Don’t Sell… Teach

In the beginning, people spoke with one another directly in the local marketplace, and the merchants taught those people about the value of their wares.

And as things began to be sold one to many, and the brand was born to assure buyers of quality and consistency, publicizing that brand to lots of people was all that was necessary.

But it was soon not good enough.

And Claude Hopkins said, “Let us sell with scientific advertising,” and there was systematic testing for determining which words worked best when selling a product.

And Hopkins saw that testing was good, as it increased advertising response and efficiency.

And David Ogilvy said, “Let us sell image, not product,” and behold, there were television commercials that focused on brand image, not features or benefits.

And Ogilvy saw that selling brand image was good, because it told people stories bigger than the product itself.

And Raymond Rubicam said, “Let us hire this Gallup fellow, and sell based on demographic profiles,” and the separate worlds of scientific advertising and brand image would eventually become melded together into one powerful force.

And years later, many, many advertising agencies saw that it was good, and so did Nike.

And Seth Godin said, “Let us not interrupt, but instead sell by permission,” as smart marketers began to realize that the Internet was somehow very different from other media.

And Godin saw that permission marketing was good, because consensual relationship selling, mixed with tested copy and demographically-targeted stories, boosts response significantly.

But then something happened.

People began to efficiently speak with one another directly in a virtual marketplace.

And they refused to be marketed at, as they were as media savvy as the marketers themselves (and often more so).

And permission and trust were harder to find online, as they had been abused.

And so some random guy, who doesn’t even belong on the same page as those above, said “Let us not sell, but instead teach,” based on his experience using educational copywriting to begin relationships that lead to sales.

And so he wrote a tutorial series called Tutorial Marketing, about a strategy that places a blog at the very center of your online marketing efforts, since good tutorials not only sell, but also attract vital links and traffic as well.

And you’ll be the one who determines if it’s good, right?

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Reader Comments (39)

  1. says

    Hallelujah! I’ve seen the light. Great post. Good sales and marketing really have always been about educating in my view. However you also need to choose the right people to educate, not just anyone that comes along. That’s where it’s gone off the rails.

  2. says


    I have a decision to make today about educating / not educating on a website.

    You know how sometimes you read your stars and they’re (amusingly) accurate?

    That’s how I felt just now when I read this post.

  3. says

    Agreed. Teaching rocks because:

    1. You give something of value to a potential customer for free to educate them about your product

    2. You empower the user and make them “kick ass”, to borrow a Kathy Sierra’ism.

  4. says

    Very, very on target. Every potential client goes thru what I call an “information sponge” stage. In this stage all they want is information to solve a problem.
    I have never heard this type of marketing called “tutorial marketing” before, but I love that phrase. Do you mind if I borrow it?
    Charles Brown

  5. says

    Tutorial marketing is somewhat related or a part of information marketing. People are searching for information and if information you provide, they will see you as an expert in your niche.

    It is a great way to sell without being pushy.

    I agree that tutorials are good linkbait strategy.

  6. says

    “In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”

    -Douglas Adams

    Your quotes are more actionable however

  7. says

    Amen brother. This series looks very timely for me – I started out thinking my blog could be a way of ‘marketing’ my coaching, but the more I treat blogging AS coaching, the better results I get.

  8. says

    The fast talking, pushy car salesman might become an endangered species.

    Because of Internet access to info, people now know what make, mileage, colour and air freshener they want before they even step on the forecourt.

    Maybe it would be wise for some of those pushy car salesman to start a blog. That way they can start developing the sales process before people even arrive at their showroom. That is if they can apply their knowledge and expertise to educate rather than just sell.

    We might soon be witnessing the evolution of the ‘salesman’ into the ‘consultant’.

  9. Galba Bright says

    And verily, the salesmen were sorely troubled and rent their garments when they realised that the wise Copyblogger had correctly read the sign of the times.

    Well done Brian!

  10. says

    Nice post Brian.

    “Tutorial Marketing” is a great idea…validated by the fact people love to read “How To” articles.

    If you teach me “How To” do something new or in a newer and better way, my life will become easier because of you. And if you make my life easier, I’m gonna like you. And if I like you, I’ll probably buy from you in the future.

    That philosophy sums up how I feel about You’ve taught me a lot about copywriting. You’ve made my job easier as an agency writer. I like you more and more because of your positive effect on me…

    And you better believe I’d be willing to part with some of my hard earned cash to buy products you sell in the future that keep on making my life easier.


    Nick Wright

  11. says

    I don’t sell online, but in my massage practice instead of going the regular advertising route, I teach…although I don’t think about it in those terms. It is often just one on one…I show them some tricks they can do to help themselves. No expectations. It is the way to go. And I’m with you–I see blogs as more akin to one on one than one to many encounters.

  12. says

    Brilliant post and brilliant comments. It’s also true that you build relationships with your clientele by giving something of value away for free. Those relationships will then lead to more sales, directly and indirectly as they spread the word.

  13. says

    Great post. Educated clients are loyal clients. The transparent experts who are willing to share information gain the trust of their clients? How do you become an expert? Teach, speak and educate within your industry.

    Ask yourself what sets your service company apart from any of your competitors. In a level playing field it mostly boils down to perception. You can change your market perception with expensive advertising or by sweat equity via teaching.

    As a business owner of a high tech service company, I spend about 1/3 of my time on education which includes free and paid seminars, workshops and blogging.

  14. says

    I agree 100% – educate your clients first, sell them second. I find that the more my clients know, the more they realize they need me.

    My blog is set up as the educating arm of my corporate site and the two are working well together.

  15. says

    Lovely post! I couldn’t agree more about the importance of tutorials.

    By the way, I discovered your blog recently, and I just have to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading it so far. You have a great thing going here, so keep up the good work! I’m inspired to start learning more about copywriting. Expect to get a pingback or two from me in the future. :)

  16. says

    This is one reason why I turned to blogging. I love teaching but I hate selling. But I know I have to make a living somehow or my little daughter doesn’t eat. Teaching is a powerful tool if you know how to use it.

  17. says

    Even though you wrote this in 2006…this method is still the preferred method in 2011…
    Over the years I’ve experimented with many closing techniques and found when I used a direct approach….the customer would have buyers remorse and return the product. I, however, learned that educating customers was best. I noticed that at the end of a presentation I never asked for the sales but instead the customer would tell me “Give me everything you showed me” and my return rate was very low.

  18. says

    People are naturally resistant against being “Sold” to. On the flip-side they are more that willing to check something out that will teach them something about what they are trying to learn. When you make your focus about pleasing the customers and building a trusting relationship then you will be able to market certain items to them.

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