For years now you’ve heard advice from social media evangelists that is counter-intuitive to a traditional marketing approach. Don’t sell first. Relinquish control of your brand to your customers. Take your content to the customers instead of driving all activity to your own website. Build content around your customers, not your brand.

On Monday, we looked at an example of a business that relinquished control to empower their audience of enthusiasts. Today, we’ll look at an example of a business building content around their consumer’s need, not the company’s profits.

Nationwide Insurance unveiled a new iPhone application called Cartopia that helps anyone (not just Nationwide customers) find your perfect car. It factors in information like cost, cost to insure, cost to maintain, vehicle history report, safety rating and more. It allows you to store lists of vehicles you’re considering, lets you rate each based on the information the app collects and more. You can store pictures of your test drives, check fair pricing from third party resources, gather car-specific safety information, compare to other models and more. You can even estimate your monthly payments and the total cost of ownership, factoring in depreciation and …

It almost gives me a headache writing it all down. Here’s a video highlighting its features.

The beauty of this application is that it is being provided by Nationwide to help its customer or potential customers fulfill a need: Helping them buy a car in a more informed, yet easier fashion.

But it’s not selling insurance.

According to Shawn Morton, (Disclosure: a friend and former board member at Social Media Club Louisville of which I’m president and co-founder), Nationwide’s Director of Social Media, “We’ve also included a loan calculator (and the option to see loan rates from Nationwide Bank) and the ability to get an insurance quote from Nationwide. We’ve tried to make those plugs be a secondary call-to-action so that the app is useful to car shoppers, not just a commercial for Nationwide.”

What Nationwide Insurance has done with Cartopia is identified a need in its target audience (people who need car insurance). They’ve filled that need with a helpful application which allows them to become a trusted friend or advisor. Selling insurance isn’t an afterthought. But it is “secondary” to providing the audience with the value.

Normally here, I would end the post with some pithy quote complimenting Nationwide or my friend Shawn. Instead, I’d like to challenge each of you to think of one way your company could provide value to its customers with selling your product or service as a secondary objective. Tell us your idea in the comments.

Perhaps we can inspire each other.

To the comments? Thank you!

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://ubermarketing.wordpress.com Akash Sharma

    Great thoughts Jason, I believe that what nationwide has done here and what other brands can easily implement is to understand that its just not about the product or the service which you are providing, to explain the benefits of that you have to go that extra mile. So in this case they aren't selling the insurance to any customer but explaining everything they need to know about purchasing a car of which insurance is just a part of and thus consumers can decide the rest.
    So for example as a marketing agency you don't need to tell people what you do in the marketing field or how many channel you are operating on currently but what you need to explain is what are all different aspects of marketing they can do as a whole not specifically with your firm, and let them do all this on their own.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Akash. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • http://ubermarketing.wordpress.com Akash Sharma

    Great thoughts Jason, I believe that what nationwide has done here and what other brands can easily implement is to understand that its just not about the product or the service which you are providing, to explain the benefits of that you have to go that extra mile. So in this case they aren't selling the insurance to any customer but explaining everything they need to know about purchasing a car of which insurance is just a part of and thus consumers can decide the rest.
    So for example as a marketing agency you don't need to tell people what you do in the marketing field or how many channel you are operating on currently but what you need to explain is what are all different aspects of marketing they can do as a whole not specifically with your firm, and let them do all this on their own.

  • http://ubermarketing.wordpress.com Akash Sharma

    Great thoughts Jason, I believe that what nationwide has done here and what other brands can easily implement is to understand that its just not about the product or the service which you are providing, to explain the benefits of that you have to go that extra mile. So in this case they aren't selling the insurance to any customer but explaining everything they need to know about purchasing a car of which insurance is just a part of and thus consumers can decide the rest.
    So for example as a marketing agency you don't need to tell people what you do in the marketing field or how many channel you are operating on currently but what you need to explain is what are all different aspects of marketing they can do as a whole not specifically with your firm, and let them do all this on their own.

  • http://happyandblue2.ca Happy and Blue 2

    The process of selling your product by providing a related service is a good idea.
    In Nationwides case they get their name out there by promoting car buying.

    It's a similar strategy to the Nike/Micheal Jordan shoe promotion.

    For a business blogger it means providing links to information from other business blogs and in the process becoming the source for information. You save others time in their search and they visit, and hopefully support you in the process.

