Trust plays a significant role in the relationship between customers and brands. When you can earn that trust, people are more inclined to listen to your company as a credible resource of knowledge.
The key to building trust is the helpful content you create and the way you deliver information. Your main goal is to set your customers up for success.
And that's where customer education comes in.
What Is Customer Education?
Customer education focuses on equipping your customers with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
It’s a process of knowledge transfer that begins with onboarding and continues throughout a customer's lifespan, providing value to them along the way.
The customer education you provide can help solve customer problems before they become problems. Customer education is a must for modern businesses.
Customer education takes on various forms, but it is mostly used to capture the attention of online and in-store customers to help engage them in the buying process.
It's related to marketing, but it is not the same. Most marketing messages try to persuade individuals using emotion. Customer education simply provides relevant information to the consumer about a product or service.
Essentially, customer education is a full how-to guide that can help answer most (if not all) of customers' questions when they onboard. And, after the onboarding process, educational materials are rolled out as systems, products, or services get new updates.
Why Customer Education Matters
For a long time, businesses believed that educating customers meant they'd be more likely to search elsewhere and choose a competitor. Some companies even thought that providing a host of knowledge about products and services would give the customer too much leverage.
In recent years, this idea of customer education has changed to a more positive one that helps consumers build trust in your brand. Relaying educational messages to prospects helps increase your chances of selling your product or service.
Here are some reasons why customer education matters in B2B:
- It allows you to reduce overhead by automating onboarding with a one-to-many approach.
- It gives you the opportunity to proactively avoid common issues that cause support calls.
- It allows you to target a much wider audience, and that creates excitement around purchasing your product.
- It empowers your customers to be more effective in reaching their own business targets.
- It improves product adoption and onboarding.
- It means customers are more likely to remain loyal to your brand.
With an education program in place, buyers will understand that you offer unique value unlikely to be matched by your market rivals.
When you provide a thorough and effective education, it creates internal champions and “power users” who understand your solutions well – and wouldn’t want to go elsewhere.
Let's explore these benefits more by explaining the specifics of why a customer education strategy isn't just a want – it's a need.
Why You Need a Customer Education Strategy
If you’re involved in content marketing – or inbound marketing in general – then you already understand some key elements of educating your customers.
You need to develop helpful, informative content for them. Then, you have to monitor how that content is used and troubleshoot gaps based on observed activity.
Although these are core elements of customer education, there’s more to it than that.
You might ask why it’s vital to have a customer education strategy if you’re already able to provide training to customers on demand. The simple answer is that having a strategy in place helps your business be proactive rather than reactive.
- A reactive solution will have you developing ad-hoc, one-time answers to inquiries.
- A proactive program lets you comprehensively address common training problems.
The only way to ensure that you are being proactive with customers is to work on developing and implementing a strategy. This way you have clear guidelines and objectives each step of the way.
With a customer education strategy, you can make your team an asset by equipping them with all the necessary materials to give customers and prospects at the right time. Your strategy will help you to avoid dumping a bunch of useless and unnecessary information onto your customers.
Remember that not everyone absorbs information the same way, so your strategy should include the channels you will use to distribute your educational materials.
Providing every customer with a 300-page ebook about all your products and services may decrease customer satisfaction. Of course, you don't want this, which is why you must have a strategy that is well-thought out for your specific buyer personas.
The key to a good education strategy is providing the right materials at the right time in the format your customer enjoy most.
The main way to start developing your strategy is to get an accurate idea of the questions and problems prospects and customers have, and then figuring out how to close the gap with educational content.
How can you get there? Let’s review the first steps in architecting a customer education strategy.
4 Steps for Developing a Customer Education Strategy
Here are four steps that you can take to begin developing an awesome customer education strategy:
1. Identify the Central Goal of Your Customer Education Program.
Although we mentioned onboarding above, automating educational customer touchpoints is only one of the potential advantages of customer education. For a strategy that’s successful and cohesive, you need to start by clarifying what your main goals are.
If a program has more than three major goals, some will always end up taking a back seat.
So, what can educating customers do for you?
There are several possibilities:
- Provide additional sales or revenue focused around training products.
- Reduce help desk calls that customers make to your support division.
- Lessen the time your services team spends on training your customers.
- Improve total product usage and feature usage on your B2B solution.
- Increase renewal rates and upsells (higher tiers and more features).
- Generate better customer outcomes traceable directly to the product.
Remember that customer education picks up where your marketing leaves off. You don’t want to weigh down your education strategy with a general responsibility for informing prospects or qualifying leads.
Instead, zoom in on KPIs related to lifetime customer value.
