Have you ever signed up for a webinar or a seminar and found that instead of providing you with information you could use, it was just a pitch-fest? Or have you visited a blog and realized that all the posts centered the organization and its activities or the features offerings instead of ever sharing useful tips or advice? If you have, you probably remember feeling frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, or dismissive of that content provider; none of those emotions are conducive to making you a potential customer.
Don’t make the same mistake with your own content. People are mainly interested in how you can make their life better, so remember that they’re approaching your content from the perspective of WIIFM (what’s in it for me?).
That means your content should be educational and/or entertaining. Both will cause prospects and customers to spend more time on your website or social media channels. If you have to choose, go with educating prospects and clients. It’ll raise their perception of your credibility, authority, and value.
Just remember this principles:
1. It’s Not About You
Whatever format you choose, remember that you’re trying to capture prospects’ attention and interest, so your content can’t all be all about your product or service. The educational approach focuses on creating content that helps your customers and provides them with the resources they need to make informed decisions. Present the content and resources in a product-neutral (and vendor-neutral) way, particularly in the initial phases of the sales pipeline, so your audience can apply it without having to be dependent on whatever your business offers.
And it’s not just your content that you can use to market by teaching. Share others’ high-quality content on channels like Twitter and LinkedIn. I wouldn’t advise using only third-party content to make the best impression on customers and potential customers. However, sharing that content does help people to see you as a reliable resource for information on a particular topic.
2. You Can Still Move Closer to a Sale
While your content focuses on your audience’s needs and interests, you can move them closer to a sale by asking for their information, particularly when you’re offering more involved educational formats such as webinars, white papers, reports, etc. You could have the download/registration form request not only contact information but also relevant data such as the person’s professional title or role as well as the business’ size or revenue. The responses will help you identify prospects qualified to be actual sales leads.
As those leads progress further along the sales pipeline, they (and your customers) will be willing to learn more about your brand, your products and your philosophy. As they learn how your product or service works, potential customers can make more informed purchasing decisions and will be more inclined to trust you. According to Thought Industries, a company that helps businesses build and deploy online courses and learning content for consumer audiences, “In the later stages of the customer lifecycle there are strong connections between increased lifetime value and the level of brand and product education.”
3. Choose the Format That Best Suits You and Your Content
Don’t simply choose a format because your competitors are using it. Consider what will be the best use of your available time and resources. It may take a bit of experimentation to figure out what works for you. Below are some ideas for formats in which educational material can be presented:
- Resource section on website: Make your website into a go-to resource for prospects and customer by including a section that contains tips, guides or reports, and explanations of complex topics.
- Blog posts: Post informative and insightful content regularly, including interviews with experts outside your organization. Also be sure to write guest posts for other blogs in order to expand your exposure as an expert and draw traffic to your blog.
- Tip sheets: Provide a list of five or more useful tips on how to do something related to your product/service. You can send the tip sheet to appropriate media outlets or make it a downloadable item on your website.
- White papers/reports/ebooks/guides: Explore more complex concepts in depth with these formats.
- Magazine/journal articles: Publish informative articles in third-party publications to help establish your credibility and let you become known to a wider audience.
- Newsletters/e-newsletters/tips of the week: Regularly distribute advice and how-to pieces interspersed with information on your products, services, or organization.
- Webinar/online courses/seminar: Provide advice and insights on more complex topics and best practices to attendees.
- Infographics: Illustrate statistics and fascinating facts in an easy-to-understand visual format.
- Podcasts: Create an audio series that provides how-to advice or invite guest experts to share relevant information.
- Videos: Answer frequently asked questions, give a visual demonstration, or post tutorials. You can either make a video series or simply post videos as the opportunity presents itself.
- Online tools/calculators: Develop tools that can help website visitors calculate something relate to your field (e.g., BMI, mortgage payments, etc.)
- Quizzes: Keep this format relatively short and lighthearted so that it’s a fun way for people to test their knowledge and gain feedback. You can add to the fun by including fun titles for novice, experienced, or expert rankings.
- Slideshows: Combine pictures and text to create informative and engaging content.
Wondering how to get ideas for your educational content? You can start by addressing the questions that you or your sales team regularly hear from clients. Another option is looking through the questions or problems posted on online discussion groups and forums related to your industry or field. Those two resources should get you off to a good start.