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Many companies have figured out that training their employees is a must.  Attracting, onboarding, training, and retaining employees is happening in organizations that have any sort of HR strategy.  There is an entire industry of businesses and supporting professionals that make this happen, and much of the L&D conversation revolves around improving the strategies and processes in employee training.  As essential as this type of training is for employees and their organizations, there is a burgeoning learning trend that is starting to get a lot more attention: Customer education.

Over the last year, I have started working with more companies wanting to accelerate their customer education programs and for good reason.  It’s a competitive advantage. These companies have an enormous number of non-employees that have a direct say in whether or not they’ll recommend and/or sell the company’s products and services.  Customers can fall into a variety of categories, but for the most part, they are in channel sales, or act as contractors, distributors, wholesalers, or franchisees. These customers often have products and services from multiple companies at their fingertips in which they can sell or recommend to their clients.  Therefore, educating these customers about your products and services becomes a competitive advantage.

The business case behind customer education is straightforward:

  1. Increase revenue:  educated customers purchase more often, make larger purchases, are more likely to recommend, and remain customers longer than untrained customers.
  2. Cost savings:  help and support costs decrease when your customers understand your products and services.
  3. Improved business process:  speed up onboarding, new product roll-outs, and geographic expansion.
  4. Increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Source – TSIA

Let’s look at an example.  As an avid mountain biker, I can easily find myself in the local bike shop that carries five different brands of bikes and dozens of different company’s parts, accessories, clothing and even food.  There’s no doubt this shop gets visited by many reps from these different channel companies, but those conversations are more likely relationship builders and would have varying levels of “education” baked into them.  If you run any of these companies that are in direct competition within this bike shop, there is a significant competitive advantage in providing education to the bike mechanics and sales staff (check out this case study:

Providing these non-employees with the information and knowledge required to stay on top of your latest products would not only allow them to recommend and sell more, but the education would also allow you to maintain an ongoing digital dialogue with these people that are critical to the success of your company.

More companies will realize this approach is a blend of both education and marketing and is a powerful way to drive business results.  It’s time you had a look at educating your customers.  If you don’t, then someone else will.