Martech Interview with Greg Rose, Chief Executive Officer at Intellum

Greg Rose shares perspectives about Customer Success and its role in Customer education. He shines light on CMS focusing on its pillars for the right impact.


Tech companies are very good at selling outcomes, but not always good at teaching customers how to actually achieve those outcomes. That’s where customer education comes in.


1. How can digital ad platforms retain and even expand on 2020 user growth, as well as capitalize on anticipated 2021 spending trends?
To retain existing customers, increase customer spend, and win new customers, ad platforms must continue to prove the value of their offering. What better way to prove that value than by teaching the individual user how to be more successful when advertising and marketing on a specific platform?

Tech companies are very good at selling outcomes, but not always good at teaching customers how to actually achieve those outcomes. That’s where customer education comes in.

“Customer Education” is the process of developing a formalized education initiative to help customers realize the true value of a product or service. Large digital ad platforms have been successfully driving performance and revenue through customer education for years.
The goal is to teach the individual user how to achieve very specific outcomes when utilizing the ad platform and then scale that successful education across the entire customer base. When done correctly, customer education leads directly to improvements in customer retention, increases in product adoption or utilization, as well as increases in revenue.

2. How can customer education impact business outcomes, like revenue and retention?
In 2019 Intellum conducted a study with Forrester Consulting that revealed the substantial impact customer education has on things like revenue and customer retention
For example, the study results showed that, when done correctly, customer education programs can drive an 18% increase in revenue, a 22% increase in customer retention, and a 34% improvement in customer satisfaction scores.
How? Think of a company that sells a product or service that solves a common problem or addresses a particular need. A customer with that problem or need buys the product or service. The company onboards the new customer and teaches them how to use the product or service to successfully solve their problem or address their need.
Because the company consistently engages the customer with educational content that is engineered to help the user achieve the desired outcome, the customer recognizes the value of the product or service.
Because they are recognizing a real return on their investment, both from a financial and a time commitment perspective, the customer will renew their subscription, buy more products or services, or spend more money on the platform. That’s customer education in a nutshell.

3. How can SaaS companies ensure they’re developing the right education programs for specific customers?
Before you can develop successful customer education initiatives, you must understand the different segments that make up your audience, and the personas that exist inside each segment.
An audience can generally be segmented into several groups based on common characteristics like their vertical (Healthcare vs Manufacturing) or company size (SMB vs Enterprise).
Each segment is comprised of specific personas, with unique learning needs and requirements. Think of personas as conceptual learner profiles that are based on things like the individual user’s role and responsibilities.
Every user, therefore, should be tied to a persona, which fits into a specific segment. This allows an organization to develop content and experiences based on the unique needs of the persona by asking questions like, how does this persona use the product? What are her goals? What currently frustrates her? What motivates her?
This is the first step towards delivering the right content, to the right person, at the right time, and is far more effective than a one-size-fits all approach to education that attempts to address all customers but is relevant to none.

4. Why should SaaS companies view education programs as distinct from marketing content and initiatives?
It’s not uncommon for marketing, as a function area, to own customer education. We also see Customer Success (CS) leaders taking control of customer education initiatives, because it’s directly in-line with the CS charter to ensure that every customer is as successful as humanly possible using a product or service.
But who owns customer education is less important than how customer education initiatives are developed. Organizations should remember that there is a big difference between the persuasive art of marketing and the science of learning.
Marketing initiatives are designed to influence, sway, convince or hook prospective or current customers. Marketing initiatives are generally focused on and optimized for short-term action and largely measured through metrics like open rates, site traffic, and conversions.
Education is best suited for problem solving and driving longer-term behavior changes by building knowledge, critical thought, and skill. Educational content should be objective, more academic in nature, and not in the last bit “salesy.” Education initiatives are often measured by efficacy (the ability to reproduce a desired result) and the impact on business objectives like product utilization or renewals.
Marketing and customer education are both important, but we need to remember that they serve very different purposes and should be treated as separate initiatives, regardless of where in the organization they live.

5. What technology software and solutions are new and beneficial in the customer education category?
Certifications generate a big impact on an organization’s ability to drive business outcomes through education. Our recent integration with Honorlock resulted in the first customer education certification approach to include content authoring, content deployment, social engagement, as well as AI-based exam proctoring and cheating mitigation in one solution – a solution that’s already in play with some of the leading ad platforms right now.
Intellum’s unique built-in content authoring options are designed to support “flow state”, which is the scientifically recognized mental state of becoming fully immersed in a specific activity, like learning. Intellum is the only platform optimized for flow state, and research demonstrates that flow state optimization significantly improves engagement and efficacy – which we define as the ability to perform a task successfully after completing learning.
Virtual and hybrid event management is also more important than ever in the customer education space. During this global pandemic, the lines between training events, meetings, and full-blown user conferences have blurred. While virtual meeting and teleconferencing solutions like Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, and Microsoft Teams are fantastic, education practitioners need to organize, present, and track these events alongside the other live and on-demand educational content they create.
The ability to embed and track meetings hosted through a provider like Zoom has given clients one extremely flexible destination for events of all shapes and sizes. Our approach is proving to be more modern, scalable, and reliable than other solutions.

