The Three P’s Of Customer Success

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The recent Mary Meeker’s Internet Trend presentation (if you don’t have time and want a summary, read this blog by Jamie Good) and the numerous articles and concepts on Customer Success got me thinking on what’s really important to make our customers successful in the long run. In the end, Customer Success should be simple: listen to your customers and deliver unexpected value. The question is, what is the best way to achieve this?

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For me, education plays a tremendous role in this process. Undeniable though, learning & development has some catching up to do when it comes to leveraging technology, online data and creating training that is easy to digest by our learners, or customers in this case. Combining elements from Customer Success or Marketing, can certainly make us better L&D professionals. Regardless, the recipe to a successful customer, and therefore a change to a company’s bottom line has three simple elements: be proactive, be personal and be predictive.

Be Proactive

Customer success doesn’t start when your customer hits the launch button but when they sign the contract. A successful customer is one that knows not only how to use your product but implements best practices at the same time. You want to decrease churn and increase customer success and renewals? Then offer resources to your customers before they even know they need them.

Be Personal

Your customers are busy and the last thing on their minds is to sit through hour long training sessions on how your product works. Respect their time and send them text messages with short pieces of information or links to resources they can access at their convenience, instead of having them sit through hour-long sessions. Text messages can get triggered based on your customer online behaviour which makes the learning more personal and relevant.

Be Predictive

Customers often dive into using your product without really knowing what to do. Once down the rabbit hole, you have the opportunity to get them back on track; or even better, don’t let them go down the rabbit hole in the first place. Leverage your customer lifecycle to predict what your customers need in order to start using your product successfully or graduate to the next level, even without viewing their online behaviour.

Keeping the three P’s in mind should allow you to create a Customer Education program that aligns with customers’ needs, leverage data that you are already collecting and create an unforgettable experience.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will dive into each of these areas in more detail which will be accompanied by the launch of my new website. Stay tuned!

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How To Create Habit Forming Training

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We always face the challenge that our learners don’t want to take training. Everyone is so busy that thinking about sitting in a training session or taking an eLearning module is overwhelming, simply because there is not enough time in a day to do it all. And if we prescribe training, learners sit in the room, but their minds are somewhere else; the same holds true for ‘forced onboarding’ for clients. So how can we ensure we create content that actually helps learners and deliver it in a way that it doesn’t feel like they are ‘wasting’ their time?

I believe that the solution is a mix of the following:

  1. Create short and easily digestible learning unites, also known as micro learning
  2. Offer the right content at the right time, just like content marketers do every day
  3. Ensure that learning becomes a habit

Habits

I already covered the first two points in detail in previous posts so I want to focus on the latter, ensure that learning becomes a habit. A workshop I attended with Nir Eyal inspired this blog post (thanks Nir!)

A habit is a behaviour done with little or no conscious thought. We show certain behaviours day in and out without realizing, and all of these behaviours have one thing in common: a hook. For example, checking our Facebook or Twitter multiple times a day, or our emails. Or how about those red circles on the apps on your phone that tell you someone or something wants your attention? I’m sure you get the idea. Now, imagine the possibilities if we would focus on creating learning that does exactly that: creating a hook.

According to Nir, a hook has four elements: a trigger, action, reward and investment. Let’s look at those four elements and tie it back to client education, micro learning and of course, a content strategy. I want to utilize an onboarding program for this.

Trigger

There are external and internal triggers. Clients purchasing a new app or software isn’t the external trigger that will make them want to sit through your onboarding; you have to offer more than that! One solution could be a customer community in which clients share best practices and successes. Initially, they are just watching, they are passive by-standers. But as they watch the community and see what’s possible with your product, they get intrigued and chances are, they will create their own profile in the community. This leads us into the next element, the action.

Action

As clients input their stories and comments, they automatically become part of a leaderboard: the more they post, the more points they get. This gamification element is an excellent external trigger which will eventually lead to an internal trigger, namely, our client will log into the community on a regular basis to ensure he doesn’t miss out and of course, check his score. Coming back to our onboarding though, we don’t just want them to be part of this community and post their thoughts, we want to create a need around learning. As clients view and watch what’s going on in the community, they will probably feel like that they have to learn a couple of things in order to stay on top of their game and add value to the conversation. In our community, we will of course post links to our onboarding program, small bite-size offerings that will focus on where the customer is right now: at the beginning of his journey.

