Tom is a new online teacher.
He’s chosen to teach online because he loves flexibility and creativity. He’s got multiple awards for his teaching talent. But Tom isn’t getting much business teaching online because, as he says, “I’m not a marketer.”
Jane has been teaching offline and online for some time.
Whenever she wants to focus on her online teaching, an opportunity to teach somebody face-to-face comes up, so the online business goes on the back burner. She realizes she needs to widen her reach and look for students online. But she’s not a marketer, so networking online is daunting.
Stephen is almost an online celebrity.
He’s been featured on language learning blogs and has done online conferences. He has almost half a million followers on different social media sites, but he only manages to sell 2-3 $50 courses a week. He doesn’t have a list and this marketing business bores him. “I’m not a marketer,” he says. “I’m just going to hire somebody to help me out.”
Valery has been running her business for a few years.
It has been insanely successful and uniquely positioned on the market. She’s had a waiting list of clients and they kept coming through her tireless efforts of posting useful materials on Instagram. Then one day it all stopped. The enrollment plummeted, and she was faced with the challenge of conquering the big marketing monster.
But I’m not a marketer. I can’t do that kind of stuff. I want to create materials. I can’t be bothered with petty sales.
Why Online Teacher is More than a Teacher
If you find yourself in one of the scenarios above (or a blend of several) you’re not alone. Every day when I interact with teachers either on social media or in my Smart Teacher’s Library, I hear the same message all over again.
But I’m not a marketer. I’m a teacher.
I must give you a disclaimer here that I’m not a marketer either. I was trained as an ESL teacher, like many of you.
However, when you teach online you become more than a teacher. This is what none of the “How to Teach Online” courses will tell you or maybe this is something you will not want to hear.
Either way, an online teacher is a part of the so called slash-something generation.
Teacher/web-designer/graphics designer/site developer/email marketer/blogger/videographer/ etc.
“The ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today… [but] as species, we are predisposed to learn skills in certain contexts and to resist – or at least find challenging – their wider generalization and broader application.”
Teachers claim that they hate marketing because they perceive it differently and they don’t think that it’s connected to teaching.
3 Reasons why Marketing Scares the Daylight out of Online Teachers.
Here’re 3 reasons why teachers resist being associated with marketers.
- They see marketing as something intrusive and sales-y.
- They believe that marketing is boring and dry (e.g., all the talk about sales and conversion).
- They believe the only thing their audience wants from them is their lessons (or courses).
What is marketing then?
While researching for this post I found a great variety of definitions of marketing. Most teachers use a dictionary definition of marketing, which is just as generic as that of teaching for that matter.
So I looked up other definitions, written by marketers, and found some unique ones (bold type is added):
“Marketing is anything you create or share that tells your story.” Ann Handley
“Marketing is creating irresistible experiences that connect with people personally and create the desire to share with others.” Saul Colt
“With a good product, marketing can all be boiled down to education. Effectively educating people about any good product will create the desire needed to produce action.” Jeffrey Harmon
Do you see this? Teachers are born marketers because
- They’re the best story tellers.
- They know how to create irresistible experiences that people can’t but share.
- They’re educators.
Does marketing keep you away from launching your product? Check out my mini-course for ideas.
How You can Become Your Own Marketer: 3 Tips
Don’t just say what you do. Share your story.
I sometimes am guilty of it because it’s just hard to explain what I do in one sentence. But what if we began to talk about what we do as a story, not as a job?
Example 1: I’m an online English teacher.
Example 2: I help non-native English professionals write emails with ease, confidence and clarity.
Just keep your description simple, without the jargon words and phrases. Read more in Henneke Duistermaat’s post on gobbledygook language.
Don’t just *give lessons.* Create irresistible experiences that your clients will rave about.
How many times have we gone back to the discussion of 5-lesson packages, etc. Is this all we’re selling, – packages? If you’re a huge marketplace that specializes in manufacturing lesson plans and packages then sure.
But most of us are solopreneurs or small teams, so you can’t follow the generic rules set out by somebody who has millions of followers.
Be unique and stand out.
- Who said that you can only teach through 1:1 lessons?
- What if you created a program and provided written/video feedback instead?
- What if you met once a month and gave your student a brand-new, customized program to work through?
- What if you created a series of emails that teach something that your students need?
It is sad that being as creative as we teachers are, whenever it comes to lesson packaging we go back to the good-old “5-lesson-per-pack.”
Think differently. Create irresistible experiences for your students. Have them do most of the work (how cool would that be – and why not?)
Don’t just assume that people know. Educate them about your exceptional experiences on your blog, through your videos and podcasts.
I’m sure you’ve had that headache before… What do I blog about this week? You just don’t know because your blogging is sporadic.
Today I look out of my window, and it’s raining. Bingo! I’ve got a blog post! 250 expressions with the word “rain!”
Next week you talk to your student and hear them make a mistake in the use of the Present Perfect Tense. Yay! Today’s post is about the use of the Present Perfect Tense in conversation. Add some exercises, too and voila!
The problem with such content is that it has neither focus nor goal. You aren’t using it to educate your readers about the unique, irresistible learning experiences you provide.
There’s also very little of you in this blog post. It’s all about random stuff collected from everywhere on the internet with the image you so proudly made in Canva.
Before you think I’m such a cheeky teacher trainer here, let me tell you that I’m talking about my own experiences here. The blogging workflow above? That’s the way I blogged for 4 years!
There was a year when I blogged three times a week!
Today I’ve got over 50k views on that blog monthly, but it doesn’t bring students. People love what I wrote though.
But I never educated people about the irresistible learning experience that I offered. At the time I was offering 1:1 lessons anyway, and my understanding of “educating about my services” was a couple of standard sentences at the end of each post that read,
“If you want to learn 250 phrases about snow, book a free trial with me.”
Wow, what an incentive.
Obviously, in order to educate people you need to know
- What you’re educating about
- Why this is so important to you.
But education can’t be on random topics that the Internet is already flooded with. Find your passion. Share your story. Stand out. Educate people about your value.
This is precisely why I discourage teachers from hiring somebody else to do the marketing for them. Unless you’re willing to pay the big bucks, this isn’t going to work because
- Nobody knows your story better than you.
- Nobody can create the learning environment the way you can create it.
- Nobody can educate people about the value of your services the same way you can.
Remember, you are your best marketer.
What about you? How do you feel about marketing your own services? Please share in the comments!
The post was updated in April, 2021.