As someone wise wrote on LinkedIn recently (if anyone remembers who let me know and we will credit them) it seems that the government has been beta testing vocational education for over 20 years.

The rules are constantly changing. And in the area that we are talking about here (student recruitment), there are constant changes to both the funding model and to the rules around recruitment.

Like the legitimate pink batts businesses who were destroyed by the sudden influx of funding with little oversight of all the new competitors who appeared overnight, RTOs have been challenged not just by having funding removed but also by sudden massive amounts of increased funding in other areas encouraging some very `interesting’ operators into the sector.

Combine that with the customer/student loss of trust caused by all the closed RTOs.

And you are looking for new students while dealing with some or all of the following challenges, none of which are your fault or within your control:

  • Dodgy Vet Fee Help RTOs had millions of $ to spend on marketing which pushed up the price of google adwords and made SEM and SEO difficult for existing providers
  • Facebook changes the rules every day. You probably have spent money on facebook ads and found it much less effective than google. Which it is if you do it the same way as 99% of organisations
  • The Govt changes the rules every second day (traineeship funding, VFH, use of brokers, third party marketing and contractors, marketing material compliance)
  • Students don’t know who to enrol with or where to look for good advice
  • Nobody reads their emails any more so email marketing doesn’t work as well as it used to
  • Training managers are busy and under pressure (if companies even have a separate training manager role any more) and haven’t got time to hunt out and evaluate the best training provider for every single training need in the business.

If you are one of the few RTOs who has got through all this unscathed- well done!

And if you aren’t, you are definitely not alone. Either way there are fantastic opportunities in all of this which provide a limited window of opportunity to seriously grow your RTO.

Here’s the good news:

  • Half of your dodgy competitors have disappeared
  • There are more people looking for courses than ever before. The vocational training statistics don’t tell the real story. Sure there are fewer enrolments but that’s because we had a couple of years of tens of thousands of `artificial’ enrolments largely thanks to VFH. The enrolments we are seeing now are real students who have actually gone looking for a course, not just signed up for a free computer in the local shopping centre and got a course as an extra bonus.
  • The cost of generating prospective student leads is half what it was two years ago (if you know what you are doing).
  • There is a window of opportunity (before everyone else starts doing it) to use cost effective messenger automation and have tailored personalised conversations with individual prospective students in an environment where they have a high degree of trust and usually only talk to their friends (inside their facebook messenger app- here is an example if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
  • Big Data is the greatest opportunity for tailored marketing we have ever faced (and also the greatest threat- I’m looking at you Cambridge Analytica).
    Marketing has been on a journey from broadcasting (show my ad to everyone watching this tv station or seeing this billboard and hope some of them are interested) to search based (show my ad to everyone who has searched `hairdressing course’ even the ones who only have $100 and can’t afford my $10000 course) to intent based (show my hospitality management course ad to chefs with good credit who have been spending time looking at workplace conflict websites and visiting empty restaurants for lease on their days off and would love to leave their job but feel they can’t just quit because they have children and a mortgage and haven’t actually been looking for my course because they don’t know it exists)
  • You can now communicate with potential students by targeting their behaviour, location, demographics, interest, whatever you like. You name it and as long as it’s legal you can target it. Facebook is tightening up on third party data but there are still 101 ways to get these target audiences set up. As well as the chef example above (yes you really can target all those things) you could say `show my course info to everyone who went to the careers expo at this location’ or `everyone who is currently attending courses at this English language college’ or even `everyone who is at this high school in [whatever obscure small town in whatever country you like]’

So, what’s the REALLY good news here? Click here to fi​​nd out.