If you build it, will they come?

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Many people believe that once they have implemented their LMS/LCMS that everyone will come running to use the system. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

Worse they assume that if it is “mandatory” everyone is going to access it because it is required. Thus creating a marketing strategy while you are working on/implementing your LMS is essential to build an audience and expand for future growth.

Creating your marketing strategy

  • Realize that it needs to be multi-pronged and not just one approach
  • Identify your audiences you need to reach – can be by department, job role, entire company, etc. – You will craft a giant message and campaign, but also create mini campaigns for maximum effect
  • Identify what channels of distribution you are going to use to get the messages out – will it be e-mail, the intranet (if you have one), a newsletter, flyers going to different sites (if applicable), word of mouth via ILT, social media, or a combination of these channels?
  • Identify (if applicable) who else is going to be involved at the high level with your campaign. Do you need to have the green light and review by your marketing or PR dept (if applicable)? Does the CEO or whomever you report directly to, need to see any message before going out? Do you need to identify other stakeholders that you may need assistance from – over the campaign, say department heads or key people you can count on. Who is your stakeholder in IS/IT and HR? You will need them to get the data – employees – first, last name and email addresses in a file, if you go on at a minimum with e-mail.   You want to know this ahead of time, rather than in the process, so that you can focus on what has to be achieved.
  • Develop your campaign to go at least six months
  • Create a process of what you are going to do, when it launches and definitely, pre-launch. You want to build excitement for it. You love it, so sell it!!


Many Training professionals – management or otherwise, believe that everyone is going to open and read their e-mail, because after all, this is exciting stuff and will benefit all employees.

E-Mail Reality

  • There are people who never open e-mail, and I stress never
  • People will scan the subject line of the e-mail to decide if they will open it or not, regardless that you sent it
  • People are busy and will scan the e-mail after opening it, to see if there is benefit for them and/or valuable information
  • If you craft a long e-mail, your likelihood that people will read the whole thing, is minimal

What can you do to increase people to read your e-mails?

  • Create a “teaser” in the subject line – You actually see teasers all the time when you are watching a newscast. They will pitch that xyz story is next and then if you are interested, you wait. Sometimes it is not next, yet you will still wait.  A teaser’s goal is to grab your attention.   Teasers can be very effective in advertising and marketing, even using social media and a viral campaign.
  • Identify with short words, why they should open up your e-mail. Value, benefit to themselves – their job role, professional growth, whatever will help.  Identify upcoming features – one that really hits home to people, to have them open it up.
  • Sell it. Use appropriate terms that catch the eye. Having something like, “Brand new LMS is coming” – will not be as effective as, “WidgetWorld – A new learning experience – and the date”

Target Messages

  • Create messages that target a specific audience at your company, and do it often. Maybe you have courses that will benefit administration assistants, but you do not want to send out an entire company message.  Thus, you craft it just for that audience, list why – courses, content and send it.
  • Utilize propaganda techniques.  I have a list of them as a separate page, under my Essentials category. Advertisers use propaganda techniques all the time, actually every day you see any advertising. They are extremely effective.

Penetration Rate

How do you know how many people are actually opening up your e-mail, reading or scanning it and going to the LMS or some other site for more information?  Unless your IS/IT department has integrated such a system and gives or provides you access you don’t.

What I do is use an online e-mail marketing program/site.  My favorite is Constant Contact, but you can use whomever you want.

Why do I like such a program? ( if you go with someone else, make sure they have at least these features)

  • I can see who has opened their e-mail, immediately after sending it or over any dates, etc.
  • I know the penetration rate of the e-mails, my message, my newsletter whatever
  • Seeing includes their first name, last name and e-mail address and not just numbers
  • I can upload via a .csv or .xls file (Excel) the data – first name, last name, email address any other info. I need right into the system, without having to manually input
  • I can create a “unsubscribe” option (many sites may this required because of the CAN-SPAM law). However, if an employee unsubscribes, you can re-subscribe them manually by clicking a button on their profile
  • I can test if the e-mail will get through firewalls or spam filters
  • If I have links in my e-mail or newsletter, I can see who has clicked the link and where they went; see who has forwarded the e-mail or newsletter to a colleague..bottom line, tracking
  • When I know who hasn’t opened up their e-mail, I can create targeted messages to that audience, maybe by department or job role or something else. This is where you may need your key stakeholders that you earlier identified to help you out, especially if it is “mandatory” that people use the system

Additional Penetration Facts

I love it when people say that x number of employees are using their system.  How do they actually know that?  Oh, wait everyone got a user name and password, thus everyone must be using the system.  Huh, that is not it? Oh wait, we see that everyone has gone into the system and used it, yeah that is how we know.  Sure.

