Following on from this morning's webinar by Nigel, we started to get quite a discussion going on what should be marketed from an L&D point of view.


I would say that you need to market your learning (learning as your product if we're moving towards marketing lingo a bit) but no decent marketing campaign will forget that the customer is at it's heart. Take booking a holiday - you can market your fabulous 5* hotel and get people to your site (marketing your product well) and then it will completely fall down with a bad customer rating via TripAdvisor. Or in the happier world, your customers have enjoyed the experience and rated you well and your bookings go through the roof.


Many of us are trying to start informal learning (and succeeding - or not) and creating learning communities - this is a marketing technique (customer communities and viral marketing) as well as a learning technique.


I think there is potential for a lot of crossover of tatics which can help L&D to forward their causes with leadership, middle management and the learners. What do you think? Where are your problems? Maybe we can all help each other to swop techniques :)


(I should mention I'm a marketer by background with a BIG interest in L&D - hence my love of the subject!)

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Hi David


I've got some experience in that area from two ways - one is from my current role in Training with a marketing hat on and one as the marketer desperately needing the help of L&D to make my product really sell.

In terms of the logos and strapline people (I have to admit I can be that person), are you asking your marketing people to help you with branding or are you doing the branding yourself and then trying to get it past them?

If it's the latter, I would advise that you read and digest whatever corporate branding guidelines you have - if you are sticking to the rules set down, they won't have any room to argue. Also, if you want to move outside of the branding, I would suggest doing this in stages. Talk to your top communications person or whoever is in charge of branding for the company and ask them what would be essential to keep the brand as you have some valid reasons for wanting to, for example, drop the corporate footer - although make sure you have your valid reasons to hand!

If you're asking your marketing team to help you brand L&D, start with what you want to achieve in terms of your overall objectives, strategy and the tactics you are going to be using. Remind them (very gently) that you are the customer but that your knowledge on marketing tactics isn't great (yes, it's pandering to the ego slightly but from my experience, it works). That you need their help for whatever your aim and objectives are - which might be to get middle management on board or it might be to get learners to engage more after the learning. They will probably have tools and ways of expressing things which could be better targetted to your learners.


I guess the most important thing is to start the conversation with them but do it in such a way that makes them realise they are needed and that you are, in this instance, their customer (albeit an internal one). A good marketer should acknowledge all of that quite quickly.


What seems to be the problem with combining what you want with the logos and straplines? I may be able to help more if I know more - happy to continue off the forum as well if you want to link to me and email :-)

Hi David and Helen


As someone with a learning background based in a marketing and communications team, I'm also really interested in this issue and agree that there is a lot that can be shared and learned.

David - I think you're spot on when you say that it's about understanding who your learners are and how you can help them. One of the mantras I hear in my team is 'what's the problem that we are helping to solve?' - and the other one is 'get the right message to the right person at the right time'. So maybe rather than logos and straplines, it's about identifying the specific challenges that you can help different people in different teams meet - and getting those messages out in a personalised way. And the third mantra is 'data is king' - use what you know about your learners to help you get the messages right.


Absolutely Liz,

One of the main things I got from Sudhir Giri's talk at the ALT conference about how Google are looking at L&D, is the data they were able to obtain about learners' needs just by looking at what people are searching for.

They found that it gave them exactly the same results as a complex, expensive training needs analysis.

If that data's already available, why aren't we using it to target learning interventions to people more closely?


Hi Helen,

You read my mind! I've just published a post on my blog, which talks about using the LMS as a marketing tool.

We've got so much to learn from marketing, especially as L&D no longer hold the budgets (in a lot of organisations).



A few thoughts, marketing learning has to go beyond just the learner as came out in the webinars this morning, there are a variety of stakeholders that L & D need to engage with and you need to find a WIFM (whats in it for me) that hits the spot for the different size will not fill all.

Use of language is critical.  L & D has its own jargon and when you combine that with some of the buzz words used in e-learning, its no wonder that sometimes you see eyes just glaze over. 

Various marketing techniques can be helpful, for example the AIDA model ..Awareness Interest Desire Action.  Creating awareness is the easiest part...moving people from there to acting on it is much more difficult, so you need to plan for the different stages you are taking people through. 

L & D could also learn from the work that has been done on consumer behaviour.  Much of it is actually just common sense; we all know it because we are all consumers of products and services, but somehow we don’t put it into practice when trying to ‘sell’ learning.

