Back in the 80’s I worked for a company called Chomerics. Chomerics were leader in their field and they led the market worldwide for their niche. The problem was that their product although relatively simple need to be used correctly and the technology and science behind its correct use was not well known. It was not taught in the majority of university degree courses that the engineers specifying and using the technology would have taken.
The result was that the product was often badly specified and the results were subsequently not the best. The marketing strategy that the company took was to educate the potential client base about the best way to use their materials. This wasn’t just a white paper (although they did exist). The company undertook for free to run a 3 hour seminar in the company’s location which started from first principles and ran through to the correct use of their product range. Generally there were about 20 – 30 engineers in each seminar. Their names went on the sales force database the very next day!
The it went even further and carried out a FREE design service for the company to further ensure that the right part was used.
I travelled the world giving the seminar! I gave it so many times that once I forgot the slides (yes, in those days they were slides) that I was able to reproduce it from memory!
But apart from giving me a gazillion air miles Chomerics gained enormously from the strategy. They became the de facto technological thought leaders for the subject area. Their knowledge was seen to be the forefront. If you needed to make an enquiry the “sensible” option was to send it to Chomerics so they could tacitly “approve” the design.
The education program also meant that over time younger upcoming engineers that moved from one company to another spread the word and become Chomerics brand champions.
Don’t get me wrong the programme cost money but the return on investment was high, very high.
Leap forward 30 years. They still give the seminars:
These are not sales-oriented product exhibits, but comprehensive tutorials emphasizing practical applications rather than shielding theory.
Our seminars are taught by our most experienced technical personnel and are typically presented at customer plants or local conference facilities.
Source: Chomerics EMI SHielding Catalog
Education in the Digital Marketing age
From a digital marketing perspective the Chomerics seminar formula can still be applied. Where there is a complex product that requires some explanation or an explanation that differentiate your product from the competition’s then education is the right route to take. These days it is known as Educational Marketing.
Examples of companies that successfully accomplish this today are:
- LinkedIn with their Marketing Solutions series such as this Native Advertising article
- Microsoft have put together an analysis of a data breach which explain how data breaches can occur
- Mint, the money management SAAS company educate through their blog
- Hubspot, the CRM software supplier, also advocate the use of educational content but also practice it with their own education courses at the Hubspot Academy
What are the advantages of Educational Content Marketing?
Generally speaking we can identify the following advantages of Educational Marketing:
Establishes brand authority and thought leadership
This is fundamental and a very a simple concept. The more your brand is seen as the authority for your sector the more your material is going to be referenced and your brand will become the goto place for people that have a need fulfilled by your brand’s solutions.
From getting references from other sites your brand will get the double whammy of exposure. First the direct traffic from the referring webs. This can be immense to the point that it can cause technical problems – this is the classic lifehacker effect.
The second way it builds upon traffic is that the number of inbound links to the page and the web increases as well as the traffic itself. This means that the ranking authority of the page and with time the site increases and your other pages will get dragged up the search engine results. This of course results in yet more traffic or a virtuous cycle.
It creates prospects and clients that are more informed
These prospects and hopefully clients make better decisions around the purchase of your products. This means less potential for poor performance due to bad application. It also means that they will not be easily misled by competitive claims and when price is an issue they will be able to see the value proposition you are putting forward.
If the web is correctly structured then the prospect will be tempted by the article in the web to seek more detailed information. This needs to carefully thought through in terms of the point on the buyer’s journey. The earlier the journey the less detailed the material but always allowing the prospect to download more detailed material.
Clearly using a gated landing page will allow us to get the prospect’s name and follow up with a sales process that will lead to a sale.
It focuses on the client, not your product
What used to be known as a soft sell this approach makes you look at the problems the client is facing ata general level and the potential solutions that they may require to resolve them. It is client facing not product led which means a better chance of getting it right first time.
It represents a long term commitment to the customer and they will tell. It creates a client evangelism that will spread from one client to another increasing your spread. Remember the Chomerics example where engineers went from company to company, well guess what, it still goes on and can be an important arm in the B2B marketing strategy.
Of course these days there is no need excuse to give away air miles. Educational material can be multi-formatted using multiple content opportunities. The obvious way of running and online seminar is the webinar or online workshop. If you are looking to give the seminar to multi site clients that can be a good way of reducing their costs as well! But there are multiple ways of presenting the same material.
Although education in marketing has been around for a long time it has an important role in content marketing in the digital context. It can position the brand as a thought leader, bring in leads, convert them, establish a long term relationship with the person and the company that person is with.