Chris LoDolce's transformative customer education

Chris LoDolce's transformative customer education

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Chris LoDolce, Founder of SaaS Academy Advisors, shares his transformative customer education strategy.

A B2B company that pioneered offering free certification courses is HubSpot.

And one of the persons behind HubSpot Academy's early success is Chris LoDolce. He is the former Director of HubSpot Academy. Now he's the founder of SaaS Academy Advisors, where he helps SaaS companies build their own academy.

In episode 52 of the Marketing Powerups Show, you'll learn:

  • Chris' transformative customer education framework.
  • How to map out your customer education roadmap.
  • How to calculate the ROI of customer education programs.
  • One powerup that accelerated Chris' career.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcast and Spotify now, or watch it on YouTube.

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⭐️ The transformative educational experience

Creating a customer education program that drives business results takes more than just training users on a product. To develop meaningful and effective training, you need to take an empowering, transformational approach. According to Chris LoDolce, former Director of HubSpot Academy, there are four key steps:

1. Understand Customer Needs

Many SaaS companies struggle with customer education. How do you create programs that drive product adoption, retention, and growth? According to Chris LoDolce, it starts with understanding your customers' needs.

"Our goal never was how many users looked at the videos," Chris explains. "We needed as many users as possible. Our goal was to help change the behaviors of people through the educational programs. It was about creating transformative educational experiences for users"

2. Define training goals

Once you understand your customers, you can define clear training goals tied to business objectives. The goals could be increasing product usage or customer renewals. It could also be reducing churn.

"Having clear goals connected to business impact is crucial. HubSpot Academy created specialized learning tools aimed at driving increased product adoption because they knew usage tied directly to customer retention. Let your core metrics guide educational priorities."

3. Create transformational content

With your goals set, focus on creating content that educates and transforms learners. Think beyond product training - empower people to achieve their career and business goals.

As Chris puts it: "The goal isn't even just to tell somebody how to do something or why they should do it. The goal is to put these three things in context - why this matters for their business, why this matters for their career, and why this matters for their personal goals."

4. Building a Passionate Community

Finally, build a passionate community around your training programs. Facilitate sharing between participants, make your team accessible, and focus on impacting lives.

"HubSpot actively invested in bringing HubSpot users, learners, fans, and customers together both online and offline through the Inbound Conference. The key is to foster connections between learners, be visible and involved in dialogue, and recognize the human element in all interactions."

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    🎉 About Chris LoDolce

    Chris LoDolce is the founder of SaaS Academy Advisors, where he helps SaaS companies build their own academies. He was previously the Director of HubSpot Academy, where he helped grow it into a transformational education program. With over a decade of experience in marketing, Chris is an expert in leveraging academies and educational content to drive business growth, transform learners, and build passionate communities.

    🕰️ Timestamps and transcript

    • [00:00:00] Chris LoDolce on Transforming Customer Education
    • [00:00:44] HubSpot Academy and SaaS Academy Advisors
    • [00:06:51] Building a Training Program for a SaaS Company
    • [00:12:19] The Evolution of HubSpot's Education Methodology
    • [00:17:26] The Importance of Educating Users on the Value of Product Features
    • [00:20:17] Transformational Education in SaaS
    • [00:24:26] The Power of Transformative Educational Experiences
    • [00:28:18] Metrics for Measuring the Impact of a SaaS academy
    • [00:34:28] The Power of Education in SaaS and HubSpot Academy
    • [00:41:57] Building Community and Academy at HubSpot
    • [00:52:25] Career Power Ups: Get 100 Transformative Experiences with People
    • [00:59:48] How HubSpot Helps SaaS Companies Scale

    Episode transcript

    [00:00:00] Chris LoDolce on Transforming Customer Education and HubSpot's Success

    [00:00:00] Ramli John: I'm a big fan of HubSpot.
    [00:00:01] Ramli John: They're a b two B company that pioneered in offering free certification courses.
    [00:00:05] Ramli John: And one of the persons behind HubSpot's Academy's early success is Chris La Dolce.
    [00:00:10] Ramli John: He's the former director of HubSpot Academy.
    [00:00:12] Ramli John: Now he's the founder of SaaS Academy Advisors, where he helps SaaS companies build their own academy.
    [00:00:18] Ramli John: In this marketing Powerups episode, you learn first, Chris transformative customer education framework.
    [00:00:22] Ramli John: Second, how to map out your customer education roadmap up.
    [00:00:25] Ramli John: Third, how to calculate the RoI of your customer education programs.
    [00:00:28] Ramli John: And number four, one power up that's accelerated Chris'career before we get started, I've created a free power up spreadsheet that you can download and apply Chris'transformative customer education strategy to your business right away.
    [00:00:40] Ramli John: You can get it
    [00:00:42] Ramli John: Or find that link in the show notes and description.

    [00:00:44] HubSpot Academy and SaaS Academy Advisors

    [00:00:44] Ramli John: Are you ready?
    [00:00:45] Chris LoDolce: Let's go.
    [00:00:46] Chris LoDolce: Marketing power ups.
    [00:00:49] Chris LoDolce: Ready, go.
    [00:00:54] Chris LoDolce: Here's your host, rambly John.
    [00:00:57] Ramli John: Well, Chris, thank you for joining.
    [00:00:59] Ramli John: I'm super excited to talk about HubSpot Academy and SaaS Academy advisors and helping you, helping companies with academies.
    [00:01:07] Ramli John: I know you were one of the earliest professors at HubSpot Academy.
    [00:01:11] Ramli John: What was that experience like?
    [00:01:13] Ramli John: Was it like a moment of excitement at that time or more?
    [00:01:18] Ramli John: I'm guessing it was a startup, maybe more of a sense of trying to figure, or more like an adventurous, really trying to figure out how you can make academy work at HubSpot.
    [00:01:30] Chris LoDolce: Happy to give some background there.
    [00:01:32] Chris LoDolce: Really interesting story.
    [00:01:33] Chris LoDolce: So when I joined HubSpot in 2011, there was a team of three people.
    [00:01:39] Chris LoDolce: Let's see if I can remember everybody.
    [00:01:40] Chris LoDolce: We'll get our academy history at HubSpot straight.
    [00:01:43] Chris LoDolce: It was somebody by the name of Lucy, somebody by the name of Brian Logan Reed, Lucy Orluck, Brian Logan Reed, and then Mike Ewing.
    [00:01:53] Chris LoDolce: Shout to Mike Ewing.
    [00:01:55] Chris LoDolce: Those three were working on what they called one to many training, essentially our customer base, our small businesses.
    [00:02:01] Chris LoDolce: Back then it was small, medium, large, whichever size product you want to buy.
    [00:02:06] Chris LoDolce: And small in 2011 was a $50 product.
    [00:02:09] Chris LoDolce: So the folks on that were your fencing companies, your HVAC companies.
    [00:02:14] Chris LoDolce: These were folks who were just getting online for the first time.
    [00:02:17] Chris LoDolce: Maybe they had a static one page screenshot of their mailer or picture of their mailer that was uploaded and they were getting to this, like, what is blogging, how to use keywords, all of these things.
    [00:02:27] Chris LoDolce: So these folks, essentially they were getting onboarding from an individual 8 hours or six to 8 hours.
    [00:02:36] Chris LoDolce: And that was costing basically, the payback was really long, right, because they're only paying $50.
    [00:02:43] Chris LoDolce: Just the onboarding was going to take us years to get that back.
    [00:02:47] Chris LoDolce: And so they were working on this idea of one to many training, which is essentially a series of webinars.
    [00:02:53] Chris LoDolce: And what we saw was that moved the needle a little bit, focused on teaching them how to use the product.
    [00:02:58] Chris LoDolce: But these folks were really busy, so coming to a webinar when they had a quote to go give or something else wasn't really working upmarket a little bit.
    [00:03:05] Chris LoDolce: In our medium sized businesses, we had the one on one consultants, which is what I was doing.
    [00:03:12] Chris LoDolce: And in that sense, they were paying us hundreds of dollars.
    [00:03:16] Chris LoDolce: And that payback made sense to have an individual onboarding experience.
    [00:03:21] Chris LoDolce: So for the smaller cohort, there was like the first attempt, and we could see a little bit of the metrics moving in terms of retention and product usage, but not much.
    [00:03:30] Chris LoDolce: So as that team moved on to, I think Lucy went to do in person training, Brian Logan Reid started a new team.
    [00:03:36] Chris LoDolce: This was like hyper growth at Hotspot, so everyone's like working on different projects.
    [00:03:40] Chris LoDolce: Mike Ewing went to start a new team too, I think.
    [00:03:44] Chris LoDolce: And the next version of that was Mike Redboard, Sarah Bedrick and Ryan Brown.
    [00:03:50] Chris LoDolce: And that was the first time when that team was doing it where they kind of came up with the idea of let's call it academy.
    [00:03:57] Chris LoDolce: But again, it was focused more at really the smaller folks who we couldn't financially make the metrics work for, giving them a one on one onboarding experience.
    [00:04:08] Chris LoDolce: So it was a group experience.
    [00:04:10] Chris LoDolce: And similarly, we were able to see some metrics move when it came to here's how to blog, here's how to use email.
    [00:04:17] Chris LoDolce: But not enough that it was really the right strategy to keep moving forward.
    [00:04:23] Chris LoDolce: So at that point in time, it was 2012.
    [00:04:26] Chris LoDolce: While this was all happening, myself, Mark Killins, and a bunch of other consultants, Andrew, we were called consultants back then, onboarding specialists.
    [00:04:35] Chris LoDolce: Today we were all doing this one on one consulting.
    [00:04:40] Chris LoDolce: And what we were finding was we were essentially having the same calls, right, lined up back to back, all next to each other.
    [00:04:46] Chris LoDolce: We're in that helicopter pilot, like chat talking.
    [00:04:49] Chris LoDolce: And what we realized was we're doing the same thing.
    [00:04:51] Chris LoDolce: We're sharing.
    [00:04:52] Chris LoDolce: Hey, I just made this word doc.
    [00:04:53] Chris LoDolce: This was like before Google Docs.
    [00:04:55] Chris LoDolce: So here's this word doc with these like 20 tips.
    [00:04:58] Chris LoDolce: Oh, let's turn that into a blog.
    [00:04:59] Chris LoDolce: Oh, can I send that to my customer?
    [00:05:01] Chris LoDolce: And what we realized was we were basically doing the same thing even with our upmarket clients, we were still having the same conversations, we were still reviewing the same landing pages, we were still sharing the same best practices.
    [00:05:13] Chris LoDolce: We were still sharing the same blog posts.
    [00:05:16] Chris LoDolce: And so what we realized was, well, maybe there's something more to that.
    [00:05:19] Chris LoDolce: So Mark Killens, Julie Hogan, a couple of other folks started what they called content camp.
    [00:05:25] Chris LoDolce: And the idea there was like, we're going to do webinars for customers.
    [00:05:29] Chris LoDolce: 2011, this was like kind of a novel idea, right?
    [00:05:32] Chris LoDolce: Like webinars were legion.
    [00:05:33] Chris LoDolce: Now we have our customers, like, cool, but it was like, let's create something.
    [00:05:37] Chris LoDolce: And so Mark and Julie and a couple of other folks, Billy McDonald, a few other folks started this thing.
    [00:05:44] Chris LoDolce: And Mark Kilns really brought this new type of energy to this.
    [00:05:48] Chris LoDolce: And it was like, okay, it's about using the product, but it's more about what are we using the product for?
    [00:05:56] Chris LoDolce: Why are we using the product?
    [00:05:58] Chris LoDolce: And so they had a nice blend of kind of best practices in those days.
    [00:06:02] Chris LoDolce: We used the word best practices and kind of how to use the tools.
    [00:06:07] Chris LoDolce: And so 2012, the second iteration of academy, those folks were going on to do different things.
    [00:06:13] Chris LoDolce: Mike Redborg got promoted.
    [00:06:15] Chris LoDolce: Ryan Brown went to the marketing team.
    [00:06:17] Chris LoDolce: Sarah Bedrick joined Mark Kills and myself.
    [00:06:20] Chris LoDolce: Mark Killins being the manager to do v three of HubSpot Academy.
    [00:06:24] Chris LoDolce: So this is one of those things where it's like, we're in the CS team, we're consultants at this point, senior consultants, more customers than we could ask, more growth opportunity into management.
    [00:06:37] Chris LoDolce: And we were at this position where it's like, we know there's something, we know there's a code to crack.
    [00:06:42] Chris LoDolce: We're close to it, we feel it.
    [00:06:44] Chris LoDolce: These webinars are showing us there's something more than just this idea of onboarding training for small folks.
    [00:06:49] Chris LoDolce: Everybody wants to learn.

