Do your courses equip students with skills that are highly sought-after in the professional world? Can they serve as a gateway to career advancement? Are they offered in flexible, convenient formats that would suit busy professionals?
If so, it’s worth considering that your programs may be just as appealing to a student’s employers as they are to students themselves. More and more, employers are actively encouraging professional development, and many will provide their employees with support if they are seeking to undertake further education. In a lot of cases, employers will organize and fund education and training for their employees themselves.
This makes them a valuable potential target audience for many schools. If you think your institution might be one of them, read on to learn how to start marketing your courses to employers.
1. Define Employer Personas for Your School’s Programs
Depending on the situation, an employer may be either the primary or secondary decisionmaker for your school.
In some cases, employers will actively research possible education and professional development opportunities and enroll their employees on courses. They will often pay for the course themselves, and may look to book groups of employees at the same time.
In others, the student themselves will be the one seeking a course, but will need their employer’s support in order to pursue their studies. This might come in the form of full or partial funding for tuition costs, or even just time off work to complete the course.
Defining employer personas will allow you to frame their role and importance in the enrollment journey and what they are looking for in a course. This might differ quite a bit from your typical prospective student.
Example: A sample employer persona for data science and analytics course. You will note that their motivations and concerns are very specific, and driven by desired business outcomes.
Typically, an employer’s motivations for encouraging their staff to learn new skills will be framed from the perspective of the benefits it will bring to their organization. They will be interested in how their staff can put what they will learn at your school into action in their day-to-day work. They may also have very specific things in mind that they want covered or taught on the course they select. For instance, an employer looking for training in digital marketing for their staff may specifically want a course that covers social media advertising, or Google Analytics.
They may also have concerns about an employee pursuing studies. Most commonly, they may be worried that the extra workload of completing a program will make it hard for an employee to focus fully on their job.
Another common concern—particularly if they are funding an employee’s studies—is that they will not stay at the company long enough afterwards for them to see a return on their investment. They may even fear that an employee will use the new skills they develop as a springboard to land a job elsewhere.
Finding out what these unique goals and pain points are can be a challenge, especially if you haven’t been marketing further education to employers directly in your previous recruitment efforts. If possible, try to do some research by surveying employers of current or past students, or even contacting employers who fit your target organization profile. You can also ask your alumni what skills and knowledge from your courses that employers have found most valuable.
While it may take some work, creating employer personas will give you a clear picture of their characteristics, needs, and goals, and help you present your programs in a way that appeals to this audience.
2. Frame the Benefits of Your Courses From an Employer’s Perspective
You are probably used to presenting the benefits of your courses from the point of view of your students. Studying with you gives them the opportunity to learn new skills, improve their career prospects, and develop themselves personally.
When marketing professional development courses to employers, this messaging needs to be tweaked slightly to bring home the advantages of enrolling their staff. These benefits will vary depending on the course, industry, and situation, but here are a few of the most common things that appeal to employers.
Addressing Skills Gaps
One of the most common reasons employers seek additional training for their staff is to address skills gaps in the workplace. Perhaps they have recently promoted an otherwise capable employee to a new position, for example, and they don’t have all the knowhow they need to fill the role.
In other cases, they may need or want to address a wider skills gap in the company. For instance, a small company might seek digital marketing training for employees so that they can manage their online presence. Or a company which has difficulties with its management structure might invest in management training to improve its overall organizational culture.
Whatever the case may be, training staff to address skills gaps can provide increase the value of employees to organizations, help them limit their reliance on external resources, and help them do their jobs more effectively.
Keeping Pace with Evolving Industry Trends
Even in the case where employees have very well-rounded skill sets, gaps can appear as industries change and evolve.
The most prevalent example of this in recent times is what is commonly referred to as the ‘digital skills gap’, in which more experienced professionals across a wide range of industries are struggling to keep pace with new technologies. External training can be an ideal way to address this, giving them a chance to develop, refine, and practice their skills outside of a pressurized work setting.
Example: Brainstation offers a range of digital skills course specifically for businesses.
In certain sectors, additional training that staff might require as a result of industry changes will more specific. For instance, healthcare staff may need to retrain on a regular basis to keep pace with new procedures and protocols. Institutions that can provide up-to-the-date training in industry best practices can provide a valuable outlet.
Expanding a Business into New Areas
In other cases, a business might seek additional education for employees to help it expand and diversify its business. They may be looking to introduce new products or services, and need to impart their team with a foundation of knowledge in these areas.
They could also be looking to expand into new markets, and need to prepare for some of the challenges they will face. For instance, it can be common for some organizations to seek language training for staff (particularly in English) when looking to facilitate international expansion.
Example: Irish College of English offers English language training for companies, and has worked with high profile organizations such as KPMG, Accenture, and Turkish Air.
Employee Satisfaction and Retention
Last but not least, you shouldn’t underestimate the value some employers place on investing in training purely to benefit their staff on an individual level. Employees appreciate organizations that are willing to support their professional development through training, and it can increase workplace satisfaction. In turn, it can also increase staff retention, as employees who know they can grow and develop in an organization are more likely to stick around.
3. Package Your Courses for Employers
In addition to selling the benefits of your courses to employers, you may also need to rethink how you package them in order to make them viable, appealing options for organizations.
