10 Tips for Marketing In-House Elearning
Got training? That’s not enough. One of the greatest myths of human resource development: If you offer it, they will come.
An eLearning program can help increase productivity, boost sales, or jump-start corporate initiatives – but only if your learners take the course.
It doesn’t matter how crucial the learning is. It doesn’t matter how effective the methodology is. It doesn’t matter how cool the technology is. No audience means no benefit…another way of saying that the program was a waste of organizational time and resources.
How to boost program participation? Savvy Training and HR professionals use marketing techniques like these to sell the benefits of the training program and increase the sign-up rate for their programs:
1. Offer what they need
The better you understand your audience’s needs, the better you can position your programming to meet those needs. How do you figure out what your audience needs? Talk to your audience and talk to their managers. Ask questions about what works and what does not. And tap into the resources in your Training Department – they may have done some of this analysis before developing the training program.
2. Use audience segmentation techniques
Which groups in your organization need the training? Are the needs of each group slightly different? By segmenting your audience, you can position the training appropriately to meet each group’s unique needs. You also can use segmentation to help expand your training audience: Our sales and customer service people need training on “Resolving Customer Conflict.” Maybe our HR Benefits & Payroll people could use the same training to help them deal with internal customers?
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Does this sound familiar? You advertise a course by sending a single e-mail notice, or maybe you just post the course listing in the What’s New section of your Intranet Training Page. Not surprisingly, your participation numbers stay low – in fact, many of your learners never even registered the fact that a course was available! Instead, take a tip from professional marketers and use the power of repetition to break through the info-clutter. By sending multiple iterations of your e-mail notice, you create greater awareness and provide more opportunities for a positive response.
4. Explain the benefit
For the most part, people don’t want to change the way they work. They may have problems with the status quo, but they have created workarounds to deal with the problems – so, why change? It’s important to realize that a most learners see a training program as both threat and opportunity. As a marketer, your job is to help learners see that the opportunity outweighs the threat. You do this by communicating the benefits – the payoffs to the individual for taking the course.
- Note that benefits are not the same as features. A feature of a course might be a topic, such as “covers new methods of document formatting.” What’s the benefit of learning new methods of document formatting? Well, you can “automate tedious tasks”, “gain greater control over the look of your documents”, “breeze through your work faster”, etc. etc.
- In your course marketing material, emphasize the benefits of your course upfront. Make the features available for those who want that level of detail – perhaps using a link to your course registration page.
- By the way, don’t forget the benefit of alignment! Does your program hit a corporate hot-button? Will your program help learners align their skills to fit an organizational initiative? Today’s employees – and their management – understand the benefit of aligning with business strategy!
5. Link for visibility
Has this ever happened to you? You are casually browsing the ‘Net for a vacation site. Just when you decide that you really need to get away to Antigua, you notice a link over in the corner of the web page that says Antigua Travel Bargains. Is this a coincidence? Not likely! Internet marketers have made a science of dropping links just where they will be most useful to potential consumers. You can use this technique in-house, as well, by linking up with like-minded Intranet sites. For example, have a training program about Ergonomics in the Workplace? Check out the possibility of posting links on the sites for Corporate Safety, Medical, Human Resources, maybe even Purchasing.
6. Seek “Top of Mind”
Marketers always want “Top of Mind” awareness – they want the consumer to think of their products first, last and always! That’s why they send out newsletters, white papers, anything that makes you remember that they have expertise in a particular area. You can create “Top of Mind” awareness for in-house eLearning, too. One good method is a e-zine or e-newsletter. Sent once a month, it can showcase your courses, reinforce benefits of training, provide recognition to successful learners, etc. E-zines are also beneficial in supporting cross-training efforts, because they allow you to reach potential learners in your organization who were outside your original audience demographic.
7. Get In-house Endorsements
Ever wonder why advertisers pay sports stars to endorse everything from beer to pretzels? They know that testimonials from someone you respect will help to convince you that their product is a good one. You can borrow this technique for your in-house training programs. Top managers, in-house experts, power users, Joe-Sixpack employees – endorsements from any or all of them can add to the credibility of your program. By the way, collecting these endorsements goes hand-in-hand with initiatives to collect course evaluation and user feedback data – to be covered in another article. As a courtesy, make sure the employee knows that you are using their words in your marketing materials.
8. Get managers involved
Do the managers in your organization control the departmental training budgets? It’s easier to get managers to approve an employee’s training expense if the manager is excited about the training program. To get your managers actively involved in employee training: send them copies of your course-marketing communications; send them testimonials from other managers whose employees took the training course; ask them for feedback about their employees’ performance improvement after taking the training; etc.
9. Create a consistent interface
Marketing professionals know the power of branding. You may not be a Big Mac fan, but you know where to go whenever you need a French-fry fix, right? Similarly, by “branding” your in-house eLearning, you make your audience feel more comfortable with the end-product – and therefore more willing to sign up. For example, you should try to standardize:
- Course marketing materials
- Course catalogue numbering system
- Course “search” process
- Course registration process
- Course navigation and Help
10. Measure for measure
You manage what you measure. The best marketers are compulsive measurers, trying a bit of this and a bit of that, testing with each iteration until they find a winning formula. And then they stick with it, but keep on measuring just to be sure it is still working. You can do something similar in the training arena, by tracking your learner participation levels in conjunction with your in-house marketing activities.
- These days, if you haven’t been asked to provide ROI (Return on Investment) data for your in-house courses, you will be soon. Essentially, that means the cost of creating and deploying the course, divided by the number of participants. For an eLearning course, your costs are mostly upfront. With good out-of-the-gate marketing, you can get a good ROI figure on your course, then continue to improve it over time with consistent longer-term marketing techniques.