Reward

So your clients start taking these small bite-size learning units on how to use your app, you share some best practices. They can view these either from within the community or on the go, because chances are, you will have a mobile app that allows them to do exactly that. The reward? Not only will clients be able to ‘show off’ in the community, but they will be able to leverage what they learned in the app or software they just purchased, utilizing it at a level they never thought possible, which in the long run will easily lead to decreased costs and higher revenue (and should help them with their next promotion).

Investment

This is an exciting phase from your business perspective!  In SaaS companies, we often find Professional Services teams that help clients to get to the next level, at an additional cost of course. If you also run a Professional Services team, you might be able to upsell your clients on training. A customized workshop to further increase their skills, or simply access to more pre-recorded learning units. Here, you do ask your clients to open their wallets, but chances are, if you did an excellent job on the trigger, action and reward, it will be an easy sell.

The important thing to remember about the hook is that it is an ongoing process. So once you got your clients to invest in your product, you need to be able to create another trigger, action and reward that will want them to invest even more. This is where content strategy comes into play as you can continue to offer content based on their journey and you will always be able to create a new trigger that will get them hooked. Oh, and by the way, focusing on a community is an excellent way to build customer advocacy!

Of course, the above is a simplified process, but why wouldn’t we combine micro learning and content strategy to create habits around learning?

What’s Next?

Over the next couple of weeks, you will see more content around Marketing and L&D as Jamie Good and I have decided to join forces on this important topic. Stay tuned for what’s to come!

What are your thoughts on habit forming training? Share your thoughts below!

What L&D Professionals Can Learn From Marketers

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The end goal for almost everyone within an organization is to acquire new clients and retain existing ones. At the same time, we want to ensure our clients are successful and improve the customer experience. Both Marketing and L&D play a big part in this. Writing engaging content and delivering the right content at the right time should be a goal for every L&D professional. But come to think of it, it should also be the goal of every Marketer! Content Marketing and Education have more in common than we might think! One element that Marketers do really well and L&D professionals could learn from is the content engagement cycle.

Content Engagement Cycle

The content engagement cycle takes a look at when to engage whom with what kind of content; very straight forward really! However, thinking about L&D, it seems that this is a step we don’t really take but should include in our daily work. Why do we only think about one single training program instead of looking at the entire journey our learners take throughout their life with us? Wouldn’t this thinking also help us with transfer of knowledge after the training ended? Because really, the training wouldn’t end at all, would it?

If you are educating external clients, this becomes even more important. It is not just the onboarding you want your clients to go through, but you want a strong relationship build on trust. You want to create customer experiences that will lead to more customer advocates and referrals. You want to create a need that makes your customers come back for more content. This content is not necessarily the ‘how-to’ of your product, but more often so the thought leadership content that will help them stand out in their own industries.

Microlearning and Onboarding

Just like every Marketer, L&D professionals have to think about where their learners are in their journey and adapt content and content delivery accordingly. In a time where everyone is always busy, short and easily digestible chunks of learning work best.

If you are educating internal staff, mix up your onboarding:

  • Allow new staff to interact more with your products and services while at the same time exposing them to short training videos or eLearning modules that will teach them the theory behind what they will be expected to do every day. They will be much more engaged
  • Only teach them what they need tomorrow and don’t worry about what they might possibly need in three months from now (and chances are, if they have to use that knowledge, they already forgot anyway and you have to train them again!)

If you are educating external clients, follow the same principles and engage with your audience based on where they currently are. Let’s say an event planner just bought an event app. Chances are, this planner isn’t sitting down in one day to create the app and be done with it. No, on the contrary. Most likely, this planner will set up the app in stages so why not feed the training in stages as well?

  • Have tool tips in your product for first time users
  • Link to more in-depth tutorials for those keeners out there
  • Someone is willing to go through a whole learning path? Excellent, make it available but don’t force anyone to take it ‘just because’

Keep the content engagement cycle in mind to ensure you are always delivering the right content at the right time to the right audience!

What’s Next?

