Focusing Content Marketing Efforts to Better Educate Adult Consumers

Focusing Content Marketing Efforts to Better Educate Adult Consumers

By Brianne Carlon RushMar 6 /2013

educating adults with content marketingAt Kuno, and in digital marketing in general these days, we often talk about mapping our content marketing efforts to coincide with our sales funnel and developing educational top-of-the-funnel content. And it is absolutely solid advice; in fact, if you are not trying to deploy content for each stage of your buyer cycle, starting with educational content at the top of the funnel, your content marketing probably isn’t working—at least not to the extent it could be. But today I propose that we take one step back and look at our content marketing from an even more basic perspective: developing content to coincide with the adult human brain. Because when you penetrate the minds of your buyers, you can reach them not only on a consumer level but, more importantly, on a human level.  

So what does this even mean? Well Malcolm Knowles, a practitioner and theorist of adult education gave rise to six principles that drive learning within the adult human brain. In doing so, he gave us six ways we can improve our content to better reach consumers. 

Here, we explore Knowles’ six principles and several tips for making them work for you and your content marketing:

Adults are internally motivated and self-directed: Many adults work hard and before that attended school for several years; it is natural to resist learning if they feel others are imposing information on them. How to make it work for you:

  • Develop rapport with consumers. Be approachable. Don’t use jargon and gobbledygook no one can understand.
  • Show interest in buyers’ thoughts and questions. As The Sales Lion often recommends, answer your prospects’ questions in your content. One question usually equals one great blog post.
  • Lead buyers toward inquiry before hitting them with too many facts. Don’t just push spec sheets for your products and expect a good response. You must offer helpful information up front.
  • Acknowledge the preferred learning styles of consumers by offering your content in several formats, including blogs, videos, podcasts and infographs.
Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences: Adults want to use their existing foundation of knowledge and valuable life experiences and apply it to what they are learning. How to make it work for you:
  • Find out about your buyers. Understand their interests and past experiences. Discover their needs and interests, the tone they best communicate with and where they are most approachable. You can do this by developing buyer personas.
  • Assist them to draw on those experiences when problem solving by using storytelling in your marketing emails, ebooks and blogs.
Adults are goal oriented: Adults become ready to learn when they have a reason, such as a goal to obtain or a problem to solve. This is where your educational content will come in handy. How to make it work for you:
  • Provide real case studies as a basis from which buyers can learn about your methods, tactics and results.
  • Ask questions that motivate inquiry and further research of your products or services.
  • Tell your buyers why the information you are sharing is important to them.
Adults are relevancy oriented: Adult learners want to know the relevance of what they are learning and how it pertains to what they want to achieve. How to make it work for you:
  • Use clear examples to show buyers the reason for investing time in your content and your company.
  • Make sure your top-of-the-funnel content is absolutely relevant to your buyers. While it is considered educational and not product-centric, content should still be relevant to the problems your buyers have and the solutions you offer.
Adults are practical: Buyers recognize first-hand how what they are learning applies to their situations and problems. How to make it work for you:
  • Clearly explain your reasoning for content, tactics and business practices. Don’t waste your buyers’ time.
  • Promote active participation by allowing potential buyers to try things rather than observe. At the bottom of the funnel, offer free demos or free trials before asking consumers to make a purchase. This is especially important for big-ticket items.
  • Point out the most useful information whenever possible using bold font, bullets and beautiful design.
Adult learners like to be respected: Don’t take this for granted; be sure you are respecting human-to-human interaction. How to make it work for you:
  • Take an interest in your buyers. Show that you appreciate their time and provide what they are looking for without enlisting trickery.
  • Regard each buyer as an equal who is also equal in life experience
  • Encourage feedback at every opportunity.

If you begin your content strategy with the principles of adult learning in mind, you can reach potential buyers on a human level and, using your well-thought-out content, help them go from visitor to lead to customer. What do you think?


Personalized Content: Generate More Revenue with a Dynamic Web Experience
photo credit: Fergal Mac Eoinin
The Author

Brianne Carlon Rush

Brianne works with Fortune 500 clients to strategize digital marketing efforts that help sales teams close deals faster. Additionally, she focuses on Kuno’s sales and marketing alignment and employee empowerment. Prior to Kuno, Brianne helped market OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, and was the youngest person to be promoted to managing editor position at MacFadden Performing Arts Media in NYC.