Tuesday, July 31, 2018

This isn't the product education you're customers are looking for

I received this email from a company offering free training. It is for a product I think is excellent and from a company I think is as cool and forward-looking and disruptive as it gets. So, I mean this as no criticism whatsoever.

Product Education Bill Cushard


I hear this a lot when I speak with software companies about their customer education plans. "Our customers won't spend time in training." "Training needs to be short and sweet." "It's all about microlearning." And they cite the obvious dictum that attention spans are the lowest they've ever been.

OK. Fine. Fair enough.

But when I see a training class of 30 minutes, I know already I am not going to learn anything. For starters, you cannot learn much in 30 minutes, especially when the instructors starts 5 minutes late waiting for the late comers to "Join the Zoom." Then the trainer is going to take 7 minutes to introduce the topic and do an "About the Company" pitch.

I also know they have crammed way too many topics into the 30 minutes to give any meaningful treatment to them.

Finally, if our software is as disruptive as we promise it is (or even close), does anyone really think we should trust that customers can learn to change how they work, by using our product, in less than 30 minutes? It's inconceivable. Yet I see it every day. We should have more respect for our customers than this. We should help them do their jobs better. Which we obviously cannot do in 18 minutes. What are your thoughts on this issue?

p.s. - Don't get me started on free training. The definition of free is zero value. p.s.s. - By the way, if our attention spans are so short, how can we binge watch Netflix for 24 straight hours without taking a bathroom break. For me, it would be sitting through Lohengrin at La Scala.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Be like Intercom: Design the right customer education strategy

If you are a SaaS business with a product-led growth strategy, a product education team is non-negotiable, says Ashley Minogue, director of growth at OpenView. She goes on to say, “Product education, it turns out, is an often overlooked but critical part of a company’s success with all stages of the customer lifecycle: onboarding, activation, retention, and expansion.” But don’t just take Minogue’s word for it, though you should. Also listen to Ruairi Galavan, senior manager of product education at Intercom in this excellent piece by Minogue on the OpenView blog.

You should read this article because Galavan talks about five parts of a good education strategy that I think you should adopt, do a “save-as” on, and design your own. I won’t cover all five steps, you should read the article for that. I will, however, mention two points that stuck me as most important.

Your takeaways might be different.

These are mine.

Strategy evolves

It is such a good lesson that a strategy is a working document, and it should change over time. That’s what Galavan is doing. The education team at intercom was originally organized by competency…writers over here, video editing over there, UX designers behind you there, etc. After the team took a step back, they identified an opportunity to organize by customer journey stage. According to Galavan, half of the team is now focused on conversation and activation and the other half is focused on retention and expansion. I love this. It provides focus. Plus, it is quite possible the content needs for learning are different for people in an early stage with your product than they are for customers in a later stage.

I think you would agree.

Lesson: Strategy is not fixed. It is a tool you can use to better adapt to your environment.
If you are a SaaS business with a product-led growth strategy, a product education team is non-negotiable, says Ashley Minogue, director of growth at OpenView

Start with metrics

The second lesson I learned is to start with the metrics. We customer education professionals gravitate towards solving problems with training content first. This is understandable because if all else fails, if we can help a customers learn our product features, a customer will likely be better off and more satisfied. But this approach does not mean we delivered the right training or that the right results where achieved. And just because a customer says they need to learn something, doesn’t mean that is what they should learn. Galavan’s team had a realization that they should focus on specific metrics related to product activation and not just on helping customers learn certain important features. Galavan even says, “If we could have done one thing differently, I would have thought above activation metrics a lot sooner.”
Starting with specific metrics that matter most to your company, radically clarifies what you focus on. Who knew?
This is a good reminder for me because too often I “know” that if I can just help customers learn this feature or that feature, that they will be better off. The question I can overlook is, “If a customer uses this feature better (or more often) will the main, most important outcome be achieved?”

Maybe not.

That is why starting off a strategy design process determining the best metrics to focus on is just about the most important thing you can do.

Lesson: Starting with specific metrics that matter most to your company, radically clarifies what you focus on.

That's what I learned. What did you learn?

Those are two takeaways for me. What are yours? After you read the article, comment below what you learned. What will you try tomorrow or do differently? I will think about organizing education teams by customer journey steps.

I think that is genius. 

Workshop: How to design your customer education strategy

Speaking of customer education strategy, I am hosting a customer education strategy design workshop in Palo Alto on Thursday, August 2. In it you will actually start designing your strategy. You will walk away with a first draft, at least. We will spend the day together working through a process of discovering customer journey steps where education could make an impact, define the metrics you will target, goals for improving those metrics, and then develop a roadmap for how you will achieve those goals. This is a working session, so bring a pen. I’ll supply the workbook and some food.