Last week was Career Week at my kids’ elementary school. And I volunteered to present on marketing. Over two days, I gave six, 30-minute presentations to 200 students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade.

And despite the fact that 2 teacher’s aides have decided to give up on teaching and become copywriters…and one little girl has changed her dream job from “scientist” to “marketer”, I thought the presentations went well.

While I expected to do all the teaching, I learned a few surprising lessons from the kids.

Lesson #1 – You’ve Got to Know Your “Why”

To start the presentations, I’d give the teachers $2 and say to the students, “Your teacher is having a tough day. And she could really use something to make her feel better. Would anyone be willing to give your teacher a high-five? She’ll pay you $2 for your high-five.”

Naturally, every hand in the room went up.

I randomly chose 6 students to come up to the front of the room and tell their teacher why their high-five was the best high-five.

Because they were 9-12 years old, I got a lot of “because it will make you happy” comments. Which is great. They tried their best.

But every once in awhile, I would have a student who really GOT it. Here are a few of my favorite responses:

“I won’t give you five…I’ll give you ten.”

“I’m your best student, I deserve this.”

“I’ll give you the kind of high-five that you like to get.”

“My hands are cold and it’s hot outside.”

And then there was my absolute favorite… “I just washed my hands.”

Clever kids!

And a huge lesson for us as adults. Do we adequately tell our customers and prospects why they should buy from us. 30 kids were competing for the coveted high-five opportunity. They had to say something really, really compelling if they wanted the teacher to choose them.

How many businesses are trying to reach your prospects and customers. So do they know why they should always choose you?

If you can’t even answer that question, then it’s time to revisit your USP. (I have a blog post all about USPs.)

Lesson #2 – Focus on the Best Thing About Your Offering

At the end of the presentation, I gave each kid an Airhead candy and told them to write a paragraph or draw a picture convincing me to buy Airheads. To prep them for this activity, I asked questions like:

“Do sad people eat Airheads?”

“What should someone feel like after eating an Airhead?”

“What does it look like to eat an Airhead?”

After giving the kids some prompts, one little boy said, “So basically, marketing is just lying.” 

Have to admit…I didn’t see that one coming. And I wasn’t really thrilled with his comment. But I handled it okay.

“Marketing isn’t lying!” I exclaimed. “Marketing is finding the very best thing about a service or product and focusing on that one thing.”

Thinking about it more…most people don’t consume products and services the way they’re supposed to be consumed.

An In-and-Out burger isn’t going to give someone the pleasure it ought to if they’re driving. Because that person is only giving their burger a fraction of their attention.

Movies aren’t going to be fully enjoyed if the person is checking their phone every few minutes.

A great haircut is forgotten the minute a person throws their hat back on.

People move fast. And they rarely have time to enjoy their experiences. As a business owner, you’ve got to find the most compelling thing about your offering and focus on that. Because your contacts don’t have time to find it themselves. And they need you to keep repeating the message, because five minutes from now, something else will draw their attention, and they’ll forget.

Lesson #3 – Have Fun with Your Content Creation

I made my presentation interactive, because I didn’t want the students to get bored. I knew the minute they tuned me out, the chances they would consider a marketing career in the future were over.

And let’s be honest – it was a pride thing. The kids also got to see presentations from a nurse, an animal rescue guy, a TSA agent, a fireman, a CSI, and the cast of Ballet Arizona. I didn’t want to be the lame presentation teachers were forcing their kids to sit through.

Guess what? If you present your content like a college professor giving a lecture…you lose.

There is so much competition in the world. If you’re the lame marketer who hits your prospects upside the head with long, educational paragraphs of text, they won’t ask you back. Because they’ll be more interested in the ballet dancers.

If you can relax and enjoy the content creation process, there’s a good chance your prospects will sit up and pay attention.

I love marketing. Really I do. It feels like I get to play all day long. And that was the experience I wanted these students to have. A chance to play. A chance to do something creative. And a chance to see our world (the “I’m-my-own-boss”, “I-determine-my-own-future” world) for what it really is…AWESOME!

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