What happens when training and marketing collaborate?

A month and a half ago, I was sitting in a training session when someone from the marketing department got in front of the room. She shared how she worked with the training team to help follow up training events with communication and additional resources for training participants.

Recently I asked this marketing professional to sit down and help me better understand how she works with the training team, and what’s in it for both the training and marketing teams. Here is what Emily Ledbetter had to say.

Introduction 

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I’m your host. I’m also the Co-founder of a company called Endurance Learning. And today I’m joined by Emily Ledbetter who is the Dealer Communications and Events Manager for a global tire manufacturer. Today’s podcast is going to focus on how you might want to follow up a training program.

But before we get to all of that, I want to let you know that today’s podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which is an online tool that you can use for about 5 or 10 minutes, and you can take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing a live, instructor-led training. So, basically, you tell the computer how long your presentation is, how many people are going to attend it, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and then Soapbox will instantly generate a training plan for you that has clusters of training activities that are designed to help you accomplish your learning outcomes. If you want more information, if you think it sounds pretty cool, you want to check it out, it comes with a two-week free trial. You can visit www.soapboxify.com.

6-Word Bio

Okay, enough about that. Let’s get into our guest, and I’m really excited because this is a really important topic – the idea of following up. How do you figure out if people are actually using something that you have trained them on? And so we have Emily who’s joined us. And I introduced you kind of with your job title, but Emily, if you had to kind of distill all of your experiences in your career down into six words based on today’s topic. How would you do it? Like, for example, my–if I had to do six words for myself on this topic, I would say, “I like knowing people did something.” How about you? How would you distill, kind of, your career down into six words?

Emily Ledbetter: All right. So six words is tough for a communicator. I like to use a lot of words. But I’m going to go with, “Delivering value while also having fun.” Is that six?

Brian Washburn: Yeah! And I love that because I think there’s really two important pieces in there, right? So delivering value is– it’s what we always want to do. But also having fun while doing it, which I think makes it more enjoyable on both ends – on your end and the people who are receiving the communications. So my typical podcast guests come from the world of learning and development. And you are not my typical podcast guest. Before we jump into these questions, can you tell the people who are listening a little bit more about your role and how it, kind of, overlaps with the training team at your company?

When Marketing and Training Overlap

Emily Ledbetter: Sure. Yeah. So first of all, thanks for letting an outsider in. I appreciate the opportunity. So, as you said in my introduction, I’m responsible for dealer communication and events. And so essentially when we boil it down, I help ensure that our customers who are dealers have the information and tools they need to effectively do business with us and also sell our products and services to end-users. 

So every day looks a little different. You know, I could go from facilitating our dealer advisory council and getting their feedback on our future plans to updating on supply to launching a new product. And then a big component of making sure our dealers are armed with the information that they need is training. So I work closely with our training team to make sure that dealers are aware of all of the tools that the learning and development team has put out there to help them build that knowledge that they need.

Brian Washburn: You know, I’ve spoken with a couple of people who came from, kind of, the marketing or advertising field, and now they’re in the learning field. And so they’ve been able to talk a little bit about, kind of, what people should learn from marketing and advertising and bring it into learning and development. I love that we’re able to have this conversation. And I had a chance to meet you during a training event that I was facilitating a session, and then they brought in some other speakers. And when I saw what it was that you were presenting, I was like, “Wow, this seems like it’s the ideal, the perfect combination or partnership between training and marketing.” Can you share a little bit more about how your collaboration with the training team– specifically, I saw you present about how you lead follow-up efforts to training. How does it help you and the training team?

Follow-up as Partnership Between Training & Marketing

Emily Ledbetter: Sure. Yeah. So I came into this role about nine months ago, and in those early days, had a lot of discussions with different parts of the organization, one of which was learning and development. And they were getting ready to launch a product tour, so taking our training out on the road to I think it was six cities across the United States. And through those discussions, it became clear to me that they were very focused, as they should have been, on the content delivery, on making sure that, you know, the benefits, the performances, the value of our product was coming through in that training. And there wasn’t much thought given to, “Okay, how do we continue that conversation after the dealer leaves the event?” 

So, instead of asking 10 questions that they were really going to have to put a lot of time and thought into, we wanted to know one thing. So that's all we asked. 

