A marketing framework for learning and development

James Barrass-Banks rounds off his series of pieces about the importance of marketing in L&D.

Reading time: 5m 30s.

The problems that face the L&D sector are multi-faceted. Professionals are constantly being asked to do more with less. With tighter budgets the impact of L&D is also being scrutinised more than ever. As a result the sector as a whole is being challenged to increase engagement with activities, demonstrate ROI and personalise learning.

These problems were highlighted in a Towards Maturity pulse. The report centred around data brought up the following as being desires of the industry faced:

  1. We want to demonstrate business impact
  2. We want to personalise learning
  3. We want to make the business case (for change)

The answer appears to lie in learning from other industries, more specifically an industry which has faced the same challenges – the marketing sector. The sector has faced challenges of demonstrating ROI and driving engagement with personalisation.

Support for this perspective comes from the L&D sector itself with the LPI learning capability map listing marketing and communication skills as being one of the 25 essential skills for the modern L&D professional.

With L&D often in competition with a wealth of external resources there is a need to define what value the department can deliver internally.

Lee McDonald, head of L&D at Oxford’s prestigious Said Business School agrees: “As an L&D function we need to embrace marketing techniques so that we can engage with our stakeholder, if we don’t no-one will show up when we run an activity.”

As a result of this clear need a marketing framework for L&D has been developed. The intention is to leverage the power of marketing to support your activities. To make them more effective by deepening your understanding so that when you deliver a course it is to a room packed full of people who are already engaged. It is, essentially, a vital layer that sits atop the work you already do.

It can also reduce the barriers to engage for your audience. As Gemma Critchley, head of technology and innovation for learning at Aviva put it: “Through marketing, audiences can easily engage with something that seemed foreign before.”

The articles I’ve written for the Training Journal form part of that framework, each one dissecting a different component of it and providing the evidence and resources needed to create this for your own department.


The framework is based on principals all of which will need to be moulded to fit within your contextual situation to help you meet your specific challenges. The barriers of not enough time, organisational complexity and general busyness will thwart implementing these ideas.

That being said, if you invest in this approach rewards will be reaped. After all your organisation is still paying your marketing team.

The framework explained

So let’s dive into the components of the framework.

In-depth audience insights – Detailed article here

The first stage is to truly understand those who you are seeking to develop and train. L&D has a real strength in understanding individuals and how they learn using tools such as MBIT and doing training needs analyses.

What is often missing is an understanding of the context in which this learning is applied. This is vital for ensuring that support given leads to the desired outcome and is delivered in a way that engages the most. Further it adds a rich context to requests to allow for effective personalisation.

Departmental intelligence – Detailed article here

The second stage is to have a firm grasp of your department’s capabilities and what is possible within the wider context of your organisation. Further, an honest evaluation of skills will allow your strengths to be matched to different audiences’ needs. Ultimately this leads to the identification of areas where you can have the most impact and where external suppliers are best used.

Conceptualising value – Detailed article here

With L&D often in competition with a wealth of external resources there is a need to define what value the department can deliver internally. By matching the audience’s needs with the department’s strengths the value the departments offers its audiences can be distilled into a simple value proposition.

Effective communication – Detailed article here

With the value proposition distilled that value needs to be articulated in a way that audiences understand and will engage with. With attention grabbing subject lines and content that resonates with the audience your messages will be read and value spread.

Impact – Detailed article here

For all of these components to work effectively there needs to be repetition, and a lot of it. A campaign approach is recommended with one message saturating the entire organisation driving one action to be taken. With the appropriate planning and measurement the impact of your activity will be visible and demonstrate a return on investment.

That’s the framework in a nutshell, with each stage providing valuable information to the next. By keeping the sequence you create value based on real knowledge rather than assumptions. Having an up-to-date understanding of your audiences needs will give you the flexibility to adapt strategies and continually engage.

The framework will curate an organisation wide reputation for the L&D department which is known for delivering value. As a result filling places in courses, engaging senior stakeholders and demonstrating ROI will all become easier.


About the author

James Barrass-Banks is the marketing manager at MTa Learning. You can read more insights on his blog here.



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