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Fender Guitars Has a Customer Adoption Problem and It's Using Customer Education to Solve It

Posted by Bill Cushard on Nov 9, 2017 3:57:41 PM

Fender has an adoption problem. Here are the stats. As reported in The Verge, ten years ago, 1.5 million electric guitars were sold. Today, it is down to one million. That's bad, but it gets worse. Fender discovered that 90% of all new guitar players quit in the first 12 months of purchasing a guitar. If you were thinking of going to the guitar business and saw those numbers, you would open up an online bookstore, figuring you'd have a better chance competing against Amazon.

It is not just Fender. Other guitar manufacturers and guitar retailers, like the Guitar Center, are facing this problem.

The good news about problems is that they can be solved, and Fender is taking action with customer education. 

Fender recently launched Fender Play, an online learning platform to help people learn to play the guitar. Fender Play has video tutorials that walk people through how to play the songs they love. Not only that, the lessons are structured, and students can track their progress.

Sound familiar?

This story is a "mind-blown" moment for me, even though in retrospect, it is obvious. Fender understands that if it wants to grow, it needs to help people learn the skill of playing the guitar, which people are interested in learning. The solution to the problem is not so much about a better product or lower prices or social media campaigns or creative promotions. Because 90% of people who buy a guitar quit playing, the the solution lies in the post-sales experience of achieving an outcome of playing ones favorite songs.

Fender is choosing an education solution.

There are several thought-provoking questions for software companies about how to use education beyond on-boarding existing customers.

Outcome-based learning 

The tag line at the top of the Fender Play page says, "Play your first song in minutes." New guitar players do not care about learning how to play the guitar. They don't care about frets. They don't care about the difference between the high E string and the low E string. And they definitely do not care about sus chords. All they care about is that they can play Love Me Do or Sweet Caroline. The entire site is geared towards helping people learn to play the songs they love.

Playing a favorite song is the outcome. 

Lesson: Software companies should spend way more time helping customers learn how to achieve the outcome they are after, not how to configure a screen. 

Addressing a specific problem

Fender went to the data and did some research on guitar adoption. The numbers did not look good, but they did not stop at the numbers. They asked why guitar sales were falling, and that is when they discovered how many people bought a guitar and then quit playing in the first year. Fender did some research to find out why this problem was occurring and designed a solution to address the problem specifically. 

Lesson: Software companies should target education at specific use cases, outcomes, and problems, rather than say, "Our customers needs training, so let's design a course to show them how to use the product."

Own the learning experience

Fender could have told people to go to YouTube or tell people to find a music instructor or tried to sell more music instruction books in its stores, but Fender would have been too far from the experience to understand the experience customers were having, whether it was working, or have any influence at all over the quality of the leanring. By building its own learning platform, it creates a complete brand experience (not udemy.com/learnfender) and build a direct relationship with customers over time. 

Lesson: Software companies should want to both help people learn how to use its software, but also develop a relationship with people in the process. A software cannot do that effectively without building a branded learning experience that prosepects and customers can participate in. Software companies need to own the learning experience, not send people to YouTube or Stack Overflow. 

Charging a subscription fee

Fender charges a subscription fee for Fender Play that starts at $19.99 per month. Fender's attitude is not that they want to help customers adopt Fender guitars so the education needs to be free or otherwise bundled in withe the purchase of a guitar. Quite to opposite. Fender Play is a high quality, feature rich offering that demonstrates to customers a certain value worth paying for. When customers pay, they have more incentive to use the product; and therefore, learn the guitar.

Lesson 1: Software companies need to eliminate the attitude that education should be free because it is a service that should be included with the purchase of a product. Free means worth nothing. Why would a customer want something from you that is worthless? 

Lesson 2: Don't you want to say to your management team that you increased MRR from both retained customers and a new recurring revenue stream? 

What is your guitar adoption problem?

The question you need to answer is this, "What is our guitar adoption problem?" Said another way, "What job do our customers need done, that we need to help them do, so that someday they will need to buy our software to do it?" This is a serious question that requires a serious answer. The answer changes everything about how you look at customer education. Because now it is no longer about features. It is about helping customers play their favorite songs. 


Webinar: Software Adoption Crash Course for Customer Education Leaders

Speaking of adoption, Maria Manning-Chapman, vice president of education services research at TSIA, will be our guest on our upcoming webinar. She will talk about why customer education is ideal for driving adoption and how to do it. Manning-Chapman will talk about the research she has been conducting, and how you can leverage your customer education progams to drive customer adoption. Sign up now. 

Register Now

Topics: Fender Guitars, Software Adoption, Customer Adoption, Customer Education, Fender Play, Customer Success

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Bill Cushard

Written by Bill Cushard

Bill Cushard covers the intersection of learning, software adoption, and customer success. His career has focused on helping companies adopt disruptive software through learning, change management, communications, and implementations that help people get the most out the software.

Bill Cushard is also the author of the 2018 book, The Art of Agile Marketing: A Practical Roadmap for Implementing Kanban and Scrum in Jira and Confluence.

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