Comparable: Marketing and L&D

In her guest blogpost for eLN, Marketing Consultant Hayley Maisey examines the similarities between Marketing and L&D and sets the scene ahead of her upcoming webinar “Marketing your learning courses and content”, as part of our interactive self-development series.

Marketing and L&D are two business functions that have a lot in common

The two departments have similar aims and objectives.

Both drive business performance and aim to generate demand for a service/product. Both connect with their audiences and strive to increase retention. Both endeavour to increase brand awareness and contribute to business success.

They also share similar traits.

Consider the shift for L&D from providing essential workplace training to offering self-directed learning – it reflects the move from ‘push marketing’ (paid ads and promotion) to that of ‘pull marketing’ (content marketing for eg).

Similarly, the growth of digital marketing isn’t dissimilar to the uptake of online learning. Likewise, the introduction of blended learning that dominated the 2000’s mirrors how direct mail, print and collateral remained part of marketing’s mix (tactics) while demand grew for more multimedia and e-communication.

I’d also throw in the notion of providing bite-sized learning at the point of need and how this is reflected in learners’ day-to-day lives as consumers, with the influence of social media marketing, engagement via online personal networks and ubiquitous access to technology and wifi/3G…

There are many similarities to highlight. Yet there are also differences in the departments’ playbooks – the approach Marketing employs to meet their aims and objectives isn’t always found among L&D’s plays.

This presents an opportunity.

How can Marketing help L&D?

“Marketing is effectively sharing what a business or person does and why their product or service is of value to meet the needs of their customer.”

(There are several definitions out there on the Internet; ^^ that’s my take.)

As an L&D team, you deliver a fundamental service and provide a range of products (courses, interventions etc) to meet the needs of your people, and ultimately that of your organisation.

Adopting marketing strategies and tactics would help you connect with your audience, raise awareness of your products and service and generate demand for what you do. Longer-term, you’d create engagement, build relationships and develop trust across your organisation because of your consistent and planned marketing communications.

Where would you start?

If you’re intrigued as to how marketing tactics could help you promote your courses and content, you will no doubt have a range of activities and initiatives in the pipeline and want to start creating communications and campaigns asap. My advice is to stop and think top-level.

Marketing strategy

Consider a marketing strategy to define your ‘why’ and ‘what’ over and above ‘when’ and ‘how’. An effective marketing strategy outlines a business’ audience/market, competitors, and threats and provides a comprehensive overview of your vision, mission, and proposition. It also defines marketing objectives and targets against what your organisation wants to achieve and outlines the tactical strategies to use, together with your budget.

For an L&D team, however small or large, the same process would apply – you’d be relating a marketing strategy to the aims and KPIs of your department and how they sit with your business’ objectives. You may have existing documents/models that do the job – if this is the case there’s no need to reinvent the wheel… But, if you feel you don’t have time to create such a strategic document, I implore you to explore the foundations behind your department’s marketing efforts so you can revert to top-level thinking when needed.

Marketing plan - map it out

In the knowledge of why you exist and what you are to achieve, create a marketing plan that summarises your goals and activities across six months, a year, 18 months – whatever timeline fits with your organisation and roadmap. You may be launching a new course, introducing a new change management programme, or releasing a repository of video learning assets – get it in the plan (‘what’), consider your target audience (‘who’), and define the purpose behind the activity (‘why’).

Marketing campaigns for L&D

This is where the fun lies – devising and delivering an integrated marketing campaign. Each activity outlined in your marketing plan warrants a dedicated campaign.

A marketing campaign plan captures the strategic elements behind your efforts and outlines the logistical/practical components (‘how’ you’re going to promote the activity and ‘when’ – a tactical schedule). A campaign typically lasts 2-3 months and uses the most effective marketing strategies, tools and channels to communicate to your target audience. You also add power to your campaigns when you integrate your activity – you ensure the messaging behind your communications makes an impact as you reach your target audience across all touchpoints.

Whatever you’re launching, introducing, or releasing there is a step-by-step approach you can adopt to planning your campaign, managing the rollout, and measuring the results.

On Tuesday, 12th October 2021 I’m hosting a webinar as part of eLN’s interactive self-development series, where I share how to build an integrated marketing campaign from scratch. I’ll break down the method I use when campaign planning that you can then adapt to effectively market your offering and engage with your learners.

Strategy in place or not, please come with a learning solution/programme in mind as well as any challenges you’re facing so you can relate what you learn to a real-case scenario; there will be an opportunity at the end of the session for Q&A.

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Hayley Maisey

Hayley Maisey

I'm a freelance Marketing Consultant predominantly working with small businesses who need help with their marketing. Some only need strategic advice and direction, whereas others need help to establish their marketing function and require ongoing support thereafter. Clients to date are mainly from the learning tech sector and include 64TEQ, Creativedge Training, The eLearning Network (eLN), FAME Pro, Further my Future, Future Visual, Hallo Sailor!, iLearn Connect, Jellymould, LearnerLab, LiveTime Learning, Milestone Creative, Nice Media, Outcomes Star, Plahnt, The Sheffield College, StoryTagger, the Sussex Film Office, Talent Fest 2020, Triangle Consulting and Wired Sussex. I became a freelance Marketing Consultant in June 2017 having previously worked client-side in marketing and events roles for over 13 years, including Marketing Manager at Brightwave Group (now Capita Learning), e-Communications Manager at The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Head of Operations and Events at The Association for Learning Technology (ALT).