You want to maximize registrations and use your marketing budget wisely. Timing your advertising well can help you meet both goals. Start too early, and you’ll be advertising to people who aren’t ready to make a decision. Wait too long, and their calendars will already be full. So when is the best time to start advertising a class? The short answer is:
You should start advertising a class at least 40 days before the class starts.
That’s the general answer, but there is some nuance to it. Your goals, the audience, and even the time of the year can impact the best time to start advertising a new course. Let’s get into the details so you can time your advertising with confidence.
Where This Recommendation Comes From
This advice about when to start advertising classes isn’t just a guess. We have real data to back it up. As part of our inaugural State of Informal Learning (SOIL) Report, we analyzed almost 1 million registrations completed on the CourseStorm platform to reveal insights on how informal learning programs can best serve their students and reach their goals.
We discovered that students are registering earlier and earlier for classes, which means you may need to start promoting on social media and in email sooner than you’re used to. Starting promotions as early as 60 days before a new class begins wouldn’t be unreasonable. Make it easy on yourself with automatic email marketing. You can turn it on with the click of a button.
This also means that you usually have several weeks notice that a class is in danger of cancelation. If you haven’t filled or at least mostly filled a class within three weeks of its start date, it might be time to take a more intensive approach to marketing. Before we get into how to do that, there’s an interesting seasonal pattern you might want to consider.
Student Registration Patterns Shift With the Seasons
Registration timelines tend to shift a little bit depending on the season. If you’re running classes during the summer months of June, July and August, people are most likely to register 45 to 50 days before the class starts.
For classes during the rest of the year, peak registration time is around 35 to 40 days before the start of class. While these trends seem tied to the traditional school year, they hold true whether you’re offering classes for children or adults.
That’s why we recommend promoting classes at least 40 days before the class starts. That’s the time when most students are ready to register. Earlier advertisements may pique someone’s interests but are less likely to result in an immediate registration.
If you do decide to start earlier, don’t be discouraged if the registrations don’t immediately roll in. People may not be quite ready to make a decision. On the other hand, if you don’t give people enough lead time, they may already have chosen another class or filled their calendar with other activities by the time you start promoting your program.
Advertising Seasonal Classes and Classes as Gifts
In 2019, 24% of American shoppers did the bulk of their Christmas shopping in late November and early December. An additional 16% shopped in the 2-3 weeks before Christmas. If you plan to promote courses as holiday gifts, you probably want to start promotions no later than mid-November.
In 2021, worries about supply chain issues drove holiday gift givers to start shopping even earlier. About 27% had started their shopping before the end of September. Although your courses may not be directly affected by supply chain shortages, you still want to catch people in a gift-giving mindset. With that in mind, you might want to push your holiday promotions a little earlier.
If you hope to market classes as gifts, you can start as early as the end of September. Anytime between October first and Thanksgiving is also reasonable, but you definitely don’t want to wait any longer than that. Black Friday is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, and most people have at least thought about their gift list by then.
Treat seasonal classes just like any other class. Although some people don’t like to think about holidays months ahead of time, they do manage their calendars that far out. You’re better off bringing the class to their attention early.
What to Do When A Class Doesn’t Fill Within a Few Weeks of the Start Date
Since most people register more than 30 days out, you should pay special attention to any class that isn’t mostly full by this time. If a class is in danger of cancellation due to low-registrations, or if you’d just like to fill out the class roster, here are four strategies you can try:
- Make sure everyone knows the class is in danger. Letting students and former students know that a class is in danger of cancellation can encourage them to register or share it with people in their network. CourseStorm has built-in notifications to make this process easy.
- Offer existing students a discount code if they invite a friend. A personal recommendation from a friend can attract someone to a class they might have taken alone. Plus, students sometimes have more fun with a friend, which can enhance their overall satisfaction with your class.
- Provide a discount code for last-minute registrations. Be careful with using this strategy too often. You don’t want to train people to always expect a discount for last-minute registration, otherwise they might purposefully hold off on registering until they receive the code.
- Include a “x number of seats remaining” message on the course page. Sometimes this sense of scarcity can convince people to stop deliberating and take action. CourseStorm has this feature built in so your students will automatically see a countdown when the number of seats gets low.
- Reach out to an organization in your community and offer discounted (or free) seats. This can help you build goodwill and fill out your class roster. Plus, students from that organization might enjoy their experience so much that they register for more classes in the future.
Everyone talks about how to market your classes effectively, but great marketing might not be enough if your timing is off. Start at least 40 days out and adjust based on the season and your goals. For more benchmarks to help you maximize registrations and make decisions about your program, download the SOIL report now.