Tuesday, April 01, 2014

10 vital MARKETING QUESTIONS in online learning

I’ve seen more than a few online learning projects fail because the company, organisation or institution has misjudged the audience, need or context. Before you start, ask the right questions. This is harder than you think. Good marketing demands deep and relevant questions before you hare off and print those awful clip art posters or even start to design your course or learning experience. These are classic marketing process questions but few learning projects even attempt to ask them at the start, as that’s the only point where the answers are relevant in terms of shaping the process and design.
1. Who exactly are my learners?
This is more than just attributes such as age, gender, educational background, assumed computer skills. Just as important are attitudes, perceived relevance, possible scepticism and contextual issues that make it difficult, such as time available. Some like to build ideal character profiles.
2. What do they really want out of this?
Often missed, this key, probing question is the route to your key messages. Is it a job, promotion, qualification, status, qualification? Ask them, don’t assume you know.
3. How do we reach these people?
Where are they? What do they read? Are they online? Is there an email list? Do they use social media? It’s not easy getting to new audiences but it helps if you go to where they are, rather than hoping they will come to you.
4. What are the key messages that will grab attention and interest?
Think carefully about this and sell benefits, not features and facts. Think carefully about the title of the course, emails, tweets, Facebook page, blog posts, even a YouTube video. I’d start with a Tweet – can you excite them in 140 characters? If you can, widen it out bit by bit.
5. Why would they NOT do this?
Interesting question that needs to be asked. Why would people notbtake this course? Have they done something simlar before? Do they resent the training? Do they even care? These are obstacles you may have to overcome by repositioning the learning experience.
6. Who supports our cause?
Senior mangement support, CEO, CLO, Head of training, Head of marketing, Sales Director. Convince these people to support the training and you'll get more buy-in. Try a video, or audio(podcast) or text and graphics. Try anything.
7. What’s the optimal blend of marketing techniques and channels,?
As with blended learning, marketing is a blend, so choose the right and appropriate techniques and channels for your learners and your learning, given your limited resources.
8. When should I launch and communicate?
Keep this simple, with before, during and after dates over a defined period, with key dates in that schedule for clear deliverables.
9. Do I want a soft or hard launch?
There are many reasons for considering a soft launch with a select number of users. You can iron out wringles, test the infrastructure and more importantly gauge user reaction. This allows some readjustments before the hard launch.
10. What do I give them to excite interest?
You’ve got to create a sense of urgency, not give them a list of learning objectives. A course or learning experience is a product and people want to see, feel and try the product before they buy or buy-in to the product. Think about something from within the learning experience that will excite learners.

Questions are easy, answers are hard. Nothing beats asking experts and a sample of the audience themselves. And don’t be scared to get help from your marketing department or from outside your organisation. And here's the litmus test question. Do you have a marketing budget? If not, you should. More detail later.

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