Episode 5: Revolutionizing Customer Education for Product-Led Growth, AI's Impact on Training, Building Learning Communities, Metrics that Matter, and Scaling Strategies with Ginger Tranter

June 17, 2024

In this episode of GTM Spotlight, Ginger Tranter, Director of Product Enablement shares her expertise in customer education from Swoogo and Salesloft. Highlights include personalized learning journeys tailored for product-led growth, exploring AI's potential in interactive content and updates, and strategies for building learning communities that foster continuous engagement. Ginger emphasizes key metrics such as retention and early-stage engagement, alongside cultivating a culture of experimentation and data-driven innovation within teams. Discover more on scaling globally with accessible, self-serve content and agile localization strategies, all aimed at driving PLG through customer education.

Ginger Tranter

Ginger Tranter is a seasoned Customer Education leader with over a decade of experience in training and development. Ginger has a proven track record of building and scaling Customer Education programs that drive product adoption, retention, and revenue growth. She has worked with various teams, from customer service and CSM to product and engineering, to develop custom-built training solutions. She was the Director of Customer Education at Salesloft, and just recently starting at Swoogo as Director of Product Enablement.


Shambhavi Mahajan: Hey everyone, welcome to the GTM Spotlight podcast. Our guest today is Ginger Tranter, a seasoned customer education leader with over a decade of experience in training and development. Ginger has a proven track record of building and scaling customer education programs that drive product adoption, retention, and revenue growth. She has worked with various teams, from Customer Service and CSM to Product and Engineering, to develop custom-built training solutions. She was the Director of Customer Education at Salesloft and just recently started a new role at Swoogo as the Director of Product Enablement. Thank you for being here, Ginger!

Ginger Tranter: Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Shambhavi: Likewise, great having you. How would you describe your journey so far?

Ginger: Well, I think the one word sort of sums it up, and that would just be "exciting." I started out my career at a recruiting software company doing internal training and really found that bug seeing those lightbulb moments. And then moved my way into the customer education space, bringing over all the adult learning principle aspects and all those good things in order to make a really full and valuable learning experience for our customers. And then building with another individual at Salesloft, building the customer education team and department from the ground up has been really rewarding. And now moving over at Swoogo, I'm going to see if we can do it all over again.

Shambhavi: Congratulations on the new role, and that's such a great overview of your impressive experience. So, as more companies embrace product-led growth, what do you see as the key elements of a successful customer education program in this context? How do you strike the right balance between self-service and personalized guidance?

Ginger: Yeah, I think I can really sum it up pretty quickly. I think learning journeys are a really strong way to do this. It's a great way to meet the customer where you are, especially if it is product-led growth, that's always going to be changing. By creating a learning journey where you can easily plug and play different trainings, make it a really good experience for your team as well as the customer. And then also aligning it within the area of the time where the customer is in their journey just makes it even more personalized because it's training that they need right in the moment that they need it. And then if you can even go a level above that, being able to tie it to persona is also going to give a great experience.

Shambhavi: Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense - personalization and really understanding who the persona is, tailoring it to them.

Ginger: 100%.

Shambhavi: And with the trend towards self-paced learning, what strategies have you found effective for keeping education content engaging? How do you gather and incorporate customer feedback to continuously improve?

Ginger: Yeah, so one thing that we would always do is exactly as you said - collect customer feedback on a regular basis. Not only doing that just in the moment once they participated or consumed some training content, immediately asking them what their experience was like. You know, typical customer satisfaction score is always going to be a great way to get some quick feedback. Other formats that I actually haven't had a chance to do yet, but I will - I'm really hoping I'll be able to build - is something that you all may be familiar with, is similar to a customer advisory board. Almost taking that same type of practice and applying it to customer education. So you have basically a foundation of learners that are familiar with what you offer, maybe a mix of new and more seasoned learners and users within the platform. So you can have really a good standard panel of people that you can continue to test training on, get feedback just in time. Maybe more than "Was the training helpful for you?" or "Would you recommend it?" We like those and those are helpful, but sometimes they don't give us exactly what we need to really make those successful.

Shambhavi: Yeah, absolutely. Getting feedback is so important. And there are some really good points you raised about accessibility and catering to different learning preferences as well in the previous question. So looking ahead, how do you envision AI revolutionizing customer education? What specific applications excite you the most?

Ginger: So I think AI in the customer education space is still a little bit left to learn. I think AI - everyone is really excited about but also a little bit hesitant. But the way that I've been sort of toying around with it is giving flexibility to create assessment questions, scenario-based trainings. It's not going to be something that you plug right in and you can immediately put into place. But it gives you a really great starting point building out the scenarios as I mentioned before. And also AI being utilized to help keep content updated at a fast pace. That is something that is definitely, I think, on the minds of all customer education leaders - is how can we make sure that we're keeping up with the pace of the product that we're supporting? And I think AI is really the answer to that, to get us a really good foundation to then just start building upon.

Shambhavi: That's a really good perspective on AI's potential. It's just capable of so much human reasoning and decision making that it would definitely help a lot with content maintenance, you know, at least automating certain processes like reviewing content and identifying outdated content.

Ginger: For sure, yes.

Shambhavi: So, shifting gears a little bit. Building strong customer community seems crucial for fostering continuous learning and engagement. So what role does customer education play in your community building efforts, and how have you gone about it?

Ginger: So I think building a learning community - certainly, I'm sure if there's any marketing folks out there, understand that those communities take time to build. There are a couple of quick wins though that you can do. What we've seen in my experience is offering in-person workshops or virtual roundtables and offering an environment where the learner may be in a smaller space with a smaller group of people. And if you're even able to make it very topic-relevant, that way people know what they're coming into and learning about the discussion. And then any way that you can partner with your marketing team to find ways to offer training at in-person events is a great way to keep that community going. And a lot of the times you'll find that so many people don't even know, you know, the vast library of offerings that you have until you show it at the moment when you meet them in person.

