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Why Learning Agendas are Essential in Modern Marketing

Industry Marketing
Nicholas Love

Nicholas Love

Global VP of Marketing | Digital Marketing | Content Marketing | Leadership

We live in an omnichannel world requiring rich experiences at every touchpoint to drive the intended outcomes that brands seek. Today, communications and marketing strategists face an uphill battle to demonstrate the ROI of their activity. Additionally, expectations around campaign efficiency and effectiveness are increasing. 

With many strategies to choose from, such as account-based marketing or demand generation, learning agendas should be at the center of any modern marketing campaign. 

Well, what is a learning agenda? A learning agenda is a summary of questions that can be specific to a set of channels or a holistic campaign designed and executed to create actionable and insightful reports. Through learning agendas, you can organize testing efforts that provide you with a better understanding of your audience, marketing or communication efforts. Whether on the communications or marketing side, each opportunity allows you to get smarter about your audiences through an organized testing framework. 

Gone are the days when strategists have time to be reactive around campaign performance and planning. The time is now to move from reactive to proactive with ongoing intelligence gathering. Although I understand that with the incredible amount of data available to measure, aligning what data needs to be measured and reported on versus what’s good to have visibility of can be overwhelming. Here are a few critical components to consider when setting up your learning agenda 

What do you want to learn? 

There’s a difference between beliefs and behaviors. Let me be clear, the difference between the two is critical in a world that emphasizes driving business outcomes with measurable returns. Upfront market research can be beneficial. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as the single source of truth as there are several nuances impacting the result of a successful marketing campaign. The beauty of marketing is that it’s both an art and a science but instinct can only get you so far when asked to build on the success of a previous campaign. That’s why it’s important to establish great actionable questions before any campaign deployment. Ultimately, you want to be able to confirm any assumptions that have formed. 

For example, if you’re launching an omnichannel campaign with the objective to acquire a certain number of leads, an important question is understanding which channel is most effective at driving leads. Ultimately, the answer to this question should influence channel rationalization, budget allocation, and future planning. After all, what’s a marketing campaign without testing? 

With the infinite amount of data, staying true to your learning agenda is critical because these questions and tests ultimately provide a clear understanding of the metrics necessary to emphasize in campaign reports. Using the above campaign question as a reference, you’re not primarily interested in awareness or engagement metrics because you ultimately want a clear understanding of the effectiveness of each channel to influence which channel should receive what percentage of your budget in the future.  

How do I create a learning agenda? 

First, you must suspend any assumptions that you may have about your audience that would lead you to make important decisions prior to campaign planning. What you think and what you know are different. A core reason learning agendas exist is to solve knowledge gaps about your audience, channel performance, campaign performance, and more. Be intentional about developing a set of valuable questions that will deliver information with substance to act on. I recommend listing at most five questions when creating your learning agenda, and in full transparency, I typically only create three questions. Your questions should always ladder up to the overall business objective of a campaign.  

Second, establish a testing brief. This should align with your communications or marketing calendar to prioritize when the activity will be deployed. Once you’ve decided on your testing schedule, develop a brief specifying the test type being deployed, testing length, segment size, control group, and key metrics to uncover that will inform future strategies and optimizations.  

Lastly, be ready to do this all over again. Remember, testing is all about learning, evolving, and doing it all over again because the more you know, the more you don’t. We can never get comfortable looking at human behavior because it constantly changes. I can’t answer why but I’d rather be proactive than reactive, and that’s what learning agendas are all about!