EPISODE 71: Succeeding With Free Customer Education
Raghu Viswanathan, VP, MongoDB
If you sell products of any kind, you probably offer customers some sort of instruction. But should you charge them directly for training and guidance? When does it make sense to offer free customer education?
These are tough questions for many companies to answer. That’s why I’m turning to an expert — Raghu Viswanathan, Vice President, Education, Academia and Documentation at MongoDB. Raghu has a wealth of first-hand knowledge and advice to share about how to package and price customer education, specifically in B2B settings.
So please join us as we explore this topic on The Talented Learning Show…
How to Succeed With Free Customer Education – KEY TAKEAWAYS
- Customer education comes in various forms. However, after proving its value during the pandemic, online learning is an increasingly popular choice among many organizations.
- No matter what combination of learning experiences and resources you provide, it’s worth considering the business benefits of offering free customer education. As MongoDB has found, this is especially useful in serving a large, global, technically savvy audience.
- When packaging and pricing customer education, think strategically. What does your brand stand for? What is the ideal customer journey? Would charging upfront be short-sighted? Every company will answer these questions differently. But think holistically about how educational pricing fits into your overall business model.
How to Succeed With Free Customer Education – Q&A HIGHLIGHTS
Welcome, Raghu. For those who may not be familiar with MongoDB, could you give us a brief introduction?
Absolutely, John. MongoDB is a leader in the nonrelational data space. These days, we’re surrounded by data. But people may not realize that 80% of the data we encounter is unstructured. Think of digital images, video, sound. All of these are unstructured data that don’t fit into traditional spreadsheet rows and columns.
This makes building modern, data-based applications challenging. But MongoDB is at the forefront. We make this process faster and easier with Atlas, our core cloud database, and a set of integrated technologies for building around a multidimensional database.
We believe very strongly in developers because they are where innovation is. Also, they sometimes make technology buying decisions or provide recommendations.
So, we’re passionate about doing whatever we can to make developers successful. That’s why we reach out to developers early and establish relationships with them as quickly as possible.
And the numbers speak for themselves. For example, more than 140,000 developers join us every month. Our software has been downloaded over 400 million times. And MongoDB currently has about 45,000 customers.
Those numbers suggest the power of the technology and the enablement we provide. And of course, education plays a critical role in everything we do to help developers succeed.
Find out how other companies are achieving more with learning systems that create business value. Get inspiration from dozens of success stories in our free LMS Case Study Directory…
It must be challenging to educate such a large, technically sophisticated audience. Tell us more about that…
Yeah. Education is critical because if we help people become knowledgeable, they’ll embrace our technology. So we believe education is multidimensional. Different people like to learn differently, and we want to meet people on their terms.
So our education department has four areas:
1. MongoDB Documentation
This is our product documentation. But it’s critical because it’s the first go-to stop for developers who want to read up on something. So this is where we provide a comprehensive overview of all our features and functions across all of our products.
2. MongoDB University
This is our online training business where people can watch videos and learn directly from an expert. This is free and frictionless. We also include hands-on labs where developers can practice the technology. Plus, we have quizzes and knowledge checks to help people validate their knowledge. And on top of that, we offer formal certification for those who want us to vouch for their MongoDB knowledge and skills.
3. MongoDB Academia
This is our higher education outreach program. We want professors to teach MongoDB because we want to capture the hearts and minds of future developers — and they are today’s students at colleges and universities.
4. MongoDB Press
This is a collection of MongoDB-sanctioned technical books that help developers stay current on our technology. Over the years, we’ve found that people still rely on books to learn. The value of books doesn’t go away. So we offer ebooks, print books, and other informational resources.
So, with multi-dimensional education, you can read it, you can watch it, you can try it, you can achieve it. And now, we offer a new way to learn which we call “ask it.” That is simply a generative AI-based chatbot experience where you can engage directly with us. You just ask conversational questions in plain English and we’ll respond with the information you want.
Want to learn about Thought Industries LMS? Check out the vendor profile in our Learning Systems Directory for a hot-take review by John Leh, along with an in-depth demo, capabilities details, videos, screenshots, case studies and insights.
Love it. So tell us more about the “free and frictionless” concept. How does that play itself out in your customer education programs?
At MongoDB, all of our digital learning is completely free, straight up. That’s because we believe the more knowledge people have about our product, the more they start to use it. And when they start to use our product, they’ll eventually buy it.
This mindset comes from MongoDB’s open-source roots, where it’s okay to give people content and software. Let people use it and see the value of it. Then, the right thing follows, from a financial point of view.
The free philosophy is something I applaud. But what I applaud even more is our effort to take that to a frictionless level. So we not only offer free customer education, but we don’t even ask for your email address.
Sometimes you’ll find companies that say an experience is free, but they won’t give you access to content unless you share your email. Here, no email is required whatsoever, because we want to remove every barrier.
This is a great approach because we need to appeal to everybody. Sometimes people want quick access. They don’t want to go through a lot of barriers to find what they want — even if it’s free.
For us, this philosophy has paid off in a big way, because it has driven usage of our product and our trials. Ultimately, it leads to an economic outcome that helps the company.
Right. But at some point in the journey, I imagine it helps to know an individual’s identity. When does that happen?
For us, access to content is always frictionless. But when you want to do a hands-on lab exercise, you have to log into Atlas at some point. That’s when we need to know who you are.
Also, if you want to track your learning progress and earn a certificate from us, then you need to share your identity with us, so we can verify that you completed the material.
Otherwise, you can operate anonymously and learn as much as you want in our environment.
Wow. That’s almost unheard of. I love that hands-on “try it” concept. How hard was it to set up and support that kind of practice lab environment?…
…For complete answers to this question and more about how to succeed when offering free customer education, listen to the full 30-minute podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Google Podcasts, on Spotify, or right here on our site.
Find out about Thought Industries LMS!
Want to find out about the platform that helps Raghu and his team at MongoDB offer free customer education? Check out our Learning Systems Directory for the Thought Industries vendor profile, including the product review, other case studies, and more. Or visit the Thought Industries website.
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