Many brands realize that consumer education is a powerful way to attract and serve their customers. And given the latest research on the clear benefits of educating consumers, the competition to deliver the best experiences is heating up. No company wants to wake up to a reality that its competitors have taken control of the most referenced education tools in its industry.
A strong consumer education strategy is part of a complete content marketing program. It is a key way to connect with your audience, build your brand, and give your company a competitive advantage, not just a way to push out more content. Instead, effective consumer education emphasizes learner experience design—creating valuable, personalized tools that the consumer actively seek and interact with.
Here are six questions to ask to help you build a robust and effective consumer education strategy.
1. Does the strategy align with our business goals?
First and foremost, a consumer education strategy must help your organization meet its business goals. Are you trying to build brand recognition? Establish your company as a thought leader? Increase customers? Drive customer loyalty?
A company trying to expand its customer base may create content for audiences unfamiliar with its product or service. Whereas, a company wanting to drive customer loyalty may create more advanced content for an audience already familiar with the brand. Such as a well-known healthcare products company that educates consumers on the best ways to use its products and provides personalized, interactive elements tailored to users’ specific needs.
2. Does it align with our marketing goals?
A consumer education strategy is part of a well-rounded content marketing program and, as such, needs to work hand-in-hand with your brand identity and other messaging. The goal of consumer education is not to just fill the heads of your audience with information. It is to share relevant and useful information aligned with the stages in the customer buying cycle. This helps your audience understand product differentiators and identify reasons to choose your product instead of a competitor’s.
Recently, an organization realized that consumers regularly attempted to validate product claims online prior to purchase. An education program of bite-sized learning elements addressing scientific information on the product’s benefits improved customers’ confidence in the brand.
3. Does it meet our customers’ needs?
Customers will not participate in an online learning activity or visit an educational portal if it doesn’t meet their needs. How well do you know your customers’ buying journey? You create the most effective content when you understand what customers want or need to learn at different stages of their relationship with your brand and you know the questions they are already asking.
Consider the different needs at these four stages:
- Knowledge acquisition
- Product comparisons
- Product usage
- Brand champion
4. Is it usable for our audience?
Another important element of a consumer education strategy is choosing the right technology and message format. Consumer education is something users choose to participate in, so it is critical to understand the audience experience—where they are learning, on what type of device, and the type of interaction they want, such as interacting with other customers on social media, a lesson or video on your home page, or an app on their smartphone. The format and technology create very different expectations from customers and very different experiences.
A best practice for meeting your audience’s needs is to create a program that is personalized as much as possible, to work with customers on their own terms and match their existing knowledge and experiences. One industry that is embracing consumer education is the consumer credit sector. Many companies are starting to realize the value of relevant and personalized financial literacy programs to educate consumers and provide a competitive edge.
5. Can we measure it?
Consumer education generates up to five times the ROI as other marketing techniques and customers who find the right educational assets are 29 times more likely to buy. So it is critical that you are able to analyze the data and determine if and how it meets your business and marketing goals.
At minimum, you will want to track which users are taking lessons or creating and sharing content, if they complete the sessions, and how long it takes them to do so. The goal is to tie a consumer’s consumption of your educational content to relevant business metrics such as sales and customer lifetime value. These analytics also enable you to learn what aspects of the strategy are most useful to your customers and will provide you with insight into how to meet future customer needs.
6. Can we sustain it?
As with all content marketing, the strength of a consumer education strategy comes from the ability to evaluate the relevancy of existing content, refresh it when necessary, phase out older or less useful content, and compare your content to your competitors. The frequency of publishing educational content depends on your industry and the needs of your customers, but it could mean that you need to create new content as often daily, weekly, or monthly or as infrequently as annually. Let the voice of your customers guide you—there are some issues you will only be able to address when the strategy is in place; which means you need a strategy that is flexible and adaptable.
Answering these six questions will help you create a relevant, usable, and sustainable consumer education strategy so you can educate and entertain your customers and create a powerful brand experience. Providing your audience with engaging and interactive educational materials that they actively seek helps your brand stand out in a crowd of ordinary content marketing.