As long as the economy’s direction is uncertain, some employers will be reluctant to spend money on their employees’ professional development. Short-sighted, I know. Their employee is eager to register for your online course but doesn’t know how to convince their boss to pay for it.
Justification toolkits are a popular marketing tactic for conferences, but you rarely see them for courses and other educational programs. With the tips and suggestions we provide below, you can create a justification toolkit to help your prospective learners improve their persuasion skills.
How justification toolkits benefit associations too
Justification toolkits exist to convince somebody’s boss that it’s well worth sending them to your course. But there are other benefits too.
Registrations and revenue. Ok, this one is obvious. The more bosses you convince, the more attendance—and revenue—rises.
Member/customer engagement, loyalty, and advocacy. A satisfied learner is bound to interact more with your association, take advantage of other programs and activities, and share their experience with others through word-of-mouth marketing.
Evergreen marketing piece. Someone who’s on the fence might decide to register based on what they read in your justification toolkit.
Member/customer goodwill. You’re fighting the good fight for the prospective learner. You’re on their side helping them say what they don’t know how to express.
Program awareness. A justification toolkit is essentially a marketing piece aimed at the employer. They might not have known much about you or even thought much about their staff’s professional development. Now, they’re somewhat familiar with what you offer and may click one of those links to check you out. Maybe they’ll even find a program they need!
Elements of a justification toolkit for courses
Conference toolkits are much easier to put together since they’re only selling one program. How do you do a justification toolkit for all your online courses and program? Create one toolkit with interchangeable parts. The user cuts and pastes what they need.
Program information for the learner and their boss
This task is much easier if all your programs have persuasive learner outcomes describing the competencies learned and the impact the course will make on the learner’s job performance. Craft talking points also for the benefits and impact of other program features, such as online cohorts, community, coaching, and live vs. on-demand programs.
Every course description should include a downloadable PDF of the course outline that learners can share with their boss. Describe the competencies learned in each module so the boss gets a sense of the topics covered and skills taught.
Advice for taking their boss’ perspective
The prospective learner must look at their request from their boss’ perspective and take those considerations into account when developing their business case strategy.
For example, they should figure out the best way to approach their boss:
• Schedule an in-person conversation about career growth?
• Bring up the topic during a regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting?
• Email a request for a Zoom/Teams meeting about career growth?
• Email a request for approval with supporting talking points?
Which approach is more likely to result in a knee-jerk “no”? Which offers time for the boss to reflect and make a favorable decision?
Questions to consider as the learner develops their case
The learner should craft responses to the questions and objections their boss could raise.
• How will the learner apply what they learn and use it to improve their performance? Make the connection for them between the learner outcomes and their daily work. Never assume the boss will automatically see the connection. What kind of best practices will they learn? What skills? What questions will they get answered?
• How will this program help the learner achieve their 2023 performance goals? Be specific and provide examples.
• How would this program make it more likely their boss will achieve their goals? Or their department achieves its goals? Their organization achieves its goals?
• Getting back to their boss—how would the learner’s new skills and knowledge make their boss’s job easier or less stressful? Could they take something off the boss’ plate? Or make a bigger contribution elsewhere?
• Can their new skills allow their company to provide better service or products? Offer a better value? Expand its offerings? Increase its rates or prices? Get an edge on the competition?
• Is there any reason for a sense of urgency about taking this course? Is there anything coming up at work that calls for the skills and knowledge they’ll learn in the program? Why is now better than later?
• Does the learner know anyone who’s taking this course recently? Can they get a testimonial from them or, even better, the person’s boss?
Email template and talking points
Provide a sample email template and discussion talking points. If you search for “conference justification letter/toolkit,” you’ll find plenty of examples.
Start with a strong hook that briefly describes the impact of the course. For example, “I found a program where I can learn how to X so I can Y.”
Then provide brief details: the course name, organizer, and dates.
Return to the course’s impact: how it will change the learner’s job performance, their boss’ work, and what the learner can bring to their boss and company. Provide specific examples.
Fill in the details:
• Course organizer—why they’re the best choice
• Course dates—why it’s a good time, when they will attend/study, how they will manage work
• Course cost
Describe what’s included in the cost besides instruction, for example, peer community, coaching, and/or access to resources during and after the program. Provide links to the course page on the association’s website and the main education page.
Suggest how the learner could share what they learn with co-workers, if that appeals to their boss.
How to circumvent all this and make it easier on yourself and the learner
One reason learning subscriptions are so popular is because members and customers only have to make a budget request once a year. If your association offers learning subscriptions, you definitely want to create a justification toolkit for them.
It’s also easier to get an employer’s support when your association designs online learning programs that are aligned with business needs. An employer advisory council made up of corporate HR and L&D professionals can help you understand which competencies are most in demand.
Employers could spend their limited professional development with your competitors. A justification toolkit makes it more likely they will entrust their money and employees with you.