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Online Teachers: What are You Selling?
For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe. (Source)
Sales. That word you hated the moment your girlfriend began selling Avon, and you suddenly ran out of things to talk about unless you talked about cosmetics (Avon cosmetics, that is).
The very reason you chose Humanities is so you would never have to worry about making that sale. Running another promotion campaign. Writing endless emails to potential customers. Studying your sales funnel. Talking about “conversion” as frequently and nonchalantly as you talk about the weather.
And now you’re an online teacher. Congratulations to you! Because from now on sales will occupy your mind much more than verb conjugation and indefinite article (or whatever else you’re teaching). Because no matter how good you are, unless people find you and pay you, your chances of sharing all your expertise are pretty slim.
Here’s an excerpt from an online teacher’s email I got about a week ago:
“Having come into the online business fairly cold, I think I was expecting people to contact me and tell me what they wanted but obviously this is not the way it happens.”
This is not the way it happens.
Before people contact you they need to know what you are all about. How you are different. Can they trust you?
But how does it happen?
Do you know why Nike shoes are so popular? – It’s their brand. It’s the message behind the brand. It’s the appeal to a person’s emotional attachment.
Today I’d like to challenge us to think beyond our job of “selling lessons via skype.” I want us to move on another level and begin building our own brand. Yes, just like Nike.
What is a brand?
A brand is a promise to your customer that you will deliver what you promised to deliver. It may sound easy, but it takes a few steps to get there. First, you craft your promise. Secondly, you make it appealing to your future customers. Your brand is more than a logo and the colors for stationary. It’s measured by the level of trust that you are given.
Where does your online branding start?
You might think that having a website and a blog (covered with your logo) is sufficient enough for people to come into contact with you, but you might be surprised to find out that it’s only the beginning. It’s the foundation that helps you build your brand. Now there’re many articles on branding out there and I don’t want to repeat what’s been said, so I’ll focus on just 2 main branding components that will take your promotion efforts on another level.
- The message behind your brand.
- The emotional attachment to your brand.
Discovering and crafting the message behind your brand.
Before I go into detail I’d like to warn you that creating a message for your brand will take time. A lot of time. So if you’re not ready for it then the rest of the article will be time wasted. But if you’re truly putting efforts into brand creation, know that it will be painful, but in the end worth it.
1. The right words. You can begin crafting your brand message by simply moving away from the painful phrase of, “I teach English online.” You may leave it for people that don’t understand what you do all day, but it won’t be enough for your potential clients. Find words that have action, challenge, and power. Remember these words are what your business is all about. These words are you.
2. The few words. For me the hardest part has always been not only finding the right words, but make them into a short and concise message that sticks. You can then create a mission statement that will explain your brand message more fully, but for now you need to come up with just a few words.
3. The clear words. So you might have found the right words and the few words, but do they express the value of your service clearly? When I was crafting such a message for my website I contacted my clients to find out why they had chosen me, and I discovered a few things that helped me downsize my mansion-like description into a tiny-home slogan: Big Help for Small Beginnings.
What I wanted to communicate in this message is your fast result is my promise to you. Whether you’re a student struggling to be fluent or an online teacher trying to figure out how to set up your online business most effectively, I’m going to use all my expertise and knowledge to help you get there as fast as you possibly can. You are going to get lots of help in a very short period of time. Satisfaction guaranteed and verified by other clients.
If you’re struggling to determine what your business is all about ask your clients. Look for similarities in their responses. Take out all the fluff. Leave what’s important. Take that one seed and plant it on your website. Watch it grow.
Another strategy to crafting your message is to study slogans of large and successful businesses and corporations. Here’re some to get you inspired.
Creating a Healthy Emotional Attachment to your Brand.
Let’s go back to the example with Nike. Remember, it’s not just the shoe’s feature that sell the shoe, as the entrepreneur encyclopedia puts it.
Nike was able to associate their product with well-known athletes in hopes that the customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the shoe. “Just Do It” slogan seals the deal. The logo makes it a done deal.
So how do you create a healthy emotional attachment?
1. Find powerful associations. Have you ever made a decision to buy something just because somebody whom you trust endorsed this product or service. When you’re beginning to teach online, apart from discovering your own message and make it set apart, find ways to connect with the movers and shakers in your industry.
Engage into discussions with them on their blogs. Write for their blogs/participate in their forums. You will become known by association. People will trust you just because somebody else whom they trust mentioned you in their blog, or because they read your smart comment on that person’s blog.
2. Learn and collaborate. You can bring a lot to the table, but sometimes you refuse to do so because a) you don’t know what you can bring, b) you know what you can bring but in your eyes it’s insignificant. Ironically, until you begin collaborating you won’t know how significant your input actually is.
After my latest post on blogging I received some emails from teachers saying they appreciated my tips. I had thought what I was writing would be common knowledge to many, so I was glad that I had overcome my own insecurities and put out something that was of value. Share your expertise to validate your brand.
3. Focus on the who, not the what.No matter what we teach, we work with people. In most cases we teach in 1-1 settings and we’ll get to know our clients better, and this creates a healthy emotional attachment. So be professional, but also be relational. It’s very hard to leave somebody with whom you share a part of your life, not just educational pursuits.
4. Build a community. This one is very difficult to achieve especially in the context of being a “solo-preneur.” We pride ourselves in being our own bosses and for the most part our business introversion works against us.
You can build community in two dimensions.
First, connect to other teacherpreneurs like yourselves. If you find people whose pursuits you share see if you could join a mastermind group with them. If that’s not possible consider a mentoring relationship. It’s always good to have somebody else’s opinion on the things with which you struggle. Run events together.
When it comes to students, you can invite them into groups on social networks and run events for them. Create challenges and marathons for them. Establish support system groups and open up opportunities for dialogues. Choose one format in the beginning. It’s not going to be an easy effort because before people engage they need to have your trust, but if you keep walking in this direction you’ll discover greater feedback.
Finally, sell your brand.
Sales is so much more than the money in your pocket. Sales is even more than a couple of sold lessons. Sales is a process of engaging your your customers with your brand. Engagement creates a strong bond. Bonds are not easily broken. When you think of yourself as an online-teacher-turned-salesperson go beyond the door-to-door concept. Think brand. Be your brand.
A few years ago my husband and I frequented this small coffee shop in our town. We are big into supporting local businesses, so we went there for some time. There we got to know Cameron, one of those outstanding baristas who knew how to make our drinks just right. He knew we would come in on Friday afternoons so the moment he saw our car pulling in, he would begin making me my mocha.
You see, even though Cameron was working for another company, he created his own brand. After he moved to another city we couldn’t go to the coffee shop anymore because the coffee just wasn’t right. Ironically we ended up moving to the same city a few months ago, and the coffee shop where he’s working now is our obvious choice when we want to enjoy a cup.
When you create a brand that will represent who you are most precisely, people will follow you because they trust you and they are “hooked on your product and services.” Because what you make is just right for them.
So before people contact you for lessons, you’ve got some homework to do. Take your time and do it right.
You’ve been reading a guest post by Elena Mutonono