    [00:06:51] Building a Training Program for a SaaS Company

    [00:06:51] Chris LoDolce: And so to your question, as we went into, as I set the scene, we went into this with like, there's something to figure out here.
    [00:06:59] Chris LoDolce: There's not a playbook that exists because most training was in person ala carte.
    [00:07:04] Chris LoDolce: We're going to build a bespoke training program for you or we're going to do these kind of group webinars.
    [00:07:09] Chris LoDolce: So going into this, it was like Mark Killens leading Sarah and myself.
    [00:07:13] Chris LoDolce: Sarah, myself and Mark, we were all professors, so we were all doing the teaching.
    [00:07:17] Chris LoDolce: And the goal of this training was really just to get folks to use the three apps that if all three of those apps within HubSpot were used, your retention was close to 100, whereas any other combination was 60% or low.
    [00:07:35] Chris LoDolce: It was the early days of SAS.
    [00:07:37] Chris LoDolce: We're still learning what churn or ten out retention means.
    [00:07:41] Chris LoDolce: And so that was our goal, marketing the three apps that existed that basically we had to get folks to use email, blog and landing pages.
    [00:07:53] Chris LoDolce: If we flip that around, blog, how to get people, attract people to your website, landing page, how to convert folks to become leads and then email.
    [00:08:02] Chris LoDolce: How do you engage those leads and hopefully get them sales ready?
    [00:08:06] Chris LoDolce: So again, back in that day, the idea of a landing page to most folks was a completely novice or a completely new idea.
    [00:08:14] Chris LoDolce: Completely new idea.
    [00:08:16] Chris LoDolce: And so what we did for the first about six months to a year was essentially created 1 hour trainings where we broke down the education.
    [00:08:26] Chris LoDolce: We can definitely get more into that, but it was on each one of these topics.
    [00:08:30] Chris LoDolce: But first we set the scene of how each of these apps fit into your greater inbound marketing strategy.
    [00:08:36] Chris LoDolce: And again, the focus was, let's get people to use the products and the tools.
    [00:08:40] Chris LoDolce: Back then again, people were just, they might have been on Internet Explorer and Internet Explorer, like Doug didn't work with HubSpot, right.
    [00:08:47] Chris LoDolce: So it was like something as simple as making sure they were using the right technology.
    [00:08:51] Chris LoDolce: A lot of these folks were marketers who went to school prior to computers and the Internet being used in daily business life.
    [00:09:00] Chris LoDolce: So there was a lot of that.
    [00:09:02] Chris LoDolce: And then on top of that, how do you actually use this software?
    [00:09:05] Chris LoDolce: And so for us that was the focus, is just teaching those classes multiple times a week and not just saying, here's how to do it, but sharing the best practices, sharing the methodology, where they were in their marketing kind of ecosystem, and then doing workshops.
    [00:09:21] Chris LoDolce: So we would actually have people in real time build their landing page and then share it out with everybody else and then give feedback in real time, which again, now it's like, well, of course everyone does that.
    [00:09:34] Chris LoDolce: Back then it was hard to get folks to share, right?
    [00:09:37] Chris LoDolce: It's like their work.
    [00:09:39] Chris LoDolce: And so that was really year one was figuring out that delivery method, figuring out how we are from the back end.
    [00:09:46] Chris LoDolce: I like to say with educational content, even front end, the user experience, how it looks.
    [00:09:51] Chris LoDolce: The back end is the coding, right?
    [00:09:53] Chris LoDolce: How are we creating learning objectives?
    [00:09:55] Chris LoDolce: How are we testing against them?
    [00:09:56] Chris LoDolce: How do we make sure that folks have actually learned?
    [00:10:00] Chris LoDolce: But then the beautiful thing with technology and SaaS is the actions and behavioral changes they've taken based off of those learnings, which translates to product usage, which then ideally, if the product is used correctly, translates to results, which then of course means upgrades, hopefully cross sells, hopefully.
    [00:10:18] Chris LoDolce: But at least retention.
    [00:10:20] Ramli John: I love how the products are tied to the inbound flywheel that I know HubSpot was really evangelizing about.
    [00:10:27] Ramli John: The chalk engage and then the convert or delight and really attach it to three use cases or features, the landing page, the email and then the blog, which makes a ton of sense there.
    [00:10:46] Ramli John: I'm curious how you landed on those three.
    [00:10:48] Ramli John: How did the team figure out or did it just make sense?
    [00:10:51] Ramli John: Because this is the three things that you need to do to accomplish this flywheel.
    [00:10:57] Chris LoDolce: Yes, it's a great question.
    [00:10:59] Chris LoDolce: So our data team, our analytics team figured that out, just looking at product app usage and retention, doing like cohort analysis.
    [00:11:09] Chris LoDolce: So they're the ones who figured that out, which was definitely helpful for us.
    [00:11:13] Chris LoDolce: Believe it or not, those were not the tools at the time which were closing the most deals.
    [00:11:19] Chris LoDolce: We had some social tools, so people were buying for social.
    [00:11:23] Chris LoDolce: There were some people who were using the social tools a ton, but that didn't translate to retention.
    [00:11:29] Chris LoDolce: So some of our most popular tools weren't some of the tools that were the most, that drove the most retention.
    [00:11:37] Chris LoDolce: Like, one of our most popular tools back then was you could see essentially the country and region of America where somebody, or anywhere in the world where someone was coming like that data, just giving that to marketers back then, that was like on steroids.
    [00:11:55] Chris LoDolce: And so it's like, people love that, right?
    [00:11:57] Chris LoDolce: People got that, but that usage had no correlation to retention, right.
    [00:12:04] Chris LoDolce: Because it was cool to see, but was it helping their business grow?
    [00:12:07] Chris LoDolce: Was it getting more leads in the like?
    [00:12:09] Chris LoDolce: No, it know, it was definitely the data team, the product team, looking at those metrics and then us coming in and saying, ok, we've got to figure this out.

