Learning Strategy Skills

If you build it, they won’t come: How to connect your product with an audience

Well not unless you actually tell people about your product and they know why it’s amazing. This is something I’ve seen far too many times, especially in my world of L&D, where teams spend months working hard on new content, throw it out into the world and then no one looks at it…..ever.

Then the holy question arises – why has no one used our product/resource/swanky new thing?

It’s really simple, you didn’t tell anyone. You can’t expect to build a product and people will naturally flock to use it, you need to become marketing savvy. I’ve spoken about it before, but many learning teams are severely underestimating the power of a communications and engagement strategy.

Actually, I find many learning teams don’t understand how to connect their people with learning opportunities at all.

You can have the most amazing learning content in human existence, but if no one knows it exists, what it does and why it’s important for them — you’re pretty much digging your own grave.

But…… we can all change this.

Marketing can be our teacher, friend and superpower

I find many people need to understand a mantra I repeat often, “If you build it, they won’t come”.

You can watch me unpack this concept in more detail in this 60 second video.

I feel like a broken record sometimes, so apologies if you know me or have read any of my stuff before because I beat this drum often.

But as I said, if you build the most amazing learning experience in the world and don’t tell anyone about it, then guess what? No one’s going to use and benefit from it.

I see so many teams pour over building resources for months or even years in some cases to then throw them on some clunky LMS or a website with the worst user experience in existence and just expect the masses to arrive.

This is not how the world works my friends.

It always ends the same way, the resource deemed a failure 6 months later because no one has used it and why has no one used it? Because nobody knows it even existed!

We are in the age of short attention spans, information overload and serial decision fatigue. If you want to help people find your product/content/resources then you need to take the right approach, one that will connect people with the stuff they need.

Basically, you need a plan, plain and simple.

More of us in L&D need to embrace the tactics of colleagues in marketing, we need to bring a marketer’s approach to engage people with content. Understanding how to connect with your audience, to embed and sustain solutions through the power of marketing is a vital skill for any modern learning professional.

You need to be the voice of learning in your business, tell your people what you’ve made, why it’s important, most importantly, why is it important to them and what will they gain from your creation.

Look to understand how you can build marketing and engagement campaigns around your work, these will help to make sure people can benefit from it for a long time.

You want your resources to be thriving and supporting people for a long time, not just a short time to tick a box.

Invest some time in learning how to develop marketing strategies, research email marketing, design workflows, create videos, build blogs – the opportunities are endless.

What can L&D teams do about this?

I’m sure a few of you reading this have encountered this very problem. You build a new, flashy and what you believe to be a best ever resource for your audience, one that you feel will deliver real impact in their day to day.

This is great, but what generally happens next leads to many downfalls of these proclaimed great resources.

Now as touched upon earlier, what I find is many L&D teams will fire out their new content onto either a bloated LMS that no one likes or understands how to navigate, a corporate intranet site which is usually just as infuriating to find anything on or you leave it up to line managers/leadership to inform their teams.

I can tell you now, if you’re using any of these methods, your audience are never going to connect with your content.

You cannot expect people to organically find your amazing content and engage with it.

You need a plan, a strategy even and this is where our friends in marketing can help us in this journey.

For all of us in L&D to really understand how to connect with our audience and support people with the day to day challenges they face, we need to do an up-skill on our branding and communications capabilities.

I’ve always felt marketing and learning have a lot of synergies, you can learn so much about the art of communication from colleagues in this area. We all want our audiences to engage with the great content we have, so that they feel supported, empowered, develop their skills and in turn can provide better performance for the business, which of course helps with the bottom line.

At the end of the day, our main objective in corporate L&D is to help people not only grow but deliver improved performance that will affect the bottom line each year.

And in not understanding how to use marketing techniques to connect people with learning resources and opportunities, we create part of the problem in not enabling people to perform at their best to deliver results for the business.

The bigger picture – why is this all important?

In my opinion, if you want to deliver real results for your business, enable people to grow personally, professionally and build a great career, then L&D must recognise it needs to and must do more than just build learning solutions.

Our work doesn’t end when we’ve designed a solution to release to the world, this is only half of what we need to do to deliver real change. We need to be able to embed and sustain our products, tell people why they are great and measure the performance, the ROI of these.

I shared a tongue in cheek soundbite on this the other day, which you can view below – I stand by this as the way in which L&D is evolving.

The theme of evolving our skills as an industry, looking to the ones that have expired and the ones that are emerging, is something I’ve been exploring a lot recently.

This has not been the only thing on my mind in the world of L&D.

Identifying our own skills gaps and how we can evolve with the times is important, but just as important is how we promote our culture of learning and understanding just how much value we bring to the overall HR experience.

The movement of building continuous learning cultures has been on trend for sometime now, but is it the most effective way? The research across our industry and the evidence I see with my own work seems to suggest not.

What does look to be more effective, is building connected learning e.g. helping people find the right content and not just giving them more content.

I often use the Netflix analogy in that it’s a great platform with so much great content, but I struggle to know or make a decision on where to start. This feels familiar to me in L&D, we have lots of great content and to build a self serve mentality we are eager to just share everything with everyone so they can make their own decisions, but this doesn’t always feel effective.

It’s great that we have access to all this content, but where do we start? What’s relevant to me? You might have 30 resources on X, but what are the ones that will help me, can we help identify the top 5 a person would need to get what they want?

So for me it’s looking at what can we do to make the experience more personalised of course, but also connected, looking more to how do we connect you with what you actually need as opposed to here’s everything we’ve got on X and figure it out yourself.

I’ve gone off the path here, yet it all links back to the principles of connecting people with learning, as when they are connected, you want to make sure the experience is slick enough for them to want to come back.

Realistically, people don’t care about our fancy learning architecture or ecosystems, they want a simple user experience and straightforward accessibility.

If you don’t have these things in place, then why should people come anyway? Why will they want to stay?

Much to ponder, but in summary look outside of L&D to find the potential solutions to help solve our problems. There is much to be gained from asking for help from other business areas such as marketing and technology, building relationships with experts in different subjects and bringing this expertise to your L&D programme.

So, what’s it going to be….

Will you build it and hope people will come? Or will you come prepared? Will you acquire the skills to bring a marketing approach to your product launches to set yourself up for success and make the impact you so desire?

I’ll leave you with this:

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do”

Bruce Lee

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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