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What brands should learn from Amazon Small Business Academy
Last month, Amazon launched an intriguing new initiative—its Amazon Small Business Academy. Consisting of in-person seminars, community college courses, webinars, and more, the Academy focuses on building online businesses and delivering real-world results.
What can B2SMB brands take away from this? Plenty.
New life for an old idea
At its core, the Amazon Small Business Academy is really just an extension of content marketing as we know it. Helping small businesses is a key component of B2SMB marketing, and it is something we have been talking about (and helping clients do) for years. Amazon’s concept just takes it further by packaging it as an educational program and extending it to new platforms.
Presumably, the program also produces a higher level of content. It is carefully sequenced and delivered over time, unlike most other content that’s designed for one-time consumption. The approach is highly strategic, and leverages in-depth, high-quality material that is almost certain to change the point of view (POV) of its recipients—a key goal of any effective content marketing program.
The right focus
Amazon’s courses focus on teaching SMBs how to sell more. Amazon understands the alignment between helping SMBs achieve their goals—to grow their businesses—and Amazon’s goal to increase its revenue. There doesn’t appear to be a requirement that participants list their products on Amazon. However, Amazon clearly expects to benefit from making their customers more successful.
I like Amazon’s branding (Amazon Small Business Academy). I like how they leverage existing educational intuitions, and how they are making a firm commitment (as much as $15 billion) to the program. However, the main takeaway for other brands is how they are positioning the academy as a comprehensive program of coursework and assembling it (presumably) with subject-matter experts from both within and outside of their organization.
In-person events send a signal
Another important aspect is that they are delivering some of the content face-to-face. In-person events can be highly effective, and they show that this initiative is different from typical online events like webinars. There are logistical challenges to doing these for brands with a national footprint. However, regional roadshows already conducted by many brands in major cities offer a model that can be adapted to educational programs.
What if you’re not Amazon?
Despite the scale of Amazon’s initiative, understand that you don’t have to be Amazon to adopt some of its best practices. By reallocating some of their budget from existing content and advertising initiatives, many B2SMB brands will find they can produce very successful academy-like programs for SMBs. However, it requires a proactive, focused approach. First, you have to determine whether teaching SMBs to be more successful will drive your company’s results. Amazon seems to think so and so do we. Then you have to commit to building a top-notch program and developing it over time.
We can help
David Meerman Scott is famous for his mantra, “Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell.” His advice is still valid, perhaps today more than ever. Back when we were a media company, we developed and produced extremely successful SMB-focused programs for brands such as Aetna, Constant Contact, and Citi in the NYC area. If you’d like to create meaningful educational programs for your SMB customers to help them become more successful—and deepen their relationship with your brand—let’s talk.