In my interview with Randy the Tech Professor earlier this week, I was intrigued by his quote that “To Teach is to Learn Twice”. To me, it boils down to the fact that in order to be able to effectively teach something, you need to make sure you know it well enough to convey the concept to others. In the process, you’re re-enforcing the information in your own mind.
Beyond that, however, teaching is great business. By teaching, you become an authority on the given subject in the eyes of your students. Your students will see you as the person who has all the answers and in the future if they need help, they’ll know who to contact. Your students are all potential customers and you’ve already gained their trust through your teaching.
I’ve always been interested in including some form of teaching or training service in my consultancy. Up to this point, however, I haven’t quite figured out how to go about doing so. Thanks to my interview with Randy, I was inspired to spend some time brainstorming some ideas that I’d like to present here.
Teach Classes to the Community
This is the most obvious and direct way to become a teacher. Teaching classes to members of your community will provide a conduit for you to get directly in front of potential customers and show them that you know what you’re doing.
Places you could hold classes include community centers and community colleges. You can also contact membership clubs and ask to be a special guest speaker. Contact retirement communities and offer free training sessions for the elderly residents. The subjects you cover should be broad and simple, such as how to backup your computer, how to identify and avoid phishing scams, what is the cloud and how to leverage it, etc.
Make sure to plug your business sparingly. Simply passing out your business card at the end should be sufficient. You don’t want the class to seem like a marketing pitch. You want to be genuine in your desire to teach them something and if you succeed, they’ll come to you when they need help.
Write for your Community Paper
Another way to get your name out to the community is to write for your local newspaper. In most cases, the circulation of the paper means that your audience is potentially much larger than if you were to train a group in a classroom. Contact the paper and offer to write a weekly or monthly tech column. You’ll most likely get to plug your name and business at the end of the article. A regular column will work toward establishing your business as a trusted name in technology. This a badge of honor that you can mention in your advertisements and on your website indefinitely in the future, no matter how many actual articles you write.
One downside to this technique is the engagement of your students, or in this case your readers, is a lot less dramatic than if you were to meet them in a classroom. In person you have the opportunity to connect to each student and really make sure that your message gets through to them. Readers of a column in the local paper may skim it quickly or skip it over altogether. I propose using both techniques in tandem, maybe even mentioning your classes in your article and telling your classroom students to check out your local column. That way you’ll be connecting with your community directly on two fronts, reaching the maximum number of potential targets.
Use Your Blog and Newsletter
We all know by now that we should have a blog on our website. It helps with SEO as well as keeps customers updated, but it can also a great teaching tool. Each new blog post is your opportunity to teach your customers about technology. Better than classrooms or newspapers, blog posts last forever (or as long as your website is active). They can be a constant source of learning for new visitors to your website and a way to keep people coming back in the future.
Your newsletters are also great places to provide free training. Unlike your blog, a newsletter is specifically targeted at your existing customers. While this doesn’t help get you new customers directly, it does contribute to your image as a helpful and knowledgeable resource for all things tech.
Offer Training as a Service
One way to help your business stand out from your competition is to offer free training as an add-on to your existing services, such as walking customers through the new software you’ve installed or showing them how to backup that new hard drive you installed. In other words, training should be an integral part of your services as a way to go above and beyond your customers expectations and earn repeat business and word of mouth referrals.
Up to now all of the techniques I’ve covered so far should be offered for free. You can also charge for training services, but this should be highly targeted training. To make it worth something to your customers, make sure the service is personalized to your specific customer’s needs. I would recommend offering one-on-one training on things like advanced techniques for using a particular Microsoft Office Product (I’ve had some direct requests for this from customers) or accounting software. You can also show folks how to use a suite of integrated tools, like Google’s products, to maximize efficiency and effectiveness for their business or personal use.
My Own Success with Teaching
This blog here at YFNCG is a form of teaching that has benefited my entrance into the computer consulting world. I’m able to pass along my experiences and others can learn from them. By doing so, I feel as though I truly am “learning twice” as it takes extra thought and organization to convey ideas into written blog posts. Plus I’ve made many great contacts through which I’ve learned many new things, things that I would never have known had I not started the blog.
So my advice: get out there and teach, you’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn!
Have you effectively used any of the above techniques? What kind of results have you seen? Let me know in the comments below!