5 Things Marketers Know that the Training Industry Forgets

Times Square in New York City at dusk

If asked to personify the marketing industry versus the training industry, one might imagine them as the popular kid and the nerdy kid in high school, respectively, passing in the hallway without saying “hello”.

Yet the two fields have quite a bit in common.  Both involve connecting with audiences, communicating key messages, driving behavior change, and motivating people to action.

In that spirit, here are five things that the learning industry can learn from marketing when it comes to influencing people:

  • Everything is a “brand”: Whether you are enticing luxury shoppers to buy a thousand-dollar watch or encouraging nurses to follow a new set of safety protocols, people will respond better if your message is delivered with an engaging and consistent voice, attitude and visual style.

    For example, when designing a training program we will think about the “voice” of the materials – are we presenting the course content as the authoritative recommendations of experts, or the friendly suggestions of a co-worker?  Do we want the materials to look as if they were chiseled in stone (as we might for a course on legal subject matter) or painted in delicate watercolors (as we did for a set of training modules to help social workers counsel young people affected by sexual violence)?

  • Good design can reinforce your message: Admittedly, some of this comes down to budget, but even good, award-winning training materials tend to look ugly next to high-quality marketing collateral.

    While we aren’t saying organizations should spend exorbitant amounts of money having top-tier designers create training PowerPoints and e-learning templates, there’s no excuse for *bad* design when you have Google Fonts, Adobe Color Wheel and countless how-to articles, books, and videos on design basics just a mouse-click away.

  • Really know your audience: Both marketers and training professionals will create profiles of archetypal audience members, to get a sense of how they can tailor their message to resonate with learners/consumers.  But, in our experience, marketers tend to be more brutally honest about how audiences perceive their brand. So if your training audience finds your program irrelevant or boring, just listen to what they have to say and think about how you can improve your training “product” and how you present it.  

  • Same message, multiple channels: Marketers don’t think in terms of a single advertisement.  They think in terms of campaigns that send a consistent message across multiple channels, anything from print to online to radio and live events.   

    With your next learning program, think about how you can convey your message across multiple touchpoints, from conventional training to posters in the office to sending out talking points for managers to bring up in meetings.

  • Speak to people’s aspirations: Marketing messages often have less to do with the specific product or service being offered and more with how those products and services help people lead the lives they want to lead.  If you can’t convey how taking the time to complete your training program will help learners achieve success as they – not necessarily their employers – define it, then you’ll have a difficult time changing their behavior.

If you are interested in strategies to make your training offerings more engaging, feel free to contact Sonata Learning for a consultation.


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