Recently, I came across an opportunity to help one of our clients, an Indian multinational IT services company, with its internal marketing for UpsideLMS launch. The company, up until then, had been consuming only off-the-shelf courses with no real LMS. UpsideLMS was going to be the first Learning Management System for the company and its employees, and hence it didn’t want any stone to be left unturned to ensure its success.
With the LMS roll-out scheduled just two weeks ahead, it was time to get to the task. ASAP!
So, I started with the basics – a mind map. The easy suspects first –
1. Target Audience
- Dept. Heads
- Sr. Management
2. Objective (s)
- Create awareness
- Encourage usage
- Create awareness + Encourage usage
3. Communication Channels
- PC wallpaper
Once I had a fairly scribbled sheet of paper with circles, lines, connectors and text, the next step was to build on this and create a plan, a broad-level framework of sorts, which could help not just the client in question but all organizations, irrespective of their industry or size.
I divided the entire activity across 3 phases – Pre-launch, Launch, and Post-launch, and based on the mind-map, I created a framework that would help the client in drafting the messages, creating visuals and executing it in a way that ticked off all/ some of the boxes. The phases involve a deliberate series of revelations or communication exercises to take the ‘audience’ from a state of ignorance, through interest (components of awareness), into engagement (motivation), and finally into a state of satisfaction or reward.
Image: Rough framework for formulating your internal LMS marketing strategy
Here’s taking an in-depth look at each phase:
There’s nothing more exciting than a pre-launch that creates the anticipation, the build-up, the buzz, and the works! This holds true for an LMS launch too.
Anywhere between 7 to 15 days (depending on the other tasks at hand, status of your LMS launch, and other preps) ahead of the launch date, a pre-launch campaign can be rolled out to your target audience focusing on the objectives you are trying to achieve.
While there are many types of pre-launch marketing campaigns, strategies, and methods that can be used to get the word out about a new company or product, or in this context, an LMS, the one that works the best is a ‘teaser campaign’. A teaser not only helps in creating awareness but also helps in getting the end-users to sit up and take notice. These pre-launch ‘teasers’ can vary in number, communication channel/media, scope, time of sending, frequency etc., depending on your organization.
In all the teasers, whether they be sent on email, intranet, broadcast message, newsletter or printed on posters, it is important to mention the go-live date or a ‘Coming soon’ type of message that gives your target audience a concrete reason to look forward to. Bring out the WIIFM component; no one wants to read/hear about tech specs (they are meant for datasheets!). Make it about ‘them’; how it will help ‘them’, how will ‘they’ benefit, how it will make ‘their’ life better. Get ‘them’ excited.
Needless to say, throughout your prelaunch campaign, the branding, the messaging, and the value propositioning should be kept consistent and contextual. Nothing kills a pre-launch teaser faster (and surely!) than a campaign that sings a different song in every piece of communication.
Your pre-launch teaser campaign, your LMS implementation efforts, LMS training…it all boils down to this – the LMS launch. Day 0 of your LMS strategy is not the end, but the beginning. Along with the hullabaloo of the actual LMS go-live, you need to follow up on your teaser campaign so your target audience can connect the dots between ‘Coming soon’ and ‘Here it is’.
For starters, the launch communication should reveal the surprise – in this case, the LMS. If you have re-branded the LMS in line with your company or if you have chosen to retain the original brand name of the LMS, the emailers, posters, newsletters, etc. should bear the name and the logo of the LMS. It’s important for your users to absorb that name/ logo and associate it with the benefits they had been reading/hearing through your pre-launch campaign.
Communicate only one thing at a time. Use a simple unambiguous ‘call to action’ which requires no explanation.
Launches are also the perfect time to reveal the next level of information about the LMS. So take the time to work with your LMS vendor and get the lowdown on some LMS stats, highlights/ achievements that can be leveraged in your communication. Example: focus on the awards and recognition it has won, its user-friendly/ intuitive UI, its focus on UX, its Learner Support tools, some number crunching on its current user-base, clients etc.
If your budget and time permits, make a big deal about your LMS launch; have a meeting or a party with the top management invited to do a keynote or at least a formal introduction to the LMS. Big noise = More attention = faster uptake
It’s imperative that you don’t get carried away by the success of your launch. If you lose the precious momentum you have strived so hard to build (through your pre-launch and launch), your efforts will go down the drain.
As with most things, it often takes several touch points (and a considerable amount of time) before your LMS users are convinced to use the Learning Management System full-fledged-ly. So, have a healthy dose of emailers sent out to your users to encourage usage/ remind them of checking out their learning plan, completing an online assignment etc.
But that’s not enough. As humans, we have an innate desire to be appreciated and to win. Build in rewards/incentives/recognition into your post-launch strategy.
Reserve some time to analyze the results. Draw reports from your LMS to see how (and when) your users accessed the learning materials assigned to them, when (and if) they were completed (and/or submitted) in time, and a bunch of other intelligence that can be easily derived from your MIS & Reporting.
Please note that nothing substitutes Training Sessions and Workshops, Support desks, and Support tools, which must be planned for and made available to the LMS users at all points in time.
While formulating an internal marketing strategy for your LMS launch/ roll-out can take up a considerable amount of planning, thinking and brainstorming, the rewards can be massive, even life-changing. So, pull out all the stops and make this one count!