So we agreed that there was really an opportunity there, and so that’s where I came in. We developed a pilot project and what we decided was, you know, we’ll give it a shot. We will follow up with each attendee with three separate emails, three different touchpoints. They each covered something a little bit different, but big picture, they were all connected. And we started off with just one simple question. You know, we thanked them for attending and then asked, “Do you feel more confident selling this product after attending the training?” Because ultimately that was the goal. Were they in a better position to sell our products as a result of the training? So, instead of asking, you know, 10 questions that they were really going to have to put a lot of time and thought into, we wanted to know one thing. So that’s all we asked. 

And then we continued the follow-up with links to online training modules to help reinforce what they had learned. And I think, as a training expert, you know better than I do, you have to repeat messages multiple times before they stick. So we felt that emails was a great way to do that. 

We also recognized that in most cases, only one person from each dealer location had the opportunity to attend the event, and so we made those people ambassadors. You know, we thought, “Let’s give this training legs and arm the new ambassadors with information so they can share with their coworkers and their teams. So that the value of that training didn’t end with the one person, that it really spread throughout the team. 

Finally, the third piece was third-party endorsements, essentially. So we sent them media coverage, third-party reviews, awards that the product had won. And there, it was really– you know, “In the training event, we told you how great this product is, but don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what some third-party experts have to say.” So it was just about reinforcing that messaging. 

How Does Follow-up Deliver Value for the Training Team?

for the training team, it gave them the opportunity to connect their actions with an outcome.

Emily Ledbetter: And really, back to your question on how it delivered value for the training team, and then for me, I’d say for the training team, it gave them the opportunity to connect their actions with an outcome. So we knew a person attended the training and then they told us they felt more confident. And luckily, no one answered that question negatively. No one said that they didn’t feel more confident. But had they, that’s a perfect opportunity for an individual follow-up. Connect with that person, fill in the gaps, and then that dealer’s going to remember that individual attention that they got. So that was a great opportunity, like I said, reinforcing the messaging. 

And then for me, from a communication standpoint, it gave me the opportunity to connect with a dealer who was already engaged. So we were not sending an out-of-the-blue email about a new product offer. We were continuing a conversation that started with that in-person training event. And we saw through the open rates that they were much more likely to listen to what we were saying, to open those emails after having attended the event rather than just receiving an email out of the blue.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. So there’s already a relationship, right? It’s not a cold email. Although I seem to recall you shared some open rates and they seemed really, really high. And it also seems like there’s a lot of not just opening, but some sort of interaction, right? And so I’m curious what’s the secret sauce there? Do you have any specific strategies? You said that you, you know, instead of asking 10 questions, you ask like one question. So what is it that you think is leading to people being willing to engage even after they’ve left the training environment?

Specific Strategies for Engagement After a Training Event

Timing is everything

Emily Ledbetter: Yeah. So a couple of things. I think timing is everything. One of the learnings that we took away from that pilot, that we’re now implementing in training communication moving forward, is that engagement drops off over time. So really we need to look at that first 30 days following the training to follow up and to share more information and to reinforce messaging. So that was one. 

Another, like you said, keep it simple. Don’t ask a lot of questions. Figure out what you really need to know and try to get that with one question. So those I think are two main takeaways for us.

Brian Washburn: And you’ve been at this for less than a year, so this is a relatively new initiative. And so for people who are listening and thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should adopt some of these follow-up strategies, but I’m not even sure where to begin.” What advice might you be able to offer to help get somebody started in collecting some post-training engagement?

Advice for Getting Started with Post-Training Engagement

Emily Ledbetter: Yeah. So, you don’t need a six-page communication plan or a fancy CRM platform. It can really be pretty basic to start out with. And I think a good rule of thumb is to think about if you’re having a conversation with the leaders of your company and they ask you, you know, “Did X training initiative– was that a good investment for our company?” How do you answer that question? What’s your KPI around your training? And then ask questions to the attendees that connect directly to that KPI. So for us, it was: were they more confident selling the product? So that was the one question that we chose to ask. 

We already had them engaged there and then we just continued that conversation.

And then, you know, if you decide that you want to take it a step further, really think of ways that you can, like I said earlier, give that training legs and deliver value to the people who attended the training but also to your company for little, very little added costs. So there’s not a huge cost around sending emails, it’s just about developing that content. And you know, from the beginning, I think we saw great engagement because the training that was delivered in person was so valuable. So we already had them engaged there and then we just continued that conversation.

