When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all …Paul Simon
Many organizations recognize the need for marketing training to grow skills and enhance performance. After all, given the plethora of product choices available to target customers, and sameness in their offerings, how we market can make a difference in achieving success versus competition.
However, few organizations receive sufficient benefit from marketing training programs—or any of their training programs for that matter, to warrant their cost of conducting the training and taking marketers away from their work to attend them. The reason is that virtually all training programs are missing several critically important requisites needed for its marketers and the organization to benefit fully from the training.
One critical, overlooked element—without which success is merely a dream, is transference. Scott H. Young, author of ULTRALEARNING: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career, refers to transfer as “education’s dirty secret.” Mr. Simon’s lyrics underscore Mr. Young’s assertion that there isn’t much in the way of transference from school. “Transfer” is the ability to take what you learn and be able to apply it to other contexts. In the case of marketing training, it is about applying it directly to your situation, for your brand, in your market, within your competitive environment, to achieve success in profitably growing market share and incremental sales.
Mr. Young cites studies and the conclusion of experts that there is an absence of transference from high school to college courses (score one for Mr. Simon), from college to the world of work, and corporate training programs to on the job performance. There are many requisites to bolster transference and, thereby, make training work in your organization, for your brand. Here is what you need to make your training programs payoff:
- Link training directly to responsibilities – Training programs tend to focus on competencies versus operational responsibilities. Our duties as marketers include creating a competitive, enduring brand positioning strategy to transform products into brands that command loyalty; developing high-impact messaging to achieve stretch business objectives; and developing evidence-based marketing plans to deliver line-of-sight sales—among others. All training programs should focus on our operational responsibilities, so we may achieve the outcomes we seek in the areas we manage. As we train to fulfill our operational duties, we build individual competencies.
- Link training to creating a high-impact performance culture – The individual marketer is virtually always the target for the training. It assumes that the individual is somehow the problem in failing to leverage the corporate assets fully. However, it is the culture that is at blame. As in sports, one can have a team of All-Stars yet fail miserably to advance to a winning season, no less a championship, if the team doesn’t play well together or there isn’t an ethos of winning. Marketers come and go, but the culture of the enterprise should be a constant where it is a winning one—a high-impact performance culture. The goal is not merely to improve the performance of the individual marketer but her ability to contribute to the development, and strengthening, of a high-impact performance culture. We believe a high-performance culture is evidence-based versus eminence-based.
- It MUST involve senior managers – This is one requisite that virtually all organizations ignore. Senior managers, and those who think they are senior managers such as senior brand managers, directors, and vice presidents, don’t believe they need training. Instead, they believe training is for everyone but them— most notably, the peons who serve below them. This attitude divorces the senior managers from creating a high-impact performance culture. They can’t teach nor reinforce what their people are learning. In other words, they lead from behind and out of ignorance. Moreover, if they do not reinforce the learning, it will fail to take hold in, and contribute to the development of, the culture.
- Engage in direct training – Certainly one takes a giant step toward achieving direct training by employing it for operational responsibilities. For instance, you can’t get more direct than working on the development of evidence-based marketing planning. Or can you? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Instead of working on fictitious or historical cases—often from other industries and categories, all work should be undertaken on the organization’s brands. So, marketers don’t come out of their offices for one, two or more days of training, but to get real work done under the tutelage of experienced marketing trainers. The result of this type of training is a work product that can be used to grow the business. No transference is needed.
- Provide objective feedback – Feedback can enhance and reinforce learning, improve performance, and bolster outcomes. This feedback needs to be delivered through the practice of “coaching” by professionals who can assist in helping the organization and its marketers get to a place they could not reach on their own. In other words, like doctors (medical, not Ph.D.) the trainers can assess (or, if you prefer, diagnose) problems and provide direction to not only remedy them but make the marketing matter more. Giving feedback through coaching not only calls for trainers with exceptional skills in assessing performance but correcting marketers work. Marketers and their organizations benefit from outside trainers as they can be objective–free from the conventional wisdom of the
organization,and typically have broader experiences.
- Focus on “how,” not “what” to think – This is BIG! Internal training programs are often geared to “the (insert the name of the company) way.” There is no “company” way but “the way,” which is universal. The way is not prescriptive in “what” to think but “how” to think. It is the expression of universal, proven principles, best practices, and quality processes. It enables marketers to leverage their experience, unique perspectives and knowledge of their brand to create strategically appropriate strategies and high-impact initiatives with line-of-sight impact on sales. It is the science of marketing and success. It invites marketers to apply their art to generating impact in the marketplace.
- Commit to training – Perhaps, we should have started with this point. Without commitment, any initiative is bound to fail. Unfortunately, few organizations
committo training. While not stated within the halls of these organizations, it is perceived as nice-to-have versus must-have. It may even be initiated to appease marketers request for development and/or as a lure to hire career-minded marketers. Additionally, it often represents the silver-bullet of the day.
The typical approach to training begins with developing a small department. It proceeds to
There’s no real commitment to training. However, the organization loses nothing since it is unlikely that the training made an impact due to a lack of transference. It’s merely another expense that can be cut to bolster bottom line profits. C’est la vie!
If you’re serious about training, consider BDNI to assist you and your organization because we:
- Design training to fulfill operational responsibilities such as discovering legitimate and productive customer insights;
- Address cultural issues, not merely individual competencies;
- Invite and encourage the involvement of senior managers and, absent it, train marketers in managing up (and all levels in the hierarchy) through intelligent collaboration;
- Work directly on your brands for your country, so you have a finished work product at the conclusion of each of our workshops;
- Coach, not evaluate the work produced during the workshop, and teach marketers how to coach all work;
- Focus on “how,” not “what,” to think by sharing universal, proven principles, best practices, and quality processes; and
- Commit to marketing excellence and accept nothing less.
One last note, at BDNI, we’ve always operated consistent with this principle: I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand. So, we tell, show (through demonstrations), and ensure marketers do, and do, and do—to fulfill their operational responsibilities for their brands and business!
For more information on BDNI training programs, go to www.bdn-intl.com or, better yet, give Richard Czerniawski a call at 847-312-8822.
We’ll take the work out of developing training that will create a high-impact performance culture for you.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney