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3 Proven Marketing Strategies to Enhance Your Next Learning Program
Thursday, November 16, 2017
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Wonder how marketers send messages that stick with their audience and influence purchasing behavior? This multibillion-dollar industry has long-standing, proven principles that learning and development (L&D) can borrow to change learner behavior and attitudes.

From my time in marketing leadership positions at Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, I’ve learned three time-tested marketing strategies that L&D professionals can use to influence their audience.

Use Data to Ensure Your Training Solves the Right Issues

Think of the most powerful brand to you. I guarantee that they make data-based decisions to ensure their product or service strategy fulfills the needs of their audience and meets business goals. In marketing and in L&D, good decisions are based on good data.

Tell a story with the data. You can gather data through direct interaction, surveys, observation, or other means. Use the data to uncover common issues, create your long-term learning strategy, or develop or update learning programs. Go beyond the numbers and look for trends to uncover the story the data tell, such as the actual business needs or your learners’ attitudes and behaviors.

Learn the art and science of data. Marketers gather more data than the average L&D professional. Therefore, try to gather as much information as possible. Invariably, you won’t have enough data to answer your questions, and this is where you can apply the art and science of marketing, along with your own judgment, to fill in the gaps.

Try Personas to Get a Deeper Understanding of the Audience

While gathering data is a great way to get to know your audience, there are additional ways to gain an even deeper understanding. After all, to change learner behavior, you must understand your audience. After analyzing data, marketers often familiarize themselves even more with their audience by translating the data into a persona.

A persona is a fictional character that represents someone with specific qualities and characteristics. Marketing professionals commonly use buyer personas to symbolize their typical consumer. Similarly, L&D professionals can use a learner persona to represent the prototypical learner.

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Create a learner persona. Creating an accurate learner persona isn’t difficult as long as you have the right information. You can begin by analyzing your learner data and noticing trends.

Although the data will show a variety of different views, behaviors, and needs, you’ll realize that some responses stand out more than others. These primary responses from real-life data will shape the characteristics and qualities of your fictional character. Start creating your own learner persona today with this free template.

Apply the learner persona. It’s not enough to simply create a learner persona; the team must apply the persona on a regular basis to receive its full value. A good way to do so is by keeping the persona at the forefront of conversations and considering the persona’s needs or wants when discussing learning strategy and plans. Bringing the learner persona to life (through photos, a mannequin, or diagrams) makes it easier to make more accurate, meaningful decisions for your learners.

A Clear Strategy Is Key for Optimal Execution

Use the collected data and your understanding of the learner to create an unwavering strategy. In marketing, strategy is the backbone to any well-written plan. Specifically, a marketing strategy is an explanation of what your team must achieve to reach the overarching goal. If your team executes many different tactics that don’t necessarily fit into the strategy, the path to the overarching goal becomes a curvy road rather than straight.

The same goes for L&D. With a clear strategy, L&D professionals can make the best tactical decisions for the training program while fulfilling the overall learning goals.

Ask “what” rather than “how.” Strategies are typically shaped from asking many “what” questions. For example, your strategy should answer, “What exactly is my training program trying to achieve?” or “What are the strategic pillars?”

When a program lacks strategy, asking “what” rather than “how” allows you to look at the training approach from a different angle and ensures that the actions are consistent with the strategy.

Think Like a Marketer to Trigger Better Results

These three methods have proven to be successful in the marketing industry for changing behavior. Each method is useful for L&D to better understand the business and learner needs and to develop a plan to achieve the learning goals. Thinking like a marketing professional shifts your viewpoint and opens your eyes to fresh ideas for improving your programs.

Want to learn more? Join me at ATD TechKnowledge 2018 for the session, Advertisers' Secrets to Compelling Learning Videos, which is part of the conference’s Platforms and Tools track. See you there.

About the Author
Danielle Wallace is an instructional designer and learning director at Beyond the Sky, a provider of custom learning solutions. Previously, as a marketing executive with Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, she learned strategic marketing and advertising principles, which she applies to learning and development to create compelling breakthrough solutions. Danielle is also a certified training and development professional (CTDP).
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