But is there more to the story? Are there ways to think about content and education that are more nuanced over the entire duration of the buying process, and that go well beyond the first sale and into the customer experience?
In researching this topic, I came across a fascinating study by Drs. Eisingerich and Bell that broke the customer education process into two different types: industry education, and service or product education. Each type addresses different phases of the sales process, with the former mostly addressing prospects or cold leads and the latter mostly addressing warm leads or customers.
Industry education is where you capture someone’s attention who may not already know about you. This is often referred to as content marketing, as it involves providing valuable information to people at the moment they are seeking it. And because the information is tied to your business, you become tied to that valuable resource, and you’ve made a positive impression on a prospect.
Industry education helps you reach people who may not have any pre-existing interest or knowledge of your company.
It’s what helps you establish a relationship with your prospects. As John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing, states: the buying process follows the steps of “Know, Like, Trust – Buy, Buy again, Refer.”
Industry education establishes the first two steps of that process, and possibly the third, if your education material has enough triangulation from other sources, or social proof (i.e. recommendation from a friend, logos of prominent companies you’ve worked with or helped, high number of subscribers or comments on your site, etc.).
One example of Industry Education is the site you’re currently on, The Future of Marketing virtual conference and blog. This project brings together the top minds in the field to discuss where the industry is headed and what people need to know for the year ahead. The Future of Marketing, along with its older cousin, The Influencer Project, has provided a fantastic “digital handshake” for us, and has opened many doors that wouldn’t have opened without them.
So invest in your company’s industry education content to attract the attention of new prospects.
Now if Industry Education covers the first three steps of Jantsch’s 6-step sales process, then Product or Service Education delivers the last three steps of that process.
Product or Service Education
Think about your last experience inside a glowing, futuristic Apple store. Every time I’m there I notice two things:
- How helpful, knowledgeable, friendly, and passionate about Apple all the sales associates are, and…
- How education is at the heart of everything they do. Whether it’s teaching you more about a certain product and what differentiates it from other Apple products or competing products, or how to get the most out of your Apple product, they’re always taking you further into your engagement with the Apple brand and product line.
We all know that product education during the sales process is crucial, because the more reasons that you give for an interested prospect to buy, both rational and emotional, the more compelled they will be to do so (just remember to ask for the sale ).
But there’s another element to product education that I would like to stress: product education helps your customers grow along with you and increases their lifetime value to your company. Product education empowers them to get the most out of your service and appreciate what makes you different from the competition.
Helping your customers reap more of the benefits of the products they’ve already purchased will create a happier, more engaged customer. And besides the simple human benefits of making someone happy, educating your customers in this way will aide you in cross-selling and up-selling, thus increasing your bottom line in the process.
Finally, product education can increase your number of meaningful “touches” with your customers, and help you deepen your relationships with them. And those positive connections, when combined with a top-quality product or service, will result in an unbeatable customer experience.
The rewards to your company? More sales, repeat sales, and referrals.
So how can you educate your customers to increase their benefit from your product, and create deeper relationships?