Education-Based Marketing and How to Implement This Strategy in Your Company

May 2, 2021

In this article Alex Cherednichenko, Head of the EdTech initiative at DataArt, discusses education-based marketing and provides a step-by-step guide for implementation in your business

Education-Based Marketing and How to Implement This Strategy in Your Company

Why Education-Based Marketing Is a Powerful Strategy

Education-based marketing is the very opposite of traditional, aggressive, sales-pitch-based marketing. It works well both for B2B and B2C companies. The main advantage of this approach is that it establishes a trusted connection with the target audience fairly quickly rather than after years of trial or thousands of dollars spent on paid advertising. Sounds cool. But how does it work?

The crux of education-based marketing lies in providing value. The idea of bringing value to people as you pitch them is reminiscent of Gary Vaynerchuk’s maxim of “give, give, give, then ask,” or “jab, jab, jab, right hook,” which is described in his eponymous book. Education-based marketing takes the concept a step further.

While educating the target audience, you expose a need they face and show why it is important to address it; sometimes you may even show how to do this in practice. You may or may not use native advertising to demonstrate your product’s applicability to address this need. But you do not aggressively pitch your products or services. Instead, you provide value by helping the audience address their real pain points. The key is that by doing this, you establish yourself as a subject matter expert, a professional, and an authority in the eyes of your audience. Now they consider you a trusted partner.

The more you educate your audience, the more open they are to being sold to. Their trust is developed through gratitude for the value they’ve received and respect for authority, which is an instinctive trait in human psychology. When the right time comes and they finally buy your product or service, you get loyal customers who keep on following updates in your educational space and are less likely to switch vendors.

This is exactly what happened with HubSpot: after I took a few online courses at HubSpot Academy, I tried their CRM for free. After a few months, I ended up upgrading from the free tier to “Professional,” so my whole team could use the tool. In addition, I actually applied the knowledge gained from the Academy to inbound marketing tactics in my company.

Compared to traditional marketing, education-based marketing proves more cost-effective. It brings better ROI because of:

  • Better targeting: you reach a wider audience and different segments with targeted content.
  • Higher lifetime value: because customers trust you, they remain loyal to your brand.
  • Potential for upselling: you can introduce new features of existing products or entirely new products and services to a ‘warm’ audience.

On the flipside, while educating your audience regarding solutions to their problems, you also teach them to do without dedicated products at all and discourage them from patronizing your competitors.

How to Implement Education-Based Marketing: A Step-by-step Guide

Step 1: Identify your target audience and its pain points

Defining your target audience and its needs is the cornerstone of any marketing strategy, including an education-based strategy. Think of those who can benefit from your product or service: what are their pain points and challenges? How do they go about addressing them? Then, educate them on the best way they can address their challenges.

Some people struggle with cooking. A retailer of kitchenware and utensils, for example, could start a YouTube vlog about cooking at home. Others are looking for investment options. A banking institution could help would-be investors by conducting financial literacy and basic investment classes.

The winning strategy for attracting qualified potential buyers lies in identifying the questions they ask and using the answers to these questions as the foundation of education-based marketing.

Step 2: Assemble the knowledge you will share

Consolidate the knowledge you intend share in your brand’s educational space, preferably informed by hands-on experience. Your team most likely already has this information in onboarding documents, in-house corporate training modules, reports and white-papers, conference materials and other PR materials.  Group this knowledge into categories and sub-categories.

The key here is to distinguish “what you know” from “what your users want to know.” Always have audience best interests in mind. Your information should not just attract users but actually help them make better decisions and solve their real word problems.

Step 3: Choose a medium/format to produce educational content

The content – the crux of education-based marketing – may be delivered in a variety of forms (text, infographics, video, audio, etc.) and formats, as well as different combinations of these. Some examples of education-based marketing materials are online courses, research papers and books, how-to and explainer videos, animated and VR videos, interviews, blogs, podcasts, checklists, or even software applications.

You can combine the forms and formats that prove most engaging – to reach a broader audience and scale up meaningful connections with existing users. Keep the flow of educational materials steady, so your audience returns for new pieces.

Step 4: Use native advertising (optional)

You may use native advertising for your products and services within the curriculum or training materials. Since native ads match the look and feel of the medium in which they appear, they look natural and non-disruptive. For example, in some HubSpot Academy courses, a user may find screenshots from HubSpot CRM. However, I would recommend being careful with native ads as in education-based marketing, your foremost goal is to reach the audience. The sale will come later!

Step 5: Lower the entry point for your products

An ideal marketing strategy includes touchpoints with an audience just on the verge of a buying decision. Make your product or service as available as possible for these people by:

  • offering a free 15/30-day trial for users who have completed your training
  • letting users who take or have completed the training into a dedicated “playground” zone to test your product. If possible, pre-configure it so they can use it as a default practice tool as they learn.

Let’s say your company offers an ecommerce website builder. Your education-based marketing strategy may revolve around the basics of ecommerce, m-commerce, and F-commerce. In a “playground” zone, the users may try to create their first online store using your website builder. This way, you increase the chances they’ll keep running this store in future and upgrade to premium sooner rather than later.

Step 6: Incentivize a buy-in

Use all means available to cultivate a strong user connection to your brand – both existing and potential ones (does this “one” refer to users or means available?). In addition to conveying targeted information in your brand’s educational space, spice up communications via old-school marketing touchpoints like email newsletters, free downloadable materials, or invitations to events you host or take part in.  This is a growth hacking strategy.

Back to the HubSpot example: I used their CRM in my own company for years. A few months after I switched jobs and my new company was looking for a CRM tool, I suggested they use HubSpot. Though I was no longer a decision maker, I remained loyal to the brand and truly believed it was worth the money.

It is a means to communicate targeted information, gain referrals, and cultivate strong brand connections with existing and prospective educational product or service users.

Step 7: Find additional promotion channels

While your educational space itself is a marketing channel for your business, you can, in turn, seek alternative channels for promotion. HubSpot Academy courses, for instance, are accessible on Coursera and other online educational platforms. Promotion via additional channels will give your brand higher visibility, and hence more opportunities to encourage users to try your product and services.

Step 8: Build the technology

To scale this marketing channel and deliver quality learning experience to the audience, you need to back your educational content with technology. Think of your learners as early-stage leads: you already know what they are up to, so suggest the right product at the right time.

Building a custom learning platform or integrating an existing one usually takes time and experience. Reach out to DataArt, a custom software technology vendor with many years of experience in EdTech. We can help you choose the optimal technological solution to achieve your marketing goals within budget.

Bottom-line

Education-based marketing is a proven strategy for building a reputation as a market leader in a chosen segment. By educating the target audience about how they can address real challenges, your company establishes a bond of trust. This gives you the latitude to softly advertise your products, rather than pitch them. If your efforts are efficient, the chosen market segment will soon be closely associated with your company’s brand (for example, say “HubSpot,” and everyone thinks “inbound marketing”).

About the author:

Alex joined DataArt in 2006 as a software engineer. He left in 2010, when he founded Logicify, a software services company catering to U.S. and European startup companies. The company later expanded into the education technology sector. With Logicify, Alex navigated the roles of project manager, business developer and marketing strategist, and the entire sales and marketing effort, all related to software consulting services. In 2019, the Logicify team joined DataArt, and Alex now became a part of DataArt again. He is an engagement manager and SME in Educational Technology. Owing to a strong background in business and his natural curiosity, Alex can quickly search to the root cause of problems, while his expertise in engineering allows him to come up with practical solutions.

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