Developing a marketing training plan

Multiple marketing folders with 'TRAINING PLAN' written on a yellow folder

A marketing training plan sets out what your marketing training needs are and how you will meet them. The plan helps you make the best use of your marketing training budget, giving employees the marketing knowledge and skills they need to boost business performance. John Meikle explains

Your marketing training needs

You should start your marketing training plan by assessing your training needs. Typically, these include areas where your marketing is underperforming - for example, if levels of customer retention are falling or if an individual salesperson is consistently underachieving. They may also include areas of opportunity or change - for example, if you are looking to break into new markets or need to ensure sales personnel are up to date with new regulations.

A training needs analysis like this will help identify areas where improved marketing skills or knowledge could benefit your business. Assessing employees' current level of marketing ability allows you to identify the training gap to be filled.

At the same time, consider whether alternatives to training - such as recruiting more experienced marketers, or using consultants - could be a better option.

Marketing training and business objectives

Your aim should be to identify marketing training that will help you achieve business objectives. With a limited marketing budget, you want to prioritise training that delivers the biggest improvements. Selling skills are often a key focus, but training that boosts efficiency (for example, by improving employees' IT skills) or strengthens the management of marketing and sales teams can also have a major impact.

Training and development that supports long-term improvements (for example, by improving your ability to identify promising market opportunities) might ultimately deliver the biggest benefits.

Training objectives and plans should work towards clear business outcomes. Ideally, these will include specific, measurable results or performance standards. For example, training in negotiation skills might aim to improve employees' ability to close deals without making excessive price concessions, whilst the overall business objective might be to boost margins to a specified level.

The value of the desired business outcomes can be compared to the costs of training. Although training can have a role to play in motivating and retaining employees, this alone is not usually enough to justify the costs.

Effective marketing training

Your marketing training plan should build on your training objectives by identifying the most appropriate forms of training. As well as on-the-job training, these might include training workshops, seminars or distance learning. Coaching and mentoring can also help, particularly for employees in management roles.

Involving employees in agreeing their own training needs and deciding between different training options can significantly improve training effectiveness. Employees who buy into the value of the training - for themselves and for the business - are likely to show greater performance improvements.

The training plan should also set out when and how marketing training will be evaluated, based on the original training objectives. Training evaluation allows you to assess how effective different training activities have been. Evaluation also starts the process of identifying further opportunities for improvement and future training needs.

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