How to Make a Business Case for Customer Education Skilljar webinar

In our recent webinar, Skilljar’s Director of Demand Generation, Carolyn Bradley, hosted a discussion with Brandon Carroll, Founder of Grow Product Adoption. Based on his experience scaling customer success with customer education for FiscalNote and other companies, Brandon’s company shares strategies for predicting retention, upsell, cross-sell, and repeat purchases through software product adoption and customer education.

Attendees received a wealth of information on how to increase internal buy-in for customer education by building a business case that demonstrates its impact to key stakeholders.

The same message I repeated over and over again internally (at FiscalNote) was that Skilljar was the vehicle for us to train and educate clients personally and at scale.– Brandon Carroll

View the on-demand webinar or read the recap below.


Key Takeaways for Building a Business Case for Customer Education

I’ve never seen anything more powerful in terms of ROI to help scale a business than product adoption. And customer education drives predictable product adoption.– Brandon Carroll

Brandon began the discussion by pointing out two main takeaways for the training professional looking to build a case for customer education internally:

1) The math is on your side. Customer education metrics are available to prove the ROI on business impact.
2) The key to getting buy-in is to tailor your communications to various stakeholders. Align your customer education presentation to solve the unique pain points for each internal audience – Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Finance – to create a unified front with all teams backing the decision to create an education platform.

Why Is Customer Education Different?

Why is customer education different?

Customer education software is a tougher internal sell compared to sales and marketing tools. For one thing, it’s a relatively new concept, so it’s not intuitive to the executives or buyers making the decision. So you need to educate stakeholders on why they should care.

Make it clear that It will require a long process to purchase and implement, but the ROI can be a game changer. If you have the passion for your case, the data to back it up, and the proper preparation, it will be easier to get through these hurdles.

Brandon advises being upfront about the investment taking a few months to yield results. “You are not going to realize ROI on day one, but the ROI will grow exponentially over time.”

Talk in terms of a quarterly or yearly time frame for seeing results. Why? Because customer education leads to product adoption, which then leads to predictable results that can be repeated. You can frame this statement with real data from a cost savings or net retention standpoint.

We know that customer education drives sustainable growth and that trained customers are our best customers.– Brandon Carroll

Brandon demonstrated that there are stages throughout the customer journey that lead to a higher probability of renewal that is directly tied to product adoption.

Risk-adjusted revenue for product adoption

Based on his experience with FiscalNote, Brandon worked with their data science team to quantify the correlation between product adoption and renewal. This helped him put a dollar amount on his team’s value to the company. For example, if a company has a poor implementation process, the likelihood of renewal can drop to 50%. But the likelihood to renew can increase over time as a company hits different milestones that contribute to product adoption. This is known as risk-adjusted ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue).

His team at FiscalNote ran campaigns each quarter to help drive product adoption, using email, small group trainings, webinars, and online courses, to hit those marks for improving risk-adjusted ARR. They measured the results at the beginning of each quarter, and then again at the end, to quantify the results of their efforts. In other words, they could demonstrate the likelihood for a customer to renew. This type of approach can resonate with stakeholders, as long as you make some basic, reasonable assumptions to support the premise.

Skilljar has an ROI calculator that can help you come up with an ROI for customer education at your company.

Skilljar ROI caclulator for customer education

Based on his experience at FiscalNote and using Skilljar data, Brandon was able to demonstrate predictable impact of customer education on renewal rates for 30% of accounts on a yearly basis.

Customer education metrics for business value

We saw 16 X ROI in our first year, based upon predictable net retention improvements and cost savings derived from efficiencies at FiscalNote. It is possible to quantify this number as you continue to grow exponentially after launching a customer education platform. It’s more than just software.– Brandon Carroll

Specifically, these are the high-level steps that Brandon took to get his “case” together to present internally:

1) Talk with internal teams from Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, etc. to find out where they were spending too much time.
2) Work with your chosen LMS (in FiscalNote’s case, Skilljar) to understand all the benefits you can get from the software. (Brandon strongly advises choosing your LMS before you make a case for budget and internal buy-in. This way, you can work with them to address any questions you get from your team and fine-tune your case with stakeholders based on real information and metrics.)
3) Make a list of the high-level benefits that the LMS could bring to your team.
4) Group these learnings into buckets (Internal & External Onboarding, Product Adoption, Cost Savings, and Improved Net Retention/Reduced Churn) to quantify them for different teams.
5) Schedule meetings with internal stakeholders and go on a roadshow!
6) Follow up the meetings with materials appropriate for each stakeholder group.

ROI on customer education

Brandon suggests using the buy-in you get from “easier” groups – like Marketing and Customer Success – to make a case to the groups that might be harder to persuade (Finance and Leadership). The goal is to create a cohesive buy-in, and ultimately launch, across the entire company.

Make sure you can put solid ROI dollars, whether it’s cost savings or driving adoption through campaigns, on the table for your customer education efforts as much as possible throughout the process.– Brandon Carroll

4 Steps for Building A Business Case for Customer Education

Next, Brandon went into specifics on each key aspect of his framework for getting internal buy-in for your education program.

4 step framework to building a business case for customer education

At a high level, you want to create a strategy for mapping ROI buckets to key stakeholders, then present your case and follow up using the correct messaging and framework for each stakeholder.

He identified key stakeholders as: Leadership, Marketing, Customer Success/Support, Sales, Account Management, and Finance. Then, he planned which of the four ROI buckets discussed earlier would map to each stakeholder.