    [00:12:19] The Evolution of HubSpot's Methodology and its Impact on Business Growth

    [00:12:19] Chris LoDolce: The layup that we got, and I always like to say this, HubSpot Academy was standing on the shoulders of a giant or on the top of a mountain, and we had a microphone.
    [00:12:33] Chris LoDolce: And so we were really fortunate in the situation we were in because we had this business that was growing quickly.
    [00:12:38] Chris LoDolce: We had phenomenal leadership who was spending the time learning from generation one of SaaS companies, the salesforce, the boxes, everybody who had come before HubSpot.
    [00:12:48] Chris LoDolce: And so we had a really good platform and audience to bring folks into, but we also had the methodology.
    [00:12:56] Chris LoDolce: So when I started HubSpot version, one of the methodology was get found, convert, analyze.
    [00:13:06] Chris LoDolce: So there's three phases and it does, because that's what HubSpot offered, tools to get found.
    [00:13:11] Chris LoDolce: I mean, this was like the days of our co founders getting on phone with customers and helping them rank on dig.
    [00:13:17] Chris LoDolce: That was a big deal, right?
    [00:13:18] Chris LoDolce: How do you get found?
    [00:13:19] Chris LoDolce: And then the convert was landing pages and the analyzes, just the analytics of how did people get to your website and what percentage of them filled out a form.
    [00:13:27] Chris LoDolce: That was it.
    [00:13:28] Chris LoDolce: And as HubSpot grew, they had to make a strategic decision, which was, we're going to go.
    [00:13:33] Chris LoDolce: They called it Mary, mofu monetization.
    [00:13:35] Chris LoDolce: I think there's a Harvard case study on it now.
    [00:13:37] Chris LoDolce: But it was like, okay, mary, which was our Persona, which was mid market, not owner Ali, which was the individuals that we were just talking about trying to educate.
    [00:13:46] Chris LoDolce: And then Mofu is middle of the funnel, right?
    [00:13:49] Chris LoDolce: Our email tools, all these different tools, and then monetization, right?
    [00:13:53] Chris LoDolce: How are we going to monetize that?
    [00:13:54] Chris LoDolce: And so as we moved to that, what we realized was, well, wait a second, get found, convert.
    [00:13:59] Chris LoDolce: Analyze.
    [00:13:59] Chris LoDolce: That methodology, which was in the original inbound book on every single presentation anyone gave, was no longer as relevant and was being used less at the business.
    [00:14:09] Chris LoDolce: So Mark Killins led the charge with the academy team and folks around the business to come up with our second version, which at that point was attract, convert, close, and delight.
    [00:14:19] Chris LoDolce: And it told a really nice linear story to these strangers are going to find you, how you're going to convert those strangers into known leads and then engage with those leads to a point where they become a customer.
    [00:14:35] Chris LoDolce: And then once they're a customer, it's time to help them, help delight them, so that in turn, they attract more people to your website.
    [00:14:44] Chris LoDolce: Excuse me.
    [00:14:46] Chris LoDolce: So that methodology then involved another time, a few years later, 2018, 2019, when Brian Halligan, as he's looking at the market and the executive leadership team, the board, the investors, all the people are looking around and saying, what's the future?
    [00:15:03] Chris LoDolce: And very quickly, they realized this idea of a linear approach to the customer experience, it was outdated.
    [00:15:12] Chris LoDolce: And that's when HubSpot Academy updated everything again to bring in this idea of a flywheel and force and friction and what that means.
    [00:15:23] Chris LoDolce: And so the real takeaway here, the nugget, I would say, is that without something like HubSpot Academy being built over those six years or so, at that point, for a business to be able to say, okay, we're now going to update this methodology, which is splattered across thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of websites, explaining, this is what inbound marketing is.
    [00:15:45] Chris LoDolce: This is what inbound.
    [00:15:45] Chris LoDolce: This is how you do it now we're going to change from a linear to a flywheel.
    [00:15:48] Chris LoDolce: It still took us two or more years to really get that into the market.
    [00:15:52] Chris LoDolce: But we were able to update our certification, which hundreds of thousands of people had this inbound marketing certification.
    [00:15:59] Chris LoDolce: We were able to say, look, your certification, every year, every two years it expires when you take it again.
    [00:16:07] Chris LoDolce: Times have changed, tech has evolved.
    [00:16:11] Chris LoDolce: Here's how we're thinking about customers and we were able to essentially re educate the market with this really powerful tool, HubSpot Academy.
    [00:16:18] Chris LoDolce: If you're a business and you don't have a way to educate your customer base, all of your stakeholders, whether they're customers, industry folks who are learning from you, partners.
    [00:16:28] Chris LoDolce: If you don't have that, it's going to be really hard to evolve your business and to release new tools that fit into the methodology you're currently teaching.
    [00:16:38] Chris LoDolce: So it's easy to bring new customers on, but you're leaving everyone behind.
    [00:16:41] Chris LoDolce: And we know how important it is, especially today with efficient growth.
    [00:16:45] Chris LoDolce: How do you continue to nurture the people who have invested in you and given you the money to continue to grow and not just say thank you, let's focus on new folks.
    [00:16:55] Chris LoDolce: So the academy really was that and still today is very much a big piece of the entire experience somebody has with HubSpot, even if they've never purchased the product and never planned to.
    [00:17:07] Ramli John: That's super interesting that it's like this approach.
    [00:17:11] Ramli John: As you evolve your framework and approach, you're also bringing those academy learners along for the journey so that they get updated along as well, which is super.
    [00:17:24] Chris LoDolce: Exactly, exactly.

    [00:17:26] The Importance of Educating Users on the Value of Product Features

    [00:17:26] Ramli John: I want to ask about that interesting thing you mentioned around how most people signed up in the early days for HubSpot for that social piece.
    [00:17:34] Ramli John: And I guess is that where HubSpot Academy fit?
    [00:17:37] Ramli John: Like how do you get them to level up and use the three things that you mentioned earlier, the landing page, blog and email?
    [00:17:46] Ramli John: Or was it something else that is that part of the thought process?
    [00:17:49] Ramli John: Like how do we educate our customers so that they eventually adopt this other features?
    [00:17:57] Chris LoDolce: Essentially, yeah, absolutely.
    [00:18:00] Chris LoDolce: How do we educate our users so that they understand the importance of these apps?
    [00:18:04] Chris LoDolce: Important because when we dug into the data, it wasn't that they were just like sending email, it was that the email tool was actually driving value for the business.
    [00:18:12] Chris LoDolce: The blogging tool was the number one tool to drive qualified traffic to the website, not getting on dig or back then it might have been keyword stuffing.
    [00:18:24] Chris LoDolce: Put 1000 keywords, make them white on the background of your white website.
    [00:18:29] Chris LoDolce: So easy, right?
    [00:18:30] Chris LoDolce: But now you're getting all this traffic.
    [00:18:32] Chris LoDolce: We had a Facebook plugin, I remember with a customer we did a giveaway for a plow.
    [00:18:37] Chris LoDolce: And it was like something like 12,000 leads.
    [00:18:42] Chris LoDolce: And that actually worked because it was a b to c application, but for b to b companies, it wasn't working.
    [00:18:48] Chris LoDolce: So for us, it was very much, how do we explain where these tools fit into the success of their business?
    [00:18:56] Chris LoDolce: And it was very much to what you had brought up originally about that methodology.
    [00:19:00] Chris LoDolce: It's like, we have a map for you.
    [00:19:02] Chris LoDolce: Here's the map.
    [00:19:03] Chris LoDolce: These people don't know who you are.
    [00:19:04] Chris LoDolce: You don't know who they are.
    [00:19:06] Chris LoDolce: And these are people who are paying for your services and love you.
    [00:19:09] Chris LoDolce: Here are the three tools that if you use them and you use them in unison with a unified approach or strategy, is going to bring you more business.
    [00:19:18] Chris LoDolce: And I think it was as much us teaching that content as it was that map, that methodology, and you'll see that with a lot of companies top right on any g two quadrant, you look at those companies in the top right have a point of view on the market.
    [00:19:34] Chris LoDolce: They have an approach, whether that's gainsight and their methodology and how to think about customer success and this evolution of the chief customer officer, whether it's gong, whoever it is, they have this approach.
    [00:19:46] Chris LoDolce: Sometimes it's more prevalent on the website, sometimes it's less.
    [00:19:49] Chris LoDolce: But they have a point of view in the market and they're able to connect that point of view to the product.
    [00:19:54] Chris LoDolce: You probably know this from AppQs, right?
    [00:19:56] Chris LoDolce: And then they're able to, over time, evolve that point of view as their business grows, as they add more features, as they go into new segments of the market and continue to tell that story.
    [00:20:06] Chris LoDolce: And that's where the storytelling piece of education really comes in, is being able to evolve that story and teach folks how to continually be successful with a growing product.