2. Examine Your Product’s Post-Sales Ecosystem.
Needs analysis in customer education starts with support. In general, support is the main point of contact for customers who aren’t getting the desired value out of their purchase.
In some cases, B2B enterprises provide a dedicated support manager to each customer. If this is how you roll, you’ll always want to loop these folks in for needs analysis, too.
Most customer support calls come in just four flavors:
- The user encountered an error message within the product.
- The user doesn’t know how to perform a desired action.
- The user forgot how to perform the action they wanted.
- The user wants a feature that doesn’t exist in the product.
Of these, three out of four can be handled with additional customer education. Wow!
Support teams will be able to tell you what specific errors are being generated and what features provoke confusion in your users. While changing and adding features is often the the long-term solution, helping customers feel confident with the product can raise satisfaction overnight.
If you have a SaaS platform or similar solution and receive detailed in-app feedback, comb over that as well to get deeper insights.
Features used frequently are typically the most helpful and/or most intuitive. When a feature is widely avoided, that signals questions in need of answers.
3. Dig Into Customer Renewal Feedback.
Securing renewals is an essential part of a healthy SaaS business.
That’s especially true for those who don’t make money on a customer for the first few years!
Without a customer education program in place, customers usually drift away from a product over time. The information you provided at onboarding becomes outdated, and more new hires enter the company, diluting the number of people who feel truly comfortable with the offering.
In fact, a lot of organizations have it perfectly backwards from here: They rely on the hope customers will develop their own internal knowledge groups – maybe even attend a branded conference – and make a dedicated effort to stay abreast of changes.
If you’re the top industry leader, with little competition, this may happen.
For the most part, though, knowledge drift suppresses use of your product. That, in turn, makes it far more likely that once-satisfied customers will look for an alternative.
With a customer education program, you’re giving an incentive to stay loyal – higher productivity. Without one, you’re relying on the fact that switching is a hassle.
When customers decline to renew, organizations generally collect some feedback. Ask yourself:
- What reasons have customers given for failing to renew?
- What warning signs predict that a customer won’t renew?
- What reasons have customers given for choosing to renew?
If the answers to these questions aren’t clear, you need mechanisms for more granular feedback. While longer, more insightful surveys are helpful, it’s not always easy to get former customers to sit down and fill them out. The best approach is regular check-ins with current customers.
While some customers might think of feedback requests as a hassle, many will be glad to have their voice heard before small problems become big ones. That’s especially true if you make concrete changes based on the experiences customers have shared with you.
4. Prioritize and Validate Your Findings.
Sometimes, providing concrete and discoverable answers to just four or five questions eliminates half your support calls. Other times, you might find that you need to cover a variety of broad topics in some detail before you’ll make a dent in customers’ needs.
Whatever the case, it’s time to get together around the table and hash out:
- What are the most common questions we need to educate current customers about?
- What are the most pressing questions that will have the biggest impact on customers?
- What is the best way to deliver customer education content to our current user base?
- What knowledge resources do we have right now that can get us started on content?
From here, your content team can collaborate with your tech team to develop new materials focused on your existing customers. Video content and interactive walkthroughs are two content types especially suited for customer education.
3 Brands With Inspiring Customer Education Examples
Can't think of any concrete examples of customer education in action? Take a look at how these successful companies take advantage of customer education.
Apple is a brand that provides customer education in the best way. They show that they are the best at educating customers about their products with the set up of their stores.
Most stores may let you see a product in its packaging or out of the box behind a cash wrap, but Apple allows its customers to demo all products to see how they work in-store.
In addition to this, they also have courses online through LearnQuest! What's a better way to help consumers who struggle using Apple technology than providing an interactive course?
2. Burt's Bees
Burt's Bees is the No. 2 brand of chapstick in the United States. They use educational videos that discuss the bees that make help make their products possible and their company's history.
These videos go back 10 years, and they have views well into the millions.
They also provide general product tips and share information from Burt with tutorials. Their website contains a good deal of educational content too.
On their site, they include information about where they source their products from, their standards, and practices.
3. Whole Foods
Whole Foods is a fan favorite when it comes to healthy and organic food shopping, but their food options aren't enough to make them unique. Instead, they provide educational value to their customers by maintaining and updating their "tips and ideas" portion of their website.
This section of their website is a place for them to share recipes and tips that help keep their consumers healthy. They also help educate their audience on new local food vendors to promote shopping local.
In addition to their online tips and recipes, they have informational banners up around their store to explain topics related to sustainable sourcing and the taste of some of their unique products.
Customer education is an ever-evolving strategy that lives and breathes as a part of your success. This means it needs constant care and attention. So shower your customer education strategy with updates, tweaks, and reevaluations.
Soon, your new strategy will give your customers the background they need to love your products or services!