Educational marketing is a tool available to everyone, thanks to the easy access to social media tools and platforms. What is educational marketing? Some may argue that it’s simply PR being done online, but the Internet has greatly blurred the lines between marketing and PR. The most important thing to remember, however, is that regardless of how you define it, educational marketing is a useful tool that can benefit both you and your customer.
A quick definition: it is a different way of marketing that entails the sharing of information and educational resources for buyers. Not a tactic to sell your company, but a way to share your expertise to assist buyers in their decision making.
So, why use educational marketing?
- Consumers no longer rely on advertising messages to make buying decisions.
- Educational marketing gives customers and resellers the background they need to understand your messages and appreciate your products and brand.
- Educational marketing also gives your sales and marketing teams the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with your customers’ marketing professionals.
The key to successful educational marketing: Make your educational marketing resources free to access. The goal here is to begin the sales process by first earning the buyer’s trust by providing them something of value.
This post is part of the Educational Marketing series; check back for part two!
Creating an effective and successful marketing plan and reaching you marketing and sales goals requires an in-depth definition of your target audience so as to target them more effectively. That can be rather difficult if you lack a great understanding of your target audience. A way to help alleviate that difficulty and to make it easier to cater to your target audience is to create a buyer persona for each customer/buyer that can be found in your target audience, which requires that understanding referenced above.
Though marketers and PR professionals have been using buyer personas for years, David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR explains it well and helps readers to grasp the concept.
Smart marketers understand buyers, and many build formal ‘buyer personas’ for their target demographics… [I]f we break the buyers into distinct groups and then catalog everything we know about each one, we make it easier to create content targeted to each important demographic. (New Rules of Marketing and PR, pg. 32.)
Whether you plan to market to them or to target them in your PR tactics, knowing who ‘they’ are is a vital part to getting that right. Scott continues on to say that “[u]nderstanding buyers and building an effective content strategy to reach each of them is critical for success.” (pg. 33) He also features some commentary from someone who has been using these buyer personas for more than 20 years. Adele Revella (who has an entire blog dedicated to buyer personas) relays to him:
A buyer persona profile is a short biography of the typical customer, not just a job description but a person description. The buyer persona profile gives you the change to truly empathize with target buyers, to step out of your role as someone who wants to promote a product and see, through your buyers’ eyes, the circumstances that drive their decision process. The buyer persona profile includes information on the typical buyer’s background, daily activities, and current solutions for their problems. (pg. 119-120)
In essence, these buyer personas are a way to give a face to the customers who visit your site, who buy your products, and who generate WOM (word-of-mouth) for your company. Give the buyer personas names, going so far as to even give them a picture of what you think they look like. This can help to make the marketing and PR process more personal and more tailored to the people who are looking to you for a new or better solution to the problems they are currently experiencing.
Some important components of the buyer persona include (but are definitely not limited t0)
- Who the customer is: age, sex, race, culture, etc.
- How she/he lives: their hobbies, patterns, places they frequent, etc.
- Where they live
- Where they work, what industry they work in, etc.
- What their needs and wants are
- How you can cater to those needs and wants; how you can solve the “problem” at hand
- What about the alternatives that would make them want to come to you
- What their morals are; what their beliefs are
- What they think, hope for, believe, dream for, etc.
- How best to connect with them
While the above can be seen as stereotyping, but there is a difference between doing that and categorizing customers to better speak to them, provide solutions, and provide services/products that they want or need. Just be sure to remember that though stereotypes are in place because it can “define” an overall group of people, they are not always true, nor do they define the entire market. Be careful, too, when marketing to a group of people; avoid using advertisements or marketing initiatives that further stereotype a group in a negative or positive way.
Business development requires the fostering and cultivation of relationships with buyers, supplies, and competitors. It is the combination of these relationships that makes business development so important, and there are a lot of ways professionals can make mistakes.
There are many mistakes that can be made in business development, the following being just 5 that are done somewhat behind the scenes. There are other mistakes, like those made in sales and marketing, that are done in the open and usually with clients. These 5 focus on what the company does internally:
- Missing out on opportunities to position the company as an authority through educational marketing, PR, and the improvement of company pedigree.
