why an abbreviated "It's about Russia" course description is not going to do the job.

Let's look at some excuses that folks offer for short changing their course descriptions -- together with some appropriate fixes.

  1. "There's not enough space for long descriptions."

    Then make the space. If you're trying to cram 48 course descriptions into an 8-page flyer, stop the presses. Think about going to 16 pages, 24 pages, even 48 pages to sell your courses for all they're worth.

    Remember that old direct marketing dictum "the more you tell, the more you sell." If you're insistent about saving budget money and trees, try going to a thinner paper stock. In 25 years of testing different weights of paper, I've never, ever seen a drop off in response by going to a less expensive grade.

    As for concerns that customers will find page after page of long course descriptions unwieldy, just be sure to incorporate plenty of navigation elements. That way, no one will have to wade through content that doesn't apply to them.

  2. "If somebody wants a complete course description, then they can go to our Web site."

    Yes, space is cheap on the Web. And hyperlinks offer a great way to let potential buyers bore down to an almost encyclopedic level of detail -- while sparing casual visitors from having to scroll themselves silly.

    But it's arrogant and unrealistic to require prospects to bounce from one promotion medium to another. Good direct marketers know that every promotion effort must stand on its own.

    So, at the very least, be sure and include complete descriptions of your popular gateway courses in both your print and your Web promotion. Limit any efforts to abbreviate course descriptions to your electives.

    All of which brings me to the most exasperatingly wrongheaded rationale of all.

  3. "It's a short course. So all we need is a short course description."

    Arrggggh! This thinking is consistent with the fallacy that customers value short courses less than long courses. In fact, customers prefer short courses. Only course developers prefer long courses.

    It also assumes that there's a lot more inertia to overcome associated with getting somebody to leave the office for five days as opposed to, say, one day. But who's kidding whom -- justifying the first day away is always the hardest.

    You see this wrongheaded thinking at its worst in the case of half-day "showcase seminars." Take a look at the course description the next time you get an invitation to one of these presales events. Chances are it reads something like this:

    8:00 AM: Coffee and Pastries
    8:45 AM: "New Millenium Leadership"
                  - Michael Blotz, VP Research
    9:45 AM: Q&A and networking

    Armed with this "course description" salespeople are ordered to recruit a room full of movers and shakers, and berated when they don't.

    Would you abandon your job responsibilities to attend this event based on the information provided? Would anyone? Does it help that the event is free?

OK, so it's a good idea to use rich course descriptions when you're selling public courses. Does this also apply in the case of technology-based learning? Generally, yes. Why? Because there's also a lot of inertia to overcome associated with getting folks to load courseware on their corporate Intranet -- or even to go through the hassle of installing a CD ROM on a standalone PC.

All of which begs the question "if compelling course descriptions are so important, how does one construct them? Stay tuned. We'll treat this tricky topic in a future E-Visory.

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