The Magic In Micro
In 2015, the analysts at Google noticed something. Smartphone usage was altering search patterns and interactions with content. They called this new development micro-moments and went on to classify them into four separate but related categories:
· I-want-to-know moments
· I-want-to-go moments
· I-want-to-do moments
· I-want-to-buy moments
The work was transformative and turned a bright and shining light on consumer behavior. Since the initial article, dozens of additional pieces have followed. Each one highlighting different ways micro-moments are occurring and how organizations are connecting with consumers during these key moments.
Google focused this content on the marketing community. But I believe the idea of micro-moments has an impact far beyond the walls of marketing. While these moments are all different, there is, I believe, a common thread that joins them together. It’s learning. Consumers are reaching out for micro-learning moments throughout the day. And this idea of micro-learning is having a profound impact across numerous verticals and I believe can transform the area of B2B sales.
Training In The B2B Space — The Old Way
When it comes to training in the B2B space the playbook had remained unchanged for decades. Most organizations front load their training. A new employee starts. They enter a training group of other new employees. The group gets general company information and after a period of time the group breaks up and individual members are sent to their respective areas — finance, sales, marketing, operations.
Once in their area, some further training is provided. This may include collateral information to be read or attendance in a traditional type of classroom where an instructor provides information on a given topic. After a period of weeks, or months, depending on the field, the new hire is ready to contribute. He or she is given responsibilities and the work begins.
This “training period” will vary from organization to organization. Some may be more intense than others. Some longer…some shorter. But after this initial training most companies fall to into a similar path regardless of category.
Let’s take a look at the chart below.
Here is a diagram I use when talking about the current state of training. Along the bottom are the months of the year. Peppered throughout the year are different training spikes. As you can see, these periods of training reflect a webinar, training session, trade show, etc… The spikes will vary in size depending on the effectiveness of the particular activity. Now take a look at the points in between the spikes. That’s the story.
Throughout the year, there are spikes but for big swaths of time, there’s nothing but flat line. And in the B2B world…this is the standard method of operation and has been the SOP for decades.
This method is not bad — no. It’s just outdated. To draw an example, think of how effective the covered wagon once was in transporting passengers from one end of the country to the next. It was the mode of transportation. And then the railroad was built, and trains began running. Then highways came along, and cars proved more effective and then commercial aviation and so on. And so it is with this method of training. Which begs the question: What’s fueling this change?
Advancing technology is helping create more and more new products and new product enhancements. Take car sales as our example. 50 years ago, car sales were a lot less complicated than they are today. There were fewer models and the models didn’t change a great deal from year to year. Today, the number and variations available get to be a bit mind numbing. And keeping up-to-date on the different lines and different models within each line is a full-time job for a car salesman.
Technology, particularly the smartphone, is also playing another role…it’s allowing us to be always “on call.” And this new state is causing additional levels of stress and pressure. In one survey, 80% of working adults wish they had more time for family and friends. And in a PEW Research study, 60% of working parents claimed they “always felt rushed.”
We all wish we have more time in our days, but there are too many things pulling at us. Our careers, emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, blog posts. Cute videos of cats. Self promotion. Print ads, billboard ads, banner ads, pop-up ads. And then there’s family and friends. It all has to fit…but it’s getting harder and harder to make all the pieces work together.
The fact is today’s worker is over saturated with information and bombarded with data. And in a day and age when training is more critical than ever before…more and more organizations are abandoning training and ongoing education. This is a problem and this problem is exacerbated by another factor: a more educated consumer. Years ago, the salesperson held all the knowledge. They knew prices, knew where they had a leg up on the competition and where they didn’t. They knew how the product performed and where it didn’t and could guide the conversation to highlight the best features and make a compelling reason why their product was the right choice. In that day, the consumer had little to inform them. At best the maybe a copy of Consumer Reports.
That paradigm has, of course, wildly changed. Today’s consumer has as much or more information directly at his or her fingertips than many of the sales and support staff have. And that becomes an issue for organizations and those employees whose job it is to interact with the public. Without the right information, the sales/support person now has to go on the defensive. They often times don’t have answers to questions and they look unprofessional and not at all knowledgeable about the product they are trying to sell or service they are trying to provide. This leads the consumer to feel less than confident about the product, the brand, and the organization.
So, what’s the answer? Well, of course, more training…but not just any kind of training. What’s needed is micro-learning.
Much the same as Google’s micro-moments has changed the way marketers thought about engaging with potential customers, micro-learning is a way that can change employee training and development. The idea of micro-learning is not a new concept…but it is certainly one that has been gaining traction over the last few years. For example, using Google research from January 1, 2015, to May 5th of the same year, there were over 100 million hours of “how to” videos were consumed!
Think about that number…and now fast-forward to 2018. My guess is that number has only gone up since that report.
The fact is, the way people are consuming information, gaining knowledge and learning new skills, is rapidly evolving from the practices of the last 100 years. We rarely have extended periods of time that can be devoted to learning. And organizations don’t have the resources or are refusing to invest inadequately training and developing their employees.
So yes, there’s a need for change, but does micro-learning work?
Does Micro-Learning Work?
A recent study by Gona Mohammed, Karzan Wakil and Sarkhell Nawroly titled: The Effectiveness of Micro-Learning To Improve Students’ Learning Ability brings to light some very interesting findings.
The authors looked at how traditional teaching compared to a micro-learning method. They wanted to know if micro-learning, which breaks information into small chunks and helps to learn new topics easy to understand, could outperform a more traditional approach.
In their work, the authors separated two groups of seventh graders each numbering twenty-two students. Each group was approximately the same age and about the same academic level. Both groups were taught five subjects for six weeks and then tested. The process looked like this:
In the traditional method, a teacher was in the center of the class and lessons were taught by books. Given this method, there was little participation from the class. This is the standard way most high schools and colleges operate. It’s also in stark contrast to the micro-learning process.
