How to plan content marketing for training and edtech

Doug MarshallAchieve B2B MD Doug Marshall explains how to create a content marketing programme that will be valued by your buyers.

Imagine you’re a buyer of learning services or technology. You've got a big decision to make. It could affect your company’s success and your career too.

So well before you speak to anyone in sales you’ll want to do your research. There's probably one thing on your mind: Trust.

If you have commercial responsibilities in a company providing training, digital learning or edtech, your brand and people will need the trust of buyers. So how can your learning brand build trust?  A clue lies in this Gartner prediction:

Eighty per cent of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels by 2025.

Relevant, informative, and educational content plays an important role in building this trust. Great content marketing can be transformational for brand reputation and lead conversions. I've led marketing strategy for many learning brands, and I've seen how good content marketing builds trust and generates leads. 

Here are four considerations when putting together a content marketing programme for training, elearning, and edtech services.

Prepare learning content that your audience will share on social media

Make your content so interesting and insightful that it will be shared on social media, using relevant hashtags and handles.

Your audience is more likely to engage with real people than your corporate social media account. Also, your content will much more likely be shared when it answers customers’ questions. So for both of these reasons involve customer-facing colleagues when choosing subjects. What's going to interest prospects and customers? What will resonate so much they'll want to share with their peers?

Involving colleagues in content marketing will help ensure they share content - so keep colleagues informed of what content is being published with a marketing calendar that you proactively promote. If you're an admin for your LinkedIn page there's a nice feature that enables you to 'Notify Employees' which sends a message to colleagues. So keep in mind both your colleagues, who can post and share your content and customers who will engage with it. 

Optimise your learning content marketing

Google logoYou’ll want to make sure that your content has a positive impact on your website’s overall SEO. To do this create content using targeted keywords to attract visitors to your website, although be careful not to overuse them as this can be offputting for readers. There are many tools to determine which keywords to target. Here are three which I've found helpful
Semrush features a tool that tells how many searches are made on relevant keywords.

Ask the public collates, tracks and alerts you to the questions being asked on Google.

Moz includes tools to help you identify the difficulty of getting your search term to the top of SERPs.

Consider how you can get valuable inbound links from trusted external websites. One way to do this is to research and identify relevant websites that would feature your content, and in doing so provide a backlink to yours.

Many CMSs have SEO plug-ins to help you optimise pages. I like the Yoast SEO tool for WordPress and Joomla sites that I manage, as it proactively guides me to complete tags. As well as populating meta tags Include a meta description for your page. Although it doesn’t affect Google’s algorithms it will appear in many search results, prompting readers to click through to your content.

Make sure content marketing for learning brands is useful

Create content that will really help your prospect. Ask some customers what content is going to really help them in their job. Don’t restrict yourself to the usual types of content. The most useful content can simply be a checklist. Someone I knew built their lead generation on offering really useful templated contracts. Providing a glossary can be extremely helpful to people new to an industry, (they’re great for SEO too).

Also, consider your customers’ customers. What would your customers like to know about their customers? What invaluable insights could you bring? Surveys of customers’ customers are highly useful. Content about future trends has been shown to be valued by C-suite audiences.

Identify how to make content marketing purposeful

When planning content, consider its purpose. Ask what the end result is. To do this consider the business conversations your company needs to have with prospects to win specific work. This can guide you on the subject, media, channel, and audience that will have the most impact.

Soup stands for shareable, optimised, useful and purposefulPublish content for each stage of decision-making. Think about what actions you’d like prospects to take and design a CTA around that. Infographics and short videos are going to be more relevant for awareness activity. Webinars and thought leadership documents are likely to be more relevant later once your prospects trust you with their contact details.

From writing a blog to editing a video, organising a webinar to creating a guide, content marketing takes time and resources. It’s therefore important to do content marketing well so you get a good return on your time and money.

Remember these key elements of good content marketing - keep it shareable, optimised, useful and purposeful, or SOUP for short. Your colleagues in sales will be thankful that you’ve built trust in your brand and people - and so will that L&D buyer.

If you'd like a free consultation on how to improve content marketing for your learning brand drop us a line or give us a call, we'd love to hear from you!

How to set the price of a training course

If you're a marketer for training or elearning services, pricing should be a key consideration. As a result of reading this article, I hope you'll understand why pricing could be your marketing superpower. Why? Well, both as an in-house marketer, and now helping my training clients, I've seen the positive effects that good pricing has for a training business. For any marketer, taking the initiative on pricing is a great way to build your commercial reputation. So where should you start? 

