Years ago, I was invited to San Jose, California for a 3 day meeting at Adobe headquarters as part of a pitch to hire Adobe instructors and recruit them to sell the possibilities of Adobe products at trade shows. I never identified as a sales person and held the ideals of teaching and inspiring as my higher calling. As a result, at the end of that meeting, I felt like I had been misinformed in what this entire meeting was about.
This meeting was early in my career, and I had much to learn. As I grew in my profession, I continued to see the crossover of education and marketing. As I worked as a designer during the day and taught college courses on those same principles, I started making the connection. I was providing value and brand affinity services for Adobe as a result of the courses in Adobe products that I was teaching. The many Adobe certified instructors world-wide that teach the advantages of Adobe applications are in essence selling this product by inspiring and explaining the value of their tools.
As a lifelong teacher and designer, I have made it my passion to inspire students with the tools and techniques of design. And, in doing so, I have been, in essence, selling these design products that my students learn. This began to open my eyes to another avenue of marketing that was a better fit for my approach. I could inspire a potential customer by teaching them about what I do and providing insight into the value of the outcome.
Fast forward to the present day scramble for website search ratings and social media engagement.
The marketing world needs continuous, high quality content to attract new customers and develop brand affinity, but the old outbound marketing model is no longer working. Outbound marketing turns off customers in these platforms with direct sales language and call to actions. The online audience is looking to solve problems and learn about solutions. And, the search engines and audience rating systems are not rewarding the hard sell without substance. Interruptive and annoying advertisements cause users to leave sites out of irritation.
A new term emerges that codifies what I learned back in my early career with Adobe and marketing team collaborations. Content marketing is king. What solutions can I present for my audience’s queries? If they ask a question, the new competition is who has the best solution and composes their solution in a way that the audience can find. Can you become a quality resource for solution seekers? This is the main goal.
The Student as the Customer
We have entered a time when the customer decides the process. They have already done a great deal of the research online before the sales process begins. Most of the educating and providing of value begins and ends with the content provided online and whether or not the audience can find it. This is why there has been such an explosion in “How To” videos and solution articles than ever before. At one point you would have to depend on reading through customer service threads to find answers to issues. Now, you find more and more of this content on product sites pulling you into a sphere of authority on your subject of investigation.
The content world needs the skills of instructional designers creating lessons that educate the audience on how to solve their problem and how to use a certain product as part of that lesson. We need written content, step by step tutorials that are to the point, and video content that is short and sweet and easy to follow. And just as important, we need it to be entertaining and fun. My favorite term for creating an engaging learning experience is Edu-tainment. Make your education content valuable, spotlight the product as the best tool for the solution and make it entertaining enough to share.