How to Engage Learners: 5 Proven Marketing Tactics

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

But, no matter how phenomenal your training content is, learning doesn’t happen until learners show up. 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 vision is just magical thinking — best left far behind in the corn fields of Iowa. Here’s what I recommend, instead…

The first step is realizing that 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 every training practitioner’s strategy.

5 Tactics that Work
What kind of marketing works consistently? It’s important to recognize that there’s no free ride. Some of the most effective tactics are also the most expensive. Others cost almost nothing out-of-pocket, 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, upfront, so you can outline a plan that drives response.

Here are my 5 favorite “go to” options:

  1. Get Executive Backing: While it may not seem like a marketing move, there is nothing more important than partnering with middle and senior management. Seek endorsement of your training program and related technology — including active promotional support. Nothing encourages a learner more than their boss telling them to go get trained.
  2. Leverage the Power of Email: Nobody likes spam. However, targeted and timely email messages can be much appreciated. Even in environments where email is losing favor, carefully crafted “push” messages can yield tremendous results.
  3. Put Branded Blogs or Newsletters to Work: Regular blogs, articles and commentary can complement email campaigns very effectively. However, they can also be time-consuming to produce and sustain. Do this only if your team has the bandwidth to produce and deliver consistently.
  4. Make It Easy to Buy: The easier a buying process is, the more sales you’ll win. 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 web-based mobile access, as well as registration and payment capabilities that fit right into business workflows. However, the key to simplicity is getting into the mind of your learner 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 intranets/portals, blogs, discussion forums, digital bulletin boards, newsletters, vendor fairs, “brown bag” employee roundtable events, and other communication opportunities. All it takes is some digging and willingness to ask.

There are plenty more ideas to consider. But try these 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.


About Gordon L. Johnson: I’ve been a marketing leader in the corporate L&D industry for over twenty years with the last ten years focused on learning technology. Along the way, I’ve discovered what works — and what doesn’t. More info at

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