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How to market open courses


I'm an independent consultant and I want to run a full programme of open courses in the new year. I know there is a demand for the topics I can offer - but how best to plan and target my marketing effort? I have a small budget but don't want to use up the entire profit in advertising.
Jane Smith
Jane Smith

6 Responses

  1. Marketing of Training
    Here are my top tips:
    1. Focus on your market and their needs. Without knowing what the topic is it is hard to know how narrow or diverse that market may be. If it is small, personal contact works best. If it is large, then publicity may help.
    2. Target your marketing. Generally advertising works best for highly specialist topics, bigger institutions or where it is repeated month on month. I would have doubts whether advertising would be cost effective for you as an independent consultant. Phone calls, meetings and targeted fliers are more likely to be useful.
    3. Ideally start by targeting a few key players, preferably large enough to make courses viable and then build from there.
    4. Differentiate your product show how it is different to the competetion and why (new & fresh or tried and tested; low cost or high quality; benefits to individuals and to organisations)
    5. Consider wider publicity opportunities (articles, free taster sessions, networks, etc.).
    6. Finally, in training, people buy people. Your product should be credible but you should be incredible! (Or at least demonstrate 3 key characteristics: excellent interpersonal, customer relationships; solid knowledge of your topic, of organisations and of training; and, an ability to sell without it seeming like selling.)
    Good luck!

  2. a few thoughts
    Firstly “good luck”! I know of many organisations who spend lots on marketing open courses to little avail.
    One client of mine, who is an independent, has a cunning methodology…
    We rent a venue for a whole day and pay a direct marketing company to fill eight slots each in the morning and afternoon. These are free to the delegates and are sold as “tasters of our unique offering”. The target market is NOT Training or HR managers but commercial managers, normally in a specific industry sector.
    They get either breakfast and an am session or lunch and a pm session so they have some time to network.
    We give them a very intensive session where they work really hard and then send them on their way.
    A week later we follow up to ask if they would like to send some of their staff on a two day event…the success rate is about 45%, often with one visitor buying a whole course of nine seats and having a little tailoring done.
    It isn’t really an “open course schedule” but it certainly works!

  3. Marketing

    Here are some resources I’ve found valuable in marketing my products and services:

    101 Media and Marketing Tips for the Sole Proprietor
    ISBN: 0965066622

    Nanette Miner’s handy, superb value guide is available in a paperback edition at:

    Beyond Coffee and Donuts:
    Marketing Training and Development
    ISBN: 1-56286-316-9

    Published by ASTD, Sophie Oberstein has crated a valuable guide specifically intended for learning and development practitioners, including external consultants. It shows how to market your programmes in parallel with the learning and development cycle.

    Consultant’s Quick Start Guide
    ISBN: 0-7879-5667-8

    Although also of USA origin, and intended for new start-ups, the marketing tips in Elaine Biech’s guide will be useful to any consultant seeking to promote new products or services.

    Marketing Your Services for People Who Hate to Sell
    ISBN 0-07-139871-6
    Rick Crandall offers helpful, practical ‘marketing for real people’ tips and techniques.

    Usual disclaimers apply. Apart from being a satisifed customer, I have no financial interest in any of the products described above.

    Hope this is helpful.


    Scott G. Welch

  4. Try mailshots
    I have found direct mail to be the best marketing value for open courses; advertising is too expensive. Best tip: test everything against response rates using smaller mailshiots first. We have found that even the type of paper used can have an effect. Value is more important than price. Expect 1% to 5% response.

    Good luck


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