    [00:20:17] Transformational Education in SaaS

    [00:20:17] Ramli John: I feel like you're starting to get into the transformational education.
    [00:20:21] Ramli John: You're talking about how educational content and academies like this can really help that behavioral change and help.
    [00:20:32] Ramli John: Can you talk a little bit about that transformational education that you want to chat about?
    [00:20:37] Chris LoDolce: Definitely.
    [00:20:38] Chris LoDolce: I always like to say one of the most exciting parts about being on the educational side in SAS specifically, versus whether it's led or any other part of the world, is that the educational content that is consumed, we can track the consumption and how someone's consumed that.
    [00:20:57] Chris LoDolce: We can then track how impactful it was in terms of, was somebody able to remember?
    [00:21:02] Chris LoDolce: Were they able to analyze it?
    [00:21:04] Chris LoDolce: We can use kind of bloom's taxonomy to look at that and say, okay, what did somebody learn or not learn?
    [00:21:11] Chris LoDolce: And that's mostly where our analytics stop when it comes to higher education or any other type of traditional education.
    [00:21:19] Chris LoDolce: What we can do with educational content, educational programming in SAS, is then say, what were the behavioral changes of this individual and what did that lead to in their job, in their career?
    [00:21:31] Chris LoDolce: So when we talk about transformational education or transformative educational experiences, the goal isn't to tell somebody what to do.
    [00:21:40] Chris LoDolce: The goal isn't even just to tell somebody how to do something or why they should do it.
    [00:21:45] Chris LoDolce: The goal is to put these three things in context.
    [00:21:48] Chris LoDolce: Why this matters for their business, why this matters for their career.
    [00:21:52] Chris LoDolce: And when I say why it matters for the business, it's the goals, it's the growth.
    [00:21:56] Chris LoDolce: It's all that for their career.
    [00:21:58] Chris LoDolce: It's potentially a promotion, a new job, whatever that may be.
    [00:22:04] Chris LoDolce: And how do we mix those things together for them to see how this is going to truly benefit them, to learn it, and then put that in the context of what are the ideal approaches, right?
    [00:22:17] Chris LoDolce: What are the strategies?
    [00:22:18] Chris LoDolce: That's the how.
    [00:22:19] Chris LoDolce: Here's how you're going to do it.
    [00:22:20] Chris LoDolce: So we're going to contextualize that philosophy, these ideas into that how into the strategy, and then we just have the what.
    [00:22:26] Chris LoDolce: Here's what you need to do.
    [00:22:27] Chris LoDolce: Right.
    [00:22:27] Chris LoDolce: This is maybe more of the building a landing page, whatever it is.
    [00:22:31] Chris LoDolce: So that framework we definitely used, we stole that from Simon Sinek.
    [00:22:35] Chris LoDolce: One could argue he found it from somebody else.
    [00:22:38] Chris LoDolce: Start with it.
    [00:22:40] Chris LoDolce: But that worked incredibly well for us to then start tracking these behavioral changes.
    [00:22:46] Chris LoDolce: And when we look at HubSpot and we look at the advocates of HubSpot Academy, it was always the folks who had a transformative experience that would reach out to us, that would write blog posts about us.
    [00:23:00] Chris LoDolce: There's actually some podcasts out there.
    [00:23:01] Chris LoDolce: I can share the links with you where these folks talk about and share their experience of finding HubSpot academy, learning about inbound marketing, then applying for an agency, getting a job and growing their career based off of the educational content that was provided and the fact that it wasn't, oh, we need to get users to use that product.
    [00:23:22] Chris LoDolce: Great, go show them how to use the product and make them sit there and watch a video for an hour.
    [00:23:26] Chris LoDolce: It wasn't that.
    [00:23:26] Chris LoDolce: Yes, that was part of it.
    [00:23:28] Chris LoDolce: But our goal never, as we sat down in the room and we talked about success, our goal never was how many users looked at the videos.
    [00:23:38] Chris LoDolce: We needed as many users as possible.
    [00:23:40] Chris LoDolce: Our, a goal was to get users to those videos.
    [00:23:42] Chris LoDolce: But our question always was how many folks did we create a transformative educational experience for what behaviors did we change?
    [00:23:50] Chris LoDolce: And you'll see, if you go back on LinkedIn, you'll see Kyle Jeffs and other folks would always ask folks who posted on LinkedIn, what are you doing differently after taking that course?
    [00:24:00] Chris LoDolce: And that's the transformative piece that we're tracking qualitatively to some degree in that sense.
    [00:24:05] Chris LoDolce: But, man, some of those responses were awesome when you heard about how they changed their approach to sales or marketing and what those benefits were.
    [00:24:13] Chris LoDolce: If you change somebody's life, their career in any way, I shouldn't say you change it.
    [00:24:19] Chris LoDolce: You create an opportunity for them to change their own life.
    [00:24:22] Chris LoDolce: You give them that, they're going to be fans of yours forever.

    [00:24:26] Chris LoDolce on the Power of Transformative Educational Experiences

    [00:24:26] Chris LoDolce: And the exercise I always love to do with that is just tell folks to take a second and think about one to three teachers or professors that had an impact on who you are today, whether that's guiding you down a career path, whether that's helping you, maybe in a subject that you were interested, whatever that may be.
    [00:24:48] Chris LoDolce: Usually somebody can think of that one or a few teachers that had that impact on them, that changed the trajectory of their life or transformed them.
    [00:24:55] Chris LoDolce: And if you think about who that professor was or that teacher was or that mentor was, and you look at what was it about that person?
    [00:25:05] Chris LoDolce: We're going a little bit in a rabbit hole here, but what you'll find is it was never the teacher who stood up there reading off slides.
    [00:25:11] Chris LoDolce: It was never the teacher with a monotone voice, right.
    [00:25:14] Chris LoDolce: It was somebody who you felt like they saw you.
    [00:25:17] Chris LoDolce: And lots of times it wasn't the same teacher that you felt, saw you as your friends, but they saw you, they understood you, they listened to you, they taught in a way that resonated with you.
    [00:25:26] Chris LoDolce: They had passion for the subject.
    [00:25:29] Chris LoDolce: All of those things video brings to the table that you can translate through educational content, whereas just a screen recording of somebody talking to it, as great as that content is, is like a brilliant person standing up in front of a lecture and doesn't engage the group.
    [00:25:47] Chris LoDolce: There is no dialogue, there is no passion in the topic, even though they've dedicated their entire life to whatever that is.
    [00:25:54] Chris LoDolce: And so when it comes to that transformative educational experiences, there's so much that goes into it to really, again, approach educational content, approach building an academy with that being the end goal.
    [00:26:07] Chris LoDolce: Of course, we have to look at all the metrics.
    [00:26:09] Chris LoDolce: If the metrics aren't there, it doesn't make sense.
    [00:26:11] Chris LoDolce: And let's get into the metrics.
    [00:26:14] Chris LoDolce: But if the goal is the metrics.
    [00:26:17] Chris LoDolce: You're very quickly forgetting that there's real people behind those user numbers and educational content.
    [00:26:23] Chris LoDolce: That's power is uplifting and giving folks sharing folks, or sharing with folks that knowledge that they can use to grow themselves, to grow their businesses, to grow their careers, to create opportunities that otherwise they might not have been able to get.
    [00:26:38] Chris LoDolce: And that's what makes, at least for me, makes it so much fun to be in this industry, is being able to do that, and not just originally it was in English, and now Humpspot Academy is in six languages, translated by communities and other languages, and it's powerful.
    [00:26:55] Chris LoDolce: These SaaS businesses today at least, are giving a lot of this content away for free.
    [00:26:59] Chris LoDolce: And it's creating at least a little bit more opportunity for folks maybe who otherwise wouldn't have access to a university where traditionally this is where you get that information.
    [00:27:10] Chris LoDolce: And even today, universities are playing catch up with SAS academies across all of the industries because stuff changes every month.
    [00:27:19] Chris LoDolce: And who keeps that up to date?
    [00:27:21] Chris LoDolce: More often than not, it's a little bit easier to pivot when you're not a sanctioned educational body by the state or the government.
    [00:27:29] Chris LoDolce: So definitely no knock in higher ed because it's hard, I know it's hard what they're trying to do to keep up with technological changes.
    [00:27:37] Chris LoDolce: But yeah, it's definitely a special place to be in terms of education.
    [00:27:41] Ramli John: I really like how the focus is on the change in behavior.
    [00:27:46] Ramli John: And I forgot who you mentioned that would reach out and be like, how did this course change your behavior?
    [00:27:53] Ramli John: A lot of that qualitative stuff, it reminds us that what we're doing can transform, can change people's the way they do things.
    [00:28:04] Ramli John: And really that's a huge impact to that.
    [00:28:07] Ramli John: Instead of, like we mentioned around metrics and there is humans behind those metrics that we need to remember.
    [00:28:16] Ramli John: I love that.