I recommend doing some detective work first to build insights on setting a price. Ask questions such as how has pricing been decided in the past? When was it last reviewed? What is it based on? Who should be involved in the decision? You'll also need a handle on how your customers view your service. Does the feedback indicate good overall satisfaction? What valuable outcomes do they derive from training? And what about competitors - how do their prices compare? Getting the answers to these questions helps you build a case for deciding the right prices for your training services.

Why you should review the pricing of your training courses

Why should you be a pricing champion? The best answer can be found in this classic Harvard Business Review article:

“... a 1 per cent improvement in price, assuming no loss of volume, increases operating profit by 11.1 per cent. Improvements in price typically have three to four times the effect on profitability as proportionate increases in volume.”

In short, setting the price of your training course could lead to increased revenues, and potentially without adding any material costs. But for many years, training prices have been based on a rather archaic cost-plus formula. This would typically be calculated by adding up the venue, trainer, and other costs, and adding on a 20 per cent profit margin to achieve your price. This has two drawbacks. Firstly, it often ignored other costs such as overheads, meaning the profit assumption was often incorrect. Secondly, it ignored the value of the service. The last eighteen months have seen a dramatic shift to digital learning services. This offers new opportunities, but also challenges in pricing. 

How to value price for training services

Value is an important consideration of pricingCan you replace cost-plus pricing with value-based pricing? The answer partly depends on your competitors. If they offer identical products then your customers are likely to be much more price-sensitive.

Indeed a lack of differentiation can lead to commoditization and churn which leads to price discounting. I’ve seen this happen with face-to-face courses being undercut by digital course providers.

Value-based pricing is predicated on you being able to measure the value of your services. How do you differentiate your service over your competitors? 

The first place to start is to understand the learning and performance outcomes you bring to customers. Take a look at feedback forms, and better still talk to customers to find out the impact your training and elearning is having. By being able to differentiate your outcomes from competitors, and understand the true value of your learning services, you’re better placed to set a price based on value.

How to develop enterprise pricing for elearning services

If your target market includes large teams in large companies, an enterprise model for pricing may offer a great opportunity. Here, you sell a multi-seat licence rather than an individual one. This, in turn, could help you achieve recurring revenues from subscriptions or memberships.

The key here is to consider perceived value for the customer. For example, a multi-seat licence that provides online access for 50 employees, but for the price of 30 individual licences, offers better value to the client, whilst increasing your revenues.

To do this you will need to identify and work with senior decision-makers. This may require a longer-term approach to sales. It also involves transforming the relationship from transactional to a partnership. This requires a deep understanding of your customer's desired learning and performance outcomes and a training service that can be shown to improve them.

How to present training prices well

I'm often asked if training prices should be displayed on client websites. The argument for not doing so is often due to an inconsistent discounting legacy.  shutterstock 1203057580 1Understanding these issues is obviously important before you make a decision on publishing your pricing. Generally, I find that customers prefer transparent pricing, and that should also be an important consideration.

Should you decide to publish your prices, make sure you present them clearly on your website. SAAS companies have led the way with this, often providing a grid of features and benefits. Here are some examples that you might find helpful:

Semrush: This example includes three easy-to-understand options. with further information for prospects wanting more in-depth comparisons: 

WordPressEach option has a CTA button, with one labelled 'popular' to guide the prospect. This example compares each pricing bundle, with those features not included helpfully greyed out with a cross.

Marketo: This includes a useful summary statement and a list of features, all neatly laid out for easy comparison.

My recommendation to you is to be part of pricing conversations. Too often, marketers end up managing just promotion and miss the opportunity to influence the other ‘p’s of marketing. It’s good for you to have an opinion about pricing for your elearning and training services. It's much better to do something about it.

If you'd like to discuss the pricing for your training or information service drop me a line on our contacts page

  Doug Marshall

  MD, Achieve B2B Marketing

The events guide for learning marketers

Virtual events have been a stand-out channel in B2B marketing recently. They've enabled marketers and salespeople to promote services and network with prospects without having to leave their homes. If you're a marketer for a training or elearning company you may have an important role in identifying opportunities at relevant virtual events.

So how do you set out to plan events participation? At Achieve B2B Marketing we advise starting with your objectives. These may be getting your brand noticed. It might be positioning a colleague as a thought leader. It might be lead generation. It may be many things, so consider your marketing objectives when planning events. During 2021/2022 we're all faced with a mixture of virtual, blended and physical events. All have advantages and disadvantages.  

To help you navigate the right events for learning companies, we've published a calendar of events for you to identify marketing opportunities for training, edtech and training services.  

