Foundations – By Jim Gamgort and Jenn Lalli
Don’t overlook these strategies for your marketing excellence curriculum
Marketing new hires are unique challenges for trainers, even inorganizations with strong sales training programs. The reasons are clear. While sales reps are regularly hired in groups, marketers are often brought on singly or in numbers too small to build a standard training class. What’s more, on average, newly hired marketers bring with them amore disparate range of knowledge and experience than their counterparts in sales. This makes establishing a baseline of knowledge for all marketing new hires all the more difficult.
What’s certain is that investing in a successful marketing excellence new-hire curriculum is well worth the effort. By promoting a standard approach to marketing that incorporates critical thinking and strategic planning, a good marketing excellence curriculum can elevate performance, align efforts across business units, foster collaboration and best practice sharing and enable the organization to better engage its customers where they are.
Six Essential Steps
Some steps needed to design such a curriculum are likely familiar. It should be no surprise that most experts agree it’s best to provide a mix of virtual training and live, instructor-led training. Likewise, aligning the curriculum with core competencies and collaborating across teams to develop solutions are also standard fare (though often easier said than done).
Let’s examine, instead, six essential steps that are often overlooked but can make an enormous impact when designing — or enhancing — your marketing excellence new-hire curriculum.
1. Align senior stakeholders.
This step involves not only marketing leadership but leadership across the organization, including those within the sales and commercial teams. Gaining their support will prove vital when launching — and working to sustain — your marketing excellence new-hire curriculum.
As you present your training plan, be sure to explain your objectives, define how leadership will play a role, and clearly state the benefits of your approach to the organization. Consider creating an executive story presentation to help you deliver a unified message to each group of stakeholders.
2. Communicate your launch and leverage champions.
A month before launching your curriculum, begin a multi-staged, coordinated communications campaign to all stakeholders — leadership, managers and, if possible, new-hire participants. Each communication should help raise awareness of the launch, generate excitement about the projected benefits and clearly state what is expected from the addressed stakeholder. It can be particularly effective at this time to have “project champions” —colleagues outside the team who have been involved in collaboratively shaping the curriculum — assist in building awareness and anticipation across the organization. Post-launch, you can also leverage these champions to help facilitate your training. (See steps 4 to 6 for a few ideas on how to do this.)
3. Start small and gain some quick wins.
Take time at the outset to identify critical training needs that should bead dressed immediately. Collaborate across business units to decide on priorities. Consider interviewing or surveying both senior leaders and team managers to identify the areas they see as critical success factors in both the near term and over time.
By ensuring your curriculum focuses on these pressing needs, you’ll not only provide training that has the greatest immediate impact — you’ll also gain goodwill across the organization and shore up needed support for your training plans.
4. Integrate social learning.
Be intentional about providing opportunities for new hires to learn with and from one another and their more experienced colleagues. Since marketers are often trained individually and may be spread across business units, creating occasions for social learning can require greater coordination than they would for sales colleagues.
This also means these opportunities are, in some ways, more vital for marketers, who may otherwise have little opportunity to interact. Panels, job shadowing, lunch and learns, and other such social learning circles or events will enable your veteran marketers to share real-world experiences and best practices, benefiting everyone involved.
5. Ensure a role for mentors.
Mentors, whether they are members of the marketing team or just have an extensive marketing background, offer a particular type of social learning worthy of its own number on this list. A good mentor-mentee relationship —one that generates trust and understanding over time — grows with the trainee. It becomes an invaluable resource that can offer professional insight, provide ongoing direction and generate much-needed confidence during the first month in a new role.
Note here that a manager, though distinct from a mentor, can also function in a similar capacity if provided with the proper guidance by your team.
6. Leverage internal brands and SMEs.
Show your new hires examples of marketing excellence in action. But don’t make the all-too common mistake of looking outside the industry for examples of success. A soft drink campaign, for example, may be familiar, but it’s hardly relevant. Focus instead on cases involving internal brands to ensure they are pertinent to life sciences.
Better yet, bring in the subject matter experts who worked on these projects to illustrate how they made creative decisions and worked together to achieve their goals. Even if the expert’s work does not directly apply to a trainee’s area of focus, your learners will gain a better understanding of marketing and their role within it.
Remember, It’s A Journey — So Reinforce!
This recommendation isn’t included in our above list because it applies to more than new hires. Always keep in mind that marketing excellence new-hire training is not a “quick fix” or an end in itself. Rather, new-hire training should be the first stage of a professional learning journey that extends throughout each marketer’s career.
By establishing a shared base of knowledge, your marketing excellence curriculum will enable your marketers to coalesce as a team even as they advance in their ongoing learning journeys.
To capitalize on what you’ve begun in new-hire training, you must provide continual reinforcement opportunities (for example, gamified learning, book clubs and best practice sharing) designed to deepen existing knowledge, open channels of communication and foster growth and professional development. Only through ongoing reinforcement will your marketing team attain — and sustain — true excellence.
Jim Gamgort is managing partner and chief commercial officer of Encompass Communications and Learning. Email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jenn Lalli is senior director of business development and marketing at Encompass. Email Jenn at email@example.com.