To continue the journey of content marketing and L&D, I will look at how we can create habits that will help our learners but will also help build a great customer advocacy base.

What are your thoughts on the content engagement cycle? Should we include this in our training design? Share your comments below.

6 Best Practices For Writing Engaging Content

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In my last post, I offered some insights into how we as L&D professionals can implement a successful content lifecycle strategy. It is important to have processes in place to do so but it is even more important to be able to actually write engaging and meaningful content. So what are some best practices to improve your skills?

We already know that content needs to be written for the right audience at the right time so let’s build a little further on this statement and outline six best practices to write engaging content for the right audience.

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1. Reflect Your Organization’s Goals and User’s Needs

You can discover this information in the analysis stage of your content lifecycle. Think beyond your ADDIE analysis though which focuses on the learning itself, not on the content that you write which will then be part of your learning! Conduct market and user research to learn more about your learner and what they need in the organizational landscape that they are part of.

I want to go even so far and say that web metrics are important for writing meaningful content! If you educate external clients, the connection is rather obvious. If you teach internal employees, you can leverage your customers’ web metrics to better understand what they need and look for. Based on that, you can train your staff to deliver exactly that information if they are on the phone for example.

2. Communicate To People In a Way They Understand

This isn’t a new thought of course, but how many times have you sat through a webinar and were lost based on the sheer amount of technical jargon used? You need to write at a level that your audience understands. Remember that in your content lifecycle, you decide on topical ownership? Imagine if one person on your team is a master in writing about a certain topic because he always writes about this particular topic, he owns it, refines his mastery with every new content piece!

3. Be Useful

We all have busy lives and don’t have time to waste. When you create content for learning be purposeful and omit the unnecessary. As L&D professionals we often feel that the more information we give our learners, the better. Guess what? No! It needs to be the right content, at the right time. So make sure your content is short, precise and to the point. You can always offer additional reading for those keen learners.

4. Stay Up-to-Date and Remain Factual

Thinking back to your content lifecycle strategy, hopefully you have planned for regular audits. Great, because now is the time to do exactly that. You need to stay up-to-date at all times. When you create content, think about how often it needs to be audited to stay factual. If clients read content that is out of date, what do think that will do for building trust around your product? Exactly!

Conveying out-of-date information that will then be passed on to clients doesn’t help your overall business objectives either.

5. Be Accessible to All People

We live in a time and age that everything is accessible right away at a click. If you tweet about your newest eBook but the link doesn’t work or internal staff is asked to access an eLearning module that doesn’t exist, you already lost your audience right there. Even if you send out updated access information, there will only be a small number of people taking action (unless the learning is mandatory of course).

6. Be Consistent

Most L&D teams have multiple people and everyone writes differently and that’s ok. However, if you follow the content lifecycle steps, you should have certain people responsible for certain topics and content areas which means the use of voice shouldn’t change. This is especially important when you think about educating clients.

The above is by no means new information; they are best practices, common sense even. However, when talking to L&D professionals, it seems that we all fall short in some areas every now and then. So let’s make the above our daily reminder and thrive to be our own best self and create content that is engaging to our learners.

What’s Next?

The discussion on content strategy got me thinking even more about aligning different department’s goals and objectives, especially Marketing and Education. In the end, we all have the same goal: make our clients successful

What are your thoughts on engaging content? Share your thoughts below!

Content Lifecycle + ADDIE = Love?

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In my last post, I wrote about content strategy and the importance of it for every L&D professional. The question now is how can we create meaningful, cohesive, engaging and sustainable content for the right audience at the right time? I want to answer that question in this post by explaining the content lifecycle and steps to take in order to be successful content creators.

The ADDIE model is actually a great starting point when you think about the content lifecycle but in my opinion, ADDIE needs a little boost and maybe the combination of both is exactly what we as L&D professional should aim for! There are seven steps to follow in order to become a great content creator!

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 8.18.17 PM1.    Analysis

In this stage, you identify learning content requirements. Meaning, not only do you explore if training is needed and which training is needed to close the gap, you also identify what content is needed to fill mentioned gap. For example, you realize that Sales is having trouble closing deals and you analyze reasons for this. Or you are aware that after onboarding, your staff still doesn’t perform as expected and you decide to analyze current content. To achieve this, you can interview stakeholders, gather historic documentation and of course evaluate the content environment, i.e. where will the content be consumed.

