By Neil Patel
Marketing is a chance for education.
Sometimes, marketing takes the form of entertainment, but often, you get to assume the role of a teacher.
This is really powerful. You can become one of the few educational influences in most people’s lives after they leave school.
Beyond helping your business grow, inbound marketing allows you to make a real impact.
Partly, that’s why I’m still so passionate about it even after all these years.
Once you start thinking of yourself as an educator, you can become an even better marketer by learning from traditional teachers.
I’m going to show you 6 different teaching techniques you can use to make your marketing content even more useful to your readers.
1. Use the “desire” method
You might already be using this method even if it’s not intentional.
The “desire” method is all about getting students’ attention.
Think of an average class, even at the university or college level. Most students don’t want to be there.
They feel like they’re learning something that probably won’t be very useful and just want to know what’s on the exam so that they can pass it.
One of the main reasons for this is because lectures are set up to teach about a topic, not to satisfy a desire.
For example, in a computer science course, you might have a lecture about sorting algorithms or asymptotic complexity.
Even if you have an interest in computer science, those titles alone won’t get you excited about learning.
What happens in the first few minutes of those lectures?
More or less the same thing every time. It’s usually a slide about “what you will learn,” which again just lists the specific things included in that topic.
The solution is to build desire: What if you started off with the benefits of learning the topic?
Back to our example about asymptotic complexity, which basically just classifies how fast an algorithm can run (how complex it is).
What if, as a teacher, instead of saying that your students will hear a lecture on “asymptotic complexity,” you say that they will learn how to “find inefficiencies in code and speed up their applications.”
That’s already more attractive and speaks to what students really want to learn.
The intro slides could focus on how coders at Google use the concept of asymptotic complexity in their daily work. Or how a long-time coding problem was solved because someone found a way to reduce the complexity of the coding solution.
Using the desire method in your content: This concept is all about focusing on benefits to readers and customers. More so, it’s about conveying those benefits in the headline and at the beginning of any content.
While many marketers don’t know why they do it, this is the reason why having a benefit-driven headline is so important. If you’re teaching something that will help your reader accomplish something, make it clear!
In addition, your introduction is your chance to show your reader what could be possible if they learned what you are about to teach. Cite statistics, case studies, personal experiences, and anything else that shows how great the results can be.
2. Games are more fun than work
Ask anyone whether they’d rather read a textbook or played a video game, and you’ll get the same answer 99% of the time.
Educators have realized that students learn better if they are fully engrossed in a lesson, which happens if they are having fun.
That’s where the concept of “gamification” came from.
No, you don’t have to create a video game for your content, but there are ways to make your content more game-like and fun for readers.
Let’s look at a few ways you could do this.
Example #1 – Quizzes can be fun: A quiz can be either fun or boring, depending on the topic.
Online quizzes draw engagement and grow in popularity when done right—that’s a fact. A study of 100 million articles in 2013-2014 found that 80% of the most popular pieces of content were quizzes.
For example, the top one was: “What Career Should You Actually Have?”:
By framing it around fun careers (Oprah on the intro image), the creators drew people to the quiz.
When you create a piece of content, consider designing a quiz to go with it.
There are many free tools, such as Qzzr, that you can use to create a quiz. You just copy and paste the HTML code that it gives you into your content:
If you use WordPress, you could try the SlickQuiz plugin, which allows you to create quizzes from inside your admin panel:
Another benefit of using quizzes is that most people who take them will consider sharing their results with friends, bringing you additional traffic.
Most quiz tools include social sharing buttons on the results screen to encourage sharing.
Example #2 – The M&M’s pretzel scavenger hunt: This was a fun but simple game that M&M’s made in 2013.
The whole came consisted of one simple picture in a Facebook post.
The objective was to find the hidden pretzel man in the image. Even without getting any prize, Facebook users loved the simple game and shared it with their friends.
This game resulted in 25,000 new likes on the product’s Facebook page plus over 10,000 comments and 6,000 shares.
Example #3 – How Heineken successfully used an Instagram game: During one of the biggest events in tennis, the 2013 US Open, Heineken created an Instagram account.
A new account was loaded with 225 pictures of people in tennis audiences.
To win the game, you had to follow clues in the pictures that led you to the final picture.
It was essentially a complicated scavenger hunt.
This game lasted only 3 days, but Heineken increased its follower count by 20%.
3. Start with pain
This tactic goes well with the desire method (from #1 above).
People are motivated in two main ways:
- To get benefits
- To avoid pain
It’s natural to want to get good things and avoid bad ones.