Framework for making a case for customer education to stakeholders

Finally, he went through the actual messaging he used to meet with each stakeholder using the relevant ROI bucket(s).


Make a case for customer education to leadership

Talk to leadership in terms of business outcomes.

Skilljar is a purpose-built customer and employee education platform. It will help our company train and onboard customers and employees at scale to drive predictable cost savings and net retention outcomes.

Marketing/Product Marketing

Make a case for customer education to marketing

The CMO, director of product marketing, director of demand gen, and marketing operation leaders are all focused on product adoption and improving retention. For these groups, education is a differentiator in the marketplace.

Every two weeks, the marketing team at FiscalNote was taking time to train Business Development Executives (BDEs), which led to wasted time and inefficient outcomes. Putting the onus on learners to watch a five-minute video was far more effective than having team members spend an hour going through a training session with an unengaged audience.

Training is a cost-effective engagement tool leading to an increase in cross- or up-sell. Here is how Brandon made the case on costs to product marketing, based on his experience at FiscalNote: 

Last year we did 26 product releases; we had an average of 75 people attend, which cost us $7,500 per product release ($100/hr), equaling a total of $195,000 in inefficiencies on the year. A five-minute video on the release costs around $20,000 in labor costs, saving us $175,000 per year. Plus, it would be standardized across all learners.  And, this doesn’t include the ancillary benefits to the external clients, new hires, other employees across the company, and so much more.

Education owns the value of the message with product marketing. Consistency and standardization of a product release starts with internal product competency.

When product marketing comes out with a new feature, we could literally take that messaging to build content and even go deeper on how we train both our team and end users. And it’s all delivered through one medium, which, from a customer engagement standpoint, is amazing.

Customer Success/Support

Make a case for customer education to Customer Success

Show CSMs you want to augment the amazing work they are already doing, not replace it. Demonstrate how you could intervene in the process to save man hours, time, and money. Quantify the hourly rate for all of the time saved on onboarding training. Add on an estimated improved rate of retention of 10% (based on Brandon’s research at FiscalNote).

As we grow our business, we won’t need to hire as aggressively, so our sales margin will improve. We will reduce the need for individualized onboarding trainings across the entire Customer Success organization. CSMs can spend more time being proactive, and less time doing one-on-one repetitive trainings and onboardings. They can be more strategic and personal with their efforts.

CSMs need to know how to prioritize proactive outreach on an individual level and have the right resources to send via email.– Brandon Carroll


Make a case for customer education to Sales

Think about internal and external onboarding, and product adoption. Talk about ramping up Business Development hires faster and giving them a better way to sell.

We’ll have a world-class learning center, so sales reps can level up their skills and onboarding new employees will be easier.

Brandon suggests making it a requirement for Business Development hires to take the same courses as users before they start selling.

Our director of sales operations at FiscalNote found a direct correlation between completed courses and quota achievement. They can hold people accountable for product competency by completing courses and quizzes on product knowledge.– Brandon Carroll

Account Management

Make a case for customer education to account management

Focus on internal and external onboarding cost savings, improving net retention, and reducing churn. If you have a power user of your  product and you engage them in educational trainings, they’re a good lead for cross-sell/upsell because they’re already sold on your company and product. 

The LMS will help drive more upsell and cross-sell leads and create a more cohesive organization when it comes to corporate branding and messaging.

Show them examples of different types of product trainings that already exist, including baseline content on how onboarding works.

When a new client comes onboard, this will take the onus away from you as an account manager to actually deliver a custom onboarding. There is less time wasted on product enablement. If you want content for a specific enterprise company, you can actually give them a unique course.

You don’t have to be in as many meetings. You will have a prioritized way of identifying who’s at risk based upon training engagement. You can use this tool as an intervention strategy. If someone’s at risk, identify a course that might be helpful for them. Use the same tactic to entice strong candidates for upsell on an individual basis.

Brandon suggested using Skilljar’s walkthrough page to show a use case of how that experience would look, depending upon the audience.

Skilljar's walkthrough page for LMS demo

Finance/Chief Revenue Officer

Make a case for customer education to Finance

Quantify the time and money saved by training new business hires without taking on additional internal resources. Talk numbers.

We’re going to have a really fast way to get new sales hires selling and cut back on the need for future FTE costs, which improves gross margin. The costs to service the client decreases over time, while CSM capacity increases.

At FiscalNote, Brandon estimated they could reduce support tickets by 10-20%. Their director of support had categorized all of their support tickets so they were able to identify the areas they could impact.

Best Practices for Creating Internal Buy-in

Once you have your LMS in place, here are some best practices Brandon advises for making your case for customer education:

Best Practices for Making a Business Case for Customer Education

In summary, Brandon offered this recap of his presentation and next steps for attendees to follow to make their case for customer education at their companies:

How to Make a Business Case for Customer Education

How to Make a Business Case for Customer Education

Why Brandon Chose Skilljar

Why Brandon Carroll chooses Skilljar for customer education

I chose Skilljar when I was at FiscalNote because the product was very powerful and easy to use. The people I worked with were great. The AE was not pushy during the sales process. And they also had an implementation team which made them more aligned with our success. I didn’t feel as overwhelmed with Skilljar as I did when considering other platforms. The out-of-the-box integrations with Salesforce and Zendesk made it a nice addition to our existing tech stack, making the whole process easier for our support team.– Brandon Carroll


Skilljar resources mentioned in this post:

Don’t miss our next webinar on September 21st, 2022, “3 Steps to Using Education to Fuel Product-Led Growth.