I speak often about the value of being seen as a trusted education resource in your field — of being the WebMD or Wikipedia of your space. But, does that actually translate to an increase in revenue? Does it affect your bottom line?
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Think back to a favorite teacher you had growing up. Maybe this was in grade school, maybe in high school, maybe in college. What were the qualities you really loved about him or her?
When I think of my favorite teachers, a few attributes and characteristics come to mind. Generosity, fairness, and intelligence.
I think of teachers being generous with their time and expertise, showing each student that they matter and that their needs are important. Teachers are always fair, treating their students equally.
Teachers are experts in their field, practiced both in the information and processes of their subject, but also experts in conveying that information in a way that is digestible, appropriate, and contextualized.
The teacher responds to the class in a way that puts the class’ comprehension in the center. Good teachers don’t need to sound pretentiously smart or be condescending. They need to make their students feel heard and valued.
That’s the thing: teachers never ignore questions. If a student is asking, a good teacher will be answering.
I believe there is a meaningful correlation between these skills and the necessary communication practices that businesses need to be successful. If businesses emulate teachers, they are on the path to being successful.
Businesses, too, need to see the hands in the air and answer the questions that are being asked. Businesses, too, need to address concerns in such a way that customers feel heard and validated. Businesses, too, need to see themselves as beholden to their customers.
Your customers and their needs should be at the center of your messaging and content.
But how does being seen as a trusted teacher really drive revenue?
Imagine that every “student question” is a search that’s happening in Google. If we use tools to see what people are searching, we know exactly what potential customers are asking.
This is not guesswork or speculation. These are vetted, aggregated questions from the buying public.
In turn, your traffic will increase. It is inevitable that some of your traffic will turn into leads. If visitors find your website to be a useful resource, they are more likely to fill out contact forms and submit their email addresses, which you can add to your database.
If you have tracking capabilities and can see that certain visitors have viewed numerous pages that all relate to a certain product or service, you can reach out to them to ask about their needs.
Simply put, there is a direct correlation between how much content someone consumes on your website and how likely they are to become a lead and a customer.
The fact is, customers want to be educated before they make a purchase, regardless of what they’re buying. Today, customers do that research online. If they find the information they need from a certain source, they begin to build a relationship with that source. They begin to trust.
If prospects trust you, they are more likely to buy from you.
But what about searchers who just want information and are not looking (or ready) to buy?
A common rebuttal to this notion of investing in producing educational content is that most of the people searching and finding that content are not ready to buy. They might not even be looking to buy.
Why make the effort to connect with people who may never become customers?
I think marketers sometimes overanalyze the difference between what are called informational searchers and transactional searchers. That is, people looking for information and people looking to buy.
I’ve found that the line between the two is not quite as clear as some would believe.
I got my start in the pool business.
What I found was that people who start searching for information about a pool are genuinely interested in having a pool.
Maybe they think they won’t be able to afford a pool for at least five or ten years. Maybe they think it probably wouldn’t work in their yard. At this point, they’re just a casual informational searcher.
But say they start reading content and realize that a pool is not as expensive as they think it is. Maybe they realize there are options that would fit their space. Maybe the more they read, the more barriers fall away.
If you think of searchers as neatly falling into two categories — those who want information and those who want to buy — you fail to see the fluid ways people make decisions.
If searchers are asking questions, they have an interest. Maybe it’s a need, maybe it’s a pain-point. Maybe it's an aspiration. But they are certainly interested, and interest is always the first step of a purchase.
You never know when the doors are going to open all the way and they’re going to be totally ready to buy, but you want to make sure you’re there when they do.
Why producing content isn’t always ‘playing the long game’
Producing educational content is certainly a long-term investment in your business. After all, you won’t be able to rank in Google tomorrow for the article you publish today.
However, that’s not to say content is only serving your distant ends.
If you produce content that directly and honestly answers your buyers’ questions, that content can immediately be leveraged in the sales cycle to help you close deals more efficiently — a process we call “assignment selling.”
When a sales rep is gearing up for a call with a prospect, sending some educational material to address likely questions can help the sales meeting be more productive.
The sales rep will not need to devote time to mollifying concerns that have already been covered by the content, and the prospect will feel more educated and prepared.
That’s a way your article published today can help you tomorrow.
The other side of educational content is its performance in search rankings. Yes, this will not happen overnight, but it can happen fairly quickly. If you write the content that people find helpful, you will see it start to climb in Google. It will build momentum as more people find it, bookmark it, share it, comment on it, and link to it.
There’s an old saying: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.
Getting started producing educational content is an undertaking that will bring results in the short term by way of a shortened sales cycle, as well as in the long term by way of page authority, website traffic, and a proliferation of leads and sales.
When you work to build trust with your audience, when they come to see you as a teacher, they will associate with your business all of the positive attributes they think of when remembering their favorite teachers of yesteryear. They will trust you.
Every business in every industry should see that as their end goal.