    [00:28:18] Metrics for measuring the impact of a SaaS academy

    [00:28:18] Ramli John: In terms of those metrics, what are some of those metrics do you look at?
    [00:28:22] Ramli John: I'm curious, obviously the completion maybe, or adoption of futures.
    [00:28:29] Ramli John: I'm really curious what metrics you were looking at UpSpot.
    [00:28:32] Ramli John: But as well as what you would now suggest for people who are interested in launching it.
    [00:28:37] Ramli John: I know you help out different SaaS business with launching their academies, what metrics they should be looking at.
    [00:28:43] Chris LoDolce: Yeah, okay.
    [00:28:45] Chris LoDolce: There's a few different ways to break down the metrics.
    [00:28:47] Chris LoDolce: This is a fun one.
    [00:28:49] Chris LoDolce: The first thing I just say from a high level is if you're trying to use an academy as a solution to help solve for one strategic initiative at your business, that's a departmental strategic initiative.
    [00:29:03] Chris LoDolce: Chances are this is going to be a step function of a team that has one or two people and never actually really grows or reaches its full potential.
    [00:29:13] Chris LoDolce: If you look at any business, again, if you're looking at gong or you're looking at Salesforce, Trailhead, HubSpot Academy, there's a ton of great examples out there today.
    [00:29:22] Chris LoDolce: You'll find that these companies have approached the academy as a way to provide educational content from pre sales industry content all the way through their customer experience.
    [00:29:34] Chris LoDolce: So when we look at metrics and we look at data, what I find the easiest to do is create three buckets.
    [00:29:40] Chris LoDolce: You have the impact on the business and top line business metrics, churn, CAC, LTV, all of those things.
    [00:29:47] Chris LoDolce: We can talk about that.
    [00:29:48] Chris LoDolce: Then we have your departmental metrics.
    [00:29:50] Chris LoDolce: So if we go down one level from churn, what are we looking at in terms of
    [00:29:56] Chris LoDolce: And we're looking at renewal rates, we're looking at upsells, we're looking at crosssells, some things in there, product usage, et cetera.
    [00:30:01] Chris LoDolce: And then we're going to ticket deflection for support.
    [00:30:04] Chris LoDolce: From there, we're going to go to our program metrics.
    [00:30:08] Chris LoDolce: And that's what you had mentioned around, like completion rates, how many people are completing the courses, what is their average score when it comes to tests or what percentage of people are certified, what percentage of people getting recertified, what percentage of people who have a certification are giving an mps of nine or ten promoters versus detractors.
    [00:30:27] Chris LoDolce: So there's a lot of things that we kind of move through in each of those three sections.
    [00:30:33] Chris LoDolce: So from the business side, over the years, depending on where HubSpot Academy sat, we started in the customer success and then we went from customer success to marketing.
    [00:30:44] Chris LoDolce: So when we were in customer success, it was absolutely product usage, which we knew translated to retention.
    [00:30:51] Chris LoDolce: And so it was a 2015, we had green in 15.
    [00:30:54] Chris LoDolce: So we're looking at our retention charts.
    [00:30:57] Chris LoDolce: Our goal is to get people, I want to say, to use five plus apps.
    [00:31:00] Chris LoDolce: And by 2015, it was five people used five plus apps.
    [00:31:03] Chris LoDolce: That cohort had the highest retention.
    [00:31:05] Chris LoDolce: How are we going to get customers to use five plus apps?
    [00:31:08] Chris LoDolce: And so the application, how HubSpot Academy evolved, we actually created additional tools, not just e learning videos.
    [00:31:15] Chris LoDolce: We started creating what we called projects where step by step essentially guides that integrated both educational learning, knowledge industry experts all into kind of what maybe people would know as notion today.
    [00:31:29] Chris LoDolce: There's some interesting things there.
    [00:31:31] Chris LoDolce: We're actually working on redeveloping that tool to help folks.
    [00:31:34] Chris LoDolce: But really the idea there was, okay, we know these metrics, how are we going to use HubSpot Academy in that context?
    [00:31:42] Chris LoDolce: So that was one way.
    [00:31:44] Chris LoDolce: Then we started looking and finding that the folks who were buying HubSpot that already had the inbound certification pre purchase went on to basically reach time to value adopt those tools much more quickly than customers who didn't have a certification.
    [00:32:02] Chris LoDolce: So for a while, the sales team could offer up to, I think it was a 15 or 20% discount on the software or waive the onboarding fee if you had an industry certification, inbound marketing certification before you bought.
    [00:32:17] Chris LoDolce: And that's when the business was very much focused on how are we bringing in new folks, and not just anybody, of course, say yes, but how do we say yes to the right folks or spend our time with the folks who are going to grow with us that we can add the most value for?
    [00:32:32] Chris LoDolce: So it changed over time.
    [00:32:33] Chris LoDolce: But really what we were looking at was retention.
    [00:32:36] Chris LoDolce: If you looked at the cohort of logos that had one or more users logging in to HubSpot Academy on a monthly basis versus the cohort who didn't, you would always find that the cohort of folks logging in was higher.
    [00:32:49] Chris LoDolce: And this was the forever argument that exists, which is causation or correlation.
    [00:32:54] Chris LoDolce: Is it just that people who were going to be successful committed the time to learn versus those who weren't going to be successful?
    [00:32:59] Chris LoDolce: And it's like, yeah, probably a good percentage of that is the, what are, what the executives who are advocates for HubSpot Academy always say is, okay, so let's just get rid of HubSpot Academy.
    [00:33:12] Chris LoDolce: Well, where are these people going to go learn?
    [00:33:14] Chris LoDolce: Exactly right.
    [00:33:15] Chris LoDolce: You could get rid of it and you could be right to say, yeah, HubSpot Academy isn't the thing that's actually driving the 10% increase, the ten point increase in retention.
    [00:33:26] Chris LoDolce: But without it, what is that retention going to look like?
    [00:33:29] Chris LoDolce: Is it going to look like everybody else?
    [00:33:30] Chris LoDolce: Is it just going to be down five points?
    [00:33:33] Chris LoDolce: It was this interesting conversation.
    [00:33:35] Chris LoDolce: So when it comes to ROI, it can be tricky to be educated.
    [00:33:40] Chris LoDolce: Here's an exact percentage increase in retention because of HubSpot Academy or because of your academy, but without fail, what you'll find is folks who are engaging with these learning resources, HubSpot or the clients that we work with, that retention number is higher.
    [00:33:58] Chris LoDolce: The adoption numbers typically is higher.
    [00:34:00] Chris LoDolce: The question is how much of that raise in retention or product usage is directly correlated to, or there's direct causation between those and not just correlated.
    [00:34:15] Chris LoDolce: And so that's the tricky part with the business metrics.
    [00:34:18] Chris LoDolce: But every business metric we looked at, we would find there was a positive impact when we measured that.

