New business and customer acquisition might get all the hype, but for most businesses of the 21st century, the real deal comes with customer retention and customer growth, and for that to happen organizations need to provide the proper kind of education.
Customer education is the vehicle to not only retaining existing customers, but a) making them repeat customers, and b) expanding their purchasing habits. By teaching customers how to leverage a product or service, you essentially strategize not only the practice of customer education itself, but recurring income and a greater possibility for strong referrals as well.
Building the ideal infrastructure for customer education is neither overcomplicated, nor something that happens overnight, therefore it needs meticulous planning before any practical implementation.
Organizations with well-structured customer training platforms are more likely to succeed in long-term growth, since its made evident that they take the time to understand their audience, cater to their needs, and help them achieve their goals. This kind of relationship is the one that brings about continued and consistent results for both sides. Cold selling and sacrificing quality over bulk is a thing of the past, and that’s where it should stay.
Of course, there are some principles for any successful customer education plan:
Team work makes the dream work
If you consider the customer journey within your organization, it’s probable that they’ll interact with multiple sources of information and feedback, which means more than one team. Keeping in mind that each team brings their specialized knowledge to the table, you need to be aware of who gets involved with customer education, the skills, strengths and limitations that each team can offer, and the extent of their involvement in the process.
Here’s a simple example of possible areas of involvement:
•Sales Team: Experts in the product or service
•Customer Support Team: Experts in customer insights
•Design Team: Experts in visual representation
•Customer Success Team: Putting it all together, managing LMS, and distributing to customers
Proper auditing saves time
it’s usually good practice to perform an SOP evaluation and identify your current customer education strategy, before moving on to any invasive action. Start by asking questions:
•Who is involved in the training process?
•What kind of resources and material are you circulating?
•Which channels of communication do you utilize?
•What training and resources are we currently giving our customers?
•What kind of tools are you currently using?
•Is your material fresh or obsolete?
•What are the analytics around your customer education efforts?
If there is no set process that gives you clear answers, you can still do it the old fashioned way. Ask your colleagues and your customers. Value your stakeholders’ opinions. By asking honest opinions from people who’ve already been through the process, you’ll get a decent understanding of the hot and cold spots of your strategy, and plan accordingly.
Setting clear objectives is not a sin
As tedious as the auditing process seems, it is a catalyst to clearing the air regarding the specificity of goals that you’ll set for your training plan. The first order of business is to set the overall-but-specific objective of the strategy. Outcomes of data analysis should then be used when defining sub-tasks, steps and control loops. Definitive learning objectives are a must when developing courses that seek to have a concrete outcome for the learner.
Research, planning, and streamlining course creation, helps your organization define KPIs and boost your chances of starting customer education on the right foot.
Rules are meant to be followed
Having many hands on deck, means having a variety of opinions, styles, formats and structures. Every member of your team brings their own uniqueness to the project, which although marvelous in most situations, could prove perilous when building a course.
That’s exactly why you need a concrete structure, or an SOP for course creation. The reason? Without it, you risk lack of cohesion in the content, a confusing tone, and lack of brand continuity. Creating a specific guide on how a course should look, “feel”, read, will lead to a coherent and continuous style that suits your brand and organization’s values.
Building a customer training program is unlikely to succeed 100% from the first try. A seminal rule when building courses is to move from the most to least important feature, and structure your plan accordingly. Think about what content you’d get the most value out of, had you been the customer of your organization.
Starting from the bottom, in our case, we’ll try to make the process as pain-free as possible, set the tone and allow you to envision your ideal customer education course. Let’s learn the 5-step dance of great customer education strategies.
Step 1: Know your customers.
Are your customers simple or posh? What are they looking for? What are their questions today, and what questions do you expect down the line?
How can you be supportive with the right answers at the right time? Customer education always involves user generated content, content curation and target channel distribution.
Frequently reviewed questions pinpoint your customers’ main concerns and allow you to forecast forthcoming learning needs.
At the end of the day, you should have a clear understanding of your customers’ needs, and attend to their learning in the smoothest way possible.
Step 2: Have a good reason for investing in customer education.
Don’t do it because its cool, do it in spite of the coolness. Weigh your pros and cons. Is it a good idea investing working hours in building courses? In the end, how does it affect revenue? What about returning customers, reducing churn, boosting LTV? What is the seat on the table you’re looking to occupy, and how will customer education lead you there?
There are numerous qualitative benefits of educated customers, mostly connected to brand recognition and community building, but what about niche penetration and advocacy?
Make your reasoning clear and solid. Have a vision and stick to it.
Step 3: Pick your court.
Live 1on1, live group, recorded, on-demand, webinars, animated videos, tutorials, articles, infographics, guides, quizzes, and the list can expand as far as the eye can see.
Your team needs to decide which channels and formats are best suited to deliver educational programs to your customer base.
This decision involves two elements:
- The type of community: gated (existing customers only), public (existing and prospective customers). There are pros and cons in both, so you need to come up with the best fit for your use case. As you grow, you will juggle in between even more.
- The learning patterns of your customers. How do they learn best? How can you adapt your content to your customers while keeping costs in check? How easy is it to modify and repurpose your courses in due time?
Step 4: Get to writing, drawing and forming.
You’ve met with your customer, you’ve identified the problem, and you’ve strategized the win. You’ve picked your court, you’ve tied your shoes and you’ve settled on the best possible frameworks. It’s time to materialize your courses.
Find all the content that’s already lying around idle. When you think you’ve found it all, keep looking. Only after you’re done collecting, check for missing bits and pieces, and ask for help from your specialist team mates.
Having collected your material, all you need to do is to send it off to your creative team for packaging and any necessary finishing touches.
Step 5: Sell it.
There are no lessons learned in empty classrooms. The customer education process is rarely ever self-sold. Opening the door does not necessarily mean that “students” will flock in. For that to happen they need convincing.
- Use your customer support team to start feeding people with questions to the answers in the courses.
- Make it fun. A game with a few milestones, is much more interesting than a plain quiz.
- Connect your courses to your marketing. Target all registered users and lead them to a purchase.
- Provide special perks to early adopters and brand advocates. Give them reasons to shout your name.
And scene! You’ve launched your first customer education plan. Analyze your results, evaluate, fix and repeat. Keep evolving your strategy in parallel to the changing needs of your organization. Use your gained experience and extract all that value to your future efforts.
Understand what you’re doing, and why. Get to know your audience, since it’s them you are talking to. Make your course easy to work with and a sight for sore eyes. Launch your new plan, recycle your material responsibly and get people to turn up. For anything that is not clear yet, just ask Marble 💙