Finally, if we consider learning as a service and want to be taken seriously we should adopt the 7 ‘P’s model. Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People, Physical Evidence and Process.  There lots of information about the 7ps on the web.  However it’s worth noting that although learning might be free, there is still a price...people’s time and the opportunity cost of doing something else. 

Hi Helen,


I totally agree that L&D has much to learn from marketing.  As with ‘normal’ companies the L&D community sells both products and services.  As you rightly point out, the need to boost the visibility of your offering is the key to gaining traction.  Where I think there are some issues (and I’m happy to be shouted down on this) is that it’s almost impossible to differentiate one product (course) from another.


To test this hypothesis I Googled “negotiation skills courses.”  The result was page after page of courses and it was VERY difficult to tell them, or the company supplying them apart.  I believe that unless companies really think about differentiating their offering from that of their competition then all subsequent marketing effort will be diluted.


So before we talk about tools and detailed marketing techniques my challenge would be for the reader to think long and hard about making their offering stand out from the crowd.  Apple and Dell both sell computers but their style and approach is SO different.


Hope this gets people thinking.




PS.  Helen, how about we set up a separate group to help people share these great ideas?


This is an area that I've been looking at over the last 8 years following our very first research project that clearly linked this to success so though you might be interested in a few resources we've dug up. Although I agree that a group on this area would generate lots of ideas - happy to set it up if you would like me to!


I think the big question is why, when we know marketing makes a difference, are we so reluctant to do this? - lack of time?- fear of looking like sales people? lack of skill? - love to know your views.


In the meantime, here are some resources to kick start the conversations:


You can find, research statistics and case studies around relating to strategic marketing the crossover with learning that  at Most of these draw from the parallels between marketing principles and learning implementation & have either been illustrated by stories or converted to hints and tips or papers on engaging learners and managers.


It is worth revisiting the video on the L&S group web TV with Alison Innes Farquar when she worked at the Priory Group from a few years back when we did a marketing workshop at L&S group plus Joanna at L'Oreal and Carlos at Caja Madrid also gave excellent examples of marketing strategies at LT2011 that are worth checking out.


More recently i've been taking a look at how marketeers are using social media to see what's worked and what's not in the world of marketing which was facinating!. I tried  to draw some parallels for L&D and posted 7 tips that L&D can learn from marketing just last week at


I've also realised i have a whole catalog of articles & workshop materials that have been published in this area that i really should get online - happy to share via email until I can convert them - let me know if of interest






Hi Laura,


As someone who really know about marketing learning technologies I think it would be great if you would set up a marketing group here on the LSG.


I'm sure that there are many people who would be willing to share their experiences to help others; and your offer of articles and workshop collateral would be an excellent start.


If you do open a marketing group then please count me in too!



Unfortunately I didn't see the Webinar but I do have some initial thoughts on reading above.

HR and L&D are the new marketing given the increasing power of social media - treat every employee like assets (help them realise their hidden assets), create the right conditions to learn, make them accountable, tap into that 'why am I here?/what real difference will it make?' question and focus on building trust, engage them in what they need and in creating team brands, help them feel fantastic about what they do and what their team/organisation does, identify the outgoing personalities who will most likely communicate all this and give them a reason, the ok, some tools and skills to communicate about that - who knows they just might become the new service (and L&D) advocates on and offline within and outside of the organisation.

Improving learner take-up with an engaging communications plan

Great post Helen. I am of course in agreement (I too work in marketing!)

We (Brightwave) like to think of e-learning projects as campaigns not courses, which highlights the issue with delivering one-off pieces of learning, which in fact could be far more effective if supported with a well thought out comms strategy.

As expected it's becoming increasingly apparent that marketing is now focused on external comms more than ever (considering the market downturn), and therefore L&D as and other internal departments often don't receive the support they need from their marketing teams.

I too think there is a lot L&D can learn from marketing, and we're publishing a series of marketing and communication guides on this exact subject, which focus on supporting learning campaigns (see below for part one).

Aside from the social learning aspect (Laura I loved your top tips by the way), I've just written a blog post on one of the areas which in many cases (not all), seems to get forgotten about, as it's a fairly old-school technique, nevertheless it's an important one, and that's email marketing.

You can read my blog and download the email marketing guide here:



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