Employee Training · Leadership

What is the best way to pitch companies to send senior leaders to an experiential learning program?

Brian MSOD Founder and Principal of Groove Management L.L.C.- A strength based consulting practice

May 24th, 2016

I have built a week long leadership development program that I am marketing to senior leaders and HR decision makers.  The program is an open enrollment leadership retreat to Nicaragua.  It is a non-traditional program with better learning outcomes than classroom training.  It includes self assessments, a community project, team consultation and learning to surf. The program is called LeaderSurf.

Looking for ideas on how to gain traction for the program and to reach the right audience.

Matthew Stroul IT Business Analyst & Support Engineer helping people, processes and tools be more awesome versions of themselves.

May 24th, 2016

Network, network, network.

People who coach executives professionally, and CEOs are ALWAYS looking for ways to optimize leadership. There are two components here that make up your product: the program itself and the destination experience. One of these can scale, and the other is limited by environmental (there are days of the year where travel is not going to happen) and physical factors (you can only work so many days in a year). 

This means you need to curate a pool of ambassadors to represent you as sales assets after the experience is applied plus 2 quarters in their home brands. Country Clubs, Industry events, and their D levels is where the C levels will be made aware of the benefits to them and their leadership.

There are two Mateoisms that apply here: "Your network IS your net worth" and "Do once, re-use many." 

Here is how I would approach it:
Produce a simple yet engaging Legal / 216x356mm sized infographic that illustrates the impact of the activities on bottom lines, the value statements as KPIs, how much stagnancy slows production, etc. 

On the reverse side place the one page brilliantly worded and wonderfully produced brochure for what you do, and why they need you.

HR Conferences coming up - go to them, and start conversations with recruitment leaders

Network at social events in market segments where you can meet CEOs - HOST a MeetUp or start giving talks at ancillary events on the importance of retreats. 

Using the same graphics leverage LinkedIN articles and publish the article on the infogrpahic in three parts: Part one - covers all areas of the graphic in high detail, part two covers the improvement in EQ, and part three the mechanics of the bottom line. 

This is like putting premium bait on a line and dropping it into a reef full of fish with he RIGHT fish for the bait will be attracted to it. 

This activity will give you legitimacy and clientele at the same time. Clientele are different than customers in that they will (if incentivized well) re-sell your brand and services as a result of their positive experience.

Sounds like you are on your way to much success! 
Be well and stay awesome,

Teresa Demarie Bilingual Organization Development Consultant, Career and Executive Coach Working with Growing Companies

May 24th, 2016

Having worked internationally, I would caution you about a few issues. First, people may hesitate to go to Nicaragua because they consider it a "third world" country. I've been there and it's actually one of the safest countries in Latin America but most Americans don't know that. Second, surfing is a high-risk sport. Will companies want to set up their executives for that kind of risk? And what kind of liability are you setting yourself up for? Third, the Zika virus is a big deal right now and is already in Managua. How many people are willing to travel to an area that may be infested with disease-carrying mosquitoes?

Denise Corcoran CEO, Leadership & Organizational Game-Changer | CEO Advisor | Consultant | Coach | Growing Leaders that Grow Companies

May 24th, 2016

Teresa brings up great points that are important to consider.

From my perspective, so many coaches/consultants develop programs and then try to figure out the market to sell it to.  Often refer to a "market push" approach.  Unless you have proof of concept that this is something the market needs/wants, you will be spinning lots of wheels.  Also remember timing is everything.  

That's not to say you can't use a market push approach.  Tech companies do this all the time with new technologies.  It requires 2 levels of selling.  First, selling your market why they should consider this new unconventional approach compared to all the other ways they can solve their needs/problems.  Your saying it is better is not going to be enough.  The second selling level is "why you?"

 The other approach is more of a market pull approach where you do your market research and due diligence to understand their pain points, unmet wants, what market segments may be open to novel unproven approaches (early adopters) ,etc.  Then craft your marketing to hit very specific market segments that messages directly to their pain points.

Personally I would not sell your program directly and do it more as an upsell to lower cost service so they get to know you and what you can do for them.  

Allan CMF Director; Change Leader; Coach; Trainer

May 24th, 2016

Firstly, congratulations Brian on designing and developing a Leadership Program. This is quite an achievement. This I know from personal experience. You have all ready received excellent advice ..network, go to your market and the advantages of 'market pull'. 
Be very clear about your uniqueness and how that offers value, different from the other programs. Market well yes. Remember without sales you don't have a business. So you must consider your marketing strategy and equally important develop your sales strategy. Consider the merits of developing a strategic alliance with interested and complimentary organizations. 

Williams Mota Leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation for systems change

May 25th, 2016

Dear Brian, congrats on the developing an experiential program as I've found them to be more transformational than conventional program. For a few years I managed an organisation that used to deliver experiential programs for corporates all over the world - particularly emerging economies. We used to take 15-150 senior leaders of companies to places such as Brazil, India, China, Mexico, etc. In my experience, the key to enable HR leaders to sell the program internally is to allow a degree a customisation so that they can make the program strategically relevant to them. We used to do by keeping the format rigid but allowing them to choose an overriding theme and more importantly choosing a strategically relevant location.  If offering location flexibility is not an option right now, I would then target organisation with larger operations or strategic interest in Panama. The second element that has worked for us was building in the design a prototyping element where participants develop prototypes of products/services based on their experiences. This has been hugely successful as a retention strategy for us as we were able to develop an ROI figure that provided a concrete basis for justifying future investment into the program. 

Maxine Pierson CEO, MJ BIOTECH, INC.

May 25th, 2016

Networking events: sadly most CEO decision makers do not attend networking events- you will not meet the person who signs the check- but you perhaps can get a name..

Maxine Pierson CEO, MJ BIOTECH, INC.

May 25th, 2016

Industry sectors  all differ in the way they market- and see the potential buyer - and deliver the message- engineering does it one way -SEO providers another - pharma another- there is no one size fits all. 

Dermot Kilroy Co-founder at nujob

May 25th, 2016

I agree with Denise, it's going to be a hard sell (not impossible) to go straight into selling this program at networking events. I would be more inclined to use networking events as a way of talking to people about how they currently solve the problem your program tackles. 

I'd want to know about the last time they spent money on a leadership program. What made them decide to choose that particular one? Did they reach a satisfactory outcome? etc

If they haven't ever paid for this type of program, I'd want to know why?

I hope this helps