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Out-Teach Your Competition: 37signals’ Ideology Meets Online Training (Part 2)

— by Lee Graham

ElearningWeb based training

“Instead of trying to outspend, outsell, or outsponsor competitors, try to out-teach them.”

Think about it this way: There will always be a competitor with more money for advertising, marketing, and expensive client dinners. But if your competitor is in that mindset, what are the chances they are thinking about building their clients by educating them on how to do their jobs better, how to be more organized, or how to save $100 per month by using this special type of light bulb over that one?

In the book Rework, the gents from 37signals give the example of Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary took his small, family-run wine business online and made it a huge success by educating people via Wine Library TV. It was a simple idea: teaching people why this wine goes well with that dish or how this wine is different because the grapes are from Italy. I’m sure Gary never thought that this approach could be so beneficial, but he took his mom-and-pop wine shop from a decent business to a multi-million dollar operation by “out-teaching his competition”. (Check out a few of these videos of Gary!)

So, how can you out-teach the competition?

  • Get to Know Your Customers
    Do a meetup with your current and potential customers at a local coffee shop or author a few blog posts to elicit a response. Listen to their concerns and start looking for knowledge gaps that you can fill. Then move on to larger, more ambitious projects…
  • Skip the Salesy Approach
    Instead of cheap, extremely boring, and salesy webinars, give your customers down-to-earth, real-world tips and tricks on what makes your processes, products or company successful. Teach them related skills that they can apply to their business—with or without your company's particular product or service. Trust me, if you taught them something that makes an impact on their business, they won’t forget your name in the near future.
    • Provide Better Resources
      Instead of writing that next blog post boasting how powerful your product is, how about creating a video podcast that explains how your customers can save money by applying techniques and tricks that only you know?

If you take the time to develop resources that your customers (and potential customers) see as a free, value-add, that goes a long way to establishing trust and building a long term relationship with them.

Tools to Out-Teach Your Competitor

Taking the out-teaching approach isn't easy: it takes a significant investment in time and energy. Fortunately, there are lots of tools out there to make it easier. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Jing (Free or Paid Version) – Easily create screencasts and video tutorials
  • YouTube – Cheap (FREE) hosting of your video tutorials and get the word out
  • DimDim – Free web conferencing tool
  • Wufoo – Create surveys and feedback forms to collect data

Bottom line: It may take a bit more effort to out-teach your competitors, but the impact can be huge!

P.S. Don’t worry about your competition catching wind of this, they are typically to big to care. Even if they did, that’s a good things because you are the one leading this charge. They would have to play catch up to you. A nice reversal of roles, right?


  • Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Editor’s note: Simply put, we at Mindflash are big fans the 37signals’ ethos . Usefulness, simplicity, and ease-of-use are principles we strive for. We also think that these principles apply to online training, whether you are building a full blown LMS or developing a simple eLearning courses. In this blog series, guest blogger Lee Graham will explore a few of 37signals’ concepts and discuss how we can apply them to the online training realm.

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