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November 23, 2022
7 min
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The Customer Education Growth Framework

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The number one CEO priority in 2022 is growth. According to the PWC CEO Survey, 88% of global CEOs say organic growth is their top priority. Growth is often prioritized over profitability, especially in the early years, before net revenue retention rates (NRR) takes over and revenue from renewals exceeds revenue from new business. Since growth is a priority, customer education teams need to align themselves with this growth mandate and make it a priority as well.

Customer Education Can Drive Company Growth

Customer education teams know this, but I argue that we only address growth indirectly. Our approach is to engage in activities that help customers learn our software with some future hope that growth will follow. "Educated customers are good customers," we say. But we don't necessarily think about this in terms of driving growth.

To add to our challenge, the culture in most of our companies reflect that growth comes from sales and marketing. Maybe product management. And if you are in the rarified air of enlightened companies, customer success is a growth contributor. Customer education teams are generally not put in the category of a growth team. This is why I believe we should ask ourselves, "How can customer education get a seat at the table?"

We do not have a seat at the table because we do not have a framework for communicating and delivering company growth.

A New Framework for Customer Education

I propose a framework that all customer education teams can use to figure out how to drive company growth. Here is a summary of our Customer Education Growth Framework:

  1. Enable customers
  2. Grow customers
  3. Win customers
  4. Create markets

In each phase, we list ideas for what activities an individual can perform. This is not an exhaustive list, but a starter kit. Each phase of the framework also has a measurement bar which is a way to answer the following question: how do we know if we are making progress?

There is no prescription about where to start or how to progress through the phases. You could start anywhere. The main point of this framework is to help you think about how you would structure an intentional strategy for driving growth at your company.

Now that we understand the high level framework, and how we might use it, let's go through each phase.

Enable Customers

Our first priority in customer education is to enable customers to use our product. This is the foundational task of customer education. When we enable customers, we believe they will be capable of using our product to perform the job they hired us to help them perform. There are many ways to enable customers:

  • Product training: This is the functional use of the product; what you'd expect to teach customers. For example, how to use product features.
  • Onboarding: This is not just about training. This is also about getting customers kicked-off, implemented, and set up to be self-sufficient.
  • Teaching customers your methodologies: There are two methodologies that are relevant here. First is the job methodology your product was designed to address. Every software product was designed to address a certain way of doing something. Your method for the new way of working needs to be taught to customers. Second is your roll-out methodology. You know how successful customers implement your software. Teach that to customers and set them up for success.

How will you know if you have enabled customers? What will you measure? In general, you should measure product use: whether, how, and how much a customer is using your product. Ultimately, you want to also measure whether this "use" is leading towards the value metrics your customer set to accomplish when they first purchased your product.

Grow Customers

Growing customers is about helping customers grow in their use and adoption of your product. That could be more use cases, more products, more integrations, more teams, more outcomes, more projects.

There are three ways customer education teams can help grow customers.

  1. What's possible: Here we help customers learn and understand all that is possible with our product. Not all at once, but over time. Most customers bought your software for a small number of core use cases. And even if they bought your software for everything it can do, customers often fall into habits and use the minimal number of features or use cases. Our job in customer education is to help customers learn not only what is possible but also what else is possible.
  2. Jobs to be done: We should help customers understand all the different jobs they can do with our product. This is different from use cases. Reporting is an example. Your project management software product is not a reporting tool, but every one of your customers will have to run reports and present the data in meetings. Help customers do that job.
  3. Challenge customers: You should help customers work the right way. Most of your customers have habits and ways of working. They try to fit their existing way of working into your software, which was designed for a new way of working. Help your customers see a new way when applicable. Challenge them to work differently. Think differently. Your training content should communicate, "You are used to doing things this way. It's actually better to do things this way. Here's why. See, look at how much better life can be if you do things this way."

If you do these things, how will you know whether it's working? Expansion. If your customers are growing, they should need to buy more from you. This could be reflected in NRR, additional product purchases, more users, premium support add-ons, and professional services to name a few ideas.

Win Customers

Win customers is the third phase of the ServiceRocket Customer Education Growth Framework. Here we help people become customers by offering training to non-customers. Training is a form of sales and marketing in the sense that we create educational content about our product, the technology, the domain, and/or the jobs to be done, and then promote these to interested parties who may become customers. We invite everyone to our training courses.

Everyone who attends training courses is a potential new customer. Not only are we educating the market on our product, but we are earning trust by helping people learn something new, something they can do differently, and better.

How will we know if this works? How will we measure success? Two ways. First is with closed deals. We should look at how many opportunities we are winning among people who complete public training. Second, we should measure sales velocity. Do deals close faster with people who take our public training?

Create Markets

If we can help create new markets, we can create new demand for our products. This is the ultimate place to be and customer education teams can have a direct impact on generating new demand. With certification programs, we can help create a virtuous cycle of:

  • People who want to earn a certification and put it on their Linkedin profile
  • Hiring managers who list your certifications on their job descriptions
  • Companies (software buyers) who send people to your certification courses, so they can get the most out of their investment in your product.

Look at any credible list of top technology certifications and ask yourself whether someone can get a job in those domains without one of those certifications. That's how valuable the certification is.

How do we measure this? Two ways. By counting the number of people we certify, and counting the number of job descriptions that list our certification in them.

Learn More

ServiceRocket’s Customer Education Growth Framework is a tool for designing a customer education strategy that aligns with the growth priorities of your company. It also gives you a means for how to communicate your strategy to your executive team when they ask what else can be done to grow the business.

Faced with that question, you can answer that you will implement customer education and:

1) Enable customers

4) Grow existing customers

5) Win new customers

6) Create new markets for customers that need to buy our software.

Contact us to learn more about improving your organization's maturity model and customer education operations.

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