In this series, we’ve been digging into external education (AKA external training). In the first article we looked at what external training is (and why it matters). In the second article, we discussed what it takes to build a successful external training program.
Now, in this article, we’ll explore the business benefits of external education. (And there are tons!) Whether you’re educating customers, partners, or members, we’ll break down how your programs can drive growth and deliver bottom-line results.
Fuel growth with customer education
As we covered in the last blog, customer education is the driving force behind the recent surge in external training programs in many industries. It’s no wonder why…
CEd programs are an extremely effective way to attract prospects in the pipeline, educate existing customers, and acquire new ones. They’re a huge competitive differentiator. They’re highly measurable (often tied to KPIs like Net Revenue Retention, upsell, customer satisfaction, and support ticket volume). And (as if you need more), they’re a phenomenal way to grow your business.
Need proof? According to SaaS Academy Advisors:
- 90% of companies have seen a positive return on their customer education investments
- Companies with formalized customer education programs see a 7.4% increase in retention and a 7.1% increase in lifetime value
- 90% of customer education programs grew last year. On average, 29% of customer user base is engaged in training annually
And being able to grow your business—especially during times of economic downturn (like now)—is critical. As the folks at CELab explore in a recent podcast, CEd programs require less human capital than customer success but provide similar results/impact on the business.
For example, they can reduce your customer contact rate (so you don’t need to hire new support reps to handle the same ticket volume) and increase your ratios for customer-facing roles (so that AEs/CSMs/etc. can handle larger portfolios).
Basically, when done correctly, CEd programs enable you to do more with less and fuel business growth in the following ways:
- Increased sales & profit: As the age-old adage says, it’s easier to sell to existing customers rather than to bring on new ones. Customer Education can drive adoption, expansion, and retention which results in increased revenue.
- Shorter sales cycles: If customers and prospects educate themselves on your product, they’re more likely to buy it (quicker, too). CEd programs turn leads into “educated qualified leads” which are extremely valuable, especially in SaaS.
- Lower customer support costs: Every interaction with support costs you. Lowering the number of interactions is a massive upside to Customer Education. More knowledgeable customers = less customer support and more cost savings.
- Increased customer satisfaction: When users know how to use your product effectively, it’s a win for them and for you! A proactive self-service approach reduces time to value, and increases customer satisfaction, which is key to upsell or cross-sell for companies.
- Cost-savings: Shorter onboarding times + increased opportunities for product expansion/cross-selling & upselling + fewer training hours (and the reduced need for trainers to travel)…all of this adds up to some serious cost savings.
- Building your brand exposure and loyalty: Learning and loyalty are closely linked, which means community and advocacy are playing a bigger role in Customer Education programs. The more you build up your power users to become brand champions, the more demand you generate for your solutions.
So far, we’ve talked about how educating your customers can help your business. But what can learning do for your partners?
Boost channel revenue with partner training
Partner training can help you build dream teams.
And dream teams can deliver significant benefits, like:
- Shorter partnership onboarding: Partner enablement/education programs reduce ramp times, increase speed to productivity, and decrease time to revenue.
- Shorter deal cycles: Knowledgeable partners are less reliant on the mothership (the main company) and are more autonomous to sell and scale. When a partner knows your product inside and out, they can sell more, quicker.
- Increased channel revenue: Better product knowledge and expertise about your solutions translate into more revenue for your business.
- Lower support costs: Your partners can act as an extension of your customer support team, helping to reduce support ticket volume (and costs!).
- Strengthened brand in market: When partners understand your solution positioning and ideal customer profiles (ICPs), they not only sell more but help amplify your brand and ensure consistency in the market. Everyone wins!
- Compliance: Compliant partners that are properly trained to operate your products or services (e.g. medical equipment) are better equipped to support customers for the long-term (and reduce your own customer support costs!).
Leverage e-commerce and online training to grow your business
When it comes to Training Companies (TCs), the business benefits of learning are pretty self-explanatory (as selling and delivering training is the lifeblood of their business and are key to growth).
Here, training and education can help their direct bottom line and grow their business in very tangible ways.
- Increased revenue: Selling training online allows you to tap into new audiences (B2B, B2C and beyond), generating more revenue for your business.
- Increased brand awareness and engagement: Quality education programs can help improve brand recognition and in turn, increase engagement and customer LTV.
- Money saved: Often Training Companies will offer blended programs, combining e-learning with instructor-led training. Moving learning programs (or, at least part of them) online significantly reduces the costs associated with the physical delivery of training.
- Time saved (for admins, trainers, and customers alike): Rarely is a situation a win-win-win. But it is in this case! A successful online training program can save program administrators time (if the system does the heavy lifting and you have the right vendors in place), as well as trainers (since they don’t have to deliver the same training over and over), and customers (who are able to learn at their own pace and avoid scheduled training times).
Improve reach and revenue with member training
In general, associations leverage learning for one of two reasons: to expand program reach or to generate revenue.
If you’re looking for real-world examples of how associations use learning to expand program reach, both Amnesty International and The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada have created education programs to train their volunteers.
But what about the second reason? Training and education can help associations generate revenue in the following ways:
- Indirect revenue via membership engagement: By providing valuable education that helps members stay up to date in their fields and grow in their roles, Associations benefit from increased engagement and ultimately, membership retention and growth.
- Direct revenue: In the same way TCs can sell their training, so too can associations. The e-commerce sale of training (typically to members for a specific program or for specific member clients) can open up a new stream of direct revenue.
- Improved member health: The more value you provide through training and education, the more you help support member professional development, leading to increased member health (and increased member LTV!).
- Increased brand exposure and loyalty: Remember: learning and loyalty are closely linked. So you’ll need to build engagement, advocacy and community into your association education programs (ideally, before your competitors do).
- Saving time, training hours and costs: Time and training hours saved translate into time/hours back (and money saved!), which allows key team members to be more strategic and creative in how they support member growth.
Why you can’t afford to ignore the External Education training market
Anything that directly influences the bottom line, revenue growth, or program reach can’t be ignored.
And, as we’ve explained in this article, external education programs can be tied to all three. But, if you’re still not convinced of how important these training programs are, consider this: at a time where internal training budgets are getting slashed, external education budgets continue to expand.
It used to be that external training was this thing SaaS companies did, but now, it is quickly becoming table stakes. Companies in every industry have come to realize the impact and importance of learning and are doubling down on areas like customer success, driving program adoption, building brand loyalty, community, and evangelism. And with good reason.
Despite market fluctuations, the benefits of external training outlined in this article (e.g. time, effort and cost savings, increased efficiencies, new revenue streams, product adoption, etc.) are recession proof. And that means external training is a smart (and safe) choice.
We’re three articles into this four-part series, and by now you’re probably itching to get your learning program off the ground. In the next (and final) article in this series, we’ll discuss how you can do just that! (Hint: it starts with buy-in.)