    For an individual blogger the process is similar. Linking to others, interviewing other bloggers, etc. all lead people back to your blog as a source of good information..

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good thoughts, there Happy. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://happyandblue2.ca Happy and Blue 2

    The process of selling your product by providing a related service is a good idea.
    In Nationwides case they get their name out there by promoting car buying.

    It's a similar strategy to the Nike/Micheal Jordan shoe promotion.

    For a business blogger it means providing links to information from other business blogs and in the process becoming the source for information. You save others time in their search and they visit, and hopefully support you in the process.

    For an individual blogger the process is similar. Linking to others, interviewing other bloggers, etc. all lead people back to your blog as a source of good information..

  • http://happyandblue2.ca Happy and Blue 2

    The process of selling your product by providing a related service is a good idea.
    In Nationwides case they get their name out there by promoting car buying.

    It's a similar strategy to the Nike/Micheal Jordan shoe promotion.

    For a business blogger it means providing links to information from other business blogs and in the process becoming the source for information. You save others time in their search and they visit, and hopefully support you in the process.

    For an individual blogger the process is similar. Linking to others, interviewing other bloggers, etc. all lead people back to your blog as a source of good information..

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Good thoughts, there Happy. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Good thoughts, there Happy. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well said, Akash. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well said, Akash. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • joeraymond

    I have always enjoyed your insights even from back in college as it seems I keep following into your fields of endeavor.

    I was absolutely thrilled reading this post as it is something I have been trying to preach now for some time. Support your overall business mission by fulfilling a constant need that may not be specifically geared towards selling your products.

    I have been trying to drive my affiliate marketers in this direction. Even though you sell water hoses, your customers may have a need to know about proper landscaping or lawn care. Simple but silly analogy, but in a way it is establishing a need for your product by fulfilling a need of your customers.

    I think a great app would be one that helps you develop a catering menu based on themes, likes and dislikes for any occasion, be it business or a wedding and then can submit you to get quotes if you choose or perhaps guides you to recipes to prepare the dishes yourself.

    Thanks Jason. As always another enjoyable post.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for saying so, Joe. You're obviously onto something. Keep on
      preachin' it, my man!

  • joeraymond

    I have always enjoyed your insights even from back in college as it seems I keep following into your fields of endeavor.

    I was absolutely thrilled reading this post as it is something I have been trying to preach now for some time. Support your overall business mission by fulfilling a constant need that may not be specifically geared towards selling your products.

    I have been trying to drive my affiliate marketers in this direction. Even though you sell water hoses, your customers may have a need to know about proper landscaping or lawn care. Simple but silly analogy, but in a way it is establishing a need for your product by fulfilling a need of your customers.

    I think a great app would be one that helps you develop a catering menu based on themes, likes and dislikes for any occasion, be it business or a wedding and then can submit you to get quotes if you choose or perhaps guides you to recipes to prepare the dishes yourself.

    Thanks Jason. As always another enjoyable post.

  • joeraymond

    I have always enjoyed your insights even from back in college as it seems I keep following into your fields of endeavor.

    I was absolutely thrilled reading this post as it is something I have been trying to preach now for some time. Support your overall business mission by fulfilling a constant need that may not be specifically geared towards selling your products.

    I have been trying to drive my affiliate marketers in this direction. Even though you sell water hoses, your customers may have a need to know about proper landscaping or lawn care. Simple but silly analogy, but in a way it is establishing a need for your product by fulfilling a need of your customers.

    I think a great app would be one that helps you develop a catering menu based on themes, likes and dislikes for any occasion, be it business or a wedding and then can submit you to get quotes if you choose or perhaps guides you to recipes to prepare the dishes yourself.

    Thanks Jason. As always another enjoyable post.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for saying so, Joe. You're obviously onto something. Keep on
    preachin' it, my man!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for saying so, Joe. You're obviously onto something. Keep on
    preachin' it, my man!

