Digital customer education has traditionally been tied to the post-sale stages of the customer journey—think onboarding and ongoing product adoption.
But training can pay dividends before a sale, leading to many more of them.
Here’s how to win more business with digital customer education—and how it can help you stand out from the crowd in the increasingly complex business world.
How to Stand Out from the Crowd with Digital Customer Education
So, how does training your customers help you stand out from the crowd and win more business, even in a down economy when buyers are slashing their budgets?
Three ways: It creates a competitive advantage, positions you as a thought leader, and speeds up—and streamlines—the buying process.
Most industries are ripe with competition—and if they aren’t already, they will be soon.
Just look at this grid courtesy of G2 of the marketing automation industry:
What truly differentiates HubSpot from Klaviyo? How about Mailchimp's All-in-One Marketing Platform and Salesforce?
Sure, they position themselves differently, and the feature sets aren’t carbon copies. Still, when it comes down to it, they fundamentally help their customers accomplish the same thing: automate marketing.
Historically, companies have competed on product features and pricing. Technology companies, in particular, adopted these points of differentiation to gain market share.
Apple, for example, sets itself apart with an easy-to-use UI. HubSpot shot to fame due largely to its laser focus on inbound marketing.
The proliferation of technology and low barriers to entry mean that anyone can start a business. Anyone can update their product and lower their price, too. This has stripped companies of opportunities to separate themselves during the buying process (and renewal talks).
There’s one huge opportunity left, though: digital customer education.
By offering a digital customer academy, you can provide in-market buyers (regardless of their stage of the buying journey) with valuable resources to help them make sense of the product and instill confidence that the post-sale experience will be just as great as the pre-sale one.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: Are you more likely to buy a product from a company you know has your back (via customer training) or one that’ll onboard you and then leave you out to dry with a traditional help center and occasional webinar?
Think of any well-established company.
HubSpot. Zoom. Ahrefs.
What do they have in common? They’re perpetually linked to their industry due in some part to their commitment to thought leadership; they understand that the most successful companies are the ones that tap into industry conversation and spark discussions that move people to act.
Thought leadership can help raise your company's profile and increase brand—and product—awareness. Publishing thought-provoking content on relevant platforms allows you to reach a wider audience, generate interest in your products or services, and position yourself as the utmost industry expert, which can be particularly valuable if you’re operating in an emerging and relatively unknown industry.
Thought leadership via digital customer education can come in many forms, including events like webinars and podcasts. Detailed blog articles about pain points, learning paths, and videos can also effectively engage buyers and create a genuine—and eventually profitable—connection.
That said, thought leadership shouldn’t be confined to the company’s owned-and-operated properties, e.g., their website and social channels. Employees should also get in on the action and insert their presence on platforms defaulted by buyers to influence their purchase decisions. According to LinkedIn, 75% of B2B buyersuse social media to make buying decisions.
Look at how much engagement a post from HubSpot’s Founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah, got. More than 2,000 likes (or some version), 54 comments, and almost 180 reposts.
Did any of that engagement directly drive revenue? It’s impossible to say. What I do know, however, is that the post kept HubSpot top of mind, positioned its product as the market leader, and formed connections with thousands of people—many of whom likely meet HubSpot’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
For in-market buyers, the simple post can influence their purchase decisions. It can influence current customers' decision to renew or the expansion opportunities down the road.
The down economy and pressure on companies to cut costs are slowing deals like never before.
Digital customer education can speed them up without diminishing the buying experience.
By providing educational resources to potential customers, you show them you’re committed to helping them make informed buying decisions, which builds trust and credibility. You also make it abundantly clear that you won’t leave them flapping in the wind post-implementation.
If you’re running your digital customer education program on the back of an LMS, your sales team can also access meaningful insights into learning behavior—for example, courses or content consumed—that can help them improve their pitches and ensure they’re highlighting the right talking points.
On top of that, a digital customer education program can level up your sellers and other customer-facing teams involved in the pre-sale process. The related resources can give them even more in-depth knowledge about the product, the challenges it solves for different industries, and talking points they can bring up during demos and meetings to resonate with prospects.
On Top of It All
There’s no denying that a digital customer education program can dramatically impact in-market buyers, but you’d be remiss not to keep in mind all the ways it can shine after the sale, especially regarding the scale and efficiency of customer-facing teams.
By providing relevant resources, you can help your customers better understand your product or service and unlock its true value—the one promised by your sales team.
Additional Outcomes of Digital Customer Education
- Improve Scale & Efficiency: Your customers can learn how to use your product or service independently, helping them become more self-sufficient without requiring hand-holding from CSMs and other customer-facing teams.
- Elevate the Customer Experience: Your customers have instant access to how-to guides, detailed courses, instructional videos, and full-fledged certification programs to make the most of their purchase—no waiting on hold or ad-hoc meeting required.
- Product/Feature Adoption: Provide your customers with the necessary resources to understand how and why to use your product and features daily.
- Better CSAT & NPS: Improve CSAT and NPS by providing customers with the information and support they need to unlock your product or service’s full value.
- Recurring Revenue: Create loyalty, trust, and a sticky product experience that encourages ongoing product adoption, upgrades, and upsells.
- Customer Retention: Offload training responsibilities from CSMs, enabling them to apply more time and energy to customer renewals and expansion.
- Lower Supper Costs: Better-trained customers submit fewer support tickets, increasing the support team's capacity and eliminating the need to increase headcount.
- Higher Win Rates: Prospects’ confidence improves when they see you invest in digital customer education and are committed to their long-term success with your product or service.
Whether you’re looking at the impact of digital customer education from the pre- or post-sales lens, the image is the same: The goal of digital customer education is to ensure your customers see the value of your product or service.
While that typically means product adoption—and ongoing engagement—after the sale, leading companies know that the customer experience starts well before someone signs the dotted line.
You can deliver value to your customers with digital education throughout their lifetime, which starts with optimizing the buying experience. That’s great for your customers but can help you stand out in a competitive market and win more business.