Customer education is your marketing strategy’s secret weapon. Granted, it’s not so secret any more, but it remains a clear advantage. A lot of companies still aren’t maximising customer education’s full capabilities, so you have the opportunity to gain a killer competitive edge if you start now.
Customer education and marketing didn’t quite start off as the same thing:
Marketing essentially aims to influence consumer behaviour on an emotional level by creating conversation, engaging with story, and flaunting features. Customer education aims to enhance and increase levels of knowledge, awareness and confidence of a product or its brand by sharing relevant insights.
Today they are one in the same. We’re in a transformative world with creative genius spread far and wide, so there’s no doubt that customer education has evolved and crept its way into the bedrock of effective marketing. But in order to glue this dynamic duo together effectively, we must first understand the broader scope of customer education, on its own.
The impact of customer education initiatives
As long as you’re really using it as a tool to inform and support your consumers, instead of churning out opportunistic sales ploys, then customer education has the potential to create profitable and long-lasting customer relationships.
Customer education is a repeatable strategy that can deliver increasing returns for your business because:
When consumers find the information they’re looking for about your product during the research phase, their quality perception is enhanced and they start forming a realistic expectation. This confidence makes it more likely for consumers to follow through with a positive purchase decision.
If they find the information they’re looking for, and it’s no thanks to you, then you’re losing valuable points, plus you risk leaving your audience disheartened. In fact a situation like this may even push your audience into the hands of your competitors instead.
Showing how products work, demonstrating potential problem-solving methods, discussing issues or improvements, and sharing valuable company news will amplify consumer trust. Empower your audience to understand your brand and its products and they will become loyal to you.
It reduces complaints because consumers feel more confident in identifying and dealing with issues and complications themselves. It can also reduce the admin and support resources needed to answer recurring consumer queries.
It complements your content marketing strategy and increases your market penetration, if used correctly. Customer education has the potential to produce a large volume of good content, all of which will be useful to your audience and will create engagement, from awareness straight through to purchase.
The research you must conduct in order to understand precisely what sort of information you should be producing will yield great insight on your audience itself. Don’t only focus on what consumers are asking or talking about - you should also be using this opportunity to identify creative ways to implement customer education.
It doesn’t only live in a virtual space. This gives you a massive advantage because as effective and boundless as digital is, you don’t get much better than connecting with your consumers in the real world. Customer education can be implemented in stores, at conferences or meetups, through customer training programmes and so on to create a hands-on experience. Most people are kinaesthetic learners, meaning they need to see, feel and experience something before they really understand what it is and how it works.
How to start implementing customer education through content
The tailored approach you’ll take depends on the type of company you’re running. For the most part we’ll be discussing customer education for product-based businesses, but the tips we’re sharing go for service and software-based businesses too.
Content will be your starting point. And as usual, content will also become your golden thread. It’s the strongest link between you and your audience. Content is fundamental to customer education because it shapes the way you launch, deliver and engage important information like instructions, manuals, tutorials, and product news. Without it we can’t give updates, discuss issues, talk about evolving concepts, or give advice.
With target channels like social media, email, and blogs at your disposal, you should be giving consumers the information they need before they have to go and look for it themselves. The problem is, consumers run into content around every corner and on every platform. Every day. Be it voluntarily or involuntarily, they’ll come across text, video, audio and even images loaded with content constantly.
So making a piece of educational equipment exciting enough to stand out for an attentive read can be tricky. Today’s consumers live in a highly digital and immediately gratifying consumer environment. They don’t have to read anything unless it is on their terms and timetable. But it’s still your responsibility to provide relevant and valuable insight for the greater good of potential and existing buyers anyway. So you have to find unique ways to make sure they will actually read and appreciate your educational pieces. This is indispensable.
Here are the first steps you must take if you want to start building an effective consumer education content strategy:
Identify teachable moments. Don’t fuss around storytelling too much right now. Your primary concern is to answer the right questions and at the right time. So rather focus on designing your content around the various situations at hand. Consider every moment and interaction point a consumer will have with your brand and its product before, during and after a buyer’s journey.
