The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For as long as I have been involved in marketing professional services, I have believed that the business that educates most, wins the most.

That was certainly true when the standard approaches to adult education were one-way lectures or speeches and sometimes facilitated group discussions. This belief remains true today when innovations in information technology have moved adult education to new levels of popularity and variety of approaches.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that as an element of the information age, educational messages face the same competition for our clients’ attention as do our marketing messages. As if competition from other service professionals is not enough, virtually every individual or organization that has an online presence offers some kind of educational program. And many of these programs are huge. Take for example, the new concept of a MOOC.

What’s A MOOC?

In case this term is new to you, it means a massive open online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the Internet.

Being a big fan of MOOCs, I am currently working on my fifth course through Coursera (a truly awesome educational resource…check it out) along with more than 125,000 other students worldwide. Presented by three Penn State professors, this eight-week course helps us learn about creativity, innovation and creativity with such tools and aids as videos, readings and problem sets. And as an added bonus, it helps build a community for the students, professors, teaching assistants and others interested in the topic.

As is always the case, we can learn from our competitors whether they are large organizations that offer one or more MOOCs world wide or the service professional down the street trying to attract the same clients as we are.

From MOOC to  SSOOC

Based on my experience with MOOCs, there is no reason that as service professionals we can’t start and maintain our own small scale versions of MOOCs. Let’s call our versions SSOOCs… Small Scale Open Online Courses.

Three factors that contribute to the success of MOOCs also apply to SSOOCs.

  1. content relevant to individual learners
  2. material presented by experts
  3. engaging tools and techniques

Without question, these factors are as relevant to my client-focused educational services as they are to yours.

Similarly, the same technological innovations that have led to the popularity of growth of MOOCs can be applied, albeit on a smaller scale, to my SSOOC and yours.

Here’s the clincher. The single factor that distinguishes the three Penn State professors presenting my current MOOC from University of Pennsylvania prof who conducted my first MOOC has little, if anything, to do with their respective universities. It’s all about the unique skills and experience of each individual professor that distinguishes him or her from all others.

From a marketing perspective, it is personal branding that one SSOOC from all others.

In other words, your SSOOC offers a new vehicle by which you can communicate to your market what distinguishes you from the competition and how this difference delivers value to clients.

It really is true that the business that educates most, wins the most. To learn more, take a MOOC and apply the same engaging tools and techniques to your SSOOC.

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Last week, right out of the blue, I became the owner of a KOBO electronic reader. An avid, life-long reader, I love the physical attributes of books…how they look, feel and smell, especially when new.

I work hard at working smart instead of keeping busy by filling every minute with some kind of activity. As a result, there was no need for the convenience of e-readers while commuting, waiting in reception areas and all the other short time intervals that busy, busy people must fill

However, once I started to play with my new toy, all of my reservations about its usefulness totally disappeared.

What avid reader could possibly say no to 100 literary classics preloaded on the e-reader? Having read less than a third of these titles, my list of ‘unread books to read’ skyrocketed.

According to the User Guide, my KOBO can hold 1000 books. Including the 65 or so unread titles and given the rate at which I read books, this means that my e-reader can accommodate 19.3 years’ worth of reading. Now that’s impressive! And what’s even more impressive is that it won’t be necessary to make room for any of these books on space-limited bookshelves.

As my KOBO playtime progressed, I learned that it was also possible to upload PDFs to the unit. Bingo! Finally…a useful place to store all of those eBooks that people like us produce as part of our marketing.

If like me you have not organized your eBook collection, getting an e-reader is the good first step. But instead of dumping all the eBooks onto the device, download and install Adobe Digital Editions first. This free software helps you ‘…to view and manage eBooks and other digital publications. Use it to download and purchase digital content, which can be read both online and offline. Transfer copy-protected eBooks from your personal computer to other computers or devices. Organize your eBooks into a custom library and annotate pages.’

The key thing here is to review the eBooks that you have collected. Keep the best and purge the rest.

Then you can ‘organize your eBooks into a custom library and annotate pages.’ What a great resource!

But why stop there? Once you have your e-library set up, why not share your favorite eBooks with others as a thank you gift or high quality and memorable promotional tool?

Make a bulk purchase of e-readers and have some one load your favorite eBooks onto these devices. By delivering these customized e-readers in person, you can dramatically enhance relationships with the people who are important your ongoing success.

One final suggestion. If you haven’t already done so, download a free copy of my latest book How To Market Professional Services. Feel free to upload it to your e-reader and even share it with others who may find it helpful.

If it helps you with your marketing, mission accomplished.

Being the most critical component of your marketing communications, your message is also one of the most challenging tasks in the entire marketing process.

How do you choose the best message to describe who you are and how you help clients like them?

What words will help potential clients understand how they will benefit from hiring you?

Equally important, how do you slide easily into preparing your message instead of getting bogged down figuring our how to start?

These questions were triggered by the following comment recently posted on my blog:

“…I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I’ve

had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.

“I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to

figure out how to begin.”

Being about a quarter of the way through a large writing project, it seems like a good time to pause and reflect on the challenge of figuring out how to begin writing something new.

Even though it’s been some time since I got stuck at the early stages of some new writing, I do understand and appreciate the frustration.

From my experience, it’s easier to center yourself and clear your mind before starting to write.

Clarify why you are writing: what do you want accomplish? If for example you are writing a marketing piece, what do you want the reader to do after reading your message? …go to your website? …contact you? …something else?

When you have clarified what you want accomplish, turn the issue over to your imagination, allowing it to help you visualize your desired outcome. Perhaps you will visualize the reader going to your website or picking up the phone to call you.

Once comfortable with what you see in your imagination, put on your writer’s hat and go with the flow.

Instead of trying to figure out how to begin, you will be more likely to struggle to keep up with the flow of ideas.

Whenever I have used visualization as an early component of writing, not only has it eliminated so-called writer’s block, it has also generated some great results.

There are probably as many ways figuring out how begin a new piece of writing as there are writers.

Any suggestions you can share?

Here’s a quick question for you. When a client asks for your help with a specific problem, what is the best response?

Obviously the nature of the response depends upon the nature of the problem.

Urgent issues require immediate attention: prevent the situation from worsening and reassure the client that you can and will help resolve the issue.

The Best Response

However, once the urgency has been resolved, what is the next best response? Thank the clients for the opportunity of helping them and send them on their way?

What about helping clients take appropriate actions to prevent the recurrence of the same or similar issues? That would be a good approach to satisfy clients even more by exceeding their expectations.

An even better approach would be to help the client resolve the problem in such a way that both addresses any urgency in the situation and also makes the best possible contribution to helping the client achieve his goals.

More Revenue And Achieve Goals

Many service professionals experience a sense of urgency in their marketing.

They need more revenue…and they want it now. So they instinctively start looking for new clients to generate the new revenue they need. Once they have rounded up enough new business to reduce the urgency of needing revenue…problem solved. Back to business as usual: serving clients.

What about taking appropriate actions to reduce if not eliminate the recurrence of recurrence of urgent cash flow issues?

Or even better, what about addressing the need for more revenue in such a way that resolves the problem in such a way that addresses the urgency of the situation and also makes the best possible contribution to achieving business goals?

Whenever we face cash flow crunches, many of us instinctively we react by starting the hunt for new clients. Lost in this knee-jerk reaction to stop the pain is the bigger picture importance of achieving our goals.

Yet another example of the productive tension of marketing professional services, a pressing need for new revenue also offers the opportunity to help us achieve our overall goals.

Just like helping clients with their issues, it’s a whole lot more than just making the problem go away.

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