Shannon Howard's customer education blueprint

Shannon Howard's customer education blueprint

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Shannon Howard, Director of Customer and Content Marketing at Intellum, shares her customer education blueprint that elevates your customers to the next level.

The best content teaches people how to make their life or work better in some way. In other words, great content upgrades people.

An expert in this topic is Shannon, Director of Customer and Content Marketing at Intellum, a leading customer education platform.

Today, she’ll share how to launch a successful customer education program.

In this Marketing Powerups episode, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create content that guides people along the next step in the customer journey.
  • Select the types of content to educate best and level up your customers.
  • Measure the impact of customer education programs.
  • Tap into communities to accelerate your career.

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

I want to thank the sponsor of this episode, 42/Agency.

When you're in scale-up mode, and you have KPIs to hit, the pressure is on to deliver demos and signups.

And it's a lot to handle: demand gen, email sequences, revenue ops, and more! That’s where 42/Agency, founded by my friend Kamil Rextin, can help you.

They’re a strategic partner that’s helped B2B SaaS companies like ProfitWell, Teamwork, Sprout Social and Hubdoc build a predictable revenue engine.

If you’re looking for performance experts and creatives to solve your marketing problems at a fraction of the cost of in-house, look no further.

Go to to talk to a strategist to learn how you can build a high-efficiency revenue engine now.

⭐️ The customer education blueprint

Customer education is key for driving customer success, retention, and growth. But where do you start when launching a customer education program?

Here are 5 tips to ensure your program aligns to business goals and makes an impact:

1. Align customer education goals to your business goals.

Tie your customer education objectives back to overarching company goals around retention, expansion, and advocacy. Education for the sake of education won't drive results.

“A thoughtful education strategy that starts with business goals, thinks about and considers the audience or audiences that you're going to be educating, and builds from there. A lot of people think content first and then kind of try to tie it to other things. It should be the other way around.”

2. Identify your customer education gaps.  

Analyze support tickets, customer feedback, and usage data to pinpoint knowledge gaps. What are common issues or problems your customers face? What are their ultimate goals?

"When I'm looking at customer education programs, I first do research. What are people talking about in the company's customer slack community? What's coming up in conversations with our relationship managers? What is the sales team hearing when they're talking to people? Then, I figure out how we can answer those questions for people."

3. Create content that maps to your customer education goals.

The next step is to fill the knowledge gaps with content that helps you achieve your business goals. Focus on creating content that drives behavior change through learning. This could be training, courses, help articles etc. The goal is to get customers to adopt and properly use your product.

"Customer education professionals are looking at how do we drive behavior change through this learning. I want to make sure that the content I'm producing is useful and relevant and educational in some way."

4. Measure the ROI of your customer education programs.

One way to track the ROI of your customer education programs is to analyze engagement, retention, and expansion rates for customers who completed your customer education programs versus those who have not.

"Typically you're looking at those kind of trained versus untrained involved with education versus uninvolved in education. Are they more likely to retain? Are they more likely to expand? Are they more likely to use more of your product and even advocacy?"

5. Tap into an existing community.

Online communities provide insights into education needs and opportunities for thought leadership. Are there existing communities for your industry, product, or target audience?

"There are already communities of practice out there that have thousands of people and maybe they're not customers, but then you're getting actually this broad swath of people. What are problems they face? What questions do they have? What are some pain points in the industry?"

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    🎉 About Shannon Howard

    Shannon Howard is an experienced Customer Marketer who’s had the unique experience of building an LMS, implementing and managing learning management platforms, creating curriculum and education strategy, and marketing customer education. She loves to share Customer Education best practices from this blended perspective.

    🕰️ Timestamps and transcript

    • [00:00:46] The Importance of Customer Education in Marketing
    • [00:04:26] Discussion on Customer Education at Intellum
    • [00:06:54] Aligning Blog Content with Customer Education
    • [00:09:21] Measuring the ROI on Customer Education Programs
    • [00:11:38] 42 Agency — My Number One Recommended Growth Agency
    • [00:12:23] Riverside FM — my preferred video podcast recording platform.
    • [00:13:07] The Impact of Education Programs on Product Usage
    • [00:15:03] Thought Leadership and Content Creation in Intellum
    • [00:18:47] Community-Based Customer Education Approach
    • [00:21:44] Content and Customer Marketing at Intellum
    • [00:26:23] Customer marketing and achieving successful reviews
    • [00:29:16] Powering Up Your Marketing Career
    • [00:33:26] The Power of Generosity and Community in Career Growth
    • [00:34:39] Marketing Powerups and the People Behind Them

    Episode transcript

    [00:00:00] Shannon Howard on Launching Successful Customer Education Programs

    [00:00:00] Ramli John: The best content teaches people how to make their life or work better in some way. 

    [00:00:03] Ramli John: In other words, great content upgrades people. 

    [00:00:06] Ramli John: And an expert in this topic is Shannon Howard. 

    [00:00:08] Ramli John: She's the director of Customer and Content marketing at Interloom, a leading customer education platform. 

    [00:00:13] Ramli John: Today, she'll share how to launch a successful customer education program. 

    [00:00:17] Ramli John: In this Marketing Props episode, you'll learn how to first, create content that guides people along the next step in their customer journey. 

    [00:00:24] Ramli John: Second, like the types of content to educate and best level up your customers. 

    [00:00:28] Ramli John: Third, how to measure customer education programs. 

    [00:00:31] Ramli John: And number four, how to tap into communities to accelerate your career. 

    [00:00:35] Ramli John: And before I get started, I created a free Power Ups cheat sheet that you can download for free and apply Shannon's Customer marketing tips. 

