How to choose the right training venue

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Quote about choosing a positive space for a training venueWhen it comes to choosing a training venue – if you’re not working at a client’s site – I imagine most trainers will tell you that they’ve found some hidden gems over the years as well as making every mistake in the book.

It’s important that the venue fits your image and that of your business; it also needs to be right for your objectives – what do you want your training to achieve? Pick the right venue and it will reflect brilliantly on your overall offering. Pick the wrong venue and everyone will feel it.

But how do you choose the right training venue for your needs?

Create a shortlist

My approach is to create an initial list of five to ten potential venues. This shortlist might be made up of recommendations from other trainers, venues I’ve found online, and venues that have impressed me in the past (either as a trainer or a trainee).

Can the venues on your shortlist accommodate the kind of training sessions you run?

The type of venue you’re looking for will depend on the content of your training, and the number of people you’ll be training at one time. Will you need a large conference room with breakout areas? Does your training include practical sessions and hands-on experiments with equipment?

Do you want an environment that’s fun and funky to fit with the style of your training, or would your training be better placed in a more traditional corporate environment? Do you need outdoor space or even somewhere with a bar or restaurant, if your training will run over several days?

Your shortlist should cover the venues that would be best able to cater to these needs.

How accessible is the location?

The location of your training venue is probably one of the most important factors. If people are attending training that’s being paid for by their employers, including travel costs, then they may be more willing to travel to somewhere off the beaten track, but, equally, employers may want to keep down travel time and costs. Naturally, people like their journey to be as straightforward and stress-free as possible – there’s nothing worse than having to set off at the crack of dawn before sitting in traffic jams and then having to drive around a venue looking for a parking space.

Ideally, your training venue should be easy to reach with great transport links and easy-to-find parking, as well as enough spaces for all of your delegates. If people are likely to travel by train, try to pick a venue that’s near the station or check with the local taxi firm that they will be able to collect delegates.

Check what’s included in the price and what counts as extras

Remember the mistakes I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well, for many trainers, these revolve around the cost of hiring a training venue.

Far too often, a trainer picks a venue because it appears cheap in comparison to others on the shortlist, only to realise once it’s too late that a lot of the facilities and services they need are charged as ‘extras’. This can quickly push the costs up, so a seemingly cheap venue becomes very expensive.

It’s important that you ask for a breakdown of costs from the outset before you make your booking. Many excellent venues offer training/event packages, which include room hire, catering, audio-visual equipment, refreshments and more. Others will provide room hire but let you create a flexible package by choosing which extras you need.

I’d also recommend that you have a firm budget in mind from the outset and that you find a venue that fits this budget rather than being wowed by somewhere very expensive and stretching well beyond what you or your delegates can afford.

Find out if there are cheaper days in the week or year

Like most businesses, training venues have busy, in demand times and times of the week/month/year when it’s harder to get bookings. You may find that a training venue will offer you a discount for booking your training during one of these quieter times, so it’s always a good idea to ask, especially if you can be flexible about when your training takes place.

Confirm what facilities are available

When working through your shortlist, check what facilities each venue offers and whether they cover what you need. What are non-negotiables for you? Are there any nice to haves than you could live without?

If you know from the outset whether you need breakout rooms, audio-visual facilities, free WiFi access, etc., it will be easier to narrow down your short list. Also, check that the venue you’re considering offers good access for delegates with disabilities and easily accessible toilets. Will all the trainees have unobstructed views? Are there blackout blinds? Enough power points? These are all things a good training venue will have considered.

Don’t scrimp on catering

To learn well dine well quoteIn my experience, there’s nothing worse than hungry trainees! People remember the food and refreshments on offer at a training event and often refer to this in their feedback. Feed them well and you’ll probably be well-remembered; scrimp on catering and it may come back to haunt you.

You should ask your potential training venues what catering they offer, and whether you can taste some sample meals from them menu. Alternatively, is there a catering company that they recommend and have worked well with in the past?

It’s better to go for a cheaper venue and spend more on food if your budget is tight.

Visit the venue

Once you’ve narrowed your shortlist down to five or less training venues, you should arrange to visit them in person before you book.

  • What are your first impressions when you arrive at the venue?
  • Is it easy to find and easy to park?
  • Do the rooms and facilities live up to what you have been told about them on the venue’s website, in their brochure or over the phone?

When I view a potential training venue, it’s always with a long-term view in mind. I’m influenced by how welcoming and helpful I find the staff, and whether I can picture myself building a working relationship with them over the months and years to come. Knowing I can count on the staff to be friendly, professional and proactive feels like having a support network behind me every time I run a training event.

Do you regularly use external training venues or are you more likely to work on site? What do you think makes a great training venue? Have you made expensive mistakes in the past when picking a venue? I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments section below.

And if this article has hit the spot and you think other trainers might find it useful, please share it with your network. It only takes a moment – thank you!

Five ways you can convert your LinkedIn connections into clients

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Pulling a good network together quoteIn past blogs, we’ve looked at what a great resource LinkedIn can be when you’re building a successful training business. This week, I wanted to take things a bit further and concentrate on how you can tap the unmined potential of LinkedIn and turn your connections into clients.

To really make the most of LinkedIn, you need to put some time and focus into it to create a plan of action. Many experts are warning that now is a good time to build connections, but that it may get harder as the platform evolves.

