There are a few parallels to be drawn between marketing and learning & development. For one, both have an end goal of retaining and engaging existing clients—customers for marketing and learners for L&D. Both departments will benefit the most from finding and applying ideal engagement strategies.

Marketing has efficiently set an example by creating the right content for the right audience and delivering it at the right time. This process is informed by collecting and leveraging data to understand the audience better and what engagement methods work best. Because marketing and L&D have similar goals, there is a wealth of marketing experience, strategy, and tools that L&D can tap into without doing the hard work that marketers have already done.

The modern learner requires applicable information at their fingertips when they need it. These learners are also easily distracted by everything around them, both online and offline. This is the challenge the average L&D professional has to come to terms with. In fact, data from Deloitte suggests that 66% of L&D professionals have a difficult time engaging with learners.

There is, however, hope for learner engagement by using the lessons from marketing strategies to ensure learning delivery is relevant and current. Using marketing tactics creates unforgettable learning experiences.

Personas: The major marketing key

The most important tactic an L&D specialist should be adopting from marketing strategies is the use of personas. In marketing, the buyer persona defines the customer. A persona is a fictional representation of segments of an audience with similar demographics, needs, interests, and preferences which will inform how members of the target audience interact with a product or service.

Marketers are aware of how the differences that exist within the audience can affect the reception of products and marketing messages. Segmenting helps to position and target the message better. Marketers use personas to qualify and quantify the different segments of the audience and can vary content, style, engagement methods, and methods of reach according to the different segments.

Adapting this to learning, i.e. by creating a learner persona for different segments of learners, can effectively take care of knowing the learner and their learning needs. By being aware of those needs, motivations, frustrations and preferences, an experienced L&D specialist can deduce what learning content and methods to engage them to, keep their attention focused, and how to deliver the content.

Marketing practices to adopt for nurturing learners

To achieve better learning, the methods of engagement must work for the learner. In addition to the foundation of the learner persona, these marketing practices can be used to increase engagement:

Design – When creating relevant learning content, do not neglect design. The learner experience is important. A poorly designed training course will detract from engagement no matter how good the content is. A well-planned learner experience can draw participants immediately to the training solution and signal quality.

Brands like Apple understand that customers purchase their products for aesthetics as well as reliability and ease of use. Apple applies thoughtfulness in marketing design for their unveiling events to attract and maintain customers.

Building trust and loyalty – When concerted efforts are made to understand learners’ needs and keep communication flowing both ways, learners are more likely to trust the process and will stay loyal.

An example is in the attainment of difficult concepts or skills that are learned through formal learning and application. It is important participants continue to strive for skill mastery and keep trying. Marketers keep their customers loyal by maintaining and improving on the quality of product/service and communicating continuously. The continual two-way communication in L&D supports participant’s high-effort skill acquisition.

Using feedback– This is not limited to word-of-mouth feedback. Close attention must be paid to the analytics from the data collected after any course to analyze how learners are interacting with the training.

Create channels for collecting feedback directly from learners in the same way marketers do with their sales. Take note of any frustrations and suggestions and adjust accordingly. Learners who feel they are being listened to will continue to be loyal to the L&D team.

Branding – Branding is a powerful tool in marketing. Apart from reinforcing distinctions from competitors, marketers use branding to communicate their unique selling proposition and aspirations to customers. Essentially this gives the campaign a personality with which the target audience can quickly identify.

Branding of the learning and development department establishes L&D as a known and reliable authority learners can turn to for valuable information. It is not just about visibility. Upholding the value proposition of a brand builds integrity. Branding is equally as important internally. Employees need convincing to undergo training, particularly with the variety of external training options available.

Marketing and learning & development are two people-centric departments with end-goal similarities. Marketers have perfected the art of engaging, nurturing, and connecting with people. L&D professionals can learn from those strategies and apply them to corporate training strategies and delivery to make a difference in learner’s engagement and motivation.

From the editor: Want more information about the strategies?

Plan now to attend Danielle Wallace's Session 511, Learner Personas for More Effective Learning Solutions, on May 14, 2021 at the Learning Solutions Digital Experience! Through team-based activities, you'll actually practice the steps of creating learner personas. You'll uncover the benefit of learner personas by revealing unstated learner needs and by their influence on decision making. Register today!