  • Mandatory – You send out an email with the person’s user name and password and assume people are going to go into the system. Wrong.
  • People access the system, one time. Spend a few seconds or perhaps minutes in there, take a look at a couple of courses and never return. You can verify this, by seeing the last time they accessed, how often they accessed, how many courses they looked at, and how long where they in each course
  • If you see the common trend of people accessing less than five times over the a period of a month or two, or that they haven’t accessed since you sent them the user name or password, or haven’t accessed in a long time, then you cannot state that everyone is using the system. What you should say, is – “marketing campaign – message”.
  • Realize that if it is not mandatory, that end users may not spend thousands of times in there or access every course, or on the courses they do, do not spend hours in each course. The value of e-learning is enabling people to bounce around and go to the area of the course or courses they want to focus on.  Thus look for trends, which will help you with your marketing. If over a month, no one is accessing your proprietary course on xyz, create a survey (actually for marketing purposes) and find out why and take that reason or reasons and craft a message. Or craft a message and get it to the those folks.  You see this often, with off the shelf, that you might think is awesome, but no one else does.

Newsletters via e-mail, intranet, paper, social media, whatever

Are great. If they are crafted correctly and do not appear to the end user that they are actually giant marketing pieces.  You would be surprised how many people who get “newsletters” in the e-mail accounts, and subscribed to them, have no idea it is really a giant marketing piece to get them to the site. Oh, and they use teasers too.

I love to toss in some great stories about “value” “benefit” “upcoming courses – that tie to the various angles that will motivate people to use the system. I include data or information that provides real valuable information to my readers. Thus, it creates a more “informational” piece, rather than “marketing”.  Include a free LMS guide or a drawing or incorporate some employee news – company info to add additional value, if you so choose.

Other Add-Ons

  • Drawings i.e giveaways work, as long as you did it sparingly and not every week. Even if it is a $25 gift card, people will enter. But add a tie into your system- maybe access x times over the month and use various courses.
  • Provide courses beyond proprietary. Off the shelf can provide real value to your employees, enhance their skills and professional/personal growth.  Some great off the shelf content are courses by vendors who offer such titles as Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc., with basic, intermediate and advanced levels. You want something interactive, with the course’s look and feel mimicking the solution.  Maybe offer a language course or other skills – perhaps proofreading or typing.
  • Identify a theme for your campaign and stay on message and task. You can have multiple themes for various campaigns, but having multiple themes for one campaign is not a good idea. People will get confused.


They are your best friend. Find people at various levels – by department, job role, management, regular employees, part time whatever, that use the system and love it. Seek people who see real benefit to it, value, use it often – like it and can state why. People who can help you sell it to other people to access.  People love to see folks just like them, stating how much they love the system. Thus, if you have an admin assistant who loves the system for x, y or z, then this testimonial should be sent to other admin assistants.  Of course, you can include it in any bigger campaign to.

With a LMS, people are very concerned about – time, navigation and difficulty, so find end users that found it “easy to use”, “quick to get access to courses, etc.,” “navigation friendly”, “great experience”, “not difficult, even people who have zero or limited tech skills”.


Do not call it that when sending out any marketing message or messages in general to your employees. People have no idea on what that is, and you will spend unnecessary amounts of time, explaining it.  Nor do you call it a “Learning Management System”, again, same issue.

Create a name for it, “WidgetWorld Learning Community”, “Widget College”, “Widget Campus”, whatever. Stay with it though, some people create a logo too and colors. Even better. Even even better, is to create a url with your name it in. When you create your domain, you can set it up on your side, to mask the actual url of the LMS site. So people type in – http://www.widgetcollege.com, and have no idea that the actual domain is http://www.weisslms.com/widgetworld.  Not all vendors offer this, so it is always a good idea, if you want to go this route to see if they can or do.

BTW, when pitching your “new name” to people outside of typical e-mail or social media or whatever messages, i.e. via word of mouth at a meeting, stick with the name. Rather than, LMS.  You can explain what is in it, and what it does, but avoid the term. Trust me, it confuses people and will only add a headache you do not need.

Final notes

Do not get discouraged when you launch your LMS and your campaign does not see a mass number of learners into the system. If you can get a penetration rate of 30-50% for the initial run, you are achieving success. Granted, we would all love 100%, but unless your company is 50 people or less, that might be an unattainable goal.

Some campaigns will work, others will not, thus always keep data and track it.  I always created a three year plan for a a LMS, which is a realistic time table, to identify costs, future needs and penetration rate projections, along with projected number of employees. Realize you are in it for the long haul and it will not be an immediate everyone is coming and will use this. This is especially important, when selling it to executive level and/or senior management.

A LMS is a consistent cost increment, and from a non-customer standpoint, not a revenue generator – unless you charge your own employees.  So having a game plan is essential, so when your CEO or COO wants to know why 100% of people are not constantly using the system, you have the plan in place and can be ready to back it.

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