  1. Make sure your profile is up-to-date

When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, whether they’re a past colleague or a new contact from a networking event, the chances are that they’re going to take a look at your profile to see who you are and what you’ve been up to recently.

Does your current LinkedIn profile make a good first impression?

It’s essential to keep your LinkedIn profile current. Make sure the details of your training business are visible and that you have recommendations from within your network rather than just endorsements. Try using a keyword rich title to show what you do and the types of businesses you work with, as this will make it easier for your contacts to make referrals to other people in their network, and for potential clients to find you based on your training experience.

  1. Look at your network

LinkedIn is built on ‘six degrees of separation’ – the theory that we’re all just six steps or fewer away from anyone else in the world, by way of introduction. Your network is your ‘sphere of influence’, the people who can put you in touch with wider connections, and who may either become clients or introduce you to clients. While the quantity of your contacts isn’t necessarily important, the quality can help to raise your profile on the platform. Think about how you could connect with some high-level influencers within your sector or take a moment to reach out to high-level influencers you already know.

  1. Have a genuine reason to make contact

When was the last time that you contacted anyone within your LinkedIn network? Have you looked at your contacts’ profiles recently and seen what is happening in their careers? Have you noted who their connections are and, therefore, what people and businesses may be just a few degrees of separation away?

People respond to the idea of scarcity or limited availability, so my recommendation would be to carefully choose a few people from your network. Let them know that you aren’t contacting everyone and that you’ve thought long and hard about who to approach. Avoid using the standard message templates – your message should feel authentic and unique, letting them know that you’ve singled them out for a reason.

It’s important to have a genuine reason for contacting one of your connections. That might be to:

  • Share some current industry news
  • Let them know about a deal or offer you’ve seen one of their suppliers running
  • Tell them about an industry conference that would interest them
  • Pass on information about an opportunity that might be of interest
  • Put them in touch with someone else in your network because you think both parties have something to offer one another
  • Let them know about a new training programme you’re running and why you think it would benefit their business

Quote about the desire to help othersThe idea is to message your chosen contacts with something that will be of interest and value to them.

Don’t make your contact feel that they must reciprocate. They should feel that you have contacted them because you can genuinely help them in some way, not because you are fishing for a favour. While it’s OK to ask favours of your contacts from time to time, I’m a strong believer that you should have invested time in building a relationship with that person first. Give generously and expect nothing in return.

Tip: On the top right of your LinkedIn Home page, you should see a panel that says ‘XX ways to keep in touch’. LinkedIn uses this panel to flag up your contacts’ important anniversaries and milestones and lets you like or comment on this event. Small touches like this can help to keep you present in the minds of people in your network.

  1. Show that you are active in your industry

LinkedIn is a great platform to show that you are active within your industry.

Why not try updating your status consistently, even if it’s just once or twice a week, to tell your contacts what you’re up to, who you’re working with, or what you’re running training sessions about? Or you could share links to blogs and other content – original or curated – that you think your clients would find of value. If you add the LinkedIn app to your phone, it only takes a moment to update your status.

Another way to show that your knowledge is current is to participate in groups that are relevant to your training business. There are some very active training groups, which will enable you to connect with other training professionals, but you may also want to join the groups where your potential clients hang out. Look at ways you can contribute valuable opinion or advice so that others come to see you as a source of knowledge and integrity.

  1. Post articles to build your authority and credibility

Publishing articles on LinkedIn Pulse is an effective way to build your authority and credibility, both on the platform and beyond. Ideally, the content you post should be unique to LinkedIn rather than an article recycled from your blog.

Hubspot recently published this helpful guide to publishing on Pulse for the first time – it’s well worth a read.

Many businesses make the mistake of blogging about themselves and turning every article into an overt marketing message. In my experience, sharing advice, hints and tips is a far more effective way of gaining credibility and attracting new clients.

You could try sharing your best and most commented on articles in your LinkedIn groups to create conversation and engagement. Over time, you should build up a picture of which groups are the most active and receptive to your content.

Are you active on LinkedIn? When was the last time you updated your profile or contacted someone in your network? Have you managed to secure any clients through LinkedIn? I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments below.

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Training and the 21st Century workforce: What does it mean for your business?

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Quote about the need for learning in 21st century workforceAlthough providing training and development opportunities for employees has long been shown to drive engagement in a wide array of businesses, the reality is that workforces have changed over recent years. How we address training for these workforces must change too.

Ever since the internet became part of everyday life, it has moulded and shaped how people access information. Whereas once employees relied on experienced trainers to help them develop new knowledge and skills, people now take it for granted that they can research and access the information they need immediately without the help of an intermediary.

Another challenge is that our cross-generational workforces have different needs. Older members of a team may have always attended ‘stand and deliver’ style training, while younger employees may be incredibly tech savvy and expect a greater degree of interaction, as well as bite-sized content. They like being challenged to overcome challenges on their own, and often use the internet, computers, devices and games to interact with information and their peers.

One survey I read about recently reported that employment engagement is at an all-time low and that businesses are suffering the consequences of an ever-growing skills gap. In my experience, the straightforward approach to learning by rote and sitting at a desk is being increasingly abandoned in classrooms and isn’t always right for training sessions either.

The challenge we face as trainers is how to make learning accessible to the 21st century workforce.

 

Interaction and participation

Most of us learn better when we are actively participating in training.

