Marketing your training without breaking your budget part 1

Promoting training courses is essential to meeting target registrations but the effectiveness of different promotional activities can be difficult to determine.

 Promoting training courses is essential to meeting target registrations but the effectiveness of different promotional activities can be difficult to determine. In this two-part article I will provide guidance on how to gather information and performance data to manage promotion costs and make decisions about which promotional activities are effective. I will describe how to set expectations of registration activity on a per promotion activity basis.

In the second part of this article I will answer the question “Where do I start if I do not have promotional activity data?' I will show how, using my experience as a training company owner, what marketing has made the most sense to my team and my clients when promoting training courses for a given budget. Where to promote, eg. online, by post or by phone, is just as important as how to promote, eg. offer discounts, refer a friend.

Step 1

Familiarise yourself with the sales challenges of the training course, decide on your market positioning, create a positioning statement, research promotional activities of competitors and other’s experiences

Sales challenges

There are many reasons why a customer can’t or will not purchase from you. Some challenges to purchase are easy to fix, eg, adding a new payment method may be an application form to a credit card company or bank, where as changing your chosen training venue or your training materials may involve large costs and research at the risk of disturbing existing business arrangements. To get a comprehensive list of sales challenges keep a record of comments, questions or complaints made to your telephone staff, trainers and course evaluation forms.

Beyond your customers the best people to gather sales challenges from are those who considered buying from you but didn’t. This means contacting those who enquired but didn’t purchase. Perhaps he or she attended your competitor’s courses, if so try to glean even more information: see Step 7 in the second part of this article. Schedule regular followup sessions to try and contact them, create a phone script to help ask the right questions, listen to conversations with customers to provide training and feedback to staff when necessary.

Below is a list of those items that we have found to be common and generic challenges when people are looking to purchase training courses. Consider how the following could help or prevent your courses from getting the necessary registrations.

  • location of training
  • market awareness of topic & training organisation
  • competitor presence
  • other events at time of delivery
  • market buying forces
  • training offering (training, price, primary differentiation.)

Positioning statement

A positioning statement is a description of how your training differs from that of your competitors. Share it with anyone who interacts with your customers: salespeople, course administrators, trainers and resellers. If you claim to be better than your competitors ensure that you have evidence why, and if necessary figures to back it up.

Here is a format of the positioning statement:

Those seeking [statement of the need or opportunity] choose [company and training course name] because [statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy] unlike [primary competitive alternative] our training [statement of primary differentiation].

For example:

Those seeking expertise in project management choose CC Learning's PRINCE2 Foundation with Practitioner course because we offer a quality experience unlike Yellowhouse our training includes materials edited by the PRINCE2 manual's lead author and we use the Learning Composite Assessment Tool (LCAT) to ensure our administration and trainers deliver a quality training experience.

Evidence: We are willing to share the LCAT measurement system, and demonstrate how it contributes to our evaluation forms. We can demonstrate the key areas that we excel in and we have a pipeline of improvements. We also make a sample course material chapter available online.

Step 2

For each promotional activity you have delivered create a conversion path; the number of impressions that turned into interests, then resulted in enquiries and finally translated into registrations. In the absence of data consider in terms of response likelihood, using those factors you believe determine the likelihood of a response.

Conversion path

Impression is the number of individuals in your database, eg. Phone numbers with names, a list of email addresses, number of people who see your advertisement or the distribution figure.

Interest is the number of people who demonstrate a broad interest in your product, e.g. click on a link in your email newsletter, are a unique impression to your website, or enter your competition.

Enquiry is when someone expresses an interest on a particular course, cost and/or date, eg. online or email enquiry for a course, phone call or request for specific information.

Registration when someone has registered and committed to paying, or even better, have paid.






Phone calls




6 (1.0%)





6 (0.6%)

Email newsletter




6 (0.3%)

Response likelihood: What promotional activity should you do?

One way to predict a response and its worth is to break down a potential response by the component factors that elicit a response for a given budget. In the promotion activities we have undertaken the following are our top seven:


Response factor

How measured


Willingness to buy

1 = cold

2 = warm

3 = hot

A cold lead has not been vetted as to their interest or is unlikely to buy, a warm lead is when an interest is expressed, a hot lead is when pricing or a registration form is requested.


1 = none

2 = bulk

3 = unique

There is usually no personalisation in advertisements, bulk personalisation can be done with a database, unique manually composed messages are tailored to each person.


1 = general

2 = specific

3 = unique

General requests include, e.g. ‘Visit our website’ specific requests are ‘We have a course in May - book now’ where as unique requests are ‘You attended training last year, this Sydney course in June builds on that knowledge’

Purchase timing

1 = later

2 = soon

3 = now

Is the customer looking to purchase far in the future (later), some time in the near future (soon) or immediately (now)?


1 = random

2 = group

3 = specific

Random targeting is when a whole database is used without segmentation, group targeting is by region, past purchases or suitability of the training. Specific messages can be written to each individual.


1 = major

2 = average

3 = minor

Is cost likely to be a major factor with high price sensitivity; an average factor, your price is already an accepted standard; or minor, perhaps they are not the payer or dates/locations are more important.


1 = major

2 = average

3 = minor

Time is a major factor when requesting a time commitment that is considered large or needs a quick decision; an average factor when the purchasing decision and the time commitment is reasonable; and a minor factor when time commitment is slight and scheduling easily fits within the purchasing decision.


Each factor has a three level ranking of 1 to 3. The higher the number the more likely it will be a successful promotional activity. Adding up the numbers for each response factor on a per promotion activity basis can produce a ranking to enable prioritisation of a given set of activities.

The next part in this article will cover the following steps:

  • Step 3; Decide which combination of promotional activities would reach your registration target given your budget then choose an appropriate message for each, e.g. discounts, quality promotion, what’s in it for them

  • Step 4; Schedule the promotion timeline with the days prior to the start date, and the number of registrations you expect to have achieved following each activity

  • Step 5; Measure the success of each promotional activity, reschedule highest performing activities and modify/stop lowest performing activities, update conversion paths with the data you have collected, based on location and course type

  • Step 6; Vary your message with each promotional activity to seek improvements as to which messages generate the best results

  • Step 7; Benchmark against peers, eg. competitors, franchise owners.