Looking for new ways to increase the return on the investment in your learning management system? Take a look at the pharmaceutical industry for four good ideas to expand the role of your LMS.
The traditional role of the LMS is to manage and deliver training to internal stakeholders. Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, are involved in training both internal and external personnel. External education usually falls to a field sales staff. The information on a new drug is complex and has to be communicated to a large audience – physicians, pharmacists and even patients. Expanding the LMS role to include customer education, vendor education, outreach, and conference support greatly increases its business value.
A learning management system is a powerful tool for distributing information to both existing and potential customers. Unlike a traditional catalog or static web page, an online course can deliver a wealth of information. Using the pharmaceutical company example, consider the value of a course for prescribers on a new drug.
One area where extending LMS use to customers has great value is product safety. In today’s litigious world, offering important safety information through your LMS makes perfect sense. Through the LMS, the company will have documentation to show what information presented, and to whom.
Inviting customers into what is usually perceived as an “internal” system can be beneficial as well. Doing so increases the customer’s perception of their “value” to the organization.
Another area that your LMS can be put to work involves your vendors, suppliers and contractors. Depending on the legal structure of the organization, there are a number of areas where there are opportunities to educate vendors. Organizations doing business with local, state or federal agencies often have to comply with complex purchasing structures or requirements.
Some areas where the LMS can provide training for vendors:
- Accounting processes for ordering, invoicing, payment, returns, etc.;
- Vendor-specific programs, such as advertising co-ops or incentives;
- Product placement and marketing strategies;
- Legal issues, such as pricing and business ethics; or
- Contractor requirements, such as safety or environmental practices
What does it mean to use your LMS for outreach, though? In the pharmaceutical example, it may mean making a course available to media outlets to highlight the root health issue and explain a new drug in simpler terms than used with physicians and pharmacists. The best definition of outreach is to extend more generalized information to a specific audience outside of the normal training needs.
Examples of outreach might include:
- Media outlets and news agencies;
- Professional or trade associations; or
- Community organizations.
Outreach is not always external, though. The training organization can also use the LMS to reach specific internal audiences with information. Develop a course in support of the annual report for senior management and shareholders.
If a specific group or association is extremely important to the overall business model of the organization, consider setting up a specific portal or landing page for the group. The learning management system should be an extension of your corporate brand and values.
Although legislation tightened sponsorship rules for pharmaceutical companies, many remain involved in support of educational meetings or conferences. Your LMS can be used to track attendance and participation, just as it would for instructor-led classroom activity. For larger groups, consider using bar code scanners in conjunction with attendee badges to capture information. Knowing who had an interest in a specific topic is valuable information.
Almost every business participates in trade shows. Have you offered your LMS feature set to your trade show marketing staff? You should. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on lead retrieval systems offered by conference promoters, your LMS is a great tool to capture information.
Give your trade show visitors the usual dollars-or-percentage off coupons they expect. However, your LMS can qualify more serious potential customers; instead of a course completion certificate give the potential customer a stronger offer. Completing a course can show a level of interest and commitment that is hard to quantify in five minutes on a trade show floor.
The automated functions of your LMS can easily be used to communicate with show attendees. The same tool used to create end-of-course surveys might also be used to capture viewpoints and perceptions of everything from a new product to the show booth’s presentation.
Why an LMS for these Functions?
Most learning management systems handle a few core tasks very well:
- Delivering information to target audiences;
- Tracking interactions with the organization, regardless whether that interaction is online or in a traditional classroom;
- Capturing information through the use of forms, surveys, tests, etc.; and
- Managing automated communications based on rules.
Think about how these core functions can support company efforts in these additional areas. These are many of the same functions you’ll find with outside relationship management tools – cut your costs by taking advantage of your LMS to manage these relationships. You’ll find that extending your LMS to other areas outside of core training can increase the value of your LMS and training organization as a whole.