Recently, I joined a team of fellow MarketingProfs folks at the American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Expo (ASTD) in Washington, D.C. As we explored the conference looking for better ways to help build smarter marketers, we kept running into discussions in which you could have easily swapped the word learner for customer or trainer for marketer and the conversation still would have made sense.

That got me thinking about some of the oft-unnoticed similarities between marketing and training—and the ways we can learn from each other.

1. We share a common goal: behavioral change

Ultimately, both marketers and learning professionals want their targets to take some specific action. Whether you're trying to sell a product or convince an employee to use a new skill, you're trying to persuade someone to do something.

Often, that something involves change.

In a session called "Six Psychological Tricks That Make Learning Stick," Mind Gym president Sebastian Bailey challenged learning and development professionals to think about how people perceive the change they're being asked to make.

Trainers must convince learners of the value of change to prompt them to take the desired action. Any marketer who has tried to win over a competitor's customers or convince prospects to invest in a new technology knows what that's like.

2. We both consider technology a means, not an end

Over the last few years, both marketing and learning technologies have multiplied like rabbits. New content development platforms, management systems, social networks, and reporting tools arrive all the time—along with pressure to adopt them.

But if you don't have a solid strategy in place, your program will fail, regardless of technology, in the same way that fantastic special effects can't save a movie with a terrible plot. Before you invest, evaluate how a particular tool can help you reach your goals. Know your objectives.

Remember, someone needs to feed the beast. You can't just create a blog and expect people to contribute or drop discussion forum functionality into your learning programs and inspire avid conversation right away. Outline your plan for what you're trying to accomplish, such as driving engagement, then determine which tools will help you become more efficient and effective.

3. We know storytelling works

In the session I mentioned earlier, the presenter cited a study in which 5% of respondents recalled a statistic and 63% remembered a story.

The ASTD conference included multiple sessions on how to use storytelling to capture mindshare. Search the MarketingProfs website for "storytelling," and you'll get more than 1,400 results—including a recent article linking to a Stanford study that found stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

Both marketers and trainers have realized the potential and the power of story to help connect with an audience.

4. We can show ROI

Both marketers and L&D pros say that pressure to demonstrate ROI has skyrocketed in the last few years. Listen closely and you can hear us all bemoaning the difficulty of proving ROI.

Difficult, yes. Impossible, no. Marketers may have it easier... If you've got a marketing automation platform integrated with a CRM system, you should be able to track leads through to opportunities, and subsequently, closed won deals. If not, you've got a manual task ahead of you, much like the learning folks.

One of the best sessions I attended at ASTD had a simple formula for measuring learning's impact. Tony Arden from Saudi Aramco asked learners to calculate the financial impact of a project where they applied learning. Then he asked them to estimate the percentage of influence the class they'd taken had on their approach... So, if someone could generate $200,000 in cost savings and estimated that learning played a 50% role in arriving at that solution, you'd have $100,000.

Then Arden asked learners how confident they were in the percentage they'd provided—as another percentage—and calculated that portion as the true impact of learning. So if your learner was 50% confident about his 50% estimate, the impact would be $50,000.

Though Arden's approach isn't ultra-scientific, it's plausible—and beats telling your CEO you have no idea what impact your programs have delivered.

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Four Awesome Things Marketing and Training Have in Common

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image of Jenn Waltner

Jenn Waltner is a senior marketing manager for Professional Development Solutions at MarketingProfs.

Twitter: @Jenneraytah