Reaching Them by Teaching Them

Connecting to audiences who aren’t falling for your sales pitch

In a world filled to the rafters with tech startups, Tuft & Needle has been doing something interesting for a startup company: making and selling mattresses.

They’ve also been doing something interesting for a mattress company: educating people about the mattress industry.

While ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft needed little help portraying traditional taxis as archaic and stubborn and worth leaving behind, the mattress industry seemed a little tougher to crack. Most people didn’t know much about it. But Tuft & Needle saw that knowledge gap as a blank canvas on which to paint.

The really powerful thing they’ve done here is teach consumers useful, inside information about issues in their industry — issues most people didn’t know existed. Through this consumer education campaign they effectively acted as whistleblowers on their competitors, promoting their own approach and expertise in making high quality mattresses that are affordable, going from $1 million in sales to $42 million in just three years.

We hear all the time about the power of education. Tuft & Needle put it into practice. This was a big, bold, well-designed campaign that ruffled a lot of feathers. And it was centered around educating the audience — wowing them with useful information and industry expertise.

Consumers Don’t Always Need You to Entertain Them

If you’re most companies, you may not have resources or money for a big PR firm, or billboards, or Super Bowl ads. And that’s fine. The good news is that it’s not your job to make anyone laugh or cry or ponder the universe. They’ve got Netflix for that.

67% of consumers prefer when a brand’s videos educate or inform them more than entertain or inspire.

In a 2016 study, consumers showed that only 28% of those surveyed wanted to be entertained or inspired by a brand’s content, given the other choices. Which means, frankly, that you don’t need a brand storytelling consultant or a big PR firm to tell you how to make waves in your market. It’s a matter of delivering what you already know.

What Consumers DO Care About

They care about relevance. Things that are personally applicable to them. 88% of consumers said that their impression of a brand improves if they have personally relevant content.

Leadership with education

So, it turns out that consumers want something useful from you — not just a good laugh, though it can help. I’m talking about good, old fashioned knowledge. Pro tips. How-To’s.

Listen, it’s no random occurrence that Yelp, Amazon, and Google have had such big impacts on customer-service-based businesses. The user-generated content on these sites provide consumers with the same thing Tuft & Needle gave their audience: the inside scoop. They want short cuts. Industry secrets. Your expertise. And it means more coming from the people they’re considering giving their money. That’s something they can use.

Consumers do care about feeling informed. And if you don’t fill that space, your customers will do it for you — and that’s a pretty volatile risk.

Be Your Own Publisher

We live in a world of consumers who feed on massive amounts of content, on-demand and in a format that can be accessed in less time than it takes you to read this paragraph. Every product, every service, anything that can be purchased, used or experienced needs content. Content tells stories, positions products, and creates valuable connections with consumers.

By communicating your expertise to customers yourself, you’re doing several things at once:

  • Providing something useful
  • Building relationships of trust
  • Positioning yourself as a thought leader

These are all brand-building activities that can bring in customers by delivering the kind of information they prefer to consume. The best part is, you’re the expert. And you don’t need a big ad agency to share your expertise for you.

For example, Facebook and Instagram have released “live video” features, which are great new ways for businesses to engage their audiences with useful information. A marketer friend of mine Camberley Woods leverages her expertise by giving free weekly tips and exercises via Facebook/Instagram Live videos. As people engage with her on these platforms in real time, she provides them with useful info, responds to their comments and questions, and builds trust with them as an expert in her field. The idea is for these bits of free information to help better illustrate the value of her expertise, and to build more perceived value around her paid services and products.

Creative brand storytelling is an important component to many strong brands. However, the biggest strategic key to using content to hook loyal customers that will genuinely share your business with their friends is simple — reaching them by teaching them.

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