When you are likely to struggle with engagement as a trainer is if you keep your trainees deskbound throughout the learning cycle and fail to provide opportunities for interaction. Evidence would also suggest that black and white, word-only training materials may not be the most effective way to communicate information, and can contribute to inertia at the end of the training process.

 

Accommodating different learning styles

As well as acknowledging that generational differences might require different approaches, it’s widely recognised that – regardless of their backgrounds – different people have different learning styles. Therefore, training needs to be delivered in a way that’s flexible and individually focused, encompassing the varying needs of these learning styles.

But how can we achieve this?

The first step is to think about how you can communicate with Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic learners within the same session. What visual elements can you add? Can you get people up and moving with opportunities for hands-on experience? Can you provide data to back up your claims?

 

Learning roles

As well as learning styles, people tend to fall into specific learning roles:

  • Activists – Always brainstorming and looking for the next opportunity, they’ll try anything once but like to be the centre of whatever’s going on, even though they’ll involve other people.
  • Pragmatists – These down-to-earth people have bags of common sense and like to test new theories and ideas out to see if they work in practice. They love new ideas and will implement them straight away, as well as experimenting with how things can be improved.
  • Theorists – These learners like to create logically sound theories and test them out step-by-step. They ask lots of questions and challenge assumptions, analysing information and situations until they make sense.
  • Reflectors – These people like to look at things from every possible angle and think before they speak or act. They collect data, observe, listen to other people’s opinions and learn from other people’s experiences to help them understand the bigger picture.

 

The best way of learning about anything is by doing quoteCreate training for learning styles and learning roles:

As you’re no doubt aware, your training needs to incorporate techniques and strategies pitched at the different learning styles and roles.

For Visual learners, Theorists and Pragmatists, you might use:

  • Films, pictures, diagrams, demonstrations
  • Opportunities for reading and writing during the training session

For Auditory learners, Theorists and Pragmatists, you might:

  • Encourage verbal discussions, or small group discussions
  • Avoid jargon, and speak in plain English
  • Convey plenty of spoken information about the course content
  • Allow questions throughout the training event rather than just at the end
  • Give opportunities to read aloud
  • Use audio files within your presentation

For Kinaesthetic learners, Activists and Reflectors, you might use:

  • Physical hands-on experiences, such as carrying out a task
  • Games and simulations
  • Opportunities to move such as icebreaker exercises or role-play
  • Interactive computer-based tools
  • Opportunities to learn through trial and error
  • Artefacts that can be moved around, touched and assembled

 

Learning on the go

People in the 21st century workforce, regardless of their learning style, seem to prefer a bite-sized approach, as well as the flexibility to learn anywhen and anywhere. We all live busy lives and employee engagement can increase when individuals are given the opportunity to fit their training into their schedule.

On the flipside, without obvious structure and the accountability provided by a trainer being present, bite-sized self-managed learning can be hard to complete.

Is there a way that you can adapt your training to provide on-the-go learning? Or provide training that still offers structure and accountability with some autonomy over what is learned and when?

Many of the trainers I work with are exploring how to provide their training in short videos broken down into smaller topics that can be accessed when the trainee needs them. The trainee might need to complete a questionnaire or online worksheet to show they’ve interacted with the content before unlocking the next module/video.

Alternatively, you could add a component of remote learning as a follow-up to your in-house training to help participants consolidate their knowledge. You might do this (if you don’t already) by providing:

  • Training manuals
  • Small sections of bite-sized information (such as FAQ documents or web pages) that can be accessed 24/7
  • Posters highlighting the key points of the training
  • Videos that reinforce your training but can be watched in the trainee’s own time
  • Audio files for people to listen to in their own time
  • Follow-up support for an agreed time period over the phone
  • A private Facebook group to chat with other trainees

Another idea is to create a dedicated web space where trainees can access the FAQs, training manuals, audio and video files, Powerpoint presentation so that all learning styles are catered for. You might also decide to set multiple choice questions or interactive tools to check individuals are consolidating their newly gained knowledge.

A way to add value for your clients is to offer short refresher programmes at three- to six-month intervals, so you create an ongoing cycle of training that keeps employees’ skills well honed.

This is an exciting time to be a trainer. Technology, gaming, digital materials, and live simulations are all adding new layers into what we are able to deliver our clients. Only time will tell whether we can boost levels of employee engagement but I know my interest is sparked and that I’m constantly being inspired by the creative ideas of fellow trainers, and that can only be good news.

Do you think training has to change to meet the needs of the 21st century workforce? Do you notice generational differences? How do you address the needs of different learning styles and roles? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Three simple strategies to raise your profile over the next three months

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At the start of a new year, many of us find ourselves taking stock of where we are and thinking about where we would like to be within the next 12 months. As a business owner you might be looking at your triumphs and challenges over the past year, and considering how you can bring in more training clients or, more precisely, training clients that are an ideal fit with how you want your business to grow.

At the same time, the pressure to make positive changes in your training business may feel overwhelming. Where should you start?

In this week’s blog, I’ve put together three simple strategies that you can use straightaway to grow your profile over the next three months. These are small, easy to implement, and should help you boost your visibility and attract repeat business as well as new clients.

 

Strategy #1 to raise your profile: Personalise and differentiate

Quote by Richard Branson: Succeeding in business is all about making connectionsPeople tend to buy from companies with which they feel a personal connection. They might identify with your back story, your tone of voice, or the values you reflect in your marketing, but on some level, there will be a sense that your business connects with who they are.

