Savvy marketers of training services think of themselves as performance consultants—not just trainers.
"The more you can convince people that you're there for them, the better," says Randy Woodward, training and development director at Ho-Chunk Casino, Hotel and Convention Center in Baraboo, Wis. Woodward's team is trying to get away from the view that training is where you go to take classes and that's it. For instance, a business problem might not be a training issue, but people on Woodward's team are experts at breaking down a problem into its component parts, looking for flaws in a system, and then devising ways to fix those flaws. "This might involve something as passe as improving the way in which a document is routed, but if anyone is up to the challenge of fixing a performance-related issue, it's the training department."
More tips for savvy marketers:
- Be creative. Generate buzz to make your training stand out. At Ho-Chunk, for instance, creativity meets marketing in the "Adventures in Attitudes" program. When trainees sign up, they receive a brochure, "passport" and "cruise ticket." Upon arrival at class, they enter a room filled with palm trees, treasure chests, parrots, and a facilitator who is dressed in explorer attire. Here, Woodward offers a warning: Be creative, but be careful not to come across as too cutesy or to treat people like children.
- Remember the voice of the customer. "When speaking to senior management, trainers tend to talk about how great they are, how many people they are training and what they think are the important metrics and value sets. But when you look deeper, you realize that those things have no relevance to business owners, and they certainly don't help them in meeting their objectives," says Kim Castagnetta, vice president of learning and development at IKON Office Solutions Inc. in Valley Forge, Pa. When you promote your training, be as clear as possible about its purpose and impact on the business.
- Make your case with metrics. Instead of saying, "This program will improve performance," or, "This course will enhance leadership skills," be as specific as possible when pitching a program or reporting results. Can you demonstrate, for example, that a certain type of training will reduce or has reduced expenses? If so, by how much?
- Marketing is everyone's responsibility. While it may be up to the CLO to spearhead a marketing strategy, front-line trainers are closest to the customer. To make sure training professionals at every level are listening to needs and reporting them back to the training department, emphasize intelligence-gathering as part of your overall marketing strategy. This might entail something as simple as holding trainer office hours, or having trainers use a formal process to communicate uncovered needs back to their peers each time a course is presented. —S.B.