Marketing and learning are the same

When you learn with and from your customers, marketing and learning are the same. If companies are focused on their customers, why are learning resources not customer focused? Google’s power-searching course is an excellent example of marketing integrated with learning. As Jay Cross described:

This has to be one of the least expensive marketing campaigns ever devised. The only tools required are a video cam and the free Google suite of applications. Other out-of-pocket costs are employee time to design and create the course, and a little more time tending the Google+ sessions and answering questions.

Everything is connected to everything else

The big lesson of the 21st century thus far is that everything is connected to everything else. It’s all one big network, folks.

No corporation is an island. (Everything’s a node.) A corporation and its connections form an extended enterprise.

For Us to prosper, we have to be on the same wave length as our connections in the extended enterprise. Since the environment of our enterprise is forever changing and learning is the way we adapt to change, we all need to be learning together. Otherwise, someone will be falling behind, and our combined performance will suffer.

I’m going to call learning with other players in the extended enterprise co-learning. If I were an instructional designer in a moribund training department, I’d polish up my resume and head over to marketing. Co-learning can differentiate services, increase product usage, strengthen customer relationships, and reduce the cost of hand-holding. It’s cheaper and more useful than advertising.

The marketing department can benefit from a new learning focus, as noted in the book, The Hyper-social Organization, on the value of traditional marketing materials:

McKinsey estimates that two-thirds of all buying decision-focused conversations do not involve anyone from the company. In a separate study, IDC estimated that only 20 percent of all content developed by the typical marketing department is actually used by the sales organization. What we can extrapolate from this information is that the content developed by most marketing departments is used in less than 7 percent of all buying decisions.

Let’s go back to the Cluetrain Manifesto (1999), from which we get the initial thesis that markets are conversations, in addition to:

#11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

#12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

What better way to understand your markets than engaging in co-learning? They will learn with, or without, your company.
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