Want to Be a Better Marketer? Start by Becoming a Better Teacher

image of one gold apple among regular green ones

Some of the world’s most masterful marketers are, first and foremost, master teachers.

You’re a teacher when you write a blog post that helps solve a tricky problem your audience is facing.

You’re a teacher when you lead a webinar.

You’re a teacher when you overcome objections on a landing page. When you troubleshoot with a client on the phone.  When you craft a product, make a video, give a speech.

Understanding yourself as a teacher, no matter what your business, makes your business more profitable and more fulfilling.

As an entrepreneur, you know the importance of finding a need and filling it, of knowing your market, of writing compelling copy.

Yet it’s tempting to overlook an equally important part of the recipe: how you actually teach.  

  • How you develop your content and deliver it.
  • How you connect with your students.
  • How you adapt to different learning styles.
  • How you take care of yourself so you can teach without burning out.

All these are as vital as what you teach and how you get the message out.

But because many of us don’t see ourselves as teachers, we skip learning how to teach. And then we wonder why our businesses falter or our energy drains away.

Some people are natural teachers … I’m not one of them

The Woman’s Comfort Book became a bestseller when I was 29 years old.  

I was instantly thrust into a teaching role.  I did workshops and keynotes because I was invited to and I wanted to sell books. I had zero idea what I was doing. I flailed about. I would waste days over-preparing, then collapse when my teaching didn’t go the way I’d imagined.  

And if the students didn’t rave?  I was crushed.  I felt so ashamed and alone in my failures.  

Then I started to befriend other “famous” teachers at places like Omega and conferences, and joy! I learned the secret of “successful” teachers:  most of them felt the same way.  

Many teachers fear they suck, most of the time

We were all making it up as we went along.  Sometimes that worked.  A lot of the time: not so much.

I started researching: What makes an effective teacher? How do I get better? What do I do about those students who never talk?  Or the ones who never shut up? Why am I so exhausted after teaching? How do I know if I did a good job?

Over my years studying teaching and learning, I’ve discovered several keys to sustainable, fulfilling teaching:

1. Don’t try to be the expert — Be the creator of safety and context

Trying to be the world’s foremost expert (especially when I was the youngest one in the room) tripped me up again and again.

Yes, you have to know your topic, but that doesn’t mean you have every answer. Truly, you can’t. Let “I don’t know” become your favorite words.  

Besides, what you know is far less important than your real job, which is fostering:

Safety:  Helping your students feel safe enough to take in what you offer and to ask questions — they’re as afraid of not knowing as you are!

Context:  Showing students how this learning can benefit their lives. It’s just like writing good copy — you have to sell them on why they should care.

2. Nobody anoints you but you

Would-be teachers often hold back and wait for someone to dump holy water on them and say, “Yes, you’re ready to teach now. You know it all!”  

At the same time, seasoned teachers can burn out when they get tired of beating themselves up for not being “legitimate” enough or knowing enough (see #1).

Sidestep all that mess: give yourself permission to teach. Ground yourself in what you do know, keep learning, stay humble — but stop waiting!

3.  Know thyself

It’s so tempting to think teaching is all about establishing a niche or finding that “perfect” market, and has nothing to do with who you are.

I’d so love that to be true! But knowing yourself, warts and shining talents, and being willing to be honest with yourself will do more to increase your effectiveness than anything else you do. 

For example, I really want everyone to like me and think I’m smart. When I can face that, and not pretend it’s silly or beneath me, I am more present, supple, and able to focus on my students instead of my own neediness. It’s hard inner work, at times, but skip it and you — and your students — suffer.

4.  The best teachers teach as part of their own learning

Of the dozens of master teachers I’ve interviewed — they teach everything from writing to meditation to 3rd grade — most make mention of this.  

It’s not only about staying on top of your topic — “sharpening the saw” by perpetually improving your skills.

Nope. It’s way deeper than that. Their teaching is always in service to their own learning.  

