Reach Teach Sell: A practical marketing framework

Reach Teach Sell is a practical marketing framework that I’ve iterated on since ~2013. It was originally a means of thinking about marketing funnels, but it has since evolved to encompass the entire customer lifecycle.

Reach Teach Sell informs how I think about marketing, and within the scope of my day-to-day work, how I think about content strategy specifically.

Here’s how it plays out, at a high level:

  1. Reach your target customers where they already are.
  2. Teach them something new.
  3. Sell your customers what they need.
  4. Support the onboarding process.
  5. Retain your customers.
  6. Encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

Let’s go through each step.

Reach your target customers where they already spend their time.

Tactics include paid placement and earned exposure: Advertising, PR, strategic partnerships, community engagement — pretty much anything that will get you in front of the people you want to reach.

You can get paid placement up and running faster than earned exposure, but earned exposure sustains you over time. So for a new business, lean on paid placement for a short-term lift (ads, PR & sponsorship), while investing in the assets that’ll get you long-term return (content and community).

Teach them something new.

Educational, inspirational, and helpful content is an evergreen asset. It demonstrates your expertise and shows that you know what you’re doing. It builds your credibility, authority, and social capital. And by injecting your own opinion or perspective into the content, you’re able to call out the things that make you different.

Jimmy Daly, of the enterprise content agency Animalz, recommends building a library of evergreen resources on your website. That content library is like an investment portfolio, with a value that grows with each additional asset.

I think that advice applies just as well to small, local businesses. Why? Because trust and relationships are two major reasons that customers choose to shop locally.

So, by consistently producing helpful content over time, you can get a head start on building that trust before your potential customers ever walk through the door.

Sell your customers what they need.

Help customers make an informed decision by providing all the details they need. If they have a pre-purchase question, that question should already be answered on your website.

Selling products? Include all the features and specs. Use photos and video to show them what the product looks like in different environments. (That applies to both hardware and software, by the way.) Include reviews from customers. Heck, even review the product yourself!

Selling services? Describe your process. Walk customers through the steps. Include case studies, success stories, and testimonials as social proof. Have credentials or certifications? Display them next to contact forms as reassurance.

An FAQs page is another way to get detailed information in front of your potential customers. You can also roll those FAQs into the educational content (under “Teach”) and link to that content where appropriate.

Support the onboarding process.

What happens after you bring in a new customer? Are you setting them up for success from the beginning?

Create your own welcome package with “getting started” guides, orientation sessions, and documentation. Then make on-demand support available through email, phone, and live chat.

This may sound like stuff that a customer care team would be responsible for, but it’s just as important for marketing. Why? Because everything affects marketing, especially bad customer experiences.

Retain your customers by helping them succeed.

Customer success comes from a strong customer relationship. And like any relationship, it requires effort. You can’t just set it and forget it.

How do you keep building your relationship? How do you stay top-of-mind with your customers? How do you help them succeed with your products or services?

There may be a lot of overlap between this and the Teach content. So if you can, try to go a level deeper with your retention.

At this level, you should have more insights into what your customers need, and the specific challenges they’re facing. So go for more intimate tactics like exclusive content, interactive webinars, 1:1 calls, and even in-person workshops or events.

Recognize and reward your customers for their loyalty.

Don’t chase new customers at the expense of your current customers.
Love the ones you’re with. Celebrate them.

What can you do for the customers who’ve stuck with you? It could be a personal email, a thoughtful note, or a small gift. Those little touches are the things that people remember.

You have a massive advantage here if you’re a small, local business. Chances are you’re able to have the real, personal relationship with customers that bigger companies struggle to emulate.

Lean into that strength. It’s what sets you apart.

Encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

What can you do to help your happy customers tell others about your business? Can you ask for referrals outright? Can you give them something to share? Can you support and amplify their advocacy by including them in case studies and testimonials?

This final step of the framework closes the cycle. You first showed up where your customers were spending their time. You built your credibility by being helpful and sharing your expertise. And when they were ready to buy, you gave them everything they needed to make an informed purchase.

But you didn’t drop them and move on to the next potential customer. You helped them get started and succeed with what they bought. You kept in touch with thoughtful gestures and checked in on them even when you had nothing else to sell.

And now, at this final step, you’re asking for a personal endorsement. The word-of-mouth referral. It’s the most powerful form of marketing that every other channel strives to match.

It’s not something that comes lightly. It’s earned through consistent effort, and by providing an excellent customer experience. But that’s exactly what the Reach Teach Sell framework is meant for. It gives you those milestones to think about.

What next?

The Reach Teach Sell framework isn’t unique. It’s inspired by the work of other businesses and marketers, and I continue to tweak and expand on it as I come across new concepts.

Up until now, I’ve kept most of that thinking and iterating to myself. And I realize how contradictory that is, considering Reach Teach Sell is built on the core idea of sharing what you know and how you approach your work.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to start writing and talking more about this framework, the various components of it, and the work of others that it intersects with.


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