What was one of Steve Jobs’ most hated words?

Here’s a hint: it starts with the letter M.

(No, not Microsoft…good guess, though.)

The answer? Marketing.

According to Allison Johnson, Apple’s former VP of Worldwide Marketing Communications, Jobs hated the word because:

“Marketing is when you have to sell to somebody. If you aren’t providing value, if you’re not educating them about the product, if you’re not helping them get the most out of the product, you’re selling. And you shouldn’t be in that mode.”

Job’s take on marketing reflects what a lot of us feel. We don’t want to hit someone over the head with a sales pitch, trying desperately to get their money. It feels icky, and it undermines the real value of what we’re trying to sell.

Fortunately, the preconceived notions we have about marketing just aren’t true. Marketing is so much more than a hard sell. Done correctly, it’s multi-faceted, nuanced, and effective. It’s about educating, not advertising. And it’s vital to getting your product in front of the right consumers.

So, let’s leave our negative marketing connotations behind and explore five fantastic ways you can educate people about your product. Let’s call these…educational marketing strategies.

Give your content away

Picture yourself at a lovely potluck brunch. You bring your famous breakfast casserole, which everyone raves about. Everyone’s eating seconds, and your friends are clamoring for the recipe.

This is the ideal way your marketing works. The breakfast casserole is your incredible content, which you give away without hesitation. People eat it up. They love it, they can see how great it is, and they keep coming back for more. Not only that, they’re considering you the expert at all things brunch (or whatever area you excel in).

Giving away a taste of your product is key to gaining customers. Some people are precious about giving away their content, but how else can you show what you’re worth? Your website should offer helpful information, your signature insights, and tricks & tips to help people understand why you’re worth their time (and money).

Sharing all of this information does something else for you. It positions you as an expert. By displaying the wealth of knowledge you have, instead of hiding it behind a paywall, everyone can clearly see that you know what you’re talking about. And that’s great marketing.

Host a webinar

Another fantastic avenue to explore is hosting your own webinar. Just like giving away content on your website, webinars position you as an expert and prove the value of your knowledge. You don’t have to hard sell anything – just let your awesomeness shine through.

Never set up a webinar before? Don’t be intimidated! Follow this quick checklist:

  1. Find an online webinar service to host your event. There are dozens to choose from that offer varying levels of prices and services. On a budget? We recommend Google Hangouts. It’s easy and quick to set up.
  2. Find a “co-star” to present with you. Look for someone who has a built-in audience and their own impressive expertise to help you drive attendance. They’ll lend you instant credibility and help market you to their list.
  3. Agree on an interesting topic. Remember, you’re not there to pitch your product, you’re there to show your knowledge. Pick a topic that your target audience will find fascinating and that you can speak about smartly.
  4. Invite your circle. Reach out to friends, colleagues, and your email list to extend personal invitations to attend. Ask them to invite their circle of friends, too.
  5. Advertise. Paid ads that reach your target audience online will ensure that you have an ample audience for your webinar.
  6. Follow up. After your event, reach out to your audience and make sure they know how to get in touch with you if they have follow up questions or want to learn more. Super successful brands like KissMetrics use this method, making sure their list gets fantastic follow-up content from guest speakers.

Use other experts’ platforms

Just like having an expert co-presenter in your webinar lends you legitimacy and builds your audience, partnering with experts across a variety of platforms can give you a boost.

1. Pitch relevant bloggers – or ask to guest blog

The key here is relevance. Get in touch with websites that speak to your target audiences’ interests, not websites or bloggers who will be confused about what you’re after. You wouldn’t want to pitch your bacon salad dressing to a vegan website. But pitching your bacon-flavored-but-still-completely-vegan salad dressing to that same website could be a home run.

2. Offer yourself as a guest or interviewee.

If you aren’t making the national talk show circuit, don’t worry. Niche podcasts and video series are always looking for expert guests to enlighten their audiences and add new perspectives. It helps to pitch a host you’re already familiar with, either as a friend or a listener. Then, subscribe to new podcasts and slowly expand your list of potential connections.

3. Speak at conferences.

You might be surprised how good you look behind a podium! Virtual conferences can give you a wide reach, speaking in front of large at-home audiences. (And you don’t even have to put your pants on!) In-person conferences are a stellar opportunity to make a personal connection with attendees, in addition to being presented as a bona fide expert.

Understand “The Unique Unicorn Complex”

One of the difficulties in marketing your product is trying to explain how it’s relevant to your audience. Most of us suffer from a delusion that our needs are unique compared to everyone else’s. Because of that, we tend to be suspicious about new things. We want someone to prove that it’s right for us before we’re convinced to give it a shot.

This self-misconception goes by a few names, but we like to call it The Unique Unicorn Complex – because we all like to think of ourselves as rare and beautiful creatures. But…just like the unicorn…that kind of specialness just doesn’t exist in real life the way we imagine it does. Turns out, we all have very similar circumstances and needs, regardless of how unique they feel.

When you’re marketing your product, make an effort to understand where people are coming from and how they might need your products’ benefits spelled out to apply to their own situations. And take the time to speak with people personally, answering their questions and helping them grasp how you can make their lives easier.

This kind of personalized attention will always get you better word-of-mouth than a cold, universal message that tries to speak to everyone all at once and fails to take The Unique Unicorn Complex into consideration.

Build a circle of friends

Do you think of the people around you as a pool of prospects just waiting for you to convert them into paying customers? Or do you think of them as people you can draw into your circle of friends and acquaintances, getting to know them and helping them out? Switching your mindset to the latter can open up a world of marketing possibilities.

Treat your initial set of buyers as friends, not customers. Hold their hands as they begin to use your product. Find out more about them, talk with them, ask for their feedback and really take it into consideration. Cheer them on whenever you can. They’ll be so impressed with your efforts that they’ll end up doing your marketing for you, spreading the word to their friends about your great service.

As you gain more customers, it becomes more difficult to treat them all as close friends. But don’t lose sight of that goal. You can still provide excellent customer service, request feedback, and react to their opinions.

Keep that up, and by the time you have a gigantic list of customers, they’ll be cheering for you as much as you’re cheering for them.

Are you convinced that Marketing isn’t a dirty word?

You might even think marketing’s a pretty swell word by now!

And we agree.

Marketing is just a fancy word for educating, and that’s what it’s all about. Here’s a quick mental checklist you can use when evaluating your marketing strategy:

1. Does it prove your value?
Always educate. Everything you do should teach people about you, your expertise, or your product.

2. Is it proactive?
Your product won’t market itself. Make the effort to put it out into the world.

3. Does it build connections?
The core of any business is people. Are you connecting with them?

Embrace educational marketing, and soon you’ll have happy customers and impressed audiences spreading the word for you. Go get marketing!

Need some more motivation to get marketing? Learn how to fight self-doubt and promote your product with confidence.

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