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Back in the late 1990s I trained to be a secondary school history teacher.

It was an excellent course. We spent 40% of the year learning about the theory of teaching and the other 60% putting it into practice.

One of the things that was drummed into me was the notion that different individuals have different learning styles.

If your teaching accommodated these different ways of learning, you would be more successful in supporting all of your pupils – not just those who could only learn in a particular way.

So I took note, and used music, video, role play, acting and many other techniques, as well as the essential reading and writing activities.

There are lots of competing models of learning styles but perhaps the most popular these days is the VARK model developed by educational theorist Neil Fleming.

Fleming argues that there are four main styles of learning. They are:

  • Visual – learning from diagrams, maps, charts, graphs and symbolic devices.
  • Auditory – learning from the spoken word, such as lectures and group discussions, and using mnemonics and repetition to learn.
  • Read / Write –learning from and by using the written word, such as by taking notes, reading and turning abstract concepts into words.
  • Kinaesthetic– learning from a hands-on approach, such as by handling objects, or watching demonstrations of (for example) how to dismantle an engine.

 

If Fleming’s VARK model has more than a grain of truth to it, then it can have implications for how your business communicates – both internally and externally.

For example, if you are training your employees using PowerPoint, staff with a read / write learning style will learn the most.

So can you add in graphs for the visual learners? Incorporate a group discussion for the auditory learners? Or get people doing an active task so the kinaesthetic learners benefit?

When I train people to understand the Attention / Interest / Desire / Caution / Action (AIDCA) structure of a sales letter, I get people to hold up signs labelled with each stage.

It’s visual and hands-on, which covers two learning styles. I also talk the process through, which helps the auditory learners and provide notes which help the read / write learners.

It’s a highly effective technique and also a simple one.

With a bit of thought, you can tweak a lot of your training to incorporate similar techniques that cater for different learning styles.

In the same way, it’s worth thinking about how you communicate with prospects.

Do your advertising or marketing campaigns contain elements that appeal to each type of learner? Are visual campaigns backed up with the spoken word (e.g. radio or phone calls), or can you offer visual and practical demonstrations of how your products or services work?

I think mixing up the ways in which you communicate is a good idea but I must make a minor confession.

Personally I feel that the VARK model of learning styles is too simplistic; I think that we all learn (to a greater or lesser extent) using all these methods. But the net effect is the same – the more methods you use to communicate, the better you can help people learn (and hopefully buy) from you.

I think this is a key component of what has become known as multi-channel or omni-channel marketing.

It not only reaches you on the ‘channels’ you use (online, TV, print, radio, billboards, in-store and so on) but it also employs a range of techniques that are visual, auditory, demonstrative and information-rich.

By appealing to the different ways we learn and our different senses, the chances of reaching us increase dramatically.

You may disagree. But as always, the proof is in the pudding. Try varying the ways in which you communicate with your employees and see whether you and they reach their goals quicker or better. If they do, perhaps you could try doing the same when you communicate with your customers and prospects – after all, a little learning could be a very profitable thing.

Chartered Accountants

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About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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