    [00:00:42] Ramli John: You can find that Marketing right now or in the show notes and description below.

    [00:00:46] The Importance of Customer Education in Marketing

    [00:00:46] Ramli John: Are you ready? 

    [00:00:47] Ramli John: Let's go. 

    [00:00:48] Ramli John: Marketing powerups ready. 

    [00:00:53] Ramli John: Go. 

    [00:00:56] Ramli John: Here's your host, Ramli John. 

    [00:01:00] Ramli John: Thank you for coming on the show. 

    [00:01:02] Ramli John: Super excited to be talking about customer marketing and content, customer education particularly. 

    [00:01:08] Ramli John: It seems like it fits into what you're doing at Interlum. 

    [00:01:13] Ramli John: First of all, I'm curious why customer education? 

    [00:01:17] Ramli John: I know you've written about this why it's so important for people to see that as part of the success of their customer marketing efforts, particularly to make sure that their success of their customers is really well. 

    [00:01:28] Ramli John: So what are some benefits of having that for people who are like, why do I need to have academy or some training programs or things like that for our customers? 

    [00:01:41] Shannon Howard: Yeah, so I think of the saying the educated buyer is a better buyer. 

    [00:01:45] Shannon Howard: I think an educated customer is a better customer. 

    [00:01:48] Shannon Howard: So when we help people learn how to use our products and services really well, they're just better across the board. 

    [00:01:55] Shannon Howard: They buy more, they retain at a higher rate, they're better advocates because they're just more engaged and involved. 

    [00:02:01] Shannon Howard: And I think you see that a lot with like, HubSpot Academy, right? 

    [00:02:05] Shannon Howard: If we expand our definition of customer from just paying customers to also prospects, then we have this opportunity to start building a relationship with people, helping them level up in their career. 

    [00:02:17] Shannon Howard: And then, by the way, our product can also help you do your job or level up in your career. 

    [00:02:22] Shannon Howard: So I see that as very important. 

    [00:02:24] Shannon Howard: But recently gainsight. 

    [00:02:26] Shannon Howard: So customer, they kind of define a customer success, acquired a customer education company. 

    [00:02:31] Shannon Howard: And so I see that as a really promising future for customer education that people are thinking more about how do we scale, how we educate, train customers, help them better adopt our platform so they can ultimately be successful. 

    [00:02:47] Shannon Howard: So I think that's the thing is, customer education is like customer success at scale in a lot of ways, where often customer success managers are doing onboarding or training one on one with people. 

    [00:02:59] Shannon Howard: And customer education is thinking about how do I do that in a more scalable way, especially if you have different levels of accounts where it doesn't make sense for someone to be spending that one on one time with a customer training them. 

    [00:03:10] Ramli John: That makes sense. 

    [00:03:11] Ramli John: So what I'm hearing is it's about doing instead of a one to one, which I think I read somewhere that the way to scale it is hire more customer success managers which is not scalable. 

    [00:03:24] Ramli John: This is about like a one to many effort, this education. 

    [00:03:28] Ramli John: Yeah, it's an efficiency. 

    [00:03:30] Ramli John: How do you efficiently train and onboard and educate not just your customers but potential prospects about your business? 

    [00:03:39] Ramli John: Essentially. 

    [00:03:41] Shannon Howard: Yeah. 

    [00:03:41] Shannon Howard: And I think maybe something important to note too is that customer success managers have a different skill set than customer education professionals. 

    [00:03:49] Shannon Howard: And so it's kind of like when you create content, not all content is educational content. 

    [00:03:56] Shannon Howard: Content can serve different purposes. 

    [00:03:58] Shannon Howard: So I think customer education professionals are looking at how do we drive behavior change through this learning? 

    [00:04:05] Shannon Howard: Whether it's training or it's elearning, it's a help article. 

    [00:04:10] Shannon Howard: How are we driving behavior change ultimately getting the customer to adopt the product or solve their own problems versus just what I think most of us would consider to be training, which is maybe just walking someone through the product. 

    [00:04:24] Ramli John: That makes sense.

    [00:04:26] Discussion on Customer Education at Intellum

    [00:04:26] Ramli John: I want to dig into intel and how you work with other teams to educate customers. 

    [00:04:32] Ramli John: It's interesting because Intelum is a customer education platform and I'm assuming you probably do this well, other companies and probably ahead of others, you are Director of Customer marketing and content. 

    [00:04:48] Ramli John: How do you work with other teams to, I guess, educate customers and prospects around the product and customer education industry in general? 

    [00:05:00] Shannon Howard: Yes. 

    [00:05:00] Shannon Howard: So we're very fortunate to have a nice, healthy size customer education team that serves different audiences. 

    [00:05:08] Shannon Howard: So some of them are working on internal education, whether that's compliance training, professional development or product education and enablement for internal employees. 

    [00:05:20] Shannon Howard: And then we have people focus more on product education for customers, industry education for customers. 

    [00:05:25] Shannon Howard: So we think it's important for our customers to not only know how to use our product, but also what does it look like to do reporting on customer education? 

    [00:05:36] Shannon Howard: Or how do you come up with a thoughtful education strategy that starts with business goals, thinks about and considers the audience or audiences that you're going to be educating, and then kind of builds from there because a lot of people think content first and then kind of try to tie it to other things. 

    [00:05:51] Shannon Howard: We want people to think business objectives and audience first and then from there kind of build out their content. 

    [00:05:58] Shannon Howard: So we have that education team creating content. 

    [00:06:00] Shannon Howard: And then on my side, I'm creating things on the blog and we were kind of chatting before we started recording. 

    [00:06:06] Shannon Howard: But I love as a content marketer with experience in education, I want to make sure that the content I'm producing is useful and relevant and educational in some way. 