They remain lifelong students.  Especially in the front of the room. Teaching well is a powerful opportunity to learn. Learning is a life-long, perpetual, constant cycle for them. What they learn feeds their teaching, and vice-versa.  

5.  Self-care really does matter

As someone who has written volumes (literally!) about self-care, I find it highly adorable that this has been the hardest thing for me to learn.

I thought teaching meant serving myself up and giving everything to everybody. When I found myself schlepping baggage at one of my own retreats, I started to rethink that.

What do you need to feel your best when you teach? If that’s a cup of tea and Twitter turned off while you write, great. If it’s a day alone before and after an event, and (gasp!) a massage, make it so.

Teaching is a high calling to be of service (yes you can make money while being of service, but that’s another blog post) and teaching is a transmission of your energy and heart to another’s.

If you are called to teach, in whatever capacity, you owe it to yourself to give thought and attention to how you can best do that. You don’t have to flail and fail, I promise! Instead, learn how to teach. And then teach so you can learn.

About the Author: Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author with almost a million copies of her six books in print and she teaches an on-line program with Michele Lisenbury Christensen called Teach Now. It’s only open for a short time, so go check it out today!

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  1. It is so true that being a good teacher/copywriter is much deeper than staying on top of your topic. As you say, “It’s way deeper than that!” Yes, we are much more of an active participant in our writing when the writing is done in service to our own learning. Here’s to being forever a lifelong student!

    • There is MUCH more to being a great writer than writing. Many writers never get published, or it happens after they are dead and the right person miraculousy finds and publishes their work. Marketing MUST be done and MUST be effective.

      If you are just starting out, you need to know magazines and books do not publish the best quality of work they RECEIVE. They publish the best of what they READ! You have to be great at marketing to get in fron of the right people.

      You must build credits. I host The Eternal Poem Project at http://www.whattodowhenhellbreaksloose.blogspot.com
      and you can write the next line of it if it is good and it fits the format.

      PUBLISH WHILE YOU ARE ALIVE! If you have any talent, there is some place for you.

      Rebecca Lu Kiernan

  2. well said Pam. and what writer doesn’t love to learn? and teach (especially if we consider pontificating here and there teaching :)

  3. I love #1. There’s so much focus (online) on being an “expert” – I think that label creates an unhelpful emotional reaction in both teacher and student where the “expert” comes across as the all knowing one. I think that perception is where the term “guru” comes better. But I think we serve better when we look at ourselves as perpetual students who can serve others by shining a light on the path we’ve already walked on. Very inspiring. Thanks!

    • I agree. I frequently return to my alma mater to give presentations on online marketing and public relations. I feel so much pressure to be the expert even though I refer to myself as a perpetual student, due to the rapid evolution of my industry.

      #1 provides welcome perspective. Thank you.

  4. I think an important part of teaching is getting the student to understand context and application. Understanding comes from these two things.

    Teaching is also a great way to learn. Most teachers would admit to also learning this from their students. It’s a two-way give and take relationship.

    Great Content!

  5. @Linda and @Dewane, i totally agree, that being a student is a huge part of being a teacher. student-teacher is my favorite label!

    • Gives new meaning to the old adage: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Maybe when we are open to learning, the teacher side of us emerges. We are a melt of student (curious) and teacher (eager to share).

  6. Jen, this is brilliant! I’ve always said that life is just learning and teaching and then teaching and learning some more! You have outlined the inner dimension of this process beautifully. This post deserves to go viral. I’ll do my little part to share.

  7. oh Shirley thank you!!

  8. You need to teach, ie create content with a purpose. My YouTube views are over 1.5 million, lots of great comments and 4000+ subscribers – none of this has led to many sales for a variety of reasons that I can surmise – does the content naturally lead to a course/service and is it promoted in the video verbally (not just using annotations or in the description), do people usually pay for the products (lots of free guitar lessons online these days), etc.

