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Customer Education is the New Marketing Strategy

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on October 17, 2017

I do not have scientific evidence to support this claim, but I argue that customer education teams at fast-growing SaaS companies produce as much, or more, content than any other team. And this is saying a lot when you consider that content is usually produced by marketing, communications, product, and sales enablement teams. Not only does customer education produce a large volume of content, the content it creates is likely to be the most useful for buyers of your product compared to other content your company produces. 

Think about what effective training content is: content that explains how a product works in the context of a customer's work, focuses on essential use cases, and admits flaws and helps customers with work arounds so customers can get the most out of the content. Content from marketing and product is overly positive, hides flaws, and is two or three steps removed from being useful enough for someone to understand how it will impact their work or to understand why they should purchase the product.

We need more education in marketing 

If Gartner is correct and 57% of a B2B buyer decision is made before engaging with a supplier (that's you), then that means buyers are doing a lot of research and learning and have mostly made up their minds before they contact your sales team. Maybe they don't even find your company in their research because all of your good content, the stuff that explains how your product works in the real world, is gated and saved for customers.

Ask your sales and marketing teams if they are experience this problem.

I wonder what they will say. 

Customer education teams have a huge opportunity to support the sales and marketing process in order to help land more deals and at a faster rate by making some education content available to prospects. 

I am not the only one saying this. 

Think bigger about education

"If you think about your customer education program exclusively as a post-sales tool, then you're not thinking big enough," writes Adam Avramescu, Director of Optiverse and Customer Education at Optimizely in a recent Linkedin article. Customer education can "complement your content marketing programs as a tool to generate awareness and increase market share," he says.

Ask your marketing team if they would like help with that. 

To be more specific about what education content can do this, Adam argues that product documentation and knowledge base articles should be discoverable by anyone and published behind a customer log on screen. Optimizely's Knowledge Base is the most visited web property that Optimizely owns, outside of the marketing site and the product itself. Prospective buyers can find the knowledge base and get a first-hand look at the quality of content and support they will get if/when they purchase the product.

I recommend you read Adam's article to read more about this and other examples of how Optimizley and HubSpot use education to influence prospective buyers. 

Education builds trust 

Sumeru Chatterjee, instructional designer at Addepar, agrees. "The best customer education programs help promote the entire space, not just your tool. Think of a photography course by Adobe – they're teaching you how to be a better photographer, and naturally introduce Photoshop as a tool."

This is what HubSpot Academy is famous for, offering an Inbound Marketing Certification for non-HubSpot customers. HubSpot does this because it knows many of these certified inbound marketers will buy HubSpot.

Customer education leaders are sitting on a gold mine of content that can be used to help potential buyers become buyers. Customer education leaders that want to establish themselves as a strategic and trusted function at their company, should starting making plans to leverage their capabilities in using content to driving action in people. In this case, I argue, we want to use education content to help potential customers become customers.

[ Webinar] Customer Education: A Self-Perpetuating Marketing Strategy for Growth

To dive more deeply into this topic, we are hosting a webinar on October 31, 2017 to talk to Adam Avramescu about some of his work on using customer education for non-customers to improving marketing and sales results. We will talk about different examples for how you can use your education content to help your marketing team. Customer education as a marketing strategy might just be your way to position your team as a strategic part of growing your company. Join the webinar and ask your questions. Get as much out of it as you can. Register now!

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Originally published Oct 17, 2017 11:54:03 PM, updated Oct 18, 2017