In my past experience as a consultant at LeadMD, I would get really nerdy about preparing software users to be successful with their tools. Last month, I was able to step back in those shoes when I facilitated a 5-day training bootcamp for admins of Marketo. That might not sound very fun, but I assure you it was – as well as very eye-opening.
During the bootcamp, I asked our attendees if they had any training protocol for their users. At first, I got crickets... then people started opening up and the most common answers we got included the following:
"Well, we tell them to watch Marketo’s training videos."
"I know we need to have more defined training, but we don't yet."
In other words, it seems that most companies fall somewhere on the spectrum between offering incomplete training to no structured training whatsoever.
I always find myself amazed by the lack of training provided to software users.
Failing to equip your team to properly use your software systems is the same thing as handing your 16-year-old keys to your car without giving them driving lessons (except in this case you’ll end up with a whole lot of missed revenue and lack of ROI instead of a dented Honda).
Here’s the truth…tech changes every day. Teams need to be continually investing in education and staying informed so they can evolve with their software and be successful for the long haul.
And how do you do that? Well that’s why I’m here. The following takeaways are lessons I learned all over again when I was in this recent training bootcamp. I’m fresh off the battlefield and ready to divulge secrets I’ve discovered throughout my career thus far...
Secret #1: Master the basics (and if you think you’ve mastered them, give them a closer look).
Whenever we talk about training, there’s inevitably the person (you know who you are!) who argues: “I know how to use XYZ platform, inside and out. Trust me.” Even if you’re that guy (or gal), you may be overestimating your competence with the fundamentals.
Lots of software systems allow users to achieve the same thing (or something similar) many different ways. Additionally, there are best practice processes for certain functionality that is not always required or clearly spelled out within a software. A good training program will start with the foundational elements and guide the user into developing good habits from the get-go so your organization can get the most ROI out of the software.
Here is some basic Marketo functionality where training is usually lacking:
- Naming conventions or asset organization
- Use of program membership
- Evaluating if an individual is successful in your marketing campaign
- Managing field data in the database
When I was doing consulting work, I would often come across users who claimed to know all the basics. And they usually had a decent foundation, BUT they also had very bad habits that were not following best practices—which resulted in a cluttered and inefficient software system. Or worse, they were missing key foundational elements and only utilizing a fraction of the software's potential.
At every company, there are individuals who use a software system in just a handful of ways.
For these folks, the quantity and depth of their training can certainly be less than it is for everyday users. But you still must give them formal training. If you skip educating these people altogether, they can clutter (or throw off) your entire system simply because of a lack of basic knowledge.
For instance, let's say someone on your team rarely has to interact with Marketo, except to enter in a little bit of data occasionally. This person still needs to understand the uniformity of your data, how to keep it clean and how to avoid making potentially costly mistakes within the platform.
Even for advanced users or admins there is a level of foundational knowledge in relation to their role and maturity. Sure, these things may not seem basic to your everyday users, but they are the fundamentals that these types of users need to master to perform the basics of their job.
One of our bootcamp attendees is a high-achieving, talented woman who found herself in charge of Marketo at her company. She learned as much as she could on her own about the software, and had a really solid grasp. But she was leading marketing efforts for a global company and there were several things going awry with some of her teammates, like emails being sent out in the wrong language to the wrong people. She knew she needed to fix this, but wasn't sure how.
When our class dug into the training about customizing permissions and assigning them to different users (a basic admin function), a light bulb went on for her. She had a lot of team members at various levels of maturity and hadn’t known how to give them access to Marketo while not simultaneously giving them so much freedom that they could make disastrous mistakes. Once she was able to set permissions in Marketo, she saw a lot of positive changes take place within her organization.
The point is, no matter how much you think you’ve mastered the nuts and bolts of Marketo (or any other software system), there’s always more to know. And you can’t be really good at the sophisticated functions until you truly have a grip on the foundational ones.
Many software providers (or third-party partners) offer training for their users, and this is a great place to start. But once you’ve exhausted the training they make available, you’ll still likely need more. And you can always seek advanced training from industry experts when you have a specific question or want to learn more about a particular type of functionality.
“The new marketer combines operational and data skills with a grasp of the big picture,” according to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Marketo. Emphasis was placed on these qualities: digital engagement and technology (39%), strategy and planning (38%), data analysis (32%), customer experience (27%), advertising and branding (26%), and creative and graphics (16%).
We don’t ask for such a diverse spectrum of skills from any other area of the organization. In fact, these requirements don’t read like a resume so much as they resemble the type of generalist skills we expect of founders and entrepreneurs in startups.
Secret #2: There’s a need for process-based software training.
So you have the basics down… all of them. How else do you evolve with your software, you ask? One of the best areas to focus on next are the processes you have in place. Keep in mind that every organization handles data and executes on a project plan differently from one another (a point that was again driven home in our bootcamp).
Some of our attendees were more mature software users and talked about how they automated processes as much as possible to make their day-to-day lives easier. On the flip side, we had other users at our training who were less mature (due to various reasons) and executed processes manually. Whichever end of the spectrum they landed on, the importance of having defined processes for even basic software functionality was clear.
Align your Software with your Processes + Train your Team!
This confirmed something I’ve touted for a long time: Processes matter. And even more so, it matters that you train your team on how to use software to follow YOUR defined processes. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself some questions:
- When creating a new record, what data is required?
- What are the steps for creating/sending an email?
- After a prospect fills out a form, what should happen?
Write down these processes, share them with your employees and then walk them through the steps of how they actually work.
Real Training Example
An organization was having issues with users incorrectly importing lists into Marketo, resulting in bad data, duplicate records and wasted time in cleaning up the mess.
The team took matters into its own hands and removed everyone's permission to import lists, then created a one-hour training program on how to correctly import lists, including:
- how-to video
- list import template file
- practical test scenario in a sandbox subscription of the software
If a user wanted to get the import list permission back, they needed to successfully pass the training program. This is exactly the kind of tactic you can mirror in order to help your team become aligned in using software to follow certain processes.
Secret #3: Proving ROI is still a common challenge (and requires training too).
One of the final lessons that was corroborated all over again through our training bootcamp was that demonstrating ROI is still a challenge. And training a team on how to yield (and report) ROI within a software system is largely underutilized.
Most software is not cheap, especially if you are paying per user. Your goal should be to train users to be proficient and make efficient use of the software. The more you can make your software work for you and your organization, the more value you will see from that line item in your annual budget.
But this isn’t something that your team members are going to magically learn to do on their own. You need to give them the tools to be efficient with your software, along with training on required structure/data so you can actuallyreport on ROI.
So there they are… three secrets to make your software work for you, which were all reinforced for me after spending a week entrenched in nothing but software training with very smart power users and admins (jealous yet?).
All kidding aside, I think what’s most surprising of all is that none of these secrets are actually surprising. In fact, they all lead back to the same premise: Without proper training, software is futile. And as tech keeps changing, you and your team need as much training as possible in order to evolve with it.
Here is feedback we got from the boss of one of our attendees after the bootcamp:
"The level of education provided is absolutely a step above anything else offered by Marketo or other companies."
- Keith Jensen, Director of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations at Crownpeak
Marketo Training with Six Bricks
If you have Marketo as part of your tech stack (or are just trying to learn it), check out the training curriculum we have in Six Bricks—it varies from concept coursework to full-on software simulations. Yes, you read that correctly! Now you no longer need a Marketo subscription or to clutter up your existing Marketo instance to get some basic training and skills-based assessments.
Did I mention that access to the content is free?!
At Six Bricks, we’re here to help you with your education – and your success.