How To Market Your Training And Get Employees To Opt Into Optional Learning
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If You Build It, They Will Come. Maybe, But Probably Not: Ways To Market Your Training

I just finished enjoying a great week at the international ATD 2019 conference. After meeting with peers around the world one of the questions and discussions we continuously had was: "Why are people not consuming our training? Should we make it required? Will they learn if we do?" All these three questions came up multiple times, and I will argue that the answer to all is no.

Why Aren’t Employees Consuming Our Learning?

This is the reality for many new, non-required job trainings. Employees are busier than ever, and while we want them to spend some time training using our materials, they don’t. My team has created pieces of training that were never utilized to their potential. The biggest reason for this failure of use is because we did not have a good strategic marketing plan to create the adoption of the new training. It’s not good enough to just make a “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) and hope that employees will seek out this new course or learning opportunity. Having a WIIFM in the course is one thing but the how-to market is a whole different topic.

In today’s day and age, people have more content than they know what to do with. Today, as learning professionals, our competition is the internet, Google, YouTube, etc. If it’s not a proprietary item they need to learn, employees will just look it up. For example, I need to know how to do a function in Excel; so I Google it. They won’t access a training course to solve the issue at the moment. They will look for the easiest place to get an answer.

We need to take a page out of the marketing playbook and think about a marketing strategy at the same time we begin the training analysis. For example, an easy and simple marketing strategy is the AIDA model. Awareness leads to Interest which leads to Desire and ultimately Action. We should consider this marketing strategy or something similar for every type of training we create.

Identifying the strategy is critical to ensure that employees not only have the why, but that the why cuts through all the other noise of day to day work. Our training needs to meet the WIIFM but also needs to be available on demand, Just In Time and delivered to our employees in the right medium. We need to create reasons for them to desire to learn and take the action to consume the training.

The modern learner wants information on demand and at their fingertips. They want it NOW. And the reality is many L&D professionals don’t use or have the marketing capability as a natural skill or capability.

So, What Do We Need To Do?

What does “think like a marketer” mean? Here are a couple of quick and easy examples of what “thinking like marketing” means.

  • Create a cohesive brand for the training. For example, if your training is on Excel, create a catchy title of the training, such as Excelling with Excel. If the training is a series of modules, each module should have the appropriate brand titles.
  • Use WIIFM's, not objectives. Objectives are boring to the learner. Think of something flashy to catch attention. Objectives are learning terms vs business terms. For example, “In this course you will learn x,y,z.” vs. “transform your skills to make excel easy”. Still, use the objectives in the summary but don’t start with the objectives. It makes people's eyes glaze over.
  • Understand the basic metrics of your learner. When do they like to learn? When do they lose interest and drop off? Are they on mobile vs desktop learners? For example, much of my audience is mobile a majority of the day. They need training that is accessed anywhere easily. Most of the time they are in their car so making an eLearning course in which they must use a laptop makes little sense. A short video on a concept or a podcast would be the easiest for the learner to utilize.
  • Looks! Use some Graphic Design and entice your learner with some things that are flashy. I will be called out on this one from some hardcore Instructional Designers saying it needs to be functional above all else. Yes, I agree, but if your training looks like it’s from the ’80s then that is a problem. Stop the clip art! You may laugh at that but there are still designers utilizing this aesthetic and not because they are trying to be hip.
  • Cross promote. My kids often watch a science YouTube show called Dr. Binocs. In this show, at the end of every episode, he says, “Hey kids like this episode, click below to find more episodes”. This is simple yet effective marketing for your learning. You can do this concept in ILT and VILT and at the end. You can simply cross-promote into other courses and offerings. This is simple to add to all your training initiatives.
  • Finally, try a drip campaign. Drip learning to people in small bite-sized learning. Sounds simple but many don’t do this effectively or plan on the distribution rollout schedule when creating a training plan. Take into consideration, when you will push content, how often, what content, if it is relevant, how to access it and above all else, make sure to entice the learner with your title.

I hope these tips help you, and I would love to hear your comments on the marketing side of training!

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