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In this edition of our Training Tips series, we asked Sarah Bedrick, founding team member of HubSpot Academy and their former Certifications Program Manager, to share her insights and tips about how they trained customers on the HubSpot Academy team.

How did you decide between live training and on-demand training when building your content strategy?

When first starting the HubSpot Academy team, we didn’t have a choice between between live training and on-demand training. Because live training requires less resources to get started, and we were on strict budget and time constraints, we only had one option: live training. Fortunately, removing the question of whether we do live or on-demand training allowed us to focus on what really mattered – the training framework we’d use to educate and inspire our users. After a few heated debates, we landed on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle concept and we never looked back. You can see the “why, how, what” framework still live in most Academy content today.

While we started our Academy team with live webinars, within a year we were already experimenting with new types of training. Fast forward to today, there’s a full spectrum of content types from on-demand certification courses to how to checklists, to user-generated stories on the blog and a bi-weekly live show The Cap.

For those who are curious why the majority of Academy’s content is on-demand training, below I’ve offered up the reasons we initially made the transition and why we kept it that way:

Our users preferred on-demand content.

When we launched our first live classes, the number of customers attending every-time demonstrated that there was a demand for live training. Once we had this realization, we did as most teams would do and created more webinar-classes to help more people.

However, as the number of customers continued to grow over the next year and a half, there wasn’t an increase in our number of attendees, and in fact, it began to decline.

We could tell something was off, but we weren’t exactly sure what it was. Did a competitor pop up out of nowhere? Were there a series of broken registration links somewhere? Did our customer base change to a different time zone or a different country? Did our HubSpot team members forget to mention these classes on calls to customers? Or were people just over live training?

As the DRI (directly responsible individual) for our training, I urged our team manager, Mark Kilens, to allow me to run an experiment turning our webinar-based content into on-demand video. Eventually, he agreed. With the help of a few video experts at HubSpot, I arranged myself in front of the camera and worked my way through a seven-page script I had memorized. To say the least, I found this a little challenging. I’d never been on camera before and everything we were trying was new, but as the responses from customers came through I started to relax. The feedback was phenomenal. We had more people viewing the content, more often, and the feedback from customers and customer-facing team members was some of our best yet.

It’s a better way to scale our knowledge and impact more people.

For each of the live webinars we organized we’d max out at 100 attendees. We could upgrade our software, and we’d max out at one or two thousand people. By turning our training into videos, we could not only reach more people per hour, but we could help more people all 24 hours of the day, instead of that 1 hour period we’d be running our webinar.

An example of increasing our reach was in 2016; we awarded over 73,000 certifications which was almost a x10 increase from our 8,000 in 2014.

It pushes us to be more thoughtful from the start, which means better content for everyone.

As we transitioned away from live training to on-demand video, we found that our relationship with the user ended up changing dramatically. Since we didn’t hear from the users first-hand during the classes anymore, we found other ways to ensure the content would resonate. For example, we’d work closely with other teams internally like services, product, and product marketing to identify the best stories, facts, examples and analogies for users. The cross-functional collaboration not only produced better content, but it resulted in more company-wide alignment around the stories and messaging we shared with users.

My favorite example of aligning with HubSpotters to improve the material is when we found out just how hard it can be for a marketer to hit the publish button on their blog post. They would spend plenty of time researching, writing, and editing their article, but they’d never publish it. So, we made sure that when we got to the specific part of our video addressing turning the post live for others to see, we included a soundbite empathizing with the user. We recognized that making the post live for the world to see can be one of the most challenging parts of blogging, but nothing is permanent, and they can always go back and make edits as needed.

I prefered working with people internally instead of doing live webinars with customers to uncover the best material because it delivers our users with the most valuable content from the start. When people trust you with the only non-refundable resource they have – time – you make sure every interaction counts.

One final note on creating video content: just because we’d focus on the content mostly before recording the video doesn’t mean we’d “set it and forget it.” After enough people view it, we’d analyze it and improve it.

There are more opportunities to repurpose it and extend its reach.

When you invest the time into creating a high-production quality video, you spend time identifying ways to repurpose it.

We’d embed the videos directly into existing blog posts, or create new blogs based on a class and embed the videos or use the script’s content. We’d upload an entire certification course on iTunes as a video podcast, post to Udemy, and add a few videos to YouTube to get in front of new audiences. We’d meet with our technical writing team to see where the new videos can be added to written software’s documentation to enhance the value of it. Everywhere it naturally would strengthen the quality of the content being created or already in place, we’d add it. And this past summer, Justin Champion lead professor on the Content Marketing Certification course, turned his content into a HubSpot User Group (HUG) “road-show” and presented at user groups all over the United States, and he’s currently turning the content into a book.

Did you enjoy this? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series with Sarah Bedrick.


In our Training Tips series, we asked Training, Marketing, and Customer Success Managers what some of their best practices are to get the most out of a customer training program. Stay tuned for new Q&As each month!