The Marketing Tools And Techniques Every Learning Pro Should Know

The Marketing Tools And Techniques Every Learning Pro Should Know
Summary: We may not realize it, but as learning professionals, we have a lot of things in common with marketers. We both face one big challenge: How to get people's attention and help them think and act in new ways.

Every Learning Pro Should Be Aware Of These Marketing Tools And Techniques

In my experience, one of the best ways to up your eLearning game is to get outside your bubble. By that I mean, you should read and follow things other than your typical eLearning sources. Try dipping your toes into other topics like psychology, learning science, graphic design, technology, advertising which are just a few of the many realms that can enlighten us with new insights. Often, in history, the greatest advances have come not from new discoveries, but from applying existing knowledge from one domain into another new one.

While there are many options for escaping your eLearning bubble, one of my favorite topic areas to mine for insights is marketing. Think about it for a second. As learning professionals, we have a lot of things in common with marketers. We both face one big challenge: How to get people's attention and help them think and act in new ways. And I am not afraid to tell you that I think marketers are much more successful.

You must be wondering, what is it that marketers do differently, and what can I learn from them that will improve my own results? A lot!

Grab Their Attention

The first thing successful marketers know better is that people are busy and already have too many things on their radar to give a hoot about whatever you’re trying to show them. How do they combat this challenging roadblock? I think Steven Press, a popular writer with an advertising background, has the best answer. In his book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It, he suggests 3 simple steps:

  1. Streamline your message
  2. Make its expression fun
  3. Apply that to everything you do

Marketers do this really well. I think Instructional Designers and others in the training world still have a long way to go before we can catch up. There is a reason you’ve never seen a billboard with bullet points!!!

Ιn a learning context, nobody has time for a drawn-out, boring 9-bullet-point introduction about what you’re going to teach them. This type of approach just does not cut it in marketing, and it shouldn’t have a place in learning either.

Instead, why not get straight to it? Effective marketing strategies often involve a hook, which is something designed to pique a customer’s interest in a product or service which leads to further interaction between the customer and the company. Isn’t that exactly what we want as learning professionals? Yes!

So let’s stop losing our audience with worthless objectives in the front of our courses and find our own hook. Give them something that will make them actually want to stick around to hear what you have to say. You’ll have way more success by appealing to their emotions using visually rich content and stories in place of boring facts and bullet points.

If you’re wondering what that looks like, watch how this Subaru ad captures your attention and delivers a powerful message in only 30 seconds while using only 2 words.

Talk about powerful! Wouldn't you love to take courses like that? I know I would. All the best facts, figures, and bullet points in the world cannot hold a candle to that type of approach. I can almost hear you thinking…"Τhat’s great for Subaru, but I don’t have that type of budget, design resources, or skills to pull off anything like that!". But guess what? With some of today’s tools that marketers like to use, you can create visually appealing graphics and videos—even if you can’t draw a stick figure. (Marketers can’t draw either but it doesn’t stop them!)

Here are a few concepts and tools that our marketing friends have mastered, and we should start applying to our own work in the learning world.

Looks Matter

If you think the quality of your message alone is good enough, you’d better think again. Studies have shown that 94% of the factors involved in the formation of first impressions and credibility are design-related. [1] Don’t let a lack of visual appeal sink your efforts.

In the not so distant past, creating visually appealing graphics meant that you had to have an expensive copy of Photoshop and spend months (if not years) working your way up a pretty steep learning curve. Fortunately for us, those days are gone. There are now lots of user-friendly design tools for creating professional looking content and many of them take about 27 seconds to learn.

Peek over the shoulder of the closest marketer as they are creating attention-grabbing images and videos, and you are likely to see them using tools like these:

Give them a try to see how they can help even the most graphically challenged among us create great looking visuals.

Just Drip It

Way too many training departments operate with a one-and-done, event-based mentality. Marketers understand that this approach simply doesn’t work. Take a page from the marketing playbook and break out of that rut by using email marketing tools and drip campaigns which enable you to create automated, learning-focused drip campaigns. Drip campaigns are automated sets of emails that go out based on specific timelines or learner actions.

Here are some tools to help with drip campaigns:

There are loads of ways to use email marketing tools for your training programs. Here are a few of my favorites I think you should consider:

New Employee Onboarding

The amount of information a new employee has to face is often overwhelming. Why not break up that mountain of information into an automated sequence that gives them smaller, easier to digest bites spread out over a few days or weeks? Interested? Check out this sample drip cadence.

Pre-Event Communication

You can use drip campaigns to automate pre-workshop communications. Not only will this save you time, you’ll also get some valuable insights. With these tools, you can actually see who is opening them and whether or not they are actually clicking the links they contain. For example, if the email contains a link to prework required before the live event, you’ll see who has and hasn’t accessed the assignment. That way, you’ll have a much better idea of where people are, and who hasn’t met their requirements.

Post-Workshop Support

In addition to pre-event messages containing important info like time, date, location pre-work assignments, etc. drip campaigns are fantastic after the event. You can easily provide follow-up learning reinforcement and support information. Here is a campaign with key takeaways that I created as a follow-up to a conference session, "What L&D Should Steal from Marketing". Give it a try!

Support And Extend Existing Training

Most organizations have at least one required annual compliance course their people see once a year and then totally forget until next year’s due date rolls around. Why not highlight the most important takeaways from the course and turn them into a monthly email campaign? You’ve already got the content. Repurposing it in this new way will help improve your results. Many of these even have free versions that should make this idea a no-brainer!

Work Smarter Not Harder

"I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it".  ― Bill Gates

Like many marketers, one of my guiding principles is to always strive for working smarter instead of harder. Smart marketers rely on some handy automation tricks to avoid boring, time-sucking manual tasks which enables them to focus on more important things. These automation services let you create a sort of "recipe" in the format of "If (something happens) then (do something else)".

For example, "If I save a file to Dropbox, then save a copy in Google Drive" or "If I take an Uber ride, then log it into a Google Sheet".

If you like the idea of being insanely efficient, you’ll want to give these automation tools a try to see how much time you can save yourself.

Those are just a few of my favorites that I've borrowed from my marketing friends. I'm confident you can benefit from these just like I have.

So what will you steal? I’d love to hear about it!


  1. First Impressions Matter: The Importance of Great Visual Design