Probably now more than ever before, we can all recognise the value of reliable and useful information. Amidst the coronavirus crisis that has shaken up 2020, research from a consumer impact tracker survey conducted by Mindshare found that:
“Around three quarters of people want brands to play a role in supporting communities, promoting wellbeing, and providing useful information…”
The extraordinary value of content that provides enlightening and applicable information was the topic of a recent webinar from Hubspot, which stressed the importance of an educationally-focused content strategy that lines up with the journey consumers take from being totally unfamiliar with a business to becoming loyal and dedicated customers.
The strategy is based around the following waypoints:
“Attracting [prospects by] using your expertise to create content and conversations that start meaningful relationships with the right people;
“Keeping people engaged [by] focusing on building lasting relationships for future sales… providing insights and solutions that align with their roadblocks and goals;
“Delighting [and retaining customers by] providing an outstanding experience that adds real value, [and] empowers people to reach their goals and become promoters of your company.”
When it comes to making a strategy like this a reality, what kinds of content are best-suited to each one of these stages?
When it comes to attracting prospects, the best kind of content is something that, through being widely applicable and useful, can get your name and your expertise noticed by the right people. This can be done particularly effectively through regular blog posts that demystify the field that you work in or, as was certainly successful for our sister brand Regis Media, en e-guide.
Regis Media’s e-guide was a free introductory primer on the subject of evidence-based investing that was sent out to financial advisers around the world, to provide them with an easily-digestible resource that they could use to introduce their clients to this style of investing.
The success of this endeavour was such that we were commissioned to produce a number of branded versions for several of those advisory firms; and that’s a testament to the information contained therein - introductory, broadly useful, and easy to understand. When trying to produce educational content to attract people to your business, try to think about answering the very first question that somebody would ask about your particular field.
Social media can be a particularly powerful tool at this stage too. As well as text-based posts, visual media like infographics and short-form video can be a perfect way of delivering useful information - quick tips or interesting facts and statistics - while catching a prospective customer’s eye.
Where the content designed to attract prospective customers was all about being fairly general and introductory; longer-form and slightly more specialised content is necessary for building on those initial connections. Having addressed the really general questions, how can you expand on those to provide information that your audience can apply to the diverse array of areas that they need help with?
Following on from Regis Media’s example, their “next stage” is to offer more specialised video content that delves deeper into the subject of evidence-based investing - taking a closer look at behavioural science, for example, or how evidence-based principles can be applied when saving for retirement.
The key question when designing this kind of longer-form educational content is: how can you keep the information engaging over a longer period of time? Thankfully, there’s no shortage of inspiration available online.
The rising popularity of video essays on YouTube is a good place to look. A variety of channels have developed their names on using the language of film and video to present attractive and well-edited videos on subjects as wide ranging as film analysis, music theory, and philosophy.
Similarly podcasts - whether narrative audio-documentaries or interviews with prominent figures - can work as highly-engaging, long-form educational resources. Writing a blog for the CIPR Education and Skills Group, Debbie Aurelius writes that:
“The portability of podcasts makes them an ideal way for listeners to take learning with them as they go … Listeners can access them at a time that’s convenient for them. Enabling people to obtain new information when they are ‘driven by their curiosity’ means they are already intrinsically motivated to take it on board.”
The final stage of Hubspot’s educational content strategy is all about retaining those relationships by empowering your audience through more exclusive and direct content. One form of content that fits this description and that has certainly risen in popularity this year has been the webinar.
Webinars, often conducted using remote tools such as Zoom, allow their hosts to impart information through a more interactive medium - incorporating group chat, live Q&A sessions, and in-depth presentations.
Using such a direct medium can be a perfect way of educating your audience while also connecting on a personal level and so, again, it’s important to think about addressing their more specific needs and concerns. Writing this excellent comprehensive guide to webinar content for The Content Marketing Institute, Shane Barker writes:
“One major mistake made by organisers is picking a general topic because they are so eager to share their knowledge. They end up trying to fit in everything they know in a short time. Pick a topic or area narrow enough to address points in such a way that your audience will derive some benefit. Progress in a singular direction with that topic.”
When thinking about how to market a product or service, it can sometimes seem as if presenting an attractive image is more important than providing helpful information. What a marketing strategy like the one explored here shows, however, is that the helpful information can be a vital part of that attractive image: through creating educational content that works on these different levels, you can present your business as a reliable, caring resource, rather than simply the provider of a product.