To keep up with changes, register for updates on our contact us form.

Event  Date       Venue   Hashtag
Learning Live  8-9 September 2021 Etc Venues, Houndsditch, London #LEARNINGLIVE2021
Leading Learning and Development Congress 11-15 October 2021 Virtual  
CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition    3-4 November 2021    
Online Educa Berlin (OEB) 1-3 December 2021 Berlin #OEB21
World of Learning Summit  (TBC took place Dec 2020)    
Learning Technologies  9-10 February 2022  ExCeL London #LT22UK
The Learning Awards 18 February 2022  London Hilton on Park Lane #learningawards
Training and Development Summit 16 and 17 May 2022  Whittlebury Park, Northampton and virtual  
CIPD Festival of Work 15-16 June 2022    

 

Are you an organiser of events for the learning community? Use the contact us form if you'd like your event included or to let us know of any updates. This is provided on an information-only basis. Please check the event organiser's website for the most up-to-date information.

Events services from Achieve B2B Marketing

Here are some of the services Achieve B2B Marketing provides for learning companies participating in events:

  • Pre-event - objective setting, activity identification, participation promotion, stand set-up, presentation preparation, marketing collateral
  • During the event - social media support, competitor analysis
  • After the event - targeting prospects (stand and presentation attendees)

Do contact us if you'd like to discuss how to get the most out of your event attendance.

Dos and Don'ts of Marketing Technology

How can you maximise the effectiveness of marketing technology? My experience tells me it’s by hiring and developing the right people:

Here are some dos and don'ts from my time as both an agency and in-house marketer.

DO

✅ Enable specialists to use the same technology frequently. I've seen how the more involved and invested marketers are in using specific technology, the more enthusiastic and inventive they become in using it.

✅ When budgeting for technology, factor in partnerships. Vendors seldomly provide sufficient support and more complex technologies will require roll-out partners.

✅ Test how intuitive the technology is for easier adoption. Ask potential users to do this so they buy in to the testing process.

shutterstock 718346401 5✅ Work with vendors who have a proven track record of helping users. Be sure of the support and training they provide and the quality of online tutorials. That means asking their customers searching questions

DON'T

❌ Invest heavily in technology and then lightly on the people to make it work.

❌ Overinvest in bells and whistles. It makes adoption harder and can be a waste of money. For some of my SME clients, Mailchimp is a perfectly good solution for email marketing alone, whereas for others, rolling out Hubspot and Marketo has been more appropriate.

Martech is one of many B2B Marketing subjects I discuss with Peter Sumption in episode 153 of his excellent Marketing Study Lab Podcast. We also discuss the importance of talking to customers, the differences between B2C and B2B marketing. Check out the podcast on Spotify and all other good podcast providers.

Doug Marshall portrait 1  Doug Marshall

  Achieve B2B Marketing

Five actions to improve your B2B marketing in 2021

Meet some customers

A previous boss once included this in my annual plan. What a great idea! It forced me out of the office to have conversations with real customers. I learned loads. such as why some customers wouldn't adopt eLearning. The answer - because their perception of elearning was watching someone staring at a camera, talking for an hour. In a business selling training services, that kind of feedback was invaluable. Telling real-life customer stories always gives marketers better credibility with client-facing colleagues and can lead to more meaningful internal conversations. So hop on Zoom and start some conversations with customers.

Make a plan 

You may be thinking ‘We don’t do annual plans anymore, we don’t know what we’re doing in 12 days, let alone 12 months.' Long term planning in the middle of a pandemic might seem especially challenging, even irrelevant right now. But targets don't disappear, and you'll still need to explain your forecast for next year’s budget. So use the opportunity of a long term plan to take a step back from your business. As Rory Sutherland says in his book 'Alchemy': ask yourself some ‘apparently fatuous’ questions. Like ‘why are we in this business?’ Check if your value proposition still stacks up. Scrutinise your right to win in your market. Find out if you have the right skills. I’m a big fan of working in an agile way as well, but you don't have to choose between the two. 

Ask this question

A great question to ask yourself and colleagues is ‘so what?’ You’ve got 50,000 Twitter followers, so what? You had 700 people attend your webinar, so what? Say it nicely so it doesn’t sound rude. But after a while, your colleagues will get the hint. So what? It means, how is this helping the business, how is it getting us to forecast, how is it building customer loyalty? So for example, next time you hold a webinar make sure there’s a plan for before, during, and after it. What’s the hook in the webinar that will make a conversion? Maybe it’s a workshop that leads to a sales call. Think CTA and keep asking so what? until you really understand how tactics will lead to the company achieving its goals.

