How teaching college kids made me a better marketer

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I have been working in marketing for over two-and-a-half decades. I’ve worked in a variety of capacities, including as publisher of Brandweek and as the founder of onDemand CMO Inc. Practicing marketing is part of my lifeblood. I love marketing and I am always looking for ways to learn something new about marketing. Here’s how teaching college kids made me a better marketer.

For the past few years, I have been co-teaching a graduate-level class on social media marketing at Fairleigh Dickinson University with my friend, Mike Moran. In the past, I have also taught classes at Pace University and Fordham University (my alma maters!) as well as having taught classes for the Brand Activation Association (formerly the Promotion Marketing Association of America) and the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute.

Honing and refining: The more I teach, the more I come to learn that teaching is all about honing and refining. I have been in marketing for 25 years now and to teach about social media marketing, I have to take all my knowledge and boil it down to just this area. I have to do triage on my knowledge to find the stuff that my students really need. This honing process helps me shake the cobwebs out of my knowledge bank and focus on what is really relevant, which has benefits inside and outside of the classroom as it helps my knowledge stay fresh for paying clients.

Going through this honing process makes you a recipient of your own learning. I am always telling my students to express themselves simply and clearly—and that is advice us marketers need to take ourselves sometimes. It’s all about “eating your own dog food” as I always say.

Online vs. in-person engagement: One great marketing lesson I have learned through teaching is that there is nothing like in-person interaction to engage people. My classes at FDU are online and there is a big difference between teaching online and in-person.

If you tell someone something, they may listen. If you someone something, they may remember. If you engage with them, they will definitely remember! Personal engagement is the name of the game and that is what we need to do as marketers. Marketing is an engagement science: the art of engaging someone to do something you want them to do. If you can’t engage them meaningfully, you are missing the battle. Even though we are an online society—an omnichannel society if you will—we will never do away with the value of doing it in-person.

Hiring talent: Another great benefit of teaching is that once in a while you get a student who is as eager to learn as you are to teach them. These students are rare and when you find a student like this, I have two words for you: hire them! I had once such student in my class last fall and I brought him on board the onDemand CMO team. He was a great writer and a conscientious student and the combination makes for a good employee and that’s why we hired him.

I work out and do martial arts to stay physically fit… and I use teaching to stay mentally limber and fit. Just as working out in the gym reaps benefits outside the gym, teaching also provides great marketing benefits outside of the classroom. If you have the opportunity to teach, whether at the college-level or not, do it. The experience will certainly make you a better marketer!

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