Think about how you can create an emotional connection with your existing and potential clients. Here are some ideas:

  • If you send out a regular newsletter, look at whether you have the facility to personalise the content so that each individual subscriber’s name appears within the copy. This is usually done using merge tags (check out these handy guides from Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, and Madmimi). Experts agree that personalised campaigns usually attract higher conversion rates.
  • If you spot a newspaper article, magazine, book or small gift that you think one of your clients would find of interest, send it to them with a short, handwritten note.
  • Alternatively, send a client a handwritten thank you card for their booking, referral or their past business.
  • Set up a series of templates that let you respond to clients at various stages of a project, so that you keep the lines of communication open throughout a project.

 

Strategy #2: Become the face of your business

This second strategy follows on nicely from strategy number one, as it’s all about helping your potential customers get to know you. If you are a freelance trainer and currently work alone, then you may want to leverage the fact that your clients get a personal service where they benefit from your unique experience and knowledge.

To do this, I’m going to urge you to put your head above the parapet and become the face of your business. You might:

  • Include pictures of you on your website
  • Showcase videos of you training (or, at least, talking about your training)
  • Feature your personal story on your About page
  • Get into conversations on your social media pages
  • Take pictures of your day and post them to Instagram
  • Write a blog about your journey as a trainer, freelancer and/or business owner

The aim of this strategy is to get your face and name out there and associated with your business.

 

Strategy #3: Be an expert

Try, try, try and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.As a trainer, it’s important for your clients to see you as someone who knows their stuff. Long before they attend one of your training sessions, there are lots of ways that you can demonstrate your expertise.

Building your reputation as an expert in your field is great for referrals, new enquiries, and even your search engine optimisation, as Google looks to reward websites with genuine authority in search results.

To build your reputation and authority in your field, why not try one of the following?

  • Create a blog where you feature opinion pieces based on your expertise
  • Say yes to public speaking opportunities
  • Look for guest blogging openings
  • Create a lead magnet, such as a free ebook or professional development materials
  • Add a FAQs page to your website
  • Comment on your clients’ social media posts from a position of experience

 

One thing at a time

My advice would be to pick one action point from each of the three strategies above and commit to putting them in motion, one per month. This month, for example, you might personalise your newsletter. Next month, you might add a video of you talking about your business to your website’s Home page and, the month after that, you might write a short ebook for free download.

The key is to measure the outcomes of each action. Do your conversion rates go up with personalised newsletters? Does having a video on your website keep people on it for longer and, if so, does that affect your website traffic? How many people have signed up to receive your free download?

Measuring the outcomes of these activities will help you decide what works and what doesn’t for your audience, what you might need to tweak, and which strategy seems to have the best payoff.

 

If you’re still stuck or feel that your training business could do with a boost in 2016, you’ll be pleased to know that I offer one-to-one mentoring, as well as group mentoring and workshops. Book a 30-minute no obligation Skype session with me to find out more.

 

Why you need a ‘thinking’ day and how to make it work

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The mind is everything. What you think, you become. Quote by Buddha.If your thoughts are turning to how you can grow your training business over the next 12 months, then one strategy I’d personally recommend is to make time for a regular ‘Thinking Day’. A Thinking Day is a reoccurring day built into your schedule to think about the big picture stuff within your business.

Entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates have spoken about their commitment to taking time out to think about the direction of their business. In fact, Bill Gates apparently takes two ‘think’ weeks out of the office each year to concentrate on some big picture thinking.

Although a fortnight might not be practical for smaller businesses, a day can work well. Some business owners even send their employees home for an occasional paid Thinking Day. Barry Glassman of Glassman Wealth Services said in an article for Forbes that his staff take one Thinking Day a quarter to unplug from the office ‘for the purpose of devising new ideas and directions for the firm as a whole’. Most of them spend their time listening to talks on Ted.com to update their knowledge and thinking in key areas.

Key questions for your Thinking Day

A Thinking Day is dedicated, interruption-free time for you to get strategic about your business vision or update your skills. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What have I achieved over the past 12 months?
  • What are my goals for the next month, quarter and year?
  • Where do I want my business to be in five years’ time?
  • What’s working well within my business?
  • What isn’t working and what do I need to change?
  • What skills do I need to refine or update?

Ways to fill your Thinking Day

It can be easy to let a Thinking Day pass you by without achieving anything productive, perhaps because you have so much to think about. Just the idea that you have to sit down and think about the big issues within your business can be intimidating, and many of us don’t perform well on demand.

I find it helpful to have a rough plan for my next Think Day.

You might want to spend some of the day reading articles or downloads that you’ve been hanging on to for a while. If so, why not set up a Think Day folder and pop all your planned reading into there or bookmark some industry-relevant talks on Ted.com?

It can also be helpful to make some advance notes about what you want to think about and why. You could always treat yourself to a dedicated Thinking Day notebook (or is it just me that thinks new stationery is a wonderful treat?!)

Remember, a Thinking Day is not a day to catch up your admin, emails or quotes. The aim is to leave the nitty-gritty, time-consuming and never-ending tasks to one side while you think about how you can make your business work better for you, attract more clients and be more profitable.

Make a commitment

With so much to keep you busy within your business, it can be easy to let your Thinking Day slide because there are other demands on your time. For a Thinking Quote about importance of planning ahead and thinking dayDay to be productive, it needs to be a solid, regular commitment. Mark it in your diary, let your colleagues and clients know that you’re busy – you can even tell them why – and don’t push it back for anyone unless there really is a life or death reason.

