When I sit down at my desk to write every day, I am simultaneously energised and discouraged.
On the bright side, it is amazing that we live in a time when (and place where) everybody is free to express their thoughts immediately, in a completely unfiltered medium. The Internet has done this for us. You can start a blog tomorrow and publish on anything that you want, for free, without fear of censorship or restraint. Somewhere, Gutenberg is smiling.
On the flip side of that coin, however, this freedom to publish inevitably means that there is a much lower threshold for quality content on the Internet than through traditional publishing mediums. Plainly stated: There is an overwhelming amount of crap out there.
Writers and other content creators struggle daily to find the balance between publishing enough volume of work to be relevant and enough quality work to make a difference in people’s lives. It is not an easy task.
So how does marketing fit into this equation?
First, a paradigm shift for you: Instant access to online content, social media and resources has changed the definition of marketing forever.
It will never be the same. Get over it.
Sales psychology, hard sell tactics, long form sales letters… all those have their places in the marketing arsenal. But much of that stuff is trite and transparent. Old hat, if you will. The new marketing formula is much more elemental than all of that.
Teaching is the new marketing.
The paradigm shift
Your prospects and your clients are not mindless faces, robots or sheep. They are real human beings. And we paradoxical humans love to buy but hate being sold to.
The easiest way to slice through that human paradox is to teach a person something and let them decide whether they want to further their education with you or not. Your goal should be to provide value to them regardless of their response to you. Now, your followers are no longer your customers, they are your students.
Welcome to marketing in the information age.
The benefits of acquiring “students” rather than “customers”
Changing the way you think about your customers will drastically increase your rapport with them and, as a result, your sales. There are many benefits to looking at your customers and clients as students instead of dollar signs.
The immediate benefit for both parties is a softening of the interaction. I recognized this firsthand when I worked at a restaurant for a few years. In the back of the kitchen, we would always refer to patrons as “customers.” As in, “my customer did this” or “I have four customers right now.”
Management emphasised that we refer to patrons not as “customers” but as “guests.” At the time, I thought that this detail was too miniscule to make a difference. But it really did. As soon as I started referring to my customers as guests, I detected an almost imperceptible softness towards them creep up on me.
I didn’t have any specifically positive feelings towards a “customer.” The word “guest,” however, triggered a slew of emotional and cultural cues in my head regarding how I should treat them. The cultural norm is to treat guests with love and kindness. A small word change made me a better server.
This change did not go unnoticed. When I became a better server, all of a sudden, they became better guests. Guess what got better after that?
Adopting the mindset
The mindset for selling any product or service is exactly the same. We have to change the way that we look at our clients and ourselves.
Changing the relationship from business-client to teacher-student is a huge shift that injects benevolence into the mix. You’ll care about your students and they will care about you in return.
Whenever you engage a customer, set out first to deliver them information that will enhance their lives. Whether or not they select you or your product, your goal should be to make sure that they walk away knowing more than they did before the interaction.
Luckily, I don’t have to work at the restaurant anymore. My business now is focused on coaching young people and helping them build start-up companies online. Naturally, this puts me in a situation where people have a ton of questions for me.
Rather than hoarding all the information and trying to squeeze every dollar out of them before I give them the “secret sauce,” I just tell them what they want to know.
There is no possible way that educating them can rob me of anything I’ve worked to build, and in the long run, they will feel grateful that I helped them in a time of need without pressuring a sale. Most marketers (read: 99 percent) don’t do this.
I’ve found that instead of getting taken advantage of, this approach actually brings me many more clients (“students”) than ever before. Even if educating prospective customers means exposing them to the fact that my competitors also have some good products to offer, that’s OK too. My goal is to come from a place of true authenticity.
People feel that authenticity. People will bond with that. That bond will lead to an enhanced relationship and, ultimately, much higher conversions from prospect to customer.
It’s the ultimate win-win.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.