If you thought the back-to-school season meant little more than pencils and paper, backpacks and new school clothes, you’d be highly mistaken. In the ecommerce community, it provides us a subtle reminder as to the power of teaching our customers about our products and services.
That’s right. It might be time to take your online audience back to school.
Help your customers learn about your products
Large software companies have learned the value of online education over the years, offering white papers about industry topics and tutorials for their products or technology. Most large technology organizations employ a few talented marketers in a generic role of “evangelist,” somebody designated to spread the word about the company’s wares. To site visitors. To the press. To anybody who’ll listen. Lucky for everyone else, these big-business lessons can be applied to online businesses as well.
Part of the challenge of starting a successful online business is not only in building a relationship with existing customers, but also in cultivating an audience for your product or service. No better way to develop that rapport with that audience than to educate them about your business – from an insider’s point of view.
Consider helpful articles
Think of the entrepreneur who sells garden tools online. It would serve that business well for its proprietor to write articles about gardening topics in general, beyond the scope of anything related to a specific product. If your online business is centered on developing documentation for the human resources industry, you might want to write original content focusing on topics central both to creating terrific user manuals and to succeeding in the HR business.
First, providing educational material online to site visitors provides your website with what they call “stickiness,” the measurement of how long people will stay on and return to your website. Second, providing educational materials online to consumers serves to establish you, the entrepreneur, as the expert in your field about your product and service. That’s why it’s important to write about topics relevant to your business but not necessarily specific to your products.
It provides credibility, and being the expert in a given field increases the likelihood that a consumer will associate you to your product or service. What petunia fanatic wouldn’t want to buy those gardening tools from the person who is considered the preeminent authority on petunia gardening?
However, if you thought that this process is as simple as writing some articles and posting them to your site, you’d be both right and wrong. Adding educational content to your site will provide it with stickiness, which will lead to longer site visits and more frequent return engagements. Perhaps the consumer will bookmark your site as a resource for a topic. Perhaps that consumer will tell a friend.
The danger is that the consumer might never find you at all.
Write for other websites, too
That’s why it’s important to become an authority outside the realm of your dot-com site. You don’t have to be a prolific author to become that type of authority in your field of expertise. Your pursuit to educate consumers about your product or service, however, should be taken to the masses. Write articles for websites related to your area of knowledge. Write a book using an online tool like Iuniverse.com. Host an online radio show, or start an online user group.
Some efforts take more time and money than others, but the point remains the same. Taking your online customers back to school will lead you back – and back – to the bank.