The Mana Social Story

Running an RTO is hard. We know. We’ve done it.

We started out believing that there was a gap in the market for management training. Melanie, the training company founder, had been fortunate enough to be part of a formal mentoring program for young managers in her corporate career and after meeting a lot of her peers in management roles, realised that she was the exception not the rule.

So she started designing a management program for people like herself, scientists and engineers who found themselves in management roles because they were good at being scientists and engineers and then discovered that there was a lot more to management than that.

She managed to sell a few programs to big companies for their management teams (we will tell you how later, in hindsight it was quite an ingenious accidental sales strategy) and then discovered there was such a thing as an RTO and she could deliver her program and have the students receive a qualification at the end.

Become an RTO she thought. That can’t be hard? She had a couple of years experience as a QA manager in her previous life. Ha.

Anyway after a lot of `learnings’ the RTO was born. We then ticked along for a few years running programs for corporate groups and face to face programs for the general public until one day we hired our first marketing genius (an actual genius- not just a figure of speech- who is still a valued advisor to our team today).

There were some things we were doing in the way we ran our sales team and our marketing (normal things that everyone still does, but we didn’t know then what we know now) and after Michael the boy genius had been sitting observing for a month he suggested `what about if we quit doing that and just concentrate on selling courses to the people who want to do courses?’. D’oh. Seemed so obvious but with the changes we made on his advice we very quickly grew to about 2000 fee for service students and found ourselves on the BRW Fast 100 fastest growing companies in Australia list drinking cocktails in Melbourne with the rich and famous.

Along the way we bought a beauty therapy college (don’t judge us- beauty therapy is lovely! – but please don’t look at our manicures – we were better at growing companies than nails) and rebranded and grew it 800% then sold it to a publicly listed company.

So by 2018 we found ourselves out of the RTO business (and kind of relieved if we dare admit it- it’s not the easiest business to run these days as you know) and just helping random friends recruit more students for their RTOs.

That’s when we started to realise that what we had been doing for ourselves was an enormous gap in available services for RTOs. We didn’t even have a name for the first few months,  we decided to call ourselves Mana Social because of the meaning behind the (kiwi) word while we thought of a permanent name and we've been so busy we still haven't created our own brand.

Because here is the issue...

If you are a CRICOS RTO you are dependent upon the agents and their outrageous fees (HOW can someone take up to 30-40% for doing such a tiny percentage of the work?!) but if you are a domestic RTO you really aren’t that much better off.

Unless you have a sizable in house team with skills including google ads, facebook ads, social content, linkedin lead generation, copywriting, web design, landing page design, analytics, integration, CRM setup, email automation, phone sales, appointment setting, proposal writing, and the rest, you are depending for student enquiries either on `word of mouth’ (not scalable and very nerve wracking hoping it continues) or the couple of big domestic third party brokers who sell you (expensive) leads and you are totally dependent on that flow continuing.  That means you rely on government policy allowing the brokers to continue to exist, plus on your highly skilled sales team jumping on every new lead before your competitors do. There has to be a better and less stressful way….

So this is why we do what we do. Our team of ex RTO people, plus a few extra smart ring ins, act as your outsourced marketing team. We can do as little or as much as you need. Most of our clients use us kind of like an outsourced CMO, where we provide support to either the CEO or the marketing manager and help develop the strategy, either for getting more enquiries/leads or for improving the enrolments from the incoming leads or both.

Then where needed we can also either assist with the service delivery (creating ads, setting up integration and automation) or we can help manage your existing suppliers and continuously review the data and results to make sure you are getting the best value for your spend on the student recruitment process. We speak their language so we know when they are trying to baffle you with …science.

Everything we help set up is inside your system and your RTO, you own the intellectual property, you choose how long and how much to work with us and you are not dependent on us to sell you leads (we are not third party brokers and we don’t want to do that). We don’t work with your competitors (of course) so for example if there are two RTOs delivering the same course to the same market we can only support one.

Does this sound like it might be useful for you? We are happy to have a chat and learn more about your RTO and tell you if we think we can help. We don’t believe in getting on the phone and trying to convince you to work with us- we will both know when we chat whether we both think there is anything in our tool kit that would be useful to you and whether we are a mutual fit.

We will NEVER agree to take on your work unless we are confident we can deliver - If we can help you, we will tell you. If we can’t, we’ll give you our honest opinion, and give you some suggestions on how to proceed without us.

Melanie MacDonald 


Marketing Strategist

  • Reads too much
  • Bit of a genius
  • Could use clones

Melanie hails from Aotearoa - Land of the long white cloud - and knows a thing or two about building up and "renovating" businesses.
So much so, that she has had businesses featured in the BRW Fast 100 and Queensland 400.
She started off in industrial chemistry and now uses her science-based background to help clients build up successful businesses and revenues through Digital Marketing.

Rachel Barnes

Client Liaison Manager

  • Permanent traveller
  • The one with the people skills
  • Photographer in chief

    Everybody knows Rachel!
    She's done some crazy amazing things in her life including writing books and being a little bit famous as a property investor for buying 75 rental properties in 64 months. But we love her because she manages to work effectively from where-ever in the world she is, while visiting the office regularly and spreading joy and creating organisation (or whatever the opposite of havoc is) while she is here.