To the casual observer, it might appear that L&D and marketing have little in common. In actuality, the disciplines share some important similarities.

“We are both sense-makers,” says Judy Albers, a learning strategist with Intrepid Learning. “We can look at a universe of content and figure out how to communicate it.”

But Albers adds that there are some key differences between the two. “L&D typically focuses on how to communicate so that people become competent in something and then demonstrate that competence,” she says. “Marketers typically communicate in order to engage people and get them to do something.”

Albers says L&D professionals can harness some valuable lessons from marketing. She will discuss this topic in more detail at an upcoming eLearning Guild summit.

Learning from Marketing Summit

Albers is one of several professionals presenting at the Learning from Marketing Summit, a live online event to be held August 23 and 24. Her session on August 24 is titled “Skill Sets Marketers Have that L&D Can Develop.” She will examine the skills that savvy marketers inherently possess, and expand on how L&D leaders can successfully apply them to the training industry. She will also share a case study that illuminates how her firm employed marketing concepts to help a client deliver a popular trainer-led class online.

In this particular case study, Intrepid Learning transformed a global consulting firm’s trainer-led class into a two-week blended learning course. To engage learners and generate interest in the course, they utilized basic marketing techniques such as great visual design, humor, storytelling, live webinars, social interaction, shareable content, and video. Their successful approach satisfied stakeholders and saved the firm $500,000 annually.

Five Essential Marketing Skills L&D Needs

Albers says marketers have many valuable skill sets that L&D leaders can develop. Five of the most essential include how to:

  1. Write for the web
  2. Apply marketing-quality visual design
  3. Integrate video and audio
  4. Iterate on your designs with usability testing
  5. Create an immersive, contextual learning journey the way marketers create a customer journey

“Marketers understand how to engage people,” Albers says. “They know it’s not about pushing products. … It’s about creating value.” This is an important takeaway for L&D professionals. She refers to marketing guru Jay Baer, who maintains that the brands that are prospering today are the ones that educate.

“The gift of education creates a bond and a sense of gratitude. If you make your content useful, people will engage,” Albers says.

Marketers are brief when it comes to written communication because audiences today tend to skim pages in a predictable pattern. “As a result, your text has to highlight the most important information to make people who scan want to dive deeper,” Albers says.

Marketers also embrace a more informal communication style, which L&D leaders can emulate. “Write like you talk, and don’t be overly worried about grammar,” Albers advises. “Use casual words and don’t try to impress others.”

When it comes to visual design, marketers know what kinds of images people click on. (Hint: Stock photos don’t cut it.)

Finally, the best marketers strive to tell a story. They understand that stories drive engagement and make content more memorable. Albers notes that L&D trainers can (and should) take advantage of the power of story.