What can marketing teach L&D?

This post is by Chat2Lrn crew member: Holly MacDonald (@sparkandco).

I’ve been fascinated with marketing ever since reading “Made to Stick” and thought this would be an interesting chat with fellow L&D types.

Like many in the training field, I have found myself at various times in my career facing these challenges:

  • Attendance at internal workshops is sliding or we are not getting the people signing up that we thought
  • Designing boring e-learning or  or delivering boring subjects in a classroom
  • Keeping a cohort updated with relevant information or helping them see the “learning path”
  • Rolling out a new system to a large, dispersed audience
  • Requests to create “refresher” training
  • Post course feedback that indicates how great the course was, but descriptions didn’t do it justice

There are many other situations that you might have experienced that are different than mine. I think lots of these could be enhanced with an injection of marketing savvy, In order to write this post, I did a little research on marketing.

Marketing is:

The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.


The classic definition references 4 “P’s”: Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

Product Marketing

For L&D, the 4 “P’s” might look like this if we are approaching it like a product:

  • Product – the learning intervention: the course or e-learning module
  • Price – what are the costs of this intervention to the organization. Check out Clive’s viewpoint: http://clive-shepherd.blogspot.co.uk/
  • Place – understanding where the learning intervention will take place and how to get it to them
  • Promotion – how to get it into people’s hands

One of the techniques that I think is particularly useful for those in the learning + development field is an old technique called AIDA

  • A – Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer.
  • I – Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
  • D – Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
  • A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.

While we might not be directly selling a product, we are often in a position where we are selling a concept or idea. I think that applying marketing both to the design and promotion of training makes sense.

Marketing a Service

When marketing a service, there are additional things to consider in addition to the four “P’s” above: People, Process and Physical Evidence. Added to the 4 “P’s”, these make up the experience. For face-to-face or any type of live training this is critical, but applies to any time you “deliver” training.

  • People: who delivers the service?
  • Process: how easy is it to get the service?
  • Physical Evidence/Environment: where does the service take place and how does it make you feel?

Read more: http://www.learnmarketing.net/servicemarketingmix.htm

Marketing campaigns

This is a series of touchpoints that you’d use to “sell” your product, concept or idea. Here is a list of some interesting campaigns and some insightful commentary on them: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33931/10-of-the-Most-Memorable-Marketing-Campaigns-of-2012.aspx

The last thing that piqued my interest during my research was the concept of Content marketing.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. (read more: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/)

Consider this set of ideas for how to infuse content marketing techniques into your instructional designs. It isn’t just about promoting the content. http://weelearning.co.uk/2013/05/5-ways-content-marketing-supports-instructional-design/

I can’t claim to understand the distinctions or even hierarchy of all the “types” of marketing I found on my google tour, but I’m keen to try some out.

Come join the chat on Thursday May 30th and share your ideas and suggestions.

Links courtesty of @kineo







2 thoughts on “What can marketing teach L&D?

  1. Pingback: Moments in learning | Lost and Desperate

  2. Pingback: Marketing = leren, leren = marketing? | Peter Meerman

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