One of the biggest challenges of offering digital products and services is learning how to sell them. But it doesn’t have to be.
Gone are the days of overly direct, aggressive sales tactics and pitches that might make you and your customers—feel uncomfortable.
When it comes to selling products online, your marketing should focus on building trust and developing a relationship with your audience throughout your sales process and beyond.
Rather than putting the emphasis on making a sale, you should educate your customers instead.
This education-based marketing approach is designed to be instructive and can help inform your customers’ purchasing decisions over time.
So, as you read through this short guide, pay close attention to what educational marketing is, why you should use it, and how to embed it better into your online business.
Let’s get started.
What Is Educational Marketing?
Educational marketing is a subcategory of what we commonly refer to as content marketing.
Essentially, it’s a marketing approach encompassing creating free content to educate prospective customers. This content might include blog posts, videos, email newsletters, checklists, webinars, podcasts, and even free courses.
While you should structure your overall marketing strategy to lead to a purchase, educational marketing is more subtle in how it conveys the message to your prospective customers.
Think of it almost as an invisible hand slowly guiding your customers down your sales funnel by teaching them about a topic of interest.
As your customers consume more and more of your educational content, they’ll start trusting you and moving towards an eventual purchase of what you may be selling.
Why Use Educational Marketing?
There are numerous reasons you might want to adopt an educational marketing strategy for your business.
Let’s go through a few of them.
Developing Audience Trust
Research shows that 78% of consumers believe companies providing custom content want to build long-term relationships.
The educational content you share and the consistency with which you produce it has the potential to cultivate a long-term relationship with every visitor that interacts with your product or business.
Enhancing Your Reputation
When you create learning content regularly through a newsletter, blog, or video channel, you’re also showcasing to your customer base that you’re an expert.
Over time, an ongoing educational marketing strategy can establish you as a go-to industry thought leader on your subject.
As your reputation grows, so does the likelihood of capturing a dedicated base of followers who want to hear your unique message and who might want to purchase the products you sell.
Growing Your Audience
Content marketing costs 62% less than other marketing efforts and generates about three times as many leads.
Rather than paying to advertise, you can consider having a blog, newsletter, or even a YouTube or TikTok channel that offers high-quality learning content. It can be a great way to drive more organic traffic to your website, build your email list, and convert visitors into paying customers.
The more you take the time to educate and provide value to your audience, the easier it is to sell to them.
Education-Based Marketing Examples
Educational marketing is all around us, so let’s go through a few examples of creators and businesses doing a great job at teaching before selling.
Miss Excel and the Short Video Format
Miss Excel grew her TikTok account to over 800,000 followers by posting free and fun educational content about Microsoft Excel.
While sharing these free tips, Miss Excel markets her online courses, which are estimated to earn her between $250,000 to $300,000 per month.
Even the TikTok brand has recognized the importance of educational marketing and begun using the viral hashtag #TikTokTaughtMe on TV advertisements in the US.
Amy Porterfield and the Podcast
Amy Porterfield is the creative force behind the Digital Course Academy, her signature program for course creators. One of the unique educational marketing strategies she uses to connect with her audience is her podcast—Online Marketing Made Easy.
In these short, audio-only episodes, she shares useful tips, personal stories, and insights into her business.
Because her podcast is free, it’s an easy way for her to provide a ton of value to her audience before it even feels like it’s time to buy anything.
David Perell and the Email Newsletter
David Perell runs Write of Passage, an online writing program that teaches people how to write efficiently online. He offers two high-value cohort programs—Essentials Edition and Accelewrite—that sell for $4,000 and $7,000, respectively.
As you can imagine, David is also a prolific writer. This works to his advantage in many ways, including the fact that when students see their instructors practicing what they preach, they’ll feel inspired and encouraged to apply what is being learned.
Every week, he sends out his Monday Musings newsletter to update his audience on what he’s learning, his recent travel adventures, and important news on his writing program.
The quality of his newsletter and the consistency with which he sends it serve as a powerful marketing tool. It provides much of the trust and credibility he needs to convince his readers to purchase his course.
Podia and the Resource Center
Podia allows digital entrepreneurs to create their own online storefronts to sell their digital products, courses, and memberships.
As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, Podia has numerous pathways to educate and connect with its growing base of potential customers.
They’ve built a comprehensive resource center to help creative entrepreneurs grow, including free access to their blog articles, videos, guides, and tools across many essential topics like entrepreneurship and online course creation.
Educational Marketing Strategies That Work
The examples we shared above looked at how creators and businesses use specific education-based marketing strategies to instruct their audiences.
As you think about how to implement and refine your marketing efforts, let’s go through some helpful ideas you can immediately apply.
Understand Who Your Target Customer Is
If you know your audience, you’ll be able to define better and tailor your educational marketing content.
To do that, we recommend you create a customer persona for each group you plan to target.
A customer persona is a profile of your ideal customer and the key traits or characteristics that best describe them.
Developing a persona can help you identify what problems to solve when determining the type of content or product to create. It allows you to personalize it to each group, so your messaging won’t become stale or bland.
To get started, you’ll need to ask some basic questions to compile a picture of your target customer.
- What do they typically do?
- What are their pain points and challenges?
- What do they want to gain or accomplish?
