We’ve seen incredible growth in content marketing in recent years—nearly everyone is getting onboard. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, 86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing.
But smart organizations are taking their content marketing strategy to the next level and incorporating online learning content. Why? People are hungry for educational content, eager to learn more and more. According to the Ambient Insight Report, the global market for self-paced online learning will reach $53 billion by 2018.
Online learning content works hand-in-hand with other core marketing vehicles such as articles, ebooks, blog posts, infographics, and videos, but it allows prospects and customers to dig deeper and learn even more.
As an emerging engagement tool for marketers, brands, both B2B, and B2C, are thinking about how online learning fits within their marketing strategy throughout the path to purchase and the entire customer lifecycle.
Still not convinced? The evidence is in the numbers. Our data shows incredible time-on-site metrics for those engaged in a curated learning experiences—10 to 90 minutes is the average time per learning experience with time per session ranging from 5 to 45 minutes.
Let’s look at what’s driving these extraordinary metrics.
How Learning Drives Engagement
Learning drives knowledge, knowledge drives empowered users/customers. At the top of the funnel, customers are demanding a greater level of detail when making purchasing decisions; they want more information to validate their selections. While third-party reviewers, peers, and family can be excellent brand ambassadors, a brand can’t overlook its responsibility to aid/influence the purchasing decision.
Educational content such as product guides, expert analysis, and webinars can help move a browser into a buyer. A great example of presale education that I like to point to is Blue Nile. The brand built an entire section that helps educate buyers. Blue Nile acknowledges that buying a diamond can be overwhelming, and so with tips, FAQs and guides they are creating a better buying experience and ultimately a savvier customer.
The unique opportunity for organizations and brands is to offer up experiences that enable prospective buyers to delve deep in the pre-purchase phase via well-thought out learning experiences.
Learning increases adoption. While the software world has been working to refine the fine art of onboarding new customers with product orientations, customer data gathering, and start up tips, the physical product world is in the dark ages, relying on instructional manuals. Some have bridged the gap with YouTube videos, but those are one-click away from the nearest competitor.
Complex products can make customers feel both challenged and discouraged. A new study recently showed that one in five apps is used only once. Many apps continue to be abandoned because customers are not on-boarded effectively.
This holds true for any product—physical or digital. It is critical to inspire, educate and connect the new customer to a brand and to a community of others as they take their first steps. It’s also an opportunity to answer questions and help shape their perception of the brand, product, and service early on.
Learning creates deep and meaningful interactions. There are strong connections between increased lifetime value and the level of brand and product education. Think about your super users: they buy more, evangelize more and purchase related products and services at a higher rate than many others.
When creating content for existing users, hone in on what your audience wants to learn. Understand an audience’s needs and expectations and deliver that information to them. Just like all content marketing, learning content needs to be personalized.
Learning builds community. A key ingredient in forging a lasting and engaging relationship is contextual customer community development. Organic communities develop around brands and products where curation and moderation (in most cases) is relinquished to users. Social media channels are powerful platforms, but at the end of the day it is not an owned media platform, and you have limited access to your customers, their data, and the ability to influence brand loyalty and lifetime value.
Peer-based communication and interaction thrive inside and alongside digital learning experiences. Connections and communications are forged among new adopters, and more indoctrinated customers serve as powerful advocates and influencers.
A great example of this is RodaleU’s Prevention Course—where customers join to get healthier. In addition to video tips and advice from the brand, the customers exchange images and lessons learned to make the experience that much richer.
Additional interaction time on a brand’s domain is valuable and provides a host of additional opportunities to interact with that user and generate loyalty and connection.
Parting Words: Act Now
Perhaps you see an opportunity to think about how online learning fits into your overall marketing strategy? The good news is that you likely have a vault of content that is just waiting to be repurposed into engaging online learning content. Here’s a starting place:
- That recognized expert who gave the keynote at an industry event? Offer a members’ only Q & A session with her in a course forum. Or ask her to teach a course live!
- Those boring product manuals—refresh them with the help of a product expert and give them a digital learning makeover with interactions, product demos and more.
- Those recorded sessions from your most recent conference? Bundle them (and even sell them via a tiered subscription model).
These are just a sample of ways that learning content may already be at your fingertips. Regardless of what you already have, start the conversation with your CMO and CDOs today and don’t miss out on this emerging engagement opportunity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Thought Industries is happy to help you brainstorm ways to build a learning strategy.