Have you been holding off starting a training business because you have a marketing must-have list as long as your arm?

I’ve seen articles (usually from marketing companies who are understandably promoting their services) listing a logo, website, glossy brochure, stationery, business cards, leaflets and lead magnets as the bare essentials for any business to have in place before they can launch. I mean, you have to start attracting clients straight away, don’t you?

Well, yes, but achieving this comes down to far more than a glossy brochure or all-singing, all-dancing website. So often, these things are about business ego and preconceptions rather than necessity.

When you’re starting a training business, you can’t afford to let your cashflow go out of control, especially with the current financial climate. My advice is to put your marketing must-have list on hold. While the right branding and marketing materials could make a huge difference to the long-term success of your training business, they can wait.

What to focus on instead when starting a training business

Before you start spending your marketing budget, the most powerful thing you can do is decide who you want to work with and why, as well as who will want to hire you and how you can meet their needs.

It’s amazing how many businesses skip this step. But overlook it at your peril.

If you’re not crystal clear about who you want to work with, it will dilute your marketing message and weaken the ROI of any marketing materials you do create, making a big dent in your budget. By trying to appeal to anyone and everyone, the danger is that your marketing won’t resonate with anyone.

So, instead, I urge you to get as specific as possible about your target audience. What sort of company do they work for? What’s their job role? How big is their team? What issues are they dealing with and how would your training impact those issues? How will their lives look better with your help? What are their values?

The more you understand your target audience, the more you’ll be able to create the right branding and marketing to reach them. For example, you’ll pinpoint what motivates someone to search for the training you provide and you’ll be able to create content that answers that need. This includes the language you use, the type of lead magnets you create, your calls to action or the images you use. Understanding your audience will strengthen how you use social media too and help you make your advertising more targeted.

Only when you have this knowledge should you start defining your marketing must-haves.

Be selective about your marketing

Do you really need a marketing brochure or branded stationery if most of your communication will happen online? Do you even need business cards right now when most networking is taking place on Zoom? And how about a website? Perhaps you could start off with a free web presence using Google My Business or a basic SquareSpace or Wix website until you can increase your budget? (QuickSprout has put together a handy guide to the top six website builders that you might find helpful).

Knowing your audience will help you to make decisions and get the most from your budget.

The truth is that your training business will evolve many times and your marketing will evolve to support this. Marketing materials you create today may not work a year from now when you know more about your client base, so I always recommend keeping things as simple as possible. Yes, invest some time and energy into your brand but make this more about values and your mission and less about the perfect logo. Your clients will buy from you because you can solve a problem, not because you have the glossiest brochure!

What are your marketing must-haves? If you have a to-do list, how much is based on genuine need and how much is based on what you think you should have in order to launch your training business? If you’ve already started a training business, are there any marketing spends that you regret? I’d love you to share your experiences in the comments below.

This article was originally published in 2008 and updated in January 2021.

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