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Share your knowledge with the world

When a teacher appears as a contestant on Jeopardy, Alex Trebek often comments that it’s a “noble profession.” He’s right. There’s definitely something wonderful and rewarding about sharing your knowledge with others. And when the subject you’re teaching is your app, it serves a dual purpose: You can give something back to the community that supports you and score some nice promotional exposure at the same time.

As a promotional technique, education is a soft way to get your name — and your product’s name — in front of more people. And instead of a hard sell “buy this product” approach, you’re getting attention by providing a valuable service. That creates positive buzz that traditional marketing tactics can’t match. People who you educate will become your evangelists.

Education can come in many forms. Post tips and tricks at your site that people will want to share with others. Speak at conferences and stay afterwards to meet and greet with attendees. Conduct workshops so curious fans can learn more and talk to you in the flesh. Give interviews to publications. Write articles that share helpful information. And write books. ;)

An example from our own history is the Yellow Fade Technique, a method we invented to subtly spotlight a recently changed area on a page. We wrote a post about it on Signal vs. Noise. That post made the rounds and got thousands and thousands of page views (to this day it’s doing huge traffic).

The post worked on both an educational and a promotional level. A lesson was learned and a lot of people who never would have known about our products were exposed to them. Another example: During our development of Ruby on Rails, we decided to make the infrastructure open source. It turned out to be a wise move. We gave something back to the community, built up goodwill, garnered recognition for our team, received useful feedback, and began receiving patches and contributions from programmers all over the world.

Teaching is all about good karma. You’re paying it forward. You’re helping others. You get some healthy promotion. And you can even bask in a bit of nobility. So what do you know that the world wants to hear about?

Pay It Forward

The articles and tips section of our blog is one of the most popular sections of our site. Passing on our knowledge about email marketing ensures our customers get the most out of our software. If they can provide a better service to their customers, then they’re likely to get more business, which in turn creates more business for us — everyone wins.

Freely sharing our knowledge has also helped position us as experts in the industry and strengthened our relationship with existing customers. They know we care about the quality of their work. Finally, we get loads of targeted inbound traffic from search engines and bloggers who share our articles with their readers. These are people that would never have heard of our software had we not written that article.

—David Greiner, founder, Campaign Monitor

We made Basecamp using the principles in this book. It combines all the tools teams need to get work done in a single, streamlined package. With Basecamp, everyone knows what to do, where things stand, and where to find things they need.