Learning Through Teaching

Last week my company hosted 40 partners from 4 countries at our headquarters for a 2-day sales and marketing workshop.  Over two days, I spent 6 hours on stage teaching and who knows how much time answering one-off questions, white boarding concepts and challenging people’s assumptions off-stage.


I’ll be honest – I was terrified going in.  I’ve never done anything like that before.  The closest I’ve come is holding one-off lunch and learns on a specific topic.  No one has ever asked me to stand on stage for that long and teach from scratch.

Regardless of what the partners said they wanted to learn, which is almost always tactical, I knew we needed to step back and talk fundamentals.  I saw a gap in the market where many of our partners were struggling to differentiate themselves and clearly had never been taught B2B Sales 101.  So I figured that would be a good place to start.

But I was worried.  What if it was too remedial?  What if they felt insulted?  What if I had the wrong people in the room for these topics?  The registration list varied widely – with seasoned CMOs to consultants standing up a business for the first time.  How was I going to make the content relevant and actionable for everyone?

Regardless, I had a job to do – figure out how to teach complicated marketing concepts inside a few hours.

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The process of designing a workshop, I discovered, is painful.  I started by doing brain dumps just to make sure I knew how to articulate ideas that I haven’t had to explain since college.  What are all the ways a company can differentiate itself?  Who are the people in the buyer committee?  Why does it matter if you don’t have documented personas?

Strangely, the act of breaking it down for myself led to a deeper understanding than I anticipated.  When you have to explain these ideas to someone else, someone who knows nothing about the topic, it requires you to reexamine your own expertise.  Can you answer any question thrown at you on this topic?

Spoiler, the 2-days turned into a runaway success.  Everyone talked about how much they got out of it and I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally done.  But it wasn’t just for them.  By breaking down marketing fundamentals for a class, I was forced to examine my own marketing strategy.  Can I articulate my buyer’s journey?  Who is the buyer anyway?  Can I deliver my own positioning statement?

In facing these questions, I began to write a list of things I want to know or be able to articulate clearly within the next 6 months.  Then I sat my bosses down and read them the list.  They seem simple, silly even.  But sometimes when we as marketers are forced to look ourselves in the eye and admit we don’t know our customers as well as we should, we get the inspiration necessary to develop strategies that will work.

I’m sharing this story as a challenge.  Can you teach the fundamentals of marketing to a class if you had to?  What topics would you need to relearn before you got on stage?  And would you be leading by example?  If not, I challenge you to do just that.  The act of preparing to teach is often one of the strongest teacher.

some idea

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