    [00:06:17] Shannon Howard: So it may not be as fully fleshed out as a full Elearning course or a live training, but if someone reads this, can they walk away with a better understanding of something they have an action item that they can take and implement. 

    [00:06:31] Shannon Howard: So that's what I'm thinking or the perspective that I'm bringing to content. 

    [00:06:34] Shannon Howard: And then, so we're working together to figure out what content can we create that's useful to both prospects and customers, whether it's gated or in our learning management system or it's ungated on our website. 

    [00:06:47] Shannon Howard: And then how are we serving that up to customers and prospects on a regular basis so they can continue to learn from us and build a relationship with us?

    [00:06:54] Aligning Blog Content with Customer Education: A Discussion with Shannon Howard

    [00:06:54] Ramli John: You mentioned that you write content for the blog and I was just curious, how do you work with customer education to, I don't know, figure out what to write about or do you get snippets of their stuff to write content so that it leads to their training or education or other stuff that they are working on? 

    [00:07:16] Shannon Howard: So when I'm looking at blog content and figuring out what are we going to create, I kind of have a mix of content so things that are maybe for SEO purposes, things that are maybe more thought leadership or featuring our customers. 

    [00:07:30] Shannon Howard: And then I'm also looking at what is the education team working on and creating, or what is coming down the product pipeline and how do I create content that kind of bridges the gap to that? 

    [00:07:40] Shannon Howard: So I'm thinking when I'm creating a piece of content, like what next? 

    [00:07:43] Shannon Howard: Where are they going from here? 

    [00:07:45] Shannon Howard: What am I pointing to, what am I trying to get them to think about more, whether that is the product or continue learning? 

    [00:07:51] Shannon Howard: Here, go check out this blog, download our recent research report, whatever it is. 

    [00:07:55] Shannon Howard: So that's how I'm kind of using what education is doing to kind of inform that upfronnel blog content. 

    [00:08:02] Ramli John: That makes sense. 

    [00:08:04] Ramli John: Yeah. 

    [00:08:04] Ramli John: And then in those blog posts that are meant for the latter that you're talking about, that is leading to the education programs, I'm guessing there's a call to action at the like I'm not sure sign up for I know there are some training sessions that y'all are hosting or other stuff that you're working on. 

    [00:08:22] Ramli John: The CTA would be towards those things rather than white paper or something. 

    [00:08:26] Shannon Howard: Exactly. 

    [00:08:27] Shannon Howard: Yeah. 

    [00:08:27] Shannon Howard: So we have these kind of blocks that we use to promote different things, whether it's a research report or our monthly recurring webinar series or if it is a course. 

    [00:08:38] Shannon Howard: And so I'm kind of looking at even so we're teaching, educating a lot on like I was talking about kind of starting with business objectives, audience, things like that. 

    [00:08:47] Shannon Howard: So we have a whole framework and methodology that we use. 

    [00:08:50] Shannon Howard: And so I'm taking that and I'm kind of breaking it into smaller things that are interesting to people, like how do you set your KPIs for education? 

    [00:08:59] Shannon Howard: Or how do you measure the ROI of customer education and customer training? 

    [00:09:03] Shannon Howard: How do you think about learner personas or do a training needs analysis? 

    [00:09:07] Shannon Howard: And I'm breaking that down into smaller pieces that are blog relevant, but that content then may be expanded upon in a course or certification. 

    [00:09:17] Ramli John: I mean, you mentioned it. 

    [00:09:18] Ramli John: You wrote a whole blog post, which I'll link in the show notes around.

    [00:09:21] Measuring the ROI on Customer Education Programs

    [00:09:21] Ramli John: How do you measure the ROI of those training programs? 

    [00:09:25] Ramli John: What are some people for people who are like, hey, we should do a training or education program for our own SaaS product, how do they think about measuring the ROI? 

    [00:09:38] Shannon Howard: I think it depends on what you're trying to get out of it. 

    [00:09:41] Shannon Howard: So we recently hosted a panel discussion where people were talking about the metrics that they're measuring with their customer education programs. 

    [00:09:47] Shannon Howard: And sometimes it's about revenue generation, right? 

    [00:09:51] Shannon Howard: You're selling professional services, you're selling training packages, and sometimes it's about revenue retention. 

    [00:09:57] Shannon Howard: And so you're looking at cohorts of maybe trained versus untrained customers or educated customers versus uneducated customers. 

    [00:10:05] Shannon Howard: And that could be did they complete Onboarding? 

    [00:10:08] Shannon Howard: Do people who complete our Onboarding see higher retention rates or higher product adoption and usage rates? 

    [00:10:15] Shannon Howard: Do we see those customers expanding their contract with us? 

    [00:10:19] Shannon Howard: Whether they're adding more users or they're expanding into different product modules? 

    [00:10:24] Shannon Howard: Could be for people who are active in our online academy, are those people more likely to retain? 

    [00:10:31] Shannon Howard: So some of these things, I think, take time to see the difference, especially if you have annual contracts and it's not like a month over month subscription. 

    [00:10:42] Shannon Howard: But I think typically you're looking at those kind of trained versus untrained involved with education versus uninvolved in education. 

    [00:10:49] Shannon Howard: Are they more likely to retain? 

    [00:10:51] Shannon Howard: Are they more likely to expand? 

    [00:10:53] Shannon Howard: Are they more likely to use more of your product and even advocacy? 

    [00:10:56] Shannon Howard: Do we see a link between customers who are better educated on our product and then they're also maybe leaving reviews on online review sites or they're doing case studies or they're serving as references for future customers? 

