Content marketing is a vast field, and businesses can choose to proceed in a number of directions.
And while there’s nothing wrong with taking a variety of approaches, it’s becoming more important than ever for businesses to invest in educational content that engages and converts prospects into customers.
Why Educational Content Matters
Educational content is something that very few brands invest in.
There are two primary reasons why businesses ignore this aspect of content marketing:
- They don’t see the need for educating customers
- They feel like educating customers is too expensive and time-consuming
The first point is totally false. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling lemonade or accounting software, customers need to be educated in regards to why they need to purchase your product. The second point is understandable, but once again an invalid excuse. While it certainly takes time and money to create compelling and valuable educational content, the return far outweighs any upfront investment.
But rather than disprove the common objections against educational content, let’s highlight a few of the top reasons why it matters.
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1. Greases the Top of the Funnel
Educated customers are paying customers. The sooner you can start the educational process, the easier it’ll be to push prospects through the purchase funnel and convince them to make a purchase. The top of the funnel is arguably the most challenging part of the buyer’s journey to overcome. If you can’t convince customers to continue engaging with your brand, then they’ll be lost forever. This is where educational content comes into play.
“Starting the educational connection early on in the lifecycle of a customer is critical,” marketer Barry Kelly says. “It helps with discovery in the shopping or trialing phase and is so important during the product adoption curve.”
2. Shifts Focus to Customers
When you start writing educational content, you simultaneously stop writing self-promotional pieces about your brand. Contrary to popular belief, this is actually a very good thing. It shifts the focus to the customer and their needs. Once you start fulfilling their needs first, you’ll see a fundamental shift in how you engage with customers and how they respond to your message.
3. Enhances Overall Brand Value
Finally, educational content actually enhances the overall perception of your brand’s value. You suddenly become viewed as a thought leader in your industry and customers begin turning to you for more than just products and services. This enhanced perception can be leveraged in many different ways in the future.
Five Companies Killing It With Educational Content
Educational content sounds great in theory, but what does it look like in real life? Let’s check out a few different companies and brands that are excelling at the creation and distribution of high-quality educational content.
1. Whole Foods
Whole Foods has strategically positioned itself as more than just a health food store or supermarket. They are viewed as a thought leader in sustainable food production and healthy eating. They maintain this position through their community blog, which features recipes, healthy tips, and local vendors.
SpiritualQuest, a leading wholesaler, and retailer of Himalayan salt lamps, is an example of one company that uses educational content to overcome barriers to purchase. Since most people aren’t familiar with Himalayan salt lamps and the many advantages they afford, SpiritualQuest frequently posts instructional videos to engage their customers.
It’s impossible to mention educational content without bringing up Mint. This popular personal finance app has created a community of engaged followers by frequently publishing personal finance content that points customers in the right direction.
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4. Liberty Mutual
Sometimes the best approach to educational content marketing is to adopt a broad strategy that doesn’t necessarily center on your own products and services. This is something Liberty Mutual did with its Responsibility Project. The campaign focused on doing the right thing in regards to ethics, economics, and politics – not just finances.
While financial institutions often have a cold and distanced perception, NLB, the largest Slovenian bank, has focused on blazing a new trail. They have a content marketing project called Financial Advice, which uses a variety of digital media formats and educational content to help customers make educated decisions. It’s been a very effective resource, both from an overall branding perspective and a customer acquisition stance.
Tips for Creating Better Educational Content
After seeing how well these companies are doing with educational content, you may assume that it’s easy to do. Don’t fall for this myth, though. While these brands make it look effortless, the reality is that it takes a calculated and strategic effort to thrive at producing meaningful educational content. However, don’t let this discourage you from investing in educational content. As noted earlier, educational content is immensely valuable. Here are some ideas worth keeping in mind:
1. Have a Goal
You need an overall goal for your educational content marketing strategy. What are you trying to accomplish? Some brands want to establish themselves as industry thought leaders. Other brands use educational content to push customers through a long conversion funnel. There are a variety of reasons for creating educational content. Just make sure you understand your goals before launching.
2. Don’t be Selfish
According to marketing consultant Tracy Gold, you should never have ulterior motives when publishing educational content. “Have you ever signed up for a webinar you thought would be educational, only to find out that one particular product or service is pitched the whole time? If you disguise your sales pitch as education, your audience will come to distrust you,” Gold says.
It’s okay to include a very brief call-to-action at the end of an educational piece of content, but it’s not always necessary. Instead, present educational content within the larger context of your brand. Over time, people will begin to associate the content with your brand and the product or services you offer. Remember, this is a long-term strategy, not some quick conversion tactic.
3. Make it Short and Sweet
People don’t have time to sit down and read a 5,000-word article every day. They also don’t have time to sit through a two-hour webinar. If you’re going to create educational content, it needs to be short and sweet. Leave out the superfluous details and get to the heart of the matter. Brevity will also make your content more shareable.
4. Be Careful Who You Cite
You can enhance or destroy your credibility through the people and sources you surround your brand with. When creating educational content, be very cautious with the resources you use. Only quote reputable individuals and always cite statistics and data points. It certainly takes more time to do these things, but they won’t go unnoticed. Eventually, people will begin citing you as a reputable resource for their own educational content.
Make Educational Content a Priority
Educational content is something that has value in just about every industry. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, whether you sell basic widgets or complex machinery, or what your current content marketing strategy looks like you owe it to your customers to educate and inform them.