By Anne Rewey


A recent ANA (Association of National Advertisers) and McKinsey study found that 89% of marketers feel continual training and skills development is essential for success. Even so, many corporations are unwilling to invest in the educational and training programs marketers need.1 In part, this training gap can be attributed to a knowledge gap. The fact is, many companies simply do not understand how to execute the type of comprehensive marketing training program that will have the greatest impact on their organization and the success of their products.

Today’s pharma marketers need to be smarter, more agile, and more innovative than ever. They must be able to think critically and strategically, and have the training and confidence to execute quickly and flawlessly. Creating a holistic environment that fosters these skills takes both planning and vigilance, but is well worth the effort. Let’s examine seven ways to generate an effective marketing training program within a comprehensive training environment that helps your employees successfully navigate today’s increasingly competitive global marketplace.

1. Make it relevant

The modern marketer must have a firm grasp of marketing theory and strategy as well as an in-depth knowledge of the brand or brands they support. For their training to be a success, it must be relevant to the current marketplace and the needs of the marketing team. This might be done by leveraging realistic case studies and scenario-based practice to replicate the environment marketers work in every day. Relevancy is also achieved when templates, tools, and technologies involved in a marketer’s daily role are brought into the training environment.

2. Enroll leaders first

Culture starts at the top. Employees will prioritize what their managers prioritize. It’s a best practice to have managers and leadership team members go through a beta test of your program first. That way they can provide feedback on the program, which helps to increase its relevancy while also boosting the leaders’ sense of ownership of the program.

3. Ensure accountability from leadership

It’s vital that you hold leaders accountable for building a learning environment among their teams. Specifically, leaders should:

  • Encourage learning from mistakes and sharing experiences among team members.
  • Foster problem-sharing with colleagues to generate collaboration and critical thinking in relation to real business challenges.
  • Promote risk-taking and charting a new path, especially if it promotes failing fast. This keeps teams from burning through resources trying to make something work that really should not.

4. Diversify training

It’s important that you provide a variety of training tools—including an array of media types, technologies, and methodologies—for each must-have skill you’ve identified. Be sure to complement traditional training programs with real-time options. For example, consider:

  • Bringing in an external subject matter expert who can speak to specific areas of interest
  • Providing the option to pursue course work at an esteemed university that will enhance the lessons of a training program
  • Offering externships with other organizations that will talent swap for training purposes

5. Involve employees in learning and development choices

By participating in building and shaping their learning environment, employees will feel responsible, valued, and more invested in the success of the effort. Continually seek employee input on training options. These insights can be gained through surveys, online discussion boards, workshop breakout sessions, and one-on-one coaching sessions. Once you gain input, make sure employees can see how you follow up on their input and suggestions.

6. Encourage discussion

It’s critical to offer a mechanism for employees to share best practices and learnings, such as an internal website or e-platform. Marketers from different brands rarely get the chance to share insights, so it’s recommended that you create discussion-based learning opportunities that will allow marketers from across the company to converse and collaborate. Ask leaders to maintain a consistent presence on the discussion boards throughout the program, as this will increase employee buy-in and motivation. The discussions facilitated by these methods will reinforce the idea that training opportunities are not separate from the business and should be embraced whenever possible.

7. Recognize, appreciate, and reward

We all know the saying, “Reward the behavior you want repeated.” To encourage continuous learning, recognize marketers who have embraced new learning options and delivered business results. If possible, show your appreciation for employees in a public forum, ideally in front of their coworkers. When your employees are recognized for doing something well, they will want to do more of it!

Creating an effective marketing training program will take time, but maintaining a clear and consistent voice, engaging your leaders to live the core principles, and staying true to your metrics will ensure step-by-step progress towards more innovative, strategic thinking and, ultimately, greater success in the marketplace.


  1. Crandell C. Training is marketing and sales’ blind spot. Forbes. Published November 19, 2014. Accessed October 2, 2018.

Anne Rewey is a seasoned marketing consultant, business strategist, and implementation expert with a proven track record working with leading healthcare companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Covance, Hologic, and The Medicines Company. As a marketing subject matter expert for Encompass, Anne engages closely with clients to develop customized, insightful, and practical marketing training programs.