You may also want to create a visual graphic highlighting their specific characteristics, such as this one.
While you can infer who your ideal customers are, based on your experience, there are quite a few strategies to figure out this information if you’re unsure.
You can ask for feedback by sending a survey to your email list or requesting visitors to complete it directly on your website. To do this, you can use several great survey applications like Google Forms and Paperform to solicit feedback from your audience.
You could also browse through social media and search for popular hashtags. From there, you can better learn what people are talking about and their frustrations and challenges.
Choose the Right Content Format
The format and delivery of your content will rely almost exclusively on who your target audience is.
For example, suppose that your customer persona suggests that your audience mostly comprises busy working professionals.
In this case, your content delivery options could encompass podcasts, case studies, newsletters, and webinars.
Sometimes, it’s also helpful to subdivide your educational marketing content options into categories and choose a few that will meet your target customers’ needs, wherever they may be.
|Writing||Blog posts, case studies, newsletters, email courses, testimonials|
|Graphics, downloads, & tools||Checklists, infographics, worksheets, polls, surveys, quizzes|
Mini courses, product demos, short explainer tutorials
Podcasts (solo, segment, and interview), audio blog posts
Q&As, webinars, meetups, performances
Nothing is stopping you from using a variety of these content delivery formats, but make sure that they add value to your audience and match your marketing goals and objectives.
Online courses represent the ultimate form of educational marketing because of their versatility. They can serve as a high-end premium option or as simple lead magnets that you can use to build a deeper level of trust.
For example, florist and course creator Eddie Zaratsian offers a low-cost mini course as a lead magnet for his larger premium masterclass on the business of luxury and floral event design.
His mini-course sales page includes a live Q&A to incentivize his prospective customers to sign up.
Use YouTube to Connect With Your Audience
Earlier, we shared how Miss Excel used TikTok’s short video format to help build visibility for herself and drive students to her online courses.
Like Miss Excel, you may want to share some educational content you create on other media platforms. YouTube works excellently for this purpose.
In fact, you can use it as an educational marketing tool to educate potential customers and build your brand while having potential access to a large pool of viewers.
For instance, Tiago Forte, book author and creator of the course Building a Second Brain, has a YouTube channel with 86k subscribers.
Through his YouTube videos, he shares unique insights and case studies to educate his audience.
Over time, these free instructional materials help him shift these subscribers’ position from passive viewers to paying customers of higher ticket products and courses.
Build an Interest Community
Another tremendous practical strategy to connect with and educate your customers is building a community, and you can consider using a community platform for the same.
For example, Circle of Hope is a community by The Healthy Weigh Out that helps people struggling with emotional binge eating develop healthy nutrition habits.
Initially, the community provides a safe space for members to meet other individuals struggling with the same issue and learn from industry experts through their online discussions and videocasts.
By slowly onboarding their members into the community, they can create lasting relationships and sell other products.
Educational Marketing Tools and Software
As you plan your educational marketing strategies, you’ll need to use the right tools and software to do it successfully.
While you may already have some favorite apps that you like to use, we’ve listed a few to help get you started.
Blogging is an essential component of educational marketing. Your ability to share your ideas in a format your audience can easily consume is critical to the growth of your online business.
WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms you can use to set up and publish your blog posts. You can customize its look, feel, and functionality by selecting from a library of web templates and software plugins.
Email Marketing (ActiveCampaign)
Email marketing helps you build trust and deliver content directly to your audience.
ActiveCampaign is a powerful email marketing provider that allows you to collect emails directly from your website, segment and tag them depending on the criteria you define, and create automated email sequences when a potential customer enters your sales funnel.
You’ll also be able to send out email broadcasts and newsletters and create a series of email courses to connect with your audience.
Video Creation Software (Camtasia)
Because video content is popular and easily consumable, you should make sure that you can make videos with a relatively easy-to-use tool like Camtasia.
Using their screen capture and robust video editing tools, you’ll be able to create engaging instructional videos of all types, including product demos, how-to tutorials, interviews, testimonials, and more.
You can also review our screencasting software guide for more options.
Online Course Platform (Thinkific)
If you want to build an audience by offering online courses, you’ll need an online course platform to manage all aspects involved in course creation and delivery.
Thinkific is a hosted web solution and powerful course builder. It works well for all course types, including mini-courses you can offer as a lead magnet to help you attract, grow, and connect with your audience.
You can also read our Thinkific review to explore the platform in more detail.
Community Builder (Circle)
A big part of your educational marketing strategy may be to captivate your audience by creating a community through an academy, group, or professional network.
You can directly integrate this type of community into your product or service and use it as a tool to invite your customers into your learning group.
Using Circle, a community-building platform, you’ll be able to create discussions, organize content, moderate your community, connect members, and offer private messaging, group chats, and live streaming.
Whether you’re just starting or an experienced digital creator, your goal should always be to find meaningful ways to connect with your audience.
And educational marketing is more customer-focused than all the traditional marketing approaches. Taking the time to teach your audience before attempting to sell a thing will often pay out immensely.
As you develop your marketing strategy, we recommend using the approaches and examples shared in this guide as your starting point.
How do you plan to use educational marketing in your online business? Do you have a favorite strategy that you’d like to share?
Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!