    [00:34:28] The Power of Education in SaaS and HubSpot Academy

    [00:34:28] Chris LoDolce: There's some interesting ones, too.
    [00:34:29] Chris LoDolce: I'll throw out one interesting one, which was the time to close.
    [00:34:34] Chris LoDolce: So what our sales team would do a lot back in the day was they'd have a call with somebody, say, I have a marketo contract, or I have a sharpspring or whatever the contenders were at that time.
    [00:34:44] Chris LoDolce: Six months, I really want to join.
    [00:34:47] Chris LoDolce: I really wanted to switch over.
    [00:34:49] Chris LoDolce: Can you get back to me in six months?
    [00:34:50] Chris LoDolce: Well, what the sales reps would do would be like, hey, you got six months.
    [00:34:54] Chris LoDolce: I know what your goals are.
    [00:34:57] Chris LoDolce: Go take this certification for free.
    [00:35:00] Chris LoDolce: For free?
    [00:35:01] Chris LoDolce: Yeah, for free.
    [00:35:02] Chris LoDolce: Get back to me, let me know how it goes.
    [00:35:04] Chris LoDolce: The sales rep could see when they completed it, if they completed it.
    [00:35:07] Chris LoDolce: So when you looked at if somebody took the certification pre sale, what was their time to close?
    [00:35:13] Chris LoDolce: It was actually longer because most of the time it was being used as a way to keep folks engaged versus just the drip emails when then you actually started dissecting that and looking a little bit more closely, what you found was if people entered into an opportunity or qualified lead and were engaged with, with your sales rep, and then that inbound certification or the academy was shared, that actually helped close deals more quickly in that first 30 days.
    [00:35:44] Chris LoDolce: After that, the metric was being skewed because people were using it as a nurturing tool and to keep people engaged, which was a super interesting metric initially to be like, wow, time to close.
    [00:35:55] Chris LoDolce: House on academy slows it down.
    [00:35:57] Chris LoDolce: Who wants that?
    [00:35:58] Chris LoDolce: Don't want anybody, pre customer or pre sales.
    [00:36:01] Chris LoDolce: Touch it to, oh, wait a second.
    [00:36:02] Chris LoDolce: Actually, the reason why is because of how that was being utilized by the sales team.
    [00:36:08] Chris LoDolce: So that was interesting.
    [00:36:09] Chris LoDolce: And the other one from pre sales or sales that we always tracked was the average discount rate.
    [00:36:16] Chris LoDolce: So the average discount rate on somebody who had consumed or taken the inbound certification was much lower.
    [00:36:25] Chris LoDolce: And we always just attribute that to the fact of, like, somebody understood the suite of tools and how they were going to be used presale versus showing up and saying, hey, I need a social tool and an email tool.
    [00:36:38] Chris LoDolce: And it's like, well, you're giving me all this other stuff, but I don't really need it, right?
    [00:36:42] Chris LoDolce: I can just go get email from here and I can go get social from here.
    [00:36:46] Chris LoDolce: So let's just.
    [00:36:48] Chris LoDolce: What can you give me at a discount?
    [00:36:49] Chris LoDolce: So it was like basically selling that vision.
    [00:36:53] Chris LoDolce: It was filling in that void for that Constantine sales process when there was times where the sales team was inundated with leads or for whatever reason.
    [00:37:01] Chris LoDolce: So that was also helping with basically higher contract, average contract prices.
    [00:37:09] Ramli John: I love how you sharing these examples.
    [00:37:12] Ramli John: Academy can impact across a funnel all the way from trying to close deal.
    [00:37:19] Ramli John: You found that it did close it a little bit quicker and then retention.
    [00:37:23] Ramli John: I'm guessing it also helps with activation.
    [00:37:25] Ramli John: We're like trying to onboard.
    [00:37:26] Ramli John: I mean that was the initial reason why you're trying to do one too many.
    [00:37:31] Ramli John: So it's like right across the whole flywheel and the journey of the user or the customer.
    [00:37:38] Ramli John: It can have a ton of value to the whole experience to it.
    [00:37:45] Ramli John: And you talking about it becoming more sticky, it ties back to what you mentioned earlier, how if you have that teacher that helped you, how much of a big fan you'll be about that teacher or professor.
    [00:37:57] Ramli John: I think it's the same thing with this where it's hard to approve cos ice cream like you mentioned.
    [00:38:01] Ramli John: But there is a strong hypothesis that you helping them, they feel good about the brand and they're more likely to stick around longer than they are.
    [00:38:11] Ramli John: If it's a more transactional experience.
    [00:38:14] Ramli John: This feels more like, would you say it's more relationship focused because you are building this educational, transformative experience to them rather than just like a buy and get kind of experience?
    [00:38:28] Chris LoDolce: Yeah, definitely more.
    [00:38:31] Chris LoDolce: More of that relational or relationship based approach for sure.
    [00:38:36] Chris LoDolce: And you see that one story I love to share is Brian Halligan, who is the CEO, co founder of HubSpot.
    [00:38:46] Chris LoDolce: He was always still probably today going to MIT teaching.
    [00:38:49] Chris LoDolce: He was a big believer in teaching.
    [00:38:51] Chris LoDolce: So HubSpot Academy was essentially like a metamorphosis of Brian Halligan into a program.
    [00:38:58] Chris LoDolce: And I think a lot of HubSpot in general, that idea of teaching.
    [00:39:01] Chris LoDolce: Him and Darmesh were always teaching everybody internally and educating folks externally.
    [00:39:06] Chris LoDolce: Well, that resulted in myself learning about HubSpot, myself using HubSpot, then joining HubSpot, and then having that opportunity to essentially teach what Brian and Dharmesh were finding out to the market.
    [00:39:19] Chris LoDolce: And one of the folks who was in one of our first cohorts back in 2011, ended up starting a program, starting an agency, and now is one of the bigger agencies in Spain.
    [00:39:32] Chris LoDolce: He went on to start teaching in his universities.
    [00:39:35] Chris LoDolce: I was in Spain doing a talk at his conference and somebody came up to me who had met him in one of the classes as a student.
    [00:39:43] Chris LoDolce: She ended up joining the agency and was then teaching at her university.
    [00:39:47] Chris LoDolce: What inbound marketing was so it's not just like the relationship and the affinity to a brand, but it's the like, hey, this changed my life.
    [00:39:56] Chris LoDolce: And this isn't like a cult.
    [00:39:58] Chris LoDolce: This is like business strategies that are working.
    [00:40:01] Chris LoDolce: And I'm here to like, I want to share this with other people.
    [00:40:04] Chris LoDolce: It works.
    [00:40:04] Chris LoDolce: Like, when you find something that works in business, it doesn't happen every day.
    [00:40:08] Chris LoDolce: There's a lot of snake sales going on, snake oil sales going on, and when you find something, you want to share it.
    [00:40:15] Chris LoDolce: And that's the true power of the education, right.
    [00:40:18] Chris LoDolce: It's like when you learn and someone transforms your life or creates that transformative educational experience, you want to pass that on.
    [00:40:27] Chris LoDolce: And so just to be like, in a different part of the world and hearing that story and meeting somebody who, and just kind of talking backwards on how we had come to learn about inbound, the power of that educational content, it's just so great.
    [00:40:41] Chris LoDolce: And the tricky part is if you don't have an executive who gets it to try to sell, what we're talking about now can be difficult.
    [00:40:49] Chris LoDolce: And so it usually means starting with an MVP.
    [00:40:52] Chris LoDolce: We can definitely get more tactical in a bit.
    [00:40:54] Chris LoDolce: There are ways to get there, right?
    [00:40:56] Chris LoDolce: There are ways.
    [00:40:57] Chris LoDolce: If you have an executive who's like, we want an academy, that's awesome.
    [00:41:00] Chris LoDolce: We love working with those businesses.
    [00:41:02] Chris LoDolce: If you're in that situation where you're one or two people in a cs and you're trying to start an academy, the road is going to be a little bit more difficult.
    [00:41:10] Chris LoDolce: You can get there, but it's going to definitely be a lot more transactional to begin a lot more quick, fast iterations.
    [00:41:18] Chris LoDolce: But yeah, I always like to reiterate as many times as possible the power of this education and how it grows your ecosystem and impacts your ecosystem can't be qualified today.
    [00:41:33] Chris LoDolce: Hopefully someday it can be quantified.
    [00:41:36] Chris LoDolce: It can be qualified, but quantified in a way that we could bring a sheet to an executive team and say, here's every way it's impacting the ecosystem, but there's plenty of metrics that give it enough credibility to exist even without some of these more high level impacts on the ecosystem.