- Thinking that marketing is enough.
- Ignoring the importance of an effective USP (Unique Selling Position).
- Creating short term goals without thinking long term, and planning poorly.
- Poor time management.
- Missed Opportunities. Marketing is half of the equation of business development. (Sales and customer management being the second half.) This means that you must work hard to market yourself, utilize the free resources that PR provides, and position yourself as an expert by giving away information and being a resource for customers. Being an information resource instead of simply a source or a product or service will make customers feel more at ease when choosing your company as their provider. Help them make informed decisions.Educational marketing and positioning yourself as an expert is a crucial part to successful business development. Use these opportunities to share your expertise and to instill trust in you and your brand. Moreover, don’t ignore PR and the benefits it can have for your company.
- Marketing is Only Part of the Equation, Albeit an Important One. While simply being “out there” and findable by the general public is no longer enough, you have to help people find you. Though different from advertising, which is essentially an interruption of a buyer’s already in progress activity, marketing done in business development should entail some PR initiatives. Beyond that, however, is taking care of the customer.Business development requires that marketing, sales, and customer management takes place simultaneously, working together. While the things mentioned in #1 are important, remember that marketing is only one component of the overall business development effort; customer service and sales is the other piece of the puzzle, and not following up with prospects is one of the biggest mistakes done in this respect.
- Your Unique Selling Position. The USP (unique selling position) is a critical piece of the business development puzzle. For companies that use old or “one size fits all” positions, and for companies that don’t have one at all, success is a far fetched notion.The unique selling position is what differentiates you from your competition. When you market or advertise your services or products, you are essentially making a proposition to buyers. If you are saying the same thing the competition is saying, how will you be heard? You must offer the customers a proposition that the competition cannot or does not offer. IT must be unique, either in the sense that the brand is unique or that the claim you are making to your customers is not offered elsewhere.
- Goals & Planning. Planning is critical to future and present success. You should be planning for the present, the next week, month, and year. This can be applied to many aspects of business, including sales, marketing, capital raising, and PR. Short term goals are just as important as long term goals. The key to planning, however, is to have all the information you need to plan properly.Clients, buyers, customers, whomever your target audience/market is, all want to work with someone who is prepared.
- Time Management. Avoid the thinking that promotes procrastination. Thinking, “I’ll do it when I have time…” helps to set yourself up for failure. In following with the last mistake, plan and assign time to get things done. Having such a mindset helps to promote it even more, and thus we are entered into a vicious, endless cycle. Plan for things (again, planning is an important aspect of all business activities), and make time for your priorities. Don’t know what your priorities are? Take some time to define them so you can mold you days around your highest priorities.
Well, there are many ways to answer that: it is essentially the activities a company partakes in to develop business, as the title suggests, but it’s more than that. It involves sales and marketing, as one might imagine it does, which should incorporate all that comes along with those two things. That can include:
- Relationship cultivation with new and existing clients
- Generating interest
- Creating publicity
- Maintaining relationships with the public (potential and current buyers) and the media
As noted above, both areas are responsible for the maintenance of relationships with buyers in a similar, yet different method.
For example, the marketing and PR aspect of business development involves cultivating relationships with potential (and current) buyers through social media, online marketing, content marketing, and other PR activities.
The main goal of the business development specialist is to move the business forward and to maintain that momentum while simultaneously maintaining current accounts and clients.
This is a balancing act that requires much attention to detail, excellent personal and communication skills, the will and ability to sell, and the ability to work as a team. The above responsibilities are not meant to be done on your own, so learn to work together with others who will have different points of view and different approaches to a problem or challenge. It is these differences that help a company to come to the best conclusion; collaboration on ideas also helps to spread responsibility to the entire team instead of dumping the blame on one person.
Just as important as working together, the groups and teams you work in also need to evaluate “the aftermath”; take a look at the work you all created, the results that were experienced, and define areas where improvements would be helpful.
Overall, know that business development is not a one time thing, and regardless of who does the coordinating for you (whether that be a firm or a teams internally), your business development plans need to be revamped, edited, and changed to keep up with the changing environment, which includes your internal environment, the industry (or external) environment, and what you can project from those current states.