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Six Tips for Marketing Your Learning Programme

LEO Learning’s Design Director, Andrew Joly, discusses the critical role of marketing communications in designing learning programmes that adopt an ‘architectural’, resource-based approach. Second in an ongoing series of posts about implementing learning architectures.

You can build a perfect learning programme but if no-one engages with it, it will not succeed. How you engage and motivate learners to want to participate or experience the programme you are creating for them is an absolutely crucial area of implementation – and one that too often gets overlooked. These aspects are especially important in a world where we have moved from a course-based to a resource-based model of learning; where we can no longer either rely on the personal charisma of course leaders or trainers to keep learners engaged, or fall back on the fairly traditional type of structuring and hand-holding which a linear online course provides.

In the age of the self-directed learner, where learning programmes can be delivered using a wide variety of online and offline media, care must be taken to avoid fragmentation and to build a truly coherent experience. This begins with presentation of the course, and works its way right through the learner journey and beyond.

LEO Learning has identified three critical elements of the implementation process that together provide the ‘mortar’ holding the bricks together in a learning architecture. These are:

  • Marketing
  • Learner journeys
  • Engagement

This post tackles the first of these, marketing.

LEO Learning and marketing communications

A distinctive characteristic of LINE’s approach, in comparison to other technology-enabled learning providers, is the way that we develop the marketing and communication of the programmes we develop. In our view, it would not make sense to us to deliver a programme with huge potential that is not realised due to a failure to think properly about the audience for the learning, and the specific character of their existing learning culture.

This would include factors such as how the audience perceives technology and learning in the first instance; how they are going to hear about the particular programme we are working on, through to their first access and experience of the learning itself.

The marketing challenge

While the use of technology in itself is becoming less and less of a blocker, we are clear that the learners within today’s organisations are only just beginning to understand the true value and benefits associated with the new ways of learning that technology provides. We believe, therefore, that the success of a new programme starts with the way it is presented to the learners. First impressions matter!

The marketing challenge for any new initiative, therefore is to:

  • Sell the benefits of the initiative
  • Bring the audience to the learning
  • Grow a positive awareness

Six tips for meeting the marketing challenge

What follows are a few potential solutions to help meet his challenge.

Start with a user-focused marketing/comms plan. Understand the audience, their view of learning and preferences at the outset. Identify the key pain points and blockers, and focus on them in the communications and marketing around the initiative. Sell the benefits, focusing on ‘what’s in it for me?’. In the case of programmes targeted at higher organisational levels, there is also a real opportunity to develop the ‘what’s in it for us?’ messaging.

Use champions and advocates. We believe that the most powerful marketing comes from the inside, and often look at ways of cascading key messages down through an organisation. It is also necessary to realise that key messages may be different for each organisational layer, or indeed for different territories.

Focus on senior management. As part of a cascade we would look at the attitude of the senior managers and leaders in the organisation. We have learned that effective take-up only happens when managers are fully aware of, and integrated into, the learning programmes of their teams. This supports our strong belief in the power of the 20% (coaching, mentoring, and managing) within the 70:20:10 model; a critical and too often overlooked element of the formal/informal mix.

We have also seen success from an exclusive ‘club’ concept, started at senior level, which encourages aspirational buy-in by junior leaders.

Tie in to/extend/integrate with other initiatives. Look closely at how a learning initiative can link to other successful learning and performance systems in an organisation (can we integrate into an annual performance, appraisal or bonus system, for instance?)

Marketing by conversation. The water-cooler effect. Think about how you can use the positive experience of early adopters to leverage the ongoing take-up of followers. This can include the generation and sharing of success stories by video, or the use of social media.

Use viral media. On some campaigns at LEO Learning we have developed short, non-expensive media that have been effectively passed around an organisation as part of a marketing strategy – maybe a quick game, a video, a pdf or a series of cartoons. We had particular success with video teasers for a new Performance Management Framework for BT and teasers for an internal communications initiative for L’Oreal.

I’m going to conclude this blog post with two examples of LEO Learning client programmes where we drew extensively on our marketing toolkit.

Engaging learners across Europe for Ford of Europe

We worked closely with Ford of Europe to develop and deliver their new online Learning Centre into 24 European territories. Challenged with engaging audiences effectively through online learning, the programmes’ success was centred on ensuring full buy-in to the new learning approach, which it was felt not only had to come from the very top of the organisation, but had to be carefully honed to each layer of the sales management structure.

We developed a comprehensive marketing cascade plan that tackled the pain-points and benefits for each audience from European Sales Directors down to individual Sales Consultants. We used guided presentation packs as well as print and other collateral to support the messaging.

Fostering outstanding leadership for BA

LEO Learning worked closely as technology and learning partner, alongside an embedded consultancy team, on an innovative leadership programme for BA. A key part of the success of the programme was centred on the need to educate and involve managers in the leadership programmes in which their team were engaging. The programme architecture included video-based scenario materials, online challenges, a learning portal and workshop materials, but all within the context of ensuring that the learners’ managers could effectively coach their teams alongside the leadership learning programme.

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