Education-based marketing is a marketing method that involves sharing information and educational resources with prospects while setting the purchasing criteria they should use to favor your offering. Rather than trying to sell your product or service to a prospect who, all too often, is not ready to commit to the purchase at that moment because they are still researching options, education-based marketing is a way to share your expertise to assist buyers in their decision making.
Let’s face it, consumers no longer rely on advertising messages to make buying decisions. Today’s customers are skeptical and want to do their own research or homework to gather all the facts to make their own decision on what product or service to buy. Add to that the fact that they have way more information at their disposal than at any other time in history. The Internet has made it easier than ever to learn anything about any topic. Education-based marketing gives customers the information they need to understand what your business offers and to appreciate your company’s products and services. Education-based marketing also gives you the opportunity to develop a much deeper relationship with your customers. After all, for a prospect to trust you, they need to be assured they are dealing with the right company that has their best interests in mind.
At any given time, there is only a small percentage of prospects that want what you offer, have the money to pay for it, and are actively seeking the solution that your business provides. According to the research, the percentage of visitors that meet all three criteria is less than 10%.
Why Education-Based Marketing Works
Most marketing strategies are designed to reach only the 10% of prospects who are already actively looking for your product or service. Most business owners spend all their time and resources trying to win a share of this highly competitive segment. But what about the other 90%?
Research indicates that two-thirds of prospects are interested in your products or services but require a bit more of an education to determine that your product or service is the best option. Few business owners know how to access the two-thirds of their ideal clients who have the type of problem their business can solve, but the prospect just requires that extra bit of education to know they need it.
Education-based marketing informs two-thirds of your target market why they need you and why they should buy from you today.
Even if the prospects aren’t willing to buy right now, they may be at some point in the future. Education-based marketing is an excellent way to build trust and goodwill and positions your business as the authority and go-to expert in your industry.
If you think about why people choose to purchase anything, it’s either because it’s a necessity they need right now, or because they’re influenced to buy it. So how do you influence someone to buy something that’s not a necessity? You educate them on how it solves one of their real-world problems. This is the philosophy behind education-based marketing.
What is Education-Based Marketing?
Essentially, the name says exactly what it is. Education-based marketing is marketing that focuses on educating, informing, or entertaining your prospect with content. With education-based marketing, you are leading with value. Said another way, you are giving value to the prospect before they commit to making a purchase. Moreover, education-based marketing is the sharing of knowledge to build trust and reciprocity. It is a strategy that establishes credibility and trust with your prospects through educational messaging.
Rather than simply pitching or trying to make a sale which is what the vast majority of marketing efforts do, and can be perceived as cold, aggressive, or sleazy, with education-based marketing, you are leading first with value and make a much better first impression.
The Value Ladder
I recommend that you provide the prospect with a good degree of value directly on your website or channel. You can drive traffic to your free content by following good SEO practices, choosing keywords wisely, using hashtags, and of course running paid ads.
Once a prospect lands on your value-rich education-based squeeze page, I encourage my clients to add a call to action to download a report or some additional piece of information to enhance their knowledge even more. This is not your sales brochure. The content you provide is in exchange for the prospect’s email address and needs to be something that the prospect will really value while seeming logical to provide an email address to get it.
For example, I alternate between providing a free 126-page eBook or an 8-page pdf report in exchange for the prospect’s email. It is easy for the prospect to see that you would need an email to send this kind of information, so it seems natural to have to provide an email address to get it.
Asking for an email may present a barrier for some prospects where you have not yet established any level of trust. A prospect’s email is a form of currency. It is often the first part of any login, so most of us are pretty protective of our emails. They fear that once you have their email, you will send them lots of spam mail or worse, sell it or use it to hack one of their accounts. This is why I recommend first providing a considerable amount of valuable knowledge without having to provide an email address in order to build trust.
Providing an email address is a prospect’s first micro commitment as you move them up your value ladder. Of course, once you have their email, you can continue to build upon the trust that you have earned and share your paid offerings as well as more valuable content to deepen the level of trust without renting someone else’s audience as you do when you run a paid ad.
