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L&D practitioners need to become digital learning marketers

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This article is brought to you by Elementrix.

George Aveling, CEO of Elementrix, affirms that marketing principles are among the mindset and skill shifts that L&D practitioners will need in the new digital learning world.

If you are a learning and development practitioner, and I told you that you need to develop marketing skills, would you believe me? I am serious! Read on to find out why.

Digital is everywhere! And with it, we are witnessing changes that will have an increasingly major impact on the world of learning and development (L&D). These will require some shifts in the mindset and skill-set of L&D professionals to succeed in this new world. And one of those skills is marketing.

Captive to capture

Some of you may be experiencing how, in the new world of blended learning, the mobile phone is playing an increasingly important role. That said, we will not see the end of conventional classroom learning. Rather, we will see classroom learning decline, and virtual learning – primarily by mobile phone – increase significantly.

This shift presents challenges for L&D departments: They will have to move from delivering to a ‘locked’ captive audience in a classroom, to capturing the attention of a busy audience that can choose not to partake in the mobile learning.

This is the reason why, in an environment where the audience can choose whether or not to consume, we need to develop marketing skills.

I believe that a big shift in mindset and skill-set that L&D professionals need to make is to develop marketing and analytical skills.

L&D marketing in action: A case study

Elementrix had a successful blended learning project to train 400 leaders of a major telco.

The challenge was to deliver the three-module course with no manuals, and to use a learning app – in this case, it was SmartUp. Course design involved precourse reading, a series of practical half-day classroom sessions, as well as 20 weeks of learning reinforcement, which was delivered via the learning app on participants’ mobile phones. The course saved our customer over 200 days of participant time in the classroom.

A significant contributor factor to that success was that the L&D head did not come from an L&D background. He came from a marketing background. He understood that marketing is about understanding your audience, creating and communicating value, and delivering value to your audience. He did not have to ‘unlearn’ past L&D practices that worked in the traditional world of learning - he simply did not know about this world!

He used his marketing skills to:

  • Ensure that the content was of value, using a pre-course research process.
  • Actively promote content through internal media, including the intranet.
  • Use influencers in the organisation to promote content (otherwise called “celebrity endorsers”).
  • Use analytics provided by the learning app to find out which content is being consumed and which isn’t.
  • Conduct focus group research to find out what the audience liked and did not like about the content delivered.
  • Make quick adjustments to the content based on the feedback.
The course was a success – designed well, delivered well, and marketed well to ensure that people chose to engage in the mobile learning.

I believe that a big shift in mindset and skill-set that L&D professionals need to make is to develop marketing and analytical skills. And, with those skills, they will come to understand that content is no longer static. Rather, the ‘product design’ is dynamic in nature, where content is modified based on the audience feedback analytics.

Lots to learn

We’re only just beginning to learn how to navigate the exciting possibilities of digital learning. There are lots of new things - the human-centred design, the rich new language of digital learning, new learning ecosystem options, and much more.

I could go on, but there is not enough room in just one article! So, for now, I’ll leave with you with a modified quote from Marshall Goldsmith: “What got you here is not necessarily what will get you where you want to go.”

Enjoy the journey!

George Aveling is the CEO of Elementrix. He’s an equal opportunist in using both Android and Apple. Contact George at [email protected], or go to

Elementrix is an awardwinning digital learning consultancy. Our mission is to help companies reimagine learning in the digital age. We do this by helping companies create great learning experiences in the digital age. We help L&D professionals make the shift to the new world of learning through learning, coaching and consulting. Elementrix is the digital learning partner to TMI and TACK International in Malaysia.

This article was published in Human Resources’ special edition – Training & Development Guide 2018, Malaysia. Read the full magazine here.


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