Launching a New or Re-Engineered Credentialing Exam

The launch of a new certification exam or the relaunch of a re-engineered exam will be a special moment in the life of your program. It’s a milestone achievement that signals the formal conclusion of the test-development phase, although test maintenance will continue throughout the life of the exam.

In a perfect world, the marketing plan, discussed in other posts, would have already been underway in the months preceding the launch. The target market should be aware of the new or re-engineered certification and be ready to test, thanks to a value proposition that was introduced with ample advance notice.

Marketing Tactics for a Successful Launch:

  • Because the demographics and psychographics of the target market are known—thank you, market research surveys, focus groups and/or interviews—a content marketing campaign can be created to reach prospects via industry publications (if available), authority websites, social media and paid online advertising.
  • LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups are prime places to find prospects and get their attention with strategically placed ads. What would you advertise? How about a free webinar promoting the benefits of your new certification? Or a PDF download describing how your certification could enhance the careers of the target market and expand their employment options?
  • Perhaps you could direct them to a blog post(s) sharing the results of your market research. The post(s) could contain a link sending them to the webinar or to the PDF download to learn more about your certification. Both the webinar registration and PDF download would require an email address. Once you have that, you could place prospects on an email nurturing campaign that would offer more valuable content and promote your certification. Email campaigns, when executed properly, are great for building trust and rapport.
  • Retargeting pixels from Facebook and other platforms can be placed on your blog. When prospects visit the blog, the retargeting pixel will enable your certification ads to follow prospects around the Internet and display on other, often highly trafficked, sites visited by prospects within the retargeting network.
  •  If prospects within your target market gather on Twitter, you can target them with ads promoting the certification. Same for YouTube and Instagram.
  • Continue to provide valuable content on your blog and place keywords in the headline and body of your posts. Keywords are the search words and phrases that prospects use on Google when looking for information about your industry, certification or specific job title.

For more certification-marketing ideas, check our the popular Kryterion ebook, How To Market Your Certification Program.

Supporting the Launch

Often, marketing dollars promoting the launch will be the most productive ones spent because the launch is inherently exciting. It draws attention to itself. It’s fresh and new, and an air of expectancy resonates with the target market.

A powerful way to magnify the energy of the launch is to announce it before a major industry conference and to schedule testing at the conference for the convenience of attendees. Testing at the conference provides strong social proof because it’s a highly visible activity. At the same time, the certification can effectively leverage the authority of the conference to enhance or establish its own.

Fuel the Momentum

A common mistake that sponsors make is to support the launch with a burst of marketing dollars and shortly thereafter to reduce spending, often starving the program of the funds necessary to sustain the original launch momentum.

Obviously, sponsors need to be strategic about how, when and where they spend the marketing budget, but the initial years of the program are necessarily marketing-intensive and expensive as the program works to overcome anonymity. Money must be consistently available to build certification awareness and visibility.

Stakeholder support is essential during the first few years of the program when test volumes and revenues are low and marketing expenses are high. The income and expense projections in the business plan should anticipate this short fall and prepare all stakeholders for the realities of the introduction phase. 

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