You Can Out-Spend or Out-Teach

🧑‍🎨 Creator(s)
🗓️ Publish Date
September 7, 2005
📚 Publisher(s)

🗃️ Archival copy:

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Imagine you're trying to launch a new software product, book, web service, church, small business, social cause, consulting practice, school, podcast channel, rock band, whatever. The most important skill you need today is not fund-raising, financial management, or marketing. It's not knowledge management, IT, or human resources. It's not product design, usability, or just-in-time inventory.

The most important skill today is... teaching.

Whatever it is you're launching is probably not in short supply, and there's always someone who's doing it better, faster, and cheaper (or will be within weeks). Most of us authors, non-profit evangelists, indie software developers, small start-ups (the soon-to-be Fortune 5,000,000) can barely afford broadband let alone a "marketing/ad campaign". We can't hire a publicist. We aren't going to be on Oprah.

But you're not interested in using deception and bulls*** to manipulate someone into buying a product, membership, or idea that you don't believe in yourself. And that's your big advantage over even the biggest and best-funded competitors: your belief.

Because what you believe in, you can teach. And teaching is the "killer app" for a newer, more ethical approach to marketing. While in the past, those who out-spent (on ads, and big promotions) would often win, that's becoming less and less true today for a lot of things--especially the things designed for a younger, more-likely-to-be-online user community.

Kind of a markets-are-classrooms notion. Those who teach stand the best chance of getting people to become passionate. And those with the most passionate users don't need an ad campaign when they've got user evangelists doing what evangelists do... talking about their passion.

But passion requires real learning. Nobody is passionate about skiing on their first day. Nobody is passionate about programming in Java on their first day. Or week. It's virtually impossible to become passionate about something until you're somewhere up the skill/knowledge curve, where there are challenges that you believe are worth it, and that you perceive you can do.

Nobody becomes passionate until they've reached the stage where they want to grow in a way they deem meaningful. Whether it's getting better at a game or helping to save the world, there must be a goal (ideally, a continuously progressive goal) and a clear path to getting there. It's our job, if we're trying to encourage others to become passionate, to enable it. And the only way to do that is by teaching.

I've talked about all this before, but I wanted to consolidate the links and the "story" in one place:

1) The importance of learning/teaching your users:

Kicking ass is more fun(The better your users are at something, the more likely they are to become passionate.)

What software can learn from kung fu(the Next Level is extremely motivating)

2) Teaching techniques:

Crafting a User Experience(It's all about flow... balancing challenge and skill)

Learning doesn't happen in the middle(Have lots of beginnings and endings)

Just-in-time vs. just-in-case learning(If you don't provide the "why", they may not listen to the "what" and "how")

Is your message memorable?"(You have to get past the brain's crap filter)

Getting what you expect is boring.(The "oh shit/oh cool" technique)

The users's journey(take your user on a modified hero's journey)

Many of us would be better off if we ditched our marketing budget (hah! like we have one...) and put it all toward something that helps the user kick ass, have more fun, and want to learn more. And to be honest with myself here, part of the point is that people who want to learn more are more likely to want more of your tools, services, community, and "tribe/pride items" around whatever it is they're learning.(So make sure you and your wake can support that.)

There's no way I can ski as well on my $100 skis as I can on my $600 skis. That's a fact, not a marketing manipulation or my imagination. That I wouldn't have known the difference (or needed the difference) had I not learned to ski better is an important point, but even if the ski maker had been responsible for teaching me to improve to the point where I needed their more expensive skis, it makes me happy to ski better. I'm grateful that I've improved enough to benefit from better skis (and thankful I was able to get them). To use the lamest cliche--it really is a win/win.

I can process graphics and video much more quickly on my iMac G5 than I could on my old iBook G4. Thanks to Nikon's free online training, I now can take much more interesting photgraphs with my Nikon 5700 than I could with my old point-and-shoot digital Nikon. Nikon taught me to appreciate aperture control, something the clueless recreational snapshot taker I was before wouldn't have wanted and wouldn't have paid for until Nikon gave me a reason. It's not a b.s. reason. It's not a fluffy "coolness" reason. It's about me taking better pictures--something I don't need, but really really enjoy. (And no, it certainly didn't hurt Nikon either ; )

I'll say it again -- if you're marketing-through-teaching, and helping your users kick ass, and in the process teaching them to appreciate your higher-end products or services, this is not a bad thing. I do respect that old-school marketing has done plenty of evil and horrifically damaging things to people and communities (even whole countries). But we are not those who pushed products without a conscience. We will be mindful, and we will not promote that which we don't believe in. This is about creating passionate users, and that can happen only if we help our users learn and grow and spend more time in flow.

These moments of flow you can help enable are some of the happiest moments in a person's life. And yes, this applies not just to hobbies and games and sports but even to work. After all, a big part of the success and passion around Getting Things Done43 folders, and 37 Signals software is about people being in flow... just getting their daily work done.

So, who can you help find flow today?