    [00:11:10] Shannon Howard: We can kind of look at influence in a couple of different areas. 

    [00:11:15] Shannon Howard: I feel like any data analyst worth their salt would say correlation does not equal causation. 

    [00:11:21] Shannon Howard: That's true, but I think it is about influence. 

    [00:11:25] Shannon Howard: Do we see that difference? 

    [00:11:26] Shannon Howard: And a lot of people, when they're examining the difference, they're able to see, hey, we saw a 30% lift here or 60% lift here for our trained versus untrained customers. 

    [00:11:35] Shannon Howard: So I think that cohort analysis is helpful.

    [00:11:38] Episode 42 Agency: Aiding Businesses Through Strategic Partnerships For Predictable Revenue Engine

    [00:11:38] Ramli John: Before I continue, I want to thank the sponsor for this Episode 42 agency. 

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    [00:11:48] Ramli John: And it's a lot to handle. 

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    [00:12:07] Ramli John: If you're looking for performance experts and creatives to solve your marketing growth problems today and help you build the foundations for the future, look no further. 

    [00:12:16] Ramli John: Visit 42 to talk to a strategist right now to learn how you can build a high efficiency revenue engine.

    [00:12:23] Podcast episode Sponsored by Riverside FM

    [00:12:23] Ramli John: Thank you. 

    [00:12:24] Ramli John: Also to sponsor for this episode, Riverside FM. 

    [00:12:27] Ramli John: Riverside FM is my Goto video podcast recording tool. 

    [00:12:30] Ramli John: This whole show is recorded on it. 

    [00:12:32] Ramli John: What I love about it is that it's almost like being in a virtual studio, which makes it possible to record and edit at the highest quality possible. 

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    [00:13:07] The Impact of Education Programs on Product Usage and Advocacy

    [00:13:07] Ramli John: Anyway, let's get back to our episode. 

    [00:13:09] Ramli John: And it's really about if the hypothesis is the more that somebody's using a product in many different ways, the less likely they're learning it through this programs like new use cases. 

    [00:13:21] Ramli John: And it's like, I guess, like a tentacle where they've attached themselves to the product so much that it's hard for them to let go because they've learned it through other means, through that. 

    [00:13:32] Ramli John: So I think that totally makes sense as a measurement. 

    [00:13:36] Ramli John: And interesting thing you talked about like advocacy, I think when people started sharing and talking about it not necessarily about the product, but the education programs where they're like telling their friends about the training, that's an interesting loop on its own that, hey, this program is great, you should take it too. 

    [00:13:58] Ramli John: Is that what you're seeing? 

    [00:13:59] Ramli John: Other companies specifically results that they get through that? 

    [00:14:04] Shannon Howard: Yeah, I'm seeing a lot. 

    [00:14:06] Shannon Howard: And I think that's also a measure too for companies too, is not only how many people are earning certifications certifications or they're completing courses, but then how many people are then talking about it mostly on LinkedIn. 

    [00:14:18] Shannon Howard: Are they adding it to their profile? 

    [00:14:19] Shannon Howard: Do they think it's LinkedIn profile worthy? 

    [00:14:22] Shannon Howard: Are they announcing to the world, hey, I just completed this course and I earned this certification. 

    [00:14:27] Shannon Howard: I see those maybe this is just because I work in the customer education industry, but I see a lot of those come up in my feed of I just finished this at Data Camp, or I just finished this certification over here. 

    [00:14:39] Shannon Howard: So I think we're seeing more of that. 

    [00:14:40] Shannon Howard: And it does have brand value because it's people just promoting your company, and you're not paying for it. 

    [00:14:46] Shannon Howard: You're just doing this education. 

    [00:14:48] Shannon Howard: And then those people found the education so valuable that they started talking about it, provided a link back to your website, which increases your exposure to potentially new audiences and other target customers. 

    [00:15:02] Ramli John: It makes sense.

    [00:15:03] Thought Leadership and Content Creation in Intellum

    [00:15:03] Ramli John: You mentioned something earlier around on top of the other content that you're creating. 

    [00:15:08] Ramli John: One of them is around taught leadership. 

    [00:15:10] Ramli John: I feel like that's also very helpful to not just customers, but establishing themselves as a leader in a category and helping people see you as that leader. 

    [00:15:20] Ramli John: What does that look like at know? 

    [00:15:23] Ramli John: You know Erin Balsa, who was one of the guests for the show, she created some white paper. 

    [00:15:28] Ramli John: Is it those white paper? 

    [00:15:30] Ramli John: I'm curious what thought leadership specifically looks like. 

    [00:15:32] Ramli John: Thought leadership content specifically looks like at. 

    [00:15:36] Shannon Howard: So we do we have proprietary research reports that Erin helps us with because she's awesome. 

    [00:15:43] Shannon Howard: And so that's looking know, what are people in the field saying? 

    [00:15:46] Shannon Howard: And Erin's really gifted at that, kind of capturing the data, capturing the insights, and then being able to share those with the world. 

    [00:15:54] Shannon Howard: Know what are people doing with their education programs? 

    [00:15:57] Shannon Howard: Who owns this initiative? 

    [00:15:58] Shannon Howard: What metrics are you measuring? 

    [00:15:59] Shannon Howard: Things like that. 

    [00:16:01] Shannon Howard: We also host a monthly webinar series where we talk about things related to the industry. 

    [00:16:06] Shannon Howard: So we just talked about proving the value of your learning programs. 

    [00:16:10] Shannon Howard: We're talking about marketing your education programs and driving engagement, because it's not just that one time launch of a new certification or launch of your online academy, but you've got to get people to continue to come back. 

