Which blogs offer the best advice about customer education practices, strategies and technologies? Great question. But with such phenomenal recent growth in the customer experience market, there is no obvious answer.
That’s not just a gut reaction – it’s a business reality. One glance at the data and you’ll see what I mean. The sheer volume of solutions that define the broader marketing technology landscape has ballooned from only 150 in 2011 to nearly 7000 this year, according to Scott Brinker at ChiefMartec.com. What’s more, consolidation is nowhere in sight.
The thirst for tools that drive profitable customer relationships seems unquenchable. And education is only one tiny piece in that massive puzzle. (In fact, most learning-related solutions are tucked into the gold column under “Customer Experience, Service and Success.” Interestingly, some customer-oriented LMS vendors aren’t even on ChiefMartec’s radar yet!)
Nevertheless, education is a critical factor in the customer experience equation, and marketers are eager to learn how to leverage customer education for better business results. That’s why martech vendors of all stripes are responding with topical thought leadership. And that’s where our quest to find the best blog content begins.
So Many Possibilities, So Little Time
If you close your eyes and toss a dart anywhere at this martech vendor map, chances are you’ll find a site brimming with information about the role of onboarding and ongoing training in the customer lifecycle. But only a few of these resources actually focus exclusively on customer education. Even fewer are backed by firsthand experience that makes their observations credible and useful. So it’s important to choose wisely.
Of course, technology vendors aren’t the only source of customer education guidance. For example, as an independent extended enterprise learning analyst, I’ve been writing for nearly 5 years about the explosive growth in customer training and the learning innovators who are defining this space.
And I’m not the only one who’s passionate about this topic. Useful insights come from every corner of the customer experience ecosystem. That’s why our choice of must-reads draws from a variety of sources – other analysts and consultants, customer education leaders, professional association executives and learning systems vendors, as well as marketing technology providers.
While not exhaustive, the following list also showcases multiple topics, including slice-of-life cases that demonstrate lessons learned from companies with customer training programs.
Although this represents only a fraction of the shareworthy insights and advice we’ve uncovered in our travels, we hope this gives you a taste of what’s available from the brightest strategists and practitioners who are shaping the future of the customer experience discipline. Enjoy!
25 Must-Read Customer Education Blogs
CONNECTING TRAINING AND CUSTOMER SUCCESS
What is Customer Training?
By Eoghan Quigley, Product Marketing Manager
Many learning professionals still focus exclusively on employee training and development. If you’re in this camp, customer education concepts are probably new to you. For those who need an overview, this post covers the basics.
7 Ways Education Services Fit Into Customer Success
By Maria Manning-Chapman, VP Research, Educational Services
Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA)
Customer success is mission-critical for all kinds of companies – especially subscription-based software providers. Yet this relatively new term is often misunderstood. What exactly is customer success and how can specialized training support these objectives? Here’s a helpful introduction from TSIA, an organization at the heart of the SaaS industry.
Does Customer Success Mean Anything Outside of SaaS?
(Published on the Amity blog)
By Lindsay Smith, Director of Customer Success
If you think that customer-centered strategies apply only to SaaS products, think again. Drawing upon her experience in multiple industries, this brand evangelist explains why smart businesses everywhere should make customer success a core competency.
The 80/20 Rule of Customer Education
By Donna Weber, Customer Onboarding and Engagement Consultant
This marketing-savvy customer success expert explains why it’s important to consider the Pareto Principle when developing customer training. In other words, focus on 20% of your product that 80% of your customers actually use. Donna also outlines 5 ways that customer education leaders can apply this principle for best results.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER ONBOARDING
The Secret to Successful Customer Onboarding
By Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success Consultant
Onboarding is widely accepted as a key to product adoption and ultimately, customer success. Yet oddly, there is still no universally accepted definition for this critical term. Customer training and onboarding are closely connected, but they aren’t interchangeable concepts. If you need clarity from a no-nonsense source, check this post by one of the most articulate independent thought leaders in the customer success sphere.
Why Smooth Onboarding is the Key to Customer Success
By Joshua Thayer, Sr. Inbound Marketing Manager
In every customer journey, there are pivotal moments that determine the likelihood of customer success. In these moments, learning experiences can drive customer engagement and momentum. This post takes a closer look at why and how to make it work.
