Blog Post

7 Best Practices for Marketing Customer Education

Shannon Howard
September 21, 2023
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Looking for insights on how to market your customer education program?

Look no further, friend.

We recently sat down with Lindsay Thibeault, an Advisor at SaaS Academy Advisors and member of the HubSpot Academy founding team, as well as Hannah Waddams, Marketing Director at MAAS Marketing and Host of the podcast Marketing for Learning. These two ladies shared their insights on how to get eyeballs on your learning content—and how to keep them coming back!

Want to hear us talk about this in real-time? Catch the recording below. 

Prefer to read? Keep scrolling!

1. Start With Learner Motivation.

Before you start thinking about what channels to use to market your education programs, pull back and think about your learners.

What motivates them to learn?

What’s happening in their lives or at work that’s causing them to log into your online academy and click “Start learning”?

Lindsay uses the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework (seen below) to map this out. “Education isn’t just conveying information or product training, but skill development that leads to professional development,” she shared on the webinar.

(Want to learn more about JTBD? Check out this lesson from HubSpot Academy on the subject.)

You can capture this learner insight through customer interviews and surveys. Hannah suggested starting with around 10% of learners. “Talk to people, get to know them,” she shared on the webinar. “Ask them about their careers, their goals in life, their personal motivations. From there, you’ll find red threads—certain characteristic groupings you can use to create learner personas.” 

2. Outline the Learner Journey

When you’re uncovering learner motivations, think and ask about the learner journey, too. This insight into what learners are doing pre-education means you can catch learners at the right time and use the right messaging to convey how your education initiative can help.

Hannah uses the following template to outline the learner journey with her clients.

Combine these two—learner motivations and learner journey—and you’re ready to move onto the next step: choosing your marketing channels.

3. Choose Your Channels

Using what you discovered about your learners, you can outline where your learners are.

  • Do they receive emails from your company or their Customer Success Manager (CSM)?
  • Are they using social media to learn? Which platforms?
  • Are they looking for just-in-time learning within your platform?
  • Are they in your community or at user groups?
  • Do they come to your conferences and other live events?
  • Are there other channels, like SMS/text messaging, you can use to surface content to learners?

Pro Tip: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take the time to connect with other teams to understand the customer lifecycle and what other communications might be going out. There’s a strong chance you can include information about your education efforts in one of these existing communications to minimize the lift!

4. Partner With Your Marketing Team

Not every education team has a marketing professional as part of their headcount—and that’s OK. While that’s a huge advantage, there are still ways you can work with your existing marketing team to get the word out there.

“When you talk to marketing about what you want to do, they’re going to be shocked or upset that you asked—they’re going to think you should be marketing your education programs,” Hannah shared on the webinar. 

And she’s not wrong: Education is a value-add for most products—and marketing is all about showing the value of what you offer.

Connect with your product marketing team to understand their process and how you can fit into their schedule. Since education is usually closely tied to product development, they should have a great idea of how you fit into the process. 

And, again, tap into what already exists. Connect with your social media manager to see if you can celebrate certifications or milestone moments on social media. Better yet—draft the posts you want them to make it a super easy request.

5. Don’t Forget Internal Marketing

Most people skip learner motivation and go right into channels and tactics. They also tend to forget the need for internal team members to know about and champion your education programs!

Hannah suggested finding internal influencers. “It’s harder to ignore colleagues than a brand. Find someone who loves your education programs and get them on video talking about it.”

Lindsay talked about taking the time to understand other teams, their priorities, and their goals. Then, you can speak about your education efforts in terms of what matters to them.

(Check out this blog for more insights on getting customer-facing teams to share your education content.)

6. Keep Engagement Top of Mind

We don’t typically want learners to come to our online academy once; we want them to keep coming back.

If that’s the case, we need to move beyond one-time promotion of new courses or certificates. 

Lindsay walked us through a flywheel for learner growth, which has the following elements:

  • Learn: Learning is tied to motivation and outcomes. This is how we typically think about our work.
  • Apply: Once a learner has learned something new, we want them to take that learning and apply it.
  • Expand: Next up is skill expansion—learning more to gain additional skills.
  • Advocate: As learners grow, they start to share what they’re learning with others through social proof, sharing credentials, etc. This leads to new learners registering for your academy to facilitate their own learning.

7. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel on Engagement

Hannah reminded us that a lot of what we need to be successful already exists.

Most learning management systems (LMSs) and learning experience platforms (LXPs) already have notifications and reminders built-in. You can start here and update the copy to make it more fun. Instead of your generic, out-of-the-box reminder, update the text to speak to the learner on a more personal level. 

These small updates to existing marketing channels can make a huge difference.

About the Author

Shannon Howard Speaker Headshot
Shannon Howard
Director of Content & Customer Marketing
Shannon Howard is an experienced Customer Marketer who’s had the unique experience of building an LMS, implementing and managing learning management platforms, creating curriculum and education strategy, and marketing customer education. She loves to share Customer Education best practices from this blended perspective.