• People have learning personas, just as they have buyer or user personas
  • Effective training content is not about the right format, so much as the right learning style and interaction level
  • Taking the time to map out what and how learners need information greatly enhances learning outcomes

To succeed in in a B2B environment, marketers must communicate well to make strong, vibrant connections with people. Externally, the need to connect effectively drives the use of personas, content strategy and messaging analysis. Internally, strong communication powers and motivates people through change and the uncertainty that often accompanies innovation. When we focus on communicating with our buyers and customers, we spend enormous effort understanding what they like to have communicated, how they like to receive it, and where and when they like to consume it. Neglecting these persona details hurts marketing performance. Internally, however, we sometimes forget to conduct the same level of planning with how we communicate with our teams, peers and leaders – particularly when trying to enable, upskill, motivate, engage and/or retain them. 

Here are two major issues we tend to have when communicating internally to train, enable and motivate people: 

  • We don’t fully develop our audience insights. If you’ve never seen our Content Turbine, take a moment to watch this video so you can see what I’m referring to here. Audience insights are built on well-developed and well-researched personas. For internal communication and training, one of the biggest audience insights we miss is how people like to learn new skills and complex information. General knowledge acquisition, inspiration or “infotainment” can usually be accomplished quickly and in a variety of communication and learning styles. But true skills transformation requires some hard thinking, which requires content that adapts to and supports how people learn best: visually, experientially, through readings or by listening. Providing the same or similar content in all of these mediums is a lot of work, but it is crucial to speak in the language that each learner’s brain uses to learn best. 
  • We confuse interaction with format. In the learning and development world, nothing is more frustrating than a news article touting a “recent study” proving that “hands-on, experiential” learning turns out to be far more effective than “digital” learning. This is like saying that sautéed vegetables are tastier than vegetables served on a white plate. The SiriusDecisions Buying Interactions Model does a great job of explaining and breaking down interactions into four groups: simulated, orchestrated, facilitated and influenced. These groups are organized based on the degree of person-to-person interaction, and the degree of real-time (the learning world calls it “synchronous”) interaction. Learning interactions are the same. They vary by the degree of real-time and human interaction, even as the content format – which should ideally be informed by your audience insights – might stay the same. For example, a learner might watch a learning asset (e.g. a slide presentation on how to conduct good marketing measurement) in front of you as you speak – or they may download those slides and listen to you on their computer in podcast format, while you do a live chat Q&A. In the first instance, the interaction is primarily human and synchronous, though your slides are a strong digital asset that is part of the learning experience. In the second example, the interaction is primarily non-human, though your real-time chat presence does add some human interaction. Notice that the content format, however, stayed the same: visual slides, verbal talk track. 

These distinctions are important, as the cost associated with some interactions – e.g. bringing an in-person speaker and 3,000 learners together to the same place – can be tremendous. That’s why an effective marketing enablement training and development plan can benefit from bringing the content marketing mindset to its internal content efforts. Organizations must first understand what the audience really needs and by plan interactions that support those learning profiles. Those insights will make it much easier to set clear learning outcomes and goals, and to assemble the learning into the right formats to meet those goals. 

To learn more about the science of communicating effectively with adult learners, check out our webcast replay on the Science of Adult Brains: Communicating to Connect.