Are You Teaching Your Customers? Pssst…Your Competitors Are!

Remember the good ol’ days when you would walk into a store and ask the store clerk for a recommendation? The clerk would give you their honest feedback and you would make a purchase based on what they said because you considered them an expert. Things aren’t as easy on an ecommerce website because you lose that face-to-face recommendation.

Creating an honest and trustworthy ecommerce site isn’t easy. The media, your friends, and the general public are always talking about getting scammed on the Internet. Amazon, Google, and PayPal have spent years and millions of dollars building their reputation to be a trusted place to input your credit card. So, how do you start a new ecommerce business and get people to trust you? The best way to do this is to teach them first, and sell them second. Here are some examples of companies that do it well.

Blue Nile

Blue Nile Education

When I needed to buy a diamond, the first person I turned to was my brother-in-law. He told me the only place he trusts is BlueNile.com. He told me the first thing to do is go through their Education Section. I was happy to find videos and easy to understand guides on how to pick out a diamond that looks good and that was within my budget. The guide was up front and honest, which was refreshing. I soon formed a sense of trust in BlueNile.

Teaching Tactics Used at BlueNile:

  1. Education” tab displayed in their main navigation.
  2. Two minute videos that teach you everything you need to know when it comes to buying a diamond.They teach you the basics on what characteristics to save your money on and where to splurge. For example spend more on cut and hold back on clarity.
  3. Detailed charts and guides on what you should look for in a diamond and how to get the best diamond in your budget.

MailChimp

MailChimp Email Marketing Education Resources

Understanding how email newsletters work and how to avoid your recipients SPAM folder is a dark art. When I started my research on sending newsletters, MailChimp was the first link that popped up on Google when I typed in “How to Avoid Spam Filters”. MailChimp provides a large amount of free literature to teach novices like me how to dominate newsletters. They were my obvious choice because I was confident that they wouldn’t screw my newsletters up.

Teaching Tactics Used at MailChimp:

  1. Resources” tab displayed prominently in their main navigation.
  2. Free Downloadable White Papers that tell you everything you need to know about email marketing.
  3. Research section that shows you exactly what to expect when it comes to open/click rates.
  4. Series of “Academy Videos” so you can learn by viewing a series of videos.

SEOMoz

SeoMoz Daily Blog Education

I consider Search Engine Optimization (SEO) one of the most important aspects of any online business. It is the #1 way my business gets new customers. After the basic SEO stuff, I wanted to learn advanced techniques and stumbled upon SEOMoz’s Daily Blog. Their blog is updated daily and teaches you how to get your website ranked. It shows you things to avoid and ways to juice things up. Their daily blog isn’t for novices; it’s for the people that are serious about SEO. Not only does SEOmoz have a daily blog but they have an entire community and forum section where people like me can ask questions! When it came time to buy serious software to help track our link juice, the $99/mo package seemed like a total deal!

Teaching Tactics Used at SEOmoz:

  1. Daily Blog with SEO tips (updated daily!).
  2. Free eBooks and videos to help beginners get started in SEO.
  3. Strong community of SEO experts that are regularly contributing content and answering questions (the best content gets promoted to the Daily Blog).
  4. Top navigation displays a “Resource” section prominently. The resource section holds and incredible amount of free tools to help boost your search rankings.
  5. Monthly in person talks around the world about SEO.

Conversion Voodoo

Conversion VooDoo Education

With the thousands of online web consulting companies, Conversion Voodoo has done an amazing job staying focused on helping companies optimized their website to increase sales.

Conversion Voodoo has an awesome blog that talks about one of the most important elements of web marketing: Great Copy! Their team gives in depth marketing tips on how to tweak your words wisely to drive more sales.

When my business gets big enough, guess who I’m going to hire to optimize my site and copy?

Teaching Tactics Used at Conversion Voodoo:

  1. Detailed articles of how to increase conversions.
  2. Blog posts that go over popular landing pages and what they are doing right.

Ritual Coffee Roaster

Ritual Roasters Brewing Guide

One of my favorite coffee shops is Ritual. Every few weeks they hold free coffee tasting sessions. Their barista brews up a bunch of different coffee and teaches you what you need to know about coffee to truly enjoy it. Ritual isn’t your normal coffee shop – they fly around the world and get the best coffee beans. By teaching me how good coffee is supposed to taste, their $5 high-end coffee seems more reasonable.

When out of town friends come into town. I like to treat them to the best coffee in the world, Ritual.

There is nothing like trust when it comes to business, and it is possible to gain trust when you teach your potential customers. Lucky for you the internet will like you more when you do this.

Teaching Tactics Used at Ritual Coffee Roaster:

  1. Brew guide on their website that teaches you how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee based on the coffee maker you own.
  2. Short and fun to watch video guides that teach you everything about coffee.

Want to start teaching to get customers? Follow this step-by-step action plan:

#1 Consistency Is King

Get serious about this! You simply will not get customers through teaching if you don’t stay consistent. People will expect you to teach them on an ongoing basis. You will only gain trust with people after several articles. This is something you will need to do on a regular monthly basis.

#2 Brainstorm 15-100 Topics Your Customers Are Dying To Know.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Burning questions your customers have
  • Behind the scenes look at how you work
  • Best practices of using your product
  • Case studies of successful customers
  • Facts about your products

You can always use KISSinsights to ask your online visitors what they want to learn about ;)

#3 Create An Editorial Calendar

Add a different topic to teach about every week.

If it isn’t scheduled it probably won’t get done. I totally understand that you are busy … you have a business to run after all! If you really are serious about dominating your competitors, getting lots of organic traffic, and building a trust worthy brand create some time on your weekly schedule to teach your customers.