    [00:41:57] Building Community and Academy at HubSpot with Chris LoDolce

    [00:41:57] Ramli John: That's such a cool story where there's that almost fandom, like I'm thinking of Marvel or like Harry Potter, and now there's this fandom around, you said cult, but that's what they call Harry Potter heads or like Star wars people, but there's this fandom around inbound.
    [00:42:14] Ramli John: And I guess my question around, I'm curious it's almost a natural progression towards building a community around this topic or this passion.
    [00:42:28] Ramli John: People talk a lot about nowadays, like cohort based courses because that builds a community.
    [00:42:33] Ramli John: Was that a part of the early, when did that get added into the whole ingredient where community and academy almost has this synergistic, symbiotic relationship with each other?
    [00:42:51] Chris LoDolce: It's a great question.
    [00:42:52] Chris LoDolce: So I think something that HubSpot always prioritized, community.
    [00:42:59] Chris LoDolce: The interesting thing was community as defined I would say by the industry today is much more of like people thinking of like forums and slack channels.
    [00:43:10] Chris LoDolce: Community in 2011 2012 was LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups and that was basically it for online.
    [00:43:20] Chris LoDolce: Maybe a few other side things, but there was no slack back then.
    [00:43:24] Chris LoDolce: Maybe there was, but not many people were using hip chat was like only open to only confined businesses.
    [00:43:31] Chris LoDolce: And so the online portion of community was small.
    [00:43:35] Chris LoDolce: Where was HubSpot investing their money in community?
    [00:43:38] Chris LoDolce: Well, the inbound mean customers were getting cheapest, not free tickets for many years.
    [00:43:45] Chris LoDolce: We were losing a lot of money.
    [00:43:46] Chris LoDolce: We were bringing everyone together there we were then doing what we called hugs HubSpot user groups.
    [00:43:51] Chris LoDolce: So I forget her first name, something.
    [00:43:54] Chris LoDolce: Goodman was the CEO of Constant Contact, sat on HubSpot's board until we moved into the email space and there's a conflict of interest.
    [00:44:02] Chris LoDolce: But constant contact from the beginning did a really good job of having these local meetups.
    [00:44:06] Chris LoDolce: So what HubSpot did we had, I want to say 50 chapters or more in the US and externally we would take the biggest fans, the HubSpot agencies, power users and we'd give them 5000 or 2000, whatever the stipend was each quarter to run an event and we would pull a list of everybody in that area, send them an invite and say hey we're going to meet up and geek out about content or marketing or whatever the topic was.
    [00:44:34] Chris LoDolce: We'd love for you to come, by the way, free drinks, free apps and we're sending a Hubspotter.
    [00:44:39] Chris LoDolce: So what this meant was folks like Andrew, myself, Mark, even product folks, we would go to these events.
    [00:44:48] Chris LoDolce: So now all of a sudden it's like, wait a second, I'm just at this know where are some of the place.
    [00:44:53] Chris LoDolce: I was Oklahoma, I was Louisville, I was all over the place, right?
    [00:44:58] Chris LoDolce: And you walk into this room and it's like I always like to go back to the human experience.
    [00:45:02] Chris LoDolce: It's like I'm a marketer who maybe went to school for marketing, maybe didn't found myself in this role.
    [00:45:07] Chris LoDolce: I have this software, I've talked to an amazing support team.
    [00:45:11] Chris LoDolce: Maybe I've learned online, maybe I've seen Chris in a video from academy, maybe it was from a webinar, whatever it is.
    [00:45:18] Chris LoDolce: And now Chris is standing here in my town, which no people ever come to, and he's here sharing something that he's learning that is a collective knowledge from all of HubSpot's customers.
    [00:45:31] Chris LoDolce: And he's taking his, I mean, I still have so many of these HubSpot books.
    [00:45:35] Chris LoDolce: He's taking notes in his HubSpot books, right?
    [00:45:38] Chris LoDolce: And he's writing this down, he's getting my email address.
    [00:45:41] Chris LoDolce: And then he's going back talking to the product manager of this tool that I'm having a problem with and CC and that product manager in the people are building the product aren't hidden away.
    [00:45:51] Chris LoDolce: 2012, 2013, this was community.
    [00:45:55] Chris LoDolce: And I still am a big believer in that in person piece, especially back then showed that HubSpot cared.
    [00:46:02] Chris LoDolce: HubSpot cared about the person sitting in the office park in a small town in America where the lights are flashing and no one cares about marketing.
    [00:46:10] Chris LoDolce: It's just a waste of a possible sales rep.
    [00:46:12] Chris LoDolce: This is talking 2012, right?
    [00:46:14] Chris LoDolce: But what did marketing do?
    [00:46:16] Chris LoDolce: That's what everyone always used to say.
    [00:46:17] Chris LoDolce: That's not a question anymore.
    [00:46:18] Chris LoDolce: Everyone knows, right?
    [00:46:20] Chris LoDolce: We have the data, but that's what it was.
    [00:46:22] Chris LoDolce: And that showed HubSpot care and that's what built the community.
    [00:46:26] Chris LoDolce: And then you had your inbound event and we had everybody, right?
    [00:46:30] Chris LoDolce: We used to have little pins that said, hug me, I'm a Hubspotter.
    [00:46:33] Chris LoDolce: Literally, people would come up and hug you.
    [00:46:37] Chris LoDolce: And it was all based off of Brian or mesh starting this company and saying it's all about people, it's all about those relationships, and it's all about helping folks.
    [00:46:44] Chris LoDolce: And so when it comes to community today HubSpot, they have a community team.
    [00:46:49] Chris LoDolce: Academy sits under that team and they're very much connected with their boot camps and things that they do online.
    [00:46:57] Chris LoDolce: Certainly haven't been there for two years, so can't speak to everything they're doing but community.
    [00:47:02] Chris LoDolce: And the community an academy can create or help facilitate or be a part of is definitely a real thing.
    [00:47:11] Chris LoDolce: If you're taking an approach where you're actually putting real people on camera.
    [00:47:16] Chris LoDolce: There's a lot of academies who are like, we'll do this fast, we'll get something out there.
    [00:47:21] Chris LoDolce: And then they never continue to iterate and improve because they can be high production for people on camera.
    [00:47:28] Chris LoDolce: But if there's not real humans at the business, it's really hard for that academy to facilitate the community or for people to feel a part of something.
    [00:47:38] Chris LoDolce: I'm always like if the end goal isn't for us to have an academy where we have real live people, sometimes they're experts, but more often than not, people from your team teaching other people what you know, without that, you lose a lot of that ability to create a community, you lose a lot of that ability.
    [00:47:56] Chris LoDolce: Again, as we were talking about of the transformation of the inspirational professor, if it's an AI bot talking, you know it is, right?
    [00:48:05] Chris LoDolce: You know it's an AI avatar and it just.
    [00:48:09] Chris LoDolce: Is that how I want to learn?
    [00:48:10] Chris LoDolce: There might be some people that love it, but more often than not, I know that the person who programmed that avatar I will probably never meet.
    [00:48:21] Chris LoDolce: I'll never know their intentions.
    [00:48:22] Chris LoDolce: I'll never be able to have a conversation with them.
    [00:48:25] Chris LoDolce: And at least today, still more often than not, what we find is people want to learn from people.
    [00:48:31] Chris LoDolce: And that could be no video, but that's hey, here's who we are.
    [00:48:36] Chris LoDolce: That could be a quick intro video, that could be a link to my LinkedIn profile, that could be a link to slack, to saying hey, or if you have a community set up, come talk to me here, ask questions here.
    [00:48:44] Chris LoDolce: But it's that accessibility, it's that two way.
    [00:48:47] Chris LoDolce: It's the difference of going to a small class versus an auditorium filled with people and you saying, like, maybe I'll talk to the TA, but I'm probably never going to actually talk to the professor and they're never going to see my work.
    [00:49:00] Chris LoDolce: How inspired does anybody feel from that?
    [00:49:02] Chris LoDolce: Right?
    [00:49:02] Chris LoDolce: So it's all about creating that experience so that it facilitates and makes somebody want to be part of your community.
    [00:49:08] Chris LoDolce: Because if you spend 4 hours learning from an experience that doesn't add value to your relationship with the business, that's a lot of time.
    [00:49:17] Chris LoDolce: How many calls do you have to have with a CSM or to be on support?
    [00:49:22] Chris LoDolce: A call of support to equal four, 8 hours of time, right?
    [00:49:25] Chris LoDolce: That's years, possibly, or at least a half year or maybe multiple years.
    [00:49:30] Chris LoDolce: That amount of time your learners are interacting and engaging with your business is in that training.
    [00:49:37] Chris LoDolce: And so that training is very important of how it's presented, how it's trying to connect with the community, cross linking to the community.
    [00:49:44] Chris LoDolce: Some companies do great stuff with cohort training where it's like, do your work, share it on this thread, then make sure you comment on one on somebody else's work before the next call, the next session of the cohort.
    [00:49:56] Chris LoDolce: There's lots of tactical ways to integrate it in.
    [00:49:59] Chris LoDolce: But I would say when I think of community, I think of how are you going to impact people's lives?
    [00:50:06] Chris LoDolce: Connect with those people, give them a way to connect with you and be able to empower them to share what they've known with other people.
    [00:50:14] Chris LoDolce: Right.
    [00:50:14] Chris LoDolce: Because the more we can facilitate that, even if it's not tracked, even if it's not a way that we own that in our community, love to have our own membership, communities where we can keep everything, but more often than not, folks are connecting on calls at different events, and we just want them to be able to facilitate and share the knowledge they have with their peers and their coworkers.
    [00:50:39] Ramli John: I love that.
    [00:50:40] Ramli John: That really resonates.
    [00:50:42] Ramli John: I got a chance to talk to Christina Garnett.
    [00:50:44] Ramli John: She runs the hub fans community.
    [00:50:48] Ramli John: Right.
    [00:50:50] Ramli John: Like everything you said about the human touch and delighting them, it just builds that deeper connection.
    [00:50:57] Ramli John: That this is what I told it makes it even harder for people to turn away because they're not just leaving the product, they're leaving their people.
    [00:51:06] Ramli John: They're leaving the people that's helped them grow and transform and also the people that they really connect with in a different level.
    [00:51:13] Ramli John: So I think that adds an extra layer of stickiness than just like here, let me help you use our product to let me help you level up in your career, and now let me be your friend.
    [00:51:24] Ramli John: And you're not turning from the product.
    [00:51:26] Ramli John: You're turning from not necessarily breaking up our friendship, but there is that lost opportunity there once you do leave.
    [00:51:35] Chris LoDolce: I love that you say that, and that's like the boomerang.

    [00:51:38] HubSpot users have a sense of FOMO about missing out on the community

    [00:51:38] Chris LoDolce: So it's like somebody leaves the business, goes to another business, and the first thing they want to do is bring HubSpot with them because they want to get back in that business or they are only looking for jobs that have HubSpot.
    [00:51:48] Chris LoDolce: Salesforce does a great job of this, too, with trailhead, but with HubSpot, we saw that many times, right?
    [00:51:54] Chris LoDolce: I'm bringing HubSpot with me.
    [00:51:55] Chris LoDolce: I'm not going there.
    [00:51:57] Chris LoDolce: Part of the agreement is if I am coming, I'm bringing HubSpot.
    [00:52:00] Chris LoDolce: So there is maybe not FOMO, but that wants to continue to learn and grow from that community and not miss out and not miss out on learning and growing together as a bunch of business professionals in sales and marketing or services or operations.
    [00:52:21] Ramli John: Now, I love that.
    [00:52:24] Ramli John: Thank you for sharing all of this.

