We recently had the chance to sit down with Ben Sharp, of Visa’s Digital Transformation team, to discuss his passion for marketing. In the previous post, Ben discussed the skills marketers are lacking in today’s business environment, where marketers should focus when it comes to developing their own marketers, and what Visa does to develop those skills. This is the second part of a two-part series.
Q. How has Visa learned to develop their marketers’ skills from other organizations in this regard?
A. While the blended development approach is not unique, we primarily developed our content and tools internally, so our program is unique to Visa.
To accomplish this, we did a lot of benchmarking. We spoke to other organizations with similar marketing goals and circumstances to see what was working for them and what wasn’t working so well. While there are actually very few companies in the B2B2C space, we were able to learn a lot from more traditional B2C and B2B companies about how they train their marketers and apply those insights to our own training and development program.
After vetting the results with our leadership we did focus interviews across the organization to help us validate and refine our findings, which helped us create a pretty robust development plan spanning two years.
The technology that’s available now is really what makes a program like this possible and practical. In years past, it would have been very expensive and a huge headache to create a training program with even half the ability to customize or personalize as what we’re working with now, so timing is a big factor too. We’re seeing most organizations taking advantage of these technologies to make development more effective.
Q. How do you approach implementation and alignment - ensuring that learning transfer goes to retention?
A. There are three main factors of the program that play a role in alignment and retention:
1. The blended approach
2. The program’s cross-functional nature
3. Executive sponsorship
All of these are vital to the development program succeeding. If a marketer goes down an entire learning path but no one holds them accountable, or no one follows up to test them or evaluate their performance, than it really doesn’t matter whether or not they got better because we can’t measure that or confirm it. So executive sponsorship and support is vital, right from the top down.
The blended nature of the program itself aids in retention simply because it allows for the most relevant, customized training environment possible. Everyone who goes through a particular course is doing so because they chose that course, they know it’s something they need or want to learn, so they’re more motivated to work at it and retain it for future use.
Q. Do you think that marketers are going to be receptive to this type of thing? Is this something they’re asking for?
A. Yes, I believe they are going to respond favorably, but we may have to “market to the marketers” a bit too.
We’ve approached it this way: “We have this training program we want to offer, it’s by invitation only and you’re being invited. If you can’t commit to this time/place, we’ll need to offer it to someone else.” We already have a waiting list forming.
So we’re creating demand, but there has to be more. Smart marketers are going to need to know how this training is going to make them better at their jobs. How it’s going to benefit them in the long term. We’re going to need to make that connection for them.
This goes back to my comment about executive sponsorship: if you put together a quality program that can answer the needs of the marketers who need to be trained, and then you have leadership supporting their efforts and holding them accountable for using what they learn, you’re going to have a successful marketing development program on your hands.
Key takeaways from this interview:
Here are some key takeaways we especially appreciated from this interview with Ben Sharp:
- 1. Two key skill sets needed by modern marketers are a client-focused mindset and professional intelligence skills.
- 2. Where a company focuses its marketing development efforts should be based on the company’s current and future marketing needs and strategically chosen KPIs.
- 3. Many companies - including Visa - are using a blended approach to marketing development, taking advantage of online technology that provides nearly endless customization and personalization to enhance the program.
- 4. While most marketers will be receptive to learning, they need to understand how the training will make them better marketers, the fact that it’s not just learning for learning’s sake.
What were your key takeaways from Ben Sharp’s insights? We’d love to hear them in the comments.