While customer training is scaleable and has big cost advantages over traditional in-person training, there are inevitably some costs.
For example, as your program grows, you’ll need to hire more people.
Similarly, as you really start to scale and train more customers, a learning management system (LMS) will go from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” one.
For newer teams, combine these costs with customer training’s relatively nascent status compared to other departments, namely Sales, Marketing and Services, and it can sometimes be mistaken as a cost center vs. a profit center (i.e., it doesn’t have any true impact on the bottom line).
For more established customer training teams, this generally isn’t a problem and proving the impact of this training on mission-critical key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer retention, customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV) becomes easier over time.
But for teams at the beginning of their journey, proving value can be a challenge. Maintaining leadership buy-in and securing budget even more so.
So, the question becomes: “How can I prove that customer training gives more than it takes?”
Here’s how to turn customer training into a money maker for your business.
Charge for More Advanced Courses
While you may be offering most of your customer training program for free, that doesn't mean it all has to be that way.
If you look at many training programs, much of the free content revolves around higher-level topics — think 101-level content like this “Introduction to Documents” course from Zenefits or “Goal Setting with Daymond John” from Shopify.
For Zenefits and Shopify, these courses deliver value to customers and prospects alike.
For Zenefits, it gives new customers an easy-to-access guide on how to get started, helping it decrease time-to-value.
For Shopify, bringing Daymond John to the table to talk about a topic related to its core offering, helps it establish credibility.
But just because there’s value to be had offering content for free doesn’t mean you should discount your ability to charge for it.
The courses below from the Shopify Partner Academy are only accessible to logged-in users.
Most of the time, the “paid” or “gated” content revolves around more advanced features or strategies that hold more weight, like an industry certification or a course on a super-advanced feature a customer will want to take their program to the next level.
Customer Training = Upsell Opportunities
There’s an oft-cited stat floating around the Internet that states that acquiring a new customer can cost 5x more than retaining one.
Is that true?
Who knows — and Wharton Marketing Professor, Peter Fader, doesn’t care, saying, “Decisions about customer acquisition, retention and development shouldn’t be driven by cost considerations — they should be based on future value.”
Still, I think we can all agree that retaining a customer is in some way less expensive than acquiring a new one.
To that end, retaining and growing key accounts should be at the top of your to-do list daily.
A great way to do that is to offer customer training content.
Here’s an example from HubSpot that perfectly illustrates how that’s done:
For HubSpot, these courses provide the intrinsic value it aims to offer with The HubSpot Academy, but at the same time, could push a customer one step further into its product (i.e., a customer using HubSpot’s Marketing Hub could enquire about how its Sales team could benefit from the software).
If that customer decides to up expand the ways it uses HubSpot, that’s more money in their pocket. And it all came from offering a course available in its academy.
Drive Leads, Thought Leadership and Organic Growth
For years, lead generation has come through the same channels, including, but not limited to, social media, email, events and search ads.
Are these effective ways to generate leads?
Absolutely and they should remain in your marketing toolbox moving forward.
But there’s another stream opening up at the mouth of the river you may not be considering: Customer training.
A public-facing customer training program can be an extremely powerful way to establish your company and its employees as thought leaders, generate leads and grow organically.
While customer training may not also be viewed as an organic growth engine, HubSpot’s proved it can be just that.
By providing so much value in The HubSpot Academy, HubSpot has built an incredible amount of authority in its respective industry, and over time — customer training is a long-term play — firmly entrenched itself in the consideration set by companies big and small.
It does this in two ways:
- HubSpot’s authority and credibility around Inbound Sales, Marketing and Services software mean that people immediately think of it when starting their search (i.e., it goes right into their consideration set).
- Those who don’t immediately add HubSpot will likely come across a piece of HubSpot’s customer training content when searching online. Here’s what comes up for me when I typed “Marketing software” into Google.
See the potential impact here?
Customer Training: The Ultimate Money Maker
While it’s hard to deny that the startup costs and growing pains will entail some costs, so too does starting any other program.
When thinking about customer training from a more holistic perspective and considering the role it plays throughout the customer journey, it becomes clear that it can have a profit-boosting impact, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.