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Hannah
written by Hannah Waddams
Jan 25, 2024

How to use the value proposition canvas in L&D

Marketing for learning

When asked the question “What’s your L&D product?” a lot of learning practitioners are left scratching their heads. “I dunno… learning?! The LMS? Elearning?!” *sigh*

If you want to effectively market your learning offering, you have to have a clear understanding of what your product is. And we have a nifty tool to help you get there. Enter: The Value Proposition Canvas.

Defining your L&D product is about marrying up your offering to your target audience’s wants and needs – and highlighting how it’ll help them alleviate some of their fears and pain points. Simple right?

Well the value proposition canvas (VPC) makes it even more simple. By presenting your product’s features, benefits and experience, alongside your audience’s wants, need and fears. Like so:

And once completed, the VPC enables you to craft more impactful marketing messages that relate to both the benefits of your product AND your audiences desires. Hey, it might even help you refine your product or realise a gap in your offering. 😲

So given this tool can have a huge impact on your L&D function (and your marketing!) let’s spend the time to dig into each segment in more detail:

YOUR LEARNING PRODUCT

FEATURES

We highly discourage any form of feature-based marketing. It’s a big yawn and gets nobody moving! But for the purpose of this exercise, grab a pen and list of every feature you can think of related to your learning offering. It’s really easy to just think about your LMS or LXP at this stage – but don’t neglect your offline offering (if you have one).

As a starting point, why not list out the features of:

  • Your learning platform (LMS, LXP or Sharepoint - and if you have all of them, list features of them all!)

  • Your face-to-face programmes

  • Any training days you host

  • PDFs you provide to your audience

  • Podcasts, if you record them!

  • Learning in the flow of work

  • And anything else you can think of… this isn’t an exhaustive list!

BENEFITS

Oftentimes people struggle identifying the benefits of their offering, and that’s usually because they’re trying to fill out this box with their ‘learning hats’ on. If that’s you – it’s time to stop. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. How does your learning offering positively impact them? How does it help them achieve their goals? What is the ultimate result of your learning offering?

Benefits bring the human element to your learning offering. Here’s an example from Apple to explain more: A feature of Apple devices is that they sync up with one another (i.e. your MacBook links with your iPhone and iPad). That’s a feature. The benefit to this is that you have seamless access to your photos, your contacts, your notes, and anything else that's on your iCloud account, no matter which device you have with you.

If you’re struggling to think of benefits, go through your features list and work out why on earth that feature exists!

EXPERIENCE

What’s it like when people get involved with your learning offering? Is it fun? Inclusive? Inspiring? Motivating? High quality? This box is all about how your learning product makes your audience feel. And you have to be realistic here. It’s tempting to say your learning is inspiring, for example, because you want it to be. But that might not be the reality. So, we recommend speaking to your target audience to find out the reality of their experience with your product, when filling out this box!

YOUR AUDIENCE

If you’ve created learner personas, then this side of your value proposition canvas will be a doddle. (And if you haven’t created personas, please do!)

On this side of your VPC you want to highlight your audience’s wants, needs and fears. This section will highlight the behavioural drivers for getting involved with your learning offering (or not) – and will massively help with your marketing initiatives. So let’s look at each section in a bit more detail:

WANTS

Forget about your learning offering for a second. In fact, forget about learning altogether. What is it your audience wants? What gets them out of bed in the morning? What is their ultimate aspiration?

The chances are, this has nothing to do with learning. They don’t want elearning, mobile learning or bite sized learning. What they want is development opportunities, career growth, more money! Sit down and think about your audience as humans – not learners! – and think about what they really want from life (and work!)

NEEDS

Unlike wants, needs are non-negotiable. So, where your audience might want ‘more money’, it’s likely that they need a stable income, for example. So step back and think about the non-negotiables for your audience. Might they need psychological safety? Time? Permission? There’s a lot that your audience might need before they can interact with your offering – and you must do the work to understand these!

FEARS & PAIN POINTS

If you’re like any of the L&Ders I’ve worked with, the chances are you won’t like filling out this box. We don’t like thinking about what other people fear, do we? Or the things that are causing them pain. It’s much easier to assume everything is sunshine and flowers. But however tempting it is to put on the rose tinted glasses; it’s really important to understand the fears and pain points your audience are facing.

This box unlocks a plethora of both marketing and product opportunities for you as an L&D team. For example, the fears and pain points box might highlight gaps in your offering that you can work to fill. Or, you might use this box to create an emotive marketing campaign. Although we’d never want to encourage a fear-based campaign, triggering some negative emotions might work well. For example: the growing skills gap. Marketing around this would be a fear-based message (don’t get left behind!) but it doesn't mean that you're trying to terrify everybody with your comms.

The value proposition canvas will help you zoom out and look at your entire learning offering. Somewhere between the two halves of your VPC lies marketing magic, the messages that will get your audience involved with your offering, the secret sauce that will help you make your learning irresistible. And once you’ve completed the VPC, it’s time to put it into action – now is the time to think about your marketing for learning strategy and learning campaigns! Because there’s no point doing all this work, and doing nothing with it – is there?! 😉 Happy marketing folks 🍍

Hannah
written by Hannah Waddams
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