Get this: The HubSpot Academy has more than 550 lessons that roll up into 75 courses — 30 of which have full-fledged certifications available. Oh, and much of that content is available in 6 different languages. Yes, six. The HubSpot Academy is, without question, the undisputed leader in customer education. The gold standard of customer education strategy and execution, if you will.
So, let me ask you this:
If you were a chef, would you jump at the opportunity to learn from a chef with multiple Michelin stars? How about if your kid was getting into baseball and had a chance to take a lesson from an MLB All-Star?
Would you accept these invitations? Absolutely.
How about this one: As a customer education pro, how would you like to talk strategy with the leader of The HubSpot Academy? If you’re nodding your head, here’s your chance — albeit virtual — to do that.
Customer Education Strategy
1. Align Customer Education with Your Business’ Methodology
Customer education is no longer a siloed strategy. After years of isolation away from other key organizational departments, it’s now making its way to the front of the table, which means it’s imperative that any customer education program strategically ties into your overall business methodology.
To understand what this means, look at how everything in The HubSpot Academy ladders up into the inbound methodology and content flywheel. By doing this, HubSpot ensures that its learners receive a consistent message and experience around every corner — no matter when and where they’re learning from. This consistency keeps people coming back.
2. Use Blinders When Identifying Personas and Pain Points
Far too often, learning teams put too much on their plate during the beginning; they try to be everything to everyone. Sure, having all the answers and filling every educational gap in the company is a great end goal, but it shouldn’t be where you set your initial scope. Instead, start with your blinders on and focus on critical personas and pain points (i.e., what’s the most pressing need right now).
This is what HubSpot did in 2012 when it launched its academy. Instead of catering to all of its personas and their unique pain points, it set its sights on helping its customer success and sales teams close deals and onboard new customers to its Marketing Hub. Why? Because this was the most pressing challenge.
3. Create a Structured Content Creation Process
Customer education is a long-term play that’ll involve a long list of people. For these reasons, you must have a clear content creation process that enables you to hire quickly and create content at scale. Think about it this way: If every one of your content creators does things a little bit differently, you’re not only going to have strange things happening in the end product, but you won’t be able to grow your team as quickly. If you have a solid foundation on how things get done, then, Joe Schmo, who you hired 20 months after launch, can create the same way as the first person.
It’s not only about net-new content, though. It’s equally as important that you spend time updating existing content. You can have the coolest person on camera talking about the hottest topic, but if it’s not up to date and relevant to your audience in the moment, you’re going to miss the mark and engagement will drop off. You want to think about momentum versus spikes in your educational experiences.
Pro Tip from HubSpot
Create a central database that contains every piece of content in your academy. Include the current status, the owner, and most importantly, a tag indicating the product, type, and audience it’s associated with. With everything in one place, content creators can easily find, audit and update regularly.
4. Think about a Global Approach from the Start
Rarely would an upstart restaurant, hair salon or consulting business go from a single regional location to multiple locations around the world overnight. This is for obvious reasons. But what about a customer education program? Should an upstart team launching a program for a handful of local customers consider adopting a more global approach? (Think about what HubSpot does by creating content in multiple languages.)
The answer: Absolutely. It’s never too soon to take a customer education program global. In fact, you should start globalizing it from the ground up, so when the inevitable time comes down the road when you want to, you’re ahead of the curve and not faced with the monumental task of updating every single piece of content.
Did You Know? HubSpot has “localization” teams responsible for translating content into different languages and introducing contextual and regional examples. Not only has this helped HubSpot scale its content, but these teams act as boots-on-the-ground advocates, helping it to further cement a global strategy.
5. Use Certifications as a Growth Catalyst
Certifications are the catalyst for so many things, namely, the growth of a customer education program. Just ask HubSpot. Nearly half of its 75 courses ladder up to a certificate. By giving your customers the ability to round out their learning with something tangible, you’re creating a program that validates their skills, applies what they’ve learned and gives a boost to their personal brand and career.
It’s not only about validation, though. By offering certificates, you open the door for some serious word-of-mouth advertising. Think about when someone completes a HubSpot Certification. What do they do? Most of the time, they post about it on LinkedIn, where thousands of like-minded people could see it and ultimately become encouraged to take it.
6. Offer Something Tangible to Keep People Coming Back
One of the biggest challenges of customer education is getting people to come back. Whether it’s completing a course they started a few days ago or starting a new one that introduces a new feature, the long-term success of your academy relies on your ability to provide value in perpetuity. This is easier said than done, especially when there’s a myriad of learning solutions available. For example, someone using the HubSpot Academy isn’t only using that to learn about marketing and sales. They’re using other tools as well.
For HubSpot, the question becomes: How can we get these people consistently coming back to us? The answer revolves around offering something tangible — think certificates that expire and a never-ending library of educational content. It can also mean using automated workflows to deliver tailored content. For example, if HubSpot notices someone is struggling to publish a blog post, it could send them a lesson from its academy called “How to Write Great Blog Content.” By doing so, HubSpot is reengaging the learner, keeping them in its academy, and ultimately, using its tools.
Pro Tip from HubSpot
Set your certificates to expire to pull people back into your academy after a set period. Just make sure you’re updating the content and providing additional value. If you slip on this, they’re not going to come back and I don’t blame them.
Customer Education: The Newest Competitive Advantage
Between a competitive market environment and a macro-level shift from a transaction-oriented world to a subscription-based one that prioritizes retention and lifetime value, customer education is finally getting a seat at the head of the table. Today, companies that are going to be at the forefront of growth and taking category leadership positions will be the ones that invest heavily, not only in their product and their go-to-market strategy but in their customer experience. These customer education strategy tips from the head of The HubSpot Academy will help do that.
Continue the Conversation at INBOUND 2021
Want to learn more customer education strategies? Listen to Courtney Sembler, Head of The HubSpot Academy, and Steve Cornwell, Founder and CEO of Northpass, at INBOUND 2021.
Want the preamble? Listen to Courtney and Steve talk about customer education in this Fireside Chat.
Reach out today to learn more about how Northpass can help you launch or scale your online academy.