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You Cannot Scale Customer Education Without These Two Roles

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on July 7, 2016

ServiceRocket hosting the Bay Area Customer Education Meetup by Adam Avramescu

Most customer education teams are small but still have several job roles to perform. Most teams, even the small ones, have the usual roles one would find in most training functions, including training delivery, training design, training coordination, and training management. Sometimes, one person fills all these roles.

Yikes.

As teams grow, some will add an LMS administrator and split the delivery and designer roles into specialties. That is usually as far as most customer education teams go. However, if a customer education team has plans to grow into a scalable business that supports the growth of the company, there are two roles that customer education teams need to consider, but too often over look. The first is sales and marketing. The second is operations.

This post discusses why each role is important and some of the responsbilities each roles should own.

Sales and Marketing

After the manager role defines the strategy, the designer creates the training, and the training coordinators place courses on the website, customers still need to discover them. And if they do not, the instructor will have nothing to deliver and the training coordinator will have no students to support. Enter the customer education sales and marketing role.

Training needs to be sold. Products just don't sell themselves. Not even your great training. Not even training that your customers have been screaming for. Because after the initial training sessions are delivered, those that fulfilled the backlog of pent-up demand for training from those squeaky customers, your class schedule can easily go unfilled. Training teams are left to wonder, "Where did all the customers go?"

Every customer education team needs the role of selling and marketing training.

When I talk about selling training, I don't mean you have to charge a fee for training. Your training could be free, as part of the service of your software. But someone still needs to get the word out about your training so people "sign up" and "complete" your training. This is why I call this a sales AND marketing role.

Let's look at each part of the role.

Marketing Responsibilities

Email marketing: This could mean adding information about your education programs in your existing company newsletter, or even creating a dedicated newsletter for how people learn your technology and what they can do with it. Another part of email marketing is directly emailing people about your offerings. Someone needs to write these emails, determine who should receive them, and measure how they are performing (driving people to take your training).

Develop training offers: This is a big bucket that includes everything from determining pricing and discounting (including early bird pricing and coupon codes) to packaging training as stand-alone, bundled, public, private, custom, by role, by product, by customer, pay-as-you-go or training subscriptions, all the way to re-writing course descriptions so that they convert people to registering. These are all strategies for putting your training courses together so they appeal to your customers enough so they see the value and want to attend.

There is a lot packed into this marketing role, and I have only scratched the surface here, but in the end the marketing part of the customer education sales and marketing role is largely a product marketing role because the main responsibility is to market products; products that just happen to be training. 

Sales Responsibilities 

For the sales part of the customer education sales and marketing role, here are a few job responsibilities: 

Call new (and existing) customers: One sales task we rarely perform is to call new customers and tell them about our training offerings. We either assume they will go to our website and find it, read that clause in the purchase agreement that training is available to them, or that account executives will tell customers about the training they can take. Most likely none of these things are happening, if you are not making them happen. A sales role should include the task of calling new (and existing) customers to talk through the training options they have. Remember, products don't sell themselves.

Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up: Isn't follow-up the worst? We get so caught up with moving on to the next task, we fail to follow-up on existing ones. One vital customer education sales tasks is to follow-up with customers who signed up for training but did not complete it. That's a start. Just reminding customers that they should complete the training. Another task is to contact people who added training courses to their shopping carts but did not complete the purchase, even if it's free. However, you have customers registering for your training, there will be people who start the registration process, but do not complete it for whatever reason. The sales role needs to find these customers, contact them, and help them along.

There is an added benefit to following up to ensure customers complete your training that will make your finance team (and executive team and board of directors and investors) happy ... if you sell training, your finance team likely recognizes revenue when courses are delivered. If customers buy courses but do not complete them, revenue is not recognized (perhaps not until contracts expire). So if you also want to drive your business forward from a valuation point of view, accelerating revenue recognition through helping customers complete training is time well-spent. 

Sell new and additional training: Another role performs an account executive role, and that is to sell customers on additional training throughout the customer lifecycle. A good time to do this is at renewal or when a customer purchases additional seats or otherwise expands their relationship with you. These are points at which new users are likely to begin using your product. They need training. Another event that could trigger training is major releases of your product. If you are making major changes or you are releasing new modules in your product or new products entirely, customers will need training. The sales role should understand the product roadmap and plan to sell training at these milestones, when customers need it most.

Operations Manager

Another role many customer education business overlook is the operations manager role. It is an easy one to overlook because ... isn't this what the training manager/director should be doing?

Well, yes. And no.

The main responsibilities of an operations manager role is to run the team processes, technology, and data necessary to make sure the team runs as efficiently and effectively as possible. In just one simple example, an operations role should understand the process performed for scheduling virtual live courses, should document that process, and should ensure the training coordinator follows that process. But more importantly, the operations role should study the process and question why it takes these ten steps and work to eliminate as many steps as possible with automation or process innovation. You could argue that the training coordinators should be doing that. The problem with that argument is that the role performing a task every day has a difficult time seeing the big picture or is otherwise too busy with day-to-day work to spend time studying what he or she is doing. An operations role fills this need, among others.

If your customer education team is growing or if you plan to grow your training business, you will never be able to grow it at scale without an operations manager role. 

Just Roles, Not Necessarily Job Titles. Yet.

Lastly, remember these are roles. They do not have to be someone's full time job and title, especially when your team is small. People will need to play multiple roles in the early stages. That's life. And I bet that is what you are doing right now. However, as your team progresses along the four maturity stages of the Enterprise Software Training Maturity Model, these roles will become more vital and you will need to consider adding more specialization in your team. Aside from leveraging more technology in the right way, adding more time for roles like these are the only way you are going to scale your customer education business.


Speaking of job roles, the Bay Area Customer Education Meetup is coming to Palo Alto at the end of July, and ServiceRocket is hosting the event. The topic is hiring roles onto your customer education team. Adam Avramescu, the Meetup organizer, is hosting a great panel of customer education leaders who have built teams and hired many roles. If you are interested in learning how to build and grow a customer education function, don't miss this Meetup. On the panel: Donna Weber, Principal Consultant, Springboard Solutions, Christine Souza, Senior Director of Customer Education at AppDynamics, and Sherry Quinn, Training Director at Atlassian. See what I mean? Join the Meetup.

 Join Meetup Now 

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