The Ultimate Guide to Customer Onboarding
By Christina Perricone, Content Strategist
If you’re looking for step-by-step guidelines to develop a case for customer onboarding, this long-form post provides all the details you need to create a compelling game plan. It begins with a simple definition of customer onboarding and statistical evidence of its business value. Other sections are devoted to onboarding best practices, how-to tips, metrics and real-world examples, as well as advice about how to avoid common missteps. A great resource to keep handy as a quick reference in the future.
The Delightful Secret of Successful User Onboarding
By Pulkit Agrawal, CEO
An acceptable annual churn rate is 5-7%, yet more than 30% of SaaS companies face churn rates of 10% or more. That’s simply not sufficient to grow a sustainable business. So, what can companies do to turn new users into lasting customers? This post uses real-world examples to illustrate precisely how “aha” moments in onboarding make all the difference in customer adoption, retention and lifetime value.
Customer Education is Your Onboarding Scale Engine
By Adam Avramescu, Head of Customer Education & Training
Research reveals that weak onboarding is the biggest cause of customer churn in the SaaS industry, representing 23% of attrition – more than poor relationship management, product deficiencies and other common issues. What is a “mature” onboarding strategy and how can it help you avoid this fate? And how can you bring together multiple learning elements to create an effective onboarding mix? Adam offers valuable food for thought.
76 Tips to Optimize User Onboarding
By Ty Magnin, Director of Marketing
Don’t let the length of this embedded Slideshare deck intimidate you. This chunky compilation of best practices reflects in-depth analysis of 400 real-world onboarding experiences and it’s worth reading from front to back. Why? Because onboarding is 2.6x more important for retention than any other customer journey metric. Plus, strong onboarding drives 74% more bottom-line revenue than later stages in the customer lifecycle. Fortunately, these tips are straightforward, so you can easily imagine how to apply them in your own environment.
PRODUCT TRAINING STRATEGIES AND TECHNOLOGIES
How Much Education Does Your Marketing Require?
by Jeannie Walters, CEO, 360Connext
(Published on the Litmos blog)
We know that integrating education with marketing increases conversion rates, but what does that mean for ongoing business? Continuously sharing product-related tips, reference tools and other information helps keep customers engaged and up-to-date, while also helping them discover other products they might value.
Why In-App Onboarding Deserves a Spot On Your Product Roadmap
By Shaun Juncal, Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Have you considered using in-app tools to support customer onboarding? If so, you may wonder if they’ll compete for precious development resources with must-have features on your product roadmap. Fortunately, new code-free onboarding tools are putting these worries to rest. Learn what to consider from a product manager’s perspective.
Creating Customer Learning Paths That Scale
(Published on TrainingIndustry.com)
By Linda Schwaber-Cohen, Senior Manager, Training
In today’s complex customer technology stacks, educational content is often distributed across multiple systems – each with unique owners and processes for development, maintenance and expansion. In this kind of environment, how can you address customer needs as your company grows?
The Missing Piece of the Software Adoption Puzzle
by Kevin Hanegan, VP Knowledge and Learning
Organizations everywhere are discovering the benefits of moving from traditional software ownership to cloud-based subscription models. They’re also facing significant user adoption challenges as users struggle to keep up with continuous software improvements. To stay ahead of the curve, organizations must rethink learning strategies.
Finding the Right Mix of Application and Context Training for Customer Success
By Barry Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder
As training becomes a more integral part of the software customer success playbook, two distinct learning delivery mechanisms are emerging: contextual learning and application learning. What’s the difference and how can you make them work for your customers?
How to Price Customer Education When Customers Expect It to Be Free
by Bill Cushard, Director of Marketing
Should you charge customers outright for training, or should that cost be built into the cost of your product? The answer to this question is tricky and often highly strategic. This article looks closely at the pros and cons of treating training as a direct source of revenue, versus a path to customer adoption, renewal and growth.
