Increase Brand Advocacy With eLearning
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Increase Brand Advocacy With eLearning

Creating a corporate eLearning program designed to aid in brand awareness or advocacy is not the same as coming up with an online marketing strategy. While both have to do with brand recognition and building awareness, the latter is focused more on reaching your target audience. The former has to do with enhancing the efforts, confidence levels, and effectiveness of the participants.

The program must include elements capable of conveying data in a way that is easier to assimilate to create value. The design must also trigger enthusiasm and discussion. What should you take into consideration to help the program do that?

Here are the key factors that need to be present in the corporate eLearning program design.

Understand Brand Sentiment Among Your Target Audience

To take the right approach in your program design, it's essential to understand your target audience's current brand sentiment. How do they feel about the brand they will learn about? For example, your brand. Do you know how your audience currently feels and what they say about your brand?

Other considerations include:

  • Whose products do they need to learn how to sell? How does the audience feel about those products?
  • How does your audience feel about competitive products? How do you compare to your competitors in the marketplace?
  • Are any competitive brands considered underdogs? Some people like to root for the underdog, so be mindful of how you position yourself.

Understanding the target audience's sentiment of your brand helps better inform your approach as you move forward in your eLearning program design. It also provides a benchmark as you measure for changes in sentiment and behavior as the participants move through the program. You won't know how far you've come if you don't know where you started.

Methods that have proven successful in analyzing sentiment include surveys, mystery shops, and polls.

Who Is The Target Audience?

It will be difficult for an eLearning program to succeed or a brand to thrive if you don't identify the target audience. Once identified, determine whether they will participate in the program organically or as a requirement by their management. This distinction is critical when it comes time to measure behavior impact, especially relating to brand sentiment, advocacy, and perception.

Ideally, you'll grow your audience organically with people who want to take the training and be part of what you're offering, rather than being mandated to participate. You'll see a big difference in key message retention and brand affinity if you can organically grow your membership.

Once you've identified your target audience, take steps to understand their management as well, both from a branding and a training standpoint. Customers may have their first face-to-face encounter with frontline employees, but managers have additional responsibilities and information that play into the bigger picture. Seeking and gaining their buy-in can play a pivotal role in participation and overall brand awareness, recognition, and advocacy.

Vie For Mindshare

It's important to understand the landscape of your audience. You have identified your target audience, but who else is targeting this audience? Understand who else is vying for their mindshare. Keep in mind, it's not always just the competition. Partner brands are getting in front of the same audience.

Here are a couple of questions to consider:

  • What are these other players doing—or not doing—well?
  • What's working and what's not?

Some of this information will come from your efforts to determine brand sentiment. For additional intelligence, well-structured surveys can provide critical information.

Outline The Purpose Of The Program

What is the purpose of your eLearning program? I've previously discussed the importance of defining your goals and objectives. These provide the roadmap to your end goal.

There may be several goals that the program needs to accomplish, but there must be a primary focus or purpose that encompasses all the rest. While that seems to be obvious, this one consideration is overlooked more often than some may realize. Failing to outline the primary purpose sets the stage for a rambling program that may or may not end up accomplishing much of anything other than wasting time. Remember that the purpose will serve as the touchstone for the rest of the design. It helps keep you on target rather than wandering off too far.

Whenever you find yourself questioning whether some of the material is going off track, measure it against the primary purpose. If the material doesn't easily relate to the purpose, it doesn't need to be part of the eLearning program.

Identify The Core Pillars And What Each Should Accomplish

Core pillars are another way of referring to program foundational elements. They provide the basis for what is to come. They also weave their way through each module or section included within the program structure. No one pillar is more important than the other. Each one is interdependent and essential.

At the least, the core pillars of a successful eLearning program should include the following:

1. Learning

Learning is about educating the participant about your brand, your products, your services. There's the need to understand the relationship between who is taking the training and who will ultimately be the target of what they learn.

It could be a sales associate who will interact with a customer to sell a product or service. It could be managers who need to understand how the brand's products or services will help them achieve their sales goals for the year. It can be corporate headquarters training upper management about new initiatives.

What's learned and how the training is delivered should align with the eLearning program's purpose, goals, and objectives.

2. Communication

An effective eLearning program includes ways to communicate with participants based on a messaging hierarchy. The hierarchy addresses what's in it for them, what's in it for their management, and what's in it for their organization, community, or team.

Look at all the different avenues you have available to communicate with people. Examples include email and push notifications if you're using mobile apps. Consider a community mailbox where individuals can receive mail internally within the platform. Email blasts, flyers, or mailers are also effective communication vehicles.

But, it's not just about hearing or reading a message and absorbing it. The structure needs to allow for interaction between those delivering the program and the participants. Be mindful of your tone in all forms of communication. You never want to come across as overbearing or abrasive.

Include communication tools to enhance the program and allow participants to have a dialogue with the program's team. A few examples of these tools that have proven successful include message boards, polls, forums, and chatbots.

Most importantly, all forms of communication must include a clear Call-To-Action (CTA). The CTA encourages the person to do something. Example CTAs include:

  • Learn more
  • Join now
  • Get the details
  • Sign up

Of course, the content or communication conveyed above the Call-To-Action should be compelling and exciting enough to motivate the person to take the desired action.

3.  Community

The program cannot rest on its learning laurels alone. It needs to build in a community voice. If it's only geared to telling about a brand, it's a one-way conversation. There needs to be a community element where participants are interacting with each other.

Include ways to pull participants together as part of a community for peer-to-peer discussions that support the brand's narrative. Add in a third-party voice, such as product reviews. When a community and a third-party voice are joined to discuss the attributes of specific products or a brand, the messaging is much more powerful.

4.  Recognition/Rewards

As you develop your program, consider who is paying for these people to come. Are they coming on their own (organically), or is the employer paying for the peoples' time? For programs designed to build brand advocacy, people generally participate voluntarily and are not compensated by their employer.

It's imperative to recognize and be respectful of your participants' time. People want recognition for their time, effort, and achievements. Recognize and elevate them within the community pillar. It's a great way to nurture your community and generate enthusiasm for the program.

There are so many ways to recognize and reward participants. Some of these include:

  • Leaderboards and badging: Deliver these using gamification methods
  • Status levels: Send top status level participants recognition through the mail
  • Program currency: Participants can use currency to redeem points for merchandise

Find creative ways to recognize or reward participants throughout the course of the program. It helps to reinforce the value of what took place and encourages the use of what was learned in real-life settings.

Deliver Consistent Content On Set Schedules

At some point in life, many of us have heard, "Consistency is key to (fill in the blank)." The truth is, this adage is spot on most of the time, and it certainly is when it comes to delivering content on a consistent schedule. When content is done right, participants eagerly await the next program refresh when new training pieces are added.

Content is what breathes life into the pillars mentioned above. Committing to delivering new, relevant training content on a consistent schedule works wonders for driving repeat visits to your program. When participants know they can depend on accessing new content on a regular schedule, they will come back again and again.

Design To Deliver

Remember that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all corporate eLearning program. There are many things to consider in developing a successful eLearning program designed to increase brand advocacy.

Start by identifying your target audience, measuring their sentiment toward your brand, and understanding the landscape of who else is vying for their attention. Align this information with your goals to design an eLearning program that delivers increased brand awareness and advocacy among your target audience.

What design elements have you implemented to help drive brand advocacy? I'd like to understand how successful they've been to your efforts.

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