How L&D Leaders Can Increase Learning Engagement and Drive Business Results by Thinking Like a Marketer

Marketing and L&D might not come to mind as a natural pair, but training is one of the most cost-logical areas to spend marketing dollars and effort.

Marketing’s most basic function is to increase demand. Marketing learning programs can help establish a culture of continuous learning by creating a consistent demand for it. As demand increases, so does engagement in the content you are able to deliver against that demand (think about Black Friday). Although the benefits of increasing demand and engagement with learning content seem self-evident, let’s drill down into why you should consider employing marketing efforts within your learning programs or enlist marketing’s help (in-house or vendor-driven) to impact your business’ bottom line.

What’s in it for the organization?

Companies stand to significantly decrease their cost per learner and increase productivity across the organization if they marketed their training courses. Let’s assume you spend $100,000 on custom learning content and you have 5,000 employees, that is $20 per employee. But that calculation is based on 100 percent learner engagement. Sadly, less than a quarter of training content available is ever consumed, making your cost-per-learner skyrocket to $80 or more. In short, the more awareness you can drive, the larger the return on investment.

What’s in it for the learner?

When employees take the time to develop their skills and increase knowledge through organizational learning, they also increase their value to the company and in the job market. The majority of the workforce cites opportunities for growth and development as an extremely important factor in a job.

It seems somewhat counterintuitive to have push your audience toward something that they should want to actively seek out on their own. But if it wasn’t necessary, we wouldn’t see so many ads trying to convince people to become more active, practice safe driving habits or stop using drugs. People have to be told what is good for them and given the tools to take action.

4 Elements of Marketing L&D

So, what does marketing your learning programs look like? This isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution for every program. Different audiences will require unique messaging and tactics for optimal results. But there are several uniting elements of marketing that can be implemented at the most basic level to get you off to the right start.

Develop the Brand
Any good marketer knows that an initiative needs an image and mission that can be promoted to unite customers on their journey. Learning programs should have a visibly familiar brand that its audience can relate to and identify with. An easy-to-remember brand will stick in the mind of its consumers and will organically grow through community influencers. Your learning programs’ brand should be used throughout promotional materials and within learning technology and content itself when possible.

Launch the Program
When marketing departments launch campaigns, it’s all about momentum. A slow trickle of information is easy to miss or forget. But when you have a well-orchestrated launch supported by a thoughtful brand and abundant collateral, your program will take the spotlight. This initial launch should be an omni-channel campaign that spans across the digital and in-person platforms your employees interact with the most. This can include organization-wide emails (even better if you can secure executive buy in and send it from the CEO or a similar internal celebrity), printed posters throughout the office displaying the programs brand and value proposition, short videos on the company’s intranet, or even cutting-edge tactics like push notifications to employees’ mobile devices.

Ongoing Engagement
Once this initial launch has run its course, marketing for the training program will have to be embedded into your onboarding experience for new hires. Much of the content from the brand and program launch can be repurposed and L&D can establish a timeline for learning delivery to maximize impact.

Learning leaders, internal champions and other stakeholders should have access to resources that will help drive continuous participation. Reengagement campaigns, rewards and recognition can all be great ways to keep your learning program top of mind for employees.

Analyzing Impact
If you want to sustain funding for your learning initiatives – or better yet, expand them – then you’ll need to speak the language of the ever-skeptical CFO. By establishing benchmarks and definitions of success for your training program, you’ll set yourself up to make the hard case for learning.

Like marketers, L&D leaders should set engagement goals and then track open rates of their promotions and usage of learning content. If rates aren’t optimal, consider trying tactics like A/B testing on your communications and course correct where necessary.

If L&D leaders can think like marketers and design some branding and campaigning elements into their training programs, they’ll not only deliver tremendous value to the organization, but they’ll also drive employee engagement and satisfaction. This unique competitive advantage will increase learning budget, job growth, and salary – and who doesn’t like the sound of that!

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