“What are the best books on customer education?” “Anyone know of some good books to start learning more about customer education?”
One of those questions—or a variation of it—pops up every now and then in the Customer Education community.
The answer to that question is in this blog—and is, blessedly, no longer living in a shared Google Spreadsheet. 🤪
Note: There are not a lot of books out there explicitly on Customer Education. If you count below, you’ll find three. But there are books that are related, which you’ll also find listed here.
I also want to say that what’s helpful depends on your charter and your background.
If your focus is predominantly on something narrow—like training or knowledge base—that’s going to be different than a broad customer education program that includes eLearning or prospect-facing materials.
If your background is more marketing or customer success, and less education, you’ll want to learn more about learning models and theories to make sure your learning is effective. If your background is instructional or learning experience design, you might want to learn more about business skills, cross-functional leadership, or marketing.
The field of customer education is relatively new—but it’s been taking off thanks to the success of efforts like HubSpot Academy, Optimizely Academy, and similar SaaS initiatives. Unlike traditional learning professions, customer education covers a wide range of skill sets—including, most importantly, business acumen. The success of any customer education initiative is the ability to tie learning outcomes to business impact. Each of these books lays the stage for what customer education can be as a full-fledged function.
Is it too much to say Adam Avramescu is a modern customer education hero? Maybe. But he’s been one of the leading voices in the field for a long time—and paved the way to learning about the full scope of customer education in this book, the first of its kind.
Published in 2022, this is one of the most recent books on customer education. The book walks through a model similar to the Intellum Framework for understanding your audience, defining business and learning objectives, creating an education strategy that spans the entire customer journey, and measuring the success of your initiatives on key metrics like revenue and retention.
One of the original books on customer education (there might only be one other that predates it), Strategies for Effective Customer Education talks about education as a marketing strategy. Geared largely toward educating an audience to help them move closer to the sale, this book takes us back to our CE roots—and provides helpful context for how education supports marketing & sales in modern-day organizations.
Customer education is so much more than developing learning content and experiences. It requires an understanding of the entire business and customer journey. The following two book recommendations help you pull back from the actual learning to look at what’s happening across the business.
One of the key skills for any customer education leader is business acumen. To really nail the CE role, we have to understand the greater workings of the business—and the best way to do this is to think through the lens of your Chief Customer Officer (CCO). Rod Cherkas has extensive experience leading customer-facing initiatives, and brings that perspective to this book. The Chief Customer Officer Playbook gives you an inside look into the skills required for advancement, how to deliver and communicate results, and how to improve alignment with executive leaders to accelerate the growth of both you and your education initiative.
For customer education to really do its job, we have to think about learning in the greater context of the customer journey. Otherwise, we end up with disparate pieces of learning content siloed in different platforms—that the customer never sees. 😩Jim Kalbach does an excellent job of providing principles and frameworks for using diagrams to increase alignment in your company around the customer experience.
One could argue that onboarding makes or breaks the customer experience. If customers aren’t able to learn how to use your product and get value from it, you’ve lost ‘em. As we say here at Intellum, “Most companies are great at selling the outcomes of their product—but not great at delivering them.” Good onboarding sets the stage for a healthy customer, leading to retention, referral, and expansion.
For more than two decades, author Donna Weber has helped high-growth startups and established enterprises create customers for life. From that work, she created the Orchestrated Onboarding™ framework, which is the focus of this book. Combining practical guidance with detailed templates, Onboarding Matters walks you through how to develop customer onboarding that wows customers.
Written for SaaS companies, Product-Led Onboarding walks you through a 6-step strategy for improving onboarding. If you think about delivering on the outcomes you sell—even outperforming those expected outcomes—this product-led approach to onboarding can make a huge difference. Author Ramli John wrote the book to be practical and actionable, making it easy to take your next steps as you make your way through the book.
Alright, those are my top recommendations (for now), and I’ll amend this article as more books come out.
In the meantime, I also want to recommend you check out our free Intellum Framework Course. This walks through the Intellum Framework, which is an actionable way to map out your education strategy—from business goals to execution, measurement, and iteration. This course gives you an easy way to document and visualize your entire strategy to make sure it's cohesive and effective.