This quip by marketing star Jay Abraham was penned almost two decades ago, and couldn’t be more true today.
It’s one of my favorites because it makes simple, yet very revealing, points:
1. Marketing is a lifelong process
2. Educating your market attracts sales
3. Customers are just as important as prospects
It’s a concept not many marketers followed 20 years ago (thus, Jay’s urging), and one that B2B companies are beginning to get a grip on today, with the advent of digital marketing and especially, social media.
Educating your customer is important not only as a method of or framework for communicating — but also because competition is everywhere.
Consider the current plight of the Big-Box stores. Years ago, you had mom-and-pop appliance stores, and Sears was about the only department store around. The smaller stores relied heavily on service and knowledge to secure and maintain loyal customers.
Then came the Big-Box stores, with their vast selection, low prices, and suburban ubiquity. Customers migrated there in droves, and the smaller shops — lamenting that price trumps the personal touch — ended up closing their doors.
Now, it’s the Big-Box stores lamenting. They’re fighting “showrooming” (buyers researching their options at the stores, but making their purchases from one of the many resources on the Internet). And are they ever feeling the pinch.
Because your customers also find you (and your competitors) on the Internet … because they are actively seeking information and ‘comparison shopping’ before they make a purchase …because they rely on referrals from friends and colleagues … because they trust objective information – the degree to which you educate can mean the difference in sales, and, lifetime customers.
Educating your market – if you’re not already doing so – is an opportunity worthy of your marketing investment
So companies must ask: how well are we doing the basics of explaining the value our products or services provide? And, on what topics can we offer educational information?
The old standards for educating your market: Published articles, white papers, speaking engagements, just plain relationships, these still apply. These were the means for offering knowledge. What does not apply is the mindset of talking at the customer.
Today, we have the unprecedented opportunity to talk with the customer. Author Dan Pink describes the fundamental shift in the customer/company relationship as the difference between the “information asymmetry” of the past, when companies had all the information, and the “information symmetry” we now experience, in which the customer has all the information. The customer is (sigh) no longer ignorant.
The digital age has allowed companies to become their own media. To be seen as thought leaders. To have their educational content (not just their websites) found online. Between your own website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn activities, Twitter, industry, online forums, associations, blogs, etc., your educational messages have more places to be seen.
Beyond educating customers about your product or service’s unique advantages, you can offer insights about your field in general. You can share value from others, industry wide; you can share best practices thinking to help them run their business, address a difficult sales issue, etc. – virtually any topic that you know would be of interest and helpful to them.
Information equals trust. Use it, or be prepared to be out-marketed by competitors that do.