Identifying and Overcoming the Biggest Challenges to Getting New Offerings to MarketAmy Wartham | Director of Corporate Training, UNC Charlotte
Launching a new program is a great time for any Continuing Education department. There is a sense of excitement and enthusiasm at the possibility of what this program will mean for your department. Meeting an identified, but previously unmet, learning need gives the program its purpose. However, before this program comes to fruition, there may be a lengthy process involved with the launch and there may be many challenges that can stand in the way. The good news is that most of these challenges can be addressed with proper planning to ensure the program is executed with success.
Of course, there are some obstacles CE leaders sometimes face when trying to launch something new. Here are a few roadblocks to consider when getting new program offerings to market:
Identify and Assess Specific Learning Needs and Determine If It’s A Viable Program Option
Without a magic wand or being able to read the future, sometimes it’s difficult to know if a program has vitality and will generate revenue for your unit. It’s important to do extensive research to establish whether or not there is a need for this program, and if there is, is there a market to sustain it? Launching a new training program must be a response to consumer demand.
Let’s start with some basic questions:
- What are other universities/colleges offering that you’re currently not?
- Are these programs currently being delivered by another provider in your market?
- What are the skills gaps in the current workforce? Would this program help close those gaps?
- What are some of the “hot” job markets? What training is needed to support those industries?
- When attending professional association meetings, what training are employers asking for?
Researching training needs can be done through a variety of ways. One option is to use an online tool to poll employees or past participants on what types of training they would like to see offered. In addition, you may want to consider creating and consulting an advisory board to gather their input on what training is most needed.
Know Your Audience
The fundamental step towards a meaningful training program is to identify the learners that will complete the program. You will want to determine who this program is intended for and what content would be most useful to them.
Some of the questions to ask include:
- Who would benefit from this program and why do they need it?
- What audience would be attracted to this program?
- What participant needs will this program meet? How will this program help them with their career or solve a problem?
- What skills gap does this training program meet?
- How many people would be interested in not only attending, but paying for this program?
- What you are trying to achieve with this training program?
- Who else is already delivering a program similar to this one?
Create Timeline and Stick to It
Time to adequately plan, market and execute the launch of a new training program is of the utmost importance. You’ll want to create a timeline that allows you ample time to complete each step in the process.
By creating a comprehensive action plan that includes learning theories, instructional design, content, approvals, materials, available resources and training delivery methods, you will be able to anticipate any obstacles that may present themselves. In addition, you’ll need time to develop and execute a comprehensive marketing campaign as well.
This detailed timeline will keep you on track and help you avoid scope creep or having time-sensitive tasks fall through the cracks.
Questions to consider when it comes to timing:
- Ideally, when do you want this program to be available to the market?
- How much time can you dedicate to a needs analysis?
- Who will be your facilitator?
- How long will it take to develop the content?
- How long will it take to develop a marketing campaign?
- How much time do you need to market this program properly?
Choose the Right Delivery Method:
While developing the program, the level of training and participants’ learning styles need to be considered. Most individuals use more than one type of learning style, depending on what kinds of information they are processing, and most training programs will include a variety of delivery methods. For example, in class you might be a visual learner, but when learning how to negotiate a business deal, you might be a kinesthetic learner. It would be helpful to see a video and then pair up with another participant in class and practice with a real case scenario. In addition, when choosing a delivery mode, it is important to consider budget constrictions.
As a safeguard, you may want to pilot your new training program with a select few departments on your campus or employees. This will allow you to gather feedback and make adjustments before launching the program to the public.
As you begin considering delivery modes, you may want to ask:
- What is the best way to get your content across?
- Will the training be web-based, or will live, instructor-led training be used?
- What additional resources are available to supplement this training program?
- What discussions, exercises and engagement activities will be included in this program?
- How long will the training be?
Crafting and Marketing Your Program
Once you have developed your training, your next consideration is how you will communicate your new training program to the general public. It’s important that your message clearly demonstrates what the benefits of enrolling in this program are to the participant. You want to make it as easy for potential participants to view a course description and outline and enroll in your program.
When marketing your program, consider the following questions:
- How will individuals find out about your program?
- How much money do you have to spend on marketing and promoting this program?
- Will you use word of mouth? Website? Social media? Past participants? Professional organizations? Paid advertising?
Do potential participants have all the information they need to make a decision? i.e. Price, location, meeting days/times.