The origin of education-based marketing…
Let’s run through a very quick direct marketing history lesson here. Once upon a time, the only way to respond to an ad was to visit a store, or to order delivery of a product.
That’s called one-step marketing. And it’s a completely natural first step when it comes to running an ad.
I want sales. I figure the newspaper (or whatever media I’m advertising in) has potential customers. So I run an ad offering my goods to whomever reads the ad, and ask for response.
It’s one-step. They either respond, or they don’t.
Then, somewhere along the way, someone realized that they might be able to sell more if they could tell more of their selling story than would fit in the purchased ad space.
And so instead of selling the product or service itself in the ad, they’d offer an informational pamphlet or free report that offered some benefit that would be attractive to the ideal customer for the product.
When they sent the report, they’d either incorporate or include a sales message — often a sales letter — along with the promised information. And it was this sales message that ultimately did the job of closing the sale.
Because this took two steps to complete, it naturally became known as two-step marketing. This two-step marketing — which has been taking place since at least the early 20th Century — was the birth of education-based marketing.
Eventually, the best marketers using this approach got savvy to the fact that they had a good prospect here, even if they didn’t respond to the first sales letter. And so they would continue to send more sales messages and educational pieces to the same prospects until it became no longer profitable to do so.
This went on for a very long time. And adapted to many media. It went from print media and letters as response… To using phone calls to accept response… To using radio and TV to drive more response… To using free recorded messages to do some of the education… And so on.
It continued to expand, but only at a moderate pace and mostly among the most sophisticated direct (aka “mail order”) marketers, until…
The internet breakthrough and dawn of a new era…
By the late-1990s, the world was starting to wake up to this new “internet” thing.
Some saw it as creating a brand new paradigm. All you had to do was be online, and the world would beat a path to your door. That was nuts, but that’s what some people thought.
But at the same time, there was another group. Direct marketers who realized, like internet marketing pioneer Ken McCarthy, that the internet wasn’t anything more or less than “direct mail on glass.” Which actually made it completely rich with possibility!
Another statement Ken made was that the internet was “the world’s biggest printing press, hooked up to the world’s biggest post office.” And paper and postage were dang near free.
Which meant if you could get someone to give you permission to email them on an ongoing basis — such as through traditional two-step advertising — you could effectively market to them at almost no marginal cost, no matter how many times you wanted to contact them, and how long you wanted to follow up.
What this meant was that you could offer that initial piece of education, such as a free report, and send it to them online with a sales message. But then you could continue to provide educational content tied to promotional content on a perpetual basis.
Which led to, for example, the “Agora Model.” That is, offer valuable advice on a topic of interest (in their world, mostly health and wealth), and deliver. Then, on a weekly or even daily basis, continue to deliver related valuable educational essays, delivered through email.
This got even more exciting when email autoresponders came on the scene. Because now not only could you provide this educational content on a calendar basis, but you could also follow up based on when the person had first asked for your info.
In other words, with an autoresponder you could have a preset series of educational and promotional messages that go out starting when they first encounter you, and effectively continuing until kingdom come (depending on how much you were willing to write).
This was a total breakthrough, and led to the incredibly rapid growth of direct marketing, where copy is king and you educate and persuade to build your prospect list and your database of customers.
But it was just the beginning…
The demonetization of media and opening of unlimited possibility…
The thing about technology is it gets faster, more capable, and cheaper. It’s the natural path.
And so in its first few years, the internet was largely constrained by bandwidth — how many 1s and 0s could be carried through the “pipes” at any given time.
But the pipes have gotten bigger. To the point where a huge number of internet users around the globe have an effectively “unlimited” media pipe into their house. By that I don’t mean everybody’s on super-fast fiber. But even slower DSL and cable plans can stream HD movies pretty much on-demand.
Not only that, storage has expanded and become so cheap, that you can get effectively unlimited video and audio storage on the internet for FREE — and if you want slightly more control, you can pay a tiny amount (relative to, for example, the cost of direct mail — much less media-based direct mail!) to host your video and audio content online.
Along with this, users are getting used to consuming all this media online.
I listen to more audiobooks and podcasts than I read these days. (Gasp!) It’s just easier. I watch a ton of YouTube videos, and Facebook videos. I watch videos through Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. I stream a large percentage of the music I listen to, and download 99% of the rest.
While much of that is entertainment content, the exact same trends that are making that cheap and accessible are driving prices down for education-based marketing content.
Which brings me to what triggered this post. I had heard a guest on a podcast, was interested in more from them, and popped onto their YouTube channel. (They have nothing to do with marketing or I’d share here.) I watched a couple really entertaining and informative YouTube videos, and paid attention to the fact that they nearly all contained a call-to-action at the end.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Not only were the YouTube videos themselves education-based marketing tools, they directed me to a website offering more info. When I got there, I realized I could opt-in for more education on the topic — and, presumably, to receive more marketing on this person’s products! And along the way, no doubt (based on this person’s YouTube presence), I’d likely be pushed back to YouTube and other media channels for even MORE educational videos that would make me more likely to want to become a customer.
This trend will only continue.
Cheap media is making education-based marketing easier than ever before. And in fact, I believe it’s changing consumer preferences. Although really effective marketing continues to work (and will continue to work), consumers are naturally growing to expect more and more education that will help them make their purchasing decisions. To the point that as long as you have a clear, compelling offer, it’s the EDUCATION part and not the MARKETING part that will drive the most sales. (As an aside, that’s why really long sales videos often start with 30 minutes of content that feels very educational before making a pitch — the video sales letter itself is education-based marketing.)
This all brings me to…
The NEW tools for education-based marketing…
What follows is a short list of some of the most influential education-based marketing tools available today. It’s short and not inclusive — it’s just the ones that come off the top of my head as what I’ve seen as being most useful and prevalent today.
People love to be a part of an event. Webinar tech makes doing video events easy, and can drive higher viewership because it’s “live.” It’s a great way to teach your core lessons, and set people up for the purchase.
Podcasts are only going to keep growing. They will eventually have more listeners than radio. Users love them because you can listen to exactly who you want, when you want. Plus, when you find a podcast you love, you can go back and listen to all the past episodes. Plus, unlike video, they’re easy to consume while you do other things — if you can listen, you can consume podcasts.
YouTube is the #2 website in the world. It’s the place for video. Not only is it a great way to deliver education-based marketing content, its user base is full of your potential customers, and it can be a great place to attract them to you.
Facebook Video (especially live)
Facebook is trying to become your “other” video platform. Although unlike YouTube, which features the content, Facebook features the social aspect. So you get video based on what people share, rather than based on what you’re looking for. That said, Facebook (along with YouTube) is really embracing LIVE video right now, which makes it a great way to push educational messages to people who are already connected to you.
Other media channels
This is my catch-all. This is a very short list. And there are a million more platforms and channels you can use for audio, video, or even written and graphical education-based marketing. Any and all of them can be powerful, either as a delivery mechanism for getting your education to people you’re already connected with, or as a way to publish content that will reach new prospects.
Whatever you do, don’t forget this…
Here’s the thing. Even if you get really good at the education bit in education-based marketing, you can’t forget to do the marketing.
That is, your ultimate goal should be to build a prospect list, convert those prospects into first-time customers, and then continue to make offers to deepen the relationship.
If you JUST do education, you’ll never make a sale. You have to make offers.
And don’t forget, along the way, to use traditional online and offline media (including direct mail and email) to multiply the results of your online multimedia efforts. My “friend for life” Brian Kurtz has frequently said that O2O2O is the future — online to offline to online (to offline to online to…).
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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