Properly educating your customers on all things related to your product is no walk in the park.
The challenges you’ll face along the way include capturing the attention of your audience, creating a catalog of educational resources, and closely monitoring how your curriculum is serving your users.
Fortunately, this process can be broken down into more manageable steps that will enable you to cover all the bases of quality customer education.
So, read on and find out how you can build a great SaaS customer education program in just six steps.
Set the Goals of Your Education Program
Your education program should always have a concrete goal in sight, preferably one that aligns well with the general business goals your company is trying to achieve.
Otherwise, it’s going to be very difficult to measure the outcomes of your program and identify aspects of the curriculum that need improvement.
A helpful tool to apply here is the SMART model for goal setting.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s take a look at some customer education goals that fit into the SMART framework and can align well with the company’s business strategy.
Here they are:
- Improving product adoption
- Maximizing customer success
- Scaling customer support
As scaling customer support is a common goal in the SaaS industry, we can analyze it further to see why and make sure it checks all the SMART boxes.
Growing companies need to scale their customer support with the growth of their customer base.
However, hiring more support reps isn’t always the best option because it’s too resource-intensive and time-consuming.
The better option is to invest in a customer education program to reduce the workload of the support team and thereby increase the number of customers the team can handle.
“Reducing the workload of the support team” is a clear and specific goal, so we already have the “specific” part down.
The goal is measurable because we can track the number of incoming customer support tickets during the education program.
If the ticket volume is shrinking, that can indicate the program is a success.
The attainability of this goal will depend on how you set it. Clearly, having zero support tickets isn’t achievable.
The better option might be to aim for a reduction that will keep the team’s workload manageable with a growing number of customers.
Two requirements left.
Remember, we’re scaling customer support to allow the customer base to grow without sacrificing support quality, so this goal is definitely relevant to a broader business goal.
Finally, this can be a time-bound goal if you set a time frame during which you plan to achieve the desired reduction in tickets. For example, 50% in one year.
And there you have it. We’ve successfully proven that scaling customer support is a SMART goal for your customer education program.
So, once you develop a goal for your customer education program, run it through the SMART matrix to see if it’s worth pursuing.
Review Your Current Education Program
In many cases, building a customer education program actually means formalizing and systemizing the education resources you already have and putting them to work toward a specific goal (like we described in the previous section.)
But, in order to do that, you’ll first have to catalog the materials you have on hand so that you can identify the gaps that need to be filled.
These materials can include:
- Product documentation
- Video tutorials
- Blog posts
- Customer support scripts
- Marketing and promotional materials
- Anything else that’s meant for customer consumption and has educational value
Since these resources might be dated or no longer valid, it’s also a good idea to have an expert from the relevant department review the resources and approve or modify them for renewed use.
For example, you can go over your old blog posts to see which ones still reflect the procedures in your company or features of your product.
Once you identify the outdated ones, you can archive or update them.
Additionally, you can also see if you have any data about how users have interacted with your educational resources in the past, whether they found them helpful, and if they asked for specific resources you could add to your program.
For example, HubSpot’s YouTube channel provides a wealth of user feedback where viewers talk about what they like about the learning resources and what kind of content they’d like to see in the future. That’s actionable data that can drive future education program development.
With your educational materials cataloged, user-tested, and updated, you’ll have a great foundation to build an educational program without having to create materials from scratch.
Design the Education Program’s Curriculum
Once you have your educational materials sorted and your goals clearly defined, it’s time to organize your customer education program into stages and design a curriculum.
A good way to handle this step is to think about what users need and what problems they’re facing during their journey with your product.
One tactic might be to design a curriculum that corresponds to the stages of your product adoption process, as these stages reflect the changing needs and skill level of your customer.
For example, since users aren’t actually interacting with your product during the Awareness stage because they’re just hearing about it for the first time, the curriculum can start with some quality content about the industry your product serves.
You can share expert advice that can help the future customer work more efficiently and advance their career and establish yourself as a thought leader.
Let’s revisit HubSpot’s YouTube channel for a great example. HubSpot often shares short educational videos that help people working in marketing attain their goals.
Apart from providing your audience with some great tips, this will also allow you to slowly work your product into the content and start educating future users on how it can help them in their work.
Remember, you don’t have to provide any instructions for product use yet, only a context in which the product will be used.
More focus on the product, its uses, value for users, and commonly experienced issues will come later in the curriculum (and the adoption process) as the user interacts more and more with the software.
The point here is to find out what the objectives, touchpoints, and problems of every adoption stage are and then develop a strategy to educate the user and support them as they “graduate” every stage of the process.
