This article originally appeared in July/2022 on Entrepreneur.com.
Educating vs. Selling — This Unique Marketing Style Will Help You Grow Your Business
By: Jackie Ulasewich Cullen
Taking an education-first approach to marketing your business.
Marketing can mean different things to different people, and how someone defines it often has a lot to do with their personal and professional experience. Those of us who have made our careers in marketing have a unique perspective, but even as professionals, we each view the job differently.
As you probably already know, generally speaking, marketing is the means by which a person or a company sells a product or service. Marketing can be subtle or bold, soft or pushy, but in the end, the goal is always to make a connection, and ultimately, a sale. As a marketing professional, my personal approach has invariably been centered around educating the customer, and this has worked for me and my clients. Even when I was in corporate marketing, I tried to educate rather than use pressure in sales.
I find this approach to work best for what I do because it tends to attract high-quality clients who are looking for a longer-term relationship rather than just a single transaction. However, it may not be the right strategy for every product or service. Nevertheless, now that I am a business owner, my fundamental approach to marketing has not changed, and I only want to work with clients — in my case, dentists — who understand and appreciate how educating their patients (customers) can help them grow their businesses meaningfully and sustainably.
An education-first approach
All our marketing takes an “education-first” approach. It is not a problem for us to give away our knowledge, because we market almost exclusively to dentists. Providing them with information actually encourages them to be more engaged in their marketing, and that benefits them as well as us. This type of approach helps us build rapport and trust with future clients. It also demonstrates our authority in the field, giving us credibility among the dental community.
We explain to our clients, in terms they can easily understand, exactly what we do, how we do it and why. Our clients appreciate knowing these details, because they are entrepreneurs themselves, and especially in the field of dentistry, they also believe that education is a fundamental tool in attracting and retaining customers (or rather, patients). An educational approach to marketing works well in dentistry, but it is also highly effective in a lot of other scenarios within the field of marketing.
I have written two books that highlight my approach to marketing. Each book took over six months to write, and they both have generated quite a bit of interest in my company. Not only do my books discuss education in marketing, but they also showcase the expertise and knowledge within the company, our philosophy and our values. When someone reads one of my books, it will either resonate with them or not. When it does, we know that they are the type of client who will be successful with us.
Giving away your secrets
As part of my mission to educate, I make a lot of knowledge available to the general public — most of it free of charge. My business partner and I speak at seminars and make live presentations to groups of dentists in the context of conventions and other events. We send weekly emails, write articles and blog posts, record podcasts and make videos, which are all intended to educate dental practices on how they can get more out of their marketing. In essence, I basically give away all my secrets as a marketing professional, but I don’t worry that the people who are listening, watching and reading will use what I’ve told them without hiring my company. If they do, and they are successful, then more power to them.
The clients I am really looking for are the ones who see the value in hiring us, because we have all this knowledge to share. These clients understand that outsourcing marketing to an expert is the best use of their time and money. These are the clients who appreciate education and are often already on a similar path but need to expand or update their marketing efforts. These are the clients who are engaged and open to new ideas. These are the clients we want, because these are the clients who stay.
I believe that, when all is said and done, if the product or company is the right fit, an education-first approach can benefit more companies and take their marketing to the next level. Don’t let the fear that someone will take your ideas and use them stop you from educating your target audience. Keep an abundance mindset, and realize that not every client is the right fit. The ones who are, will resonate with the information you share.