There is nothing we love more than spending quality time with RTOs and sharing our industry knowledge. Which is exactly what we did with the latest installation in our series of 2016 VET Industry Drinks last Thursday, hosting in collaboration with our dear friends from RTO Intelligence, ResourceCall and Fairfax Media.
Doors opened at 5pm and attendees started coming in, enjoying some quality time networking and catching up with their fellow RTOs over delicious canapés and drinks. We have decided to cap the maximum attendance at 50, to ensure quality time with our experts, and to stay true to our format of a relaxed, open setting, allowing everyone to connect and share openly about their own experiences and challenges. The beautiful Upperground Gallery of The Age building in Melbourne’s Docklands was the perfect open space for networking, and listening to our expert panel discussion on Business and Marketing Tactics for 2016.
Nick initiated the panel conversation by talking about his own experiences with clients and the cost of training, where government funding is available. He highlighted the need to diversify your revenue streams away from government funding, and how our business growth specialists would assist with this.
It’s great to have courses of excellent quality, content, trainers, facilities, resources and the like, but if people don’t know you have all of that, then what is the point? Nick points out that’s a tragedy that these wonderful RTOs exist but do not have the enrolment numbers to reflect this. The success of your business comes down to marketing.
Q: In your experience, what funding is available to support people in the workplace?
Michael: We should all be familiar with the Victorian Training Guarantee (VTG) funding contract. Over the last couple of years the number of providers that have VTG contracts has diminished by about 40%. For the first time in quite a number of years, having a VTG contract with the state to deliver funded training, has got some value. So for people who have been around for a period of time before VTG, we had a program called ATTP, which was a capping term that was used, and only a few RTOs have capping or funded places through Schools Victoria as it was known back then.
It had a lot of value as most RTOs didn’t have capping – it’s not dissimilar to what is happening now in the marketplace. Alot of RTOs, especially the big ones that are publicly listed and have been in the front pages of our newspapers for the last couple of months are gone. But a lot of smaller RTOs, and what I would class as successful RTOs, have also lost their VTG funding.
So if you have a VTG contract, it has value and is worth something – and one of the first things you have to do is protect that particular asset you’ve got, and don’t fall into the realm of being non-compliant and jeopardising that particular contract. I can tell you right now that there are a lot of RTOs that have lost their contract for this year that’s worth millions of dollars in government funding, that are going to go “boots and all” to try and get it back for 2017.
I can tell you now that my business at Apps Matter has grown 30% since Back To Work was implemented in November last year. There’s no reason why everyone here who has a VTG contract or is focusing on workplace-based training shouldn’t be tapping into that. It is going to grow, there is no doubt about that – the government wants something like 15,000 places in the first year, but the bigger picture is, they want 100,000 people back in the workforce through the Back To Work program. We’re currently at 5500 places in the first 5-6 months so we’re way behind – the funding is there. Capitalize on the funding.
Q: What are some things you think people could take notice of now to capitalize on something that might happen in 2017?
Eric: One of the things we’ve really been working on with RTOs is the volume of learning, given that that’s an ASQA requirement now, but it’s also a HES requirement that you have to record your push hours and program your next supervised hours where you spend time with the student. And my prediction for that next year is what they’re trying to do now is intelligence scatter how many hours you spend actually face-to-face, and perhaps eventually pay on those hours. Strengthening your course, for example via Blended Learning, where many RTOs are moving towards, gives your students the readings prior to actually coming face-to-face, giving them more volume of work.
Michael: And just a quick one, this is the last year of the VTG, so there will be massive changes next year. Look out for the May budget, there will be changes to funding for apprenticeships.
Q: We will now look at digital strategy and marketing strategy. What are your top digital marketing strategies be for education providers this year and the next?
Zoe: So before we go into talking about the trends, I just want to stress the importance of having a really solid marketing strategy, which is really paramount at the moment, particularly with some of the challenges the RTO industry is facing. I’m talking about having a really defined audience segmentation, and a separate, targeted approach for each of your target markets. And, having a long term composition and looking from the entire customer journey from when they respond to your marketing message through enrolment when they’re a student and post-qualification, to really form an enriching relationship with your audience and drive engagement and ultimately brand advocacy.
So from my experience at working at Fairfax, the key trends are mobile, video, and content marketing.
Mobile: we know that over 60% of online time is on a mobile device; and if we look specifically at the millennial audience, this is even higher. This will be set to continue at an increasing rate. Nielsen shows that we spend an hour on our phone everyday, but I think this is a conservative number – it’s more like 4-5 hours. People look at news and informative content in the morning, and in the evening something lighter, and more entertaining. This really highlights the need to incorporate mobile into your marketing strategy.
Video: a really powerful way through sight and sound to connect with your audience and drive deep engagement. For RTOs, it’s a really great idea to include some video in your marketing mix, showing things like delivery methods and interviews with students to give a beautiful picture of your brand offering.
Video, in conjunction with mobile are really powerful tools to connect with your audience, particularly the millennials.
Content marketing: This is also key for millennials as we know they are also particularly skeptical to traditional media formats and find them disruptive and that’s where technology comes into play. Incorporate content that is relevant to your RTO’s brand message, for example diet plan blogs for a fitness RTO.
Putting this all together will drive engagement, especially key for the millennial audience.
Q: In terms of putting videos together, this sounds difficult and expensive – what would your advice be?
Zoe: I think video production costs have gone down lately, but the message you can display via video is so powerful – it’s just a medium that really important for that millennial audience.
Q: Can you also give us some tips on how to stand out from the crowd in the marketing space?
Zoe: I was reading an article that was talking about this actually, and it really highlighted the use of storytelling to truly connect with your audience. Telling people your brand story will allow us to differentiate your brand from others. This element of personalization and relationship marketing is really important, and you can obtain this by collecting data on your students, analyzing and harnessing those insights to create a positive user experience will drive enrolments.
We were very fortunate to have Nick McEwan-Hall, Founder of Latitude Coaching, to facilitate our panel discussion. Nick frequently speaks at VELG and other industry conferences on topics around leadership, strategy, and improving RTO outcomes. On our expert panel and guru bar were:
Digital Marketing Specialist: Zoe Styles
Zoe is the Senior Digital Specialist at Fairfax Media and manages all facets of their direct digital business including driving revenue, educating the team/clients on digital industry insights and opportunities, as well as coaching, mentoring and leading the team to achieve digital targets.
Business Growth Specialist: Eric Marchesani
Eric has over 15 years of industry experience and is the Managing Director of RTO Intelligence, specializing in compliance, business planning, tender application, government funding and the establishment (RTO set up), acquisition and sale of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).
Business Growth Specialist: Michael Jansen
Michael is the General Manager of Apprenticeships Matter and since 2003 has been the leader in providing apprenticeship and traineeship support serves to employers, training organisations, schools, apprentices, trainees and various other stakeholders committed to improving the skills of the Aust workforce.
We at Circulus spend a lot of time with RTOs, advising them on how to stay agile, viable, and provide high quality education to their learners. The topic of marketing is one of the most highly requested topics of discussion from Australian RTOs, and in recent months, marketing compliance has become quite a pointed issue.
If you have any questions about digital marketing, please do not hesitate to contact Liza firstname.lastname@example.org or Zoe email@example.com
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