“Train the Trainer” is a terrifying term

TLDR: If you provide software, data services or other online services to businesses, you might be familiar with the term “train the trainer”.  It’s a time-honored approach to deploying software to new users.  It should also strike terror in the hearts of vendors.

If you believe, as we do, that adoption of your product is critical to customer retention and growth, then training might be the most pivotal adoption milestone of all.  If it’s so important, can you entrust it to your customer?

Why is training such a pivotal moment?

Training is typically the end user’s first experience with your technology.  As they say, “first impressions are lasting”.  At lot is at stake, and the outcome can go in very different directions:

  • The end user had a fantastic training experience and is happily adopting
  • The end user is left unfulfilled by their training in some way; adoption is slow or none

“We don’t have time to train every user”

You’re right, you don’t.  At least, not as a live 1:1 session every time.  Maybe your customer doesn’t either. The person within your customer’s team who was made responsible for training his/her peers isn’t likely to have the time.  They typically have other full-time tasks they are responsible for. Software trainer is seldom a role except in the very largest companies.

But as the vendor, you’re the expert in your product and in the business domain of what you automate.  Which means you’re the best equipped to deliver training.

Think about practical, tactical approaches to delivering live training, using a one-to-many approach:

  • Drive customers to regularly scheduled live training webinars
  • Hold regular office hours, where users can come to you with ad-hoc questions
  • Add a training session to every business trip you take, where multiple customers in each city can attend (it’s also a great way to develop a grassroots user group)

Re-create the classroom

Record a training session video and publish it on YouTube, Vimeo or even share a Dropbox link to a recording file.  Make sure there are exercises for the user to do in short intervals.  This will make the video content much more engaging for them.

You can even deploy a live chat tool so that users can engage a support team member for ad-hoc questions as the view the video.

Expand the definition of “training”

Training can be delivered in many other ways than the classroom paradigm.

Think more broadly about training as content for a user to consume at the moment of need.  For example:

  • Short explainer videos for single tasks in your application
  • Help content such as tooltips within your product’s user interface
  • Knowledgebase articles
  • Customer communities
  • Blog articles
  • Live chat
  • Learning management systems with recorded course content

Promote your content

You’ve worked your butt off developing a rich collection of content.  It still needs to be promoted to your users.  Content consumption is rarely a case of “if you build it they will come”.

To get your content consumed, consider the emails you could send and the content you can highlight in those emails.

For example, a new user onboarding email sequence might look like this:

  • Day One: welcome email.  Link to an explainer video for how to spend the first 5 minutes with your system.  Share links to knowledge content repositories.
  • Day Four: suggest a single feature for the user to try.  Write up short instructions in the email and link to supporting content on your site
  • Day Ten: check in.  Offer live resources such as chat, office hours and webinars to answer questions
  • Day Fourteen: suggest an advanced feature to learn. Write up short instructions in the email and link to supporting content on your site
  • Day Twenty One: share a case study of another customer who successfully adopted and the business benefits they earned

The first use experience sets the tone for the adoption that follows.  With business software, training is an essential ingredient to ensuring a successful first-use experience and adoption that follows.

Without a huge effort, you can “own” the training experience and deliver high-impact training experiences and content that translates into widespread adoption.  

One thought on ““Train the Trainer” is a terrifying term

  1. Yes. Training is a service, and I think it should also be sold “…as-a-Service.” Training as a Service (TAAS), perhaps? Ultimately it is our responsibility to help our customers adopt the product and to continue using it effectively. On-going learning is critical in a world in which the product is constantly changing and your customers are constantly changing.

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