Focusing on inducing desire was about the benefits. It’s achieved through showing what learning about your topic will do for your reader.
Here, though, you want to drill home what will happen if they don’t learn from your content.
For example, if you write a guide to correct posture, you could point out that if the readers don’t learn from your guide, they may develop poor posture, accompanied by back and neck pain and chronic discomfort.
Desire and pain can be used together, or they can be used separately.
Here are a few headlines that focus on benefits:
- 4 Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Link Building
- 5 Ways to Make Your Content Mobile-Friendly for Increased Traffic and Engagement
Here are a few that focus on pain:
- 7 Warning Signs Your Free WordPress Theme Is Sabotaging Your Blog
- Don’t Get Left Behind: The 8 Most Effective Link Building Tactics For 2015
The same goes with your introduction. Pain, especially if the reader is already aware of it, is a great way to get their full attention.
If you illustrate the pain well, readers will pay close attention to your work, which will result in better learning.
4. Chunking works wonders
There’s more to teaching than just getting the attention of your students.
You also want to teach your material in a way that maximizes how well a student learns as well as remembers what you taught.
That’s where chunking comes in:
Chunking involves breaking up a complex topic into smaller “chunks.” Studies have shown that this improves short-term memory retention.
The classic example is phone numbers.
Most phone numbers consist of 10 individual numbers, for example: 2338223948.
If someone just read out those numbers, they’d be hard to remember. However, if you separate them into three chunks, it gets a lot easier: 233-822-3948.
Applying chunking to content: The main principle behind chunking is breaking down something tough to learn into smaller bits.
When it comes to content, you can use that in two ways.
First, divide up your content into smaller subsections by using subheadlines.
If you look through any of my posts, you’ll notice that I have subheadlines every 200-300 words.
While there’s no specific length you need to aim for, make sure the subsections don’t get too long. If they do get long, break them up again into further subsections (usually h3 or h4 tags).
Next, you can apply chunking to paragraphs. It’s hard to focus and learn reading long paragraphs.
You should have 2-3 sentences per paragraph maximum in almost all situations. You can see that I have short paragraphs like this one in all the content I create.
This is a simple change that makes a big difference.
5. Understand and use VAK
Something that educators need to understand is that not everyone learns the same way.
One popular viewpoint is “VAK,” which stands for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Or in regular terms: seeing, hearing, and touching.
Different people learn best in different ways. Some need to touch things to learn, while others prefer seeing.
However, the vast majority of people learn best when more than one (or all three) ways of receiving information are involved.
To illustrate this concept, let’s go through an example.
Pretend you were teaching how to pump up a basketball. Here are examples of different ways to teach it:
- Visual: Write a blog post on how to pump up a ball; you could include pictures. Or create an infographic, detailing the process.
- Auditory: Create an mp3 recording explaining the steps.
- Kinesthetic: Give a student a deflated ball and pump, and explain how to pump it up (would also include a visual or auditory explanation).
- Visual+Auditory: Create a video that shows you pumping up a ball and explaining how to do it.
As you can see, there are multiple ways you can teach a topic for each learning type.
In addition, you could create multiple forms of content for a single topic. For example, you could create a podcast narration of a blog post so that your audience could both read (visual) and hear it (auditory).
The takeaway here is to try to involve multiple ways of learning for all your content. If you can get your audience to take action (i.e., go find a ball to work on), you can involve kinesthetic learning as well.
6. Engagement leads to knowledge
Many studies have shown that the more engaged students are, the better they learn.
The term engagement covers a bunch of different concepts, but it usually refers to any time when a student is actively doing something while learning. Examples would be things like asking questions, talking productively with peers, thinking, and answering quizzes.
While some of the other techniques we’ve looked at are difficult to apply online, improving engagement is very possible—not only in your content but in other areas of marketing like social media and email.
For example, we’ve already looked at including quizzes in content, which is an opportunity for students to engage.
Additionally, you can change how you write content and the type of content you write in order to get more engagement.
Here are some other guides that dig into this topic in more detail:
- 7 Psychological Principles to Get More Engagement on Social Media
- How to Cut Your Bounce Rate in Half with Interactive Content
- 5 Engagement Metrics That’ll Help Improve Your Search Rankings
Being a teacher is a big responsibility, especially online, where you could be teaching thousands with your content.
By using the proven teaching techniques described in this post, you can help your readers learn better and take more action.
Ultimately, you’ll make a bigger impact, which will also benefit your own business.
Many of these techniques can be combined, so use any or all of them—whatever applies to your content.
If you have any questions about how to be a better teacher, just leave them in a comment below.