    [00:16:22] Shannon Howard: And we live in a world where people have a lot of options and opportunities to learn. 

    [00:16:29] Shannon Howard: How do we get them coming back to us and continue to learn from us? 

    [00:16:33] Shannon Howard: So we host those every month, too. 

    [00:16:36] Shannon Howard: So we're very fortunate to have a lot of people internally who have that subject matter expertise or a lot of experience in the field who can come on. 

    [00:16:44] Shannon Howard: But we're also kind of looking to other people in the industry to join us and join the conversation and share from their experience the things that they're doing, the programs that they're running, what are they seeing and what's helpful. 

    [00:16:55] Shannon Howard: So trying to help facilitate more of those conversations and have the thought leadership, but also kind of ground it a little bit in action. 

    [00:17:02] Shannon Howard: We don't want to talk too much theory. 

    [00:17:03] Shannon Howard: We also want to talk about, well, what do we do with that information? 

    [00:17:07] Ramli John: Yeah, it's interesting that those kind of stuff is so valuable for both customers and potential prospects. 

    [00:17:18] Ramli John: Are you finding more customers are signing up for those and consuming it more rather than or maybe it's the same mix where it's like since it applies to both, this content can apply and help out both of them. 

    [00:17:34] Shannon Howard: I've seen kind of both like a split of prospects and customers. 

    [00:17:39] Shannon Howard: Certainly it's an opportunity to reach more people who aren't maybe currently in our customer base or currently even in our prospect base, but definitely a lot of customers too, where they're asking these questions. 

    [00:17:52] Shannon Howard: And that's kind of how I source a lot of topics, is I look at what are people talking about in the customer education slack? 

    [00:17:58] Shannon Howard: What's coming up in conversations with our relationship managers? 

    [00:18:01] Shannon Howard: What is the sales team hearing when they're talking to people and then figuring out, well, how do we speak to that and answer those questions for people? 

    [00:18:09] Shannon Howard: So a lot of questions recently about measuring, improving the value of your learning programs, marketing your programs. 

    [00:18:16] Shannon Howard: We recently released stuff on Gamification, but that's also been a huge topic in customer education. 

    [00:18:21] Shannon Howard: It's kind of gamification is having its heyday the last few months. 

    [00:18:25] Shannon Howard: So we had an opportunity to ask people, how are you using gamification in your learning experiences and how are you gamifying learning? 

    [00:18:33] Shannon Howard: Yeah. 

    [00:18:33] Shannon Howard: So that's been interesting because it is relevant and applicable to both audiences. 

    [00:18:37] Shannon Howard: And I think that's to me, the key to really great content is you don't just create for one audience and one purpose that you can kind of multipurpose. 

    [00:18:46] Ramli John: Interesting.

    [00:18:47] Community-Based Customer Education Approach by Intellum's Shannon Howard

    [00:18:47] Ramli John: You mentioned something interesting there. 

    [00:18:48] Ramli John: There's a customer education slack including customers. 

    [00:18:52] Ramli John: I'm guessing those are not necessarily the customer education interlum team. 

    [00:18:58] Ramli John: Is it a customer community? 

    [00:19:00] Ramli John: Essentially? 

    [00:19:00] Ramli John: Is that what that's about? 

    [00:19:04] Shannon Howard: It's an industry community. 

    [00:19:06] Shannon Howard: So more of like a practitioner community of practice type community. 

    [00:19:10] Shannon Howard: D that's product agnostic. 

    [00:19:12] Shannon Howard: So that's actually have met a lot of people and was kind of involved in there before I came to Intelum. 

    [00:19:18] Shannon Howard: But I love that group because it's kind of like with the product led growth slack or community or sorry, customer marketing, there's kind of these pockets of people who are doing the thing and you can talk to them about, well, how are you doing the thing? 

    [00:19:32] Shannon Howard: Or how did you overcome this very specific obstacle that there's no one else at my company who does the same job. 

    [00:19:38] Shannon Howard: So I want to learn from people who have kind of been there and done that. 

    [00:19:42] Ramli John: So it's not owned by intel, it's more like a product. 

    [00:19:45] Ramli John: Interesting. 

    [00:19:45] Ramli John: So you're doing actual almost user, customer or topic research by asking questions into specific. 

    [00:19:52] Ramli John: That's very smart. 

    [00:19:54] Ramli John: I think more people should learn from that rather than taking it out of the sky. 

    [00:20:00] Ramli John: You're actually crowdsourcing problems and ideas and points specifically from community rather than yeah. 

    [00:20:10] Shannon Howard: Maybe two comments I'll add on that. 

    [00:20:13] Shannon Howard: One is social media managers do this thing called like a social listening report of what are people talking about on our social channels, what are the topics and conversations that are coming up? 

    [00:20:24] Shannon Howard: I think we can do that with community too. 

    [00:20:27] Shannon Howard: And Joel Primac had kind of written something on Voice of Community or social listening and community. 

    [00:20:32] Shannon Howard: So I think that can be a great way to inform our thought leadership content, our education content, our content strategy is what are people talking about? 

    [00:20:41] Shannon Howard: Questions are they asking? 

    [00:20:43] Shannon Howard: But then I also think with community marketing we don't always have to have our own community. 

    [00:20:48] Shannon Howard: We do have a customer community that's just for customers. 

    [00:20:52] Shannon Howard: But there are already communities of practice out there that have thousands of people and maybe they're not customers, but then you're getting actually this broad swath of people and you're hearing what problems are they running into? 

    [00:21:03] Shannon Howard: What questions do they have? 

    [00:21:05] Shannon Howard: What are some pain points in the industry? 

