The ability to educate your prospects is what makes the biggest difference in B2B marketing.
Educational marketing is the concept of making prospect education a priority in the process of building a relationship. It can be literal – think things like webinars and online classes – but in many cases it is more indirect: A multifaceted approach to knowledge transfers over time.
These days, successful inbound marketing is educational marketing by default.
This is true throughout the whole product research process and even after the sale is made.
Just think about it:
- During the Awareness phase, your prospects have a problem but they aren’t quite sure what it is or what to think about it. Your brand can educate them by providing them with the necessary background and lingo they need to delve deeper into the issue.
- During the Consideration phase, the problem has been identified – but there’s still a lot to do. Marketing Qualified Leads will be searching for information on possible solutions to the problem and they need to understand the selection criteria involved.
- During the Decision phase, educational marketing shifts toward the specific features and value of your product. Your lead has all the potential options and now needs to make a choice: “Which solution is the best for me at this time?”
We often think of marketing in terms of a hierarchy of content, where there might be dozens or hundreds of blog posts, but a smaller amount of deep-dive educational content comes in deeper in the funnel. Still, all content can potentially enlighten leads and create an educational strategy.
Why Does Educational Marketing Make Sense for B2B Vendors?
Educational marketing is the way you want to go if you are dealing with savvy B2B decision-makers in a mature space with plenty of sophisticated options to choose from.
It also works in emerging areas where you’ll need to teach your prospects quite a bit about what you have to offer. In either case, it lets you play the long game with your leads.
And that, after all, is what inbound marketing is all about.
But there are some special reasons that educational marketing makes sense:
It Helps Build Real Trust (and Prevent Suspicion).
When B2B buyers are looking for information, their order of operations usually goes:
- People they know
- Industry experts
- Vendors ... in other words, YOU!
The ultimate goal of all inbound marketing is to transform the vendor (you) into “someone they know.” But, this process doesn’t happen overnight. What about the intermediary step?
Legitimately positioning yourself as an industry experts sets you apart from your rivals. Instead of talking about what you do differently, you can focus on why your way is better.
Everyone talks about thought leadership, but educational marketing is the way to bring it to earth. You become a respected voice in your space, not just another brand looking for the sale.
It Makes Your Content More Useful.
Learning more – and fast – is the key to success in a wide range of industries. There are some, such as IT, where new certifications can be the margin between victory and defeat.
When you position yourself as an educator, you’re tapping into a dynamic your prospects already understand and respect: Introducing and sharpening their industry knowledge and skills.
With that in mind, they’ll have an interest in what you have to say that goes beyond their current buying problem: By engaging with your content, they can become better at what they do.
That, in turn, creates more likelihood of reciprocity. You did something for your leads, so they are more likely to do something for you – and that alone can create a conversion opportunity.
It Makes You Smarter.
Last, but not least, there’s the old adage: “You don’t really understand something until you can explain it to someone else.”
The more educational marketing you do, the more information your team members will have to take in, process, and synthesize into useful new forms.
This means that, as you go, you’ll also be learning. You’ll become the master of the material you know is most relevant to success in your sphere.
All this insight means you can think more creatively about the big questions in your vertical and how they all fit together. That, in turn, creates a synergistic effect that allows you to spot opportunities and take action faster in the future.
How Can You Do B2B Educational Marketing Right?
By writing deep and detailed blog posts on a regular basis, you’re doing educational marketing.
However, you can go a step further if you choose. The sense that something is “educational” comes not only from what it does for those who use it, but how it’s presented.
Consider these approaches:
Implement Interactive Quizzes.
How do you know when something is educational?
For most of life, the answer is assessments. Sure, you won’t be hand-grading your leads’ answers, but you can drive home the takeaway message with quizzes that help them understand where their business stands.
Quizzes can help leads recognize opportunities for growth and find areas for improvement. The responses also provide you with precise, valuable information you can use to customize your offers directly to the individual. This can accelerate the buying cycle on its own.
Plus, interactive content of just about any kind is just more fun. People love digging deep and finding their results. All the better if those results are actionable within a short time.
If you have the resources, self-paced online classes can create engagement and community: Just look at the huge increase in engagement on LinkedIn since the roll-out of LinkedIn Learning.
Host Events for Free Training.
Webinars are among the most popular formats for educational content on the web. The common sales-focused webinar has only about 15 minutes of real content – for a B2B-focused educational marketing campaign, you’ll want to experiment with both deeper and lighter approaches.
For example, a complete hour-long webinar with Q&A can dive deep into emerging topics, while a podcast of 5-7 minutes total can be enough to give leads something to chew on. While every piece of content should have its own CTA, the educational value is the true lead magnet here.
How can you get sign-ups for your training? Use an email onboarding sequence to start the process, providing tantalizing tidbits of useful information to your new subscribers.
Stack Your Content With Great Data.
Data is what makes something educational rather than conjectural. Marketers of all stripes have embraced the power of data, and B2B decision-makers are looking for it when they need content.
Long story short: Research, stats, and citations make your educational content believable. From white papers to infographics, true educational content should have a grounding in the latest facts.
Not only does that make content more accurate, but it communicates prestige.
Educational marketing is the bread and butter of today’s B2B digital marketing world. When you serve up this kind of content, you’re helping your leads make their purchasing decisions and sharpen the smarts they need to resolve other dilemmas – and they’re likely to thank you for it.