Choose How to Educate Your Customers
Where user education is concerned, the format can be just as important as the knowledge content you’re trying to share with your users.
That’s because different formats leverage different principles that advance the learning process and facilitate understanding in your users at different stages of their journey with your product.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
During the awareness and interest phases of the adoption process, users are best served with casual resources that are easy to absorb and focused on imparting industry tips and career advice.
This includes video channels (like we saw from HubSpot) but also company blogs (longer format) and social media posts (short format.)
These channels offer light yet informative content, which is important at this stage, as overloading your audience when they’ve still not converted might turn them away.
After a user makes the buy-in, they’ll need more focused guidance and practical information because their goal in these evaluation and trial stages is learning to use the product itself.
Interactive resources, such as product walkthroughs, are a great format for these purposes because they enable users to learn by doing.
If you couple interactive learning with a comprehensive product knowledge base with instructions relevant to usage, issue resolution, and customization, the user will be completely supported as they learn how to use the product and integrate it into their routine.
Here’s a great example of such a knowledge base built with Archbee, the documentation tool specifically designed for SaaS product documentation needs.
Finally, when customers become expert users of the product, there’s no reason for the education to stop.
You can still share advanced knowledge from top experts in your company and beyond and take on a more conversational approach to learning.
Webinars are the perfect format for that as these often include active participation and Q&As where users (experts themselves) can contribute to knowledge sharing.
The great thing about customer education is that it offers a wealth of learning formats and platforms.
Don’t miss out on opportunities to educate, engage, and delight your users and leverage the resources we outlined here.
Create Engaging Educational Content
Once it’s time to sit down and start creating content that follows your strategy and fits into the formats you’ve chosen to use in your education efforts, there are a couple of good practices to follow.
The first one is to be as atomic as possible with the knowledge you want to share. That means talking about one and only one thing in each content piece you create.
For example, Slack’s knowledge base has a section dedicated to channels and how they’re used.
That’s a better tactic than just making an enormous article that holds every bit of information about channels because that kind of content would exhaust and confuse readers, as well as make it extremely difficult to find a single piece of information.
Instead, users who need to know, for instance, how to join a channel can quickly find and read a short article on that subject alone.
Another good idea is to stop thinking about content as a rigid, immovable structure. Instead, you can repurpose and share it on multiple channels for the widest possible reach.
For example, you can write an informative blog article that covers a topic in-depth and then break it down into short, shareable nuggets of wisdom for your social media channels.
Ahrefs, the all-in-one SEO tool, is an expert here. Its marketing team often repurposes blog posts like this one about holiday SEO tips:
The highlights from these articles find their way to the company’s social media, where they are used to provide quick tips and spread awareness about their products and services.
By repurposing educational content, you’ll be able to easily expand the quantity of resources at your disposal for informing users, while also providing a boost for your marketing and sales efforts since this tactic allows you to reach audience members at all stages of the sales funnel.
Remember, user education works best when it comes in small increments from multiple channels that enable you to deliver impactful pieces of knowledge that stay with users for a long time.
Evaluate the Success of Your Education Program
To circle back to this article’s initial arguments, your customer education program needs to be goal-oriented and have measurable outcomes for you to be sure it’s actually making an impact.
However, as a SaaS product provider, you’re very rarely in direct contact with your users, so it can be difficult to judge how successful your education program is.
Fortunately, there are some objective key performance indicators (KPIs) you can rely on to accurately measure the effectiveness of your education efforts.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of metrics you can track for this purpose:
- Qualitative metrics, which provide insights into how users are feeling about the program.
- Quantitative metrics that measure the impact of the program on company goals.
Qualitative metrics include various methods of collecting feedback and acting on it to provide users with what they need to be better informed about your product.
For example, if you maintain a presence on social media, you can monitor what people are saying about your educational resources.
In this case, the helpful feedback could prompt the team at Stripe to improve the navigation features of their knowledge base to facilitate user learning and thus improve the education program.
Quantitative measuring, on the other hand, often utilizes analytics software and cold, hard data to learn what kind of impact the education program has on the goals of the program.
An example of this would be tracking the number of monthly active users (MAU) as an indicator of whether the education program was successful in helping users adopt the product and integrate it into their routine.
If you really want to know how successful your program is in educating users, use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to keep a close eye on how useful customers find the knowledge you’re passing on to them.
We hope that this article has shown you that building a great SaaS customer education program isn’t an impossible or daunting task.
Start slowly and follow the steps we outlined here to gradually build a strong, goal-oriented curriculum that will keep your customers happy and successful and your company steadily growing.