Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
When it comes to this famous Oscar Wilde saying, you’re in one of two groups:
You love it.
You hate it.
I’m in the former, especially when it comes to online training — and I think you should be, too.
Here’s why: You can see what other companies are doing and use their programs as a way to improve yours.
So, with that in mind, here are 11 companies that are doing online training right and what I love about each.
Slack: Personalized Training
To say Slack grew during the pandemic feels like the understatement of the 2020s.
In Q1 2021, Slack reported more than $200mm in revenue, a year-over-year increase of 50%.
For Slack, the surge was welcome, but for the millions of people using it for the first time, including end users and internal teams introducing it to their workforce, the learning curve was often steep.
If Slack wasn’t there to shallow the curve, both parties would consider the alternatives; there’s no shortage of them. (P.S. Retention is one of the biggest benefits of online training.)
Luckily for Slack’s users, its “Resources” section was within reach.
What I particularly like about Slack’s approach to online training is that it’s personalized — a click filters the content to deliver relevant resources.
By doing this, Slack makes it easy for users (or those interested in its product) to find the information they need.
No digging through a messy help center required.
Aherfs: Certificates FTW
As a content marketer, I rely on SEO tools, like ahrefs, to do my job.
To get the value out of ahrefs, however, I need to know how to use it; I need to be a power user.
Ahrefs said it best, “The best tools and data are worth nothing if you don’t know how to use them.”
While I love ahref’s entire academy, two aspects stick out:
The first is certificates.
By offering a certification, ahrefs provides a single source of truth users can rely on to learn the fundamentals.
At the same time, modules encourage engagement with its product.
Take this module on applying and interpreting SEO metrics. While its primary goal is to explain the tool, it also pushes people to engage.
Said another way, someone watching this module will likely go into ahrefs and apply these strategies.
I know I did.
The TradeDesk: Training Tailor-made for Executives
Name a more complex industry than ad tech.
I started my career here and let me tell you: The learning curve is steep.
For better or worse, advertising is unavoidable.
I’d argue it’s the biggest growth catalyst in today’s business world.
It’s why programmatic advertising is worth so much.
For The Trade Desk (TTD), one of the world’s biggest media buying platforms, success is tied to two things: People understanding the programmatic landscape and knowing how to use its product.
TTD’s resources make a complex and evolving world easier to understand. These articles, hilariously dubbed “What the Tech” are perfect examples.
That’s not what I want to call out, though.
What I really love about what TTD is doing with online training is that it’s tailored some of its strategy to executives.
Enter the Edge Academy, which provides people with “the expert, unbiased truth about the complexities in the industry to help you build confidence, drive real business outcomes, and advance your career.”
TTD’s less-traditional- but no-less-valuable use case for online training illustrates its flexibility and how companies can tailor it to any audience.
Mint: Using Online Training as a Money Maker
Mint, one of the world’s most popular budgeting tools, has one of the more impressive online training programs I’ve seen — and I love all of it. But for the sake of this article, I’ll call out the aspect I like the most: How it uses online learning as a source of revenue.
It does this by introducing customers using the free version of its service to features only available to those subscribing to Premium — think a message like “hey, we see you’re using this feature. Do you want to take advantage of it even more to improve your budget and save more? Give our premium subscription a try.”
At the same time, Mint uses lessons geared to advanced features, like “Transaction rules” to push users deeper into its product.
For Mint, this is the formula for greater lifetime value (LTV). Its course on importing TurboTax info aims to do the same thing.
Headspace: Training Made Easy
I’d group Headspace into the same group as Slack insofar as the demand for its product increased — thanks, COVID-related isolation — and an influx of users needed support.
Headspace answered that call (and continues to) with an incredibly intuitive resource hub — and I’m lovin’ it.
This personalized approach to learning is smart for two reasons:
- It considers the unique needs and challenges of its audience; a one-size-fits-all approach to online training won’t always work.
- It makes finding what you need easy. An impactful online training program isn’t just about content and strategy. It’s just as much about intuitiveness. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll head elsewhere.
Headspace provides relevant and timely content in a way that’s incredibly accessible. This is a recipe for online training success.
Grammarly: Training No Matter What
Grammarly has some of the most loyal and passionate fans.
While that has a lot to do with its product, it’s also a result of the experience it delivers with online training.
I like to think Grammarly takes a “do-it-at-all cost” approach to online learning.
Case and point: A featured article is about canceling a subscription. To me, this is the perfect example of providing customers with what they need regardless of the implications on your bottom line.
If it provides value to customers, Grammarly is making it available — this is what online training is all about.
