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3 5 Reasons Why Every Business Must Be a Learning Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Jeff Cobb – Enjoy!

Learning business

Flickr photo credit DaveBleasdale

We are living in a golden age for “self-directed” learning. The Internet has empowered us to search and find information on nearly any topic imaginable, exchange knowledge with experts around the globe, and even study for free at some of the world’s top universities.

While all of this has huge implications for the world of traditional education, it also means that effective educational content marketing is more important than ever for businesses. Here’s why.

1. Shoppers are learners

We don’t tend to think of shopping as a learning activity, but it definitely is.  When we shop, we seek out information. We “kick the tires.” We educate ourselves to make good decisions.

Providing your prospects with information about the products or services you offer is only one part of this process. Before they ever get to that point, prospects often look for more general information about whatever problem or opportunity is causing them to shop in the first place. Whoever does a good job of providing that information has a competitive edge.

Consider, for example, how Gary Vaynerchuk used WineLibraryTV to propel his family business from $4M to more than $60M in annual revenues. With this series of relatively simple, low-cost videos, Gary was able to educate his potential customers, make them more comfortable with wine – a daunting and confusing product for many – and win their business.

2. Customers are social

Customers talk to each other – on the Web, on their mobile phones, in person– about what they have bought or plan to buy.  Really, “word of mouth” marketing is nothing more than customers informally teaching each other and learning from each other.  It’s to your advantage to arm them well for this process.

Educational content is useful content. It gets read; it gets watched; it gets shared; it attracts more people.

In addition to creating content, providing a platform where people can share their content, experiences, and questions can be a powerful way to expand your audience. Think about what American Express has done with its OPEN Forum site, a vibrant learning community that is a magnet for the small business people the company serves.

3. Learning drives value

The relationship between education and marketing is like an ever-expanding virtuous circle.  As customers learn more about the problems and opportunities your products address, their needs grow broader and deeper. And, of course, the opportunities for additional sales grow.

As part of this process, you and your business become the expert, the trusted resource that customers continue to seek out. Your perceived value as a business rises.

Articulate, a company that makes software for converting PowerPoint into online courses, has been very successful in using learning to drive its value as a business. By offering a continuing stream of highly useful how-to articles, its Rapid E-learning blog has attracted more than 80,000 subscribers and been instrumental in making Articulate the leading company in its niche.

4. Teaching sparks dialogue

The process of teaching and learning naturally sparks questions, conversations, and even debates.  Over time, these kinds of meaningful interactions with your customers lead to deeper relationships and greater loyalty – invaluable assets to any business.

They also provide excellent opportunities for you to learn more about your customers needs and to meet those needs even better.

Million Dollar Consultant® Alan Weiss, for example, routinely comes up with new offerings based on the continuing dialogue he has with his customers in Alan’s Forums. Forum participants often suggest the products, and Alan doesn’t pull the trigger on creating them until enough other participants commit to buying.

5. You’re already doing it

A final compelling reason that you should be in the learning business is that you probably already are. You probably already do a lot of teaching as part of your marketing and selling – you just need to be more conscious and deliberate about it.

Start mining your own knowledge in simple ways. Have someone interview you. Get the interview transcribed into a white paper.  Start a blog and use it to address common questions in your market. Consider delivering an educational Webinar series.

The possibilities are endless, and the opportunity is large. Put yourself in the learning business, and you will transform whatever business you are already in.

Jeff Cobb is the author of Leading the Learning Revolution: The Expert’s Guide to Capitalizing on the Exploding Lifelong Education Market. Through his consulting and speaking, Jeff helps his clients build successful education businesses and leverage educational content marketing as a powerful part of their strategy.