- The marketing continuum involves engaging your intended audience, and education is an important part of reaching customers by becoming a thought leader.
- By distilling all available information so your customers can better educate their audience members, you can develop a trusted, high-value relationship that is difficult to put a price on.
- With today’s technologies, it has never been easier to educate your customers with podcasts, blog series, case studies, or virtual webinars.
By Karen Kimerer
The COVID-19 pandemic changed our industry almost overnight, and today’s businesses are now thinking very differently about their bottom lines, profit projections, and revenues than they were just a few months ago. We all understand that it’s important to develop a sound marketing strategy during these uncertain times, and educating your customers is a vital component of this strategy. Businesses like Apple and Microsoft are well-known for offering great on-site training demonstrations so customers can get the most out of their devices. For example, the Apple Genius Bar has helped set the standard for educating consumers about using their devices for things they might not have thought of on their own. Unfortunately, in-person education isn’t an option during a pandemic. The good news is that there are still many ways to educate consumers and keep them engaged even if a live meeting is impossible.
Educating Customers with Thought Leadership
The marketing continuum involves engaging your intended audience, and education is an important part of reaching customers by becoming a thought leader. There are two different paths you can take to accomplish this: you can educate your customers on the value of your offerings, or you can educate your customers on the industries that they serve. These paths are intertwined, and they both have a place in a successful marketing strategy.
“Thought leadership” is a term that’s thrown around quite a bit in our industry, but it needs more definition because people simply don’t make decisions based on it. What they really need is insight into why certain information is important to them. All businesses strive to become thought leaders and go-to resources, but true success comes from helping clients execute on something that will make a difference in their business.
A Wealth of Information Brings Opportunity…and Challenges!
It has been said that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought our industry—and many others—into a time of pause. Businesses and consumers alike understand that there’s a tremendous amount of content and knowledge on the Internet, but it’s possible that we have a bit more time to absorb this information during this time of pause. At the same time, however, this wealth of information also presents a challenge. It can be overwhelming to sift through this content, and all of it will not necessarily speak to your customers. As print service providers, it is our job to analyze the big picture and translate it into an opportunity that can benefit our customers’ organizations. The ability to curate this content and deliver it in a way that is relevant to our customers’ businesses can:
- Foster customer loyalty
- Improve brand trust
- Expose the brand to people who might not be familiar with it
- Improve client retention
By distilling all of the available information so your customers can better educate their audience members, you can develop a trusted, high-value relationship that is difficult to put a price on. There’s a great deal of opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge about the industry, as well as an in-depth understanding of how your offerings can help customers.
Business Education Strategies in a Virtual World
Under normal circumstances, people would be able to go out to obtain the information they need, but education must be brought to customers in today’s challenging times. Even though many of us aren’t going into stores and offices, this period of pause is a great time to truly determine what your company’s strategy should look like, and where your audience can be reached.
With today’s technologies, it has never been easier to create a virtual tutorial to educate your customers. Tutorials can be delivered in podcast form, as part of a blog series, via video, in case study format, or with webinars. Case studies and webinars can be particularly attractive because they can become part of a library of resources that can be accessed at any time to tell your company’s story. Virtual demonstrations are also an option—a print shop might consider taking their customers behind the scenes so they can see exactly how their jobs make their way through the print shop. This can be a great way to get people to appreciate all the steps that go into a specific job, and they might also better prepare customers for future engagements. In addition, demonstrations can keep your customers informed about capabilities that they might not know you offer. The most important thing is to select an education strategy that will engage your audience.
In today’s virtual world, people prefer to be communicated with in a more personal way. Podcasts and videos can bring your voice and/or face to your customers, showing a more human side of your business while also creating a more realistic dialogue. Furthermore, there are some great tools out there to help you make virtual conversations more engaging. There are even some virtual forums where organizers can start a conversation, then break people out into virtual “rooms” to encourage close collaboration. Afterward, everyone can be brought back together to discuss as a larger group. Even as businesses and the economy start to re-open, it might be quite some time before the world resembles what it was like before the pandemic. Print service providers should familiarize themselves with all the tools that are available today so they can find new ways to engage their customers. The ultimate goal is to make your customers feel comfortable while still providing the interactive communication that they crave.
All forms of marketing—whether they involve a lead generation campaign or customer education—must be designed with a plan in mind. Start by asking yourself who you want to engage or educate, then determine how you’re going to reach them. Identify the types of engagements that they will want, then create a calendar of topics. Although it’s important to have a strategic plan, allow yourself the flexibility to change or pivot if you need to. One best practice in developing a go-to-market strategy is to identify your customer persona. This involves not only understanding who your customers are, but who you want them to be. You can then model your business after your best customers and develop a strategy for reaching and engaging them.
The Bottom Line
As mentioned earlier, there is more information out there than ever before. Although it’s exciting that people have access to a limitless supply of knowledge, it can also be overwhelming and confusing. As industry experts, it is our job to extrapolate the trends, research, and information and put it into a conversational, educational format that can help customers solve their business problems. The last thing your customers need is for you to throw more statistics at them. What they really need is a way to make sense of all this information so they can use it to better their own offerings.
Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.