Training is arguably the most important part of every customer success program, but customers don’t have the time to master your product like you want them to. Sometimes they put off training until it’s too late, which results in expensive support and unhappy customers.
The solution is to treat your training programs like your company’s products and insert a healthy dose of marketing to drive training consumption. Here are 22 marketing ideas that can turn uneducated customers into highly-trained advocates who would never think of replacing your product with anything else.
Market that next class The most important way to measure the success of your marketing is by how much training each individual consumes. An extraordinarily high percentage of your customers will take one class and never come back.
They all need more to be successful, so how do you get them to take more? First, you need to map out training paths so that you (and they) always know the next logical class. If they take class A, then what is class B? Or, more likely, if they take class A, then what is class B1, B2 or B3? We’d love for everything to fall neatly into a linear sequence, but that’s usually not the case, especially with more advanced training. However, at the introductory level, there needs to be a sequence, and as a marketer, you need to know what it is. Because, after they take class A, then you need to let them know about class B. And the faster you do that, the better. See why in #2...
Never Forget the Law of Recency and Frequency If you ever wonder when the best time to market the next class is, just remember the law of RFM, which stands for "Recency," "Frequency," & "Monetary." This is a marketing guideline that says the more recently a customer has purchased something, the more likely they are to want more. The same goes for frequency. The more frequently they purchase, the more likely they will purchase more. And last, the bigger their purchases (Monetary), the more likely they will purchase more. All of this is to say that you should strike while the iron is hot and know that it’s never too early to market the next class. So, if they finish a class today, then tomorrow is the best time to market the next class.
Bundle Training into Packages If you want customers to consume more training, then bundle it into larger packages that logically fit together. Watch Amazon.com. That company does a great job of upselling with its “Frequently bought together” suggestions. As a marketer, it’s easy to be a big fan of Amazon because the company puts extraordinary effort into developing ideas that drive more consumption.
Consider All-You-Can-Eat If you charge for training, then your customers may be picky about what training they invest in. One reason is the painful process of getting approval every time they buy a class. If that’s the case, then the all-you-can-eat concept—offering all-access options for the entire selection of your learning— can be very attractive. They only have to get approval once, which gives them the perception that they’re getting a great deal. You probably generate more training revenue AND, more importantly, your customers consume more training and get more value out of your product.
Sell Training Credits and Vouchers If you want to avoid all-you-can-eat, then consider training credits, vouchers, or subscriptions as alternatives. These aren’t as risky as buffet pricing, because you’re basically substituting cash for credits, but it’s attractive to customers because it’s convenient and feels good when it’s discounted. Many of the largest and most successful tech companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco and Citrix, sell training credits because it increases training revenue and gets more people trained.
Build a Great Certification Program If you don’t have a certification program yet, it’s time to start working on one. There’s nothing else like it, especially for tech companies. Nothing else has the potential to increase training consumption, customer loyalty, customer success, product adoption and customer retention, all in one program.
The trick is to build a certification program that customers can get excited about: something that will improve their individual careers and make them a better user of your product. In the meantime, while they strive for certification, they consume around 50 percent more training and develop a tighter bond with your product.
Use Email to Keep Training Top of Mind I don’t know about you, but I never have time for much training. Short-term projects and needs always seem to get in the way. But constant learning really is the key to long-term success. Just look at the biggest over-achievers on the planet, such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah. As busy as they are, they carve out 5 hours a week for training. Most of your customers are more like you and me. They still need a gentle nudge that encourages them to make time for training. The best and the most cost-effective nudge comes in the form of emails. There are a million ways to use emails for marketing. Here are just a few...
Try "Drip" Campaigns A good drip campaign is continuous communication that adds value and reminds customers about the training that’s available to them. The keys to success with drip campaigns are to deliver small doses on a regular basis and avoid being intrusive. "Drip" just a little bit at a time and always add value.
For instance, if they just took course A, then immediately send a preview of course B. Next week, send an email promoting something else that would be valuable to them, like a recording of a recent webinar. The following week, send them a link to an article related to the course they took. The following week, send a link to the entire course catalog and invite them to browse for other relevant training. Of course, you’ll have to determine the right level of communication so that it’s not too much or too often.
Automate Your Marketing Many of these suggestions can’t be accomplished without some form of marketing automation. There are hundreds of systems to choose from and many of them will do the most important thing, which is lead-nurturing and drip campaigns. Look at proven tools such as Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot. There are also lower cost and simpler systems such as Act—On and ActiveCampaign that will do most of what you need.
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Preview Your Courses It takes a lot of time to watch a long movie, but I always have the time to watch the preview of a movie. And if I like the preview, I’m much more likely to find the time to watch the whole movie. The same applies to training. Most of the customers who browse your training won’t actually decide to buy anything. But if you can get them to watch a preview of the course, they are much more likely to take the course.
The preview you show can be as simple as offering the first section of an elearning course or it could be as elaborate as a one-minute promotional video. Regardless, previews will increase training consumption. If you have to, start small and do just a little bit at a time, but definitely try it. Just make sure you have a learning management system (LMS) with preview technology built in.
Run Webinars Regularly If you’re training your customers, then it’s a good bet that webinars were one of the first things you added to your training mix. There’s no faster, more cost-effective way to get training to a lot of customers. Plus, each webinar recording becomes an asset you can continue to reuse, remarket, and repackage in the future. For marketers, webinars are the gift that keeps on giving.
Get Managers to Assign Training Which of these two things would make you more likely to sign up for training? A call from me or a call from your boss? Nobody is better at convincing you to get trained than your direct supervisor. That’s why it’s so important for marketers to focus some of their marketing efforts on managers and getting buy-in about the importance of training.
