MARKETING THE TRAINING FUNCTION

Training and workplace learning is developing and breaking new boundaries faster than ever before. You recognize that learning can occur in many different ways. You know the importance of a continuous cycle of learning for any organization that intends to survive. You know these things - but do your line managers?

Have you met the manager who says:

"It's regrettable, but training is the first thing to go when budgets are squeezed." Or the one who says:

"As a progressive organization our staff are responsible for their own development, so we don't need to provide as much training now."

You can probably think of many other examples of negative reactions to training - time, resources, too much going on, etc. etc. And the negativity doesn't just come from the line manager, it can come from anywhere in the organization. So one of the key challenges for training and HRD professionals is to help organizations to see learning in a positive light. To welcome it. To benefit from it. And to keep coming back for more. In short - you need to market the training function.

Marketing is more than "Tailoring" the Product

Marketing is all about giving customers what they need, when they need it. This is a definition with which you will be familiar. But in practice, our work has highlighted a misunderstanding which is preventing many training professionals from marketing the training function successfully. They have fallen into the trap of thinking that "tailoring" is "marketing". Tailoring is important but true marketing it is not. Why not? Because with tailoring the focus is on the product that you have to offer. Marketing is about focusing on the customer. It's about helping the customer through a series of stages to a point at which they purchase or "buy-in" to training. To do this we need to identify a) the customer and b) which stage they're at in the buying process.

Who is the Customer?

One of the common pitfalls we find is that only one type of customer is identified; one message is given out and one mechanism is used to convey it. When we're marketing the training function, we need to be aware that there are many different types of customers - they may include:

And each of these different customer types will need to be communicated with in a different way. It may be the message that's different - for example while a buyer needs to be communicated within a "figures" level, a user will be more interested in personal benefits. It may be the communication mechanism that's different - the user may be happy with a letter, a decider may need a meeting.

A Series of Stages

To help decide how, what, when and where to communicate with your customer, you also need to understand what stage your customer is at in the buying process.

When you know who your customer is and what stage they're at, you're ready to start planning your marketing. But will you?

Will you "Buy-In" to Marketing?

In our experience, training professionals, are beginning to acknowledge that part of their responsibility is to market the training function. However, because most of them are from a training background rather than a marketing background they are relatively resistant to it - in other words, they have an awareness and a knowledge, but few of them have a liking for it!

If this sounds familiar, try looking at the model again, but through the eyes of a trainer rather than a marketeer.

By standing in your shoes and changing the language to something that you're more familiar with, we are able to help you move forward on your journey towards "buy-in". This is true marketing. It is something which requires an understanding of people and an ability and willingness to communicate at all levels. Many trainers possess these skills. These are the fundamental skills required for marketing.


(c) DBA 2000