Customer Education is the new marketing


I like to think we are innovative and our offer is slightly ahead of the curve. That causes difficulties sometimes, because instead of simply having to explain the benefits of what we do, we also have to explain what it we do.

One of the latest iterations of marketing is ‘content marketing’.  I am not a big fan – and I have already said that.

Marketing as a professional discipline struggles because its practitioners are constantly jumping on the next band wagon, proclaiming “this is the big thing”. Social media – and a specific range of platforms come to mind and of course then there is the other buzz word – Big Data.

(I read somewhere that Big Data is like Teenage Sex – everyone thinks everyone else is doing it and therefore claim they are doing it, but the reality is there is much groping in the dark and not much else.)

By labelling what we do as “Customer Education” and claiming that it is the new marketing, I run the risk that the same fate will befall it; a slow, agonising death until all that remains are a few abandoned websites in the Google graveyard.

The current crop of young marketers who are ‘discovering’ social mistakenly believe that they have discovered something amazingly unique about consumers. People are social. It doesn’t take more than a moment’s reflection to realise that humans have ALWAYS been social.

The only thing that has changed is that (1) it is easier for people to use technology to express their social nature and (b) the social dimension of decision-making has shifted power to the consumer because brands are no longer custodians of the information needed to make decisions.

By the same token, marketing has always been about customer education.

Text book purpose of advertising is for instance to:

  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Remind

You could simply re-read those aims and easily categorise them as ‘educational’ could you not?

When a parent ‘reminds’ a recalcitrant teenager to clean their room, that is surely a form of education?

When a manufacturer includes a user manual in their packaging, they are attempting to educate the customer.

The reason I believe content marketing is a dead end (in addition to those already enumerated) is that content marketing (as it is practised today) is biased towards entertainment – as can be seen from the unrealistic and counter-productive focus on creating something viral.

Content can be entertaining and it can be educational. It can even be both at the same time. But pure entertainment is not – in our experience - a viable, effective and sustainable marketing strategy unless your product/service is an entertainment product (like XBOX).

By definition someone who wants to be ‘entertained’ always wants to move on to the next thing… which goes against the grain of the organisational objective of creating loyal and repeat customers.

At best, content marketing is part of your digital marketing strategy which is part of your overall marketing strategy.

Customer education is a nobler endeavour.

Like any relationship, “getting to know each other” is a crucial part of the relationship. When you really know and understand each other, the relationship has the opportunity to attain longevity. 

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