Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.John Wanamaker
If no-one knows that you deliver First Aid Training, or that you run public courses then your Business is dead in the water. The trouble is that there are so many ways of sucking your time and money in advertising courses that it is hard to know where to begin.
This Post deals with a number of options and some of their advantages and disadvantages. I will also give you a brutal summary of what works for me and what has not worked.
Summary of advertising routes
- Traditional printed media – Newspapers, magazines, billboards, advertorials, local free magazines
- TV and radio advertising
- Paper-based – leaflets through doors, inserts, community boards
- Electronic media – email campaigns, Social Media posts & adverts
- Search engines & Directories – Free listings, paid for listings and promotions
- Word of mouth
- Cold calling – telephone, door to door
- Stunts and guerrilla Marketing
- Trade Shows and Community Events
- Branded Goods
Traditional printed media
Whilst this used to be pretty much the only way of advertising it is in decline as circulation numbers decline and more & more people get their news and gossip online.
Whilst there are specialist magazines, I can’t think of any (apart from the hyperlocal ones) that would target your audience enough to make it cost-effective. Health and Safety magazines, for instance cover all aspects of H&S, not just First Aid.
Circulation figures / print run numbers are all very well, but not copies all will get read and many will be sent for recycling.
The other main downside is that your advert lasts as long as the repeat rate of the publication. If it is weekly you are going to have to advertise week in, week out to stay in front of the audience. That can get very expensive, especially compared to electronic media where publication & distribution costs are much lower.
Local free magazines seem to have the sole aim of cramming in as many adverts as possible. There will be the occasional article, but often that is an advertorial. Generally there is very little actual content, it is skimmed through then binned.
You can tell that I am not really a fan of printed media.
Local event programmes
I do make an exception to hyperlocal events such as a Fete or Carnival. Usually they are looking for adverts to cover the cost of printing the programme. Fees are low and it is a Community event so the advert is getting in front of many that might need the training.
If you have a story that you think the local Press might like, get in touch. They are always looking for copy, so if you can put together a piece, or even a series of articles they may be happy to run it for you. This is me in a previous life. Free advertising.
TV and radio advertising
We can rule out TV advertising for our First Aid training Businesses. Whilst 30-second slots can start at £150, the production costs of getting a TV-ready advert will run into tens of thousands. Factor in an advert running several times before it will start to make an impact then £50,000 is not an unreasonable budget.
Radio advertising is somewhat cheaper, obviously, with costs about £2 per thousand listeners. A few ads a week could come in at £250 and upwards – somewhat more manageable, but still expensive for a start-up. In addition, think about your target audience. If you are advertising Workplace First Aid then your audience will be…at work. Are you actually going to hit those ears?
There is one area where TV and Radio does work and that is if you can get onto the list of ‘experts’ to call. Consumer shows often need a person to be interviewed about something that has hit the news – for instance a Terror Attack or a choking incident. They are looking for a Talking Head that can come on and advise what to do in those situation. This is free advertising for you. They will give you and your Company a namecheck and you will be heard as someone that knows what they are talking about on Primetime TV or Radio.
I have been on a few local Radio programmes here and one colleague from a different Training Company managed to bag a slot on Virgin’s Breakfast Radio Show following a choking incident within the Presenter’s family. This sort of advertising can be priceless.
This can be leaflets through doors, pinned to Community noticeboards, inserts into papers & magazines – or literally handed out in the street.
For the cost of the leaflet many Community Boards (and Big chains such as Supermarkets often have them) will allow you to post a leaflet for free or very low cost. There is really nothing to lose.
Letterbox drops need to be targeted. Family First Aid – sure, residences are good. For Workplace First Aid target the Industrial Estates, but don’t forget the smaller Businesses. And be persistent. I walked up to a car repair place when the staff were on a break outside. “Whatever it is, we don’t want it” came the pre-emptive statement from the Boss. I carried on walking, chatted and he ended up Booking three people on to a course!
I’ve tried leaflets in the local newspaper, however it was not cost effective. It was not targeted enough and I would have had to run it for several weeks to make an impact.
Handing leaflets out in the street is unlikely to work for business First Aid courses, however targeting people with prams could be effective for parenting First Aid classes. Try it and let me know!
Electronic media – email campaigns, Social Media (SM) posts & adverts
You have to have a Social Media presence nowadays. Keeping your followers up to date with courses, what you do, anything newsworthy keeps your business name in front of your prospective clients. Even if you don’t immediately plan on using them it is worth registering appropriate SM usernames (handles) so that they don’t get registered maliciously or otherwise by someone else. One of the Businesses I started was registered about 2 weeks before a Canadian one with the same name. By that time I had bought the .com and .co.uk Domains as well as registering the obvious Social Media handles. They weren’t very pleased but if I hadn’t done so it would be us using the second best versions.
I am not a SM expert so cannot advise you on how best to Market yourself via this Media but I do recommend regular posting of events when you get a moment. It helps when being picked up by Search Engines.
