Skillsoft Blog

Marketing on a shoestring

We’re pleased to bring you a guest post by a Skillsoft customer, Stacy
Wasson, Senior IT Trainer, CNO Services, LLC.

By Stacy Wasson, Senior IT Trainer

Budgets, budgets, budgets – unless you are lucky enough to work
with sales or marketing (and their big coffers), your training organization
likely struggles to be effective within the constraints of a small budget.  Having been a training professional for over
15 years, I am a veteran when it comes to developing training and learning
events on a shoestring budget.  Although
my main passion is developing a workforce through well-designed training and
ongoing learning development support, I have long realized that to be
effective, training professionals need to first gain audience (and management)
buy-in.  Learning is more effective when
it is “pulled” vs. “pushed,” with learners coming to you ready to take
advantage of what you offer. That takes marketing – which is very challenging
with resource constraints, but it is NOT impossible. You CAN market training on
a shoestring!

A case study
in shoestrings – ASTD National Employee Learning Week, 2012
When my group, the IT Training Team at CNO Financial Services,
learned in late November 2012 that the American Society for Training and
Development (ASTD) National Employee Learning Week was coming up on December
3-7, we immediately saw an opportunity. We could leverage the week as a platform
to broadcast messaging about what learning and training opportunities our team
brings to CNO IT associates and to engage with our audience in a fun,
informative way.  Instead of letting our
budget (or lack thereof) hinder us, we decided push ourselves creatively to
take advantage of this opportunity.

OK, great.
So how did you do it?
Looking back after the event, our team identified several key
activities that helped us move past the frustration of limited resources and
into action mode.

the challenge
We started
by looking at what we had, and what we didn’t have, to ensure that our creative
ideas could work within our constraints.
The list of our main hurdles (budget, short turn-around time, audience
in several locations) provided parameters for event brainstorming.

CNO team members from left to right: Beth Hopewell, Nikki Brummett, Stacy Wasson, Katie Hettmansberger, Nancy Wulff, Adrienne Hall

Identifying our
Next, we
evaluated our strengths. Time was short for us to plan and execute, but the
early December timeline for ASTD’s learning week matched up well with our
team’s light project load. We leveraged this fortunate timing along with the
high interest and enthusiasm from our team to participate, to plan activities.

Setting realistic
Keys for us
were to set realistic goals, to identify quick, inexpensive, and effective
methods of engaging IT associates, and to execute enthusiastically and
thoroughly. We decided it was most important for us to get the word out about
our new team, to focus on key areas of learning and training that we’d
developed for the IT staff over the previous year, and making it easy,
convenient and inexpensive for staff to participate.

Planning and
To meet our goals, we brainstormed about ways to kick-off the week
and keep momentum going all the way through to Friday.  Our winning ideas included:

  • Daily open
    houses with teleconferencing.
  • Daily themes
    and colors to organize our topics by day, and to generate participation by
    asking staff to dress in the color of the day.
  • Invitation
    of a VP-level speaker to discuss project success and the role training plays in
    that success.
  • Decorating
    our previously plain IT Training room to create a more learning-friendly
    environment.  To do so, we framed
    learning-related posters we’d created through our company print shop, covered
    an old corkboard in our room with fabric, created trainer profiles &
    pictures to post in the room, and added a poster of baby pictures of our team
    members on the wall outside of the room to grab passer-by interest.
  • Pairing up
    team members to develop content for each day:

    • A game or
      challenge related to the topic.
    • A summary of
      the topic, including documentation of where to find relevant materials.
    • A
      presentation or plan for what to project onto the large screen in the training
      room during each day’s open house hours.
    • An email
      communication to be sent on the assigned day.
    • Snacks and
      sweets to be in our training room for that day (donated by the team members).

So, how did
we do?  With increases in training
questions, an immediate 10% increase Skillsoft usage, and general interaction
with IT associates, our team considers our efforts a big success.  We do have some ideas for improvement,
including traveling to other locations for a day each to better connect with
that audience, and creating less complicated games.   Our Executive Leadership team was supportive
of our event, but we’ll work to secure a specific VP-level sponsor next year to
up our visibility.

As minor as our plans seemed to us during the planning stages, the full
experience was a very positive one for our team and for our IT audience. We
leveraged what resources we had, and we received great, positive feedback from
IT and from other internal training teams who now will plan their own events
with us for next year.  We hope to have
at least some budget for 2013, but it will be more like a longer shoestring
than a full shoe.  And we can’t wait!

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