CXO

Guess what, trainers? Marketing isn't just for McDonald's

The technology training industry is increasingly competitive, so it's critical to have a few marketing tactics up your sleeve. Bruce Maples shares some simple marketing tips that all trainers should use daily.


When you hear the word “marketing,” do you dismiss it with a sigh of satisfaction, thinking to yourself, “I sure am glad I don’t have to worry about that”?

Fellow trainers, I’ve got news for you. In this era of mergers, downsizing, and business shifts, marketing has become a required part of every trainer’s job description, whether you work as an independent consultant or with a training company. Sure, your schedule is full—you’re training almost around the clock, and the assignments seem to keep rolling in. The problem is, as the mutual funds ads say, “Past results are no guarantee of future success.” You’ve got to be constantly on the lookout for new contacts and new opportunities, because you never know when the shifting sands of the training business will leave you beached.

Marketing for trainers 101
Here are what I consider the bare minimum steps every trainer, independent or employed, should take. Note that these suggestions address only the marketing aspect of your career; if you don’t keep up with the technology or gain new certifications as needed, all the marketing in the world won’t help.

Minimum daily requirements for marketing
Get and carry business cards. Even in this era of e-mail the business card is still the most common and accepted form of business communication. You should have good ones made and keep them with you at all times. Yes, that’s right—all times. You never know when you’ll be asked that magic question, “Have you got a card?” I can tell you from experience, there’s no worse feeling than making a great new business contact and then, when asked for the card, having to make some excuse and write your contact information on a stained cocktail napkin. Yep, that’s the professional image you want, for sure.

You may be saying, “But I work for MegaTrainers International, and they don’t give me business cards. What should I do?” You still need a way to share contact information for a variety of reasons, so you still need cards. I would first ask for business cards, explaining that students and managers often want to know how to contact you or the company, and you want to present a professional image for the company when they ask. If that doesn’t work, then either have them made yourself or make your own. (See Jeff Davis’ article “Use Word to create a business card for your consulting gigs .”)

If you plan to stay with the company for a while, you should probably go ahead and put the company info on your cards. And remember: Having your own cards doesn’t necessarily suggest that you’re looking to leave. Nothing warms a training manager’s heart like a trainer bringing in business—and giving out your contact information is one way to generate those inquiries.

Keep your resume updated and regularly redistribute it. Every time you acquire experience, you should update your resume. Every time you obtain a certification, you should update your resume. If you haven’t updated your resume in the past year because you have nothing new to put on it, I’ve got only one question for you: What have you been doing? If you’ve added certs, products, or experience, but just “haven’t had the time” to get that resume changed, then you need to wake up and take charge of your career. That little piece of paper is how others know what you can do. And if they don’t know, they can’t ask, right?

As for distributing your resume: If you’re an independent trainer, you already know that brokers and training companies hand out work based on the information in their database. Adding a cert will not do you any good until all those databases know about it. Additionally, receiving an updated resume puts you in the front of the manager’s brain, at least for a moment. The next time a job comes up, they may actually think of you first! If you’re an employed trainer, you should still update your resume and distribute it—to your manager! Let’s face it, managers have a lot to think about (to put it mildly), and they may not even be aware of your new level of expertise. Keep yourself “front of mind” for them as well. And of course, if the ceiling falls in, you’ve already got the resume ready to go.

Promote yourself. In many social gatherings, one of the very first questions is, “What do you do?” Don’t be shy; tell people you do technical training. You‘ll be amazed how many times they’ll want to know more, and some will even want to talk with your further about possibly doing training at their site. Have those cards ready, and if they give you a vague “call me,” do just that! Many, many business opportunities come out of something as small as a chance encounter in the grocery store or at your kid’s soccer game. If you can’t do the training they’re looking for, but your firm can or your broker can, do your best to help them out. Put the two ends together. You may not get anything out of it initially, but these things have a way of working back to you. And besides, helping others is both the right thing to do and shows that you’re truly a professional at heart.

Think like an entrepreneur
One of the truths of the “new economy” is that there’s no such thing as a “lifelong job” any more. The typical worker will change careers at least twice and will change employers more than that. For knowledge-based trainers, the number of changes is even higher. Regardless of if you’re currently employed, you simply must take charge of your career and think like a business owner. You’re a business owner, and the business you own is yourself! Marketing your product—be it yourself, a new product version, or whatever—is part of owning that business. So get your cards, update that resume, and go to it!
We’d like to hear your training business promotion and marketing ideas. Please post your comments and suggestions below. If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please write to Bruce.

Bruce Maples is a trainer, writer, and consultant living in Louisville, KY.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox