Selling and Marketing 3 – Course, Workshops and Deposits

The Obvious  Problem : Not covering the costs of workshops and lessons due to students not turning up

Ok, this is another “Bev is learning the hard way” post in the series! I run workshops and courses and often find that although people say they are coming, when the day arrives, no one is there or 1-2 people turn up and I can’t cover the room hire, let alone anything else!

Whilst this is a problem in itself, we go back to the problem solving steps discussed in the first post of this series, I have to look much harder – after all I can’t change the behaviour of the interested parties, so there must be something I need to do differently. Because some of the workshops are low cost I feel that asking for a 50% deposit is silly – after all half of £5 is only £2.50!  But actually if I had to pay £12 for a hall and had 10 no shows then at least I could cover the cost! So I need to rethink my strategy here and either charge a deposit or a full amount.

When I first started out running workshops and classes, I tried offering a discount for early booking and offering a weekly alternative  – but again I ran into trouble as this didn’t cover the room hire, I also trusted participants who told me they were bringing friends etc but didn’t then chase the friends up to at least get a deposit – with hindsight I now realise that if they weren’t willing to pay the deposit then they were highly unlikely to come along.

I’ve also realised my marketing materials are still not identifying Bits and Bobs as a brand, as I have a call booked with a marketing lady in the coming week I hope to have a solution to this soon!

The Real Problem

When planning a workshop I need to have a booking policy, take a deposit and ensure any early bird discount offered still covers the basic costs

The Solutions / Action Plan

1. Invest in marketing the workshop or course in advance in the local media

2. Develop a bookings policy which offers payment via paypal, cheque or cash in advance

3. Ensure all marketing materials are clearly written and have a corporate feel

4. Cost out all workshops and courses in advance to include: room hire, preparation time, teaching hours, refreshments, learning materials, paypal booking fee

5. Set a maximum and minimum number required and set the individual charge at the higher level, leaving me a margin for offering discounted places

6. Set a cut off date for bookings and then make a decision re running the course based on numbers

Trial Period

I am planning to trial this approach for the coming academic term – i.e. until 15th Dec 2012 and review

Next weeks post will be about  identifying a niche

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8 thoughts on “Selling and Marketing 3 – Course, Workshops and Deposits

  1. I’d definitely get a deposit (even if it’s just £2.50) – not just because it would cover your room hire, but because the students are committing to attend, even if it’s just in a small way. You can also keep track of how many places you’ve sold this way and then use that to encourage people who are dithering a bit 🙂 E.g. “Well, I’ve got 12 deposits now so that means I’ve only got 3 seats left so I wouldn’t wait too long before you pay your deposit or you may not get a seat”

    • Thank you Helen and yes I’ve learned over the summer that its the best approach – I did that in the beginning and it worked well but then sort of lost track of it thinking I was being too pushy – I think I’ve got to work on the marketing still and remember that people need nudging from time to time 🙂

  2. Hi Bev, Hope that your new strategy works, I totally agree that you need to get at least some money in advance, sadly by being nice and giving people a chance to pay whenever you end up out of pocket, not because they are trying to take advantage but just because human nature is forgetful or noncomital or their good intentions of bringing friends goes wrong or something crops up and our clients are unaware for the most part of our overheads etc. hen I started my Spanish classes they were pay as you go and it made a huge difference to my business when I made it a termly sign up. Good Luck!

    • Thank you Debbie – I agree its often more about forgetfulness etc than anything else. And its true, unless you are involved in setting up and running similar events then you really don’t think about the overheads and its not something I feel comfortable talking to clients about.

    • That’s true, I’d not thought of it in terms of confidence either, just in terms of “niceness” but actually you’re right, its about putting value on what I do and having the confidence to say that I’m worth it 🙂

  3. Hi I always work to a minimum number of attendees and a cut of date for booking. after all so much preparation is put into the planning stages and often materials need to be bought which is an additional outlay. also its always best to agree a hall cancellation time frame as they will soon get frustrated as well..as to returning fees I have a policy on notice needed to cancel places.
    Hope that helps
    Jacquie. jaxsarts.

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