How Learning and Development (L&D) Teams can Learn from Marketing


“I am passionate about providing valuable learning opportunities that make a real difference in the lives of my learners.”
Does this sound like you?

As L&D professionals, your work life revolves around planning, developing and delivering learning solutions that make a real difference in the lives of your learners. A challenge that is associated with this, is creating enthusiasm and ‘buy-in’. You can create the most valuable learning solution out there, though if your learners aren’t motivated to complete it, its potential goes completely untapped.

Imagine being sent an email saying that you need to attend an event. You know nothing about it, you don’t know how it will benefit your life, you hadn’t planned on attending and all of a sudden you are booked in to go. How would you feel about that? Your learners can go through the same experience if they are sent an eLearning module to complete or are booked into a training course with no understanding of why.

Think about a time where you have been told to complete a training course or piece of learning with no idea of why you need to complete it. It’s extremely hard to feel motivated to do something if you don’t have an understanding of how it can positively impact your life. Whilst we may understand the value and importance of the learning solutions that we deliver, our learners might not.

Convincing people to make a decision to attend an event or buy something is commonly in the sphere of marketing (Akhundov, 2017). Marketing is an effective way to communicate your value proposition to your customers (Gross, 2016). If an integral part of the success of your learning solutions relies on the motivation of your learners, it makes sense to use marketing tools and techniques to achieve the buy-in and enthusiasm necessary for a valuable learning experience.

At Belvista Studios, we have been on the lookout for marketing tools and techniques to support L&D teams in giving their learning strategies and solutions the attention and engagement that they deserve. Here is what we have found:

The Value of Data

Before you jump into designing a learning solution, spend time collecting data that can help you gain a deep understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. Making decisions using data enables you to design and advertise your learning solution in a way that appeals to the people who will be using it (Wallace, 2017).

In the L&D world, you can collect data through interviews and observations as well as through the exploration of documentation and processes related to the problem. Use the data that you collect to discover common problems, trends and the attitudes and behaviours of your end-users (Wallace, 2017). For example, if you are designing a course on ‘customer service techniques’, you could:

Interview staff who deal with customers. Ask them questions about their experience, such as:
  • Do they come across common challenges?
  • Could the customer service process be improved in any way from their point of view?
  • Do they have the resources they need to provide good customer service?
  • Observe staff interacting with customers.
  • Does the process work?
  • Do staff come across common challenges throughout the process?
  • Do staff have a good attitude towards customer service?
  • Look for customer service company documentation/processes.
  • Is there a process booklet already out there?
  • Have any teams created their own customer service process?
  • Is there a customer service policy that must be followed by staff?

The more data that you have, the more likely you are to have a deep understanding of the learning solution you are designing and in turn design a solution that is fit for purpose.

Understand Your Learners

Marketers constantly familiarise themselves with their target audience to allow them to keep up to date with what’s relevant and to provide the best possible value (Buryan, 2018).

A great marketing tool for understanding your learners is a user persona. A user persona is a representation of your end user and they answer the question, “Who are we designing for?”. This involves collecting as much information as possible about your end-user, so you can gain a deep understanding of who they are and what their experience of using your learning solution would look like.

We find user personas really useful for our projects at Belvista Studios and use an online user persona generator created by Hubspot. You can access it here [https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona] (Hubspot, 2018).

The Hubspot (2018) user persona generator collects information such as:
  • a persona name (to humanise the persona);
  • their age;
  • their highest degree or level of qualification;
  • what industry they work in;
  • the size of the organisation they are in;
  • their job title;
  • how their job is measured;
  • who they report to;
  • their goals and objectives;
  • their biggest challenges;
  • their job responsibilities; and
  • what tools they need to do their job. 
 You can also add personalised categories that may be relevant to your learner and in turn support you in collecting and considering information specific to your project.

Clearly Articulate the Why

You need to be able to clearly articulate what you do, why you do it and how the learnings you offer will positively impact the lives of your learners (Akhundov, 2017). If you understand your ‘why’ as a learning and development team, your learners can begin to build trust in what you offer.

Always be prepared to answer the question:

“Why should I complete this learning solution?”

If you can’t confidently speak to your learners about why the learning is important and how it will benefit them, it is unlikely that they will engage with it. The same goes for marketing. If a salesperson is unable to tell you why you should buy their product, why would you?

Create your L&D Department Brand

To succeed in gaining buy-in from your learners, it is important to consider the branding of your L&D department. Think about how each piece of communication is distributed to employees and the language that is used (Akhundov, 2017).

Observe the difference in language in the below emails and reflect on how this could potentially impact the attitude and buy-in from the learners receiving it.


Could you tell the difference between the two emails? The second email explained the why and also tapped into emotions through sharing someone's personal story relating to health and safety. 

This is an example of how, as an L&D department, you can brand the way you communicate. This is just one example of how to brand an L&D piece of communication. It is important to consider your specific learners. What language do they speak and how can you use their language to connect with them as humans? What brand can you create that aligns to your learners and can be used as a structure for all channels of communication with them?

Don’t let your valuable learning be left untapped by unengaged and unmotivated learners. The world of marketing, over the years, has collected tools and processes that can support you in connecting with your learners and understanding their needs. The work has already been done, it’s about tapping into resources that are already out there. The L&D solutions that you invest so much of your time into, deserve a good marketing strategy and your learners deserve to see the importance of what you offer. Chat to Kim Tuohy, our passionate Founder, if you have any questions about applying this within your team or to your projects. You can contact Kim at kim@belvistastudios.com. It’s something we at Belvista Studios have been experimenting with our clients to achieve. We hope that these tips add value to your learning strategy and solutions, and wish you an awesome day! Thanks for reading. :)


References

Akhundov, E. (2017). Marketing in L&D? Why Not? Retrieved from https://trainingindustry.com/articles/strategy-alignment-and-planning/marketing-in-ld-why-not/.

Buryan, M. (2018). Why Knowing Your Target Audience is Key in Content Marketing. Retrieved from https://www.socialbakers.com/blog/knowing-your-target-audience-is-key-in-content-marketing.

Gross, J. (2016). Why Marketing is SO important. Retrieved from https://movingtargets.com/blog/business/why-marketing-is-so-important/.

Hubspot, Inc. (2018). Make My Persona. Retrieved from https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona.

Wallace, D. (2017). 3 Proven Marketing Strategies to Enhance your Next Learning Program. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/insights/3-proven-marketing-strategies-to-enhance-your-next-learning-program.







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