4 Powerful Ways to Promote Your Customer Academy & Inspire Long-term Learning Image

4 Powerful Ways to Promote Your Customer Academy & Inspire Long-term Learning

People naturally harbor a sense of caution toward the unknown. Microwaves. Emails. Cryptocurrency. The potential gains, like drastically reducing cooking times, don’t matter at first. Instead, there’s a healthy dose of skepticism, with most people waiting for broader adoption before incorporating these new things—however outlandish they may seem at the time—into their lives. 

Your customers won’t view your academy in the same light as the microwave, but you should still anticipate some adoption hurdles in both the short- and long-term.

Why? Three primary reasons: 

  1. Your customers have always defaulted to help centers and their Customer Success Managers (CSM) for support and strategic guidance. 
  2. Many customers still value the “human” element of customer-facing teams, especially if they’re navigating a more complex product. 
  3. Your customers lack the awareness or motivation to learn independently through an academy.

These adoption barriers are natural because you’re asking your customers to fundamentally change how they learn and grow with your product. The good news is that with the right promotional strategy, you won’t face the same uphill battle as Percy Spencer, the inventor credited with inventing the modern microwave.

But where does a powerful promotional strategy start? With a simple mindset shift that’ll change how you think about driving engagement and long-term learning.   

A New Mindset: Promoting Your Academy Like a Product 

Say it with me: Your academy is a product. It may not fit the exact definition your Product, Sales, and Marketing teams use, but the similarities between your academy and your actual product are abundant.

Just think about the steps you’ve taken to get your academy to this point:

  • You identified your customers’ needs: Just like your Product team pinpoints customer pain points and needs to ensure product-market fit, you identified the specific skills and knowledge gaps you needed to fill to ensure your academy is a valuable—and default—resource.
  • You dialed in your value proposition: Just like your Product team defines selling points and benefits to drive adoption, any promotional efforts must include messaging that clearly articulates the value of your academy i.e., what’s in it for your customers? 
  • You measure success: Just like your Product team uses insights and feedback to iterate your product, you’re using—or will use—learning and business-level metrics to gauge the impact of your academy.

Now, think about how your Product, Marketing, and Sales teams promote your product to customers and prospects—emails, social media, internal enablement, and in-app notifications. Those same tactics apply to promoting your academy, so don’t recreate the wheel. 

1. Send Emails to Introduce Your Academy, Highlight New Courses, and Re-engage Customers 

Marketing has come a long way over the years, and there are a lot of promotional strategies and tactics you can use to promote your academy. Those are all in play, but the old-school email remains one of the sharpest tools in your toolbox. 

Here are a few ways you can use emails to promote your academy: 

  • Launch: Introduce your academy to your customers to drive initial engagement and awareness, i.e., “Hey, we have a new academy—check out this awesome course.”
  • Reconnect: Reach out to customers who’ve stopped engaging with your academy or have yet to complete a course in a certain amount of time, i.e., “We miss you. Here’s a new course (or related resources) we think you’ll love.” 
  • Update: Highlight new courses and content, such as “Hey, we launched this awesome new certification program that’ll help you with X, Y, and Z. Here’s the link.” 

Your customer-facing team members can also send emails to customers based on product usage. For example, suppose a CSM notices a customer is underutilizing a feature or not achieving the outcomes they likely expect. In that case, they can send an email that links to a relevant course or learning path to get them back in the game.  

Pro Tip: Automate these emails with your LMS’s communication tools to ensure you get relevant courses in front of your customers—all without the manual lift typically associated with sending emails.

Regardless of the email’s purpose, keep one thing in mind: Every email should be personal and contextually relevant to each customer. If you were in your customers’ shoes, would you open the email and take the course? If not, take a step back and reevaluate not only the email’s positioning (copy, subject line, etc.), but the courses promoted within. 

2. Say “Hey” on Social Media or in Your Community

Your customers are humans. They have their routines, preferences, and ways of relaxing. They also spend a good chunk of their days on social media—and many of them follow your company page for updates, insights, and announcements. 

