“What’s in it for me?” is a phrase you’d have heard a lot if you’ve followed me on LinkedIn for any length of time. And that’s because I believe it is one of crucial elements of marketing strategies that is not applied often in a learning context – but if you want to instigate real behavioural change, you need to answer this question.
It sounds simple, really. What we’re trying to do is talk to our audience like human beings, and understand who they are, what they’re drivers are, what their wants and needs are, what they like and dislike, and what benefits they’ll receive by giving you one of their most equitable resources: their time. It’s not enough to think that because your business wants your employees to learn, that your learners will want to do it. Because your learners aren’t motivated by the same things as your business. You’re not going to get any level of engagement from your people if you’re constantly pushing business agendas through learning – and trying to use these agendas as a motivating factor for your learners. Instead you need to answer: what’s in it for me?
One of the best ways to answer this question is by using a value proposition canvas. This canvas will help you to decipher what you’re delivering to your learners, versus what they want and need. What’s going to make them move? What’s going to light the fires with your audience? Because it’s not enough to just focus on the business agendas any more. You are fighting for your learners attention – you’re fighting against the entirety of the internet. So you must focus on what motivates them to take action, and understand how you can best communicate that to them. And if you’re not – you’re doing yourself a disservice.
‘What’s in it for me’ is a game changer.
Why is the WIIFM a game changer? Because change is hard (shocker!). So hard that a Harvard Business Review report said that three quarters of change initiatives in organisations fail or are abandoned. And that’s because there’s a huge resistance to change from your people. In fact, people would rather stick with a current, comfortable situation that isn’t great, than pursue change. We’re naturally fear-adverse and generally speaking human’s will go out of their way to avoid pain. So the only way to get buy-in across your organisation is to answer the WIIFM for your people. And this doesn’t just mean the end learner, it also means their managers, senior managers and other stakeholders within the business.
Asking yourself the WIIFM question does two things which I don’t see enough of in the learning industry:
- It gets you in the shoes of your learner/end user. It enables you to take the time to understand what motivates them. Your learners don’t care about the business mandate, or how incredible your learning platform is. They care about their time and what they’ll get out of what you’re offering.
- It enables you to apply your insights to the wider organisation and your stakeholders, to facilitate getting buy-in up-front, which is obviously going to help your learning initiatives and the wider business.
So, in a nutshell, WIIFM should be the basis of everything you do. Whether it’s instructional design and developing a new intervention, or in your communications – answering ‘what’s in it for me?’ is going to make sure this stuff resonates and gets the results you need.
Ashley Sinclair is the host of the Marketing for Learning podcast. Having been a marketer for nearly a decade, Ashley is committed to developing the marketing skills of L&D. She also owns her own marketing agency, MAAS Marketing.
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