I would recommend that you turn off your phone and email for the day so that people can’t interrupt you or take over your agenda with their own. And so that no-one can enter your thinking space, hold your think day away from the office, either at home, in a café or somewhere else that you find conducive to work.

Increased productivity

Like those entrepreneurs that champion the Thinking Day, I find that having a whole day of focused time to think about my business makes me come back to my
desk and training activities feeling recharged, full of purpose and incredibly productive.

Why don’t you give it a go and let me know how you get on?

Do you take regular Thinking Days out of your business? How do you spend your Thinking Days? If you haven’t had a Thinking Day before, would you take one? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.

How to create a marketing strategy that works

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Know what your customers want most quoteDo you have a marketing strategy for your training business? Have you defined what you want your business to achieve in the short-, medium- and long-term, or are you winging it from one day to the next?

It’s surprising how many small businesses function without a marketing strategy, and yet taking the time to decide how and where you’re going to market your training business could save you time and money that would be more profitable elsewhere. Without a marketing strategy, the chances are that your marketing activities will be haphazard and inconsistent, rather than targeted and effective.

Of course, knowing that you need a marketing strategy and knowing where to start with creating one are two different things.

Five crucial questions

Before formulating a marketing strategy, you need to make sure it’s based on solid foundations. What do I mean by this? Well, before you can decide how to approach your marketing, you need to understand who your customers are, what their needs are, and how your business can address those needs.

I would recommend asking these five crucial questions:

  1. Who is your target customer (including their wants and needs)?
  2. What category does your business fit in?
  3. What is your unique benefit or unique selling point (USP) in terms of how it meets your customers’ needs?
  4. Who is your main competition?
  5. How are you clearly different from your competitors?

The answers to these questions will help to give you focus. One method I use to determine my marketing strategy for the next three to six months is to insert these answers into a kind of mission statement:

<Company name> is the leading <category> business for <target customers> that provides <unique benefit>. Unlike <competitors>, <your company> does <this unique thing to meet customers’ needs>.

This one statement reflects your key marketing statement and the central focus of your marketing. It’s a technique that works for on and offline marketing, and you can revise the statement every three to six months if your training business changes direction slightly.

The reason I recommend three to six months is because this is how long it can take to see the results of your marketing activities.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

You’ve no doubt heard of a SWOT analysis, which has long been a favourite tool for creating business and marketing strategies. A SWOT analysis is powerful because it helps you pinpoint your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats at a glance, and decide how to prioritise them within your marketing strategy.

A typical SWOT analysis worksheet looks like this:

SWOT analysis example for marketing strategy

 

Take some time out of your schedule to complete a SWOT analysis every six months or so. Your aim should be to create a marketing strategy that makes the most of your strengths and matches them to the needs of your most important audience group. If, for example, you would like to attract more contracts from professional service firms, your marketing might highlight your experiences and clients within this sector and the difference the training you deliver has made to these clients.

Building on your marketing strategy foundation

Once you have created this initial foundation, you can begin to develop an effective marketing strategy. Your next step is to decide on the best marketing activity/activities to reach your target audience.

This might include advertising (including ads on social media), social media pages, direct mail campaigns, email campaigns, newsletters, exhibitions, PR initiatives, point of sale activity, and much more.

It’s best to concentrate on one or two campaigns or marketing initiatives at a time. Remember to track your campaigns and collect as much data as possible. For example, if you run a Facebook ad, how many people click through to your website from it and how many of those clicks convert into enquiries?

By measuring the performance of each marketing activity, you can gain a good understanding of:

  • conversion rates (e.g. how many website visitors become paying customers)
  • return on investment (ROI)
  • costs of acquiring a new customer

This can help you decide where to spend your marketing budget in the future and shape the ongoing development of your marketing strategy, which should change over time to reflect the changing needs of your customers, the sector in which you operate, and your business.

Do you have a marketing strategy? How often do you refer back to it? Or is creating a marketing strategy on your to-do list? I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments section below.

 

How to crack the corporate market as a freelance trainer

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Don't give up; the beginning is often the hardest quoteOne question I’m often asked is how to crack the corporate market as a freelance trainer. It’s understandable that the corporate market is attractive – many trainers find that once they have a foot in the door and have worked with one department, for example, new training opportunities come up for the same client with different departments, teams or sites.

Build your authority and social proof

To break into the corporate market, I would suggest that you begin building a strong and credible presence. You might want to add blogs, videos, podcasts and testimonials to your website that showcase your knowledge and back up your claims about what you have helped your clients achieve.

Alternatively, consider how you can position yourself as a thought leader with a unique take on an issue your potential clients might be facing. Try approaching trade magazines and journals or industry websites and seeing if there would be an opportunity to write a guest article for them.

If you’ve already had a corporate client, it is a good idea to approach them for a testimonial or recommendation, or even use them as the topic of a detailed case study that highlights the value you were able to bring to their organisation.

Even if your clients have been smaller businesses, their testimonials can still hold a great deal of weight. Generally speaking, social proof and testimonials will speak volumes with corporate clients, especially if they’ve never worked with you before.

Be honest about your business size

When you’re trying to attract corporate business, it’s tempting to pretend that your company is bigger than it is. Common tactics include talking about ‘we’ and ‘our team’ on a website or using a call answering service. Personally, I feel that honesty is the best policy – if you’re going to develop a long-term relationship with a training client, the chances are that they’ll cotton on that you’re working alone eventually.