Coming in a close second on my list of what I love about Grammarly’s online training strategy is its community. Log into LinkedIn and go to Grammarly’s page.
Not only is Grammarly one of the most “human” brands on LinkedIn (IMHO), but it brilliantly weaves training into its social strategy.
It posts about product updates.
It shares information on live events related to its product.
It sources feedback from customers.
Compass: One Academy; Three Use Cases
While online training has historically been an investment from learning teams at SaaS and gig companies, those aren’t the only ones that can benefit.
Compass is one of those companies.
The area I want to call out is the ways Compass is using online training.
Notice I said “ways.”
Compass doesn’t just use online training for one use case; its academy addresses three pain points and business objectives:
- To improve agent adoption of its tool
- To empower its agents to earn more
- To recruit more top-tier talent
Compass’ three-pronged approach to online training shows that it’s not a one-trick pony.
Companies across industry lines can use it to solve a variety of business objectives.
OpenSea: A Complex Topic, Simplified
Remember when I said the ad tech world is the most complex?
I’m going to take that back.
Cryptocurrency takes the cake.
Whenever I’m dealing with something complex, like NFTs, I put it through the “Andrew” test.
Can I understand it?
If the answer is “yes,” anyone can.
One of the benefits of online training is that companies can use it to demystify and simplify complex topics.
This is essential for OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces. If people don’t understand NFTs and users don’t know how to use its technology to buy and sell them, they won’t.
See the problem?
Take the article below: “Where can I check the history of an NFT?”
This article helps people interested in an NFT understand its history — a key step before they buy.
The “Articles in this section” sidebar adds a layer of intuitiveness by making it easy for people to navigate the article and answer all of their questions without having to bob and weave through a maze of content.
Similarly, OpenSea addresses academy engagement — one of the biggest challenges of online learning — with a “related articles” section.
Similar to how Amazon and other online marketplaces have a “you may also like…” section to push people deeper into their ecosystems and spend more, OpenSea uses it to get people further into its academy.
It’s a small step, but it has a big impact on engagement and LTV.
There are two additional parts of OpenSea’s strategy that I love:
The first is how it’s using chatbots.
By adding chatbot functionality, OpenSea provides “backup” if its resources, like the article above, don’t answer the person’s question or solve their problem.
Think of this as white-glove service people can use to get more personalized help.
Finally, I love OpenSea’s willingness to source feedback. By doing so, OpenSea is making sure its content is providing value. Using the example below, the fact that 10 people didn’t find this article helpful could lead OpenSea’s team to update it or deliver it differently — maybe a video would be more effective.
Sourcing feedback doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple yes or no question can go a long way in making sure you’re providing value.
Ellevest: A Different Take on Training
One of the biggest benefits of an online training program is that it allows companies, especially scaling ones, to deliver impactful content to a large group of people.
Companies in the gig economy, for example, can effectively deliver a consistent onboarding experience to millions of drivers.
That said, there’s still something special about sitting down — proverbial or not — and getting a true 1:1 experience.
That’s what Ellevest, a women-led investing app, is doing with online training by offering people coaching.
While this may be harder and more costly to scale, the experience Ellevest is creating and the steps they’re taking to truly deliver a personalized learning experience may be worth it.
This goes to show that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to online training. If it helps a target audience, it’s valuable.
HubSpot: No Introduction Needed
You didn’t think I’d leave HubSpot off the list of best online training programs, did you?
I hope not.
HubSpot’s the undisputed leader in online training and has been since it launched the HubSpot Academy more than a decade ago.
I could talk for days about what I love about the HubSpot Academy, but that’d turn this article into a novel.
So, I’ll start — and end — with this: The way HubSpot ties its academy to its inbound methodology is something to marvel at.
This is straight from its website: “As HubSpot’s official learning resource, HubSpot Academy aims to educate users on the HubSpot software, so they can market, sell, and grow an inbound business.”
Online training can’t act in a silo. In some way, shape or form, you must tie it back to the company's objectives.
Not only is this the only way to get people engaged with the content, but it’s the only way to maintain leadership buy-in.
You must be able to walk into the boardroom and show the leadership team how your online training program is helping the business grow.
If you can do that, you’ll shine. If you can’t, you’ll struggle to take flight.
Launch an Online Training Program with Northpass
Online learning comes in all shapes and sizes, but whatever the use case, one aspect must remain the same: It should be personalized and tailored to the audience you’re training.
Northpass can help with both.
Reach out today to learn how we can help you launch a connected online training program that helps you and your learners succeed.