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Marketing = meaning

3 Aug

A while ago, @shackletonjones tweeted:

GemStGem twitter Gemma Critchley marketing learning innovation nick shackleton-jones

 

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. The ‘somehow’ in that tweet has been under my skin for weeks. I agree wholeheartedly with Nick that marketing is the bridge, but how? Why?

I’ve seen it work. I’ve put marketing in place for ‘performance support‘ or ‘informal learning solutions’ (otherwise known as useful stuff that helps people do their jobs better). I’ve seen the things our team creates illuminated when cast in the glow of a clever campaign, but for ages I couldn’t articulate why.

It recently became crystal clear.

I’ve worked on quite a few projects to deliver performance support using our ‘resources not courses’ approach over the last few years.

A chap that I worked with recently on one of these projects said that very few people in our audience understood what performance support is and how it works, or what’s in it for them. Fair point, I thought.

All of a sudden, the answer was so clear: we needed to translate what we were doing in a way that would be meaningful to the audience.

We knew the resources that we were creating would be useful (thanks to the 5Di process), but if people weren’t into what we were doing – if they didn’t see what was in it for them and choose to pull on the things we created, then we would have only done half a job.

So we decided to tell a story, to show the benefits of what we’re doing, to share some examples and to give a strong call to action for people to find out more. In essence, we decided to do a marketing campaign.

The penny dropped.

Beautifully simple, blindingly obvious and laced with common sense in the way that most decent ideas usually are.

GemStGem twitter Gemma Critchley marketing learning innovationGemStGem twitter Gemma Critchley marketing learning innovation

 

By putting what we call ‘performance support’ into a marketing frame that speaks directly to the audience in a way that matters to them, we translate what we’re doing. It makes sense.

Marketing is tailoring.

Marketing is translation.

Marketing is sense-making.

Marketing = meaning.

 

Through marketing, the audience can easily engage with something that seemed foreign before. Heck, never mind just being able to engage with it; they might even actually want to.

(dis)content

29 Oct

It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.

Same goes for designing compelling, useful, helpful experiences; whether these are for customers/learners/shoppers/whoever (read: users).

We need to design experiences around what people need to do, when & in which context, rather than giving people stuff that might be useful but that might require so much sifting, sorting & sense-making that it renders it useless.

Context > Content. Every time.

I read a cracking piece on this from Dave Trott, who writes for Campaign magazine. The focus is on marketing, but the line between what we do in learning & what marketeers do is so fine, that it’s a must-read regardless of your job.

What do you think? Should we be designing content or experiences? Or both? How should this play out?

Let’s see what the users think

21 Oct

I was in a meeting today (as most of my stories start these days), talking about how we thought a game we’ve been working on might be received by users. Was it too difficult? Was it difficult enough? Had we got the balance right? What about the tutorial? Did it explain the game properly? Should we change it?

alex_kidd

All of a sudden, like the clear ping of a well-timed bell ringing out to a particularly hungry classroom before lunch, a colleague of mine said:

“Let’s not make any assumptions. Let’s see what the users think.”

And everyone stopped hypothesising and questioning and wondering and agreed.

I’m lucky to be part of a team that works in a collegiate, collaborative and creative way and so it wasn’t a surprise that we all wanted to put our audience first. This approach has made developing the game together a real pleasure. The questions and concerns being raised on the call were genuine ones in service of wanting to deliver a good user experience and for that, I wish my laptop could do the high five emoji (go team!).

However, I know not everyone is as fortunate when it comes to having everyone on the same ‘user first’ page. So, I captured some brain snippets I find useful when trying to bring people along on an audience-centric journey. Hope you find them handy, too.

We don’t have all the answers and that’s okay

In a time when Twitter is sagging under the weight of ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’, it can be tough to hold your hands up and say “I don’t know how this will work, so we need to test it.” Especially when you’re billed as a Subject Matter Expert in meetings. But a bit of humility is not only admirable, it’s essential to ensure you’re doing things right by the user. A lot of what we do in learning, innovation, tech & digital is brand new. It’s never been done before. So we need to try things and to explain to our stakeholders that only by trying them (and potentially failing) will we ever be able to make things better.

Show, don’t tell

Okay, this is an oldie but a goodie. People spouting theory about learning innovation (some of it very decent, I grant you) are ten a penny right now. But not everyone can show how this is applied and why it works. So start small. Create a minimum viable product that shows your idea in action. Go DIY and build it yourself if you have to, or find someone else who can help. Or just find something that’s as ‘near-to-damnit’ as you can. Innovation by its nature means a lot of what we talk about hasn’t been done before, and not everyone will find it as easy to grasp as a concept as the person who had the idea will. Find a way to bring the idea to life, and then let your stakeholders see it – or even better, let them have a play. Then ask them for their feedback as users, not stakeholders. Better still, take it up a notch and invite them to see your target audience using your product and get them to gather the feedback with you. Making them part of the process rather than a passive observer can be a great way to get them on board with a ‘user first’ mentality.

You can’t argue with facts (well, you can, but it’s harder)

One of the reasons we take the MVP approach is so we can make data-driven decisions. Tracking and analysing usage data will always present a clear set of facts about how people are using our product. this can then be used to inform future decisions around changes and iternations. Tell your stakeholders this. Don’t assume they know why you’re working in this way! Working to deliver minimum viable products and then iterating on them isn’t something everyone is used to, but if you can suss out who in the room is into facts and figures and then engage them with this, it’s an in-road to get them thinking about usage and user data and how powerful this can be.

if you have any tips of your own, please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, I’d love to hear!

Jeremiah Gardiner has some good thoughts on how you can do quick user tests as part of his Lean Brand Lab. I’d definitely recommend having a read of his blog for some inspiration.

(Image from Gamesthatrocked.com)

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