Educational content: a key component of marketing success

Educational content is a great content marketing strategy that works across almost any brand.

writing notes idea conference

There’s a lot to consider when developing a content marketing strategy. There are dozens of different content mediums, hundreds of potential publishing platforms, and a variety of other brand specific issues to consider. Well, here’s something else to think about: educational content.

The power of educational content

At first glance, the idea of giving away free educational content seems like a counterproductive strategy. After all, the goal of content marketing is to cost-effectively push prospects from awareness to action. It would seem as if giving away free content would be expensive and time-consuming.

Well, there are situations where developing educational content can be expensive. But assuming the content is appropriate for the audience, the upfront costs are justified by the end results. Few elements of content marketing are able to accelerate the conversion process quite like educational content, making it a sound investment for long-term growth.

“Our customers don’t care about our products or services; they care about themselves. If we buy into this, then we must also accept that the majority of the information we produce for marketing purposes cannot be about ourselves,” says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute. “Our content must be based on fulfilling our customers’ needs and interests, so that they come to build a trusted and emotional connection with our brands.”

Educational content that fills the knowledge gap between customer pain points and your brand value is key here. Before we take an in-depth look at some of the popular types of educational content — as well as some real world examples — let’s briefly analyze the top benefits of using educational content to push customers through the buyer’s funnel.

1. Establishes authority and credibility

Customers want to know they’re working with credible businesses. This is why you feel more comfortable shopping for a car at a certified brand name dealership than some sketchy used car lot with a bunch of greasy salesmen. The more credible the brand appears, the more comfortable the customer will be. Educational content proves you’re a thought leader in your niche, and that ultimately translates into purchase consideration.

2. Increases traffic

In the world of content marketing, content serves two primary purposes. Primarily, it’s designed to engage prospects and hopefully turn them into paying customers. However, the second goal of content is to enhance SEO prominence, increase backlinks, and drive traffic to your website. Educational content, because it’s typically very high quality and informative, is easy to share and promote on social media. This makes it a perfect solution for traffic acquisition.

3. Lower risk of buyer’s remorse

We’ve all experienced buyer’s remorse in the past. It’s not a fun feeling and you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent post-purchase regret in your own customers. With educational content, you can rest assured that your customers know exactly what they’re getting. In the long run, this reduces the number of frustrated buyers and increases the overall happiness of your customers.

4. Qualifies leads

The very nature of educational content means its teaching customers something important about their needs and/or your products. “The more prospects who read your content, the smarter they'll be about what your business actually sells and can offer them,” says Pamela Vaughan, marketing manager at HubSpot. “The better they know this, the more qualified they'll be as leads, and the easier it will be for your sales team to close them as customers.”

4 common types of educational content

All educational content is not created equal. Depending on your marketing goals and the structure of your customer’s buyer’s funnel, your educational content may take on a variety of different forms.

Here are a few of the most common types with a handful of examples to back them up:

1. Direct product or service explanation content

Sometimes you simply need to explain how your product or service works. This is one of the most important types of educational content, since it allows businesses with complex or intricate value offerings to help customers overcome hesitancy or a lack of understanding.

This page from Direct Rubber Mulch is a great example. By explaining to prospective customers how the rubber mulch installation process works, customers are able to understand the process and feel comfortable when it comes to making a purchase. It’s a simple resource that probably didn’t take long for the company to produce, but one that provides lasting value.

2. Supplemental niche content

Sometimes the best educational content you can produce has nothing to do with your brand at all. Instead, it has everything to do with your niche and the problems, pain points and needs your customers have. We’ll call this type of content “supplemental niche content.”

A perfect example of supplemental niche content is the Mint.com blog. If you aren’t familiar with Mint, the company provides easy, online money management tools and software that are designed to help customers manage their finances, develop budgets and invest for the future. Knowing that the target customer is looking to become more fiscally responsible, the blog regularly publishes “how-to” content about saving money and cutting costs. All of this feeds back into Mint’s overall business goals.

3. Interactive two-way content

In today’s day and age, content creation is becoming less of a one-sided process and more of a two-way street. Thanks to a variety of new content mediums and technologies, it’s now possible for brands to engage customers in constructive ways — from technologies that allow users to comment on posts to new social media platforms that actually allow for live streaming video content.

Let’s take a look at an example of the latter technology, since this appears to be the future of educational content. With new social networking platforms like Periscope, brands now have the ability to create live video content and directly engage with customers. There are a variety of ways Periscope can be used, but hosting a live Q&A session can be quite rewarding for both the brand and the customer.

4. Multimedia content

When it comes to educational content, we typically think of traditional, text-based content, such as blogs or ebooks. However, multimedia content is sometimes more effective. Things like infographics, podcasts, YouTube videos and webinars — while more expensive to produce — can yield exponentially greater returns.

Cabot, the popular cheese company, does a phenomenal job of creating educational video content. They produce a variety of videos, but their “how to” cooking videos are arguably the most effective. They show customers how to cook delicious recipes using Cabot cheese. You can check out some of them on this page.

Start investing in educational content

As you can see, there’s ample room for creativity when it comes to creating educational content. Sadly, though, businesses often delay their investment in educational content because of the lack of instant gratification or immediate ROI.

Don’t fall into this short term way of thinking though. Broaden the scope of your content marketing strategy and don’t be afraid to invest up front resources in order to enjoy highly profitable results on the back end.

You’ll be glad you did!

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Related:
Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.