Instead of concentrating on the size of your business, think about what value you offer. Use your website to tell your potential clients that you understand the challenges they face and you know how to overcome them.

Also, consider how you can use working freelance as a benefit; for example, they always get the same point of contact and access to your specialist knowledge.

Write your website to appeal to corporate customers

If you want to attract corporate clients, it’s important to have a website that talks specifically to them. Use images that reflect the corporate environment of your target clients and address their specific needs in your copy.

You can also use your website to bring attention to your track record, strengths and accomplishments in terms of how they have helped or would appeal to corporate clients. Can you help them understand legislation? Motivate their staff? Manage a period of high growth? Tell them this on your website.

You may want to use your website to show the kind of courses you can conduct – short videos from some of your training sessions would work well. Highlight what’s special about you and your training delivery, and give potential clients proof of your capabilities.

Consider niching

There’s a lot to be said for training within a specific niche where you can develop in-depth specialist knowledge. This enables you to become the ‘go-to’ trainer for your area of expertise.

Get active on LinkedIn

In a recent blog, we looked as using LinkedIn to build a training business. Many people feel that LinkedIn comes into its own as a gateway to the corporate market, which tends to be well represented on the platform.

To capitalise on the opportunities possible through LinkedIn, it’s important that you have a full profile. Consider using keywords that corporate clients would use to find a trainer in your headline, job title and summary statement as this will make you easier to find.

Try to devote some time each week to growing your network. Are there people within your contacts with corporate connections? If so, why not approach them for an introduction? Are there any groups that would include potential corporate clients?

Another tactic is to write articles for LinkedIn Pulse and participate in corporate groups to boost your visibility and authority within the LinkedIn community.

Do some detective work

If there are corporate clients that you would like to work with, try spending some time on their websites or calling their switchboard to identify the decision A simple hello could lead to a million thingsmakers. In a large corporation, trainers are often recruited through HR. Once you know the person to contact, you can see if they publish an email address online or look at which groups they participate in on LinkedIn. This may enable you to strike up a conversation or demonstrate your knowledge of their sector.

Don’t work on spec

Some freelance trainers are tempted to deliver training on the promise of future work without payment. Although it can seem like a sure-fire way to get your foot in the door, I would always recommend that you step back and think about the big picture. Working on spec or giving away freebies can make a statement about how you perceive your worth. You’re a professional and you deserve to be paid as such.

I recently read a comment from someone on Facebook saying that they had put their rates up for corporate clients because she’d been told her previously lower rates were a red flag about quality!

Be accountable

When working with corporate clients, it’s advisable to build some accountability and assessment into your training process, if it’s not there already. Your clients will want to see that they’re getting value for money.

You might want to carry out a pre-course questionnaire that assesses how the trainees feel about their knowledge, then follow this up with a post-training survey. What did they learn? Has their knowledge improved? Do they feel more confident? Positive results will give you something to show your client but you will also have a starting point to work from if the training did not achieve what you and the client hoped.

Do you work with corporate clients? What appeals to you about working in the corporate sector? How did you attract your first corporate client? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.

No selling required

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“7 Essential Steps to Building a Successful and Profitable Training Business”

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I’m delighted to introduce a guest blog from Sheridan Webb, Principal Consultant at Power Hour and Keystone Development & Training Ltd.

Today my husband and I bought a classic car. Well, he bought it, I just approved the decision 😉 and the whole process made me think about how the traditional view of selling is just ONE view: It’s certainly not the only one.

I’d like to tell you about Andy.

Car mechanicAndy is in his 50s (looked older). Scruffy beard, dirty overalls and ill-fitting boots. He made it abundantly clear to us that he was nothing to do with the sales side of things. But he was wrong. He WAS the sale! Andy is a car enthusiast. His passion for the cars in his care (for that is how he saw them) was obvious. He is a specialist mechanic and loves nothing more than bringing neglected cars back to their former glory. He had worked in the industry for over 30 years and even does cars up at home because he loves it so much.

He wanted to show us what the car had and discussed at length how it was different (better or worse) than similar cars. He talked about the imperfections of the car, and also what he loved about it. He got hands on and worked with us to put the roof on (because they are all a bit different). He took us for a test drive and knew all the little idiosyncrasies of the car which allowed us to get to know it quickly.

Not only that, but Andy basically interviewed us. He wanted to find out if we were worthy of being the owners of this treasured machine. He felt strongly that it had to go to someone who would use and look after it, rather than keep it locked in a garage. He was delighted that it would be a family car, and he told us tales of how own car had made so many treasured memories for him and his daughter.

In the end, we had to beg him to take our money…but he held his hand up and said John dealt with that side of things. As you can imagine, John was delighted to have a customer walk into his office waving their credit card asking to pay.

I know that many trainers find ‘selling’ hard. But today’s experience showed me how ‘selling’ isn’t always necessary. OK, so we went to the showroom already interested in the car: we were ‘warm’ prospects, but Andy’s enthusiasm, honesty, passion and interest in us made us want to buy the car more than we’d ever wanted to do anything.