Setting the Purchasing Criteria
Simply educating the prospect is not enough. Lots of businesses attempt to implement education-based marketing and lead with value; they invest lots of time and money in producing great content to attract and inform their potential customers. However, this is where most of them stop. Prospects may absorb the information in your education-based resources, but many will soon forget about you and never take the crucial step of doing any business with the company that produced them. This is why to be successful with education-based marketing, you must set the purchasing criteria in your education-based materials.
For most people, setting the purchasing criteria is probably the most difficult part of creating education-based marketing content, but it does not have to be. Setting the purchasing criteria refers to organizing the educational content in your marketing materials so that it leads the prospect to the logical conclusion that they need your product or service. Effective education-based marketing influences the criteria on which your prospect will base their buying decision.
To create marketing materials that not only provide educational value but also position the purchase, you need to define the things that make your product or service the only logical choice by making sure your organization, product, or service is the only one that fits the meaning. Whenever you set the buying requirements, you always want to do so in such a way that it excludes what your competition offers.
To be more specific, to properly set the purchasing criteria, you need to create a marketing copy that positions your product in such a way that your competitors can’t meet your definition. For example, let’s say you sell electric screwdrivers. You want to create an education-based piece of content for your best-selling Milwaukee electric screwdriver, which you know meets the needs of most buyers, but few buy because other electric screwdrivers on the market have overhyped features. You have compared the features of your product with the ones your competitors sell and you sit down to write content to inform the prospect on what to look for when buying a battery-operated screwdriver and to define the purchasing criteria that make your product the only logical choice. You write:
“Electric screwdrivers need to be both light and powerful. Any electric screwdriver that weighs more than one pound will lead to forearm fatigue and anything with less torque than 3.5 ft.-lb. will not have sufficient power to get most jobs done.”
You know there are several more powerful screwdrivers on the market but they all use large heavy batteries that make them weigh over two pounds. By setting the purchasing criteria that an electric screwdriver should be under one pound, you have filtered out much of the field. Furthermore, you note that most lightweight screwdrivers can’t come close to 3.5 ft.-lb. of torque. So, in essence, based upon your criteria of lightweight and power, your screwdriver is the only reasonably priced product on the market that meets both weight and power requirements. The marketing copy above not only tells the prospect what to look for when buying an electric screwdriver but by setting the purchasing criteria, you have eliminated anything your competition sells.
Why Setting the Purchasing Criteria Works
The reasons why setting the purchasing criteria is so powerful are:
- By telling your customers what they should look for when making a purchasing decision or telling them what they should avoid, you are positioning yourself as a trustworthy and reliable resource.
- You are allowing your customers to come to their own conclusions. You are not saying, buy my screwdriver because it has this or that. Instead, you are leading your prospect towards the conclusion you want them to reach. You are saying, “Whenever you decide to make a purchase, make sure you get one with one of these things…” When the customer does the comparison, they come to their own conclusion that you have the only product or service that meets the criteria that you recommended.
Forms of Education-Based Marketing
One of the most popular forms of education-based marketing is how-to and review videos. YouTube is the #2 most popular search platform after Google so it attracts lots of prospects looking to conduct research. Education-based videos are also a great way to post on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
In addition to video, which is the most popular medium, here is a list of some other mediums to deliver your education-based marketing:
- Blog Articles
- White Papers
- Downloadable Tools
- Recorded Webinars
- Free Workshops
Whatever medium you choose, you want the information to be concise and easy to understand. Most people want instant gratification and have a limited attention span, so get to the point quickly. One free tool that I find particularly helpful in understanding the kind of content prospects are searching for is AnswerThePublic. With AnswerThePublic, you can enter a keyword and country and the tool will search the Internet, rank the requested results, based on the popularity of the search, and will display the results in a visual format. You can then use this information to create your education-based content to answer their questions.
How can you use education-based marketing for your business?