Martin’s marketing secrets: how to engage your learners

Martin Baker explains his Fairy Liquid approach to marketing. It’s simple and effective, and works for marketing almost anything, but you’ll have to wash the dishes yourself!

So, you’ve bought the most fantastic LMS and filled it with relevant, bespoke resources. You have (to adapt the well-known phrase often used in learning and development) built something expecting your learners to show up. So, where are they?!

Well, let me share my marketing ‘secrets’ with you which I hope will help. There are three really simple golden rules to marketing pretty much anything, whether it’s washing up liquid or eLearning, that should help you engage with your learners.


1. What is it?

“An advert may only ‘work’ after being seen 10 times!”

We all know what washing up liquid is – so why do manufacturers like Procter & Gamble continue to spend millions of pounds on advertising? It’s to keep their brand right in front of you, so the next time you go to the supermarket you’ll hopefully choose Fairy Liquid. They’re reminding you, so you don’t forget.

When it comes to eLearning, you’ll have wasted a considerable amount of time and money if your staff and volunteers don’t know that it exists. And telling them just once simply doesn’t work. There’s an art to spacing out reminders (Will Thalheimer’s work on spacing is really interesting) and manufacturers don’t advertise continually, but they do advertise regularly and in all sorts of different ways. In advertising terms this is known as effective frequency but it’s principles are similar to the learning curve – which you are probably more familiar with – ie greater frequency generally = more effectiveness. According to research by Eisend & Schmidt an advert may only ‘work’ after being seen 10 times! So get inventive and think like a marketing pro to advertise your eLearning wares.

Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming: some of the best ideas are the simplest. At one of our Charity Learning Conferences we learned about an L&D poster campaign in the toilets at Google HQ, appropriately called Learning on the Loo. Yes, really! And it worked. Our members have found that using ambassadors or just the enticement of cake or chocolate or some branded mugs can help get people engaged with what you’re doing, particularly when launching something new. Why not start with a competition to name your learning management system (LMS)? Or simply focus on marketing a course of the month: these types of initiatives help to keep learning fresh and interesting.


2. What does it do?

“Rather than advertising eLearning, use messages that explain that your online resources can help them work smarter, faster, better.”

Marketing works by persuading people that buying into a product will change their lives for the better in some way, whether it’s making your dishes cleaner, or your clothes or your teeth whiter. So do your staff and volunteers know what your eLearning can do? What’s in it for them?
Make your purpose really clear. Rather than advertising eLearning, use messages that explain that your online resources can help them work smarter, faster, better. Who wouldn’t be interested in that? Better skills may also help them progress in their careers. Think about your eLearning and resources as a product and sell the benefits.

What can really help here is to think about your elevator pitch ie how would you market your eLearning to a member of staff in just a few minutes, or in a few short words or sentences. Supermarkets are great at doing this. I bet you can think of some of their logos, such as:


Tesco: Every little helps.
ASDA: Save money. Live better
Sainsbury’s: Live well for less

Using the supermarket example, how would you sell the benefits of your eLearning in just a few words? Use your message to create some distinctive ‘advertising’ using your charity’s recognisable colours and brand. Advertising doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as an email; an item in your newsletter; an obvious button on your Intranet; some posters; mentions on social media. Everything you do should amplify your message, not just that eLearning exists, but exactly how it can help support your staff and volunteers.


3. Where can I get it?

“The trick is to make your product available everywhere, on demand, 24/7, at work and at home, on mobile, tablet and desktop”

Fairy Liquid isn’t just for sale in one supermarket, it’s available in all of them – as well as your corner shop and through online retailers etc. That’s because people shop in a wide variety of ways: they might pop to the garage on their way home, go to a local shop near the farmers market on a Saturday, and to an out of town superstore once a month. If Fairy Liquid was only for sale in Sainsbury’s, its audience would be cut down considerably – and this is the same for eLearning.

The trick is to make your product available everywhere, on demand, 24/7, at work and at home, on mobile, tablet and desktop. Make your eLearning easily accessible wherever your learners are, exactly when they need it. And keep reminding them so they remember where to find it. Only allowing learners to access it one way, with restrictions and/or many clicks, will simply put them off. Adam Harwood from ASOS calls this ‘friction-free L&D’ – he ran a workshop on this very topic for our members in September.

So are there any barriers stopping your workforce from accessing your eLearning? If so, what are they, and what can you do to remove them? For example, we worked with Phil Maynard of World Animal Protection to create a single sign on system so learners can log in directly from Office 365. It’s the sort of thing that learners have come to expect and might not even notice. But create barriers and they might not bother logging in that day – especially if they can’t remember their password.

Ultimately, if your learners are happily accessing eLearning and your LMS as and when they need it, supporting themselves at the point of need, then that’s wonderful (and how on earth did you manage that?) But if no-one is using your eLearning and you have compliance deadlines looming, then think Fairy Liquid!

I’d love to hear how you market your eLearning. Please connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at

Download the PDF version of this article and share it with your learners and staff today

About the aurthor

Martin Baker is the founder and CEO of the Charity Learning Consortium and the Clear Lessons Foundation. He’s recognised as one of the most influential people working in eLearning and is a well-known advocate for using a digital approach to learning and development in the third sector. He supports sector specific research, for example into digital maturity and the use and effectiveness of learning technologies.
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