  • secretsushi

    Its all about “top of the mind awareness” and understanding your audience, no? Nationwide knows that their best sales opportunity is when the consumer is looking and purchasing a vehicle. Common sense right? By providing a valuable tool to the exact audience they are hoping to service they can be there before the sale and fresh in the minds of the consumer. I have always loved this approach. Mint.com provides a similar value. Cool beans Jason.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Adam. Good thoughts.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Its all about “top of the mind awareness” and understanding your audience, no? Nationwide knows that their best sales opportunity is when the consumer is looking and purchasing a vehicle. Common sense right? By providing a valuable tool to the exact audience they are hoping to service they can be there before the sale and fresh in the minds of the consumer. I have always loved this approach. Mint.com provides a similar value. Cool beans Jason.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Its all about “top of the mind awareness” and understanding your audience, no? Nationwide knows that their best sales opportunity is when the consumer is looking and purchasing a vehicle. Common sense right? By providing a valuable tool to the exact audience they are hoping to service they can be there before the sale and fresh in the minds of the consumer. I have always loved this approach. Mint.com provides a similar value. Cool beans Jason.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Adam. Good thoughts.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Adam. Good thoughts.

  • http://twitter.com/mlwebco Michael Locke

    This is interesting because I totally believe in this philosophy. For example, Intuit.com has a cookie cutter website solution for small businesses. On the other hand, I'm a Web Consultant specializing in website design and development (among other things). So you can say they're my competitor (sort of). But I was actually in the middle of brainstorming a nice blog post that actually featured and pitched Intuit's system to small businesses. I'm actually seriously going to pitch Intuit's solution over my personal service. Here's why … because over the past 15 years in the business, I can't count the many people I've helped migrate from these cookie cutter type of web solutions to a more custom solution. These solutions are great starting points for mom and pops, but eventually they'll need more.

    So my thinking is this, if someone has a small budget and can only afford Intuit at the moment, no problem…I'll show you the way. After using the product and seeing the limitations of not really getting what you want, they'll remember that nice “guy”, (me) the web consultant that originally assisted me with this, and maybe he can help me with a better more customized solution.

    I'm selling Intuit's solution, but at the same time, I'm really selling my own personal web consulting services.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well, Michael. I think it's awfully smart on your part. And what
      you're doing is much more than planting the seed for a long tail
      customer. You're proving that you're a good partner. If the client's
      circumstances warrant a solution other than yours, recommend it. They
      will reward you in spades if the realize what you're doing because
      you're not offering them a commodity or service or product. You're
      offering them sage advice from a friend they can trust.

      Good for you.

  • http://twitter.com/mlwebco Michael Locke

    This is interesting because I totally believe in this philosophy. For example, Intuit.com has a cookie cutter website solution for small businesses. On the other hand, I'm a Web Consultant specializing in website design and development (among other things). So you can say they're my competitor (sort of). But I was actually in the middle of brainstorming a nice blog post that actually featured and pitched Intuit's system to small businesses. I'm actually seriously going to pitch Intuit's solution over my personal service. Here's why … because over the past 15 years in the business, I can't count the many people I've helped migrate from these cookie cutter type of web solutions to a more custom solution. These solutions are great starting points for mom and pops, but eventually they'll need more.

    So my thinking is this, if someone has a small budget and can only afford Intuit at the moment, no problem…I'll show you the way. After using the product and seeing the limitations of not really getting what you want, they'll remember that nice “guy”, (me) the web consultant that originally assisted me with this, and maybe he can help me with a better more customized solution.

    I'm selling Intuit's solution, but at the same time, I'm really selling my own personal web consulting services.

  • http://twitter.com/mlwebco Michael Locke

    This is interesting because I totally believe in this philosophy. For example, Intuit.com has a cookie cutter website solution for small businesses. On the other hand, I'm a Web Consultant specializing in website design and development (among other things). So you can say they're my competitor (sort of). But I was actually in the middle of brainstorming a nice blog post that actually featured and pitched Intuit's system to small businesses. I'm actually seriously going to pitch Intuit's solution over my personal service. Here's why … because over the past 15 years in the business, I can't count the many people I've helped migrate from these cookie cutter type of web solutions to a more custom solution. These solutions are great starting points for mom and pops, but eventually they'll need more.

    So my thinking is this, if someone has a small budget and can only afford Intuit at the moment, no problem…I'll show you the way. After using the product and seeing the limitations of not really getting what you want, they'll remember that nice “guy”, (me) the web consultant that originally assisted me with this, and maybe he can help me with a better more customized solution.

    I'm selling Intuit's solution, but at the same time, I'm really selling my own personal web consulting services.

  • http://www.myercommunications.com/ Laurie Myer

    Talk about a great loyalty builder! What Nationwide seems to have realized is that providing value for value's sake and not going for the hard sell can foster the kind of respect that leads to loyalty. Doesn't hurt if they also make it easy from within the app to reach out to them first because I like the experience they've given me (with no pressure). Great example…thanks Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, Laurie.

