Engaging Your Prospects through Re-Purposed Training & Support

By | January 28, 2011

What they heck does that title mean, why are we trying to train prospects who don’t even have the product yet?

While it is my attempt at being provocative, let me explain the thought.  Essentially, it echoes my philosophy about re-casting useful product training into a role in product marketing.

To expand on this a bit, from a marketing perspective, if we can create targeted, interactive product experiences (such as using product simulations) that satisfy a prospect’s need for information about the product, we can increase the engagement, helping to move the prospect along the sales cycle.  So what kind of information does a prospect need?

It turns out, not by coincidence, that prospects who are looking at a product need at some level to understand that they can use/operate it, which is similar (but not identical) to the customer who needs to know how to use/operate it to solve their issues.  I’m not saying that we reuse the same product training exactly for product marketing, rather, we re-purpose that content such that we give prospects the confidence they can learn to operate it.  Simulations can be a great, multi-purpose vehicle that can be adapted in training, marketing, and even product design/testing.

The motivation for this post came to me while I was just reading a post “Customer Engagement and the Mini-Cooper” by Scott Gillum, in which he reflects on a new, disruptive driver experience he had in Mini-Cooper and how it made him think about how he needed to engage with the car, and how that engagement might apply outside this experience.  Scott reflects:

It got me thinking about how we engage customers.  There is a bunch of noise being made about customer engagement; the question for most of us is how to make it happen.  Intuitively it makes sense, but from an execution standpoint, it’s still a bit of a mystery.

For some time, it was thought that we had to create games and other tricks to make our site “sticky”, while we threw up the same old literature about our products and company, albeit in a digital form.  Make the experience fun for the kids, then try to sneak in the vegetables (our products and ads for our product) somehow.  And hope that the viewers don’t have ad blockers.

I have always maintained that we shouldn’t be so defensive about interest in our products and how to use them — that’s why the prospects and customers are really interested in us, and that is what will keep them coming back, that is, how to use our products or services better.

Therefore, my answer to Scott’s question is that a primary way to engage customers should be to connect through experiences with the products that the prospects and customers are interested in the first place!  A product simulation for the Mini-Cooper could give a taste of the experience and the quirkiness.   A nice set of simulations could be spun in a marketing way — enabling specific interactive exploration, only getting to a certain depth — and used in a training way, providing more depth about how to operate the various functions.

Scott continues:

It showed me that you could create an engaging experience by leveraging what you already have.

This brings it back to my title.  One way for a company to increase their customer engagement is to leverage their successful training materials, and then adapt those to a marketing perspective.  Of course I am a huge believer in using interactive product simulations in both camps.

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