Why educating customers is the new selling
"They won't buy what they don't know about."
Many would argue that the traditional approach to selling is dead. The truth of the matter is the internet, and all the other technological advances of the past couple decades, has brought the concept of sales into a new age. The result has spawned a digital sink-or-swim mentality on a global scale.
Due to increased accessibility, customers are able to conduct more research than ever before. That being said, people don’t just interact with businesses when they are ready to buy. The sales process starts at the very first spark of interest. The key is to provide a profound level of expert-fueled knowledge to empower people to make informed decisions.
For this reason, the importance of educating customers cannot be underestimated. Here are three major reasons why this area is more influential to the bottom line than cutthroat selling.
1. Eases customers into the sales funnel
Many brands make the detrimental mistake of creating their marketing campaigns with the blatant purpose of making sales. They fail to fully grasp the reality that most people do not trust businesses right off the bat anymore. In fact, McCann’s Truth Central Unit presented a survey at the 4A’s Transformation Conference earlier this year of which found that 42% of Americans find brands less truthful today than they did 20 years ago.
So how can you get vast amounts of skeptical consumers to trust you?
For starters, you need to project that your primary goal in business is to improve the status quo and help fuel customer success. Therefore, the educational content you produce should be crafted to present your messaging in a non-aggressive light that demonstrates good intentions during the awareness stage.
The bulk of this content should be in form of things like blog posts, whitepapers, how-to guides, etc.
Barclays, a multinational banking and financial firm based out of London, has done an outstanding job of producing educational messaging. For instance, the Barclays’ Code Playground was designed to teach youngsters the basics of coding.
Using child-oriented graphics in a fun and entertaining environment, they are teaching an extremely valuable skill, while working to break the “big evil bank” stereotype. Parents are comforted with the notion that this company is more concerned about sharing its knowledge than seeing immediate gains. As a result, they are much more susceptible to future marketing messages further down the line.
Depending on the intricacy tied to your product, service, or industry, conducting online courses is a phenomenal way to teach customers the finer details of your field, while establishing a high level of credibility. Many experts find themselves in the mindset that sharing their real-world experiences is extremely cumbersome process.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools and digital platforms available to make the task simple. Kajabi for example, allows professionals and businesses to quickly construct an online curriculum with a wide range of themes supplemented with high-quality video hosting capabilities. Kajabi also provides access to automated tools to help market your courses.
Teaching valuable lessons and skills to consumers is one of the most effective and engaging ways put them at ease with your messaging. If and when people show interest in a particular product of yours, your emphasis can gradually begin to shift more towards selling.
Once your prospects are given all the facts they need and are ready to buy, this is where the sales tactics come in. Here, you can be focused on validating choices with actionable steps, in the form of implementation specifics, costs, support options, etc. Remember, your content should still be optimized for the proper keywords to ensure it is relevant at the right times in the customer journey.
2. Defines brand differentiation
It’s no secret that consumers are exposed to a mind-numbing amount marketing messages these days. Some experts estimate that most Americans see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads each day!
With this in mind, standing out in the overcrowded marketing landscape is a task that cannot be taken lightly. Finding innovative ways to educate your customers is one of the best ways to set yourself apart and present the business as a valuable resource center, rather than just another company trying to spin a profit.
Additionally, this is a great opportunity to showcase your unique voice and personality. General Electric is renowned for their ability to teach customers all about their brand, challenges, and visions while conveying a relatable and educational persona.
There are many ways you can accomplish this feat. Webinars are quickly becoming one of the easiest and most effective ways to educate customers. A survey by Content Marketing Institute reported that nearly 60% of marketers use webinars in their content strategy. Not only can you use this vehicle to provide tips and advice, webinars can be used to create full-on courses!
Videoconferencing tools make the process of creating and customizing educational webinars as simplistic as possible. ClickMeeting is a top-to-bottom webinar platform that enables you to create the entirety of your educational content and host interactive presentations with your own unique twist. You can also make use of slide decks, surveys, and real-time translation while playing to private or targeted (limited) audiences.
Keep in mind, online brands face an uncanny amount of competition. People have no problem moving on if you can’t meet their needs and desires. Your ability to educate customers has a massive impact on how well you stand above the rest of the pack.
3. Develops long-lasting relationships
One of the primary goals of your educational content should be to build a high-level of customer loyalty in hopes of boosting lifetime value. When you have a solid base of recurring customers who are familiar with your education tactics, it’s much easier to retain these people and improve your bottom line.
Take Colgate for example.
Their homepage has a full Oral Care Center that educates visitors on all sorts of dental conditions and provides expert advice. Very seldom do they recommend their own products and services in this section. Instead, they give people as much information as possible to solve common problems on their own, while learning a thing or two in the process. In turn, they are establishing themselves even further as a reputable product manufacturer that knows what they are talking about.
While doing this doesn’t always have an immediate impact on your bottom line, it works to empower people to make their own decisions while forming long-term relationships.
At the end of the day, educating customers is all about retention. According to Invesp, the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60-70%, whereas that of cold selling to a new prospect is between 5-20%.
Today’s consumers don’t want to be flooded with promotional content that pushes them to buy products or services. Instead, they want to make those decisions for themselves. There will always be a time and place for the classic sales tactics chock-full of CTAs and deals. However, it’s much harder to get a prospective customer to that point without providing them with the education they need. Hardline selling has taken somewhat of a backseat in the modern sales funnel. To build a future-proof business, marketers need to make educational content a cornerstone in their strategies.
Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, Customer Think, Business2Community, and many other business and tech blogs. Feel free to send her a friend request on Facebook :)