In 2004, after leaving my corporate position as head of sales and marketing for a big magazine publisher, I launched my first business - writing training programs for adult learning centers and online community colleges.
You’re probably wondering why I made such a drastic leap from sales and marketing to education? I promise, I’ll get to that in a minute…
As a new business, I was aware that a well thought out brand was important but I didn’t have all the pieces in place before I started. Hell, I didn’t even have a business name or bank account!
When my first referral for a five-figure gig came calling, I started sweating bullets. It was exciting to think anyone was interested in what I had to offer but I wasn’t ready.
I had no website, no portfolio, I didn’t even have a one-page flyer! And, I didn’t have time to hire someone or get outside help so I had to do my best to look my best…and fast.
First, I wrote a positioning statement that spoke to what I value in education and why it mattered to me. I knew I wasn’t able to compete with the fancy logos and snazzy designs of other training companies, so I decided to compete on what mattered most to the institution…empowering their students and giving their instructors tools to help their student body succeed.
Second, I shared my process. It was bold because I didn’t have a lot of experience (okay, practically none) in the industry but I did have a compelling story about how I created an in-house sales training curriculum when the training program we spent upwards of $30k on from an outside trainer failed miserably.
What I created was embraced by a seasoned sales team, delivered tangible sales increases and was later shared company wide. In simple terms, I broke down my process so they could rest assured I had a plan and a map to get there.
Third, I created a statement about my personal vision around adult education. Having worn the hat of both student and mentor in a corporate capacity, I had an informed opinion about education, a vision for improving the student-teacher dynamic and designing coursework that was interactive, engaging and that had accountability touch points built-in.
My presentation wasn’t pretty. Looking back, It was as bland as a what I did for summer book report. But, it made an impact because it was raw, real and personal.
I was up against professional training companies and big-time educators but in the end, my simple and honest submission got me the interview and the project because I focused on what mattered most…giving people the chance to connect with what was in my heart, the real me.
The surest way to scare away clients that suck your will to live is to share your vision, what you value and how your process works right out of the gate. If they reject any part of your core brand narrative, they do not pass go. Meanwhile, you create more space and time for clients that can respect, appreciate and grow from what you offer.
Presentation matters but what matters most is what’s inside your brand. Give your people the chance to connect with the real you because great brands are visceral…they’re meant to be felt, not just seen and sometimes it’s what you can’t see that makes the most difference.
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