Use SOUP for content

Content marketing is an essential tactic in B2B marketing, but it needs to be well-planned. I've devised 'SOUP' to remember four key rules for content marketing. Soup stands for

  • Shareable - make your content so useful that prospects will want to share it on social media.
  • Optimised -  make sure users can find it in Google (but without the keyword stuffing)
  • Useful - create content that will really help your prospect. 
  • Purposeful - what’s the next step for the user, is there a CTA?

Be aligned with your sales team

Win yourself fans in your sales team by doing some research on social selling and share what you've learned. Some salespeople may feel unprepared for the world of LinkedIn engagements and Twitter lists. So if they need some help, show them their SSI score. Then, suggest a chat to identify prospects, develop rapport, and build a pipeline on social media in a way that colleagues feel comfortable and get value. Want to know more about social selling? Drop us a line on our Contacts Page and we'll describe how to build a social selling programme in your business. 

Doug Marshall portrait 1Doug Marshall
Achieve B2B Marketing

Five influencers that edtech and learning services marketers should follow

If you’re responsible for marketing edtech, training, or elearning services you need to stay up to date on both L&D and marketing. Here are my five top recommendations for who to follow in 2021 to keep yourself informed.

Nick Shackleton-Jones

If you’re a business owner or marketer of learning services you’ll want a big say in product development. Shackleton-Jones’ 2019 book ‘How People Learn’ offers fascinating perspectives on how providers can make learning more effective. If you want to challenge learning myths and help your organisation develop training services that really work, Shackleton-Jones is a must to follow on Twitter.

Mark Ritson

There are many reasons to follow the Marketing Week columnist and brand consultant. His videos on LinkedIn help marketers better understand complex marketing concepts. Plus there’s a bonus, you’ll have aLearning Now TV great example of how to market learning services using social media and video. Ritson actively engages with comments, and his videos are great content marketing - useful whilst being easily digestible. 

LearningNow TV

Presented by L&D experts Nigel Paine and Kate Graham, LearningNow TV provides a magazine-type show that offers brilliant and timely insights on the world of L&D with interesting guests. To better understand your L&D customers and the sector generally, follow them on Twitter to catch the programme each month.

Donald H Taylor

The Learning and Performance Institute's chair publishes his annual L&D Global Sentiment Survey. It takes the pulse of the L&D community world-wide by asking. “What will be hot in workplace L&D next year?” Follow Donald and check out the results for 2021 to have more informed conversations with customers.

ON24

Webinars will continue to be an important tool to engage prospects in 2021. As a software service, ON24 is a cobbler with polished shoes with great webinars on, well how to do great webinars. Brilliant presenter Mark Bornstein offers a masterclass on webinar presentation by, you’ve guessed it, presenting great webinars on how to produce great webinars.

Keep up to date with how to market your edtech and learning services in 2021 by following Achieve B2B Marketing on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Why your marketing needs to be less rational to understand customers

There’s a false assumption in market research that customers are rational beings, conscious of all their feelings and actions. As advertising legend David Ogilvy stated ‘The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.’ 

Rory Sutherland's 2019 book  ‘Alchemy, The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense’ offers many insights to help business leaders and B2B marketers better understand their customers. Sutherland argues that if you look at customers through a less rational lens you may be able to understand them better. 

Uncover your customers’ unconscious motivations

A great example that Sutherland quotes is Uber. Research on their consumers’ rational needs might have focussed solely on the need for a speedy service rather than less rational, often unconscious motivations. But Uber's real genius is the reduction of anxiety when waiting for a cab. Unlike a phone-booked minicab, you’re not anxiously looking at your watch, uncertain of where your car is. With Uber, it’s there on your mobile, a little animated car on your screen, just two minutes away and coming down the road! So how do you better uncover unconscious motivations in your organisation? Sutherland has a suggestion: Create an atmosphere in your company where people can ask apparently fatuous questions. Asking for example what people hate about taxis might reveal their anxiety about waiting, rather than other more rational issues such as speed and price.

Ask apparently fatuous questions

archieveb2bmarketing 4Let’s take education technology and learning services as an example, an area where I provide marketing services. What would happen if you asked more 'apparently fatuous' questions such as ‘why do people want to learn?’

Recently I’ve seen great examples of companies growing learning services whose focus didn’t seem to follow traditional thinking that the rational, conscious motivation for learning is solely to improve job prospects.

FutureLearn, for example, has tapped into learners' desire for social learning by enabling users to exchange ideas. FutureLearn says it wants to create a learning environment ‘more like a chat with friends about your ideas and what you’ve learned.’

