Marketing Via Education (SBM 101)

Small Business Marketing 101Remember those old movies where the kids pass the pet store and there in the window sat the cutest puppy you’d ever seen? The kids beg their parents and eventually leave the store with the dog. The family was happy because they just added a wonderful pet to the family. The pet store owner was also happy because he made a sale. The transaction ended there and this is where many smart retailers are changing their ways to make sure that customer comes back.

Now imagine for a minute that the pet store owner spent 10 minutes talking to the parents and children, explained to them what to expect when they get their puppy home; handed them a few “getting started” brochures and then invited them back to the store the following Saturday for a puppy training class he will be teaching free of charge every other weekend. In those ten minutes, the retailer started solidifying the bonds between he and his customers.

The parents know he cares. They understand that he genuinely wants to help them through the difficult tasks involved in bringing home a new puppy. What are the benefits to the pet store owner? He has a relationship with his customers and because of that they will continue to do business with him throughout the dog’s life and may even return to purchase another puppy.

All this retailer is doing is taking time to educate his customers. As it turns out this is one of the most powerful marketing tools around, especially if you are interested in increasing customer loyalty and long-term, sustainable growth.

Educational marketing goes on all the time:

  • Whole Foods, Wegmans and many other grocery stores use in-store cooking demonstrations in order to teach customers how to cook, make meal suggestions, and share product recommendations. Here in Utah, Macey’s and Harmon’s stores seem to be having great success with their programs.
  • Apple uses education in a myriad of ways. In their retail stores, they offer free classes to help customer learn about their Apple hardware and software. You can also find the Genius Bar in their stores where an Apple expert can help you troubleshoot your product. Their website offers hundreds of videos about all of their products, as well as numerous discussion boards where you can post questions and get answers from Apple representatives or the Apple community.
  • REI offers a wide variety of classes each week on everything from avalanche safety to kayak basics.
  • Inkley’s, a local camera shop, offers free photography classes to customers that buy new cameras.

And don’t forget about the teaching that can be going on throughout a sales transaction. This was something that Circuit City team members were renowned for back in the company’s heyday (long before they went bankrupt). The sales transaction is an opportunity to recommend products and up sale where appropriate. This doesn’t need to feel like a sleazy or forced process. Well trained sales people can do this in a subtle manner, often by quickly building a trusting relationship in the few short minutes they have with a customer.

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