You may have heard this before: everyone is in marketing nowadays. To make a living, you need to promote and sell something: your image as an ideal employee; your qualifications as the perfect fit for an advertised professional position; the product or service the company you already work for specializes in; or your own business. Everything is a brand, from products and ideas to people and causes. Non-profits, as you know, need as much promotion as any other business.
Moreover, marketing has changed radically in the last ten years or so. It has become a lot more exciting. As a marketer, you are not allowed to interrupt your audience with a loud selling message or by yelling a silly slogan at them any longer. You may even try, but it will not be very effective. Now things got a lot more complex, genuine, interactive, and, I dare say, even more artistic. Marketing needs to excel at beauty, creativity, usefulness, and the ability to keep a conversation going with the customer for as long as necessary. After all, we are aiming to keep them for life.
As a consequence, we all need to turn our marketing departments into media companies or publishers to be able to promote effectively in this new landscape: whether your are selling language learning courses, ebooks or cars. Gone are the days of the proverbial pushy second-hand car salesmen we still see in movies. To turn our marketing team into a media company, we must become content creation machines, spilling out entertainment, compelling stories, clear explanations and timely info about your product or service to build a loyal audience on and off line. Only then are we allowed to sell to this community we worked so hard to attract and shape. Build the community first, gain its trust, give away lots of free and relevant content, and afterwards, you will own the right to offer them your “purple cow” (borrowing the expression from marketing guru Seth Godin): the very compelling product they can’t wait to buy from you.
Take for example the need to create a personality and specify the values your brand stands for. Storytelling is the keyword here. Every time you get in touch with your audience you have an opportunity to add a new piece of your corporate narrative by reinforcing the values and personality of your brand. This must be done through different social media channels, using the right tone of voice. Companies that invest in marketing will assign different people to manage distinct social media channels and the kind of content feeding they require. Besides, they need a marketing coordinator/manager to oversee the whole operation, analyze the metrics, and make sure the conversation with the client remains consistent.
Marketing in the business of language learning – my speciality
What I find really exciting as a marketer in the language learning line of business is how easy it is to produce content that will captivate your target audience, turning them into leads and then customers. If you sell LANGUAGE, which is a vehicle, you have a lot more elbow room to play with content. Language can be used to talk about anything. So there can be a lot of variety in your communication. And what can be more exhilarating than the possibility of creating blogs, podcasts, videos, PowerPoint presentations, ebooks, webinars, etc. to express your passion for language teaching/learning through a wealth of rich content? Marketers are given a unique chance to become writers, video makers, newsreaders and designers: we’ve been given the opportunity to be in show business after all! Few people would turn this opportunity down.
Of course, you may not feel excited about every piece of content you will have to create to attract customers, especially because it needs to cater for the community’s needs and interests, not yours. The more you get to know your prospects, the easier it will be to publish the right kind of content for them. But assuming you like or identify with the product your are selling, there will always be room to express your passion.
Hubspot, the inbound marketing software company, is the benchmark for content creation, attracting clients to their community by giving tonnes of excellent content away for free. Well, there is obviously no need to get to their level of sophistication and productivity, but if you do not start creating compelling content right now, you will not be in business for very long. Believe me, creating content is key. And it can be a lot of fun.