Use Online Training to Educate Tradesmen – Part 1

by | Nov 10, 2009

Training – both product training and safety training – are important to  professional tradesmen. That’s why several years ago we formed a strategic alliance with BlueVolt to help educate and inform our client’s customers (the professional tradesman). BlueVolt creates online marketing and learning platforms that are focused on the professional tradesmen. They have delivered over 535,000 courses to 50,000-plus registered users. We have the privilege of having Lisa Bordeaux, director of sales and partner development, here to share with you a two-part series on the benefits of online training. Enjoy her insights!

The most successful companies are the ones that not only offer training to individuals but they support them with online tools and resources, a community. In many cases, suppliers may or may not tie this to their website, they may work with associations or we may collaborate to syndicate their content. If done right, training can make it easier to engage with customers and develop a relationship that supports and fosters sales for years to come.

Training can be a great way to go to market. It’s a softer sell than advertising and it provides value to the customer while building brand affinity. BlueVolt works with a number of manufacturers, some have a strong history of training. In fact, one of them is so committed to training, they have one person in the marketing department, 7 people in the training department. Training is done both online and in-person and their training staff is teamed with sales people by territories. This fosters a tight relationship between sales opportunities and education.

Over the years I have come to think that in many cases, training is a Trojan horse for Marketing. I have seen this done to great effect in a number of cases. Here are three examples of efforts we have supported:

  1. Using education to generate sales. We have a number of examples in this case. Many manufacturers have fairly complex products either to operate or install. Providing training on a specific product can ensure that people prefer it over other products. We find offering training can provide a market of excited advocates and experts, doing it online provides an easy way to communicate and follow up with folks. The individual may pay for this training and the supplier most typically gives either a product or incentive to the individual to offset the cost of the training.
  2. Just in time training on new products. This is a big one for taking training online and we do it daily. When done right we significantly shorten the return on development for a new product. By delivering information to people online about new products either live, archived or even a simple PDF cut sheet that individuals many manufacturers leverage provide training just in time. This training is most often incentivized. That is, the individual receives some sort of reward for proving their knowledge.

Building a market through education – this is an expensive proposition, but can be very effective. We undertook this with a large switch manufacturer who built a course to train home integrators so they could network devices in residential. They didn’t make any products in the space, but believed they would sell more switches and routers, if there were more integrated homes needing bandwidth. Through a series of partnerships, we built a community of training centers and hosted and tracked all the training online. This is typically a scenario where the individual would pay to participate in the training. As a manufacturer, you really need a long view and high level of commitment to improve the industry.

Next, you’ll learn which has more impact, a carrot or a stick?


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