Learning-oriented marketing

The best way to understand your markets in the network era is by learning together. If markets are conversations, then the quality of your conversations will affect your value exchanges. Your markets will learn with or without your company. But when you learn with and from your customers, marketing and learning become the same. This is often lost in one-way broadcast marketing messages that are not directly connected to customer service or even product development. Network era marketing can benefit from a new learning focus. Marketing has to be connected to the rest of the company as well as the entire value network.

“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.” – Cluetrain

Work used to be fairly straight forward. You had a job, knew what to do, and were paid to do it. Then the Web appeared. Everybody got connected to almost everyone else. All these connections made things more complex. Some work was automated. Some of it outsourced. Much of it became more complex. Making sense of complexity, and developing ways to keep up, is the basis of personal knowledge mastery (PKM).

PKM is a framework for individuals to take control of their professional development through a continuous process of seeking, sensing-making, and sharing. Organizational learning is greatly enhanced when everyone practices some form of PKM. Learning while working can also be the basis of market conversations. Learning together starts by consciously learning ourselves.

As author Dan Pink remarked in his 2012 book To Sell is Human, in order to sell an idea, one must be able to distill its essence, or the one percent that gives life to the other ninety-nine percent – “Understanding that one percent, and being able to explain it to others, is the hallmark of strong minds”.

Marketing and education have certain similarities – gaining attention; getting your message across; and changing behaviour. Much of our learning is through conversations with others. Without conversation (oral, written, graphical, physical) there are no social transactions. Without conversations, there are no relationships.

Markets are conversations - Cluetrain

“Markets are relationships.” – Doc Searls (co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto)

Learning-oriented marketing, internal and external, is both getting the message across and understanding the needs of others. A great example of this is at Intuit, where training is part of the marketing department and involves the customer directly. At Intuit, customers are paid to develop content, and as one person wrote in a chat comment, “The e-Learning has kept my CPA husband loyal to Intuit versus Peachtree, etc.”

Seeking is finding things out and keeping up to date. Building a community of colleagues is helpful in this regard. It not only allows us to “pull” information, but also have it “pushed” to us by trusted sources. We can then become knowledge curators for our networked markets.

Sense-making is how we personalize information and use it. Sensing includes reflection and putting into practice what we have learned. Often it requires experimentation, as we learn best by doing. This is called working out loud and shows our willingness to learn from others.

Sharing includes exchanging resources, ideas, and experiences with our network, making the network smarter. An important aspect of sharing is knowing when and with whom to share. As the writer Steven Johnson says in Where Good Ideas Come From; “Chance favors the connected mind.” Therefore the more connections we make in seeking knowledge and sense-making, the more we will have to share when the opportunity arises.

Personal Knowledge Mastery is a sense-making framework that has been developed over the past decade. PKM can help improve insights through increased connections, enhance the potential for coincidences, and develop a discipline of curiosity. The best professionals in the network era, including marketing and sales, are those who are open to new insights.

The PKM framework has been used by the UK National Health Service, Domino’s Pizza, Bangor University, and hundreds of individual practitioners worldwide. Several workshops have been developed to practice the various skills that make up the discipline of PKM. Topics include critical thinking, curating, and working out loud. If markets are conversations, we need to learn from these conversations.

“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.” – Jay Cross

2 Responses to “Learning-oriented marketing”

  1. philip browning

    Harold, you remind me that my way out of the T&D/HR Dept in the earlier part of my career was by connecting learning and marketing functions together : via organisational learning and specifically the importance of learning from one’s own customers.

    Perhaps as relevant as ever today. And a useful strategy for many who find themselves stuck in a rut in a L&D/HR role. Philip.


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