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How to Engage Learners: 5 Proven Marketing Tactics

If you manage the budget of a corporate learning program, you probably wish you didn’t have to spend any of that money on marketing. People in training naturally want to focus their efforts on creating compelling learning experiences and content, not “selling” those experiences.

But, no matter how phenomenal your training content is, learning doesn’t happen until learners show up and engage with your training. And the right people won’t show up until they’re aware and interested. That’s where marketing comes in.

Wait. What happened to “if you build it, they will come”? We’ve all heard that line from the classic film, Field of Dreams. But that’s just magical thinking — best left behind in the corn fields of Iowa. Here’s what I recommend, instead…

The first step is realizing you need marketing

How do learners find your learning content on your learning portal or LMS? It’s not easy these days. We’re all being bombarded with nonstop marketing messages.

Your target audience may not even realize what you’re offering, unless your messages are carefully planned and delivered. That means a marketing game plan has to be a part of your strategy.

5 Tactics that Work

What kinds of marketing work consistently? It’s important to recognize that there is no free ride. Some of the most effective tactics are also the most expensive. Others cost almost nothing, but are very time consuming. The trick is to finding the combination of activities to make the best use of your time AND your budget.

Of course, every marketing challenge is unique. It’s important to think about the mindset and behaviors of your audience so you can outline a plan that drives engagement.

Here are my 5 favorite “go to” tactics:

  1. Get Executive Backing: While it may not seem like a marketing move, there is nothing more important than engaging with middle and senior management to get their support. Seek endorsement of your training program and related technology — including active promotional support. Nothing encourages a learner more than their boss telling them they need to get trained.
  2. Leverage the Power of Email: Nobody likes spam. However, targeted and timely email messages are much appreciated. Even in environments where email is losing favor, carefully crafted “push” and reminder email can yield tremendous results.
  3. Put Course Snippets or Newsletters to Work: Regular blogs and training “sneak previews” can complement email campaigns very effectively. However, they are also time-consuming for you. Do this only if your team has the bandwidth to consistently produce and deliver.
  4. Make It Easy: The easier the registration process is, the more learner engagement you’ll get. Just as you look for ways to simplify a learning experience, think about how you can make it easy for interested people to sign-up and get started. This is where great learning technology really shines, with anytime mobile access, as well as registration and payment capabilities that fit right into business workflows. However, the key to simplicity is understanding how your  learners think and focusing on making it easy.
  5. Don’t Overlook “Free” Opportunities: Most companies have channels in place that will help you get the word out about your learning programs. Every organization is unique, but look for existing emails, webinars, portals, blogs, discussion forums, newsletters, vendor fairs, “brown bag” employee events, and other communication opportunities. All it takes is some digging and willingness to ask.

There are plenty of other ideas to consider. But try these out first, and see the difference they make. I’d love to hear about your results.

Have you done an effective job at driving demand for training programs and technology? What marketing tactics did you use — and what were the outcomes? Please share your comments.

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About Gordon L. Johnson:

Gordon has been a marketing leader in the corporate L&D industry for over twenty years with the last ten years focused on learning technology and self-paced learning. Along the way, he’s discovered what works — and what doesn’t in the training space.

Contact Gordon at gordon@gordonljohnson.com

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