Brian Washburn: I love this conversation. I wish we could talk more. You know, it’s one of those things– and you even mentioned it – it’s not just a question, you’re not just asking. You’re trying to give as well, right? So you’re asking for some information, but also, “Hey, if you want to know more information about this,” or, “Hey, if you were kind of curious about this thing that we showed you that we thought was really awesome. It’s not just what we say, look at what other people say.” Or, “If you want to know more about it, you know, there’s more online training.” I love that it’s not just one thing. 

I have other questions, but we’re going to have to leave it there for now just for the sake of time. 

Get to Know Emily Ledbetter

Brian Washburn: But before we go, we do have a little bit of time for a speed round to let our listeners get to know you just a little bit more. Are you ready for this?

Emily Ledbetter: I’m ready! Let’s go.

Brian Washburn: Okay. All right. So when it comes to learning something new, do you prefer to attend in-person training or complete an eLearning?

Emily Ledbetter: So I’ll preface this by saying I see the value in both approaches.

Brian Washburn: CHUCKLES

Emily Ledbetter: But for me, I need to be in person. I’m easily distracted by emails coming in, by my phone, when I’m working from home, by the dog. So it’s helpful for me to be in a room where everyone is focused on the same thing. And I also find a lot of value in learning from the experiences of other people in the room. And also the opportunity to ask questions, which sometimes you miss with an online module.

Brian Washburn: Yep. And, or even virtual, you know, when the world went virtual for a couple of years, people were like, “Oh, maybe this is the new way – we don’t have to travel anymore. We didn’t have to be in person.” But I’ve been to a few in-person events since the world opened back up and it is very different. It’s a very different experience to be in-person than you’ve been in virtual.

Emily Ledbetter: Yep. When we are trying to explain the features and benefits of a product, letting someone experience that firsthand, we can’t capture that virtually.

Brian Washburn: Yep. It’s virtual definitely– I think there’s advantages to virtual, but there’s definitely the challenges as well. And I think that we can do lots of things virtual, but I don’t think any one method is going to get it done. What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word PowerPoint?

Emily Ledbetter: (CHUCKLES) I’ll say “misunderstood.”

Brian Washburn: Oooh.

Emily Ledbetter: And I think PowerPoint can be a very valuable tool when it’s used correctly. Unfortunately, we’ve probably all suffered through presentations where the presenter says every word that’s on the slide. That’s obviously not the right way to use PowerPoint. There’s a place for it.

Brian Washburn: I think that’s a great word. Yeah. Misunderstood. 

How about who in your life has helped influence you or helped you get to where you are today?

Emily Ledbetter: Probably a generic answer, but I’m going to go with my dad. I can remember, you know, my first job interviews coming out of college and him helping me prepare for those. As a 22-year-old, I felt woefully unprepared to have these big-girl conversations about salary and job responsibilities and relocation. And I was very overwhelmed and I just remember him coaching me through it and encouraging me to do my research and ask smart questions and to go for what I wanted. And those are all things that I continue to do today, many years later.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, I love that. It’s a new question I’m throwing in here, but you know, none of us got to where we are on our own. I think that we can do lots of things on our own, but it’s really helpful to have somebody who, kind of, has our back. What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Emily Ledbetter: So someone recently said to me, “Own your influence.” And that really hit home for me, meaning recognize when you’re in a position to influence others and use that wisely. And I think that that applies not just in our career, but in all facets of our lives.

Brian Washburn: I think that’s the perfect piece of advice to end on. Emily, thank you so much for joining us. 

And thank you everyone else for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen. If you know somebody who might find today’s topic of following up training in a smart way to be important, please pass this link along. Also, if you want to make sure that you’re notified of a new podcast when it’s hot off the press, go ahead and subscribe. Even better would be if you would give us a like or review the podcast. It’ll just take you a minute, but it would mean a ton to us. If you’re interested in learning more about a broad range of learning and development strategies, you can pick up a copy of one of the most important and influential books ever written on the topic of training, which of course I wrote. It’s called What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements for Impactful Training. You can find that at Amazon. And then until next time, happy training everyone.

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