As the conclusion of my marketing consulting agreement with a global telecom company approached, I began searching for my next opportunity. Like many business executives heading into a transition, I began by taking stock of my career and re-examining my goals. It quickly became clear after two decades in wireless, telecom and technology, I wanted a change.
Twenty years have come and gone in a flash. And though I am proud of my accomplishments throughout my career, it’s clear that I haven’t really improved anyone’s life by selling technology. Sure, I helped people communicate from the most remote regions of the world—except that one time I left Robert DeNiro stranded on a mountain in the Middle East with a faulty satellite phone—and I’ve helped IT folks connect to the cloud with more security, but I haven’t truly improved anyone’s life. With a son of my own and a published novel whose narrator pontificates on the ‘changing the world,’ I needed to make a change.
Despite LinkedIn’s suggestions to “picture myself at IBM“ (or Gartner, MasterCard, etc.), I decided to limit my search to organizations that were truly doing good. I didn’t care if they were for- or not-for-profit; I simply wanted meaningful work that would improve lives.
A short while into my search, I came across a job post by Gemm Learning, a company in search of a marketing director. I had driven by the business for years, although I had known nothing of the learning center. I clicked on the website and learned that Gemm Learning provides learning software that helps children overcome struggles associated with auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, ADHD and other learning difficulties. The company claims to help kids develop reading confidence and set them on a path toward a love of learning in as little as four months. If that isn’t a business improving lives, what is?
After learning more about learning disabilities than I had ever imagined, I clicked on the company’s testimonials page to see what customers had to say about the company. And this is when the tears welled up.
“The doctor thought he was working with a different child.”
“The program has been incredibly helpful. His writing, reading, everything, totally different kid!”
“It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. [He] is diligent and hard working and your program was the perfect fit. THANK YOU!!!!!!”
“He just received his latest report card. I can’t believe how he has changed. Your program was the best thing that ever happened to him. He tells everyone it changed his brain. He thanks me all the time.”
As the parent of an 11-year-old who has his own challenges with reading and confidence, the testimonials struck a chord and trumped all the previous information I had read on the site. As marketers, this is a good example of why we must present the benefits of our products/services, rather than the features.
Needless to say, I responded to the job post. After my first round of interviews with the team, I was sold. Truth be told, I wanted in after reading the testimonials page. I mean, how many companies have customer bases that are so grateful?
Today, I am four months into my tenure as Gemm Learning’s marketing director. While there was much to learn and a million things to get done, my first order of business was clear: activate our greatest asset—our customers. Along with a new referral program for speech language pathologists, audiologists and neuropsychologists, I established a referral program for customers to be rewarded (thanked) for introducing us to other families whose children are not getting the support they need in school.
Doing good has never before felt so good.
For more information about Gemm Learning and what we’re up to, check us out at www.gemmlearning.com.
Jay Chalnick is an accomplished marketing professional with 20 years of experience developing markets, building brands and setting strategic direction for growth via multifaceted marketing programs. He is the author of Finding Buddha, a novel, and the proud marketing director for Gemm Learning. He resides in Greenwich, Conn. with his 11-year-old son and golden retriever.