It made me realise that if you love what you do, and that passion shines through, people will want to buy. No ‘selling’ required.
Sheridan Webb, Principal Consultant at Power Hour

Sheridan is a training consultant and designer who also delivers when asked to. She specialises in the research and design of bespoke development programmes via her company Keystone Development and Training Ltd, and the provision of bite-size training materials via Power Hour Training. She has been running her own businesses for almost 10 years and is based in the North West.

 

 

Eight legal issues every freelance trainer needs to address

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“The 7 Things You Need To Know To Become A Freelance Trainer”

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Responsibility is the price of freedom quoteIf you’re just starting out as a freelance trainer or setting up your own training business, you may be wondering where to start. What do you have to do and what are nice-to-haves but not essential? In this week’s blog, I’ve put together a list of eight legal issues I think every freelance trainer needs to consider and address. They may not all apply to you, but the chances are that most of these issues will. I should point out that I’m not a legal professional and the information in this article isn’t intended to act as or replace advice from a solicitor about your legal responsibilities.

  1. Business structure/status

If you are new to self-employment, one of the first decisions you will need to make is the structure of your business.

If you plan to work alone as a freelancer or only take on a small team, you may want to start out as a sole trader. This means that you can:

  • run your business as an individual
  • keep all of your business’s profits after you’ve paid tax on them
  • employ staff

As a sole trader, you should also be aware that you are personally responsible for any losses your business makes. You should submit an annual tax return to HMRC.

You may decide that you would prefer to operate as a limited company. As a limited company, your business is responsible for everything it does in its own right and its finances are viewed as separate to your personal finances. Any profits a limited company makes are owned by the company after it pays corporation tax. The company can then share its profits.

As a limited company, you would need to register your business with Companies House, put together statutory accounts, send an annual return to Companies House, and send HMRC an annual Company Tax Return.

If you expect your company takings to exceed £82,000 a year, you must register for VAT.

Other options include ‘Ordinary’ business partnerships and limited partnerships.

To find out more about the best structure for your training business, visit https://www.gov.uk/business-legal-structures/overview

 

  1. Contracts

There’s something about proposing a written contract that seems to make some freelancers and clients feel uncomfortable. As a result, work is often arranged fairly informally with a telephone conversation. Although a verbal agreement is usually still enforceable, the terms of that agreement may come under scrutiny if there’s a dispute about the services you promised to provide.

To protect yourself and your client, I would recommend that you always have a written contract in place for any training provision you are engaged to provide. At the very least, follow up any verbal agreement to carry out work with an email outlining what you have just discussed, what you will deliver, and when, as well as anything the client has agreed to do as part of your arrangement.

Having a written agreement in place will give both parties something to refer back to and help ensure that you’re both on the same page about who’s doing what, and when, and that you each have realistic expectations.

When creating a written contract, you might want to consider including your payment schedule, the scope of the work, deadlines, and who will own the training materials and trainee data at the end of the training.

 

  1. Employee vs. contractor

Even if you’re self-employed, there can be situations where it isn’t clear cut whether you’re an employee or a contractor. If, for example, you only have one client, you attend their premises on a full-time basis, or they have the final say on when, where and how you work – as well as what you work on – you might be considered an employee in the eyes of the law.

The Small Business forum defines an independent contractor as someone who ‘operates under a business name, has his/her own employees and maintains a separate business account; advertises his/her business’ services; invoices for work done; has more than one client; has own tools and sets own hours; keeps business records’.

An employee, on the other hand, is defined as someone who ‘performs duties dictated or controlled by others; is given training for work to be done; works only for one employer’.

You can, therefore, clarify your role by having more than one client, setting your own hours where possible, and actively marketing your training business.

 

  1. Insurance

As a freelance trainer, it is advisable that you have Professional Indemnity Insurance; you may also want to consider Public Liability Insurance.

Professional Indemnity Insurance helps you stay protected and meet legal costs should one of your clients raise a claim or pursue compensation related to work that you have done for them.

Public Liability Insurance covers the cost of claims made by members of the public for incidents that occur in connection with your business activities, including personal injuries, loss of or damage to property.

Most freelance trainers opt for Professional Indemnity Insurance.

 

  1. Professional bodies

If you have been a member of a professional body but your membership was paid for by an employer in the past, you may need to take out and pay for a new Quote about responsibilitymembership that reflects your self-employed status. Membership renewal isn’t always automatic for professional bodies, so you should bear this in mind and keep your memberships current.

 

  1. Data use/data protection

Data use and data protection are both issues that you will need to consider as a freelance trainer. For example, if you collect data on behalf of a client – perhaps through a feedback survey about your latest training – do you have permission to use that data for your own records? Or what happens if you bring in an associate – do you have anything in place to stop them contacting your clients and competing against you for contracts? You might think it will never happen, but it is important to identify what data use is permitted for all parties in writing.

In terms of data protection, if you plan to keep any individual’s personal information on your systems, such as a client’s name, address or other details, then you may need to obtain a licence from the Information Commissioner’s Office. To check whether this is the case, you can use the IPC’s handy self-assessment tool.

 

  1. Intellectual property/copyright of training materials

As a freelance trainer, one issue you may face is sourcing training materials. Problems can occur if you use training materials provided by or created for one client in similar training sessions for another client, or if you use training materials created by another trainer.

It’s important to be aware that if you run a training business and charge for your time while using training materials that you don’t own, you could quickly hit legal problems. You should only ever use training materials that you have either created for your own use with multiple clients or for use with one specific client. If you have created the materials, then you know they are your intellectual property to use as you wish.

