ingTen of the best tips for using marketing in learning and development 

As we transition from traditional, structured training to learning like we do in real life, increasing engagement in self directed learning and implementing real behaviour change is a challenge. Which seems crazy right! Linked In’s 2020 Workplace Learning report confirms that getting managers onboard to make learning a priority should be a main priority for L & D leaders. When teams are under pressure, it can feel unnatural to pause and drag ourselves away from tasks that feels urgent. This is where great marketing and communications can help  get teams and leaders more engaged to in learning and professional development. We have developed our top 10 recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of your learner marketing based on our combined experience in marketing.  

#1 Establish how your learners finds out about learning currently. Don’t just rely on managers for promotion.   

Brands like Crimsafe market directly to consumers, even though their consumers need to request the product through their builders. Sometimes we need a workaround or a fail safe rather than just relying on managers or team leaders to help promote learning campaigns. It is also really essential when your new to a team to find out what channels employees are finding out about L & D programs through. Establishing a baseline can help you understand how employees currently find out about learning and where some gaps might be e.g. if Slack is really popular in your organisation, but it isn’t showing up on in your survey this could be an opportunity for something new.  Also consider SMS marketing  (which has phenomenal engagement) or guerilla marketing tactics like chalking the floors with program campaign slogans. According to Linkedin’s 2020 Global Learning report we’re finding out about learning in these ways.. 

56% Employee intranet
47% Email campaigns
44% Managers or executives
39% Existing talent initiatives
34% Word-of-mouth
25% Chat programs
24% Lunch and learns
15% Physical posters or signage

#2 Create a learning brand and define your value proposition. 

Marketing teams spend hours and days creating and defining their brands. Why?Having a brand helps a company express it’s purpose and outlines the problem it’s there to solve. Defining and promoting your brand purpose can engage people on an emotional level, not just practical level. And this marketers and behavioural psychologists agree can be the magic ingredient that makes people act.
So how to create a learning brand and define what your value is to your target audiences? 
Start with defining your purpose in relation to your employees. 
Why do you exist? Why do you show up day after day and whisper out late at night to friends in L & D. What does learning and development really do for its target audiences? Do you solve a specific business challenge? Do you create the skills needed for survival? Do your learning and development programs get them a promotion? Does it enable the business to achieve its goals? Does it help them grow into happy, healthy humans? Does it help you live your values at work? 

Which leads us to our next point.  


#2  Forget about brand. Brand is the side effect. 

Brand is just the side effect of constant communication from your learning and development function. Yes we know, it’s a contradiction, but marketing is a bit like that. A brand is created through communications in the form of messages and stories and your learners are processing hundreds of thousands bite sized bits information – think email, facebook messages, advertising messages. So if you aren’t communicating consistently and frequently it is very very easy to be out shouted and forgotten. Think of your employees attention like a big apple pie and you need to maintain a small slice of that pie by creating “share of voice”, in other words a little slice of that pie. 

The most important thing to do early on, is to define the most important “key” messages at a high level for you and the team, and for each program you create a campaign for. Use these messages to inform and inspire catchy one liners, stories, positioning statements, learning communications and more. Get into the habit of using them all the time. Is that intranet post repeating a key brand or course campaign messages. Are they in your EDM’s? Are you repeating them? Is your team repeating them? To ensure your learning and development audience are not left confused or assuming, consistently repeat these in every channel that you can. Person, print, digital or otherwise.

Which leads us to our next point…


#3 Frequency

You might have noticed that in some big advertising campaigns you feel like you hear or see the same add all the time. Or you might see it online on a website then it follows you onto your instagram feed. In radio, television and digital advertising, media planners measure frequency to assess the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. We can keep this in mind when we’re planning our learning and development.

What’s frequency?

It’s how many times the target audience hears or sees it. Depending on whether the campaign is a “brand campaign” or a direct “call to action campaign” the frequency of messages should differ.

Brand campaigns usually have a lower “frequency”,  often run over a longer, more sustained period of time to help build trust, credibility and likability. We usually want one message to connect with a user at least three times or more to sink in, and for that frequency to grow.

In campaigns where the advertiser needs the audience to take a direct action now, the frequency of how much a message is repeated goes into overdrive. In rudimentary terms, if something is really important and critical short term we need to hit people over the head with the message as many times as possible as many ways as possible if you want to engage your audience to take action, a frequency of one is not enough. 

Which leads us to our next point. 

#4 Be aware of different promotional formats and channels in learner engagement. 

If you are being KPI’d on learner engagement analyse how your messaging and creative is impacting. Deciding which format to use in each instance, matters. The absolute powerhouse is of digital formats is the email. It still outperforms almost every other channel in digital marketing and this is where you should spend a lot of time perfecting your message, seeing who has clicked through and sending follow ups. Could you ask to use a free app like hubspot to load employee emails onto to and track if people are opening emails and clicking through for more information. The ultimate advice is to make sure the email can be read in 2 phone swipes or embed a short video in email your email. Hubspot have free email templates with great messaging to make this super easy so check them out.

You know the little rectangle ads you see on online news websites called banner ads; the standing joke is that a consumer is less likely to click a banner ad online than they are to have a Qantas plane accident. Banner ads are used to create awareness not action. On the flip side highly relevant Google search text ads can get about 7% of the audience to click on them… so if you’re thinking about promoting a learning campaign in your in house channels text links are highly prized gold and video placements in tools like Yammer perform well. In the education category on Facebook, similar digital media ads get around 14% conversion in the education category.