  9. Thanks Jennifer, really I never though about this matter, now I’m feeling great by reading your nice article because you explained it in a very simple way. You are absolutely right, because I believe that “Teaching itself is an excellent way of learning”. Now, I’ve to prepare myself through your thoughts. Thank you, thank you so much for your inspiring notes. Keep it up.

  10. I knew that “voice” before I got to paragraph two. How nice to trip over you today!

    I’ve benefited greatly from your teaching in the past, yet I’ve failed to frame what I offer clients as “teaching.” I think I’ll change that up, and maybe come out of hiding as well.

    Good reminders on how to do that without getting chewed up in the process. Thanks!

  11. Shortly before I switched from publishing fiction to teaching other novelists (now including NYT bestsellers) about writing, I saw a bumper sticker that’s resonated with me ever since:

    “Those who can, do. Those who believe others can ALSO do, teach.”

  12. Andrea! Good to see you!!! No chewing up – no no no. LOVE!

  13. Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head. As a natural health copywriter I find my most exceptional results come from copy that really helps people understand how a product solves their problem (and their problem). Content marketing really works.

    As a teacher in the realm of Your Healthy Home Biz and Fit Family Together, I take to heart your advice about keeping in mind you’re a learner. Taking on the role of expert has been the best thing for keeping me honest with the areas I need to work on in my own life on the same topics I teach about. Humility mixed with Confidence makes for a powerful teaching mix!

  14. Loved your article, Jennifer. I write the copy for our two businesses and some non profit volunteer stuff. I love doing it, just never feel I know what I am doing. Thank you for such an inspiring post. I think I will have a cup of tea and think about the next rock’in postcard I’m creating.

  15. I was a substitute teacher of high school and middle school students for seven years and have two degrees in education. I have always said that there is A LOT of crossover between what I did then in front of young people and what I do now as a copy writer and content marketer. Good writing and marketing IS teaching, without a doubt. Nicely written post! (Love the point about teachers also being learners. No matter what you write (or teach) you should always be open to discovering new things to learn).

  16. Wow Wow Wow!
    I love #2!

    I used to feel bad about my desire to share things I was learning – I always felt like who made me smart enough or wise enough, or gave me the authority to share these things, until I realized that people are free to read or not read what I blog. I’m sharing because I have no choice but to share…and you know what, that’s okay.

    Thank you so much for writing this. :-)

  17. As someone who just left the formal teaching profession after 8 years to go freelance, I have to say that this was right-on!

    Nicely done, and very accurate — besides transitioning from an English instructor to a writer & editorial services provider, so many of the other skill involved in teaching any subject well are so applicable to marketing & running a business: fake it till you make it (every first year teacher learns this one!), research, breaking lessons down into manageable chunks, re-working lessons that don’t gel until you find a successful combo.

    And self-care. Working 80+ hours a week as a teacher was pretty normal, and I learned that you NEED to take a walk and ignore the 120 essays to be edited for an afternoon, etc.

    I really liked this post.

  18. Excellent article, especially for those who are passionate about a topic, but insecure or worried about being the “expert” in their niche. Definitely a confidence booster in that regard :)

  19. Jennifer,

    What you said about becoming a better marketer by becoming a better teacher makes a lot of sense. I especially liked points 1 and 3. You don’t need to become the expert and you can give people a “look over my shoulder” type of post. This leads to showing what you have done or what you are doing instead of just regurgitating generic copy.

    By “Know thyself” your taking an accounting of what you have to offer, skills and interests and setting the foundation for like type content. I often show people how to take personal inventory of themselves before they dive into blogging. After then it’s an easy step to identify their perspective readers.

    By showing people the “learning curve” of student, teacher, master, we allow others to give themselves the propper foundation to set up their leadership and maketering outreach.

    Ken Pickard
    The Network Dad

  20. #4 is the one for me.

