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How Intercom Redesigned Its Customer Education Strategy

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on August 21, 2019

If you are a SaaS business with a product-led growth strategy, a product education team is non-negotiable, says Ashley Murphy, former director of growth at OpenView. She goes on to say, “Product education, it turns out, is an often overlooked but critical part of a company’s success with all stages of the customer lifecycle: onboarding, activation, retention, and expansion.” But don’t just take Minogue’s word for it, though you should. Also listen to Ruairi Galavan, senior manager of product education at Intercom in this excellent piece by Minogue on the OpenView blog

You should read this article because Galavan talks about five parts of a good education strategy that I think you should adopt. Do a “save-as” on his strategy and design your own. I won’t cover all five steps, you should read the article for that. I will, however, mention two points that struck me as most important. 

Your takeaways might be different. 

These are mine.

Strategy evolves

It is such a good lesson that a strategy is a working document, and it should change over time. That’s what Galavan is doing. The education team at Intercom was originally organized by competency…writers over here, video editing over there, UX designers behind you there, etc. After the team took a step back, they identified an opportunity to organize by customer journey stage. According to Galavan, half of the team is now focused on conversion and activation and the other half is focused on retention and expansion. I love this. It provides focus. In fact, if you have read The Learndot Guide to Customer Education Strategy Design, you know that getting the goal right is the first step in the customer education strategy design process. 

Plus, it is quite possible the content needs for learning are different for people in an early stage with your product than they are for customers in a later stage.

I think you would agree.

Lesson: Strategy is not fixed. It is a tool you can use to adapt to your environment.

If you are a SaaS business with a product-led growth strategy, a product education team is non-negotiable, says Ashley Murphy, former director of growth at OpenView

Start with metrics

The second lesson I learned is to start with the metrics. We customer education professionals gravitate towards solving problems with training content first. This is understandable because if all else fails, if we can help a customers learn our product features, a customer will likely be better off and more satisfied. But this approach does not mean we delivered the right training or that the right results where achieved. And just because a customer says they need to learn something, doesn’t mean that is what they should learn. Galavan’s team had a realization that they should focus on specific metrics related to product activation and not just on helping customers learn certain important features. Galavan even says, “If we could have done one thing differently, I would have thought about activation metrics a lot sooner.”

Starting with specific metrics that matter most to your company, radically clarifies what you focus on. Who knew?

This is a good reminder for me because too often I “know” that if I can just help customers learn this feature or that feature, that they will be better off. The question I can overlook is, “If a customer uses this feature better (or more often), will our most important outcome be achieved?” 

Maybe not. 

That is why starting off a strategy design process determining the best metrics to focus on is just about the most important thing you can do. 

Lesson: Starting with specific metrics that matter most to your company, radically clarifies what you focus on.

That's what I learned. What did you learn?

Those are two takeaways for me. What are yours? After you read the article, comment below what you learned. What will you try tomorrow or do differently? I will think about organizing education teams by customer journey steps. 

I think that is genius. 

Design your customer education strategy

You may be an innovator or an early adopter, read this article, and want to go all in. I understand your impulse. My Kolbe A Index shows that I am a 9 on the Quick Start categories, which means I am "uniquely able to take on future-oriented challenged." And that I will "say 'Yes' before I even know the end of the question." You might be like that too. I urge you to take a deep breath and go through the process of designing your customer education strategy. Take that energy and direct it towards documenting your strategy. If you do that, it will make execution the easy part. 

For helping going through that design process, download The Learndot Guide to Customer Education Strategy Design. It will not slow you down. It will speed you up.

Get the Guide