Which sales pitch would pull you closer to buying a product or a service—in this case, an accountant to do your taxes?

“Let me tell you why you need to hire me to do your taxes. For starters, my rates are the least expensive around, and I’ve been a licensed CPA for 15 years.”

or

“Did you know that many self-employed fitness professionals miss a lot of beneficial tax write-offs? Whether you decide to hire me or not, I just want to make sure you’re aware of everything you can write off on your taxes so that you can minimize having to pay in more than you should.”

The first one is an example of a typical sales pitch—that typically turns people off. The second is what is known as education-based marketing.

“Education-based marketing, also called content marketing, is a form of marketing that focuses on educating your clients,” explains Mark Fisher, co-owner of Mark Fisher Fitness in New York. “EBM is different from traditional marketing and advertising because there’s inherent value in the content. EBM allows you to start building a more substantial relationship, because potential clients are given an opportunity to get to know you, like you and trust you before they consider paying you. They also get the benefit of your expertise for free.”

Justin Feldman, DPT, owner of Feldman Physical Therapy and Performance in Poughkeepsie, New York, adds that with EBM, professionals provide free knowledge on a given topic as a way of getting their name out. “A person who practices EBM is trying to inform an audience on a subject of interest. The idea is not so much to sell as it is to educate and build a bond of trust—a relationship with individuals, rather than an opportunity for a one-time sale. As a result, the person is seen or thought of as a trusted expert on the topic.”

Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business and VCU’s Brandcenter found that brands that educate consumers about the product they’re buying, as well as about the context in which the product can be used, hold more value for consumers and can form a bond and loyalty that traditional forms of marketing do not (Rooney 2016).

Why Is This Important?

In his book The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies (Portfolio 2008), Chet Holmes explains that only 3% of potential buyers are looking to buy now (CHI Blogger 2013). In other words, of the population that your business targets, only 3% are ready to buy the services and products you offer—whether from you or from another fitness professional. This small percentage is the target market of traditional marketing that pushes selling.

Holmes goes on to break down the rest of the population:

  • 6%–7% are open to buying.
  • 30% are not thinking about buying.
  • 30% don’t think they’re interested.
  • 30% know they’re not interested.

EBM expands your market potential. Even if you take out the last 30%—the ones who know they’re not interested (keep in mind, however, that there’s still a chance you could sway even them!)—by offering to teach consumers something of value to them, you can increase your potential pool of buyers from 3% to 70%!

“You will attract way more buyers if you are offering to teach them something of value to them,” says Holmes in his book, “than you will ever attract by simply trying to sell them your product or service.”

How to Craft Your EBM Material

EBM material can come in many forms, and it can be distributed in multiple ways across a variety of media.

“EBM can be as simple as a 10-second Snapchat of an expert doing an exercise or as detailed as a 2-minute YouTube video of the same exercise,” says Feldman. “Whatever the medium, EBM is always informational, whether it’s a how-to—or a how not-to—explanation or an in-depth look at a tricky concept.”

“For the business owner, EBM scales,” explains Fisher. “In other words, it doesn’t require extra time or energy on your part. Once the content is created, it can be shared with your email list, on Facebook or from any marketing channel where you have followers. And once your potential clients have started to see results by applying the information you’ve provided, they’re much more likely to become paying clients.”

Feldman agrees: “Effective EBM requires a consistency in a company’s brand across all its channels, where each message feeds into the other, thereby capturing potential clients where they are. For instance, let’s say that I create a YouTube video about a topic and I post it on my practice’s website. I’ll embed the video in my monthly blogpost, where I’ll include more detailed information about it. I might also post still images from the video with accompanying quotes on Instagram and Facebook. And I might do a quick Snapchat video that talks about the longer one, driving people to see it on my website. In all, I’m driving traffic to my video by providing little snippets of information that leave people wanting more.”

Personally, as a fitness writer and exercise professional, I’ve also had a lot of success selling my books and signing up clients and students for training and classes by teaching workshops. They attend the workshop because they’re interested in the topic. Some will get the information they want in the workshop, and some will want more. The ones who want more get it by hiring me.

A Few Tips

Holmes suggests avoiding making your EBM topics so narrow that they exclude too much of that potential 70%. For instance, an article, workshop or video with a title like “How Hiring a Personal Trainer Can Help You Get Bikini Ready” excludes more potential customers than it attracts.

A title that could get attention from a wider audience would be “How Physical Activity Can Help You Sleep Better and Increase Your Energy and Work Productivity.”

Fisher recommends asking clients and potential clients for topic ideas. “Don’t just ask them what they want you to write about. Ask them to share their number-one biggest fitness struggle. Then you can create content that’s geared toward providing a solution to their specific challenges.”

And don’t be afraid to give away some of your secrets. “The internet has moved the ‘free line,’” Fisher says. “Instead of thinking about saving your best stuff, give away your best stuff. If your EBM is just okay, you won’t be wowing potential clients. You want your followers to be blown away that you’re giving away such awesome content for free. This will inspire them to pay you for your help in implementation.”

Feldman concludes, “By providing information on a specific topic, you will begin to be viewed by the public as a trusted expert with whom individuals can bond, improving your reputation or expert status and making individuals more likely to contact you, should services such as yours be needed. As well, you’ll start to develop or increase your following, which can lead to more client work.”