Shambhavi: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's a great point that you mentioned that you worked so closely with your marketing team and probably other teams as well, how you collaborate with them. So what are some goals and metrics you track to basically measure the success of your customer education initiatives?

Ginger: So I think, like many other leaders out there, we're certainly looking at ways that we impact retention - as you mentioned, churn rates, expansions, things of that nature. Other things that we're starting to dive into a little bit more is tracking product usage and adoption. That's another really great way to gauge some success. If you're able to show a correlation between the time a learner took a training and then the time they began applying that training to the software, that can really tell a compelling story. And another thing which I haven't quite done yet in my experience, but I've heard success of other companies, is really tapping into learners at the beginning of a sales cycle. So even before they've even actually become customers of yours. This gives you the ability to get them learning more about what you have to offer. They're coming in more educated, which can maybe help sort of take some time out of that discovery phase and answer some of those same, you know, five to ten questions that your account executives are constantly asking. And then over time, just like we have qualified leads, we could have training qualified leads. So we could even allocate a score to it. If they take certain trainings, we know that maybe they'll be at this level when they actually come to get that first demo.

Shambhavi: That's a great point. Customer education really happens across the funnel, and now with product-led growth, it happens even earlier in the funnel. And I think that's a really smart way that you're measuring the success. You're tying the metrics to business outcomes. And as you scale your customer education team, what lessons have you learned about hiring, onboarding, and professional development to ensure that your team delivers high-quality training and meets those metrics and goals?

Ginger: Yeah, I think obviously there's technical needs, and that's something that you can easily suss out in the interview process - taking a look at their portfolio or giving them an assignment to complete to see what their critical thinking skills are. Something though that I found that's more of a soft skill that I look for is individuals that are very open-minded to possibly changing things, starting from scratch, adventurous. I think it's really important that an individual is fearless when it comes to testing things out with education. And you know, if it doesn't work out, go back to the drawing board and they're able to bounce back from that and bounce back from it quickly. Because again, you've got to move fast. It takes a long time to build training. So we have to fail fast to move forward.

Shambhavi: That's such great advice for those who are looking to build out their customer education teams. And you know, customer education is constantly evolving. So what skills or qualities do you believe are essential for customer education professionals to thrive in this field? And how do you foster a culture of continuous learning within your team?

Ginger: I think the first thing that comes to mind is being able to tell a story with data. It's not always super obvious to those that are not in the education space to understand the impact that training can have on the bottom line of a business. So if, again, you're able to take those correlations of something happening, or the education that a customer is getting, to some type of action inside the software, I think that that's a really great story. So if you're able to dig and find those things... For example, one that we pulled at Salesloft was if there was a certified admin on an account, then we saw a 16% decrease in tickets being sent to the customer success team - or customer support team, excuse me. So things like that, there's really interesting ways that you can find correlations of how customer education is helping to move the business forward. And then fostering a culture of continuous learning - I think, really, there's not a lot of formal learning of customer education out there. You really have to work on building your network. So networks like CEdMA and the Customer Education Org, they've got Slack channels, they've got LinkedIn pages, they have conferences. It's a really great way, and I encourage my team to go to those things and really involve themselves in that community. Because a lot of the times, we're trying things for the very first time, and we want to try to see if there's other individuals that have maybe done it themselves. And maybe they're trying the same thing and you can try it both together. So being involved in a community like that is extremely valuable.

Shambhavi: I think these are some of the best communities out there. They're so good at fostering learning because, you know, they're good at learning and development. So I've only been a part of these communities for such a short period of time, but I've already learned so much.

Ginger: Yeah.

Shambhavi: As a company grows and expands into new markets, how do you adapt your customer education programs to meet the needs of diverse audiences? What considerations come into play while designing training programs for different regions, cultures, or industries?

Ginger: Yeah, so the first thing that comes to mind is that's more and more and more learners. So to me, scale is what's going to help serve those learners. We cannot be in every time zone, we cannot be in every country. So any way that we can make our content accessible, easy to find, on-demand, and self-serve so it can be consumed anytime, anywhere, I think is a really great way in order to reach those different audiences. And I think so too, having a software that can help you - having a software in your training tech stack that can easily translate languages, again making updates very easily, is highly valuable. Because not only are you, for me in the US, I'm updating content in English. I might have other areas that that's happening. And sometimes we'll roll things out in one region but not another. So we may need to have a really interesting way of our rollout models of when we're doing that. So having a software that can like move and shake and quickly make changes is going to be invaluable.

Shambhavi: Yes, absolutely. Having a consolidated, unified stack that addresses all of these things is so helpful in such cases. So that was my final question for you. Is there anything else that you'd like to add, or do you have any advice for our listeners?

Ginger: Yeah, I think one thing that has surprised me over my time working towards building a scalable customer education program is not resting on our laurels that live education is the way to go. I think if we were to survey learners, they would probably say they love live training and that's what they get the most out of. But I think that's just what they're used to, and that's what we've always been able to provide to them. So I think, you know, taking a moment to challenge your learner on different ways that they can learn and consume the content in a more microlearning capacity I think is going to be great for your team, because you can update content a lot faster, but also great for the learner because they're not learning so much at once and only walking away with maybe 10% of it.

Shambhavi: Thank you so much for sharing all of your expertise and insights with us today. It's been incredibly insightful to hear your strategies for driving product adoption, engagement, and business impact through customer education.

Ginger: It's been great speaking to you. Great questions. I really enjoyed this conversation.

Shambhavi: Yeah, I'm sure we'll have you on again soon on the podcast. Thanks so much.

Ginger: Yeah, all right. Bye!