    I had a paid course on my bass guitar website and got some great feedback at the end of it – not a single student of that course believed me when I told them that I’d learned more than they had and if push came to shove I would have taught that course for free just to get that learning.

    And then there’s the Hero’s Journey aspect of it. I’m a great believer in Joe Campbell’s Hero’s Journey paradigm being an accurate psychological model of human behaviour – and the last stage of the Hero’s Journey is that the successful hero goes back to his or her tribe and teaches the wisdom that he or she learned on the journey. That way the whole tribe benefits.

    My version of those who can, do is this:

    Those who can, do. Those who’ve been on the journey, slain the dragon, and come home with the T-shirt – those are the ones who teach.

  21. When marketing a product, what are you really doing besides teaching a perspective client about the product’s merits and benefits? To me, the tenants of education and marketing have always been inextricably linked – we’re all in the business of learning and passing on knowledge. The only difference is that the end result with marketing is to incur a sale, whereas with traditional teaching, it’s to educate a pupil’s awareness of a particular subject.

  22. Great article, Jennifer. I have been teaching adult women for about a decade and I know the pre-class or pre-speaking jitters never go away. The most important thing I have learned over the years is that it’s not about me, it’s about them. Once I remember that I turn my focus outward and make sure they feel safe and satisfied. Works every time.

  23. being a teacher is a good thing and you can learn also while teaching others.

  24. Hi Jen!
    Great post! Loved “seeing” you today in Copyblogger and I truly appreciate the message that yes, we do “anoint ourselves” (like anything else–no one will do it for us) and no, we don’t have to know everything.
    I’ve taught informally in many capacities from tour guide to classroom visitor and now online. You learn every time you step out there and interact.

    Thanks again, Jen

  25. Your well written article reminded me of the following quote:

    “A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” ~Thomas Carruthers

    #3 really resonated. Know thyself in the context that the more self-aware, the more adept to help others. It’s about inspiring your students, and not about being endlessly amused by your own “brilliance.” It’s also psychologically telling why we choose the careers that we do. People who choose traditional teaching jobs are assured they’ll be more knowledgeable than their pupils. And that can be scary.

    Becoming a teacher by default is also daunting, as you showed.

    Yesterday I gave a presentation on child-onset Bipolar Disorder. Scary indeed, though I more than armed myself with video clips, resources, and references from the experts in the field.

    There is an art and nobility to teaching, regardless of the profession.

    We’re all sheen-less green apples supporting a shiny gold one in the name of learning something valuable.

    Thanks for the inspiring post Jen!

    • Linda yes! I especially loved this “People who choose traditional teaching jobs are assured they’ll be more knowledgeable than their pupils. And that can be scary.” Who hasn’t suffered from a despotic teacher? TeachNow is all about softening as a teacher! I hope your presentation fed your heart and your students.

  26. One of the most inspiring posts I’ve read in a while.

    Thanks Jennifer!!

  27. Lovely article Jen :) I think my take is similar to #4 – I find I learn more about a subject when I have to teach it – somehow it sparks different parts of my brain and exposes if I have any gaps at all in my knowledge! It’s my farvourite (well, only really!) way of presenting my products and services.

    For sales though you still need the transition to the ask – a lot of my clients find that the hardest and when they do ask the sales come, when they don’t…. of course they don’t.

    Cathy

  28. I believe that the best teachers: create a climate in which their students want to learn. provide them with the tools to do so and create positive relationships between themselves and their students to enable them to learn for themselves.

  29. I’m reminded of Frank Oppenheimer’s: ‘The best way to learn is to teach.’

    And George Bernard Shaw’s cynical, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’

  30. Thank you so much for this post Jen – it is exactly what I needed to hear. I am working on teaching through my blog and in the process of designing workshops. You touched on all my fears and anxieties as I go through this new process. #5 is where I am right now – having just written posts about the importance of self care I realised it was high time I got back to it. Since starting a business course and launching my blog – I started eating poorly and drinking diet coke again (no time and working off adrenalin), stopped going to the gym (went back this week after 4 1/2 months away), staying up too late (between my own work and reading others’ blogs, getting the hang of twitter, posting to my FB page it was SO much time). I am off to the movies and out for sushi with a girlfriend today to recharge my batteries and take care of me now!