In the micro-learning group, everyone was in the center of the class. There was much more sharing of information and the overall learning followed a more fluid process. The introduction to micro-learning began by telling stories, followed by a discussion session, followed by a video delivering a large amount of knowledge in a short period of time. Additionally, flashcards were also used, then following the flashcards a question session was performed on the flashcards or, in some instances, students were asked to perform a certain task.
In the sixth week, both student groups were tested on their lessons. The results — the passing average for the traditionally taught students was 64%. The micro-learning groups passing average was 84%…a full 20 points higher. They had no failing students. In fact, the majority of them were in the categories of Very Good and Excellent.
Finally, the microlearning students were asked to rank the different teaching methods employed in the class. The diagram below lists out the methods and rankings. Notice the highest is 97% and the lowest 92%.
The authors concluded that not only did the microlearning methods improve performance, the students were more motivated throughout the process. The study also indicated the students were able to retain information and “micro-learning aids their long-term memory.”
Clearly, something is happening here. Based on these results there’s a strong case for more micro-learning. But for all the positive outcomes, I believe in the B2B world the results can be even more dramatic.
Micro-Learning And The 3 Elements For A Successful B2B Training
Element 1. It helps to add in different learning methods.
As we saw in the study done by Mohammed, Wakil and Nawroly, one of the key elements in micro-learning was the use of different methods used to educate students. The instructors combined storytelling, infographics, videos and even flashcards into their teaching. And as a result, were able to engage and connect with their students more than traditional teaching methods. This is an important point because it illustrates how we have changed as humans in terms of how we learn.
Interestingly, in 2001 reading was by far and away the preferred method of learning. 77% stated they preferred reading to other methods of learning. 15 years later that number is down to 13%. Video, audio, peer-to-peer and kinesthetic or tactile learning have replaced reading as the preferred learning mix to reach more learners.
Bottom line, if you want to engage and transfer brand or sales intelligence, you need to incorporate different media and methods into your program.
Guillermo Miranda, the current Chief Learning Officer of IBM, recently described the best-designed learning architecture for today like digital marketing and proves how far we have come in the past decade:
“Todays Training embraces many types of content, it collects data on interactions and activities, it uses intelligent systems to promote content and monitor employee usage, and it is personalized for everyone.”
Element 2: We live in a mobile world…and that goes for training as well.
At the start of this post, I wrote about how the smartphone was and continues to change the search game. Amazingly it has only been 11 years since the first iPhone was introduced. And in that short period of time that device has become the tool that runs our lives. According to one study, we touch and interact with our phones over 150 times a day! Think about that. The amount of time and attention given to our phones is staggering. So, given this obsession doesn’t it make sense to have your training platform available on your phone? Indeed, including mobile native apps allows you to mobilize and amplify your training like never before….ever.
Having the ability to pick up your phone and spend a few minutes training is not only valuable — in today’s world it’s a must. Training on a mobile platform has two huge benefits. The first, it will help with both adoption and conversion. In other words, more team member will take and complete the training sessions simply because they have easy access to the information, whenever they want, even to complete offline.
And secondly, training will also help shorten the learning curve. Team members will be able to get up to speed faster and begin contributing in less time because of their ability to access the platform directly from their mobile devices. Sadly, we rarely have big chunks of time to dedicate to an individual task like learning. However, what we do have are a number of pockets or “mobile moments” sprinkled throughout the day. Today’s training needs to fit into our lives to be truly effective and fit into the 10- 15 minutes we now bounce between throughout our day. A mobile platform allows a team member to take advantage of those openings and used them for training.
Element 3: No matter how good the training it will only get you so far.
There’s a myth out there that improvements to training — like the addition of micro-learning will immediately translate to big wins in productivity, performance and ultimately revenue. Sadly, it won’t. No matter the type or strength of training — micro, traditional or some other form it’s just a start, not the end. Today training needs to be ongoing, and more importantly supported by something more to meaningfully go beyond just checking a ‘box’ and benefiting from what its designed for, more sales. That requires further support after the diploma is earned, greater ease of access, and the simple ability to revisit the information when you need it again. This is sales enablement.
Let’s go back to the first diagram in this post. Notice the orange line at the top. It’s labeled Sales Companion. This is our sales enablement tool. And what it does is support the seller in between the typical one-time training or information sharing exercises today, or learning spikes occurring throughout the year. It’s the safety net and backup. It provides team members the ability to access and revisit key brand and product intelligence to help start more conversations, answer key questions on the fly, and ultimately close more business. It picks up where training stops and together they can create a powerful set of tools that can transform a business.
I started titled this post The Magic in Micro…and there certainly is. But as I have tried to point out along the way…there’s a lot more than just making pieces of information smaller and adding things like infographics to help students and employees retain more information. They help, but it’s only a band aid.
The magic in micro really is about understanding, on some level the ‘one and done’ online data dumps are completely outdated and inefficient. And the world is speeding up and the pace and cadence is only going to quicken as we all move along from year to year. Voice, AI, machine learning are just a few examples at the next wave of seismic change about to hit.
What are organizations going to do? Well, for far too long most have viewed training as a cost of doing business. Similar to other fixed costs like rent, and benefits. And as time has gone on they have cut back on this cost investing only in the bare minimum required. But in today’s world training can actually become a point of separation and an opportunity. This is not theory. I’m seeing this occurring right now in the travel space…and equally in other verticals. Over the last four years as I have taken my ideas that existed in my head and in the pages of notebooks out into the world, and have built my business, I’ve seen first-hand what a profound impact training and enablement can make. Maybe you’re ready for the next step?
If you like to continue this conversation, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.