Winning repeat business in a downturn economy

by Antoni Lee

Media training is a specialised form of communication and presentation training,
which equips corporate spokespeople, politicians and other topic experts to
communicate effectively in media interviews.

I have been doing media training for many years–first gaining content
and experience working for others, and then six years ago I began coaching my
own private clients. Recently I've come full circle and rejoined a corporation,
where I made media training an offering within the company.

Companies and individuals use media training to minimize their vulnerability
of saying or doing something in front of the media that would damage their reputation.
Early in my training career, I realised that the in-session coaching atmosphere
is very important. While highlighting participants’ areas of personal
and organisational vulnerability is intrinsic to my training sessions, the way
people’s bubbles are pricked has to be sensitive to participants’

Consequently, I respect and encourage my participants as much as I can. I promise
and deliver confidentiality and security of information. I try and make every
session with a client a winner, working hard to make the experience fun and
rewarding for them. I want participants to take away great information, great
tools and significant behaviour change they can be confident in using.

Until this year, the practice has grown modestly and steadily, affording me
a full-time salary and giving me the opportunity to directly train and coach
hundreds of people to ‘perform’ in media interviews—including
media commentators, journalists and people across many professions. I’ve
also addressed hundreds more in speaking engagements.

As many of you
also experiencing, the downturn has had a major effect on winning
new business for my training practice. In corporations that would become my
clients, formerly robust training budgets have been almost completely drained.

If you’ve been around for any time at all, you’re familiar with
the theory and reality that it’s harder and more expensive to win new
business from new clients (i.e., to convert prospects) than it is to win repeat
business from clients. I have even seen research state that it’s 11 times
more expensive to find and convert prospects than it is to resell to clients
you already have.

This makes sense. With new prospects, you have to invest time and collateral
materials to establish credibility and build a relationship. Existing clients,
on the other hand, already know you and what you offer and how good the result

In my experience, it just hasn’t been that easy getting people to come
back for more. My hope is that at the end of every half- or full-day session—the
two most common formats for my training—the client would say, “That
was great, I’ll see you again in a year for refresher training, or to
take it to the next level.”

While corporations do rebook me to train new people, I don’t get the
same people back for refresher training and further skills upgrade. Is it because
they don't like the experience? I'd have to say no–clients regularly
give me impressive testimonials. So then what is going on?

Most trainees seem to think that once is enough. For example, recently a corporation
booked an executive to do my training. He resisted it, telling his company that
because I coached him two years ago, “I already did media training.”
In this case, because media coverage is creating heightened risk for the company,
they forced the guy to come along.

After he finished the session he said that the refresher training was worth
it (maybe he’ll even supply a reference quote on that topic), but how
can I change people's minds about the need for repeat training?

My view is that people ‘leak.’ (This is akin to whichever Law of
Thermodynamics says that things tend toward chaos.) Over time, without ongoing
focus and attention, great skills and attitudes tend to fade, go rusty, lose
their edge. Being motivated yesterday doesn’t mean that you don’t
need to become re-motivated tomorrow. Being articulate last year doesn’t
mean that you will be articulate next year, without some effort of your part.

How am I going to address these business challenges? Here are my conclusions
and recommendations (to self) to date:

  1. Survey former participants, asking them what they think about the need
    for continued or refresher media training and what would cause them to seek
    more training.
  2. Add a note on my invoice with a suggested date to book your next refresher
    session. Also I can follow up directly by phone or email.
  3. Evaluate and improve my services. Invite an observer in to give me objective
    feedback about the atmosphere in my sessions.
  4. Continue
    to highlight during my sessions that for best ongoing results or to take it
    to the next level, come back for a tune-up session in six months or a year.

I hope to address VOICE readers in a future issue about how my efforts are
paying off, and which of these strategies brought in the most repeat business.



Antoni Lee is the principal of media and communication training practice for
Redact, based in Sydney, Australia. His clients include prominent spokespeople,
journalists, professionals and representatives of multinational corporations
across the Asia Pacific. You can reach him at or

2 thoughts on “Winning repeat business in a downturn economy”

  1. Thanks for your comment and useful advice Jo…I hadn’t thought of that.
    Marketing is about many ideas and many touches.

  2. A very nice and candid article, thank you. Your plans sound wise and I hope you get solid results. I’d only add that perhaps a coupon, or discount of some sort for the “tune-up” sessions, might be motivating, especially now.
    Best of luck with your challenge.
    Jo Donovan

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