Use this ingrained behavior to your advantage by posting about your academy and new courses that keep learning front and center in your customers’ minds. You can even showcase “top-performing” customers—essentially academy case studies—that show other customers how their peers are benefiting from your academy. Remember: People trust their peers (almost unanimously) more than branded content. A video post featuring a customer that says something along the lines of, “Hey peers, EmailMonkey Academy made me better at my job,” can go a long way in pushing people through your academy’s proverbial doors. 

Social media is a two-way street, though. You should also encourage your customers to post, which is precisely what David O’Brien, Director of Customer Support at AgriWebb (a Gainsight CE customer) emphasized when he joined us for a webinar all about Agribwebb’s successful promotional tactics 

He said, “Something that’s worked really well for AgriWebb is enabling our customers to share digital badges and certificates to their personal pages.” While sharing certificates and badges is a great way to help your customers advance in their careers, it also indirectly promotes your academy to their networks, which can build more awareness and potentially generate leads. 

In the same vein as posting to social media, promote your academy within your community where your customers (and other like-minded people) connect and learn from each other. In the example below, Gainsight’s Education team posted in our CE community letting our customers know about a host of new courses available in our academy aimed at “boosting their skills.”

3. Get Promotional Assistance from Your Sales, Marketing, and CS Teams 

Academy adoption is undoubtedly a metric you own, but you don’t have to increase it alone. While sending emails and posting to social media are likely your responsibilities, don’t discount the influence other teams—Sales, Marketing, Support, and Customer Success—can have on driving engagement and making learning a natural part of your customers’ workflow. 

David attributes a huge part of AgriWebb Academy’s success to the help of other departments. In the How To Market Your Academy webinar, David emphasizes that “One of the key reasons our academy has been successful is that we’ve made sure different teams and departments are on board and realize that our academy benefits their teams, too.”

Note the second part of his statement: realize that our academy benefits their teams, too. That’s the key. 

While we’d all love for the rest of your company to immediately get on board and promote your academy, the reality is that most people need an incentive. That’s just human nature. Give them that incentive by clearly articulating how your academy helps them. For example, talk to your Marketing team about how your academy can generate leads or sit down with your CS team to help them understand how your academy can accelerate time-to-value (TTV) and how it has helped alleviate bandwidth for other CSMs in their department. As mentioned earlier, your internal teams can benefit from case studies too and be more motivated when they see the outcomes associated with customers using your academy.

Once they’re bought into their academy, you can ask for their help promoting it. Lila Meyer, Gainsight’s Director of Global Education Services, who joined David on the webinar, said, “We introduce Gainsight University early in the customer journey by sending a welcome email from our Chief Customer Officer, Kellie Capote.” She continued, “The email directs people to a few CTAs that help them sign up for Gainsight University and start learning our products.” 

Pro Tip: Enable your internal teams on your academy so that they can clearly communicate its value with customers and prospects. For example, help your Sales team understand how to position your academy as a differentiator and how your CS team can effectively introduce learning during (and especially after) the onboarding process.

4. Promote Your Academy Directly in Your Product

There are few certainties in life, but one is that personalization works. Whether it’s an ad, a product recommendation, or your next show on Netflix, it’s impossible to deny that relevant and tailored material is more impactful than its generalized alternatives. 

How does that translate to your academy promotion strategy? Through relevant and timely in-product engagements, of course. With in-app engagement tools, you can promote your academy and relevant courses when and exactly where your customers need them. 

For example, you can build an engagement that goes live when a customer lands on a particular part of your product showcasing a course or content that’ll help them understand the why and how to maximize it. Similarly, you could use a chatbot to keep your academy (or community) always one click away.

Give the People What They Want

We’ve just scratched the surface of ways you can promote your academy and inspire long-term learning among your customer base. A round-up email, incentive program, and partner programs also fall on this list. 

Whichever tactics you use, remember these points: 

  • Personalize your messaging and content to your customers’ unique needs, paint points and goals.
  • Spread your promotional efforts across multiple channels to ensure you get as many eyes on them as possible. 
  • If your academy is live, keep your promotional engine running to constantly remind your customers that it’s a valuable resource available to them. 

You’ve poured too many resources into your academy—but hopefully no sleepless nights—for it to collect dust. These promotional strategies will make sure that doesn’t happen.