Also, managers need to know which of their direct reports are getting the training they need and which are not. Managers also need a super easy way to reach out and congratulate those who are getting trained and remind those who are falling behind. Much of this can be automated or made easy through an advanced LMS.
Don’t Forget the Executives If you want managers to encourage training, then company executives need to be on the same page. If you get executive buy-in, then everything else becomes easier. When executives realize the importance of your product on their success and understand the role of training in that product, then it’s a no-brainer. Suddenly, those invisible roadblocks disappear and, remarkably, training consumption and—eventually—customer satisfaction go up as well.
Mix Up Your Training & Repurpose the Good Stuff No two customers are alike, and no two students are alike. We all learn differently. Some of us are visual, some auditory, some kinesthetic. Some of us want live training, while some want recorded videos or something to read.
If you can cover that variety of learning styles, then you will deliver a lot more training. The best way to do this is to develop a repurposing strategy where you put a lot of effort into developing core content, then repurpose it into multiple media. The hard part is developing the core content. But once you have that, then everything else becomes easy, while you carve it up and make it available in different formats. For instance, you could develop one elearning course, then repurpose it into bite-sized chunks of videos, documents, blogs, instructor-led courses, and webinars.
Pursue Referrals All salespeople agree that the best lead is a referral. But how do you encourage more referrals? The best way is to stop being shy about asking for them. Most customers want to help you if they like what you have to offer. It’s just not top of mind for them unless you ask.
So, consider this: Include a question on your course evaluation asking who else at their company needs this training. If that’s not encouraging enough, then offer incentives or even a raffle for a bigger prize. This really works. I know of a training company that generated over 10,000 referrals in just a few years. To this day, the referral program is still their highest performing and least expensive source of leads.
Work with Your Customer Service & Customer Success Teams Do your customer-facing personnel realize the importance of training? Do your customer service reps know that if their customers get training, then their job will get easier? Do your customer success people know that a better trained customer is inevitably a more successful customer? If they do, then they should always know what training their customers need and continuously encourage them to invest time in it.
Brand Your Training Branding is a subtle thing and not very well understood by most people, including marketers. A good brand makes buyers more confident that their time and money will be well spent, and a badly executed brand erodes buyer confidence and causes indecision. The most important component of a strong brand is the perceived quality and reputation of your product, but the other complementary side is visual branding: The consistency of the logo, colors, fonts, writing, and style in general—the personality of the brand. If all of this is done right, it definitely helps. If it’s done wrong, it hurts.
Reach out to Marketing While reading all this, you might be saying, “I know very little about marketing and nobody on my team does either.” If that’s the case, then it’s important to get close with someone in the marketing department.
They can help you in many ways, but you need something to offer them in return to make it a winwin. For instance, if your organization is really good at creating quality content, that could be your stock in trade. Marketers always need more quality content to help sell your products, so help them out. Work with marketing to develop pre-sales training that shows how easy the product is to use. Or, simply help them develop better marketing videos to show how your product solves their problems. That way, they will be more than happy to help you with marketing activities that come with a steep learning curve—such as marketing automation.
Make Training Easy to Buy One of the worst things that can happen is that a customer looks for training that they desperately need and then goes home empty-handed because they either couldn’t find it or got frustrated because it was taking too much time.
This happens more than you might think. It's like that adage: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” The same is true for marketing. If we had more time, we would make it easier for customers to buy. We would make it easier to find training, register for training, and consume training. But it’s really hard to make something easy. It takes empathy and a desire to make life easier for our customers. It takes walking a mile in their Nike Airs and really understanding how they look at the world. Until you do that, you're putting up obstacles on the way to the consumption of your training.
Create Urgency My days rarely turn out like I planned them. There’s always something getting in the way of doing the long-term important stuff. For instance, I’ve tried to write this article for several weeks, but because it requires a lot of time and because there wasn’t a real deadline, all the urgent stuff got in the way.
Training is like that. It requires a lot of time and it tends to be put off and put off until it’s either forgotten or until a real deadline pops up. Because of this, you need to create a sense of urgency. That doesn’t mean making up false deadlines. It means being suggestive of urgency.
A great example of that is the phrases that you hear over and over in advertising: “Buy Now,” “Register Today,” or “There’s never been a better time...”. Marketers use these phrases because they really work and create a subtle sense of urgency.
Consider Gamification A few years ago, gamification was the hottest thing out there, but it’s subsided a little in recent years. However, at the very least, gamification is a great marketing tool. If you proudly show which individuals have participated in the most training and give out awards, then you can spur others to pump up their overall training efforts too.
Find New People to Train Training for customer onboarding is easy. You know who needs the training, so you go train them. But shortly thereafter, people leave and get replaced and teams grow and contract. You can consider these new arrivals as little untrained threats to customer success. Yet, it’s rare that your customers are banging on your door to tell you they have a new person who needs training.
It’s in your best interest to get ahead of this by being extremely proactive about finding out who has departed and who has replaced them. For some companies, the customer success team is responsible for this. Part of their monthly check-in with customers is to find the skills gaps and develop a plan to close them. Others don’t really address it and eventually pay the price with untrained customers and greater churn.
I know I've presented a lot of ideas here for you to consider and you can’t do them all, especially without a lot of marketing expertise on your team. I advise you to start small. Pick one or two that look easy and do a little bit at a time. I've seen it over and over: You will start showing results. Eventually, you can get more resources as training consumption grow and, in the end, customer success will grow as well.
About the author:
Gordon Johnson, author of "The Ultimate Guide to LMS Marketing," has industry expertise in learning management systems, learning engagement platforms and content management systems and consults organizations on their marketing plan development, analyst relations, lead generation and pricing and packaging. Communicate with Gordon at email@example.com.
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