Marketing Your Learning

1st October, 2023 7 min read

Scott Bradbury Founder Catherine de Salvo shares 15 practical tips for you to use when promoting your learning messages. Tap into her many years’ experience and valuable insights into marketing to learners.

15 Marketing Tips for Learning Professionals

It’s always been important to promote your learning provision. Now it’s essential. With overloaded, time-poor people spread over different locations and different flexible working hours, it’s easy for messages about your corporate learning to be overlooked. There’s no point having wonderful content and meticulously planned learning programmes if people don’t know - or worse still - don’t care about them.

Yet, if you’re a learning professional, you probably don’t have a marketing background. That is not your forte. And so you’re probably reliant on already very busy internal comms colleagues or over-used email channels to convey your messages. This short article provides you, as a non-marketing person, with some practical tips to use to sell your learning messages internally.

Do contact me to discuss these ideas further and to request a little personalised feedback on what you’re doing at the moment. I’ve been selling learning resources for thirty years, and whilst I won’t have all the answers, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned over my long career.

Here’s a quick round-up of my top 15 tips for promoting your learning to your people:

1.  Empathise with your learners

Only when you understand your learners’ perspectives are you able to appeal to them in terms of their challenges and opportunities. Find out what matters to them and link your offering to their priorities.

2.  Appeal to their hearts, not just their brains

People find time to do the things they want to do. So your job is to get emotional commitment to your learning programmes. That means promoting them in a way that creates a desire for them. Inspire people to sign up, complete and review because they believe in the benefit to them (see Number 10 below).

3.  Speak their language

You can’t make your messages relevant to your learners unless you use the language they use. Unless you use the terminology that they employ to describe their everyday challenges and opportunities you won’t catch their attention. Tap into their words and you increase your appeal.

4.  Make it relevant and timely

It’s tempting to send out a ‘to-all-of-you-out-there’ type message. But that is unlikely to work well because it won’t be relevant and usefully timed for everyone. Don’t broadcast your message but instead target it at selected audiences at specific times, depending on need. Be clear in your own mind about who you are trying to reach and why.

5.  What to say when people say they don’t have time

Think carefully about what people really mean when they say they don’t have time for your learning. What they are probably saying is that they don’t think it’s worth making time for. Maybe they don’t believe in the benefits of your offering (see Number 9 below), or just don’t believe it works. Explain ‘what’s in it for them’ and why the learning is not only useful but desirable too (see Number 2 above).

6.  Go little and often; be short and sweet

Quick fixes, useful tips and readily applicable shortcuts to success are more enticing than a learning undertaking, which feels more like a burden than a help. Regular, short bursts of interesting offerings over a quick cup of coffee or regularly at the start or end of the day or week, yield much better engagement results. Done regularly, at the same time of day or week, people start to develop a learning habit. Use an activity ‘heat map’ to track the best day of the week and best time of the day to target your learners.

7.  Thinking Thursdays; Motivating Mondays

Following on from Number 6, choose particular days of the week for specific regular activities. An alliterative name helps everyone to remember it. Get people to share their ‘Thursday thoughts’ or ‘Monday’s motivation’ – you might need to seed these at first, but if you respond positively to contributions, they will start to flow naturally. People feel valued when they are noticed. So publicise what folk are saying on your internal portals or wherever works for you. And celebrate contributions.

8.  Be visible – be where your people go

Both on- and off-line, when your messages are displayed where your people go, they are more likely to be seen. Encourage your people to share them too. Ask your target audience for their help – you may not know the best place to reach them. Use whatever platforms are available to you and be visible wherever your people visit most frequently.

9.  Make it easy to engage

Why do people use YouTube so much? Because it’s easy to use and they can find interesting things they want to know about. Why not do the same? Make it easy for people to access what they want to find out. (Note: Burying your message four clicks inside a Learning Management System isn’t a good idea!) Instant availability at the point of need is essential.

10.  Sell the benefits not the features

Make sure you understand the different between a feature (which is a description) and a benefit (which is a solution). Too often L&D professionals fall into the trap of describing a new service, programme or resources, and fail to communicate the one key essential thing: what will the learner gain/be able to do/benefit from as a result?

11.  Use champions

Recommendations from third parties are so much stronger than your own promotions. Find people who love what you do and who have stories to share about how they have benefited from your offering. Get them to tell their colleagues in their own words.

12.  Integrate with everyday activities

Find ways of incorporating short beneficial activities into everyday tasks or meetings and learning becomes integrated into ‘the flow of work’, without it taking up a block of diary time. But don’t use phrases like ‘learning in the flow of work’ because that’s just L&D jargon and doesn’t mean anything! Get your leaders to talk about how everyone is feeling at the start of the week; encourage Chairs to use a 5-minute activity in a meeting break to build concentration levels; promote the use of resources in preparing for 1-2-1 performance reviews. There are dozens of ways to build learning into the fabric of a working day.

13.  Don’t call it ‘learning’

We learn new information and skills every day. Sometimes without even realising it. You don’t have to call what you offer ‘learning’. Find other, more enticing words that sell your message. Words like ‘tips’ or phrases like, ‘One thing to do today to fix X problem’. Use whatever words that appeal to your people (see Number 3 above) but don’t get hung up about conveying ‘learning’.

14.  Mandatory or optional?

Bear in mind that ‘what gets measured gets done’. That doesn’t mean it needs to be compulsory. But it does mean that it needs to be noticed and monitored. Above all, it means it must be acknowledged and valued. Make sure your people know that their learning – including informal, ‘everyday’ learning – is recognised and regarded as important - by their manager, the Senior Management Team and by the culture of the organisation. ‘Optional’ must never be a signal that it’s ‘not important’ or another way of saying, ‘don’t bother with this’. And ‘Mandatory’ must never be another word for ‘boring’ or mean, ‘do the bare minimum you can get away with’!

15.  Never give up

Once is never enough. Ten times is never enough. Marketers everywhere will tell you that you must be persistent. Never give up and keep banging your message drum. Promotion is not something you can do once or twice and think it’s ‘done’. It’s never finished. Just keep doing, reviewing and refining. After all, as we know, that’s what learning is all about! 😊


©Catherine de Salvo
Scott Bradbury Ltd.