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Skilljar & Siteimprove: Grow ARR Through Customer Education Despite an Economic Downturn [Coffee Chat Recap]

Skilljar & Siteimprove: Grow ARR Through Customer Education Despite an Economic Downturn [Coffee Chat Recap]

Jami Kelmenson
May 16, 2023
Customer Education Coffee Chats

Skilljar Coffee Chats showcase different ways customers are using our platform, including demos with special guests. This month’s Customer Education Coffee Chat, hosted by Cutler Bleecker, Skilljar’s Customer Training Manager, featured a conversation with Dave Zinsman, Director of Customer Education for Siteimprove, about how they monetized customer training to grow ARR despite an economic downturn.

Siteimprove is a comprehensive SaaS-based solution that helps teams optimize their website content for everything from SEO and analytics to accessibility, through three solution packages: Inclusivity, Content Experience, and Marketing Performance. Dave shared his expertise on a topic that just about every Skilljar customer is interested in at this time – how to grow your company’s ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) through customer education sales, despite an economic downturn.

Dave explained how their education Content, Consulting, and Selling Motion are helping Siteimprove to realize six-figure education deals, with even higher levels of pipeline in the works.

“Skilljar is one of the core partners we’ve worked with in order to realize success for the company.” – Dave Zinsman

So grab your coffee and read the recap of how Siteimprove, well…improved their training program to deliver monetary as well as customer success results for their organization.

3 Keys to Customer Education ARR Growth Despite an Economic Downturn

Siteimprove's strategy for customer education is centered around content, consulting, and the selling motion

Siteimprove’s legacy education offerings have enjoyed many years of success with high demand from customers and strong customer investment in subscriptions. After market analysis and several studies gaining the voice of the customer, the Customer Education team reimagined their education products for a whole new level of customer value. Within the first quarter of relaunch, they secured a six-figure customer education deal for the first time, with many more high-value education deals in the pipeline — a tremendous milestone for the company.

As of February 2022, Siteimprove reached $100M ARR, thanks in part to its ability to help brands and marketers deliver a more inclusive digital learning experience via the Siteimprove Academy, now rebranded as Frontier.

Dave explained that the core driver behind this new level of success is the cross-functional team behind Frontier, including the organization’s Marketing, Customer Success, Professional Services, and Sales teams — all coming together to unlock more value for the customer. It was this team effort that allowed Siteimprove to generate a winning approach through “content, consulting, and the selling motion.”

1. Content that is heroic, human, and holistic

Heroic refers to moving beyond a transactional approach to your go-to-market strategy for your learning platform to a more transformational approach that signals something unique and powerful to users.

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Siteimprove opted for a more transformational approach to branding their learning platform. Rather than call it a university or academy, they wanted to the branding to match the aspirational qualities of their new professional development-oriented content with the name “Frontier” and dramatic images.

“When our customers make a bigger investment in professional development, the expectation is significant career leaps as a result. A ‘heroic’ approach to the branding helps us align with what the customer expects from a high-value learning experience — one worthy of their time.”— Dave Zinsman

Another example of a heroic branding feature is their Frontier Leaders Program, which encourages various levels of community involvement that enables customers to “be on the forefront of building a better digital world for all.” This elevates the platform in the eyes of an economic buyer of professional development who can offer thought leadership opportunities to their employees as well as end users.

Siteimprove's Frontier Leaders Program Tiers

The Frontier Leaders Program offers opportunities for customers to become thought leaders in training by providing feedback, participating in sessions, and sharing best practices.

“Through our learning platform, Frontier, we activate customers as power users and power advocates, and the branding and heroic messaging reflect that aspirational experience.”— Dave Zinsman

Human encompasses the power of social learning and bringing people together in a community where they can learn, connect, and grow. This approach also comes through in high production value content in the form of subject matter experts (SMEs) participating in videos to move beyond just the technological component of their offering. In other words, there’s a human with a point of view behind the technology.

Live seminars, master classes, and community events from SiteImprove's learning academy, Frontier

Similar to the community-building approach with the Frontier Leaders Program, this helps the economic buyer of training see the value in providing additional opportunities for professional development among employees and end users.

Holistic learning experiences are created by having lessons in Frontier continue in the actual Siteimprove platform. A talk track Siteimprove uses when speaking with economic buyers looking to make a larger investment in training is as follows:

We’re going to provide your users with the experience of live, expert coaching in a self-paced format through our system, aka “in-app guidance.” This goes beyond watching videos passively — it makes for active performance-based learning with “learn-by-doing” content in the Siteimprove platform. It’s like getting direct coaching combined with a product walkthrough. Your users get guidance at the point of need — not just a token pop-up tutorial, but a series of guided explanations that really teach the finesse factor to enable users to get maximum value out of the product.

