Customer education is a solution that many organizations are turning to improve retention, increase spend, and drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. But in terms of content, what exactly counts as “customer education content”?
Does that mean product training, support centers, tutorials, or workshops?
What about podcasts, white papers, or blog posts?
You could easily argue that any time you’re providing information to your customers, you’re educating them—from first touch to long after they’ve become a paying customer.
But, when building your content strategy as part of your customer education initiative, it’s important to gain clarity and alignment around:
- The three content types across an organization
- The difference between those content types
- The content strategy for your educational content
3 Types of Content Across an Organization
Start by categorizing all existing customer-facing content across your organization.
Generally, content can be categorized into three buckets:
- Thought leadership
Marketing content seeks to build brand awareness and convert marketing leads. Marketing content typically reaches a wide audience including people who are currently in-market to buy (demand capture) and those who aren’t currently looking to make a purchase (demand generation).
Examples of marketing content formats:
- Blog posts
- Webinars and presentations
- Marketing videos
- Case studies
- Social media posts
Marketing content success metrics:
- Conversion rate
- Pipeline generation
Thought Leadership Content
Thought leadership content seeks to build credibility and trust. However, the ubiquitous term “thought leadership content” doesn’t make a ton of sense. That’s because thought leadership is the practice of sharing original ideas to shape the conversation within a market; that can be accomplished through written or video content—or by speaking on stage.
Examples of thought leadership content formats:
- White papers
- Research reports
- Guest post articles
- Physical books
Thought leadership content success metrics:
- Brand awareness
- Customer loyalty
- Relationship quality
- PR or partnership opportunities
Education content seeks to drive longer-term behavior change in the way customers interact with your organization's products and services. Paying customers will often continue to consume marketing content and thought leadership content as they still find it helpful and interesting. But education content is what generally drives business impact via retention and expansion.
Examples of customer education content:
- Help center articles
- e-Learning courses
- Instructor-led trainings
Customer education content success metrics:
- Product adoption
- Customer retention
- Account expansion
- Customer sentiment
Content Across the Customer Lifecycle
The customer lifecycle encompasses the different stages a customer goes through before, during, and after a purchase. Certain types of content work best at different stages.
2 Main Types of Education Content
Now that we’ve categorized all customer-facing content across three broad categories, let’s explore specific types of education content. Here’s an example I like to use:
Let’s say you’re learning to drive a car for the first time. Would you pull out your car’s owner manual to begin? Of course not. You’d likely sign up for a driver’s ed course where you’d learn, over a period of time, the competencies needed to be a safe and confident driver.
Now let’s say you already know how to drive. You just purchased a new car, and you’re not sure what kind of fuel to use. Would you sign up for a driver’s ed course? Obviously not. This is where the owner’s manual comes in quite handy.
In this example, we have two very different, yet equally important, types of educational content:
- Reference material (owner’s manual)
- Curriculum-based, outcome-driven course (driver’s ed)
Reference material includes content like help articles, how-to tutorials, and glossaries. Customers want access to this type of content when they’re seeking an answer to a specific question and want to know how a feature or process works.
Here’s a screenshot of help articles built within the Intellum platform:
Many organizations new to customer education focus here. Understandably, it’s an easier place to start. But fully educating your customers involves more than simply instructing them on what different buttons do.
Meaningful customer education also involves enabling customers to think critically about why and when they’d click one button over another. This is where the curriculum-based education comes into play.
Curriculum-Based, Outcome-Driven Courses
Curriculum-based, outcome-driven education builds conceptual understanding and teaches specific competencies.
Curriculum-based education typically takes the form of self-paced e-learning, live interactive workshops, or a hybrid approach. This content builds on concepts that empower the learner to make confident decisions and maximize their experience with the organization’s offerings.
Here’s a screenshot of a course built within the Intellum Platform:
In our 2022 Organizational Education Report, we found that companies with curriculum-based education initiatives are least likely to struggle with learner abandonment—and most likely to experience increased revenue.
Customer Education is More Than How-Tos
So you see, while “customer education” could be a broad term that includes all content that informs and educates customers, it’s beneficial for organizations to consider specifically the scope and purpose of their customer education initiative and how it fits within the existing content strategy.
It’s equally important to provide education that enables customers to both:
- Use product features correctly and
- Think critically about how, when, and why to use those features.
To help customers achieve both of these outcomes, we use two types of educational content: reference material and curriculum-based, outcome-driven courses.
Only 4% of education initiatives are formalized, scalable, and curriculum-based. This means that for many education leaders, there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and expand your initiatives. If you find yourself in this position, the Intellum Framework™ can help.