You can transfer the intellectual property for specific materials over to a client, but I would recommend putting in writing when and how this will happen.

If you decide to use materials produced by someone else, check whether you have their permission to use them or if the person sharing the materials has permission to do so from the original creator or the person who holds the copyright for the material.

 

  1. Website

The first time you go on a new website, you may notice a short script about the use of ‘Cookies’. Cookies are tiny little files that are stored on your computer – they typically contain the address of the website you’re visiting and codes that your browser sends back to the website each time you visit a page there. They don’t usually contain personal information, although cookies for an e-commerce site might remember more to streamline the buying process for a returning customer.

Under the EU Cookies Law, all websites must present visitors with information about the cookies the site uses, and their purpose. You must also obtain consent to use those cookies and provide a mechanism to withdraw consent. Finally, you must respond to that withdrawal by preventing further use of cookies when that person visits your site.

If you have a WordPress website, there are a number of plugins designed to pop-up a cookies notification and help you stay compliant.

You may also want to include a Privacy Policy or Terms of Use page on your website, and make sure that your site is accessible to users with disabilities, older users, and people using assistive technologies.

Are there any other legal issues you’ve faced as a freelance trainer or issues that you’d like to see me add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.

Never run out of article ideas for your training business blog again

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“7 Essential Steps to Building a Successful and Profitable Training Business”

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Ideas are like rabbits quoteI’ve talked in the past about how writing a regular blog can be a great marketing tool for your training business, and a way to build your reputation and authority, but committing to a training business blog is just the beginning. How can you keep coming up with fresh ideas?

In this week’s article, I wanted to take a look at failsafe ways to generate new blog topics when your inspiration is running dry.

Google Trends

I’m a big fan of Google Trends. If you haven’t used it before it’s essentially a way of tracking what search terms are trending across the web. As well as highlighting the big news stories of the day, both nationally and worldwide, you can search for stories around your keywords – e.g. freelance trainers – and see how your search terms are performing.

Google Trends can be a great source of inspiration for your blog if there’s a news story that relates to your industry and connects to your training speciality or customers in any way.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a fantastic tool that lets you monitor the internet for interesting content around whatever keywords you want to keep an eye on.

Simply go to Google Alerts and set up an alert for your chosen keywords. You can follow as many search terms as you like. You will then receive regular emails from Google letting you know what new content it has picked up for your alerts. As well as finding out when people are talking about you or your training business online (it’s always worth setting up an alert for your name and business), you can keep your finger on the pulse of what’s being talked about in your sector and use this content to spark discussion or give your take on a story on your own blog.

Reddit

Promoted as ‘the front page of the internet’, Reddit’s community members – known as ‘Redditers’ – can submit content, such as text posts or direct links, to create a fast-moving online bulletin board of what they think is worth looking at online, including some previously undiscovered gems.

If there is a topic that you want to know more about you can add it to your ‘Subreddits’ and follow what people are posting within this topic-specific community. Reddit can be a bit baffling at first, but I found a good Reddit 101 guide over on Digital Trends that gives some beginners’ tips.

Buzzsumo

I could spend hours on Buzzsumo. This website lets you analyse what content performs best for any topic or competitor, showing you how articles using your keywords have performed on social media in terms of shares.

You might also want to keep an eye on the top influencers in your sector to see what content they’re posting and the hot topics on their social media pages. This isn’t with a view to copying their content, but you may be able to give your own unique take on something that’s generating interest. Imagine how excited I was to be listed as the top influencer for freelance training!Get ideas away from desk quote

Quora

Quora is another great starting point if you’re stuck for ideas. It’s a massive online forum where people post questions (a bit like Yahoo! Answers) and other people within the community answer. Simply type in a keyword and see what questions people are asking about it.

Questions

Ideas for your training business blog content don’t always have to come from other websites. Your customers may be generating ideas without you even realising. How? With the questions they ask.

It’s worth taking some time to think about questions your clients ask you time and again. It might be about your training methods, your training content, your experience, your insights into a topical issue within your industry, or something else altogether.

Perhaps there are questions that come up on your social media pages or in the Comments section of your blog. Or do enquiries from prospective clients always begin with the same concerns?

You could also try looking at industry blogs or online publications and see what people are saying in the Comments to get a sense of what your clients might want to know more about at any given point in time.

Try making a note the next time anyone asks you anything as your answer may make a great topic for your next blog.

Twitter

I like to use the Twitter lists feature to keep an up-to-date list of influencers in the training industry. I can then view the list for all an at-a-glance view of what they’re tweeting and what conversations are generating plenty of interest. Twitter is fast-moving, but a fantastic way of keeping your finger on the pulse.

Slideshare

Slideshare features thousands of decks (a bit like Powerpoint presentations) for pretty much every topic imaginable. Simply go to Slideshare, type in your search and browse the decks that show up in the search results. Inspiration will usually strike.

Pinterest

Although you might associate Pinterest with obviously visual, creative or product-led businesses, there is a huge number of fantastic pins that sit outside of these categories. I typed in ‘freelance training’ and was immediately met with hundreds of pins, many of which sparked ideas of my own. You could even create your own private/secret board where you pin blogging inspiration whenever you find it online.

So there you have it, just a few of my favourite sources of inspiration for fresh content on my training business blog. Where do you go for inspiration? Where do you get your ideas? Do you have a training business blog? Why not shout about it in the Comments section below!

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