I have heard this elsewhere but it was brought home again in the book “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes. The model that he touts in large parts of the book is also similar to how many people sell on the internet.
Essentially the Strategy that Many Use on the Internet
Google uses this model in many ways. For them it isn’t so much about providing education as information, which is not that different. By offering something of value for free, they attract a large audience that then becomes attractive to sellers and so Google makes its money on advertising. They are able to provide advertisers with more targeted advertising than almost any method of advertising in the past.
Many other people use education to sell on the internet. They offer a free ebook, free information on their website, a free webinar with information that is useful to people to attract them. Then they offer a subscription or more in depth offering for a fee and that is how they make their money.
Expand Your Audience
What Chet Holmes points out in the book is that usually only about 3% of people are looking for your product or service at any time. There are a lot more that might be helped by it and save money using it but they don’t realize it and therefore aren’t looking for it.
Educate and Direct
If you advertise or promote your product or service, you will attract the 3% but not the other group which is many times that size. It is just not on their radar screen. However, if you offer education that helps them, they will pay attention. Things like, 7 Things You Can Do to Double Your Sales, or 10 Things You Should Know About Indoor Pollutants in Your Home, etc. Then you can pick compelling information that also makes a case for your services or products.
By doing this you are not only appealing to the 3% but to the 30 or 40% of the population who probably have need of your product but don’t know it.
You can do this through advertising, meetings, trade shows and other means.