For a start, you may need to look at the format of your courses. Employers may be less inclined to enroll their staff on lengthy programs, preferring shorter options. If you have a longer program that offers a range of valuable skills, consider creating a series of smaller courses from your existing classes and modules.
You should also look at the time and place of your courses. Some employers may prefer that courses take place over evenings or weekends. Online learning may also be considered a preferable option to in-class training, although some employers might value the in-class experience. If they are enrolling a large number of staff in a course all at once, they may even be seeking a private, self-contained class that will not include students from elsewhere.
Example: Liden and Denz, a Russian language school, caters to expat workers in Russian cities by providing language courses in closed groups for employers. For the convenience of these organizations, the classes are taught at their workplace rather than in the school.
You might also want to review your pricing structure to make it more advantageous to companies. An employer who is enrolling several staff in your programs might be hoping for a discount.
Keep in mind, too, that in some countries and regions education for employees might be tax deductible for employers. You should research if this is the case for your school, and seek to highlight this potential benefit where possible.
While changing some of your course offerings to fit employers might not be appealing for some schools, it can pay off in the long run, helping you to establish your brand with this audience and build your reputation.
5. Create Content Highlighting Why Employers Should Consider Your Programs
To promote your courses to employers, you will want to focus your efforts across a number of channels–– using SEO best practices to increase your rankings in key searches, highlighting training opportunities on social media, advertising on different platforms, and creating email campaigns to nurture employers towards registering staff.
In all cases, there will be a need to create high quality content that highlights the organizational benefits enrolling on your course could bring to an employee. The first step is ensuring that this potential avenue is highlighted on your website. You may want to create a specific page or section on your website that offers information about possible corporate training.
Example: Algonquin College has a specific section devoted to corporate training on its website.
In cases where you have specific courses which are likely to be of interest to employers, you might want to ensure that some information for this audience is offered on your program pages, or through brochures and other assets.
Example: Smith School of Business created this Case for Sponsorship PDF for employers interested in funding candidates for its Accelerated MBA program.
From there, you should incorporate regular content relevant to employers into your content marketing schedule. Create blogs, social media posts, videos, and other content which outlines why your courses are good options for employers seeking to help their staff upskill, answering any questions they are likely to have, and allaying any concerns they may have about investing in training.
Example: HEC Paris created this blog highlighting why employers should invest in lifelong learning.
Doing so will help more employers find your school, and can go some way to persuading them that your courses are the right solution to the challenges they face.
6. Create Ads Aimed at Marketing Education to Employers
Advertising can be a cost-effective way to build up your employer contacts quickly. Both Google Ads and Facebook Ads could both potentially be viable avenues to find suitable employers seeking out your courses.
If you want to be sure you’re targeting the right people at the right organizations, though, LinkedIn may be your best bet. Because of the social network’s professional focus, the audience builder in LinkedIn Campaign Manager allows you to target users by industry, company, job title, and seniority more accurately than any other platform.
Example: An audience on LinkedIn Campaign Manager built to specifically target senior professionals in healthcare. Targeting those with significant seniority can help ensure that your campaign reaches those with the authority to enroll staff in training.
You can use these features to build a range of ad campaigns that will ensure information about your courses and what they offer reach decision-makers at relevant organizations.
7. Provide Social Proof of Success from an Employer Perspective
Social proof is the concept of providing your audience with evidence that their peers found your products or services useful. This can take many forms, from online reviews, to testimonials, to good old-fashioned word of mouth.
When marketing education to employers, social proof is golden. Organizations will want to see evidence that your courses provide employees with skills that offer real value in the workplace, and the best way to do this is to demonstrate that other employers have been satisfied.
Once you begin to attract more employers to enroll staff in your courses, your team should work to solicit testimonials from them that speak to your school’s expertise. These can be in the form of written interviews, reviews, or even videos, and should be shared across different channels and within your marketing campaigns.
Example: Saskatoon Business College has a page dedicated to organization testimonials regarding its corporate training on its website.
Testimonials like this are assets of immeasurable value, and can be repurposed and reshared for years to come.
8. Work to Build an Ongoing Employer Network
The beauty of targeting employers in your education marketing efforts is that any organization that enrolls employees in your courses won’t necessarily do it just once. If they are happy with the results, they may come to you seeking training for their staff again and again, providing you with a steady stream of new prospects for many years.
Even in cases where they are the secondary persona, or are looking at larger one-off programs for individuals like MBAs, they will be inclined to agree to allow other employees to study with you, and may even recommend your programs to them.
With that in mind, it’s worth working to cultivate your relationships with these organizations,. You should make an effort to keep any employers in your contact database updated about the latest happenings and new offerings from your school. Creating a regular newsletter specifically for this audience can be an excellent way to accomplish this, and you can also host events, create specialized content, and even reach out to them personally every so often.
This reciprocal relationship may also serve to help you develop partnerships with these organizations, which could be used to facilitate industry internships, appearances from guest speakers at your school, or other initiatives that could enhance overall student experience. If they are impressed with the expertise your programs impart in students, they may even be inclined to hire graduates from your school, improving your placement rates.
As a result, you could develop a strong reputation within industries relevant to your courses, which will serve both to generate more applications from employers and to enhance your visibility among prospective students themselves.