Why Connected Experiences Are So Critical – And So Difficult
By Peter Gaylord, Senior Director, Product Marketing
Today’s customers have remarkably high standards for engagement. For example, 70% of survey respondents said that connected experiences are “very important” in winning their business. That’s a tall order in today’s multi-channel digital environment. This article offers insight into just how big the challenge is.
8 Ways Training Automation Helps Attract, Onboard and Retain Customers
By Peter Schroeder, Head of Marketing
How can training automation help your organization more effectively attract new customers, facilitate onboarding and every other step in the customer lifecycle? Using real-world stories as examples, this article explores 8 ways that customer training technology can lead to significant business benefits.
Why Software Companies Should Develop a Certification Program
by Julia Borgini, Content Marketer and Copywriter
Professional certifications are growing in popularity among associations and other continuing education providers. But how exactly do certification programs enhance customer education and add business value? This post looks at 8 reasons why product certifications can be a smart strategy.
Customer Education and Your Customer Health Score
By Linda Schwaber-Cohen, Senior Manager, Training
The correlation between customer education and lifetime value is compelling. For example, trained customers use SaaS products 135% more, on average, than those who aren’t trained. Training is also linked to longer and more profitable customer relationships. So how can you take this data one step further, as an indicator of customer health? Interesting.
LESSONS DIRECTLY FROM THE CUSTOMER TRAINING FRONT LINES
How Fender Guitars Is Solving a Product Adoption Problem
By Bill Cushard, Director of Marketing
Your company doesn’t have to be in the technology industry to benefit from customer education. Fender is a perfect example. Electric guitar sales are fading fast. And 90% of new players quit within the first year of buying a guitar. This case offers specific recommendations for any organization facing similar obstacles.
12 Brands That Nail Customer Education With Video
What does great customer education actually look like? Check these onboarding videos from some of the brightest minds in customer success. From consumer product companies like Oral-B and Ikea to B2B brands like Slack and Canva, you’re bound to find inspiration somewhere in this collection.
How Gainsight Built Customer Success Into The Onboarding Process
By Kendra McClanahan, Customer Success Solutions Architect
Gainsight is a leader in the customer success space. So what does this company do during the onboarding phase to facilitate customer success with its own product? The strategy emphasizes sales-to-service knowledge transfer, a “success for all” philosophy, in-person kickstart training and a mix of high-touch and low-touch methods.
How Product Education Plays a Critical Role in the Customer Journey at Intercom
By Ashley Minogue, Director of Growth
OpenView Venture Partners
These notes from an interview with the head of product education at messaging software company Intercom reveal multiple factors that contribute to customer success. In particular, this focuses on 5 steps to a winning product education strategy. Key takeaway: If you’re serious about increasing product adoption, create cross-functional teams that focus on relevant activation metrics.
My Growth Story: Building HubSpot Academy
By Mark Kilens, Leader of Hubspot Academy
How does the leader in inbound marketing software educate its own customers? This is the story of why an early brand advocate decided to join the Hubspot team and how he created a compelling learning experience that empowers other marketing professionals to succeed. This isn’t just a nostalgic nod to a successful program. It’s an epic saga with lessons for learning, marketing and customer experience professionals everywhere.
Wow. If you made it through this entire reading list, you’re definitely ready to master customer education! Did you find these resources as interesting and helpful as we did? What other resources would you recommend? If you have helpful customer education advice or a case study you’d like to share, feel free to send us a link. We always appreciate hearing ideas from other customer training enthusiasts.
Thanks for reading!
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There is tremendous diversity among the nearly 700 learning management systems available today. And when customer education is a top priority, it pays for organizations to choose an LMS designed specifically for that purpose.
What exactly are the business benefits of choosing a specialized learning management system (rather than an employee-oriented LMS) to support customer learning initiatives?
Join John Leh, Talented Learning lead analyst and CEO, and Terry Lydon, VP of Training Operations Projects at Litmos, as they explain the value of choosing an externally focused LMS. Specifically, they discuss: You’ll learn:
- How to quantify the benefits of customer learning
- Which factors set a customer LMS apart from employee-focused platforms
- What case studies reveal about the value of customer learning technology
- How to find the best LMS for your customers’ needs, and
- 5 areas of innovation unique to customer LMS solutions
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