    I am printing this post out and reading it again daily until it sinks in that I do not have to know every single thing – and especially not right now.

    • Deb I really hope you’ll sign up for the first free class in Teach Now and join us for that. You will love it. And I wish you a ton of ease and patience and success on your learning marketing teaching journey!

  31. All the points made were substantive but I loved the first sentence in #5;

    “As someone who has written volumes (literally!) about self-care, I find it highly adorable that this has been the hardest thing for me to learn.”

    What a healthy way to look at yourself and your challenges. I smiled and began to look for something “adorable” about myself.

  32. Wonderful viewpoint Jennifer – “Teaching is a transmission of your energy and heart to another’s.”

    I admire those who can nurture fledgling talent. There’s something magical about the leadership ability to enable others.

  33. Thank you so much Jennifer. This is exactly what I needed in my inbox today.

  34. Great article Jennifer. A very unique way to look at marketing. – Mitt

  35. Thank you so much for this post Jen

  36. Yelena Prostsevichene :

    It’s the greatest post I’ve read lately!
    For me it’s a difference bitween being a teacher face to face with real students and being a blogger. Our readers can’t hear our voices, we can’t influence them with our intonaions. Is it a problem for you?

  37. Thanks for the great post Jennifer!
    For the longest time I found myself trying to write post like the ones read on a competitors website. I would beat myself up if I couldn’t produce a great article like “those sites”. It wasn’t until I began writing for myself and on the topics that interested me that I found it easier to generate posts. My happiness and humor came through in my writing and naturally readers began to follow.

  38. Hi Jennifer,

    I like your teaching tips ;)

    I note a huge focus on mindset. Taking care of self. Anointing self. Great teachers are supremely confident. Yes, they fear failure at times, but they move forward with confidence, and their audience feels this confidence. We hear terms like “magnetic” or “charismatic”, but really, the person simply believes 100% in themselves and in their teaching material.

    Know your stuff inside out. Know that sharing your knowledge makes an immense difference in people’s lives. Drill these feelings into your consciousness, and your deepest fears will dissolve, and be replaced by an unshakable faith that what you’re doing and the service you provide is far more important than a few silly little fears which try to grab your attention.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Jennifer!

    RB

  39. WOW Jennifer! You attacked every step thoroughly and broke it down in a way that upcoming writers such as myself could truly understand. These are valuable tips and I appreciate you taking the time to share them. I ove the part where you said, “Let I Don’t Know become your favorite line.” I agree it’s best to just be honest about not knowing a particular answer than just misinforming others by guessing. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future. Cheers.
    ~AL

  40. I feel lucky enough to have lots of teachers in my family to emulate- and once upon a time I even considered teaching myself. Never really considered writing my blog was a form of teaching, but that makes sense.

  41. Very good Jennifer!
    If you want to really learn something, teach it.
    Be awesome,
    AJ

  42. i enjoy this blog immensely, personally and professionally benefit from it, find it generous and community serving and hope to emulate that. thank u much for what u do.
    this post rocked, too. keep on.

  43. I am sorry but I disagree with that. If you want to me a good marketer, all you need to do is know how to talk :) convincingly and in order for you to sell you need to be a good teacher. That is the principle that is followed by top MNC’s.

  44. Great article for wannabe marketer like myself.
    What if you really have no talent to teach? Can it still work?
    I mean I love to share my knowledge and ideas but I am really not that skilled when it comes to teaching.
    It is hard for me to relay my ideas to other in terms that they can understand.

    • Googler, Methinks you underestimate your talent. Your few, well-chosen words, are proof that you already have enough talent to relay your ideas in terms that others can understand. Making it so much easier for you to acquire the skills you’ll need along the way.