You can start to see why marketers spend so much time focused on messaging, creative and placement (selecting formats).

Which leads us to the next point. 

 #5 Pay super close attention to creative and cut through in learning and development 

Radio and TV creative writers know they have about five seconds at the start of the ad to engage the audience or lose them. These seconds either make you or break you. Make it about the learner or audience immediately, bring all of the punchy, funny and emotional stuff to the start and don’t let your most powerful messages get lost in the middle. There is not a lot of room so every learning and development message you communicate needs to sing. Refer back to your most important key messages. Are you covering off “emotional reason” to connect with this message and any of the practical and logistical information the learner needs to take action.

Due to the absolute explosion of great online tools, creating and producing great marketing content for learning campaigns on a low budget and amateur skills is achievable. Make an impact by improving production values quickly for your learning and development projects. At change republic, Australia’s first online marketplace of learning and development professionals and providers, members with hybrid skills in video animation, voice, videography, graphic design and instructional design and UX design use a broad range of software. Tools to assist with podcast production or video production and free “design made easy” tools like Canva are used frequently by Change Republic experts. This you could be the time for you to experiment. Hybrid skills continue to be in hot demand in learning and development teams.

 And just on cut through… this leads us to our next point


#6 Cognitive overload is an emerging challenge in learning and development engagement and retention 


Marketers, learning designers and neuroscientists are increasingly aware of the absolutely explosion of information hitting user groups and how “information overload” affects our ability to learn. As Daniel Levetin a researcher and neuroscientist explains in his book the Organised Mind humans we’re now taking in five more times the information than we did and this is affecting our ability to retain information. What happens is that our brains actually have a limit to the information we can process each day. When our brains struggle to keep up with the constant email and information overload we start to switch from one task to another because it all feels urgent.  This does a couple of things.

It means our attention becomes used to fracturing, so it’s harder to concentrate and learn new things and the constant decision making and multitasking reducing the glucose we have in our brains – which means our ability to process new information reduces significantly.

To ensure we don’t fill up with too much useless information requires deliberate practice and habits and also means we need to get good at leaving less important information out. To get an ROI from learning we need to make sure the great content has room to be “processed” by our brains. Daydreaming, nature, reducing distractions and “extra noise”, and generally “recovering” resets our brains to be in a better place for learning. 

Empowering your learners with information about how our brains work and learn is the future of learning. We can also use an understanding of cognitive overload to create time and space for learning, simpler designs, micro learning and design systems to address it. 


#7 Create diehard learning and development fans and followers. Now fall in love with them. 

Launching something new or want to ensure your program gets some water cooler action? When you’re in creating mode it’s important to take Tony Robbins advice. “Don’t fall in love with your product or idea; fall in love with your customer. This is a mission-critical distinction. Fall in love with your customer and then you can determine how best to serve them.

As Tim Ferriss explains in his article the 3 critical rules of branding “Diehard fans obviate the need for marketing, if you do it right. If you are able to design a product or service that creates or owns a category for 1,000 diehard fans, they become then your strongest marketing force; your unpaid sales force, effectively.”

To creating diehard fans and followers means you need to get:

  • Very clear on who you’re targeting for the learning experience
  • Certain on the pain points you are solving for them in the learning experience
  • Clear on the benefits you’re creating for them in the learning experience
  • Also keep in mind, the business problem owner who can help become an influence for you internally.


#8 Consider your media mix in learning design and learning program promotion


The second wave of content disruption is hitting learning and development design. Voice..Think sound bites, podcasts, short form, long form; voice as a media is exploding at the moment and the reason is that it is personal, quick, can be listened to at any time, recorded cheaply and needs minimal producing! What a great way to get stories and comms out fast.

Do you use video in your elearning design, why not to promote your programs and messages? Quick videos filmed on your phone get three times the engagement than highly produced videos because they feel real. Get inspired by what you are seeing and experiencing from online brands into your work practice. Your users expect it, even if they don’t know it they do.


#9 Use landing pages and call to actions in your learning and development campaigns 

Once someone clicks on your message the place they land is critical. Don’t make it your weak spot. You need to know exactly what you want someone to enrol? Commence the learning? Turn up? Then the messaging and copy all needs to point to this. Hubspot do some great media insights on what should be in your landing page and what layouts work. 


#10 None of the learning and development campaign matters if the experience is wellllll …..  shit…


It doesn’t need to be gorgeous to work, but it should be an effective and seamless experience. Why? Because your learners will be subconsciously compare you to their most recent experiences… think Uber Eats, Slack or Netflix. Make it easy to sign up or find information, make sure your links work, make sure the content is loading for mobile, take on feedback, update it to make it relevant, try not to rush it. If appropriate make it fun or use humour. All the messaging and branding in the world won’t matter if the product we create together isn’t really and truly engaging the learner on the other end.  

This article was created by our co-founders Emily Walker and Kylie Sinclair. Change Republic brings together business customers with learning and development professionals and agencies. It’s our mission to help the global learning community team thrive in work 4.0 Our community of instructional designers, designers, communications experts, videographers, facilitator animators and developers and more can help you bring together a modern learning experience. 

If you need to outsource or simply want options be sure to check us out via the homepage.