“People are too busy to learn.”

Sound familiar?

Many of us in learning and development (L&D) will have experienced this problem at some point in our careers. And many of us have counteracted by creating learning solutions that are tailored to meet our people’s busy schedules. Thanks to advancements in digital technology, we have been able to make learning more accessible and on the go than ever before.

But despite designing solutions that meet the demands of an agile workforce, we are still struggling to get our people on board with learning. For many L&D departments, the problem has nothing to do with the learning itself. Technology has enabled us to create fantastic, accessible, and more effective learning solutions than ever before.

So, we have the right solutions … we just need our people to want to learn.

In order to encourage our people to learn, we need to do a better job of promoting the benefits of learning. If your people don’t know “what’s in it for them” they simply won’t be engaged or interested in the learning solutions offered.

Promoting the value of learning can have a drastic impact on learner engagement and can help to create a learning mindset. When your learners really understand what’s in it for them, they are more likely to become excited about the learning and development opportunities offered. And luckily, there is a simple solution that can help your people understand those benefits.

I’m talking about sales and marketing.

Adding sales and marketing to your learning strategy can help you to effectively communicate the benefits of learning to your people. Once they can answer “what’s in it for me?” they will be knocking down the L&D door, wanting a piece of that learning for themselves.

Ultimately, by using marketing techniques, you will help your people engage with learning on a new level, completely transforming the learning culture in your organization.

Marketing and L&D – A match made in heaven?

Many learning professionals are now realizing that marketing and L&D are a match made in heaven. In the recent Towards Maturity benchmark, a staggering 95 percent of learning professionals listed marketing as a “priority skill” for them to learn in the coming months. This shows us that, as an industry, we are finally starting to connect the dots and understand that marketing and L&D are trying to achieve something very similar. Both are aiming to:

  • Engage and drive interest with a busy and potentially indifferent audience
  • Instigate a behavioral change – whether that’s buying a product or understanding the value learning has to offer

In fact, by applying marketing techniques to your strategy you will introduce a host of benefits to your organization – a lot more than simply improving learner engagement.

It can help you to transform your people’s attitude towards learning for the rest of their careers. Just imagine if all our learners really understood and valued what learning could do for them. Your organization could have a ‘pull’ learning culture in no time, where your people are actively looking and asking for learning opportunities.

This is all really positive stuff. We know what we want and where we need to go. But how to actually apply marketing techniques to our learning strategy is proving to be a bit more of a challenge. The same benchmark that reported 95 percent of organizations prioritizing marketing, also showed that only 50 percent of learning departments had the skills needed – that’s a huge disparity in the skills we have versus the skills we need.

A lot of it simply comes down to confidence and knowing how to work with what you’ve got. A lack of budget is another setback, but there are several techniques that have little or no cost.

I’m lucky enough to work alongside a top five marketing agency, and so we put our L&D and marketing heads together to create a simple seven-step process for how you can start to apply marketing techniques to your learning strategy today.

  1. Know your audience

Really knowing your people is the foundation of your marketing process.

In today’s modern on-the-go, always on society, successful marketing has become more consumer-focused compared with ever before. Think about business models such as Netflix, Uber, or Deliveroo. They are successful because they are based on what the consumer really wants.

In L&D, we are brilliant at understanding the needs of our learners. But knowing your audience is more than just understanding the learner’s workload, learning styles and learning preferences.

It’s about knowing what really makes them tick, and asking yourself questions such as why they are working for your organization? By understanding the mindset of your people, you will be able to present your learning solutions in a way that hooks them in and makes them interested in your learning solutions.

  1. What is your brand?

The second step is all about understanding and developing your identity as an L&D department. It’s important to think about how your brand as a department fits in with the overall organizational brand, what its personality is and what it stands for.

It’s likely you’ve never considered developing a brand for your L&D department, but it can have a fantastic impact on how your learners engage with you. Think about it like this: by developing a brand that is appealing to your learners, you are more likely to get your learners involved with the solutions you have to offer.

  1. What is your message?

Why should learners engage with your solutions? The more work you do creating your brand and understanding your audience, the easier it will be to craft your message.

A good starting point for creating a great message is to consider what motivates your learners, what their goals and challenges are, and how your learning could help achieve and/or overcome them.

By pushing a message that answers “what’s in it for the learner?”, you will grab their attention and motivate them to engage.

  1. Marketing mix

Marketing tools can help you to amplify your message and engage with your audience at appropriate times and in different ways.

You should have more than just a landing page on your intranet – that is not ‘job done!’ What else could you do? Posters might seem old fashioned, but a strategically placed poster with a great message can work wonders. Regular email campaigns or newsletters are a low-cost but effective way of communicating your message with the whole organization, keeping your learning front of mind.

There are a range of tools you can use to attract your learners to your learning solutions, including storytelling, social media, PR and roadshows.

  1. Plan the campaign

Marketing is never a one-off activity. Start to think about the next quarter at least, but preferably further ahead if you can. What key skill, topic or challenge do you want to address in the next quarter? Perhaps it’s improving meetings or maybe it’s developing presentation skills.

Now consider how you can offer a range of solutions and have a marketing mix that promotes them over a longer period of time. Remember, hardly anyone buys first time, you need to repeatedly whet their appetites until they sign up.

  1. Evaluation

Many of us in L&D are quick to accept that measuring ROI in learning is tricky to do, but evaluating performance is essential in a marketing toolkit.

If you test and retest what aspects of your campaign do and don’t work, you will gain a better understanding of what resonates and works with your audience. That way you will constantly evolve and improve how you engage with your learners.

There are many marketing techniques you can apply to your learning strategy, and this process simply picks out a few to help you get started. By applying just a few of these techniques, you will be well on your way to creating a culture of learning in your organizations, where your learners are fully aware of “what’s in it for them” and are excited about what L&D has to offer.

I’m a strong believer that becoming more consumer-focused is a vital step to creating a successful modern-day learning strategy. It’s not just about delivering learning anymore – L&D needs to know their people inside-out and be able to sell effectively to them. Only then will your people make the time to learn.