Marketing may not be second nature for most learning and development professionals, but it is for Patrick Maurer. Before joining the employee development team at the City of Tempe, Maurer developed marketing acumen running his own business. He’s applied some tried-and-true techniques to promote the city’s learning and development offerings with its employees.
“Rather than doing emails, I used to mail people supplies to make s’mores and do these things that broke the mold,” he said. “People were like, ‘What in the world?’ and then they would read the thing because it was something different—the type of stuff that just pops out.”
Each December, the City of Tempe sends a glossy, full-color printed course catalog to every city employee, personalized with the employee’s name and address—“like the toy catalog you used to get,” Maurer said—showcasing the upcoming year’s employee development training opportunities. Each course gets the full-page treatment with descriptions of the course, dates, and a testimonial quote from a course graduate within the city staff. (Click here to see sample pages.)
“We were finding that people have so much email, and sometimes course information is accidentally marked read, or it gets buried in the inbox,” he said. “And we were definitely missing people.”
Maurer, who initiated and continues to lead the catalog project, said he lifts the course descriptions largely from CrucialLearning.com.
“The catalog allows people to reflect on the courses a bit more, and we get a spike in signups early on,” he said. “Once we sort of get that spike early on, we leverage referrals. The group who goes through January through March will encourage a colleague to go through those next batch of months. It’s a beautiful entry piece that is different than everything else we put out.”
Another piece of marketing prowess is in how the City of Tempe times their course offerings. Getting Things Done gets scheduled at deliberate times throughout the year—in January to align with New Year’s resolutions, around the start of the school year, and then before the holiday season—and as each session approaches, the marketing message ties into the pain point facing prospective learners.
“We’re like, ‘Hey, it’s about to get really busy, and you’re going to have so many different things going on—wouldn’t you like to have less stress?’” he said. “So that became our model for Getting Things Done, and once we had that, we started recognizing where we could place the other courses and how we could unite the message around it.”
Marketing to individuals within the organization also follows an intentional learning journey. Getting Things Done and Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue are the entry points for Crucial Learning courses, Maurer said.
“We found that when people became more able to manage their tasks, be productive, feel efficient, and not be stressed out, they felt like they had room to do other courses,” he said.
Once learners have taken one of these courses, they’ll get invited to take the other course—and about six to nine months after Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue, the next invitation is to Crucial Conversations for Accountability.
“It’s sort of like, ‘Are you ready for the next piece?’” Maurer said. “What we’ve loved is that the people who come to the Crucial Learning pieces are like, ‘This is really good, this makes sense. Why have I never thought of it this way?’ We really try to space out how much learners go back to back—sort of unlocking that next step for them without giving them too much all at once. We want some gaps so that they can just apply what they’ve learned. But then when people are ready, we want to give them that next step.”
Although most courses are open enrollment for all learners at any time regardless of role, Maurer said they emphasize Crucial Conversations for Accountability for supervisors and Crucial Influence for city leadership (for now).
Maurer said periodically he and his team will run reports in their learning management system to see which employees are good candidates for upcoming courses and then email invitations to these prospective learners.
“Now we can filter in and encourage, ‘Hey, just check out this opportunity,’” he said. “‘This one’s great. It’s great to reconnect with you.’ Doing those little pieces will at least get it back on their radar so they know that there’s something else if they want it.”