      For a start, you’ve come to the right place. As a rusted-on Copyblogger subscriber, I know for certain that my writing skills (though not yet my marketing skills), have improved without conscious effort on my part – automatically.

      I believe you’ve got what it takes to be a first class teacher, and a successful marketer too.

      • i agree with you and thanks for advice. I am the same as googler. I would like to share my ideas, but not good at teaching and expressing my stuff

    • Yes of course you can learn to be a great teacher – why not? It’s why we created Teach Now. It’s so worth it.

  45. As a former teacher, my advice would be to concentrate on what and how your audience are going to learn rather than how you are going to teach them. In other words, go for a cabaret style of layout if possible and avoid setting up the chairs in rows which immediately places you in the position of lecturer/teacher.

    Use Powerpoint sparingly and mainly to give instructions for what individuals/pairs/groups are going to do to actively learn what you have identified they need to know. Have all the handouts with information and tasks in a folder for everyone so you are not handing out material every time you want your audience to move on. When people learn actively in this way, they feel much more motivated and involved – retention rates for didactic teaching beyond 20 minutes are very low.

    And keep in your mind that content can be easily learnt by the participant in their own time. What you are looking for is a shift in conceptual understanding that will enable your audience to think differently about the topic, become enthused about it and want to learn more for themselves afterwards.

    Finally, there are two diametrically opposed views of teaching: 1) there’s no mystery about it and anyone with the ability to keep the learners in line can do it (hence Army trainers being encouraged to go into secondary schools to solve problems of indiscipline); and 2) teaching is a highly-skilled activity and no-one who hasn’t been trained and qualified to teach should be attempting it. I am somewhere in the middle of this polarisation. Teaching and learning are complex activities and we are still learning about what effective teaching is, especially as rapid change in society means that new learning is a constant. Not everyone can do it effectively, but everyone needs to have a grasp of what enables learners to learn best. And it’s not listening to someone deliver a Powerpoint for an hour or more, especially if they read each slide and deliver in an unentertaining way.

    The best teachers I have observed have spoken very little compared to the pupils who have used talk and activity to learn.

    • Brilliant advice! I fall somewhere in the middle too, same as I feel about writing… talent yes but a lot of mystery and grace and far more hard work!

      Love this… “What you are looking for is a shift in conceptual understanding that will enable your audience to think differently about the topic, become enthused about it and want to learn more for themselves afterwards.” That is true teaching! and learning!

  46. Great post! I’m going to twitter it and FB it now. Thanks- Shanda

  47. As a former teacher with 30 years experience, followed by 6 years as an educational consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with this analysis and advice. Rather like an actor, you are always questioning whether you could have performed better and, until you are in the middle of it, you are usually anxious about how a teaching session will go – whether the ‘class’ is a group of children, young adults or fully-fledged businessmen and women. And you are forever learning. As soon as you believe that you can’t learn any more and have ‘arrived’, your impact in the classroom/training room is diminished. I try to live up to the motto: ‘Keep learning, keep living’ in whatever I do. It keeps me motivated and enables me to have a young outlook.

  48. I love #1 &2. There is no ceremony deeming anyone the expert in any field, and just because someone is considered an expert, doesn’t mean they know everything there is to know. I’ve heard it said an expert is just someone who knows a little bit more than the person asking the question. It really puts things in perspective.

  49. That’s great insight, Jennifer. Seeing marketing in this light makes it all the more fulfilling to be in this line of work. While I’ve always thought of marketing as helping people find solutions, extending the idea to marketing as teaching seem to be the natural progression especially for online marketers.

  50. Great post, Jennifer…I appreciate the encouragement!

  51. Thank you for your post! This is so true. A good copywriter doesn’t just put words to paper. It is so much more than that.

  52. I love this post! I am learning this with my English tutoring site and I never knew how many things I was never aware of! Thanks for the reminder.