Written by: Bill Cushard
Customer education is a marketing strategy and customer education teams should report to marketing. This is not to say that education must (or should only) report to marketing, just that customer (or product) education can be an excellent fit for a new marketing function that would live as a peer to other marketing disciplines including product marketing, content marketing, and event marketing to name of few.
However, this decision depends heavily on your business needs and priorities.
Just this week, I met with a software company to talk about how we can help them develop and execute their education strategy. The two people I spoke to were not trainers, instructional designers, training managers, or VPs of education services. Neither had any background in education. One heads up developer relations and the other one leads marketing.
Think about this for a moment.
This company is about to invest in customer education and the technology to enable it, and there is not an education professional in sight. Their primary concern is education precisely, but to help their ecosystem of developers learn what is possible with their product, with an end goal of helping these people to one day become customers. Education is the means for doing that.
Your customers might not be developers. Your customers might be marketers, project managers, accounts receivable specialists, editors, graphic designers, product managers, sales reps, or even HR business partners. The point here is that if you know who your audience is, you can offer them education to help them do their jobs better by using your product and turn many of these people into customers.
If your priorities are anything like the ones listed above, you should consider putting your education team in marketing. Here's why.
Having customer education in marketing brings marketing closer to the customer. If a marketing team runs live training courses or creates self-paced, eLearning, and/or in-product education content, a much deeper and broader knowledge of customers is needed than what a marketing team is used to. Learning opportunities that education specialists create are focused on outcomes by the very nature of the instructional design.
The purpose of customer education is to sell. Education is selling features. Education is selling the reasons why a product exists and why people in a course should care. Education is selling your brand. Customer education teams don’t call it selling. Customer education teams dislike the entire idea of selling. But software training professionals are always selling, even if all they are doing is teaching. Sounds like marketing.
Customer marketing and subscription marketing are all about educating customers on the value they get from your product, so that they renew and expand their relationship with you. No one is more equipped to do that than a software education specialist.
Education as a marketing function is already happening. It is not new. What’s been happening is that fast-growing software companies know that helping customers discover, adopt, and thrive using their software, creates more loyal customers. Education helps growth.
Add this topic to your next executive team meeting agenda and discuss it. If your priorities are to generate demand, increase conversions from free to paid accounts, increase product use, and even create a market of talented people who know how to use your product (so your customers have someone to hire), you might consider a little reorganization.
Contact us to learn more.
Originally published: August 15th, 2019