In the last few years markets have become more competitive as product lifecycle is reducing and go to market timing is becoming more and more important.
But the real factor that makes marketing more complex is that products and services are becoming more technological and therefore complex and so they require more knowledge to be used. The potential customer (in both the B2B and B2C markets) needs to be familiar with the product in advance: they have to know it BEFORE they buy it. Knowing a product before purchase is related to market education.
Since technology moves so fast, it in fact anticipates trends by satisfying needs the market doesn’t even know it has yet – this is why marketing today has the role of actually preparing the market for new products and services which are evolving at an incredible pace. This begs the question – do we need marketing evangelists for each and every product?
The marketing education strategy
In the B2B sector, sophisticated services that are widely used in mature markets (Ex. cloud / SaaS software, complex marketing strategies for Inbound lead management and so on) are not yet adopted in the emerging markets that are usually more “traditional” when it comes to adopting innovations. Managers operating in those markets need to be educated and engaged about these new opportunities.
In this marketing education strategy, content marketing is the first step. Content is made to engage and educate, but are blog posts and whitepapers enough? The market is asking to be educated and education is something related more to training than blogs or papers, because training means learning and sharing through experiences, it really means to be coached about a product. This approach works well both in the B2B and B2C sectors.
Customer/dealer academies for B2B and B2C
But, do all customers need to be trained? Do Marketing Managers need to create customer or dealer ‘academies’ for each and every product? I don’t think so, but the more complex the product is (also regarding the regulations/laws behind it) and the more it comes with ‘grey’ areas in communication, the more it makes sense that customers need to be engaged through training.
Here you can find examples on how ‘customer/dealer academies’ can be implemented in a B2B or B2C sector:
- Personal financial services: Financial markets are become more and more complex, this is why trained customers are those who better understand complex financial products and they are more likely to use bank, insurance, fintech company financial services compared with untrained customers.
- Software for accountability and laws: If you are selling payroll or accounting software your main clients would be CPA’s or Lawyers. So, if you can train them about specific topics (and better yet, give them professional credits for it) they will then refer their customers to you.
- Product certification: A trained partner network sells 10 times more than untrained partners. Certifying your network of partners and dealers gives partners a competitive edge.
- Dealer and Reseller training: Share company culture with partners and dealers, and train them in a timely manner about new upcoming products – you can use an extended enterprise training approach and corporate MOOCs to leverage your sales through channel partners.
Imagine Mark Zuckerberg creating a customer academy about internet.org, explaining the benefits of a distributed internet in poor countries in order to engage people supporting the cause and to involve other evangelists.
3 tips and tricks to make your customer and prospect academy more successful and appealing:
- Use top influencers and VIPs for your courses: When you build your training material use influencers, well reputed people and subject matter experts.
- Add gamification components: Engage your students with badges, points and contests in order to improve course completion
- Rewards and incentives for top performers: If training is a key component for your “Extended Enterprise” ecosystem (like partners, dealers or franchisors) you can leverage incentives for rewarding the completion of a course ladder
In a market where speed and complexity are the two main key factors of success, a blended approach that mixes Training and Marketing can be the perfect vehicle between Lead generation and an increase in sales.