Thursday, 20 October 2016 09:24

If You Stop Learning, You Start Dying

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Recharge your training by thinking like a marketer.

If a sales team keeps a company propelling forward by hitting numbers and marketing spurs ripples by creatively capturing mindshare, what are trainers? Trainers help keep business afloat from the bottom up, imparting the data and strategies high-performing personnel need to successfully do their jobs.

That’s all well and good — after all, no company, whether enterprise organization or SMB, wants a stagnant workforce. Wasn’t it Einstein who said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying?” I stopped studying quotes years ago, so I digress.

Sarcasm aside, the fact of the matter is that while training is necessary, it can also be sluggish and a big budget suck if it’s not approached appropriately. What can help? Train like a marketer — specifically, a forward-thinking, design-savvy, customer-empowering, data-analyzing, digital marketer. Here’s why.

THE MARKETING GRASS — IS IT REALLY GREENER?

Trainers often look at the marketing team in envy, with their big budgets, fancy graphics, and lavish events. Marketers in this digital age are sort of like hipsters — you don’t really understand everything they do, but you know it’s probably trendy and cool. This, understandably, can be a little off-putting to trainers stuck in a downward spiral of endless budget cuts, PowerPoints and 18 options of Word Art.

Although marketers may appear to have more options than trainers when it comes to design (and the truth is that anyone can design, by the way), the real point of contention here is that many trainers don’t seem to need marketers. In fact, they have the tendency to exhibit a bit of indifference when it comes to the tactics marketers use — after all, isn’t most training mandatory? The marketing frills, then, don’t do trainers any good. People will show up anyway — donuts or no donuts, Word Art or cinematography. Not true.

The corporate landscape is changing. Now, trainers have to approach customers and partners — not always the other way around — to not only help them improve product knowledge, but even boost product usage or revenue. In addition, some trainers today are being asked to improve attendance rates. That’s where marketing skills come into play. Let’s break down some of the major lessons trainers can take from their marketing brothers and sisters down the hall.

MARKETING TIPS FOR TRAINERS

Here are a few lessons trainers can take from the marketer’s playbook:

>> Leverage, leverage, leverage. Marketers leverage spokespeople all the time, so why can’t trainers? Executive sponsors are recognizable, relatable, and authoritative. You’re probably not going to get an executive sponsor to deliver the training, but he or she could at minimum ask people to participate via email, intranet, instant message or Slack. Even better — have the spokesperson film a short video invitation to hype up the training. It shouldn’t be difficult to get the sponsor on board with this idea. It won’t take much time and, as a stakeholder in the success of the business, it should be a nobrainer.

>> Make email automation your friend. This might not be suitable for all training programs, but it certainly is for the ones that have to reach an outside audience like partners or customers. Trainers can send emails via an email marketing automation platform for speed, but there’s another bonus — analytics. Track those efforts to better understand which approach is working and which, if any, you need to reevaluate.

>> Get social. Social is a powerful tool, and its benefits aren’t isolated to one department. Like marketers, trainers should consider leveraging (see, there it is again) social media organic and even social advertisements. Facebook has excellent options because it is user-friendly, affordable, and allows for hyper-targeting.

>> Empower and inform, don’t dictate and preach. Both marketers and trainers seek to tell their respective audience something — that’s a given. The difference often lies in the approach. Successful marketers tend to view campaigns from a very human, audience-driven perspective. As a result, winning campaigns aren’t dry regurgitations of features and benefits — they’re engaging, memorable snippets of a bigger picture of a brand. Trainings can be, too.

>> Go small or go home. Yeah, you read that right. Marketers don’t tell their consumer base everything about a product in one piece of content. Rather, they focus on digestible chunks presented in a memorable way. Rinse, repeat. Trainers can take a hint here. In order to get the big picture, sometimes baby steps are required. Breaking trainings down into segments can be an effective way to reach a larger percentage of the audience more effectively.

>> Make it pretty. As marketers know, design and delivery are uber-important, and trainers can get in on the action, too. So, maybe all trainers don’t have access to the hottest design software—but I bet many of them have a smartphone or a device that can record video. Start there. Incorporating video into trainings is an easy and fun way to break up the monotony of text blocks and slide transitions.

THE CASE FOR COLLABORATION

When I worked at Cisco once upon a time, I worked with Faith Legendre, a wonderful learning and development expert at Cisco. She was always trying to get the marketing experts and training expects together when it came time to design, implement, and promote new training initiatives. She is the one that taught me that marketers and trainers can learn so much from each other.

Legendre said, “Just like an effective well designed commercial that a brilliant marketer would do (hint, hint partner with marketers) break up your training into digestible nibblets, take the complex and break it down, make it super simple, sequential and fun. Then embed it right where the learner needs it on that page of the system, application, or even a Word doc.”

I agreed with her then and I agree with her now — the case for collaboration here is a strong one. Trainers and marketers have a lot to learn from each other. Trainers, for instance, take so much time and effort to create content that can easily be consumed. They’re also great at making sure that knowledge is transferred. Marketers are great at identifying a message that will reach an audience in a memorable way — seems like a match made in heaven, if you ask me.

If your trainers regularly had the help of marketers, how do you think knowledge retention and session attendance would improve in your company? Isn’t it at least worth a try? Can you relate to any of the suggestions above and find one or two that would be a cinch to implement? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

– Eric Vidal, Editor & Chief Content Officer, The Marketing Scope. @EricVMarketing

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