By Chuck Sink
It occurs to me that marketing and sales have more parallels to teaching than people may realize. As an adjunct professor I’m learning a lot about audience engagement.
Students sit though class because they have to, not because they want to. Their parents are paying good money for them to be there. Most students understand and respect that. They also realize that success or failure in a required class can have a real impact on their futures. There’s incentive pushing them forward and making them pay attention – as far as their attention spans allow.
Naturally there are a few students in just about every classroom who are internally motivated and inspired to learn everything they can. Predictably they excel in learning the material and participating in class discussion. What about the majority of the students who appear indifferent and uninterested? Their academic success is just as important to them as it is to the self motivated students, whether they know it or not.
I’m attempting to paint a metaphor concerning your business audience. Your loyal customers are a pleasure to work with. They look forward to hearing from you and often take initiative themselves to keep improving the business relationship. In reality, they make up a very small portion of your target market and total audience. By the numbers, the mass market of the indifferent could be the source of your future fortunes if only you could engage a significant percentage of them like you do your good customers.
What I find raises more heads and focuses more eyes on the professor is when he introduces emotion and human drama into the material being presented. When I stray off textbook rote and bullet points, I notice that most of my class is focused and listening. It’s the stuff they’re not expecting that has them thinking and becoming curious. So long as I stay within the core of the curriculum, I have a tool at my disposal to wake up my audience and get them refocused on why they are there; on the importance of paying attention. I get them to buy into my message (which is to teach them business communication skills).
Today’s lesson for you is to tap into what really matters to the majority of your audience. Once you understand the emotional hot buttons that can be assigned to your product and service benefits, you’ve stuck through the common bedrock of commodity messages to the real marketing pay dirt. Your otherwise bored students (prospects) will start paying attention and want to learn more from you.