Every day, I'm cordially invited to learn about the latest in something: solutions, tools, partnerships, products, services, or techniques. My mailbox and in-box are swamped. Most of these offers are from energetic startups boasting a product or service claiming "instant success." Some claim to have all sorts of customers. Space is always limited. And I get all the benefits of being "enabled," plus a lovely parting gift, just by attending.
Young companies and product groups often grow over confident, believing that the quick growth of their new product or solution will motivate the right people to attend a training event. But growth and even name recognition are not enough.
First, no matter how promising a training session sounds, there's risk. Bringing something new into any company can be a gamble: to the individual, his or her department, or even the entire enterprise. Most managers have been successful not by being "cutting edge," but by using a wait-and-see approach. Proven success over time is far more convincing, and less risky, than meteoric sales.
Second, (sorry to say) a product or service offering is rarely unique. Although your development group may believe your technology is a quantum leap beyond the competition, the differences may be too subtle for the potential student to discern from an invitation.
Finally, there's noise. The sheer volume of communication in today's technology industry makes it difficult for any message to stand out. Most often, your invitation will join a dozen other training opportunities on your target's desk. Unless you take deliberate steps, little will distinguish your event from any other.
Improve Your Pitch Some companies' offers do rise above the fray--every successful company was once a startup. Here are a few techniques to improve your next training promotion:
Way Above and Way Beyond. While managers may be reluctant to invest in training on a new, unknown product, they may be interested in investing in training that will generally improve their organization. By learning about a new field or hearing industry analysis, potential trainees can bring knowledge back to the office that can be of long-term value. Consider investing in an outside speaker, industry analyst, or technical guru to add value to the event. Be sure their involvement is clear on the invitation so prospects will understand the high-level education that you're offering.
Nothing Succeeds Like Specific Success. After positioning your product, use customer examples. These should include not just the customers' names, but specifics on their stories: How did your product improve their processes or return on investment? Real stories from real customers add breadth and depth to your claims.
Another T-shirt? Tackling a new technology is a lonely job that few people enjoy. To motivate them to attend your event, consider a special offer. To be most effective, it should be meaningfully related to your product. One of the most effective offers I have used is dedicated trainee support after the event--and not just the promise of the support, but a name and phone number or, even better, the opportunity to meet their resource at the training event. This personalization boosts confidence and comfort levels in ways that a T-shirt or coffee mug cannot.
Don't Get Caught Short. Be sure you can deliver your special offer, whether you're promising support, an upgrade, or some other product or service. Have the administrative and distribution pro-cesses in place and ready for success. I always insist on testing the process to ensure efficiency and avoid disappointment. When you lose a trainee after an event, you also lose them as a reference and advocate.