At our inaugural customer conference in November, Skilljar Connect, we asked our customers for their thoughts on the essential steps that must be taken before the first piece of content is developed for a customer education program. From the responses, there was one recommendation that consistently stood out:
“Start with the goal and then move backward. Training has to be easy and add value. Also, if it is not easily consumable, then no one will take it.”
In the first post of this series, I discussed the importance of establishing common goals and using a data-driven strategy to build your customer education program. With this foundation in place, we can now move on to the next attribute of a successful Customer Education Program: content development.
An important first step in the content development process is establishing the types of content that will best serve your established goals.
Identify the Most Approachable Learning Format
Before determining what content to draft, start by answering the following questions:
How broadly will your product be used across a customer’s employees?
Is your product designed to be used by a select group of highly-specialized professionals or will it span the business and be used as a day-to-day resource for many different teams?
How complex is your product? Are there multiple tools or elements of your product that need to be understood or is there one central offering?
What is the starting knowledge level of your customers? Will your courses need to begin at the 101-level or do customers have prior knowledge?
The answers to these questions will help you match knowledge with a content format that helps best communicate it. Some common types of content are:
Recorded webinars: Great for providing a walk-through of a product’s interface or when it would be helpful to have a human explain a complex topic
Recorded screen-captures: Ideal for sharing step-by-step instructions for complex configurations or processes
Infographics (PDF): These are an opportunity to recycle existing marketing content for high-level overviews or fast facts
Slideshows: Another great way to repurpose content - in this case, consider uploading content that was previously used during in-person training
Quizzes & knowledge checks: These help students measure their level of understanding and can be a great way to keep them engaged with learning content
Create Content that Works
Once you’ve established the type of content to develop, you can start the process of content creation. As you delve in, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
Length does not equal value: Just because a video is long or a quiz has 100 questions does not mean it’s doing its job. In some cases, a five-minute explanation may have higher completion rates and be more effective than an hour-long video.
Content development is a team effort: While one individual may be responsible for quarterbacking the process of content creation, it is important to solicit input from other teams to ensure that it aligns and meets with the desired goals.
User experience matters: While the value of the content itself should not be underestimated, the accompanying experience matters a lot for absorption and engagement. As content is created, the method of delivery may need to be modified - flexibility is key!
Build for Change
As just noted, flexibility is an integral part of the content creation process. Sometimes we find out midway through a slideshow development that a concept is simply too complex. A full-length video may not feasible, but perhaps inserting a short video demo will help clarify the concept.
Relatedly, what we believe will be effective may not always be accurate, no matter how strategic our process. If customers are consistently skipping particular courses, fast-forwarding, or not completing modules, it is worth considering why that is happening and the answer may be the format.
It is easy to get attached to your content, particularly if we’ve spent a lot of time and energy creating it, but it’s critical to keep the end-user in mind, and if something isn’t working, view it as a lesson learned and an opportunity to iterate. It’s also entirely possible that content that isn’t performing well at present will be valuable in the future. Or perhaps it can be deconstructed and remodeled into something else. The lesson here is to maintain a mindset of versatility and be prepared (and even excited) about the potential to adapt content to the needs of your business and your customers.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
Content creation is an ongoing process of development and modification and given its significance, there are a few common misconceptions to clarify:
Content takes months to develop: While there is certainly some content that takes longer to create than others, do not underestimate the power of shorter pieces like article summaries, checklists, or re-purposing content developed for conferences and in-person training. A strong library of content is a mix of both long and short-form material.
Content creation often takes longer than expected: This point goes back to my last post about identifying who and how the objectives of your Customer Education Platform will be achieved. Revisit the RACI and OKR Models you previously built to ensure that content creation is given its due time and resources.
Regularly audit your library for relevance: As I’ve noted, it can be difficult to let go of content that we’ve invested time and effort in, but just as your product changes with updates and new features, so too do your customers’ needs change. It may be painful, but it is important to regularly review your content to ensure it still meets everyone’s needs (and is in an effective format).
Developing impactful content is no easy task and it is certainly an investment, particularly when a customer education program is being created for the first time. But remember, the initial investment will pay out over the long term if the content meets your company’s goals and engenders product adoption among your customers.
In the next post, I’ll delve into the technology requirements, capabilities, and integrations for a successful customer education program. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out the following resources: