With the back-to-school season in full swing, it's a good time to think about what marketers can learn from teachers. Why? The growth of content marketing marks a shift towards educating customers and providing them with relevant information.

In short, marketers are teaching, rather than hard-selling. Let's check out three lessons that marketers can learn from teachers.

1. Connect the dots: explain why information matters and what the listener will get out of it.

As content marketers, we don't have a guaranteed audience that has to sit quietly and listen to us for an hour in a classroom. We're working with fleeting attention spans of about 8 seconds. So marketers have to work hard to capture interest and keep it.

We’ll be far more successful if we teach what our customers want to learn, and if we explain the tangible benefits that they'll receive from interacting with us.

This starts with actually offering what your customers are looking for. Do you know what that is? If not, ask them. Find out what they are searching for online, what questions they have, and what could make their lives easier.

Then create content that arms them with knowledge to make better decisions about the issues they face. If your brand or product is part of that equation, that's all the better.

If you give people what they want, and make their lives easier, they will appreciate the value you bring. You become an expert and a trusted source. At that point, you won't have to fight for attention or resort to gimmicks to keep the "classroom" awake.

2. Create content in different formats to avoid being predictable.

The typical school day is filled with routine. It's a similar situation in many jobs. When you sit in meetings each day or have to perform the same monotonous task over and over, it's hard to feel motivated. So this is a great reminder for marketers to mix things up once in a while. 

If your content creation mainly focuses one type of content, try adding some variety. Here are some content ideas to consider.

  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Slideshows
  • Social media
  • eBooks
  • Q&A sessions
  • White papers
  • Infographics

By varying the types of content you produce, you increase the chances of hitting upon a format that will reach users with different learning styles. Some people might like reading long white papers, while others want a quick 30 second video. Still, others might prefer visual content in the form of infographics or images that convey information graphically.

3. The best experiences are interactive.

Your content doesn't have to be about dissecting frogs to be considered interactive. The same concept applies in that you want customers to have a hands-on and immersive experience with your brand.

If a teacher simply stood in front of a classroom and lectured at students using a canned speech, that's a boring, one-way dialogue. This dynamic is reminiscent of a time when brands held all the power, and used this power to blast advertising messages to consumers.

On the other hand, if students are contributing, participating, and debating -- it's a two-way conversation that resembles what social media has enabled today.

Consumers now contribute as much as they consume, and they expect their voices to be heard. It's important to interact with customers and to take their feedback into account. You can do this via quizzes, answering questions during webinars, or responding in real-time to comments on Twitter. There are lots of possiblities. The point is to be enthusiastic about interacting with your customers. In the end, you will benefit from knowing your customer's preferences and being able to teach them more of what they find useful.