 

2.    Strategy

Following ADDIE, now is the time to dive into the design of your courses. When it comes to the content lifecycle, make it a habit to add an additional step here, namely determining topical ownership areas and processes for content creation. For example, when you think about the different sales funnel stages, who is responsible to write content for existing clients vs. prospective clients? If you are training internally, who writes content for onboarding vs. content for process updates? To achieve this, it is best to create a sourcing plan and most important of all determine your voice and branding for each topic.

3.    Plan

Another step you want to follow before actually developing your content is an actual content plan. After strategizing, you will either realize that you have everything you need or that some sources are missing. For example you might want to recommend staffing solutions to help write content or bring in a specialist to do so. Most important of all you have to create a communication plan that includes responsibilities and timelines for everyone, as well as content or learning management system distribution and customization. Use any of the free project management tools such as Asana to help you plan this stage.

4.    Create

Now we are finally ready to get our hands dirty! This stage is pretty straightforward; you create structured and engaging content that is reusable. That’s the key though; it needs to be reusable! You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you create content. For example, if you create content for process updates, chances are that this needs to find its way to your onboarding program as well. Collaborate with your coworker who is responsible for writing such content. If you created an eBook for your clients, I am sure you can leverage this and create engaging webinars out of it. Work smart, not hard!

5.    Deliver

Next step is to deliver the content to where your audience is, meaning will they access it online, on their desktops, or in a face-to-face session. Of course you have already created a particular medium such as an eLearning module or a webinar so all you need to do now is plug this content in your learning management system and assign it to the appropriate audience.

6.    Measure

In true ADDIE spirit, we want to of course measure success. Does the content we created allow us to reach the objectives we have set in the beginning? For example, is Sales now able to close more deals because we were able to create shareable content for them that they can send to clients to help them make a buying decision? The best way to create successful measures is to align them to your business objectives and ensure that these are realistic and attainable.

7.    Maintain

The final step in your content lifecycle is maintenance. ADDIE does cover this, however it is hidden in the evaluation stage and in my experience, not many L&D processionals care too much about maintenance. Well they do, but only when someone tells them that certain elements of a program are out-dated! (No offense to anyone!). You need to manage your content in a definitive source and plan for periodic audits. It is essential to continuously improve high-value learning content. If you are using a project management tool, make maintenance part of your project template, set timelines for regular follow-ups so you won’t forget!

In summary, ADDIE is already giving us some great basics when it comes to a content lifecycle strategy. I truly believe that by adding some additional steps such as topical ownership, voice, branding and a maintenance plan, we all can be great content strategists.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you always need to think of who contributes to each step and how those different contributors come together to define your final product. There is value in including multiple perspectives on deliverables by inviting other departments and specialists to your team for certain projects. In the end, we want to remember that we don’t create content for ourselves, we create content for our learners and we owe them only the best.

What’s Next?

In my next post, I want to discuss some best practices to create meaningful content.

What are your thoughts on ADDIE and the content lifecycle, do you think it is just a romance or a long-lasting love story?

Why a Content Strategy Is Not Just For Marketers

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Recently, I attended the Institute for Performance and Learning National Conference, what a great learning and networking experience. There were a lot of great sessions, but one topic that came up throughout multiple sessions was content strategy.

Marketers have (hopefully) a content (marketing) strategy in place already but when L&D professional were asked if they ever conducted a content strategy, well, one hand went up and it was my own! That got me thinking why L&D professional aren’t focusing on this crucial element. How can we deliver content, and especially create adaptive learning, if we don’t even know what content we have? You can’t drive performance without understanding what and how content is being accessed to drive an individual’s performance. So let’s take a look what content strategy actually means and how you can get started with it!

What is a Content Strategy?

Simply put, content strategy is the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. Meaning a content strategy lets you manage your content as a business asset. A content strategy goes beyond the words you write, it also does include images and multimedia that is used. The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content.

Why Do You Need a Content Strategy?

