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Content with intent: Educate your audience

In my last post, I gave an overview of this series about creating content with intent. As with anything else in business and life in general, we can have a million different tools at our disposal, but if they are not applied correctly then they are not as effective. You’re not going to paint a house with a screwdriver, right? No, but you can open the can of paint with one to get the project rolling (pun intended). It’s the same with content. When it is created, there must be intent behind it in order for it to make sense and to find its home amongst the other content offerings you have.

Student teacher in China teaching children Eng...

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So, for this post, my intent is to talk about content that educates. Education in business is a tricky thing because you have to create content that can be useful to various levels of expertise from novice to those smarter than yourself.

Product Use Education

When you inform a customer about a product update, you don’t get into the details about exactly how it works. This is why you need to develop content with the intent to educate. This type of content is the “How To’s” of your product or service. It’s the nuts and bolts of process. For instance, if you have a software as a service offering then you need to produce things like “How to Create Reports” or “Setting Up Multiple Users in the System”. Manuals are the best place to do this but if there are enough men using your product, that manual won’t get out of the cellophane, so it is important to educate them in other places.

Product Application Education

The “How To’s” of education is good and they answer some questions, but they don’t’ usually go to the next level of the “What For’s,” the “What If’s,” and the “To Whom’s.” As business folks, we have to be very careful not to stop at telling customers the process of working with your product or services. If you stop there, then there is the real threat that your customer will never properly apply your product or service and then blame their poor outcome on your product rather than their ignorance.
This kind of content with intent is the equivalent of the saying ” Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s the same in business. Use your content to impact your customer’s business.

Industry Education

With the rapid pace of innovation in today’s marketplace, it can be important to help your customers understand the industry you are in as a whole. This helps position you as an expert and also shows that you are confident in your position in the market.
Social media marketing is a great example of this idea. Every provider of services in the social media marketing space should be working extra hard to help their clients understand the industry as a whole. Why? Well, in a case like social media it could very well overload them into total reliance on you because there is too much to know. Good companies quickly realize when something is not a core competency and they need dependable and strong partners to help them navigate these mostly uncharted waters. In other cases, it could lead to a greater understanding of the opportunity that your products provide, thus helping them to get more engaged with you as a supplier. Either way it’s a win-win and that’s a very good thing.

Professional Education

While companies might sell to other companies, it is ultimately people who make the decision to buy or not to buy certain products and services. As a result, it can be a valuable practice to provide your actual customer (the person or team that has day-to-day contact with your company and its products / services) with something beyond the product. Help these important people improve professionally.
I try to educate my customers about bigger picture concerns in the industry and the “Why’s” concerning what they are trying to accomplish. Most industries are like Internet marketing where the insiders assume that everyone knows what they know. That’s just not the case. By educating people and giving them knowledge, they feel empowered and they are dedicated to you and your company for more than just a product.
What are the best ways to accomplish this goal of educating through your business content? I wish there was a silver bullet answer that would make sense across the board, but that doesn’t exist. As with most content, you will have to determine how your audience receives content best. Is it a white paper? Is it blogging? Is it Twitter? Is it Webinars? Is it something else? Is it all of the above?
Tell us your stories of how using content to educate has increased your customer satisfaction or chances for more business. Since there are no standard answers, why not educate each other and see what we can learn?

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