Tap into gamification

Language learning specialist Duolingo puts much of their global success down to the company's gamification strategy, created to keep users returning to the service. I know from my two of my extended family, how Duolingo cleverly creates competition amongst users which acts as a highly effective learning motivator.

The truth is there’s more than one answer for why people want to learn, and it might not be the answer a delegate gives on the feedback form. Asking more creative questions can lead to a better understanding of the real value of your business or learning service.

By better understanding unconscious motivations, you can be better armed to ensure your communications and the product itself offers real value for your customer.

Like this article? Discover how to improve your B2B marketing 2021.

Doug Marshall portrait 1Doug Marshall

Achieve B2B Marketing

How to enable client-facing teams to sell using social media

How can you help your client-facing teams adapt to changing buyer behaviours? Traditional selling techniques are becoming less effective as buyer behaviours continue to change.

Two big changes are necessitating a rethink on how to engage with B2B prospects. Firstly, buyers do more extensive research before they want to talk to salespeople, with content marketing and online information replacing phone calls early in the sales cycle. 

Secondly, with working from home predicted to double in 2021, the sheer ability to reach people by phone is only going to get harder.

Help your salespeople to adapt

So salespeople need to adapt, but how? Speaking with some highly successful salespeople recently there’s something they have in common. They adapt to new ways of selling, using digital techniques to engage with prospects. One that’s really standing out is using social selling. 

What is social selling? Essentially it’s when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Social selling can be used to identify and attract prospects and engage with them in a way that adds value to both sides.

But when it’s a tool that’s used badly it can have the opposite effect. For example, I recently spoke to a buyer who blocks cold LinkedIn connection requests. That can damage not just your reputation but also prompt platforms to limit your ability to use their tools. It's also a mistake to think of social selling as a replacement for techniques such as telephone calls. It's another technique that is used to engage with prospects where they happen to be. It's worth bearing in mind that some prospects won't be active on networks like LinkedIn, so it's best used selectively with those that are.

How to do social selling well

So how can social selling be done well? The first thing to bear in mind is that social selling is not a quick fix. It takes time and resources which won’t be appropriate for all types of B2B companies such as those with low price high volume sales. The second is attitude. Social selling can only be done well where there is respect for the prospect and a genuine attempt to provide them with value knowing that it won’t always result in a sale.  The clue is in the name, and in fact, it's much more about being social that it is about selling.

If you're advising sales teams here's some guidance to give them: An important piece of preparation is considering both your personal brand and audience. What value can you offer on social media? What's your area of expertise which prospects can benefit from? Secondly who is in your audience? What information do they need that you can offer? 

Once you've done this initial preparation a good place is to look up your social selling index. This is a free service (and a great piece of marketing) by LinkedIn. Your score can be compared to your peers. Most importantly it also gives you four key insights on where to prioritise your efforts. 

The first of these is to review your LinkedIn profile. If it simply resembles your CV it’s probably not going to attract or interest potential buyers. Refocus your profile with your potential customers in mind. Make sure your job title and summary include search terms that help prospects to find you, and that it clearly explains how you can help your prospect and articulates your personal brand.

How to be active on LinkedIn efficiently

Secondly use the advanced search functions in LinkedIn (and if you have a licence LinkedIn Sales Navigator) to identify prospects. Rather than connect with them coldly, ‘follow’ them initially instead to see their activity. 

Thirdly, start to be active on LinkedIn. A good way for salespeople to do this is to engage with the online activity of prospects. If they’ve written a post, comment on it by offering your own valuable insight. Remember though to keep it ‘social’. Be authentic and don’t do any selling at this early stage. It's important that sales and marketing work well together. Having a marketing calendar helps sales and marketing people be aligned on future activities such as events being attended, scheduled content marketing such as webinars, and national 'days' that can be engaged with.

Fourthly, connect with your prospect when you’ve built up sufficient rapport. Carefully craft your invitation request, explaining helpfully why you would like to connect. Don’t stop there though, continue to offer valuable insights. This will help you know whether and when to suggest a call. By building a reputation for being both helpful and knowledgeable your call has a much better chance of success. 

If you're a marketer keen to build mutually beneficial relationships with sales colleagues, advising them on social selling is a good place to start.

Interested in knowing more about social selling? Sign up to my regular newsletter on marketing for business and learning services. 

Doug portraitDoug Marshall

Achieve B2B Marketing

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At Achieve B2B Marketing we’ll ask you where you want to get to and discover the best way to get there. Book an appointment with Achieve B2B Marketing today.

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