Do you remember when you were in sixth or seventh grade and your teachers just gave you a ton of math and English homework? As you sat at the dining room table doing your homework you could hear the laughter of the neighborhood kids playing. With each question you got more and more frustrated until you finally shouted out, “Why do I have to do all this homework, I’ll never use this in real life!”
Ok, so I know many of you loved school and got a lot out of the all the extra homework. As for me, I spent most of my days in class doing just enough to get by. Thankfully, I graduated with a good GPA, got into college and earned a degree. As a communications major, I remember all of the English classes I had to take as well as the statistics classes, once again thinking to myself, “I’ll never use this in real life.”
I know I am not alone in this feeling. In fact I still hear people say things like “school was pointless,” or “I never use my degree.” These statements aren’t wrong or bad. Many people don’t use their degree and some never went to college and still have very successful careers. But what I've come to realize over the course of the last few years, is how important many of the foundational lessons school gave me were. Each day, many of the skills my teachers and professors helped cultivate in me are put to use. What's more, the basic English skills and statistical skills have helped me build my company into what it is today.
Marketing is about communicating to your audience in a way that they understand. Effective communication is the responsibility of the communicator. If you can’t clearly convert your message, you’re not going to be able to attract the right audience. Today’s digital economy is driven by content. While you can outsource much of your writing, business owners and entrepreneurs that can invest in creating content themselves help to do more than drive traffic. They also position themselves as thought leaders and build a platform of growth that outsourcing can’t provide. Check out these stats below.
- Content marketing leaders experience 8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.
- A 2015 IBM Digital Experience Survey revealed, 56% of marketers believe that personalized content promotes higher engagement rates.
- While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than three times as many leads
When I started blogging I never thought people would care. Many of my teachers told me that I wasn’t a good writer and I believed them. The problem wasn’t my writing, it was my audience. Sure, I’m not the best at spelling and my grammar could be better, but I do have something to say. The first time I felt like I could write was my senior year in high school. I had a teacher that allowed me to explore my voice. That was the first time I enjoyed an English class. In college, I had the same experience again. The first time I took “writing for mass media” I had to drop the course. My professor said I would never make it in the field. I took the class again with a new professor the next semester and not only aced the class, but was offered an internship at the newspaper.
When I started to blog, I began to remember these experiences and the lessons they taught me. The first lesson was that I needed good writing skills. I needed to know sentence structure, good grammar and how to be clear and to the point. Without these basic skills, my content would lack professionalism and people wouldn’t take me seriously. Secondly, I needed to know how to format my message in a way that would resonate with my audience. It was the people I was writing for that decided whether or not it was “good.” This meant I needed to get to know the reader and empathize with them, the way I experienced with some of those who taught me. After all that complaining, I guess I am using my English studies in “real life.”
When I went off to college my goal was to be an electrical engineer. I was inspired by the work my Grandfather did at NASA and the work my uncle did on a number of defense projects. I have always been a creative problem solver and enjoyed math. But after calculus and trigonometry, I realize that engineering was not my gig. I did well in the classes, but my creative side was burning to do something different.
I ended up switching to Communications with a Focus on Electronic Media. I spent a majority of my college years shooting news stories and other videos as well as editing them. I loved getting to use new technology and tell stories through digital media. I thought at that time I was going to be a creative director or work in the news industry.
One of the required classes for my major was field statistics. Because I have always enjoyed math, I liked the course. Again I did well in the course but couldn’t, see at the time, how important it was going to be.
Data drives our culture. But if you don’t know how to interpret the data it’s useless. In fact, just 33% of CMO’s and senior marketing leaders have a basic understanding of data analytics. (Spencer Stuart) If you can’t understand how your actions are impacting your business, then you're just guessing. Great businesses don’t just understand their data, they use that data to help them make informed decisions.
What I thought was just another class I had to take in college, has become one of the core skills I use each and every day. I have found a new passion in using data to improve my own results, testing assumptions and helping my clients maximize their growth. My first college class in statistics was just the beginning of my journey into finding out why people do what they do. Once again, I’m using statistics in “real life.”
It's funny how things work out. As I remember the younger me, I wish I could now go back and tell him to pay a little more attention in class. But, our experiences are what shape us into who we are. My hope in this post is that you take the time to reflect on all the lessons you’ve been given. That you remember all the “pointless assignments” you were given, and see the real truth you gained. I also want to say thank you to all the teachers who put up with me through the years and the special few took extra time to invest in me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.