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Martin’s marketing secrets: how to engage your learners

MARTIN Baker explains his Fairy Liquid approach to marketing. It’s simple and effective and works for marketing almost anything, but you’ll have to wash the dishes yourself!

There are three really simple golden rules to marketing pretty much anything, whether it’s washing up liquid or eLearning. I encourage members of the Charity Learning Consortium to use this approach to help them engage their staff and volunteers with the eLearning that we provide, but it’s really useful for other things too!

  1. What is it?

‘An advert may only ‘work’ after being seen 10 times!’

We all know what washing up liquid is – so why do manufacturers like Procter & Gamble continue to spend millions of pounds on advertising? It’s to keep their brand right in front of you, so the next time you go to the supermarket, you’ll hopefully choose Fairy Liquid. They’re reminding you, so you don’t forget.

When it comes to learning, you’ll have wasted a considerable amount of time and money if your staff and volunteers don’t know that your resources exist. And telling them just once simply doesn’t work. There’s an art to spacing out reminders, and manufacturers don’t advertise continually, but they do advertise regularly and in all sorts of different ways. In advertising terms, this is known as effective frequency, but its principles are similar to the learning curve, i.e. greater frequency generally = more effectiveness. According to research by Eisend & Schmidt, an advert may only ‘work’ after being seen 10 times. So get inventive and think like a marketing pro to advertise your eLearning wares.

Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming: some of the best ideas are the simplest. Why not start with a competition to name your learning management system (LMS)? Or focus on marketing an eLearning course of the month. Staff and volunteers may particularly appreciate anything that helps support their personal wellbeing at the moment. 

The Consortium offers a popular workplace wellbeing eLearning course. MicroLearn developed this in partnership with Liggy Webb – a well-known wellbeing specialist. This sort of eLearning can sit perfectly alongside other initiatives. Members of the Consortium have been using great branding to promote what they are doing, such as a virtual ‘sanity-saving support club’ at The Brain Tumour Charity. These initiatives are the perfect way to engage staff – and once you have their attention, you can remind them about the great virtual resources available. 

  1. What does it do?

‘Rather than advertising eLearning, use messages that explain that your online resources can help people work smarter, faster, better.’

Marketing works by persuading people that buying into a product will change their lives for the better in some way, whether it’s making your dishes cleaner, or your clothes or your teeth whiter. So do your staff and volunteers know what your eLearning can do? What’s in it for them?

Make your purpose really clear. Rather than advertising eLearning, use messages that explain that your online resources can help them work smarter, faster, better, and support their mental health. Who wouldn’t be interested in that, particularly in these turbulent times? Better skills may also help them progress in their careers. Think about your eLearning and resources as a product and sell the benefits.

What can really help here is to think about your elevator pitch, i.e. how would you market your learning resources to a member of staff in just a few minutes or a few short words or sentences? Supermarkets are great at doing this. I bet you can think of some of their logos, such as: Tesco – Every little helps. One of our members promotes Wellbeing Wednesdays, which is a perfect example, as it succinctly tells you what to expect and when.

How would you sell the benefits of your eLearning and/or other virtual learning resources in just a few words? Use your message to create some distinctive ‘advertising’ using your charity’s recognisable colours and brand. Advertising doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as an email, an item in your eNewsletter; an obvious button on your intranet; mentions on social media. Everything you do should amplify your message, not just that eLearning exists, but exactly how it can help support your staff and volunteers.

  1. Where can I get it?

‘The trick is to make your product available everywhere, on-demand, 24/7, at work and home, on mobile, tablet and desktop.’

Fairy Liquid isn’t just for sale in one supermarket, it’s available in all of them – at your corner shop and through online retailers etc. That’s because people shop in a wide variety of ways: they might walk to their local shop or drive to a superstore once a month. If Fairy Liquid was only for sale in Sainsbury’s, its audience would be cut down considerably – and this is the same for eLearning.

The trick is to make your product available everywhere, on-demand, 24/7, at work and home, on mobile, tablet and desktop. Make your eLearning easily accessible wherever your learners are, exactly when they need it. And keep reminding them, so they remember where to find it. Only allowing learners to access it one way, with restrictions and/or many clicks, will simply put them off. Adam Harwood from D&D London calls this ‘friction-free L&D’ – he’s previously led a popular workshop on this very topic for our members. 

eLearning can quickly help engage your staff and volunteers with new ways of working, and never has easy accessibility been more important. So are there any barriers stopping your workforce from accessing your eLearning? If so, what are they, and what can you do to remove them? For example, we worked with Phil Maynard of World Animal Protection to create a single sign-on system so learners can log in directly from Office 365. It’s the sort of thing that learners have come to expect and might not even notice. But create barriers, and they might not bother logging in that day – especially if they can’t remember their password.

Ultimately, if your learners are happily accessing eLearning and your LMS as and when they need it, supporting themselves at the point of need, then that’s wonderful. But if no-one is using your eLearning and you have compliance deadlines looming, then think Fairy Liquid!

I’d love to hear how you market your eLearning. Please connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at martinbaker@charitylearning.org.

About the author

Martin Baker is the founder and CEO of the Charity Learning Consortium, a unique group of more than 200 UK based charities collaborating to make eLearning affordable and effective. He’s been involved in eLearning for more than 25 years and is known for being a passionate advocate of collaboration benefits. 

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