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Marketing for L&D: why and how to get started?

Cegos Team

Marketing has become an essential skill for L&D professionals. For a long time, they have designed their skills development plans from a “delivery-focused” perspective. Now, it's time for them to take advantage of marketing tools to identify learner interests and encourage their commitment. This will require a shift in focus, with more emphasis on building strong customer relationship with learners.

What is marketing for L&D?

Marketing for L&D is about implementing a strategy to make your internal training programmes more attractive to users. It's not enough to simply propose a skills development plan and expect employees to be interested. Instead, the idea is to tailor the training offer to their expectations and promote it effectively to pique their interest. This is especially important considering the overabundance of training programmes that companies offer, leading to learner overload. Learning & Development professionals need to develop marketing skills to master the promotion of training, allowing them to adapt and effectively showcase their offerings. The result is clear: value creation.

Marketing training programmes is well worth the effort. By leveraging techniques specific to service marketing (defining your value proposition, segmenting your target audience, and communicating in a targeted way), “L&D managers can better align their offerings with the real needs of employees and the company. This way, they can ensure a strong return on investment in training and enhance employee employability,” explains Catherine Lamarsaude, training consultant at Cegos.

Why train L&D professionals in marketing?

Companies today operate in a context of constant crisis due to new technologies, societal issues, and climate change, forcing them to constantly transform themselves. “To remain agile, they need to adapt to market changes, which are occurring at an ever-increasing pace. In these circumstances, building an effective skills development plan requires a deep understanding of your workforce. This can be achieved through data-driven insights utilising Big Data tools.”, explains Catherine Lamarsaude.

Unfortunately, many L&D functions struggle in this area. “They tend to focus on pushing out training programs without considering employee needs or effectively promoting them”, she concedes. In other words, they create a product that doesn't meet employees' needs and then regret that they don't follow through with their training. But it's the product that needs to be questioned here, not the customer. Marketing enables them to turn things around. By taking a more granular approach, training managers can aim more accurately.

Are training managers the future marketers?

For Catherine Lamarsaude, marketing was once seen as unnecessary for L&D functions. However, with the arrival of new generations of training professionals, that perception has shifted. “In recent years, 'marketing for L&D' has become a widely accepted concept,” she admits. The term is even appearing in some training programmes for L&D professionals. This highlights the growing importance of marketing skills in the field of HR, particularly in training.

While L&D professionals may not become full-fledged marketers, familiarizing themselves with a few marketing techniques can significantly improve the learning experience for employees. “Companies increasingly expect L&D to develop a marketing mindset. This means prioritizing the needs of the learner and seeing things from their perspective. This customer-centric approach isn't always natural for L&D professionals, but it allows them to put employees at the centre of the learning process and achieve a greater impact”, she explains.

How can you use marketing to promote your training catalogue?

“Start by defining the objectives for training, aligned with the company's objectives,” she outlines. This could include fostering a learning culture, improving technical skills, attracting and retaining talent, etc. “The second step is to carry out an analysis. The challenge here is to make a precise diagnosis. It involves assessing the company’s current expectations and those of competitors. The third stage is to segment your employees and define the positioning for your training offer, i.e. the unique value proposition, the promise”, she adds.

With this foundation, L&D professionals can develop targeted communication initiatives to promote their training offerings. Finally, it's crucial to evaluate the effectiveness of your training programmes through metrics like attractiveness, learner engagement, learner retention, impact on business performance. This data-driven approach ensures continuous improvement of your training catalogue. This process requires L&D functions to be familiar with a range of marketing tools and techniques.

Many allies within the company

Fortunately, in addition to acquiring marketing skills, L&D can leverage the expertise of valuable internal partners to rise to this new challenge. “Marketing and communications teams, who are rarely called on by training professionals, are natural allies in this endeavor. Similarly, HR teams are used to working on employer branding issues, which also relies heavily on marketing principles,” according to Catherine Lamarsaude.

Digital experts can also support L&D efforts. They can provide guidance on selecting the most effective communication channels to promote the training programs. More broadly, “creating interdisciplinary teams can be highly beneficial. These teams can contribute significantly to the initial stages of reflection and analysis, which can often be challenging for L&D to tackle alone” says our expert.

Why involve managers?

Managers are crucial partners in co-creating effective skills development plans. They can assist training managers from the very beginning. Especially when it comes to understanding the target audience, their preferences, their habits… Managers can ask targeted questions during annual appraisals or even casual meetings. Additionally, the management line provides a valuable pathway for L&D professionals to conduct surveys and gather on-the-ground needs assessments. This customer-centric approach is essential for successful marketing.

By collaborating closely with managers, training initiatives can be highly responsive to the actual needs of operational staff. Manager involvement also helps reduce the time to market for training, i.e. the time gap between designing a course and making it available to employees. For L&D professionals, this is an additional opportunity to improve responsiveness, a critical advantage in today's rapidly transforming business landscape, particularly when it comes to digital transformation.

This article was originally written in French by Aurélie Tachot, Journalist, and published in the Cegos Mag’.

Written by

Cegos Team

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