That’s where customer education comes in.
Customer education is the strategy and tactics that companies use to retain their existing customers and keep them coming back to purchase, and purchase more. It achieves this goal by helping your customers best leverage your product or service by teaching them how to do it.
Today, we’re going to look at the 5 steps you need to take to plan your customer education strategy.
Step 1: Why are you doing customer education?
The first thing you need to do is figure out if this is a good idea or not. And yes — from a product perspective, it obviously is.
But since this is fundamentally going to be a question of revenue, you need to understand where you are in terms of returning customers, retention, and lifetime value (LTV), where you want to be, and how a customer education plan is going to get you there.
Of course, there are tons of benefits of an educated customer base beyond increasing LTV, like building a brand, building a community, building a platform, owning a niche, and creating advocates. These auxiliary benefits can be massively beneficial, you just need to be clear from the get go what you’re trying to do.
Step 2:Evaluate your customers
Customer education can be as fancy or as simple as you like, but it’s always going to involve a lot of content production, user generated content curation, and distribution. Basically, being helpful to your audience with the right stuff at the right time.
So the first thing is to find out what your customers are asking now. Might as well help educate your customer base on the questions they have today.
This should take the form of both qualitative and quantitative reporting, with a survey to get a feel for customers overall, as well as interviews with customers asking them what they would find valuable.
At the end, you should have a list of areas where you can start to deploy your education strategy.
Step 3: Channel evaluation
Next, you need to work out which channels and formats are best to deliver your customer education strategy in.
At a high level, this involves two things.
First, what sort of overarching format are you planning on delivering your customer education in? There’s a huge range but some common options include:
- A gated online community with a focus on customer engagement + responses. Slack groups are a good way to go here.
- A public online community to benefit both customers and prospective customers
- An online course program, run through something like a learning management system (LMS) and an associated badging / certification system. (this is the most common, with examples at Salesforce, HubSpot, Google, and SEMRush)
There are pros and cons to all of these, and the right option will likely depend on your specific use case. As your strategy grows, you’ll likely adopt multiple versions of these.
Second, what format your content is going to be in. How do your customers learn best? When you’re thinking through content, you want to think about two things: production cost, and how easy it is to repurpose.
Common course formats include:
- Live 1:1 training and education with each customer
- Live 1:many instructor-led training sessions
- On-demand courses
- Pre-recorded training videos
Common content formats include:
- Live webinars
- Pre-recorded webinars
- Animated explainer videos
- Demo ‘follow alongs’
- Blog posts, infographics, ebooks, guides, etc...
Step 4:Build your content + courses
Now that you know the problem you’re solving for the business and for the customer, and you’ve settled on the best framework for your customer education strategy, it’s time to build your courses.
Find out what content you already have lying around. Odds are, it’s more than you think. Then, make a list of what content gaps you need to fill, and which subject matter experts are going to need to be consulted to get them produced.
After that, it’s a matter of producing and packaging it up into a cohesive idea of a course!
Step 5:Get people to show up
Last but not least, customer education is rarely a ‘build it and they will come’ sort of solution. More often than not, you’re going to have to convince them to come.
For some customer education, a certification that’s tied to a professional association will work wonders. If they have to be certified for something, then layering in customer education is a relatively small lift.
If, like most organizations, that’s not your situation, then you’ll need to convince them, especially early on. A few tips:
- Use support tickets to start feeding people to the content and courses.
- Gamify the experience and add prizes for top performers every quarter / year.
- Treat course registration and completion as a marketing campaign, and build out segmented email campaigns, retargeting campaigns, and your customer success team to drive sign ups.
- Incentivize the first people to build the credibility of your certifications across social media.
And you're done!
Congratulations! You’ve launched your first customer education strategy. Now it’s time to analyze, iterate, and evolve to match the changing needs of your company. Fortunately, having done it once, it’ll be easier the next time around. To recap, here are your key steps:
Understand why you’re embarking on this project
Talk to your customers about their existing problems and knowledge gaps
Choose a delivery mechanism for your customer education strategy, and choose the content formats that will work for your business
Build your content out, reusing what you can and roping in SMEs to plug the gaps
Launch your new education strategy, then get people to turn up. Remember: building it is only half the battle. Getting people to actually use it is the other half.