#4 Make It Easy For You To Execute

Make it easy for you to write and post new teaching lessons. I recommend using blogger.com (this is what I started with) to quickly post new teaching lessons. You can also easily make video tutorials using Screenr, if writing is not your thing. However, at some point it will be more valuable to host the content you create on your own website for SEO purposes.

#5 Collect Email Address

The best incentive to keep you writing is to actually see engagement and improvement. The best way to do this is email your customers whenever you have a new article. I suggest starting with MailChimp’s free plan and leveraging their sign up forms to collect email addresses on your website or blog.

#6 Do Guest Blog Posts

The quickest way to grab trust and credibility is by writing one of your teaching lessons on a bigger blog than yours (like the KISSmetrics Blog!). Research top blogs in your field using Google Blog Search and reach out to the main editor to see if you can contribute to their wonderful blog.

#7 Stay Active And Consistent!

Understand your customers’ problems and then teach them how to resolve them.

#8 Enjoy Your Trustworthy Brand

….and smarter customers.

About the Author: Rishi is the CEO of DigiOh where he helps businesses sell downloads. He is also the author of “10 Paying Customers in 10 Days”; you can download it for free here.

  1. Great post. What is outlined here really demonstrates that creating a trustworthy brand isn’t just about fluff, but can be encouraged through solid concepts that can be replicated. To be successful in ecommerce you have to be real and show it.

  2. Great post! I think making your customers experts on your product is a severely underutilized marketing tactic.

    • Hi Jon – thanks. Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more. The smarter your customer the better your business will be.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, we’ve found video to be really powerful http://www.tatango.com/learn-sms-marketing/videos

    • Derek – those are some awesome videos!

      What was your setup to get that going? What type of video camera did you use and did you rehearse before shooting?

  4. I really like your section about teaching something to your audience. I think I do that but I can really do it better. Thx for your excellent article.

  5. This is a great idea. Wondering how we can put up an education section for a travel company

    • Thanks for the comment!

      You can educate your customers on where to go. Best restaurants, attractions, hotels, and more!

      Let me know if that is something you can do.

  6. Teaching is gold. This article is spot on.

  7. Hi Rishi,

    Thank you for this great article. The way you structured it and broke it down really made it easy to follow. I’m now thinking about how I can apply this to my own business. I’ve got a question about that. If you’re in the info business, like me, what kind of resources do you share? I’m happy to share content but I still want customers who buy to feel like they get waaaay more than I give away for free.

    My own thoughts on this would be to educate them of their problem, what the problem is costing them (emotionally, financially etc) and then give a broad overview of the solutions. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Hi Isabelle,

      Info businesses do this really well by giving some bits of information away for free and then allowing you to pay for more information.

      More people will buy your info products if they see you as an expert. My suggestion is to offer really helpful tips on top related blog posts (be a guest blogger for example). In the footer of the guest blog posts have a link back to your site or your landing page where they can buy and learn more.

      If you give me more information about your business I can go into more specifics.

  8. Great stuff. Thanks for putting together such well realized thoughts regarding this.

    I’ll have to check out some of those other companies as well but I’ve shared with other people in the past a similar sentiment regarding MailChimp. They are a great example of a company that sells through their blog. Not only do they do a great job of selling through teaching, but they also deliver a phenomenal product. By they time you are ready to purchase they have set a high bar that they then deliver on, which then goes back to reinforce your enthusiasm for the brand and for what they teach. A really smart long term approach to how they communicate.

    While I am a big believe in this style of writing, the one challenge is that it is of course time intensive but when weighed against the long term returns there can be a very nice lift.

    • Hi David – Thanks for the comment!

      It is all about long term returns. If you are in it for the short term I suggest focusing on high pressure sales tactics or solid landing pages combined with super targeted Google Ads.

      The long term pay off is way more money over a longer period. One major benefit to teaching on a blog is top rankings on Google.

  9. blogger.com! really?
    why on earth when its so easy and cheap to organize your own?
    rest of article is great. thanks

    • Dan – Thanks for the comment!

      In my opinion Blogger.com is the best blogging tool to get started with. It is super easy to get going.

      Once you get a little more savvy I would use WordPress with the DIY Thesis framework. That is what I use.

  10. Ensuring that your customers are educated on why your product is the best choice helps to make your brand stronger and builds trust. If you continue to give valuable content readers will remember you and some may refer you to their friends.

  11. Great job. Excellent article.

  12. Very interresting post, I will definetely apply this to my business.

  13. Hey Rishi,

    awesome blogpost!
    besides the useful tips you gave – I’ve found at least 3 useful sources I would definitely use in my works

  14. Colleen Sullivan Oct 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I am an animal psychologist (PhD). What do you think about storytelling as a means of education? It seems that it would be possible to get customers really interested in coming back for more of the stories. Could that be a beginning?

    • Hi Colleen,

      The best marketers are story tellers! So, yes I think that would work well. A great story can really grab engagement and explain a specific problem that your customer can identify with.

      What type of story are you thinking?

      Rishi

  15. Maybe I should get more into with this sort of business.

  16. This is exactly why we did our eBook on building your audience.

    http://www.kickofflabs.com/lp/free-ebook-6-steps-to-promote-your-business-online

    It was the #1 request our customers (mostly new startups) had.

  17. Thanks for this awesome article! I am looking forward for your next tips ;o)

  18. Great post – used it as a talking point and inspiration in my agency’s blog today. Just a terrific post!

Comments are closed.

← Previous ArticleNext Article →
Buffer