It helps you identify the right content at the right time for the right audience, and helps you identify what content already exists, what should be created and, more importantly, why it should be created. The modern learner, and I would like to add especially your clients, want information right at their fingertips when the need arises, and they want to apply it in that moment as well. A through content strategy will help you identify exactly that and as you put measurements in place, you will be able to see which content is in high demand, and which content has barely been touched.

How Can You Get Started With Content Strategy?

There are a lot of resources out there on how to create a content strategy. If you research this topic further, be sure to look for content strategy, not for content marketing strategy as this is slightly different! Melissa Rach has created a Content Strategy Quad describing the people and content-oriented components you should keep in mind when creating content.

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At the centre is the core content strategy, the central idea for using content to achieve your organization’s business goals. To achieve that strategy most effectively, Rach looks at four closely related components:

Content-focused components

  • Substance: What kind of content do we need (topics, types, sources, etc.), and what messages does content need to communicate to our audience?
  • Structure: How is content prioritized, organized, formatted, and displayed? (Structure can include communication planning, IA, metadata, data modelling, linking strategies, etc.)

People-focused components

  • Workflow: What processes, tools, and human resources are required for content initiatives to launch successfully and maintain ongoing quality?
  • Governance: How are key decisions about content and content strategy made? How are changes initiated and communicated?

These quadrants are a great way to start thinking about your content strategy.

What’s Next?

Content Strategy is a fascinating topic for me personally as I have worked with marketers in the past, and am currently part of a marketing team again, focusing on Client Education. In my next post, I want to take the above thoughts a little further and talk about the L&D Content Lifecycle and help you develop steps for your own content strategy.

What are your thoughts on content strategy? Have you ever developed one as a L&D professional? Let me know in the comments below!

Have you Blabbed Today? 3 Ways To Engage Your Clients!

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I practice what I preach and recently jumped on a fairly new social media platform called Blab (blab.im) to talk about microlearning. In my last posts, I took a closer look at microlearning. It’s a great way to create small, granular units of content that are engaging for learners and cost-effective to develop. The most important element of microlearning is without doubt the fact that skills become obsolete much faster in this digital age.

Using a Blab to talk about microlearning (and creating microlearning while I blabbed) gave me the idea for this post and I want to share my experience with this new tool and show you how you can use it as part of your microlearning strategy!

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What is Blab?

Blab is the newest platform in streaming video and lets you build a personal and business presence while creating a community. As per Blab’s website, it is the internet’s most interesting interviews, talk shows, casual hangouts, debates, discussions, and live workshops in one place. All you need to get started is a Twitter account and off you go. Blab allows you to host your own live video stream with up to four people who can engage at the same time. There is a moderator who can control who is in the three additional video seats, however everyone who wants to listen in can use the chat functionality provided. On the homepage, you are presented with three tabs: On Air, Scheduled, and Replay and you can join any Blab you wish. You can also follow people in order to receive notifications about their Blabs.

So what are some ways you can use Blab in your existing education strategy?

Blab In Client Education

1. Up-To-Date Interviews

In a time where clients look at the most up to date information possible, you cannot go through lengthy and expensive video productions anymore. Blab allows you to quickly arrange an expert speaker panel and have them discuss a specific topic. You can engage with your audience and take their questions on the go. Not only is it streamed live, but you can also record the session and add it to your website or Social Media sites.

2. Open Q&A

Let’s say you have a product launch, invite your CTO to speak to your clients and allow clients to ask questions either in the chat or by inviting them into one of the additional video seats. This is a highly personalized experience and can also be used as a feedback tool to further improve your offerings. An open Q&A session can be part of a webinar or eLearning that you have created around the new platform feature.

3. How To Videos

I am not thinking about a SaaS platform, but more like a hands-on project. For example, if you think of a hardware store and they want to teach their clients how to build a shelf, Blab is a great interactive way of doing exactly that. Set up the room accordingly and showcase live how to build a shelf. You can have a host who monitors the chat and any questions that come through. What a great engagement compared to passively watching a YouTube video!

These are just three ways of how to use Blab in your Client Education program!

What’s Next?

In my next post, I will summarize my learnings from the Institute for Performance and Learning’s National Conference, stay tuned!

What is your experience with Blab or where can you see additional uses for this new tool? Let me know your thoughts below!