Define your publishing plan carefully to complement consumer behaviour, interests and needs. This means you must find the best target channel for each unique content pieces, from digital and print to face-to-face channels. Once you have a content strategy in place, you must focus on launching and delivering to your target channels with precision.
Remember, your content cannot all live in the same space. Rather think of your content pieces as a cross-functional team, putting all their effort towards reaching a common goal: teaching your consumers. This means that certain content can come across a buyer’s journey more than once, interchanging between target channels, whereas other content is created for specific purposes only.
Once you’ve pinpointed teachable moments and relevant target channels, you can start finalising your content piece by incorporating original techniques and creative storytelling methods that will increase engagement possibilities. Make sure that your creative juices don’t overflow and flourish the content beyond its original, recognisable intent. The core educational message must not get lost in flattery and entertainment.
Stick around with good content after a purchase has been made. Customer education mustn’t only be considered throughout the buyer’s cycle. It contributes to the user experience as a whole. So the longer you’re guiding and supporting buyers after a sale, the more rounded their full experience with your brand will be.
Customer education content: an ecommerce scenario
A clothing brand running a successful ecommerce store has just launched a new autumn wardrobe range. Cosy capes and supersized handbags are among the most popular items in this range, and robust marketing strategies are required for sales to reach optimal targets.
Customer education forms part of this robust marketing strategy. To identify teachable moments, we must first put ourselves in the consumers’ shoes so that we can understand what they might want to know, or when they need to know it:
Who is the designer and have I seen or used their products before?
The educational content on a designer’s history or story can be made accessible to consumers during the awareness phase. Create engaging and entertaining content pieces that reveal how the product came to life through its designers. Videos, interviews and social media conversation spark the journey for consumers to start familiarising themselves with the brand as a whole.
How is the price of the item justified?
During the research and assessment of alternatives phase, you can explain more about why your products are good quality and why they carry their price tags. Get consumers involved by explaining the process it took to make this popular garment such a desired piece. Talk about the organisations involved with your brand and its creations, and elaborate on the fine craftsmanship that went into delivering such a winning product.
What materials are the items made from?
During the consideration phase people will look at the product itself in more detail while they start contemplating a purchase decision. This is where emotions and personal preferences come into play. So don’t just say ‘This coat is made from wool’. Elaborate and explain that wool is a natural material, and that it exchanges the air between your skin and outside environment – meaning you can wear it in hot and cold weather. So it’s a good buy. Now you’re telling the buyer something genuinely useful. Explaining your product with this approach will also enhance accurate quality perception.
How must I wash, treat and care for this garment?
Buyers should know this information before they buy a clothing piece – especially if special care is required. But at the same time, people are often too busy to look into this detail before they buy something they like. Now there’s no need to flood your store’s product pages with this detailed information, but use appropriate target channels to share this instruction nonetheless.
For example, if someone just bought a designer leather handbag, use print methods to educate the buyer on good leather care. Be creative – having a tiny tag inside the handbag with cleaning instructions written in 4 languages using size 6 font won’t cut it.
A customer-centric brand would add a well-designed leather care card inside the package being delivered instead. This way they’re not only maximising brand awareness through marketing collateral, but also giving buyers information that is useful for life.
Care instruction is the type of content that can interchange between target channels to complement every part of the journey. So if you want to stick around, use social media to share new and useful educational pieces on garment and material care with your loyal consumers. Better yet, make the content original and you’ll become a trustworthy brand that your audience can rely on.
As you can see customer education is a multifaceted practice, and in many ways you’re probably doing it already. But are you only doing it by chance? If you want to improve your relationship with your audience, then treat customer education as a core strategy. Weave all its tactics through all the marketing efforts you deploy, and be the brand that people come to for solace and advice.
If you want to relook and refine your marketing efforts so that they start driving more results, get in touch with us. We have you covered on every channel.