6 Marketing Skills For Learning And Development

08/24/2018

There’s a lot that’s common between L&D and Marketing. Both departments are involved in communicating with a goal to change people’s behavior. There are several other common aspects too where the two overlap and that is why they can work wonders if they join hands.

In a fast-evolving corporate landscape, L&D faces a number of challenges - from creating strong, up-to-date, and consistent content that interests the learners and achieves business objectives to justifying the ROI and beyond! Learning professionals are also often in a quandary on how to encourage employees to actually stay engaged with the learning. In a way, this issue is somewhere in the purview of Marketing because they are the ones who develop strategies to convince people to ‘buy’ something. To do so, Marketing is constantly adopting newer models to tap customers’ needs to live up to changing technology and user expectations.

With a legion of common elements between L&D and Marketing, wouldn’t it help if the two functions worked in tandem and took a leaf or two from each other’s books?

Here are a few things that L&D can learn from Marketing and the two can live together happily ever after:

1. Creating A ‘Brand’

It’s an understatement to say that ‘Brand’ is an important element of Marketing. The brand is the basis for most activities that the Marketing department undertakes. And why not, considering a ‘Brand’ is what creates an image, generates instant recall, and talks about a uniqueness while creating differentiation. So just like Marketing toils to create a Brand for an organization/ product/ service, L&D too can create a Brand for itself and nurture it constantly.

How can a Brand help L&D? It works by bringing in a consistency in every piece of communication that L&D gives out to employees, customers, and all other stakeholders. It helps build a trust and make people understand what to expect from L&D irrespective of the channel of communication. A Brand brings in context and credibility in L&D initiatives such that employees start looking at them as impactful and functional solutions.

2. Understanding The Target Audience

Audience research is one of the key steps in Marketing to better know the target demographic and accordingly create strategies to cater to them. In Learning and Development too, content essentially has to be learner-centric. But how can it be leaner-centric unless there is a clear idea of who the learners are and what their profiles look like?

Unless there is a clear know-how of the audience (users/learners in L&D context), L&D initiatives will end up having a ‘push’ approach rather than a ‘pull’ one. Just like the audience study concept in Marketing, L&D too has to spend enough time to define who the learners are, what age groups they belong to, what are their nationalities and genders, where are they geographically based, are they permanent/gig or contract workers, how are they going to consume the data, what are their interests outside of work, etc.

3. Designing Powerful Campaigns

Campaigns are one of the most important set of tools in Marketing to achieve goals. Not just do they serve their purpose in communicating with the target audience and acquiring (new) customers, but by following a consistent theme and a time-segregated approach across various channels/ media they touch-base with the market at regular intervals while giving out different key (actionable) messages. In short, campaigns help in breaking through the clutter while helping the company achieve promotion.

A good correlation of this is to some learning theory concepts of spaced learning and retrieval practise, wherein bite-sized chunks of learning are spaced out over time and linked together with a common objective. All this when bundled in good (and consistent) imagery and strong storytelling is the perfect recipe for a campaign in learning context.

4. Delivering Clear, Concise, And Creative Messages

One of the foundations of Marketing is the efficiency in communicating messages – an essentially important function that helps strengthen the value of the Brand. Marketing departments are experts at creating short and creative messages that are concise and add to the visual appeal. L&D can take a few lessons on this from Marketing over how to design such kind of messages.

5. Engaging People Rather Than ‘Compelling’ Them

Marketing often scores in the fact they are known to clearly state the features and benefits of a product which is a good way of engaging people. People have a clear idea of what they could gain from using the product and hence can make an informed decision of whether they want to take it or no. L&D is still sometimes stuck with the ‘push’ approach with its mandatory compliance trainings (that often come with a deadline) which may create a negative image in the minds of learners.

It would rather help if L&D could adopt the Marketing model by putting across a training program with a clearly set WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), enlisting its features, stating where it can be accessed (preferably anytime, anywhere, on-the-go) and ensuring that it is in bite-size chunks that are easy to consume. Such a ‘pull’ approach could work much better than the mandatory approach.

6. Analyzing How To Stand Apart From The Pack

There was a time when learning happened largely within organizations through training initiatives arranged by L&D. Those days are far behind because with so much information (most of it being free of cost) available online, it is now possible for employees to indulge in learning anytime, anywhere. Even for work-related issues, most access information outside of what is provided by the organization.

It is then even more necessary that L&D thinks with a Marketing mindset as to how to cut across the noise. With so much information vying for their learners’ time and attention, how can L&D ensure that they stand apart from the competition? Also, if L&D has to stay away from making trainings mandatory, it is even more essential to show learners why they need to be a part of a particular learning initiative and how it is good for them.

Final Word

At the end of the day, L&D is one of the most important verticals in a company because they are directly responsible for skilling employees who are the assets of a company. Naturally then, the department deserves excellent marketing. So why not have L&D and Marketing work together to achieve some splendid results. It would surely be a happy union for the company!

By Amit Gautam

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