    [00:21:06] Shannon Howard: It could be super helpful, not just for marketing but even for product managers and product teams to be in there and be listening to the conversations that are happening in the industry. 

    [00:21:15] Shannon Howard: So I think those online communities are very much an underrated aspect of kind of our marketing and product programs. 

    [00:21:24] Ramli John: That's super cool. 

    [00:21:25] Ramli John: I like that. 

    [00:21:25] Ramli John: It's like approaching content as a product before you build a product, do user research and you're tapping into voice of your users or your people and that's really smart approach there with that in terms of how you're measured, your role is measured.

    [00:21:44] Content and Customer Marketing at Intellum with Shannon Howard

    [00:21:44] Ramli John: You're both content and customer marketing director. 

    [00:21:49] Ramli John: Are you more measured on the content side with traffic and organic traffic and other things like that and sign ups for those white papers? 

    [00:22:00] Ramli John: Or do you have also some KPIs for your role around the customer marketing side? 

    [00:22:06] Ramli John: I'm curious how you yourself measure your work success. 

    [00:22:13] Shannon Howard: Yeah, so right now it's kind of a split between the two. 

    [00:22:17] Shannon Howard: And I want to say on the content side it is more of those the traffic conversions and then kind of following that down the pipeline, showing influencer attribution toward opportunities and close one. 

    [00:22:31] Shannon Howard: On the customer side, this is a relatively new function. 

    [00:22:34] Shannon Howard: So when I came to Intelum, it was partly to invest in content, manage a team around brand and communications and events, but then also kind of start up this customer marketing function which is like I love doing that. 

    [00:22:48] Shannon Howard: So in today's world I want to say that the metrics are more output related. 

    [00:22:52] Shannon Howard: So around review generation and new customer stories and case studies. 

    [00:22:57] Shannon Howard: And really one of my big objectives was just to highlight the voice of our customers more because we have really cool customers. 

    [00:23:05] Shannon Howard: I was talking to a friend last night. 

    [00:23:06] Shannon Howard: I said, it's insane. 

    [00:23:08] Shannon Howard: Some of the conversations that I get to have with people who are doing really cool things for really cool companies, and then I just get to kind of share that with the world, whether that's through blog content or case studies or having them on a webinar, recording them on video, just hearing kind of their stories and sharing that. 

    [00:23:25] Shannon Howard: So I feel like nobody wants to have an output related metric, right? 

    [00:23:31] Shannon Howard: But I think that's in the state of the world today, the state of this program being relatively new right now. 

    [00:23:37] Shannon Howard: We're kind of in output world, and then we'll work toward proving engagement, retention, influence on expansion, things like that. 

    [00:23:44] Shannon Howard: But I think that's going to take some time to get there. 

    [00:23:47] Ramli John: And that customer marketing content you're talking about is huge part of enablement for sales and for CS as well, where you're talking about success stories. 

    [00:23:57] Ramli John: And those are really valuable, especially when they're trying to close a deal or trying to retain a customer. 

    [00:24:04] Ramli John: Having those stories is very helpful. 

    [00:24:07] Ramli John: And just to call out like, I'm on the site here. 

    [00:24:10] Ramli John: You're talking about? 

    [00:24:10] Ramli John: Customers like Meta, Amazon, Stripe, Zoom. 

    [00:24:14] Ramli John: So those are some huge companies, like well known companies. 

    [00:24:19] Ramli John: That's why you're excited to chat with them and highlight their stories of what they're doing to educate the customers and their market, essentially. 

    [00:24:28] Ramli John: That's super cool. 

    [00:24:29] Shannon Howard: Yeah, very cool things. 

    [00:24:31] Shannon Howard: I sometimes feel like I'm talking with celebrities. 

    [00:24:35] Shannon Howard: I don't think they think of themselves that way, but I'm like, wait, it's this person from this company. 

    [00:24:39] Shannon Howard: That's really cool. 

    [00:24:42] Ramli John: That's funny. 

    [00:24:42] Ramli John: We were just talking about Erin boss of being a celebrity now, and you got to know her before she blew. 

    [00:24:48] Shannon Howard: Up magic her house for dinner. 

    [00:24:54] Ramli John: Do you aspire to be a celebrity one day? 

    [00:24:56] Ramli John: Not like celebrity, like Kim Kardashian, but top leader. 

    [00:25:01] Ramli John: I mean, you're a top 100 CMA. 

    [00:25:03] Ramli John: I saw that on your LinkedIn. 

    [00:25:05] Ramli John: So is that something that you want or aspire or do you just enjoy the work itself so much that that's not a priority? 

    [00:25:17] Shannon Howard: It's a good question. 

    [00:25:19] Shannon Howard: I don't know that I aspire to any level of fame, but I like to help people. 

    [00:25:26] Shannon Howard: And that a lot of my involvement in online communities with that whole top 100 CMA, it wasn't even because at that point I was posting on LinkedIn a lot. 

    [00:25:36] Shannon Howard: It was because I was in communities and I was hopping on calls and helping people plan out their programs or troubleshoot something or sharing templates and things that I had created for my own programs. 

    [00:25:47] Shannon Howard: And I just kind of strip out company info and say, hey, here's how I approach d two review campaigns, or here's how I do my quarterly planning, or sharing, things like that. 

    [00:26:01] Shannon Howard: I do now, I think have a goal of growing my following online, but just so I can share with more people things that are helpful to them. 

    [00:26:09] Shannon Howard: Because I figure it's kind of like with marketing. 

    [00:26:11] Shannon Howard: I don't think marketing or sales are bad as long as what you're doing helps people. 

    [00:26:16] Shannon Howard: If you're ultimately going to make a difference in someone's life, like market away, sell away. 

