Blog Post

The Secrets to Customer Education Success: Taking a Strategic Approach

Robyn Hazelton

Companies have gotten so good at selling outcomes that they often overlook the need to teach their users how to achieve those outcomes. 

It seems like ensuring that customers are as successful as possible using a product or service would be mission-critical for companies in software, hardware, retail, healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing.

However, many companies have not yet invested in developing a true customer education initiative that educates all players who impact customer outcomes: frontline employees, partners, and end users. 


Well, while the benefits of customer education are clear, few companies know how to successfully educate customers at scale. (They haven’t yet discovered The Intellum Framework.)

The Intellum Framework is a step-by-step process for educating customers at scale—and it’s the key to unlocking customer education success. 

A Framework That’s Built On Two Decades Of Experience

Every successful organization uses a strategic framework to align the business around a central strategy. We found, however, that customer education strategy is a bit nuanced and doesn’t fit perfectly within any existing business strategy framework.

So, we developed our own.

After 20 years of educating end users and key stakeholders on products and services, you start to deepen your understanding of how best to educate customers at scale. And since we were one of the first to bring a true customer education platform to the market, we have two decades of data insights that show us exactly how people learn best.   We turned those decades of experience and data into a repeatable framework that helps companies deliver a world-class customer education program that drives retention and revenue

Even better, we packaged the whole thing up into a template with step-by-step instructions to help you set your customer education program up for success. Grab the template here. 

The 5-part Intellum Framework for Customer Education

The Intellum Framework has five components. We’ll dive into the first three in this article, which is the first of a three-part series. They are: 

  1. Clear program goals and desired outcomes 
  2. Insight into your target audience  
  3. The right content for the job

Key Component #1: Program Goals Connected To Business  Outcomes

Some companies jump right into content creation without a sense of which problems they're trying to solve through training, which leads to training that doesn’t drive the desired outcomes.

That’s why you should always begin with the end in mind: what outcomes do you want your customers, partners, employees, or your business to achieve? Which outcomes can be augmented through education? 

Many practitioners start by identifying problems to be solved. While educating users and stakeholders is an effective way to solve specific problems, it doesn’t work to solve every problem. So how do you determine if customer education is the right fit to solve a problem?

This is where a training needs analysis comes in. If you aren’t familiar with this systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or "gaps," between a current state and a desired state, it’s a well-worn tool in the customer education practitioner’s box. 

This gap analysis illuminates the real needs of each audience. From there you can create education program goals that are tied to the broader business outcomes you want to achieve, as well as a plan for how you’ll reach those goals. 

By gathering needs and requirements upfront, you will be able to:

  • Identify root problems that need to be addressed
  • Discover gaps in learner knowledge and abilities
  • Better determine education outcomes and program goals

Key Component #2: Insight Into Your Target Audience

Next, let’s dig into target audience parameters. Why? Because the ultimate goal of a customer education program is to deliver the right content to the right learner at the right time

You’ve got to understand whom you’re educating in order to achieve those desired outcomes. 

The mission here is to define your audience segments and learner personas. And we’ll let you in on a secret: audience segments and learner personas aren’t the same things.

Audience Segments 

An audience segment is a group of users with common characteristics who you will educate in order to reach a business goal. They might be customers, employees, or partners. If you’d like, you can segment a little deeper: customers of Product Line A; customers of Product Line B; customers at premium tier; customers at freemium tier; internal sales team; internal customer success team; etc. Each of those could be an audience segment. 

Action step: Define audience segments.

Learner Personas 

Learner personas are prototypes of learners within an audience segment that share common characteristics, such as training goals, job responsibilities, responsibilities with your product, or skill level. These learner personas are later used to inform content and delivery methods. 

Understanding both your audience segments and personas allows you to target the most relevant audience with the right content, and deliver at the right time, ultimately resulting in more satisfied learners who are receiving tailored education that leads to success.

Action step: Define learner personas within your audience segments. 

Key Component #3: The Right Content for the Job  

Once you have your goals set and audiences defined, it’s time to dive into the fun stuff: content! 

You may already have quite a bit of content, or you might be starting from scratch. In either case, we encourage you to review the different content types for your customer education program

Because, while having a bunch of content is awesome, you want to ensure you’re using the right types of content for an education initiative. Educational content is intended to drive behavior change in the way customers, partners, or employees interact with a company’s products and services. It’s different from marketing content and thought leadership content. 

There are two primary types of educational content: 

  1. Curriculum-based content: outcome-driven education that builds conceptual understanding and teaches specific competencies. 
  2. Reference material content: help articles, how-to tutorials, and glossaries, which are mostly used when seeking an answer to a specific question (e.g., How does a feature or process work?).

Sometimes organizations that are new to customer education zero in on reference content (like how-to articles or short demos). However, to fully educate your customers, you must enable them to think critically about why and when they’d take one action over another in addition to learning how to use product features correctly. That’s why highly successful customer education programs use both reference material content and curriculum-based content

Take Braze, for example. Braze used Intellum’s open asset approach to content to mix and match content types like videos, in-person sessions, and files, and built them into a clear, organized learning structure using Topics and Paths. Now, learners can see what courses have been assigned to them, when they’re due and what’s up next.

Content Strategy Before Content Creation  

Before you create new content, start by developing a content strategy. Content strategy, at its core, helps organizations think through why, when, where, and how their audiences will interact with all content, and goals for each piece of content.

It’s not realistic to launch a customer education program with hundreds of courses on day one. This process will help you achieve your big picture vision by building and launching parts of the whole along the way. (Like a contractor has a blueprint everyone’s working toward, a house is built room-by-room.)

Conducting a content strategy exercise will help everyone align on: 

  • Substance: Determining the right content to develop
  • Structure: How content will be delivered across channels
  • Resourcing: What you can create, given available skills, budget, and time
  • Governance: Who’s in charge of ongoing content creation and quality 

Action step: Create a content strategy. 

Your Strategic Approach To Customer Education

Now you have the foundation of customer education strategy down.

Try it out: We’ve packaged up the Intellum Framework into an easy-to-follow downloadable template. Grab that here!

Learn More About How Intellum Can Help

As the leading customer education platform, Intellum builds custom learning experiences for large brands and fast-moving companies using this exact framework. Connect with us to learn more about how Intellum can help your organization achieve success with customer education.

About the author

Robyn Hazelton headshot
Robyn Hazelton
Director of Marketing
Robyn is the Director of Marketing at Intellum and helps to ensure that every interaction an individual has with the brand is as awesome as possible. An experienced and trusted leader with a history of consistently impacting revenue, she's always talking about funnel management and biased toward action.