How to Leverage Your Certification Program to Increase Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Have you created a certification program but now find yourself struggling to raise awareness of it?

Even if you have an excellent certification program, it won’t market itself. It requires an intentional and carefully planned marketing strategy. But what if you don’t know where to start?

Start with relationship-building. Word-of-mouth marketing is the best type of exposure you can hope for, and it all begins with relationships.

Next, focus on education. Equip your current students with the content and resources needed to share your information with others.

Let’s discuss how to create an intentional word-of-mouth marketing strategy for your certification program.

Make the Certification a Big Deal

The first step in relationship-building is to be a cheerleader.

When your students complete their certification program, celebrate with them. Applaud them for their efforts. Encourage your students to spread the good news with their social circles.

One of the benefits of Accredible is that social sharing is built-in. Graduates can share the good news on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and over 100 other social media sites. They can also proudly embed their certificate on their website and add it to their email signature.

This serves two purposes.

In addition to students sharing the good news, they’re also sharing your brand. You get exposure every time someone sees your student’s accomplishment.

Another way to celebrate your students (and gain social proof, which is another form of word of mouth) is to post about it yourself. Advertise how many people have taken your course on your website in a pop-up or banner. Include it in your social media or search engine ads. Interview a student and share it on your blog and social media posts.

Celebration can also be as simple as taking a photo of your newly certified students and posting it to your social channels. (Be sure to tag them in the photos for added exposure).

Everyone wins when you celebrate your students.

Stay in Contact With Your Students

You may only offer a one-time certification, but that doesn’t mean you have to end your relationship with your students. If you cultivate an ongoing relationship with your former students, you can build a successful referral network.

How can you continue to serve your former students? Continue to provide them with useful information that they’ll find valuable even after graduation. You can position yourself as an educational resource.

Blogging, email, and social media are all excellent ways to stay in contact with former students.

On your blog, you can create content about your industry, including expert insight. It can serve as a news resource as well as an educational guide.

With email, you can remind students to return to your blog whenever you upload a new post. You can also create content for subscribers-only, adding to the exclusivity of your blog.

On social media, you can stay top-of-mind while posting realtime updates about industry-related news. You can also interact with your students and answer questions.

Remember that your students signed up for your course because you’re an authority, so prove your authority.

Focus on Case Studies

Need help creating a case study? Here’s a list of resources.

Case studies are word-of-mouth marketing in package form.

Case studies, also known as expanded testimonials, will help you sell your certification program better than any glossy advertisement. Why? Case studies showcase real people who have actually succeeded with your certification program.

To create a successful case study, choose the students who represent your target audience. Seeing similar pain points and personas can be inspiring and influential for prospective customers.

If you have five different target personas, create five different case studies. Then, share them everywhere: on your website, on social media, to your email list, and on your social media and search engines ads.

In your case study, address the who, what, why, and how you helped.

When you share case studies in your marketing, be sure to link to an optimized landing page — one for each persona. Sending prospective customers to an optimized landing page is a gentle way to address common pain points and present your certification program as the unique answer to these problems.

Create Videos

When prospective students are first introduced to your program, you only have a few seconds to make a winning impression. Even if you create a compelling website, many prospective students will first find you through social media campaigns or direct referrals. Wouldn’t you like to control that impression?

One of the best ways to do that is to create a video that explains how you can help the prospective student succeed.

Videos are increasingly important for word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of relying on your students to come up with their own words when they tell others about your program, ask them to share your video.

A video is self-contained and instantly engaging. And because most of us are visual learners, videos are a great way to introduce yourself to others quickly. Within the first 10 seconds of a video, you can pull your audience in and provide all the necessary information to them in a visually appealing format.

And videos are very shareable. For example, Facebook makes it easy for your followers to share videos with their social circles. Post a video and then ask for shares. It’s really that easy.

Not sure what type of videos to add to your certification program? Take a cue from NQA Certification. NQA Certification created a video case study and uploaded it to YouTube.

This video can be embedded on blog posts, social media posts, landing pages, and promotional content. It can also be shared via email. In fact, YouTube itself is a great marketing channel. It’s the second largest search engine on the Internet (behind Google).

Turn your case study into a video. If you can’t do in-person interviews, Skype is also an option. Keep your videos short (10 minutes or less). You want videos that are bite-sized and that get to the point quickly.

Give Away Promotional Items

Have you considered creating promotional gifts for your graduates? Branded T-shirts, hats, pens, tote bags, and coffee mugs are more than just simple marketing gimmicks. Promotional gifts can also be used as an integral part of your referral marketing strategy.

Here are three things that promotional items do well:

  1.  Promotional products serve as a symbol of your appreciation and will generate positive sentiment for your business.
  2.  Promotional products provide continuous exposure for your business whenever in use.
  3.  In presenting such gifts, you get the opportunity to ask for a favor in return.

Number 3 is perhaps the most important for actively generating word-of-mouth referrals. When sending promotional gifts, also include a handwritten note.

On your note, thank them for taking part in your certification program and encourage them to spread the word. Don’t use vague language. Be specific. Depending on your industry, you may ask them to share their experience on a crowd-sourced review site like Yelp or spread the message on social media using a brand-owned hashtag.

Promotional gifts help to keep your business at the top of mind and can effortlessly generate leads long after your student has completed the course.

Final Thoughts

Always remember that when compared to slick promotional ads, simple one-sentence recommendations always win out. Don’t be afraid to simply ask for referrals.

When compared to slick promotional ads, simple one sentence recommendations always win out. Click To Tweet
Don’t forget to download this list of resources for creating a winning case study

Mark is a tech entrepreneur passionate about solving problems through software, and is currently the Marketing Lead at Accredible. If he's not working he's probably running or enjoying craft beer.

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