Better eLearning: Lessons From Marketing

Posted by Jean Marrapodi on Sun, 04/15/2018 – 10:47

At Illumina Interactive, we’re always learning and on the hunt for new ideas. One of the ways we do that is to leverage the talented people in our personal learning network who we’ve met over the years. One of those people is Mike Taylor, one of our favorite bloggers, and the author of Friday Finds, a weekly newsletter of curated resources chock full of great ideas about learning, visual design, and more. We asked him if he’d be willing to share some tips with our readers. Here’s what he shared! 

Get Outside Your Bubble and Steal These Great Marketing Techniques for Your Training

by Guest Blog Author, Mike Taylor

I am passionate about learning. If you look for learning, you can find valuable lessons every day. Some of my most valuable discovery happens when I get “outside the bubble” of L&D to see what is happening in other fields. There are so many valuable contributions being made in other fields: psychology, learning science, graphic design, technology, advertising are just a few areas that can provide us with new insights. 

History illustrates that many great advances come from applying existing knowledge in a new way. Professionals in every field should look at the world with an eye towards uncovering insights that are already working elsewhere that they can apply to their own domain. 

Steal from Marketing

Take marketing for example. Training and marketing departments share the common challenge of how to get people’s attention and help them think and act in new ways. Marketers take a drastically different approach and as a result, often get much better results.

What do marketers do differently and what can we learn from them to improve our own results? A lot! 

Grab Their Attention

For starters, all successful marketers understand that everyone is busy and already have too many things on their to do list to care about whatever you’re trying to shove in front of their face. In his book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It, Steven Pressfield offers a simple solution:

  1. Streamline your message.
  2. Make its expression fun. 
  3. Apply that to everything you do. 

Marketers do this really well. Instructional designers and others in the training world? Not so much. 

Nobody has time for a 5 minute, 12 bullet point introduction to what you want them to learn. That is never going to cut it. Just parachute in and do something that makes them want to stick around for the rest of what you have to say. You’ll have a lot more luck with that by appealing to their emotions using visually rich content and stories instead of dull facts and bullet points.  

Look how this Subaru ad demonstrates these ideas.

That is infinitely more powerful than even the world’s best charts and bullet lists.

I can almost hear you thinking…”that is great in theory, but I can’t even draw stick figures so how am I supposed to create visually appealing graphics and videos? ” 

The answer? Steal the tools that smart marketers are using. (They can’t draw stick figures either but it doesn’t stop them!) 

Here are a few ideas.

Leverage Good Design

Do you think creating visually appealing graphics requires an expensive copy of Photoshop and several months of working your way up the learning curve? Think again! These tools have free versions and take about 27 seconds to learn. Take a page from the marketing playbook and start including attention-grabbing images and videos in your projects today. These tools allow even the most graphically challenged among us to create professional looking visuals. 

Consider Email Drip Campaigns

A great way to break out of the one-and-done, event-based mentality common in many training and elearning programs is to create automated, learning-focused drip campaigns.  Drip campaigns are automated sets of emails that go out based on specific timelines or learner actions.

Here are some tools to help with drip campaigns:

There are loads of ways to use email marketing tools for your training programs. Here are a few of my favorites I think you should consider: 

New employee onboarding. The amount of information a new employee has to face is often overwhelming. Why not break up that mountain of information into an automated sequence that gives them smaller, easier to digest bites spread out over a few days or weeks? Interested? Check out this sample drip cadence

Pre- and Post-Workshop Support.  Creating a campaign for your classroom training workshops is another great idea. Most of the pre- and post-workshop communications can be automated with an email campaign. Send out messages in advance with time, date, location and other logistical details along with any pre-work, etc. Follow-up with learning reinforcement and supporting information. Here is a campaign with key takeaways that I created as a follow-up to a conference session, “What L&D Should Steal from Marketing“. Give it a try! 

Support & extend existing training. Most organizations have at least one required compliance course they send people through once a year and then never even think about until the due date rolls around next year. Why not pull out 12 important snippets and turn those into a monthly email campaign? You’ve already got the content. Why not reuse it in a new way? For me, this is a total no-brainer! 

Automate Basic Tasks

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”  ― Bill Gates

Many marketers realize the value of working smarter instead of harder. They use automation to avoid boring, time-sucking manual tasks so they can focus on more important things.  These services let you create a sort of “recipe” in the format of “If (something happens) then (do something else).”

For example, “If I save a file to Dropbox, then save a copy in Google Drive.” or “If I take an Uber ride, then log it into a Google Sheet.”

Instead of lazy, I like to think of this as being insanely efficient! Here are few automation tools to experiment with.

That’s it for now. Did you find anything you’d like to steal? I’d love to hear about it! You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter at @tmiket or drop by my website for a visit. Thanks for reading.