I’ve been out at YMCA Storer Camps the last couple days teaching sailing again. This time, instead of teaching the kids, I’m just working with the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page for teaching the kids. While walking to the waterfront, one of the new instructors asked me where I sail when I’m not at camp.
“Nowhere,” I replied
I have sailed other places in the past. I sailed for the University of Michigan Sailing Club. I sailed on the Great Lakes with a different, larger boat that the camp used to own. I’ve even sailed in races hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club (no, not The America’s Cup) a long time ago. But for now, my only chance to sail is out on Stoney Lake in camp boats.
Sailing is not my true heart’s desire. Teaching is.
At the camp I have taught Archery, Riflery (bb guns and pellet guns), Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Snorkeling, Wilderness Survival, Ropes Course Climbing, Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Biking, Team Building, Cross-Country Skiing, and Nature. Out in California I taught Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Geology, and Ecology. At Toy House I taught Car Seat Installations, How to Buy Toys, How to Buy Baby Products, How to Sell, and How to Work With Children of Special Needs. At Henry Ford Allegiance Health I teach new and expectant fathers how to be better dads. On the speaking circuit, I teach Marketing & Advertising, Customer Service, Hiring & Training, Inventory Management, Retail Math, Team Building, and Management Skills.
“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
(Forgive me if it sounds like boasting. I’ve just said, “Certainly I can!” several times.) What I’m really trying to do is find new and better ways to Help You (one of my Core Values) so that I can convince you that I can help you even more. Therefore, I teach.
Teaching is not only a love, it is a means to an end. If I can teach you one thing, hopefully you’ll trust me enough to want me to teach you other things. That’s one way I generate new business.
Last weekend I taught a group of toy store owners looking to capitalize on the disenfranchised Toys R Us shoppers that there are two reasons those people didn’t shop with independent specialty toy stores like theirs.
- They don’t know you
- They “think” they know you
That first group is fairly easy to reach. Any extra marketing or advertising you do will find them because they will be looking. That second group will be a lot harder. They have opinions about you (usually wrong) that won’t be swayed by a fancy radio or TV ad.
The best way to reach that second group is through Word-of-Mouth. Do something big to get your current customers to talk to them about you.
I told the toy retailers last week that was the only way to reach them. I was wrong.
While I was walking down the trail to the waterfront with these soon-to-be sailing instructors I realized there is a second way … Teach!
Seriously. Just like me, you have some crazy, cool knowledge you could share. You have some wisdom and understanding of the products you sell that they won’t find just surfing the Internet. You have some tips and techniques for using and maintaining those products that might be a lifesaver for those customers.
The people who “think” they know you can be enticed to attend a free training program about the products they don’t know.
That was our Shopping for Baby 101 class. Free information about how to buy certain baby products including what to look for, what questions to ask, and what criteria to use when making buying decisions. The class was never a sales pitch, just useful information.
We picked up a lot of new customers that way who only thought we were a toy store.
We also began changing the way they thought about toys. Many of those same people who bought into our teachings about baby products also bought into how to buy toys, and became lifelong customers.
What do you include in the class? Answer these questions …
- What info do most customers either misunderstand or not know about our products?
- What info separates the smart customers from the average customers?
- What questions does your staff have to answer over and over and over about the products?
- What info would be fun and shareworthy?
Have a free class. Serve refreshments. Give out vendor-donated prizes. Make it fun and informative. You’ll sway a bunch of skeptics in the process.
PS Teaching is a lot like leading. Think of your lesson plan as a path. You want to guide your audience by starting with what they know and building onto their knowledge and assumptions until it is time to break those assumptions. Then lead them back to safety with new knowledge that shows them why their assumptions were false in the first place. This template works time and time again.
PPS Teaching leads to word-of-mouth, especially when you weave in a lot of stories for your audience to share.
PPPS If you didn’t see a topic up there that might work with your group, follow this link. That list above was already way too long.