How Marketers Can Capitalize on the Growing Demand for Professional Development Content

Good thought leadership not only informs and educates potential customers; it also helps professionals in their quest for continuous learning and career development.

More and more adults are devoting time to continuing education—for personal enrichment, professional gain, or simply to stay on top of the latest technologies. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of U.S. workers see ongoing learning as important or essential to career success. 

There are many opportunities for marketers to produce content to help professionals gain expertise in niche areas. Online talks and Webinars have become the platform of choice for a variety of marketing and educational material, thought leadership content, and professional development programs. Marketers will always need to sell products and services, but they can increase viewership and engagement by producing quality content with genuine educational value for professionals. 

Professional development content benefits viewers in many ways, and helpful, relevant information makes them more likely to share it with colleagues. Content that fulfills these workers’ needs can lead toincreased viewership, allowing marketing to collect and analyze more data and feedback. To increase engagementeven further, companies can choose to go the extra mile and collaborate with accreditation organizations on a process that allows professionals to earn in-demand certifications of completion.

Meeting a Growing Demand

People who invest in professional development typically achieve more in their careers. According to a study of lifelong learners published in the December 2015, issue of Catalyst, professionals who participate in technical skills-based education are the most likely to enjoy salary raises and promotions. Other benefits include opportunities for career advancement and greater visibility among prospective employers. 

In today’s fast-paced world, job skills quickly can become obsolete. Professionals need to retrain constantly in new technologies and methods, no matter what industry they work in.They also need content they can easily retain and immediately apply to their day-to-day work.

Sometimes professional development isn’t just nice to have; it’s compulsory. Many companies require employees to document any program they have completed or educational videos they have watched. Professional content developers and marketers are well served if they can make it easy for viewers to prove they participated in or watched the programs. 

Boosting Brands’ Reputations

These days, marketing’s job is far more complex than selling products. Marketers also need to elevate their brands and position their organizations as knowledgeable and trustworthy. High-quality professional content is a valuable tool for marketers looking to enhance the reputation of their companies. According to a studyby Edelman, 88 percent of business decision-makers and 90 percent of C-suite executives said their respect and admiration for an organization increased after engaging with thought leadership content. The study defined thought leadership as including videos, Webinars, online presentations, and research papers. 

According to the Edelman study, half of respondents said they spend an hour or more per week viewing thought leadership content. Sixty-four percent reported that engaging with this type of material “is one of the best ways to get a sense of the type and caliber of thinking an organization is likely to deliver.” In addition to building an organization’s reputation, such content can expand its reach: Professionals are more likely to forward helpful and relevant content to colleagues, potentially creating a viral effect. 

Online talks, and Webinars in particular, are a great medium for garnering real-time questions, feedback, and comments from viewers. They give participants a chance to engage with the presenter during and after the Webinar, which helps companies understand their audiences’ needs and improve future content.

Content That Can Lead to Certification

Some of the educational content provided by business-to-business (B2B) marketing teams can be made even more valuable to viewers if it counts toward a professional’s certification requirements. Platforms such as ours are recognizing this and making available certificates for all content viewed. 

It may take more research and preparation, but another way marketers can enhance the value of educational content is by partnering with associations or accreditation bodies to have the content count toward specific certifications. Just be aware that standards and rules for certification vary widely by industry. 

If you choose this route, be sure to allow enough time for development. Don’t skimp on researching the viability of the information you plan to offer. The more time you spend on market research, the more effective your Webinar or series of Webinars will become. Another best practice is to get your content peer reviewed. This can be done by a colleague from your company, a consultant, or an advisory board. Be sure to evaluate and incorporate their feedback before going live. 

When developing your content—this applies to both accredited and non-accredited content—it is important to make it learner-friendly. Working professionals often don’t have time to spare for continuing education. To avoid making your Webinar feel like a chore, be sure to create content that’s straightforward and to the point, so you can make the most of your participants’ precious time. 

Marketers increasingly are using thought leadership to build awareness and credibility for their companies. This thoughtful approach at the beginning of the sales process allows companies to build trust with their prospects, before moving into a pitch for a sale. Good thought leadership not only informs and educates potential customers; in today’s environment, it also helps professionals in their quest for continuous learning and career development. Marketers who offer professionals help—in building new skills, enhancing their industry knowledge, and offering information about products and solutions that meet their needs—will set themselves apart from their competition.

Paul Heald is the CEO and cofounder of BrightTALK, a leading video content and demand marketing platform used by 7 million professionals. The company was named one of the 100 fastest growing companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before founding BrightTALK, he was the European managing director of SapientRazorfish and ran Arthur D. Little’s e-business consulting group. 

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