6. What is the difference between an Education Platform and Content Management System?
There is a lot of noise in the education space. Buyers routinely encounter learning platforms and content management systems in their research, and it is often hard for buyers and program owners to identify the differences.
When determining whether an education platform or a content management system is right for a specific initiative, there are four key things to consider:
Degree of Focus – An education platform like Intellum is solely focused on education initiatives and allows companies to create experiences that are designed for deeper contextual learning. A CMS is not designed for any specific initiative. The main purpose of a CMS is to support custom website builds, not learning initiatives.
Active vs. Passive – An education platform leverages engagement tactics like machine-driven recommendations, personalized experiences, and gamification that keep users in an active state of learning. A CMS delivers a passive user experience. Simply reading or watching content does not lead to deeper knowledge retention and positive behavioral changes.
Customization vs. Custom-Built – An education platform is a customizable application that was built to help users achieve specific educational outcomes and requires clients to work within the flexible constraints of the tool. A CMS is a blank canvas. While agencies, marketers, and designers can create custom-built Web experiences, a CMS is not designed to guide users through the learning process, individually or at scale.
Tracking and Reporting– An education platform includes powerful reporting functionality that tracks user activity, engagement, and performance so clients can correlate education initiatives to business outcomes. A CMS does not follow a unique user’s progress, reveal the effectiveness of an initiative, or provide the kind of insights that help an organization improve business outcomes.

7. The goal of customer success is to teach your customer to be as successful as possible using your product or service. What does customer success look like when customer education is an integrated part of the workflow?
At Intellum we often say, “customer education activist customer success.” That’s because companies can’t truly attain holistic Customer Success until they have fully implemented a customer education program.
Intellum’s Chief Customer Officer, Ruben Rabago calls customer education “an under-used secret supercharged engine-of-scale for Customer Success.”
That’s because education, when done correctly, fits into every component of the customer life cycle:
Onboarding: The company is teaching new users how to correctly leverage our products and services.
Adoption: The company is focused on closing the consumption gap, delivering education that drives product utilization and starts moving the user towards proficiency, if not mastery.
Renewal/Expansion: The company is educating customers on expansion products or functionality they are entitled to but not utilizing well. The goal is to move the customer forward in the maturity model.
Churn: Even during competitive evaluation and off-boarding, there are opportunities to educate the buyer and the influencers on industry best practices, thought leadership, and the product differentiators.

In many organizations, Customer Success Managers (CSM) are stuck answering all the “how-to” questions, but in a customer education-enabled world, the CSM can focus more on outcome-driven discussions with their customer’s executive sponsors. Why? Because the CSM can now observe:
● How the customer is progressing through onboarding education.
● What education content the customer is choosing to consume on their own, at what point along the customer journey.
● Which persona favors which content, and what the before and after data indicates about that persona (and individual client).
The CSM can then have more strategic conversations with stakeholders and executive sponsors that are focused on improving the metrics that matter most to the client’s business.

8. How can customer education help you fortify your customer journey and help you empower customer engagement?
Imagine buying a product or service to address a complicated problem or need and having the vendor dedicate a significant amount of time to teaching you, as an individual, how to use that product to achieve your goal. This experience extends far beyond onboarding or implementation training, and it is not tied solely to trouble shooting or the knowledgebase.
In fact, this personalized education experience is broader than the product you purchased and seeks to improve your understanding of the industry you are in. This approach gives you both the foundational knowledge and the technical/product-specific expertise that is actually required to achieve the outcome that drove you to buy the product or service in the first place. This education experience is designed to lead you through the entire customer journey and the vendor’s maturity model, and as your results improve, and your proficiency increases, so does your recognition of the value of the product and the vendor behind it.

9. Can you imagine a better customer experience?
The key to this very achievable ideal state is personalization. As previously discussed, a successful learning initiative understands the segments that make up its audience, and the personas within that segment. The organization then develops educational content that is designed to move the individual in that persona a little closer towards mastery.
Like other online experiences, the people you want to connect with through education are more likely to engage if they feel like the experiences you are presenting are built just for them. Once you have a solid content plan that maps to the entire customer journey, an education platform like Intellum can help you create a highly personalized, engaging customer experience that is centered around education.
Advanced education platforms include ML-driven recommendation engines that will automatically suggest content, topics, and events based on the individual user’s activity, history, and preferences.
User-specific emails and mobile push notifications keep the user engaged and coming back into the system. Proven game mechanics like leaderboards, challenges, badges, and awards can improve engagement metrics, too, when used correctly.
There is also a lot of academic work around the positive impact of social collaboration on learning, too. Leveraging built-in activity streams and real-time chat to reinforce specific education initiatives can further the individual’s sense of engagement and connectedness to an initiative.
As we continue to track the impact of digital customer education on the metrics that matter most to the business (like renewals, support, and even revenue), we believe customer education will emerge as the core concept of the new customer experience.

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Greg Rose is a twenty-year marketing and growth veteran. As the Chief Experience Officer at Intellum, Greg is focused on helping large brands and fast-moving companies increase adoption, improve retention, and drive revenue through better customer experiences.

Intellum is an Atlanta-based learning technology company that combines the best of customer experience with customer education to help large brands and fast-moving companies increase revenue, improve customer retention and decrease support costs.

The Intellum Platform includes all the tools an organization needs to create, manage, track and improve highly-personalized learning experiences for customers, partners and even employees.

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