In the most basic way, being in the education business is no different than being in any other business: you have to have a great offering, and you have to market it well.
Unfortunately, I find too many edupreneurs get obsessed with the first part – the offering – and don’t spend nearly enough time focused on the second part. (And, worse, they don’t see that the two are completely interwoven.) As a result, their business never really takes off or reaches its full potential.
To help the situation, I thought I’d share five big takeaways that I got from attending Digital Marketer’s recent Traffic and Conversion Summit. Most of these points overlap with points I have covered before here on the blog and/or in Leading the Learning Revolution and all together they provide a nice, concise guide to how to market in 2019.
1. Relationships, not transactions
As you might expect from the name of the event, Traffic and Conversion is all about attracting people to your business and converting them into customers. This year, though, the big buzz was around terms like “customer journey” and “conversational marketing” – in other words, moving beyond “one and done” and building an actual relationship with your customers.
This really isn’t new. I covered it in Leading the Learning Revolution way back yonder in 2013 and it wasn’t new then, but it has grown dramatically in importance as the battle for customer attention has escalated. Transactions are still important – you have to convert prospects into customers to make money – but if that’s all you do, you are going to have a really hard time actually growing your business.
2. Movements, not moments
This insight relates to the first one and also to a concept that is at the heart of Learning Revolution – and that’s really leading your market. Not just providing a product or service, not just trying to churn as many enrollments or as much revenue as you can, but actually providing some vision, providing a compelling “why” that your customers can relate to.
Let’s face it: part of how you build strong relationships with customers is providing something compelling for the relationship to be about.
Being able to position yourself as a trusted authority is a critical part of creating a movement. This, again, is not new territory, but it has become more critical than ever and I thought Digital Marketer CEO Ryan Deiss offered five useful areas to focus on for building authority. These were:
- Speed – Cut to the chase and provide your core lessons quickly – e.g., the Ten Commandments, not the whole Bible
- Specificity – Ever notice that people ask the same things over and over again? Be persistent with providing specific answers to their specific questions.
- Absolutes – Stop qualifying: accuracy does not equal authority (Ryan’s words). Be willing to state a big idea and stand by it.
- Core beliefs – Make your “why” crystal clear. People usually only follow someone with strong beliefs.
- Rites and rituals – Figure out – or create – the quirky little things your group does that makes it feel special. And then make them a habit for you and your followers.
3. Technical mastery matters
One of the key reasons to attend Traffic and Conversion is to to learn about the tools and techniques the experts are using in areas like digital advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and content marketing. What hit home for me more than ever before is just how sophisticated each of these areas has become and – more importantly – how much of an edge the people who do them well can gain.
If you aren’t already up against competitors who know how to use these tools and techniques well, you will be. And regardless of your competition, you need to know how to use them effectively if you really want to be able to reach and connect with your audience. That doesn’t mean you need to learn how to use them, but you do need to find people who can.
One critical point: all of these tools and techniques – like SEO and advertising – are just that: tools and techniques. They aren’t strategy, and they won’t magically make your business successful if you aren’t already offering great products and services. Still, it’s harder than ever to succeed without them.
4. Bet on what’s working
It’s easy to get obsessed with creating new content, adding more courses, chasing after the latest trendy learning format. But what’s actually working right now? In most cases, increasing your investment in that is the surest way to grow your business.
Unless you have completely tapped out your market (and I have yet to meet an edupreneur who has), there are still plenty of people who have not participated in your most popular offerings. And whatever approach you took to those offerings will most likely work when creating new offerings for your current customers.
So, don’t forget to look at your data. What’s selling? What pages on your Web site are attracting visitors and converting them to customers? You get the idea.
5. Length does not equal value
This is a sort of “meta” takeaway from the event. All of the sessions were 45 minutes in length and, for the most part, it was amazing how much useful, actionable content was packed into those 45 minutes. I’ve been to 2-3 hour workshops – heck, probably even day-long workshops – that have not offered as much value.
This observation probably hit home with me because a participant in a session I facilitated at our recent virtual conference asked how much the session leader had to reduce registration fees when he shortened the length of his organizations workshop. Reduce the price? Why?! If you deliver the same or greater value in less time, charge more! (More thoughts on pricing here.)
Much as we may think we believe quantity does not equal quality, there is persistent belief in the learning business that price and length of content should correlate – which implies that longer equals higher value.
It’s just not true. In fact, the opposite is often true. Most edupreneurs simply haven’t made enough effort to expose their learners to high impact, short content and price it for what it’s worth. Challenge yourself to try this. (This is why, for example, tuning into trends like microlearning is so important.)
Putting it all together
Put all of these points together, and you start to see a clear picture of an education business capable of growing and thriving over the long term. So, I urge to set aside some time to consider and take action in each of these areas. Ask yourself:
- What am I doing to move beyond transactions and really build relationships with my customers?
- What is the “movement” I am trying to create, and how am I establishing the authority to do it?
- Am I leveraging techniques like SEO, content marketing, digital advertising, and other to the degree that I could and should? How will I build better capabilities in these areas?
- Am I tracking my results well enough to know what’s really working right now? Am I investing enough in growing those areas?
- Have I figured out how to deliver concise, high impact content – and not shy away from charging appropriately for it?
Make progress in each of those areas, and you can consider yourself in tune with successful marketing in 2019.