The internet has democratized education and businesses should take notice. You are in business because you have some area of expertise. Sharing your expertise is a way to help you build your brand and provide value. By using a combination of digital and offline tools, business can take advantage of the opportunity to add teaching to the marketing mix.
I’ve been reading The Education of Millionaires, a book by Michael Ellsberg that proposes that the best investment in education is one that offers lifelong, relevant knowledge that will make you financially successful. He urges people to find mentors and experts to teach the skills they need, rather than investing six figures in a traditional college education that is unlikely to contribute to their ability to earn a living.
I have mixed feelings about suggesting that people forgo or drop out of college, but I believe we are seeing a trend worth noting. People are looking to non-traditional sources to learn from. Education and business are merging. How can you take advantage of this trend and integrate education into your marketing mix?
Your product is a commodity. Education differentiates.
People can buy any pair of shoes, any skin cream, or any design service. The difference between a commodity and a product that people line up for, is that a great product adds meaning and purpose to peoples’ lives. As a brand, your expertise in the product you sell — in every way it affects the people who use it — sets you apart. If you sell shoes, you could teach fashion or fitness. If your product is food, teach nutrition. If it’s paint, teach design.
In a fast-paced world, relevant information matters.
People want to keep up with technology, trends, culture and innovation in the areas that matter to them. They need a source that helps them stay informed.
Louis Vuitton knows that their customers are interested in travel, art, culture and design. Through their digital marketing efforts, they share information about the wider world that gives meaning to their products.
Consumers need information to choose when there are too many options.
Overwhelmed by choice and complexity, people freeze up and fail to make any decision. Teaching gives them a reason to choose you. I recently walked into a Home Depot to purchase a space heater. I had literally nothing to base a decision on and had concerns about the safety of these devices. I read what was on the cartons, but left confused without buying anything.
If retailers or manufacturers could see their jobs as education, it would make it easier for shoppers to make purchases. Manufacturers can create QR codes leading to videos that explain how their products work and address safety concerns, or demonstrate the product in use, showing the best choice for different types of household needs. Retailers could hire product educators rather than people who move goods around on shelves.
Education is a form of curation.
Ironically, in a world with too much information, teaching is more important than ever. There’s a reason that being a geek has become fashionable. Knowing and caring deeply about a subject and spending a lot of time and energy on it is what being a geek is about. If you can focus and select the information for the connoisseurs and geeks among your customers, they’ll flock to you.
Educational content improves SEO.
Having a blog allows you to teach. When your blog answers the questions that people have about your product, it establishes your authority, helps gain the trust of your audience and is great for SEO. When you answer the questions that people have about your product; when you address the issues that concern people who use your product; when you discuss the ways in which your product helps make peoples’ lives better, you are answering the questions that they type into the Google search box.
Good teaching encourages engagement.
If engagement is the holy grail of social media, then teaching is the path. People hang out longer when you teach them something pertinent to their needs. They ask questions and get involved with you and the rest of your community when they are there to learn. Learning requires participation.
Education makes you memorable.
You always remember the person who taught you something you use your whole life. You remember the teachers who had an impact on you, even if they taught you twenty years ago. If you want to stand out from the sea of brands, be a trusted source of valuable information.
Education is a source of revenue.
If you’re a consultant, an agency or coach, you don’t need to give all information away for free. In addition to charging for your time, some information can be packaged into e-books, webinars, and access to learning communities.
The changing face of education offers opportunity.
In the same way that the dissemination of music is no longer owned by a handful of music companies and book publishing is no longer controlled by a handful of book publishers, education is no longer the exclusive realm of large, formal institutions. I believe that the democratization of education is going to cause changes that are as radical as those we have seen in these other industries. If you’re a college charging $50,000 a year for a degree, these changes may be of concern. But, if you’re an expert in any area of knowledge that people care about, it’s an opportunity.
Education Is The Key To Effective Referral Marketing by John Jantsch for Intuit