Education as Marketing: The Huge Mistake Most People Make

education as marketing

Are you familiar with Reddit?

It’s a wildly popular social bookmarking site. You can interact in different user-created areas called “subreddits” based on your interests. People post links and content, and users vote what the best stuff is (usually memes and funny cat photos).

Reddit can become an enormous time sink (seriously, don’t go there unless you have a few hours to kill at an airport or something), but there’s an important marketing lesson there too.

One of the most popular subreddits is called “Explain Like I’m Five.”

This is what your prospects want from your content. They might not come out and say that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

You probably aren’t doing this as well as you should be. How much of your marketing materials – the content you spend tons of time and money creating – is sailing right over your prospects’ heads?

And more importantly, what can you do about it?

The “Curse of Knowledge”

The problem is you’re immersed in your industry.

That’s usually an asset. But it becomes a problem when you’re trying to share your expertise in a way that resonates with potential customers.

It’s effortless for you to dive into complicated topics and throw lingo. You live and breathe that stuff every day.

That’s not true with the people you want to become your customers.

Marcus Sheridan, a fantastic content marketer (listen to his podcast if you aren’t already!) calls this “the curse of knowledge.”

If you’re putting out blog articles, podcasts, or other content, the last thing you want to do is present people with a riddle. You want to make it as easy as you can for them to “get it.” To grasp what you’re talking about and how you can help them… even if they don’t have a lick of experience in your industry.

This goes for web copy too. Landing pages, sales pages, and other important tools lose their appeal when they come across to prospects like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.

You’re deep in the ecosystem of your niche, so it’s easy to forget to “dumb things down.” This makes your marketing and advertising come across as confusing, overwhelming, and mind-numbingly dull. Maybe all three of those things.

Why Everyone Needs the Dumbed Down Version

I know what you’re thinking…

“What if my target customers are rocket scientists/Ph.D.s/other really smart people? Are you saying I should dumb down my content for them?”

Yep. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You don’t have to be condescending when you do this, but you can’t afford to make any assumptions.

Your target market might be geniuses or child prodigies, but they don’t have your specialized knowledge or expertise. Don’t assume people understand what acronyms mean or will understand a reference to a blog post from a few months ago.

This is one of the sneakiest ways businesses lose potential customers. It’s a shame too. A ton of them are putting out great content, but the way they package it turns off their audience.

You Can’t Expect Your Audience to Do This for You

There are good reasons why Reddit’s “Explain Like I’m 5” is one of the most popular subreddits on the entire site.

People are busy, distracted, and stressed out.

We’re freaking swimming in content over here (most of it’s useless), and there are a zillion ways we can distract ourselves if your content doesn’t captivate us.

Putting out content without regard to it going over a prospect’s heads is is like a slap in the prospect’s face. Content like that forces people to look stuff up. It makes them do the heavy lifting if they want to get anything useful out of it… if they care enough to read it in the first place.

Ways to “Break Down” Your Content

How do you keep your content interesting to prospects without talking down to them?

The easiest way is to stop taking it for granted that they’re familiar with what you’re talking about. Assume they haven’t read your blog’s back catalog. Treat each new piece of content as a clean slate, and challenge yourself to make your case as succinctly and convincingly as you can.

Don’t fall into the trap of linking to another page or website instead of explaining something. That’s asking the reader to do the work, which is a sure way to lose them.

If you can’t see your content through a layperson’s eyes (a problem that afflicts many business owners), get a friend or indulgent family member to read it. Bonus points if they aren’t too familiar about your business. See if they can follow along without their eyes glazing over.

Finally, make sure to ask for plenty of feedback from the only people who matter: the ones you want to become customers. Create a “no question is a stupid question” policy, and encourage people to reach out to you. Be as generally helpful as you can.

The bottom line is to just stay mindful about this. You don’t have to obsess over it, but you should think about it before releasing content or web copy.

Pairing Specialized Knowledge with a Careful Delivery for Massive Success

Education as marketing – tapping into your specialized knowledge in your niche – is essential to dominating your competition.

But don’t let that knowledge become a curse. Break things down for your prospects the best you can, and they’re more likely to stay engaged and become buyers.

With all that being said, this wouldn’t be much of a lesson if I didn’t follow my own advice:

Do you have any questions about this post? What do you struggle with, and what works well for you when it comes to breaking things down for your readers? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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