Advertising on Social Media. Lots of Organisations do and SM is very good at allowing you to tailor your adverts to your Client base, as well as A/B testing. I have tried it, not that successfully it has to be said, but will persist as I refine my technique.
Search engines & Directories – Free listings, paid for listings and promotions
Search Engines. Yes, you need a presence on Search Engines. Specifically you need a presence on Google. If you are not showing up there, you will not be found. Sure there are others, but when Google has 85% and its nearest competitor, Bing has under 10% it is quite obvious where you should focus your efforts. If you tailor your efforts towards Google, then that will also have the knock-on effect of improving your presence elsewhere.
Ranking well on Google is an art. Anyone can throw money at the paid ads at the side, but if you can get onto the natural listings for free you have it made. I have achieved this several times over for the Companies that I am involved with and can do the same for you. See the Premium Package page for more information.
Listings Directories. Yell, 192, Thomson Local etc. Put your Company details on the Free section of their website by all means. Don’t be persuaded to upgrade to a Paid version. Rarely do people go to those Directories directly, only when they appear on (say) Google. It’s good to have a presence, but with Google being the de facto place to start Searching, you are better off focusing your efforts there. No-one has ever said to me “I found your details on <insert name of Listing website>”.
Word of mouth
Free and effective. Tell your friends, talk about what you do on Social Media. If you run a course, ask the learners to recommend you if they like what you delivered for them. A personal referral is far more effective than an advert – people are putting their reputation on the line to recommend you so anyone receiving that recommendation will seriously consider it. Ask for referrals whenever you can.
Cold calling – telephone, door to door
There is a place for it. I’m not comfortable calling by telephone. I’m more comfortable interacting face to face. On the other hand, if you are comfortable it is easier to sit at home or in your warm office dialling loads of numbers than traipsing around. Each to their own and I have certainly picked up Business walking around. Either way, you do need to be able to handle rejection without taking it personally.
If you want to use the telephone, there are plenty of books and courses for it. Stand up and smile as you introduce yourself. Those two techniques help the way you come across at the other end.
Stunts and guerrilla Marketing
Richard Branson has made a career of this.
Don’t think “what’s the cheapest way to do it?” or “what’s the fastest way to do it?”, think “What’s the most amazing way to do it?”Richard Branson
Richard Branson is known for his stunts and hair-raising activities. He knows these activities will get him into the Press – and therefore the Virgin Brand will be plastered everywhere. Free (well, not free, but at a cost far less than traditional advertising for that level of exposure) Marketing.
Try something radical. Try a 5K run in relevant fancy dress, adorned with your website. It might just get your photo in the local paper.
Trade Shows and Community Events
These are both options, but choose carefully. A Business Trade Show for the area might work for you, whereas a medical convention or exhibition almost certainly won’t – no-one there will be looking for First Aid training!
Local events such as fetes and carnivals – even local Business conferences are good if you are trying to develop your presence. Get yourself a hook – something that will grab the attention of people passing by. A challenge, free sweets. That sort of thing. They can have a free sweet as long as they take a leaflet!
Everyone likes a freebie and you can stick your logo on pretty much anything nowadays. Pens, mugs, stress balls and mouse mats have been the staples, but you can be a lot more creative. You need something that will stay on a desk, not dropped in a drawer. It could also be relevant to First Aid. For instance all our students get a 4 Minutes branded faceshield on a key fob. They have it all the time, reminding them. I’ve had people come to renew after 3 years and they still have it dangling with their keys!
Mouse mats have had their time and, although I have mugs for refreshments during my courses I don’t use them as a give-away promotional tool.
Sponsoring an individual, a team, or an event can be a good way of getting your name out there. Clearly an event will be a one-off project, although the right package will get you Social Media mentions and perhaps branding on the website. Sponsoring a Sports team will get you exposure for a season, but on the downside you will have to pay for all the branding of the kit (and the kit itself).
Although COVID brought to an end a lot of face to face Networking events, they still exist and are now supplemented by Zoom events.
Some of the biggest organisers are BNI, Athena and the CBI. Bear in mind that all Business representatives are there to try and sell their own Business. Don’t go flying in pushing your Business left, right and centre. Take time to listen to others’ proposals. Part of the culture is to refer others onwards – you won’t be able to do this if you don’t listen and take details.
Personally I find BNI too full on. It is quite pricey and you are expected to bring fresh prospects to meetings – as well as being bright and breezy at a crazy early time. As my Training Business is National I don’t really have a close circle of local Business associates I can tap into. I quite often get hit on at other Networking meetings by BNI members that are hoping to bring me as their +1 to top up their quota!
Athena is female-only, which rules me out!
If you Google ‘Networking events in my area’ you will find a lot to choose from. Try some out – most have a free period where you can see if it works for you. Don’t become a Professional Networker though – you do have a Business to run and I do find I keep bumping into the same faces.