In today's digital economy, trust is everything. The ways we transact are changing all the time, meaning consumers need relationships with brands to help give them confidence in their purchases. A number of companies have discovered that providing educational content and experiences are the best ways to connect with their audience and provide real value in a way that develops trust. The aim of these efforts is to create connections that can eventually lead to a customer relationship.

Many companies hesitate to become educators because of the cost, but new data might indicate that there is a measurable ROI from educational content. Hubspot shared in their Inbound summary that marketers noted an average $14 cost reduction per acquisition as a direct result of quality educational content. Additionally, research by Aberdeen found that conversion rates are up to six times higher for companies that use content in their marketing pipeline.

Since content is becoming the way for businesses to develop touch points with potential customers and cut through the noise of advertising, it is important to understand what kind of content is effective. It is also important for consumers to watch out for content that provides real value and not just advertising jargon. The following are three examples of brands that have leveraged educational content to build trust with their customers:

Direct to Consumer Pearls

People love jewelry, but unfortunately, they do not like shopping for it. Most of the time if you want to buy jewelry for yourself or a loved one you have to go to a showroom that has limited inventory and pushy salespeople. Conversely, shopping online can leave consumers feeling uncertain about the quality of the product they are considering.

Kevin Canning, founder and CEO of Pearls of Joy, a direct to consumer (D2C) pearls brand, recognized that education was the best way to reduce the fear surrounding shopping online. He shares, "It is no longer good enough to tell your audience they should trust you. You need to earn it. The way I do it is by providing honest education and by blogging about how I source pearls. I take my customers behind the scenes and show them how, where and from whom I source our pearls. Our pearl jewelry becomes more than a product, it's also partly a story that ends with the customer."

One of the ways to increase transparency in an industry is to contribute to numerous educational programs, as it will help to empower the consumer and keep brands accountable. Educational content doesn't always have to be complex either. Things as simple as a blog about buying trips, or revealing sourcing information in an item description can help deliver valuable product information. This is important because becoming the education leader, is one of the best ways to create a trusted online brand. If you operate in complex and saturated industries, consider how you can engender yourself to potential customers by educating them on the ins and outs of the product space.

Coffee Educators

The National Coffee Association's survey found that around 83% of American adults are coffee drinkers. Obviously, the people that constitute that statistic span multiple consumer groups, age groups, and almost every imaginable demographic. Coffee brands that need to establish their brand and corner a demographic have a limited set of affordable options to use. Coffee roaster Intelligentsia realized that while there were countless coffee options, very few coffee consumers knew how to properly brew based on the kind of coffee or brewing implement.

To help increase the quality of at home brewing they launched a series of brew guides, highlighting the distinctions behind various roasts, coffee brewing tools, and methodologies to help establish themselves as an expert in the brewing category. Some might argue that enabling better brewing at home would start to decrease customer share, but Intelligentsia has experienced the opposite. When people want to brew at home, they will, but when they decide to go out and buy a cup, they want to go to the people who are the brewing experts.

Golf Training

Golf is not one of those sports you can pick up on a whim. It also is not cheap, which means that if you are going to play you probably want to play it well. Even if you could care less about your score, constantly losing golf balls through 18 holes can drive anyone into a rage. Courses and clinics often cost a lot of money, so many novice golfers are left to try and figure things out on their own at the range.

Callaway Golf realized that there was an education gap they could fill. Instead of charging expensive rates for their golfing expertise, they gave it away for free. Their golfing instructional videos have become Youtube hits, with thousands of golfers watching to improve their game. The result? Callaway has managed to retain its status as one of the premier golf brands by becoming a gateway to the game for new, young golfers.

The Challenge

The biggest challenge to this approach is that it takes time and it can also cost money. You have to develop educational content, then you have to work on distribution methods, and tracking the ROI can be difficult. If you fail to deliver real value in your content, and simply use it as an advertisement, you may actually lose customers. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute explains, "Our customers don't care about our products or services; they care about themselves. If we buy into this, then we must also accept that the majority of the information we produce for marketing purposes cannot be about ourselves"

The key is always to be filling a real need and basing your educational strategies on your audience's unique interests. Think about your angle of approach. If someone else in your industry is already generating content, avoid mimicking their material. Come up with something novel if you really want to build trust with potential customers.