    [00:26:21] Ramli John: That makes sense. 

    [00:26:22] Ramli John: I did see that post.

    [00:26:23] Conversation about customer marketing and achieving successful reviews

    [00:26:23] Ramli John: I'm going to link that thing in the community, customer marketing community, around getting reviews. 

    [00:26:29] Ramli John: It's interesting. 

    [00:26:30] Ramli John: That's part of your role as well. 

    [00:26:32] Ramli John: How do you successfully get those success stories and those reviews? 

    [00:26:37] Ramli John: I'm guessing it's through relationship and just first of all, something easy like getting them a quote on the blog which leads into the hey, it seems like we had a great conversation. 

    [00:26:47] Ramli John: Would love to get a review through that. 

    [00:26:50] Ramli John: Naturally. 

    [00:26:51] Ramli John: Is that how you approach it or have you done a more programmatic? 

    [00:26:56] Ramli John: Not sure. 

    [00:26:58] Ramli John: Email sequence and stuff like that. 

    [00:27:00] Ramli John: Way to approach reviews and success stories. 

    [00:27:05] Shannon Howard: I definitely think right now I'm in the more manual, relationship oriented stage of customer marketing and I don't have problems with that. 

    [00:27:14] Shannon Howard: I think a lot of programs start and should start more manual, more one to one until you figure out what works. 

    [00:27:20] Shannon Howard: So eventually we'll have kind of a full blown advocacy program. 

    [00:27:24] Shannon Howard: But in today's world, account executives and relationship managers will kind of nominate customers that they've been talking to that they think are doing really cool things or our executive leadership team has a lot of relationships because some of our customers have been with us. 

    [00:27:38] Shannon Howard: We're a 22 ish year old company and some of our customers have been with us for 10, 15, 20 years. 

    [00:27:43] Shannon Howard: So some of their original AES were our co founders, so they know those accounts really well. 

    [00:27:50] Shannon Howard: And so they'll make an introduction and say, hey, you should talk to so and so over here. 

    [00:27:55] Shannon Howard: And then I'll be having a conversation with them where I can figure out is there a story here or is this a webinar? 

    [00:28:01] Shannon Howard: And as we've done so earlier this year, we released this video series called The Making of Gusto Academy, which is really cool because they worked with us in a video production company to chronicle their story from start to finish of how they created all this content and launched their online academy, which has been wildly successful. 

    [00:28:22] Shannon Howard: And that when we put that out. 

    [00:28:24] Shannon Howard: Customers thought that was so cool, one, because it was really well produced and it was a great story and they learned a lot from it. 

    [00:28:30] Shannon Howard: It wasn't just a case study, it was actually something that they could learn from take things away. 

    [00:28:34] Shannon Howard: But we had people coming out of the woodwork like, hey, can I speak on an underscore? 

    [00:28:39] Shannon Howard: Can I write a blog with you? 

    [00:28:40] Shannon Howard: Someone reached out to me the other day, said, hey, are you going to be at this conference? 

    [00:28:43] Shannon Howard: They have speaking opportunities. 

    [00:28:45] Shannon Howard: I'd love to work with you on something. 

    [00:28:46] Shannon Howard: And I was like, this is what I live for. 

    [00:28:48] Shannon Howard: Some people have to really go after and find those customers and I'm very fortunate that they are coming out of the woodwork to me right now. 

    [00:28:59] Ramli John: That's super cool. 

    [00:29:01] Ramli John: I do appreciate that it's more human approach rather than sometimes automating things takes away that humanness and that realness to asking a review for things. 

    [00:29:13] Ramli John: So that's super cool that it does stay that way.

    [00:29:16] Powering Up Your Marketing Career: Lessons from Shannon Howard

    [00:29:16] Ramli John: For now, I actually want to shift gears and talk about career power ups. 

    [00:29:21] Ramli John: Now I know you've been in marketing now for over a decade. 

    [00:29:24] Ramli John: You've had roles in many. 

    [00:29:25] Ramli John: Places, including Predictive Index, Litmus. 

    [00:29:28] Ramli John: And now you're into them. 

    [00:29:30] Ramli John: I'm curious, what's power up or power ups that's helped you get a leg up in your marketing career? 

    [00:29:37] Shannon Howard: All right, so I had two because we had talked about how sometimes people have like, a soft skill and then sometimes it's a hard skill. 

    [00:29:45] Shannon Howard: So the soft skill one is being involved in communities. 

    [00:29:48] Shannon Howard: And I think this works for me because that is literally like one of my core values. 

    [00:29:52] Shannon Howard: My husband and I have three, four core values in life, and community is one of just cool. 

    [00:29:59] Shannon Howard: I've always been in online communities, and that's been helpful. 

    [00:30:03] Shannon Howard: Most of my jobs, like the job that I got at Litmus was from the product led growth community. 

    [00:30:09] Shannon Howard: I got another job in customer education because of the customer marketing community. 

    [00:30:13] Shannon Howard: I got my job in curriculum development from a student community for an online school. 

    [00:30:18] Shannon Howard: So that worked for me because I just love community. 

    [00:30:22] Shannon Howard: But beyond just being a place where you can get jobs, I think you can learn from people who are doing the thing. 

    [00:30:29] Shannon Howard: If I have a question about customer marketing, I go to the customer marketing slack community and I ask them, hey, who's done this before? 

    [00:30:37] Shannon Howard: Does anybody have an example of this that they can share? 

    [00:30:39] Shannon Howard: How have you navigated around this problem? 

    [00:30:41] Shannon Howard: Because there are people who will just pop in and answer your question much faster than me trying to track it down on the Internet or start from scratch. 