Heroic, human, and holistic content in action

Siteimprove uses a subscription model to monetize its content offerings based on a tiered approach including core courses, expanded course access, all-course access, and culminating in a customized consulting approach.

They layer up offerings to the highest tier of weekly coaching through office hours to broaden out options for users so that everyone can access what they need. Siteimprove folds community, certifications, coaching, and career development resources into the tiers, on top of the core product certification courses. As the tiers increase, they offer price discounts to incentivize purchasers.

Siteimprove offers three tiers of learning programs to enterprise users, along with a consulting option known as Frontier Custom

In addition to three standard tiers of training, Siteimprove also offers a customized consulting component that helps them further up-level their offering, which has been very successful as a monetization strategy.

2. Consulting as an enterprise change management solution

“Organizations know that they have to pay for a Tech solution. They also expect to pay a premium for a Change Management solution”— Dave Zinsman

While Siteimprove’s core content offerings are a big revenue driver for the company, their greatest source of education revenue comes from Frontier Custom options. They use consulting as a strategy to create higher customer education ARR and close higher ARR software deals.

Frontier Custom is more than a training program; it’s an enterprise change management solution. Unlike off-the-shelf core offerings, which are designed for a universal audience, Frontier Custom takes the best of their content library and adds in customized exercises and content to shape the experience for the specific change management a particular customer is looking for.

Siteimprove's maturity matrix from Ad-Hoc learning offerings to Measured training outcomes

Siteimprove offers tools to measure and improve website accessibility. They aim to move users from “ad hoc” processes to “measured” outcomes, along this maturity matrix for different levels of accessibility.

How do you enable large groups within an organization and instill new ways of working? The answer is training, but training that is based on people, processes, and technology to move users along the matrix for website accessibility, Siteimpove’s core offering.

To help increase “proactive accessibility,” Siteimprove works with enterprises on a 5-step competency model as a roadmap for how and when to use training to achieve the desired outcomes. According to Dave, this approach helps Siteimprove solve a lot of problems for company teams that don’t have the bandwidth or budget to train customers on their own. Siteimprove has dedicated program managers to oversee these programs and build confidence around what they can deliver.

The talk track Siteimprove uses to promote its consulting services with enterprises is as follows:

Our standard customer education library is designed for a universal audience. Our custom offering tailors our training for your employees per your organization’s specific training needs.

“We do what we need to do to make sure engagement and skills development actually happen for our customers. Skilljar has equipped us with the backend to be able to offer thousands of end users who can take the training at scale.”— Dave Zinsman

3. ‘Sense Making’ to improve the selling motion

Customer education teams typically have to make a case to executive leadership to obtain budget to support their programs. Dave advises the following talk track when trying to secure budget for education programs:

This is not an investment in customer education for the company. This is an adoption-at-scale model that we’re building.

Position it to your company in terms of specific year-over-year ARR growth and how training can impact margins. For example, give the company back 50% of its account development bandwidth by not having to conduct training manually. (Use Skilljar’s Customer Education Business Impact Template to demonstrate the business value of your training program based on GRR, NRR, NPS, and CSAT.)

How Siteimprove educates its internal sales force to sell customer training

To educate your internal sales force, talk about how you can increase the average deal size and retention through “sense making” (using collective experiences of customers/prospects to make sense of information overload so they can make confident purchasing decisions).

Don’t just create PDFs and white papers for customers to process. Instead of cold calls and emails, provide highly sought after content and community programming from an educational standpoint. Offer mini certifications and seminars to customers and prospects to ensure they have the knowledge they need to see the value in your product and make an informed decision.

“When you employ sense making, you can impact higher-quality, higher-value deals. Use Customer Education to show the customer or prospect how they can benefit from a growth strategy investment in your product. This can generate some exciting results in terms of referrals, conversions, and active participation with your product.”— Dave Zinsman

In the case of Siteimprove, their goal with customers/prospects is to move from an accessibility partner to a trusted business partner.

“Once you have that trusted relationship, you start seeing recurring revenue and retention; they’re not churning as often.”— Cutler Bleecker

See more resources from Skilljar on how to grow ARR through customer education and make a business case to internal stakeholders:

Smartsheet Moves to an eLearning Platform to Help Drive $1M Revenue Target (Case study on Smartsheet’s monetization strategy)
How to Price and Package Customer Training (Learn what pricing models to consider and how to overcome common pricing challenges.)
Skilljar Strategic Insights (Know how your program’s performance stacks up against others so you can make a case to stakeholders.)
Skilljar Customer Education Business Impact Template (Visualize the impact of customer education on customer satisfaction and retention – your leadership team will thank you!)

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