  • http://www.myercommunications.com/ Laurie Myer

    Talk about a great loyalty builder! What Nationwide seems to have realized is that providing value for value's sake and not going for the hard sell can foster the kind of respect that leads to loyalty. Doesn't hurt if they also make it easy from within the app to reach out to them first because I like the experience they've given me (with no pressure). Great example…thanks Jason!

  • http://www.myercommunications.com/ Laurie Myer

    Talk about a great loyalty builder! What Nationwide seems to have realized is that providing value for value's sake and not going for the hard sell can foster the kind of respect that leads to loyalty. Doesn't hurt if they also make it easy from within the app to reach out to them first because I like the experience they've given me (with no pressure). Great example…thanks Jason!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well, Michael. I think it's awfully smart on your part. And what
    you're doing is much more than planting the seed for a long tail
    customer. You're proving that you're a good partner. If the client's
    circumstances warrant a solution other than yours, recommend it. They
    will reward you in spades if the realize what you're doing because
    you're not offering them a commodity or service or product. You're
    offering them sage advice from a friend they can trust.

    Good for you.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well, Michael. I think it's awfully smart on your part. And what
    you're doing is much more than planting the seed for a long tail
    customer. You're proving that you're a good partner. If the client's
    circumstances warrant a solution other than yours, recommend it. They
    will reward you in spades if the realize what you're doing because
    you're not offering them a commodity or service or product. You're
    offering them sage advice from a friend they can trust.

    Good for you.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thank you, Laurie.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thank you, Laurie.

  • http://www.bluescluescoloringpage.com/ Jeremy

    To plan for a Blues Clues Party, start out by finding some pre made cards of the Blues Clues characters. These should be readily available with most online party suppliers. Can’t find any and have good home printer? Then find some good graphics of your child’s favorite characters online. Or, look for some paper or cards that have some dog prints on them!

  • http://www.bluescluescoloringpage.com/ Jeremy

    To plan for a Blues Clues Party, start out by finding some pre made cards of the Blues Clues characters. These should be readily available with most online party suppliers. Can’t find any and have good home printer? Then find some good graphics of your child’s favorite characters online. Or, look for some paper or cards that have some dog prints on them!

  • Jacob Leffler

    Good post Jason. Another example: http://www.eyeglassguide.com/tool
    Transitions wanted to help the eyeglasses wearing public determine which glasses are a good fit building from the lenses out. This helps lay a foundation for an informed conversation with their eye care professional about eye health and what lense treatments may or may not be appropriate.

    It also contains videos within the quiz that helps educate the visitor on different options for lenses. Transitions definitely takes a back seat in this educational piece, therefore the results of he site should be of no surprise – approx. 70%+ completion rate on the quiz, 9 minute avg. experience time on site, and lots of print out PDFs of quiz summaries being handed to eye doctors for discussions.

    Jacob

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Neat example, Jacob. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jacob Leffler

    Good post Jason. Another example: http://www.eyeglassguide.com/tool
    Transitions wanted to help the eyeglasses wearing public determine which glasses are a good fit building from the lenses out. This helps lay a foundation for an informed conversation with their eye care professional about eye health and what lense treatments may or may not be appropriate.

    It also contains videos within the quiz that helps educate the visitor on different options for lenses. Transitions definitely takes a back seat in this educational piece, therefore the results of he site should be of no surprise – approx. 70%+ completion rate on the quiz, 9 minute avg. experience time on site, and lots of print out PDFs of quiz summaries being handed to eye doctors for discussions.

    Jacob

  • Jacob Leffler

    Good post Jason. Another example: http://www.eyeglassguide.com/tool
    Transitions wanted to help the eyeglasses wearing public determine which glasses are a good fit building from the lenses out. This helps lay a foundation for an informed conversation with their eye care professional about eye health and what lense treatments may or may not be appropriate.

    It also contains videos within the quiz that helps educate the visitor on different options for lenses. Transitions definitely takes a back seat in this educational piece, therefore the results of he site should be of no surprise – approx. 70%+ completion rate on the quiz, 9 minute avg. experience time on site, and lots of print out PDFs of quiz summaries being handed to eye doctors for discussions.

    Jacob

  • Pingback: Jason Falls, the Soundbyte | Liz Strauss at Successful Blog

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Neat example, Jacob. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Neat example, Jacob. Thanks for sharing!

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