    [00:30:48] Shannon Howard: So an old manager of mine, we used to say, if you're starting from scratch, you're doing it wrong. 

    [00:30:52] Shannon Howard: None of us are creating anything like entirely new. 

    [00:30:55] Shannon Howard: We can start from somewhere. 

    [00:30:57] Shannon Howard: The more hard skill thing is learning how to get comfortable digging. 

    [00:31:03] Shannon Howard: So I will go dig for data or dig for buyer journeys and track things like grab someone's email from a forum submission and then go follow what did they download and what did they do and when did sales talk to them and what happened here and what education content did they access? 

    [00:31:21] Shannon Howard: And just go follow the rabbit hole. 

    [00:31:23] Shannon Howard: And I don't think that that's always the best use of time, and hopefully we don't all have to follow a rabbit trail all the time, but I think it also gives you a lot of understanding of the buyer journey and what customers are doing and how they interact with things. 

    [00:31:38] Shannon Howard: And it helps you to wrangle data where a lot of us, our data lives in all these disparate platforms, right? 

    [00:31:47] Shannon Howard: You've got product data here and you've got your CRM data and your marketing automation data and education data, and it lives in all these different places and to just kind of pull and synthesize and pivot table away and just figure it out, track down all the rabbit holes and try to connect the things. 

    [00:32:06] Shannon Howard: I think that's been helpful and it's taught me a lot. 

    [00:32:09] Shannon Howard: I always joke with people who are early stage marketing or marketing interns. 

    [00:32:14] Shannon Howard: Don't resent data entry, don't resent data hygiene. 

    [00:32:17] Shannon Howard: Like you will do it for forever. 

    [00:32:19] Shannon Howard: And honestly, they'll teach you so much about who your customers are, who your prospects are, what all is happening. 

    [00:32:25] Shannon Howard: I've become very intimately acquainted with different customer accounts over the years because I was in salesforce, like trying to figure out reports and why aren't all of our customers pulling into here? 

    [00:32:37] Shannon Howard: But then you learn who all these people are and you kind of know that off the top of your head. 

    [00:32:41] Shannon Howard: So I think that's been helpful because I can kind of know those things that then people are like, oh, how did you do that? 

    [00:32:50] Shannon Howard: Or how do you know about that account? 

    [00:32:51] Shannon Howard: Or how'd you figure that out? 

    [00:32:53] Shannon Howard: So I think kind of that being willing to deep dive and wrangle the data has been a helpful skill, just not just career development wise, but just like figuring out how do I figure out my own prospects and customers in business? 

    [00:33:08] Ramli John: And that gives you the edge with your content. 

    [00:33:10] Ramli John: I think that's where it separates often good content and great content. 

    [00:33:15] Ramli John: It's like having not just a voice customer, but having data to proprietary data that you can share through research or internal data that could be interesting through it. 

    [00:33:25] Ramli John: So that's super cool.

    [00:33:26] The Power of Generosity and Community in Career Growth

    [00:33:26] Ramli John: The other thing with your community that you mentioned, that's super cool. 

    [00:33:29] Ramli John: You got your jobs through communities. 

    [00:33:30] Ramli John: I know you've been super active in the customer marketing, the CMA community, I think, and that's an interesting power up that I think generosity to help people is such an undervalued thing that it opens up doors. 

    [00:33:48] Ramli John: I think that's what I'm just hearing here is that helping other people has opened up a lot of doors for you, would you say? 

    [00:33:56] Shannon Howard: Yeah. 

    [00:33:57] Shannon Howard: There's a great book that I read. 

    [00:33:58] Shannon Howard: I found it in a little free library called The Go Giver. 

    [00:34:02] Shannon Howard: It's like a short business fable. 

    [00:34:04] Shannon Howard: It maybe takes an hour to read, but it's on that concept. 

    [00:34:07] Shannon Howard: So that's one of our family values is generosity, is to just be generous with our time, our gifts, our talents, our resources, our connections. 

    [00:34:17] Shannon Howard: But again, this is kind of how I'm wired. 

    [00:34:19] Shannon Howard: I really love to connect people. 

    [00:34:20] Shannon Howard: It brings me a lot of joy. 

    [00:34:21] Shannon Howard: It gives me a lot of energy. 

    [00:34:23] Shannon Howard: It's naturally how my brain thinks. 

    [00:34:24] Shannon Howard: So I also want to encourage people, lean on your strengths. 

    [00:34:27] Shannon Howard: But generosity has never hurt anyone. 

    [00:34:30] Shannon Howard: It has never done a bad thing for anyone. 

    [00:34:32] Shannon Howard: So I think being generous is a great strategy to employ in life professionally and personally.

    [00:34:39] Ramli John Discusses Marketing Powerups and the People Behind Them

    [00:34:39] Ramli John: If you enjoyed this episode, you'd love the Marketing Powerups newsletter. 

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    [00:34:58] Ramli John: I want to say thank you to you for listening and please like and follow Marketing Powerups on YouTube, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

    [00:35:05] Ramli John: If you're feeling extra generous, kindly leave a review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and leave a comment on YouTube. 

    [00:35:12] Ramli John: Goes a long way in others finding out about Marketing Powerups. 

    [00:35:15] Ramli John: Thanks to Mary Sullivan for creating the artwork and design. 

    [00:35:18] Ramli John: And thank you to Faisal Kygo for editing the intro video. 

    [00:35:21] Ramli John: Of course. 

    [00:35:22] Ramli John: Thank you for listening. 

    [00:35:23] Ramli John: That's all for now. 

    [00:35:25] Ramli John: Have a powered update. 

    [00:35:26] Ramli John: Marketing Powerups until the next episode.


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