    [00:52:25] Career Power Ups: Get 100 Transformative Experiences with People

    [00:52:25] Ramli John: I want to actually shift gears and talk about career power ups.
    [00:52:29] Ramli John: I know that you have been in marketing for over a decade.
    [00:52:34] Ramli John: You've spent actually nine and a half years of that HubSpot, like, have many roles there.
    [00:52:39] Ramli John: Ended up becoming director of HubSpot Academy.
    [00:52:42] Ramli John: Curious, what's like a career path that's helped you accelerate your career at HubSpot or anywhere else now that you're here at, started your own thing with SaaS Academy advisors.
    [00:52:53] Chris LoDolce: Yeah, I kind of alluded to it a few times throughout this call, but I would say it's this idea of getting your first 100 transformative educational experiences with folks.
    [00:53:04] Chris LoDolce: If you have 100 people who say because of the work I did with x, because of the things I learned from x, my career is now, my results are now, my life is now 100 of those, get 100 of those people.
    [00:53:22] Chris LoDolce: And don't sit there trying to figure out how you can automate that 100, because even if you could automate that 100, you're not going to know what were the things along the way that did that.
    [00:53:33] Chris LoDolce: So certainly you're probably going to have automation.
    [00:53:35] Chris LoDolce: I'm not saying don't use automation.
    [00:53:37] Chris LoDolce: I'm not saying don't use email tools, don't use any type of automation tool.
    [00:53:42] Chris LoDolce: But this idea of if I can transform 100 people's lives or create transformative educational experiences for 100 people, I am going to have 100 people who are willing to stand behind me and say, not, I give Chris five stars.
    [00:53:56] Chris LoDolce: I give SAS Academy five stars.
    [00:53:58] Chris LoDolce: But say, here's how.
    [00:54:00] Chris LoDolce: Again, working with learning from has impacted or changed my program, my career.
    [00:54:06] Chris LoDolce: That's it.
    [00:54:07] Chris LoDolce: If you can get 100 people, you can probably get 100 people in anything that you put your mind to.
    [00:54:13] Chris LoDolce: The question is how long is that going to take and how much effort is that going to take?
    [00:54:19] Chris LoDolce: And so when you're starting something like SaaS Academy advisors for us, for me, it's very much like we were talking about this before we started recording.
    [00:54:27] Chris LoDolce: I have two calls a week with anybody who wants to chat about building the SaaS Academy on our website.
    [00:54:35] Chris LoDolce: You can literally go to the place where it's like, geek out with me.
    [00:54:38] Chris LoDolce: And it's like my promise for this hour is I'm never going to sell you anything.
    [00:54:42] Chris LoDolce: I'm not going to send you a pricing link, nothing.
    [00:54:44] Chris LoDolce: Let's just talk.
    [00:54:45] Chris LoDolce: And that reason is because one of my goals is to get to that first 100.
    [00:54:50] Chris LoDolce: We're probably at 40 right now, but it's like to be able to get there.
    [00:54:54] Chris LoDolce: I need so many perspectives and insights to be able to provide that back out again.
    [00:55:00] Chris LoDolce: And so I would say my marketing power up, if we zoom down on.
    [00:55:04] Chris LoDolce: It's all about the people.
    [00:55:05] Chris LoDolce: You can't forget about the people behind the numbers and what they're trying to do and really focusing on helping them elevate themselves.
    [00:55:13] Chris LoDolce: Get to that 100.
    [00:55:15] Chris LoDolce: Get 100 of those folks who stand behind you and say, yes, I can vouch for this and here are the results that I can show you.
    [00:55:21] Chris LoDolce: Not because they're my friend, not because they're my network, not because they're asking a favor.
    [00:55:25] Chris LoDolce: That to me is the power up that I would love and I'd love to be able to hop over a star and get those 100 tomorrow.
    [00:55:35] Chris LoDolce: That's cool, because the knowledge you get from those experiences will take you where you want to go.
    [00:55:41] Ramli John: I feel like that also there's this feedback loop where the more that you connect with those hundred people, the more likely it kind of evolves the way you think and maybe help shape how you approach things.
    [00:55:56] Ramli John: There is like this cycle of learning, almost like you're learning from me as much as I'm learning from you, in that it's like a very healthy, it's a transformative experience for both sides, would you say?
    [00:56:08] Chris LoDolce: Yeah, absolutely.
    [00:56:10] Chris LoDolce: And it's interesting because I'm saying get your first 100, but you probably have to talk to a couple of thousand.
    [00:56:15] Chris LoDolce: But I think from folks in Uiux are probably like, obviously this is what they do, right?
    [00:56:22] Chris LoDolce: You got to talk to people, but it is very much the opportunity to learn.
    [00:56:28] Chris LoDolce: Like for example, as I've talked to more and more folks in the SaaS Academy or more customer education segment of educational programming and SaaS businesses, something that keeps coming up is like discoverability.
    [00:56:41] Chris LoDolce: We create this content, we create this academy.
    [00:56:43] Chris LoDolce: We spend all this time not just writing something, but creating backwards plans with learning objectives that we're going to have tests to track against that and we're going to tie that into product usage and data and we're going to do all these things.
    [00:56:53] Chris LoDolce: And then where is everybody?
    [00:56:55] Chris LoDolce: Well, CS has their priorities, marketing has their priorities.
    [00:56:59] Chris LoDolce: And now all of a sudden I'm trying to fight to get access to this thing that the business has paid for me to develop.
    [00:57:07] Chris LoDolce: So discoverability can be a big issue.
    [00:57:09] Chris LoDolce: And that's why we're working on some free tools right now, because we're like, we know some things that we've done in the past that these teams don't have access to website pages, they don't have access to a lot of these tools that they need for discoverability of their own marketing.
    [00:57:24] Chris LoDolce: Let's just create some tools, give these individuals access to these tools.
    [00:57:29] Chris LoDolce: And here's another opportunity to create a transformative educational experience through a tool.
    [00:57:34] Chris LoDolce: And so, yes, absolutely.
    [00:57:36] Chris LoDolce: To your point, is it equally beneficial to the person who's trying to create those first 100 raving fans?
    [00:57:44] Chris LoDolce: Arguably more.
    [00:57:46] Chris LoDolce: When I think about what we've learned in the past two and a half years of this business, I would still probably be, my messaging would not be resonating with folks as I'm talking to them.
    [00:57:56] Chris LoDolce: I would not nearly have the perspective I have on the industry now than I did leaving HubSpot.
    [00:58:03] Chris LoDolce: Right, left HubSpot.
    [00:58:04] Chris LoDolce: And it's like we knew how to build an academy.
    [00:58:06] Chris LoDolce: I learned very quickly that I knew how to build HubSpot academy at HubSpot, looking back nine years.
    [00:58:15] Chris LoDolce: But what I didn't know, and what I've learned a lot and quickly is how much even just the culture at a business can change the approach to creating content.
    [00:58:30] Chris LoDolce: It is so mind opening when I started working with different businesses and realizing how do people learn internally?
    [00:58:37] Chris LoDolce: How is information shared internally?
    [00:58:40] Chris LoDolce: How is information valued internally?
    [00:58:42] Chris LoDolce: Some businesses are like, if you spend time outside of your job creating educational content, that puts you up here and other businesses, it's like, why are you spending the time doing that?
    [00:58:52] Chris LoDolce: That's like so and so's job.
    [00:58:54] Chris LoDolce: And so there's just so many different things in terms of how it's valued and seen that's going to dictate the business.
    [00:59:02] Chris LoDolce: Some businesses are like, if it's not perfectly on brand with where this ten year old business is, don't publish it.
    [00:59:11] Chris LoDolce: And other businesses are like, yeah, you're just starting this, like test, iterate and go right, like click record.
    [00:59:16] Chris LoDolce: Don't worry about your lighting.
    [00:59:18] Chris LoDolce: Don't worry about your makeup.
    [00:59:19] Chris LoDolce: Who cares?
    [00:59:20] Chris LoDolce: Just go.
    [00:59:21] Chris LoDolce: And both approaches can work.
    [00:59:25] Chris LoDolce: How you facilitate those approaches or only hiring this country.
    [00:59:29] Chris LoDolce: We're only hiring this country.
    [00:59:30] Chris LoDolce: We want to hire in all the countries.
    [00:59:31] Chris LoDolce: All of those things completely change the approach while still trying to be human, right?
    [00:59:36] Chris LoDolce: Still trying to bring to the table all these things.
    [00:59:39] Chris LoDolce: So I kind of went down a rabbit hole.
    [00:59:45] Chris LoDolce: But it is an important aspect to think about.

    [00:59:48] How HubSpot Helps SaaS Companies Scale

    [00:59:48] Ramli John: If you enjoyed this episode, you'd love the marketing Power Ups newsletter.
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    [01:00:24] Ramli John: Thanks to Mary Sullivan for creating the artwork and design.
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    [01:00:32] Ramli John: That's all for now.
    [01:00:33] Ramli John: Have a powered update marketing power ups.
    [01:00:39] Chris LoDolce: Until the next episode.


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