I have to admit that at some point during my training career, I was thoroughly annoyed with L&D managers’ idea that we should be “selling ourselves and our work”. For me (and some of my old-school colleagues) our job was a very important and attention-deserving one and we (smugly, I might say) thought that whoever wasn’t interested in learning did not really deserve our efforts.
A very dusty and unrealistic point of view for people who prided themselves in delivering the best customer service training and flawlessly conveying the idea that the customer must always come first.
Our customers were our learners and though it took us some time to process the idea, we eventually realized that we had something to learn ourselves from marketing and that the application of that new knowledge would only increase interest, engagement and audience satisfaction.
3 Things L&D professionals could learn from the marketing department
Most corporate training these days is either designed by internal teams or by contractors that will stay on board for a longer period of time – this is due to the fact that any effective learning has to be part of a strategy and there is quite often the need to intervene quickly when major changes occur and looking for a new provider on each of these occasions would be counterproductive to say the least.
However, just because instructional designers don’t have to sell their work in the classical sense, it doesn’t mean they don’t have to do so in order to engage their intended audience. They don’t have to come up with a sales pitch but with a targeted campaign that will convince future learners that the units are relevant and worth their while.
Here are a few marketing techniques that will surely help.
Know what’s in it for the learners
When marketers think about how to present a product, they immediately brainstorm about the uses it will have to the potential buyer. The ways in which it will make them look better, smell better, save time, save money, make friends, build up confidence or gain admiration are all points that will help move that particular product.
You might think that is fairly easy when it comes to learning as the main objective is to help the trainee be smarter or more knowledgeable. Well, that’s not really a selling point unless the targeted audience is made of knowledge-hungry academics and that is hardly the case in today’s corporate environment.
The advantages that come from enrolling in a certain course have to be very personal, specific and hold immediate applicability in the workplace or in everyday life.
Harness the potential of the intranet
Most of today’s workers enjoy using the internet, social media and are part of various online groups that share common interests and hobbies. All major retailers have online pages or communities dedicated to promoting their products and services.
It is therefore advisable for the L&D departments to set up camp on the company’s intranet and build an interesting and engaging venue for employees to get acquainted with all the learning possibilities. This page would need to host well-written summaries of all available courses, eye-grabbing visuals (whiteboard videos and infographics are highly recommended) and have a section where people can leave feedback or ask about topics that interest them.
It’s also a good idea to gamify learning by setting up a system of badges and leaderboards for those who enroll in e-learning modules.
Involve both formal and informal leaders
Advertising has long been relying on endorsements from famous people. It’s a no-brainer that women will want to use the same beauty products as gorgeous Hollywood stars and men are likely to choose the beer that comes recommended by successful soccer players or athletes.
Training can also be helped by the association of management and company influencers.
The principle of liking is a crucial one when it comes to persuasion and generally people like those who resemble them and those who have achieved a certain level of success. If managers place the right importance on training programs and openly communicate this, the engagement rates will certainly go up. When informal leaders become promoters of L&D, the organization itself begins to build a culture of learning that will only be lucrative for all in the end.
I was personally convinced of how important presentation is when you are asking people to give you your time and attention. Even the best designed course can suffer if the learners go in feeling that it might not speak to them or that it won’t be applicable anytime in the foreseeable future.
So, taking a few notes from the marketing people and treating courses like quality products and trainees as potential customers are the keys to a more successful corporate learning.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.