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Customer engagement breeds conversions, and what better way to create engagement than through teaching and learning? People love to learn. People do not always love being a “target” of marketing.

I have the amazing privilege of being an Adjunct Professor at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, which means I also get to be a perpetual student. Whether in the classroom or online, learning takes place in many ways among different types of people including our prospects and customers who are also our students.

Customer Engagement: Teacheting Instead of Marketing

Technology and communications have changed marketing more in the last five years than over the last 30. Business owners and managers can learn a lot about connecting with their prospective and existing customers (i.e. students) by teaching them versus marketing to them – a term we like to call, “teacheting.”

Learning blocks to show customer engagement

Top 10 Reasons Why Teacheting is Better Than Marketing:

  1. Teaching involves reciprocity – “give and take” and relationship building. A teacher connects with students through empathy, understanding their background, viewpoints, biases, goals, etc. What better way to forge a meaningful relationship and customer engagement than by educating prospects and customers versus just trying to sell them? Most people don’t like to be sold.
  2. Content marketing is the “new” marketing – text, audio, video, infographics, interactive, etc. support the notion that prospects and customers learn differently and have preferred “modalities” through which they learn. Why force them into a format that isn’t their preference? Why not provide content choices?
  3. The Internet and content have dramatically affected the Customer Experience – prospects and customers are continually seeking information and expect customer engagement – why not inform them of the right and best information?
  4. Content is marketing currency – if you are willing to educate prospects and customers, you are creating a relationship based on trust and mutual respect because you are investing in the relationship before trying to sell them. What better way to ultimately gain new business from a prospect or more business from a customer?
  5. Learning is expected – more than 70% of purchases originate from web research. Your audience is already out there and much further down the proverbial “funnel” than you think. If you teach a prospect what they want and need to know, you will be top of mind and they will likely regard your company as a knowledge leader. The result? Gratitude and loyalty for teaching them.
  6. Teaching is just smart business. Does it make sense to let competitors control your messaging? Or let others educate your prospects and customers? Or even worse, not educate them at all? Prospects and customers will be better “trained” because you taught them.
  7. When information is interesting, useful, or entertaining, people are more likely to share that knowledge with others. What better way to spread the word about your company’s authority and credibility?
  8. There is a trickle-down effect as employees also learn from teacheting; well-educated employees beget well-educated customers.
  9. Perception is reality. As a brand-building effort, the position you create in prospects and customers’ minds is critical. If you are regarded as credible, authoritative, and the knowledge leader, you are building differentiation, brand value, and competitive advantage.
  10. Teachers know the best way to reinforce and grow their own expertise is by teaching. To truly teach others, one must think about learning objectives – what are the key thingsthe student needs to knowwhat information needs to be delivered; what channel will be used to deliver the information; and finally, how will the message be interpreted by the learner. Time, effort, and empathy are required, but anytime you wear your “customer hat,” you are on the way to providing a great Customer Experience.

Understanding Your Students for Customer Engagement

The time is now to begin thinking about marketing differently. Consider these stats*:

  • There are more than 3.5 billion searches per day on Google
  • More than 64% of website visits begin with an organic search
  • 81% of people conduct online research before making a large purchase
  • In 2018, 52% of all website traffic worldwide comes from mobile

We have become desensitized to “searching” because it is part of our everyday routine. People today are conducting web searches for a reason, which translates to intent: they search to learn, locate, or purchase something but usually to learn first. IF they find you, what will your visitors learn?

Google screen showing customer engagement

It is well documented that people absorb, process, and retain information differently. Commonly referred to as “learning styles,” these are “sensory modalities” by which we learn and are generally grouped into four areas:

  1. Visual – graphical representation for info that can be conveyed through words
  2. Auditory – information heard or spoken
  3. Reading/Writing – information displayed as words
  4. Kinesthetic – information that is experienced, realistic

These four modalities are known as VARK. Many people are multi-modal; they prefer to learn through more than one modality, but will adapt to a single modality depending on the context or situation. If most people are multi-modal, shouldn’t our learning content be multi-modal?

Visual and the Importance of Context

While video continues to become a predominant method of communication – 85% of the US Internet market consumes video online and half of all video content is viewed on mobile – it is not necessarily synonymous with a “visual” learning style.

The VARK definition of “visual” learning style does not include video but encompasses graphs, symbols, etc. to convey information visually rather than through words – infographics are a great example.

Most people are drawn to video because of the “context” – the narrative, story-telling,and beginning-middle-end format, which makes it so compelling.

The best content and the best learning are achieved through appropriate and relevant context.

Customer Engagement by Controlling Your “Classroom”

Create customer engagement with your students (prospects and customers) because they are thirsty for knowledge; but good teachers are required for a superior learning experience. Look around your industry – evaluate what type of teaching is being conducted if it is at all. Chances are very good that your company could score high marks by taking more control and leadership of the classroom.

If you want to chat about your small business challenges or learn more about teacheting, please email me at terry@strategicglue.com

Terry Sullivan owns Strategic Glue and is an Adjunct Professor at Webster University, in St. Louis, Missouri.