Fill Those Desks: Tips for Marketing Training Services & Seminars

How To Successfully Market Training Services and Educational SeminarsThis is the first in a series discussing strategies for marketing professional services.

A young Harvard Associate Professor will garner instant credibility as an educator just by her association with such a prestigious university. But as her prospective students shop around for the optimal classroom experience, they’ll expect to learn more about her specific credentials and personal achievements, too.

When it comes to offering educational and training services — in any capacity — it’s important to effectively market the brands of both the individual and the company in a mutually supportive way. Hands-on training is an intimate experience that cannot be divorced from the primary instructor and the person developing the curriculum. Students want to be reassured of the experience and excellence of the individual that will be doing the actual teaching or support. And the overall perceived prestige of the larger organization can add a halo around these instructors/consultants by the simple fact of their association.

As a marketer, you’ve got to keep in mind what your typical prospective attendee is considering when weighing whether to attend your training sessions. Remember, not only are attendees spending money on tuition — they’re also spending their valuable time.

Make your training enticing by answering these questions:

What will I learn?

It’s important that you clearly communicate your agenda in academic, non-sales-y language. This is not the place to dumb stuff down. Most attendees fear shallow, empty sessions that will leave them bored more than they fear being overwhelmed. They’re spending the time and cash — they want to come away with actionable training and information.

Who is this for?

Again, don’t oversell. If it’s a technical session for technical users, state this clearly. Don’t extend it to “business users” with the idea that some business users might be interested in the technical details; this will alienate your technical base.  If a business user has the technical chops and interest to attend a technical training, they’ll sign up anyway.

What are the pre-requisites?

Even if there aren’t any pre-requisites, list some anyway — or you’ll be left with people wondering if they’re qualified to take the course. Even if the only pre-requisites for your seminar are an interest in the subject matter and an open mind, go ahead and communicate that. Very high or low pre-requisites can also help signal the depth of subject matter.

How will this be useful?

Finally, benefits! But be careful here — people take training courses for a variety of reasons and they usually have those reasons in their head when they first start considering a course. It might be for professional development, inherent curiosity, a vacation from the office, or a specific project. List credentials and skills that a participant will get and what those credentials or skills might enable; but be cautious when promising end-business benefits like: “Get a better job!” or  “Make a gazillion dollars from using this amazing technology/technique.” You can’t actually promise those. And they may not be what are driving students to your courses.

Try some A/B testing with landing pages or ads that utilize different emphasis on end-benefits versus a just-the-facts emphasis on curriculum to see which is more powerful for your audience. Also, conduct surveys asking attendees what drew them there and what they hoped to gain. You may find that you have two distinct sets of attendees —those who attend to learn with no specific end-goal in mind and those who attend solely to achieve a specific end goal.

Will there be networking opportunities?

This will matter more to some than others, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only salespeople and executives like to network. Everyone likes to talk to people about their work, and finding a group of people who are in the same profession as you can be a liberating experience.

If you don’t already have some sort of structured way for attendees to interact, consider adding this to your agenda and promoting it. But make it clear that the networking is optional. Nothing scares away introverts like the idea of enforced “fun.”

Will it be fun?

Again, different people define fun in different ways; so, don’t make too many assumptions. But a classy hotel, optional networking events, and a nice (or convenient) location always add to the experience.

How much content is enough?

Not sure about whether you’re supplying enough or the right kind of information? I suggest comparing your training offering to an industry conference. This is often your most direct competition for professional development time and budget. Attending a two- or three-day professional training session is typically the same cost and time commitment as a full-blown conference. Your offering needs to be more focused, more intense, and just as pleasant as the mega-conference. The large conference has the advantage of spreading the cost of marketing materials across hundreds or thousands of attendees. You’ll have to take a templated approach to effectively compete and provide a similar level of detail and polish to your materials.

A note about style

Think about your audience and what this experience means to them. Everyone expects a certain level of professionalism in materials as a form of validation. However, some psychographics (think business people and designers) will deem an experience with higher levels of design and polish as more professional. But others (think developers and medical practitioners) might actually subconsciously rebel at materials that are too “slick,” and lower their assumptions about the quality of the training or substance of the trainers. Don’t go marketing-speak on technical audiences; be sure to work with your training professionals to keep it real.


Everyone loves credentials. Give them one and put some marketing muscle behind making your certification worth something in the industry you’re in. Ultimately, if you can make your certification more impressive than anyone else’s, you win. How do you think Harvard justifies 80k in tuition?

Rich Quarles
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